The Energy Transition | Five times as many EV charging points needed, calls for ‘sin tax’ on gas, smart meter network reaches 10 million

Written on 5 Feb 2021

This week we look at renewable generation overtaking fossil fuels in the UK, dynamic containment being utilised following an interconnector trip, a new fault anticipation trial, and more.

National Grid ESO opens consultation into disconnection of embedded generation

National Grid ESO (NG ESO) has opened a consultation to develop new guidelines around the disconnection of embedded generation. The consultation is seeking to implement permanent arrangements to balance the grid in emergency situations. It allows NG ESO to instruct distribution network operators (DNOs) to disconnect embedded generators as a last resort in an emergency situation, and after having exhausted all other commercially available options.

The new modification is required to replace the temporary solution that was implemented on 7 May 2020 via Grid Code modification CG0143 which expired on 25 October 2020. This temporary solution was introduced to manage the low demand for energy caused by Covid-19.

The proposed changes have been criticised by the trade group Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, which argues that embedded generators, which are largely renewables, are not offered compensation if they are disconnected through no fault of their own. NG ESO is calling for responses to the proposals by 1 March 2021.

Dynamic containment assets called into action following French interconnector trip

NG ESO's dynamic containment post-fault frequency response was deployed on Friday 29 January, following the tripping of the IFA2 interconnector with France.

The interconnector tripped at 6:08am, causing frequency to drop 0.25Hz. Responding to the frequency drop, Arenko automatically discharged its battery as part of its dynamic containment contract to help stabilise the grid. Prior to the drop, Arenko had received a signal from NG ESO at 3:52am to charge its battery at a negative price through the balancing mechanism in order to help take excess power off the system.

Participation in the dynamic containment service has increased steadily since its launch in October last year, but still remains undersubscribed.

UKPN and SSEN look to pre-empt potential power cuts with new fault anticipation trial

UK Power Networks (UKPN) and Scottish Southern Electricity Networks have launched a trial of distribution fault anticipation (DFA), a technology which can detect disturbances across the electricity network before a power cut hits.

The trial is funded by the Network Innovation Allowance awarded by Ofgem, and 10 devices have already been installed across substation sites in the UK. The DFA devices will monitor 11kV and 33kV power cables in a local area through a high sampling rate which detects unusual disturbances. Previous trials led by UKPN detected disturbances in the network up to eight weeks prior to a power cut. Senior Asset Engineer at UKPN, Chino Atako, praised the technology as a "quicker, cheaper, more proactive approach to fault location and repairs".

UK needs to install five times as many EV charging points to avoid blackspots

A new policy briefing from thinktank Policy Exchange, named Charging Up, has reported that the rate of electric vehicle (EV) charging points being installed annually across the UK needs to increase to 35,000 per year if the UK is to meet its commitment to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Only 7,000 charging points are currently being rolled out annually, Unless this increase occurs, the briefing warns that some parts of the UK will be "EV charging blackspots", with insufficient charging points. The briefing has also called for the creation of dedicated "Chargepoint Teams" in local authorities, that have the knowledge and financing needed to roll out the required infrastructure.

The briefing has been developed to help both the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy work with industry and local authorities to prepare for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. The lead editor of the briefing, Ed Birkett, said that, "if the government gets this right, then EVs can be a practical choice for drivers right across the UK".

Octopus Energy calls for ‘sin tax’ on gas use

Driving down the costs of electricity compared to gas would propel the mass uptake of heat pumps by consumers, energy supplier Octopus Energy has claimed.

Speaking at an online event organised by thinktank Policy Exchange last week, Octopus Energy's director of external affairs, Clementine Cowton, noted how heat pump technology is currently too expensive for many households when compared to gas boilers. She highlighted the massive scope for bringing down the costs associated with heat pumps by making electricity more affordable relative to the price of gas.

Cowton mentioned the importance of the government’s review of energy fairness and affordability, which is due to begin in April with a call for evidence. She expressed hope that the review will address how “we effectively subsidise fossil fuel gas consumption in this country and penalise electricity consumption" and claimed that "we put the sin tax on electricity when it should be on gas.".

Milestone reached as renewables overtake fossil fuels in the UK

According to new analysis published by climate thinktank Ember, electricity generated by renewables outpaced fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2020. The analysis revealed that over the course of the year 42% of electricity generated in the UK was produced by renewables, with 41% produced by fossil fuels, and the remaining 17% by nuclear power. Data produced in Europe, published by Ember and Agora Energiewende, revealed similar results across all EU member states.

Ember reports that the sharp growth in wind power and below-average demand caused by Covid-19 were the key contributing factors to the UK's success in 2020. Further rapid declines in fossil fuels are expected by 2030 as the UK targets 40GW of offshore wind capacity.

Britain's smart meter network reaches 10 million milestone

10 million smart meters have now been installed in Great Britain in a landmark milestone for the technology.

The Data Communications Company (DCC), which oversees the UK's smart meter infrastructure and roll out, confirmed the installation of the 10 millionth meter at 10:47am on 1 February 2021 by energy company E.On in Cambridgeshire.

The DCC claims that these 10 million smart meters prevent the release of up to 275,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. Of these 10 million meters, over 6.5 million are SMETS2 meters, which are second generation meters installed onto the DCC network. Just under 3.5 million are SMETS1 meters, which are first generation meters that pre-date the DCC network and have been migrated onto it.