National Grid ‘ready to handle’ zero-carbon network by 2025

In 2018

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) – a separate entity from the National Grid Group – claims that the emergence and integration of new technologies mean that a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2025 would be feasible.

Outlined in a  ‘Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025‘ report, the ESO claims that new systems, products and services will be put in place over the next six years to support the transition to a decarbonised grid.

Fintan Slye, Director of ESO, said: “Zero carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate; integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale offshore wind to domestic scale solar panels – and increasing demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time.

“Operating a zero-carbon electricity system in 2025, whenever there is sufficient renewable generation, is a major stepping stone to full decarbonisation of the entire electricity system; enabling new technologies and removing barriers to ever-increasing levels of renewables.”

Year of growth

In 2018, ESO provided key services that enabled numerous firsts for the UK electricity system. Wind generation exceeded 15GW for the first time, for example, while the country also ran using no coal for 72 consecutive hours in 2018.

The year saw a record-breaking amount of new UK offshore wind capacity installed, while weekly and daily generation records were continuously smashed over a 12-month period.

The latest Government statistics (released last week) revealed that the renewables share of generation reached 33% in 2018, an increase of 3.9% compared to 2017. Overall, low-carbon sources (renewables and nuclear) accounted for 52.8% of total generation in 2018. 

Renewables share of generation for the last quarter of 2018 suggests that renewables could be set for even greater growth in early 2019. Renewables share of generation accounted for 37.1% in Q4 2018, a 7% increase on the same period the year prior.

The decarbonisation of energy and electricity use is being spurred by innovative new projects. This week alone (w/c 1 April) has seen Rolls-Royce partner with robotics and technology firm ABB to develop a new microgrid solution for commercial and industrial applications and Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry launch four smart energy systems pilots.

The first of the schemes is an “Energy Superhub” in Oxford, which will play host to the world’s first transmission-connected 50MW lithium ion and redox-flow hybrid battery systems as well as a network of 320 ground-source heat pumps. The other projects focus on a “local energy marketplace”, Virtual Energy System (VES) in Orkney and a virtual power plant in West Sussex.

Matt Mace

Comments (2)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Between the 21st and the 25th of January this year, wind generation to the Grid never rose above 5GW, and fell to below 1GW on one occasion.
    Wind is ruled absolutely by nature, it listens only to itself.
    There is lots of talk about a "carbon free grid", but the fact remains that we have only nuclear and renewables for CfG. Only nuclear is within our control. It is an established and economic generator. It has two stumbling blocks; politicians in general are nervous of reactors, and the waste products, but the scientists understand both, and both are no obstacle.
    Without gas, nuclear is our only reliable energy generator, all renewables have periods of zero output, beyond our control.
    Reliable, non carbon, generation on demand, is only satisfied by nuclear.
    End of story.

    Richard Phillips

  2. David Dundas says:

    The "fly in the ointment" here is that from the latest BEIS data, that in 2018 the UK electricity generation was only 15% of the UK’s total energy demand, so how are we going to increase electricity generation to supply all of our energy by 2050? Renewables supplied just over half of that 15% in 2018; could we expand their generation by say 6 times to 500 TWh? Perhaps, but the available land and sea will surely limit it to no more than a 6 times increase? That leave a deficit of 2,226 TWh total energy and 500 TWh or 1,726 TWh that can only be covered by the other zero carbon source which is nuclear. Hinkley Point C will generate 16.8 TWh at 60% load factor so we would need over 130 of this size nuclear power station up and running by 2050; seems an impossible challenge. One solution would be to retrofit our existing gas-fired power stations with small modular reactors that can be mass produced in a factory and taken to them by heavy transport. Another solution would be to import hydrogen from nations that have lots of solar power; Japan is already doing this and Germany is making their north sea ports ready to receive hydrogen carriers. What is the UK doing? Behind the curve as usual!

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