As part of the UK’s Net Zero commitments, the government has already announced its plans to decarbonise the nation’s power system by 2035. This week marked a major development in these plans – for the first time, renewable generators have had the green light to provide stability services to the National Grid ESO, which is the electricity system operator for Great Britain.
Renewables have been gaining steadily more traction in recent years – increasing numbers of businesses are taking advantage of commercial solar panels to cut their carbon footprint, and a poll in Spring 2021 recorded overwhelming public support for the prioritisation of renewable energy. This latest development is a particularly significant step, given its wide-ranging impact on the United Kingdom as a whole.
So, what’s happening?
Starting from the 15th of February onwards, wind, wave and solar generators will now be able to offer specific stability services to the National Grid. Up until now, these sorts of services have only been provided by conventional generators, such as hydrocarbon or nuclear plants. The change is the result of a formal change to the Grid Code, which is essentially the system that sets the specification for everything that connects to the National Grid.
Updates to the Grid Code aren’t always especially newsworthy in themselves – the Grid is routinely updated to ensure that it’s always responding effectively to new economic influences, and continually able to meet demand. However, this particular Grid Code update is a significant event in itself, given that it paves the way for a new market in stability services from renewable sources, and moves us a big step closer to successfully decarbonising our power system and facilitating our achievement of Net Zero.
What does this mean?
It enables renewable energy sources to play an even bigger role in the UK’s energy mix, helping us slowly but surely break our addiction to fossil fuels, and cutting down on our national carbon footprint. That’s the key goal underpinning our Net Zero ambitions – the phrase refers to successfully striking a balance between the amount of emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we remove, levelling out to ‘Net Zero’.
The approval for green generators to stabilise the National Grid has been described as a ‘breakthrough moment’ by Tony Johnson, who led the project for the National Grid’s ESO’s markets team.
“It’s the culmination of up to 10 years of thinking and working with stakeholders to find the common ground between what equipment is capable of doing and what the system needs.” He said. “It also ensures that as we transition away from conventional fossil fuelled generation, we can operate the grid securely and efficiently, which will ultimately save consumers money.”
This isn’t quite the end of this story just yet – the National Grid ESO industry operator group still has to settle on the refinements to its scheme. However, in the meantime, green generators are now free to calibrate their equipment to standards required to bid for stability services, including inertia and frequency support.
For many people, this will be a very welcome piece of news in light of the continuing energy crisis, and the overall cost of living that the UK is currently reckoning with. Businesses and larger organisations, too, are having to find new ways to adapt their day-to-day operations to keep running costs down.
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