Great Britain on track for periods of zero carbon electricity in 2025

Great Britain on track for periods of zero carbon electricity in 2025

Great Britain’s electricity system is on track to be powered free of fossil fuels
and at 100% zero carbon in just four years’ time according to a new National Grid Electricity
System Operator (ESO) report. This is a key enabler for a zero carbon electricity system by
2035, in line with the 6th Carbon Budget.

Data released ahead of the COP26 climate summit in November, along with recent
electricity records, illustrates the growth in renewable electricity generation and
progress towards periods of zero carbon operation of the GB electricity system, an ambition
the ESO first announced in April 2019.

At present its control room needs to draw on conventional power plants (typically gas) to
deliver system reliability and manage properties such as voltage and frequency. By 2025 it
will have transformed its operation of the electricity system, so that when there is enough
zero carbon generation available, it can deliver electricity to Great Britain without using any
fossil fuels.

Since 2016 Britain’s electricity has been over two-thirds zero carbon for 5,000 half hour
periods, over 100 days cumulatively. In 2019 zero carbon sources outstripped fossil fuelled
electricity generation for the first time ever and 1.30pm on 17th August of that year saw the
highest share of zero carbon power ever seen at 85.1% (wind 39%, solar 25%, nuclear 20%
and hydro 1%). Wednesday 12 February 2020 saw the highest ever output from zero carbon
generators– 28.8GW – enough to power 10m homes for a week.

This latest update on progress towards zero carbon forms part of a new National Grid ESO
report ahead of the COP26 climate summit on November which showcases how Great
Britain’s electricity system has decarbonized in recent times, charting the key industry and
policy developments that have made it possible.

Fintan Slye, National Grid ESO Executive Director said:

“We’re confident that by 2025 we will have periods of 100% zero carbon electricity,
with no fossil fuels used to generate power in Great Britain. As with coal free
operation of the grid these may be short periods at first but will still be a significant
milestone on the road to net zero, and these periods will quickly extend.

“The growth in renewable sources of power, with record levels of wind and solar,
means there will be enough zero carbon generation to meet demand. A
key challenge is ensuring the electricity system is ready to accommodate that power.
Our engineers are deploying innovative, world first approaches to transform how the
power system operates, such as removing the need to draw on
fossil fuel based generation for critical stabilizing properties.“There’s still plenty of hard work ahead but it’s an exciting time and getting to this
position has been a huge team effort from everyone across the entire energy
industry.

“We look forward to the opportunity that COP26 brings and sharing GB’s progress
towards zero carbon with countries around the world. Electricity systems are at the
forefront of the energy transition and have the potential to be a catalyst to accelerate
decarbonisation on a global basis. Now is the time to come together, share learnings
and bring about lasting change.”

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“The UK is leading the world in cleaning up our energy system and we continue to
break new records in wind and solar power, while coal has all but been eliminated
from the grid.

“Today’s report shows that the industry and the public’s hard work to drive up
renewables is paying off and we are on the cusp of achieving periods of 100% zero
carbon electricity generation with no fossil fuels used.

“There’s still some way to go, which is why we are powering forward with our
ambitious commitments to increase renewable power across the UK and invest in
new, green technologies so that we build back greener from the pandemic and tackle
climate change.”

May 23rd 2020 presents an example of how the ESO must transform the operation of the
power system ready for zero carbon.

On the day, the electricity market provided a near-100% zero carbon solution –
but the ESO’s control room had to intervene to ensure system stability, pulling back some
wind and hydro and replacing it with synchronous plant like gas and biomass which provided
sufficient inertia. That reduced the zero carbon proportion of the generation mix to around
83% over the day.

Its Stability Pathfinder project is finding new ways to source inertia, through synchronous
compensators, hydroelectric power stations or repurposed gas turbines, which means that
by 2025, if the market again presents 100% zero carbon power, it will no longer need to
reduce zero carbon generation.

More recent electricity records and statistics include:

• At 1pm on Easter Monday 5th April 21 the carbon intensity of electricity – the
measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to 39 gCO2,
the greenest Great Britain’s electricity grid has ever been.
• Coal generated only 1.6% of electricity in 2020, compared with almost 25% five years
ago
• Spring 2020 saw Britain’s longest run since the industrial revolution generating
electricity without using coal, stretching almost 68 days (1,630 hours) between April
10 and June 16.• The record for the highest ever level of wind generation and proportion of the mix
was broken on 21st May 21 (17.7GW and 62.1%)
• At 1pm on Easter Monday 5th April 21 the carbon intensity of electricity – the
measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed – dropped to 39 gCO2,
the greenest Great Britain’s electricity grid has ever been.
• Early afternoon on Sunday 11 June 2017 was the first time zero carbon power
contributed over 75% to Britain’s electricity mix.
• The same month – June 2017 – saw zero carbon power outstrip fossil fuel generation
across a month for the first time ever.

About National Grid ESO
National Grid Electricity System Operator – a legally separate business within the
National Grid Group – operates the electricity transmission system in Great Britain,
balancing supply and demand for electricity 24/7.
It does not own or operate any electricity generation or transmission but it’s engineers
and National Electricity Control Centre play a central role in managing electricity, liaising
with generators and regional distribution networks operators. Central to this is managing
key properties of electricity such as frequency and voltage ensuring a safe, secure and
reliable supply across Great Britain.

More on the ESO’s Zero Carbon ambition
In 2019 the ESO initiated a series of ‘pathfinder’ projects to identify and trial solutions to
procuring new services to provide frequency response, voltage, stability, restoration of
power and thermal constraints. This approach encouraged the market to come forward
with solutions – to bring in new sources of capital spend, new players into markets, and
new technologies. This contrasts with the typical approach in the rest of the world
whereby a monopolistic transmission owner identifies its preferred solution and builds it
itself.

For example, under the stability pathfinder, Drax has been contracted to provide inertia
through its Cruachan hydroelectric pumped storage plant located in a hollowed-out
mountain in Scotland, Welsh Power is installing a synchronous condenser and flywheel
at its site at Rassau in Ebbw Vale. Statkraft is developing two “Greener Grid Parks” in
Liverpool and Keith, Scotland. These new or modified assets will draw energy from the
grid to power their turbines and create inertia – rather than inertia being a by-product of
producing electricity. So, the same generators can continue providing inertia for the
system, but with dramatically reduced need to burn fossil fuels. It also means that wind
and solar power can stay online, rather than being paid to switch off, saving consumers
more than £100 million over the six-year duration of the contracts.

The ESO’s wider access programme has removed barriers to entry for a wider range of
technologies to access Great Britain’s balancing mechanism (BM) market. The BM isone of the main tools the ESO uses to balance supply and demand on the electricity
system in real-time, alongside balancing services like frequency response and reserve.
Through the BM, providers can offer to increase or decrease their generation or demand
to help balance the system.

‘Wider access’ enables the ESO to accept offers and bids from smaller providers, a
change that will improve system flexibility, allow more renewable power to contribute to
balancing the grid, and bring better value to consumers.

Late in 2020 the ESO also launched Dynamic Containment, the first in a suite of new
fast-acting frequency services to be introduced by the ESO to maintain the system close
to 50Hz – the frequency Britain’s grid must be kept at by balancing electricity supply and
demand second by second.

It’s designed to act rapidly when triggered by a fault on the system – for example the loss
of a generator – with providers, typically battery storage, injecting power into the grid to
catch and ‘contain’ the resulting deviation in frequency

 

Sir David Attenborough named COP26 People’s Advocate at UN climate change summit

Sir David Attenborough named COP26 People’s Advocate at UN climate change summit

  • Broadcaster and natural historian to work with the UK as host of COP26 to inspire action in the run up to the summit
  • Sir David will address world leaders and the public ahead of and at Glasgow in November
  • This appointment marks the pivotal moment of 6 months to go to COP26.

Sir David Attenborough becomes COP26 People’s Advocate for the UK’s Presidency of the UN climate change summit in Glasgow this November.

With six months to go before the UK brings world leaders together for key climate talks, the renowned natural historian and broadcaster will put forward the compelling case to global leaders, key decision makers and the public for why climate action matters, to evidence the progress underway, and to highlight the actions decision makers will need to take ahead of and at COP26.

He will address world leaders at major international events over the next six months, including the G7 Summit in Cornwall in June, to firmly put climate and the protection of nature at the top of their agenda, and he has also been invited to address world leaders and the public at the Glasgow Summit – the most important climate meeting since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

Sir David Attenborough has already inspired millions of people in the UK and around the world with his passion and knowledge to act on climate change and protect the planet for future generations. There is no better person to build momentum for further change as we approach the COP26 climate summit in November. I am hugely grateful to Sir David for agreeing to be our People’s Advocate.

On being appointed COP26 People’s Advocate, Sir David Attenborough said:

I am greatly honoured to be given the role of People’s Advocate. There could not be a more important moment that we should have international agreement. The epidemic has shown us how crucial it is to find agreement among nations if we are to solve such worldwide problems. But the problems that await us within the next 5 – 10 years are even greater. It is crucial that these meetings in Glasgow, COP26, have success, and that at last the nations will come together to solve the crippling problems that the world now faces.

Sir David has previously stressed the importance of COP26. Addressing the UN Security Council in February, on the invitation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he described COP26 as possibly “our last opportunity to make the necessary step-change” towards protecting the planet.

COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma, said:

Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and the stakes could not be higher for our planet. The next decade will be make, or break, for cutting global emissions sufficiently to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That is why I am delighted to be working with Sir David, a hero for our country and our planet, to inspire action ahead of COP26.

The appointment comes as Alok Sharma is urging governments, international organisations, businesses, and civil society to accelerate bold pledges ahead of the summit, to put the world on a path to net zero emissions by mid-century.

Notes to editors:

  1. This year, the UK will host the UN climate change conference COP26, in Glasgow with our partners, Italy. This will provide an opportunity for the world to come together and commit to urgent action.
  2. As hosts of COP26, the UK is leading by example during this unprecedented time. Guided by science, we are investing in a green recovery which creates sustainable jobs and addresses the urgent and linked challenges of public health, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
  3. The UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire action ahead of COP26.
Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector

Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector

World’s first comprehensive energy roadmap shows government actions to rapidly boost clean energy and reduce fossil fuel use can create millions of jobs, lift economic growth and keep net zero in reach according to IEA special report

The world has a viable pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally, the International Energy Agency said in a landmark special report released today.

Climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – would fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, according to the new report, Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.

The report is the world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth. It sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway, resulting in a clean, dynamic and resilient energy economy dominated by renewables like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels. The report also examines key uncertainties, such as the roles of bioenergy, carbon capture and behavioural changes in reaching net zero.

“Our Roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of net-zero emissions by 2050 – narrow but still achievable – is not lost. The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation.”

Building on the IEA’s unrivalled energy modelling tools and expertise, the Roadmap sets out more than 400 milestones to guide the global journey to net zero by 2050. These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.

In the near term, the report describes a net zero pathway that requires the immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies, combined with a major global push to accelerate innovation. The pathway calls for annual additions of solar PV to reach 630 gigawatts by 2030, and those of wind power to reach 390 gigawatts. Together, this is four times the record level set in 2020. For solar PV, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day. A major worldwide push to increase energy efficiency is also an essential part of these efforts, resulting in the global rate of energy efficiency improvements averaging 4% a year through 2030 – about three times the average over the last two decades.

Most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 in the net zero pathway come from technologies readily available today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase. This demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritise their spending on research and development – as well as on demonstrating and deploying clean energy technologies – putting them at the core of energy and climate policy. Progress in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolysers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage can be particularly impactful.

A transition of such scale and speed cannot be achieved without sustained support and participation from citizens, whose lives will be affected in multiple ways.

“The clean energy transition is for and about people,” said Dr Birol. “Our Roadmap shows that the enormous challenge of rapidly transitioning to a net zero energy system is also a huge opportunity for our economies. The transition must be fair and inclusive, leaving nobody behind. We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable way.”

Providing electricity to around 785 million people who have no access to it and clean cooking solutions to 2.6 billion people who lack them is an integral part of the Roadmap’s net zero pathway. This costs around $40 billion a year, equal to around 1% of average annual energy sector investment. It also brings major health benefits through reductions in indoor air pollution, cutting the number of premature deaths by 2.5 million a year.

Total annual energy investment surges to USD 5 trillion by 2030 in the net zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 percentage points a year to global GDP growth, based on a joint analysis with the International Monetary Fund. The jump in private and government spending creates millions of jobs in clean energy, including energy efficiency, as well as in the engineering, manufacturing and construction industries. All of this puts global GDP 4% higher in 2030 than it would reach based on current trends.

By 2050, the energy world looks completely different. Global energy demand is around 8% smaller than today, but it serves an economy more than twice as big and a population with 2 billion more people. Almost 90% of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70%. Most of the remainder comes from nuclear power. Solar is the world’s single largest source of total energy supply. Fossil fuels fall from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly over one-fifth. Fossil fuels that remain are used in goods where the carbon is embodied in the product such as plastics, in facilities fitted with carbon capture, and in sectors where low-emissions technology options are scarce.

“The pathway laid out in our Roadmap is global in scope, but each country will need to design its own strategy, taking into account its own specific circumstances,” said Dr Birol. “Plans need to reflect countries’ differing stages of economic development: in our pathway, advanced economies reach net zero before developing economies. The IEA stands ready to support governments in preparing their own national and regional roadmaps, to provide guidance and assistance in implementing them, and to promote international cooperation on accelerating the energy transition worldwide.”

The special report is designed to inform the high-level negotiations that will take place at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention in Glasgow in November. It was requested as input to the negotiations by the UK government’s COP26 Presidency.

“I welcome this report, which sets out a clear roadmap to net-zero emissions and shares many of the priorities we have set as the incoming COP Presidency – that we must act now to scale up clean technologies in all sectors and phase out both coal power and polluting vehicles in the coming decade,” said COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma. “I am encouraged that it underlines the great value of international collaboration, without which the transition to global net zero could be delayed by decades. Our first goal for the UK as COP26 Presidency is to put the world on a path to driving down emissions, until they reach net zero by the middle of this century.”

New energy security challenges will emerge on the way to net zero by 2050 while longstanding ones will remain, even as the role of oil and gas diminishes. The contraction of oil and natural gas production will have far-reaching implications for all the countries and companies that produce these fuels. No new oil and natural gas fields are needed in the net zero pathway, and supplies become increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers. OPEC’s share of a much-reduced global oil supply grows from around 37% in recent years to 52% in 2050, a level higher than at any point in the history of oil markets.

Growing energy security challenges that result from the increasing importance of electricity include the variability of supply from some renewables and cybersecurity risks. In addition, the rising dependence on critical minerals required for key clean energy technologies and infrastructure brings risks of price volatility and supply disruptions that could hinder the transition.

“Since the IEA’s founding in 1974, one of its core missions has been to promote secure and affordable energy supplies to foster economic growth. This has remained a key concern of our Net Zero Roadmap,” Dr Birol said. “Governments need to create markets for investments in batteries, digital solutions and electricity grids that reward flexibility and enable adequate and reliable supplies of electricity. The rapidly growing role of critical minerals calls for new international mechanisms to ensure both the timely availability of supplies and sustainable production.”

The full report is available for free on the IEA’s website along with an online interactive that highlights some of the key milestones in the pathway that must be achieved in the next three decades to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Pin It on Pinterest