Letter Dave Holmes, Managing Director, Quarry Battery Company: Until we can store power for later use, we are doomed to maintain both a renewable fleet and a fossil fleet together at unnecessary cost to the consumer. We estimate there is more than 10GW of pumped hydro potential in the UK and the market will soon realise that much of it is worth the cost of building, especially as we home in on our 2030 and 2050 carbon commitments under the Climate Change Act. One often overlooked but key ingredient brought to the electricity market by thermal generation is known as “inertia” and sometimes called “spinning reserve”. As demand changes in the UK, it is helpful to have a thousand tonnes of steam turbine spinning around at 50 Hertz. The rotational inertia of thermal plants all around the UK together act like the flywheel of a car: smoothing out peaks and troughs in the grid frequency and buying the system operator, National Grid, precious seconds in which to act and stabilise the grid. With fossil generators operating for fewer hours each year, this inertia is having to be provided by other means. When National Grid needs to adjust the generation in the UK, it turns not only to the slower wholesale markets but to the much faster balancing mechanism. Fast and flexible generators are paid a premium to provide a quick response to the system operator. Between 2016 and 2018 the volume of energy contracted by National Grid in the balancing mechanism increased by 35 per cent. Furthermore the prices to buy and sell power widened dramatically. This growing market will become substantially more important over the next decade, and we hope investors will wake up to the opportunity in time to reduce unnecessary costs to the consumer, and unnecessary carbon in the atmosphere. We have planning consent on our first 100MW scheme in North Wales and are working towards construction.
FT 4th June 2019 read more »