REA: Policy gaps mean Britain is failing to finance 'crucial' shift to flexible power system

Britain is failing to attract and facilitate investment in the transition to a flexible electricity system - a transition described as "crucial" to the delivery of the UK's 2050 net-zero target.

Despite Britain's poor ranking at present, the REA believes the correct policy support could help the nation "bounce back". 

Despite Britain's poor ranking at present, the REA believes the correct policy support could help the nation "bounce back". 

That is according to a report published by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) today (13 November), which tracks investment in flexibility services since 2017 across nine European nations: Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

The report ranks Britain eighth of the nine countries, stating that the deployment of renewable generation, and technologies to balance the variable output of generation methods such as wind and solar, are likely to be “hampered” in the late 2020s.

Factors contributing to this impending slump include technical challenges with connecting to the network and a lack of visibility on returns – both of which, the REA claims, are underpinned by regulatory uncertainty. Particular policy concerns outlined in the report include a lack of short-term and medium-term frameworks around energy storage, electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and compensation structures to support the shift from a “consumer” model to a “prosumer” model.

The only nation to have fared worse than Britain in the ranking, commissioned by Drax and Eaton, was France. In contrast, the Netherlands came top of the table, with the REA highlighting the fact that national policies already lay out a “clear and transparent” roadmap to a flexible energy system in which the transition impacts on all stakeholders are considered.

“Decarbonising power means delivering flexibility; in a world of very low-cost variable renewable electricity, grids need to be organised differently and some services which were once taken for granted need to be actively procured,” the REA’s chief executive Nina Skorupska said.

“Crucially, as renewable power prices fall around the world every country will be experiencing the same shift. If Britain becomes a flexibility pioneer, then a whole world of markets for exporting our products and services opens up. Whilst this index shows we’re lagging behind, there’s still time to bounce back.”

In related news, a separate report this week found that just one in ten of the world's largest 132 coal, electricity and oil and gas companies have set time-bound net-zero targets.

Net-zero manifesto

The REA last week published a five-point manifesto detailing how the UK’s next Government could deliver this so-called “bounce back”.

The manifesto urges political parties to ensure that funding and planning need to decarbonise is a central consideration of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office through an independent body with the ability to enforce Government to act on decarbonisation.

It additionally calls for renewable energy and clean technology to be central to a Net Zero Treasury; the reformation of Ofgem to ensure energy network operators modernise energy systems; support for local authorities to reach net-zero through ring-fenced funding, and delivering a just transition to developing a workforce that takes high-quality skilled workers from the fossil fuel sector into new green jobs across the UK.

The manifesto builds on the REA’s work with ElectraLink on its ‘Flexible Futures’ report, which was published last month and revealed that the amount of energy generated and ‘exported’ back to the British grid doubled between 2012 and 2018, largely led by renewable generation.

The REA's Skorupska recently delivered a rousing keynote speech at edie's SPARK! event for energy leaders, outlining the ways in which UK businesses can harness the 'untapped' potential of net-zero. Listen to that speech in full here

Sarah George



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