Dave Elliott: The White Paper on modelling UK electricity supply has some very odd things to say: it seems to see nuclear (and carbon capture) as low cost: ‘low-cost solutions at low carbon intensities can only be achieved with a combination of new nuclear and gas CCUS’. However, it says that the use of hydrogen makes it more flexible, and it admits that ‘it is technically possible for higher levels of hydrogen-fired generation to also replace nuclear and gas CCUS’, although it adds that ‘this is dependent on the quantity and cost of hydrogen available for generating electricity’. The White paper promised that a review of all existing energy National Policy Statements (NPSs), and presumably their cost and demand assumptions, would be carried out over the next year. This is important since the old very dated NPSs (which were all designated by the government in 2011) have been used to justify decisions on energy. For example, the old NPSs were sometimes used to justify nuclear expansion on the basis of then expected growth in demand for electricity, whereas it’s actually fallen a lot. It may help that the White Paper also noted that BEIS is to further upgrade its energy modelling work, going beyond its Mackay Carbon Calculator, its update of the late Prof. David Mackay’s 2011 modelling system. There certainly are cost issues to face up to up. As far as it has panned out so far, nuclear would add even more costs (including curtailment costs) and doesn’t seem very suited to balancing variable renewables. CCS/CCSU may be similarly expensive and operationally constrained. But although renewables have got dramatically cheaper and green hydrogen conversion for balancing may do too, there will still be system integration costs. As I noted in a recent post, they have been put, in an Imperial College London review, at €14 per MWh at up to 35% renewable penetration, right up to £30/MWh at up to 85% penetration, well below typical green generation cost. Some of there costs will fall, as the technology improves, and will be offset by efficiency savings, as energy supply and demand balancing gets better, but they are not zero.
Renew Extra 9th Jan 2021 read more »