Mini power plants smooth out UK’s energy landscape ; Cheap-to-build and quick to fire up plants fill in for renewables. Last month, an engineer at a small power company in Solihull took a call from National Grid. A large gas plant had failed. Could the engineer’s company, UK Power Reserve, start up one of its small gas power units to help? Without standing up, the engineer sent a text message asking for one of UKPR’s 20MW plants to be fired up. Two minutes later, the plant, a series of gas engines in green containers, each with its own chimney, was up and running. A few hours later, the large gas power station was back on line and UKPR turned off its unit. The episode showed how small, flexible power plants are now bridging the supply gaps, especially at a local level, between intermittent renewables and Britain’s fleet of large, but slow-to-fire-up, gas and coal plants. Although they only generate small amounts of power, these mini units are cheap to build at around £5m for a 6MW plant and nimble to operate. They are increasingly valuable at times of peak demand, such as during last week’s extreme weather, or when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. Proponents of renewable power, which accounted for just over 29 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation last year, argue that battery storage will help smooth out the peaks and troughs. Sceptics say there will always be a need for baseload generation, large gas or nuclear plants, to ensure the country’s energy security. And in between, there is likely to be a growing need for low-cost, rapid-response power that can fill in close to where it is needed. “There is a strong need for flexible generation in the GB power market given the continuing growth in intermittent renewables,” said Simon Virley, head of Power & Utilities at KPMG and a former government energy adviser.
FT 4th March 2018 read more »
Foreign investment needed to modernise Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure is threatened by rising political and regulatory risks, industry leaders have warned. The chief executive of National Grid, which manages the country’s electricity and gas infrastructure, said US investors in particular were concerned about a cocktail of uncertainties including Brexit, government intervention in energy pricing and the Labour party’s renationalisation plans. “US investors are now warning there are too many uncertainties,” John Pettigrew told the Financial Times. “It is important that the UK is seen as a place that is attractive to inward investment. In terms of the energy sector, a lot of infrastructure needs to be built in the UK over the nex t few years. Post-Brexit, it is important that it is coming in.” His comments were echoed by the Energy Networks Associations, which represents electricity and gas distributors. It said its members were “very concerned about the response they have seen from US investors” to recent developments in the UK. “Ultimately, investor uncertainty risks translating into higher costs of capital and so higher costs to British bill-payers,” said a spokesman for the association.
FT 4th March 2018 read more »