Energy and Utilities

The Energy Transition | Instavolt opens rapid charger motorway hub, BEIS launches a new capacity market consultation and UKPN rolls out primary outage restoration tool software

Published on 12th Mar 2021

This week we look at new infrastructure developments which support the transition to electric vehicles, a new capacity market consultation, UKPN's release of a primary outage restoration tool, and more.

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Instavolt opens the UK's largest public electric vehicle charging site on the M6

Instavolt, a UK-based EV charging network operator, has constructed an eight-bay charging site at a Welcome Break service station on the northbound carriageway of the M6 in the Midlands. Instavolt also plans to open an additional seven rapid chargers on the opposite carriageway by the end of March.

Instavolt is currently operating 570 rapid chargers in the UK. The M6 charging site represents part of Instavolt's £50 million investment strategy to meet its objective of installing 5,000 EV charging units by 2025. Adrian Keen, Instavolt's CEO, has commented that the Welcome Break charging site represents "a significant step forward for EV drivers".
As part of its 2025 target, Instavolt have also signed contracts for EV chargers with fast food chains such as KFC and McDonalds. The agreement with McDonalds provides for the installation of 125kW chargers at existing and recently opened UK sites, and the KFC partnership involves opening rapid chargers at 450 locations across the UK.

BEIS opens Capacity Market consultation on a requirement for units to enter the Balancing Mechanism

In a consultation launched on March 5, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has proposed that all capacity market units (CMUs) may be required to join the Balancing Mechanism. BEIS explained that this requirement may be necessary to assist National Grid Electricity System Operator with the management of supply security, thereby permitting increased flexibility and usage of CMUs.

The consultation also set out other proposed improvements to the capacity market, including:

  • changes to formulae relating to emissions limits in the capacity market;
  • giving the capacity market delivery body greater flexibility to correct administrative errors in prequalification applications; and
  • a review of the existing Covid-19 easements which were implemented in July 2020;

The consultation closes on 16 April 2021.

UKPN assures speedier reconnections with new software

Distribution network operator UK Power Networks (UKPN) has begun rolling out its primary outage restoration tool (PORT)software, which can reconnect electricity supplies at a faster rate after an extra high voltage (EHV) fault. PORT has now been disseminated to approximately 210 primary substations in the South East with plans to distribute the software across 460 additional locations.
In announcing the roll-out, UKPN explained that PORT uses theAdaptive Power Restoration System (APRS) to re-direct electricity supply through the 11,000-volt network following an EHV Fault. The APRS software has already delivered 25% faster re-connections on the high voltage 11,000 and 6,600-volt system.

There are no limits on the number of operations that PORT can perform – during one event, it executed up to 23 remote control switching operations within three minutes to safely reconnect supplies to cables, power lines and substations; and can be used in planning mode to facilitate outage planning. The software also runs safety assessments before restoring supplies to check whether people have been on site, to ascertain load and identify any recent switching. PORT also traces network connections at the time of the fault, using the most recent data.

Government announces £20 million EV innovation fund

The Department for Transport has announced a £20 million e-mobility competition to promote the research and development of "some of the most promising EV technology innovations". The competition will cover technologies spanning charging apparatus, battery recycling and zero emission emergency vehicles. The government hopes that the funding could create around 6,000 skilled jobs over the next decade.

The announcement comes on the same day that the government published its response to the consultation on ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans, which confirmed the government's commitment to phasing out the sale of these vehicles by 2030.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The funding announced today will help harness some of the brightest talent in the UK tech industry, encouraging businesses to become global leaders in EV innovation, creating jobs and accelerating us towards our net-zero ambitions."

T-4 capacity market clears in 12th round

The T4 capacity market auction cleared its 12th round on March 10 with a price between £20 - £15/kW/year. The auction had a target capacity of 40.1GW, with the potential clearing capacity at the 12th bidding round price floor hitting 41140.816MW.

The auction secured capacity for 2024-25. This was the first auction in which coal power plants were unable to participate, given that the deadline for coal power retirement has been brought forward to 2024. Additional uncertainty was also caused by the number of nuclear power plants which are expected to close in the coming years. However, despite this uncertainty and the absence of coal generation, the £20 - £15/kW/year price remains in line with previous T-4 auctions. This contrasts with the T-1 Capacity Market auction last week, which cleared at a record high of £45/kW/year.

Higher capacity market prices are anticipated over the coming years. Tom Edwards, senior modelling consultant at Cornwall Insight, predicts that "the next Capacity Market Auction for 2025-26 should be more interesting as we should be feeling the full effects from nuclear retirement and could expect to see the new build setting the price higher than in previous auctions."

Post-Brexit market arrangements contribute to spike in electricity prices

The electricity market's maximum day ahead price in the first week of March peaked at £683/MWh. To put this price into context, it is more than three times the £191.55/MWh high seen in the first week of March for the previous six years. March is traditionally a period of high demand, and low levels of wind generation has seen Great Britain's electricity market become more dependent on imports.

As a consequence of leaving the EU internal energy market, the GB market has left the day-ahead market coupling arrangements. Under those arrangements, power flowed from the EU to the GB market at a much lower price due to the implicit allocation of capacity on the interconnectors. Phil Hewitt, director of EnAppSys, has published analysis of the spike in prices which says that "with the interconnectors now falling back to explicit auctions, this has resulted in extreme prices for capacity when the GB market is under stress".

Whilst the new trade and cooperation agreement between the UK and EU does provide for a loose market coupling arrangement between the GB market and the EU markets, this is expected to be established by April 2022. Until then, higher price peaks and balancing costs could become a feature of the post-Brexit GB electricity market.

Plans unveiled for green hydrogen hub in the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association has released details of a plan to explore the feasibility of a proposed green hydrogen hub in the Scottish Highlands. The hub is set to be located in Port of Cromarty Firth and would be powered by up to 15 offshore wind farm sites which are to be developed in the region over the coming years.

Those backing the project include the energy firms Scottish Power and Pale Blue Dot Energy, as well as the whiskey distillers Diageo, Glenmorangie and Whyte & Mackay. It is proposed that Highland distilleries would be the first organisations to receive a green hydrogen supply from the hub. However, the hub could also serve a range of other sectors including shipping, road transport, aviation and rail.

The project's feasibility study is due to finish in June 2021, after which point details on the capacity, timelines of delivery and the associated costs of the project will be released.

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