The boom in wind and solar power will lead to the loss of a huge surplus of electricity in 2030
According to a new analysis, Britain is set to have a surplus of electricity by 2030 due to huge investment in wind and solar power.
A huge amount of energy produced by renewable sources could be wasted within a decade without much more energy storage technology, such as batteries and electrolyzers to produce hydrogen – according to LCP, a research firm advice.
The UK electricity grid works on the basis of supply and demand and therefore must be kept in balance to keep the system running and avoid outages.
If more energy is produced than there is demand, it is wasted.
This has an impact on wind and solar in particular, because unlike coal and nuclear, their energy production cannot be increased on command to match demand.
The government’s new energy security strategy – which aims for 95% of its electricity to come from low-carbon sources such as solar panels by 2030 – has raised questions for investors in renewable sources and power stations nuclear as to whether they will be able to find buyers for when they produce power above demand levels.
The UK could end up wasting huge amounts of electricity by 2030 as it invests heavily in solar and wind power, but there may not be enough energy storage to stop the waste (photo: offshore wind farm near the River Mersey)
Solar and wind power produce electricity less predictably than nuclear and coal and so sometimes it is energy that is wasted if there is not enough supply (Pictured: Farm solar in Northamptonshire)
If they cannot, they may ask for higher subsidies for the periods they operate in order to balance their costs.
Another consequence of this is thought to be that so-called time-of-use electricity tariffs will provide consumers with cheaper energy in times of excess supply.
When the weather is nice and windy, people will be encouraged to use more energy, by charging electric vehicles or other power-hungry devices.
Wind is already the second biggest energy contributor in the UK, and the price of wind power is thought to fall to around a quarter of the price of gas power in 2023.
Currently, low-carbon wind, solar and nuclear energy produced in the UK rarely exceeds Britain’s electricity demand.
However, LCP estimates that this oversupply could occur 53% of the time by 2030.
Without a major expansion of energy storage technologies, this could result in huge amounts of green electricity being wasted, forcing plant owners to shut down production.
Chris Matson, Partner at LCP, spoke with The temperaturehe said: “For more than half the time in 2030, the UK’s renewable and nuclear energy system will generate more energy from renewables and nuclear than it uses.
“Simply wasting this generation would hurt both consumers and investors, so a whole systems approach is essential to minimize the cost of delivering net zero.”
He said the UK needed to speed up the delivery of technologies such as battery storage, pumped hydro and electrolysers.
Consumers could be offered discounted off-peak electricity in future to tackle the problem of a lack of energy storage facilities in the UK
In 2021, LCP estimated that an additional 20 GWh of battery storage could reduce the amount of wasted wind energy by up to 50%.
They also predicted that by 2025 wind reductions between Scotland and England will cost consumers £1billion a year and that figure is set to rise.
The analysis showed Britain cut wind power 75% of days in 2020, with over 3.6 TWh of wind power turned off in total, mostly due to grid constraints.
This volume of wasted wind energy is enough to power more than one million homes for an entire year.
Gas generated the most electricity in the UK last month, while coal was only responsible for 1% (pictured: coal-fired power station)
On April 1 this year, UK energy bills soared by 54% as regulator Ofgem raised the price cap for an average house to £1,971 from £1,277, a increase of £693.
It is expected that this bill could rise even further to around £2,700 a year from October.
The cause is partly due to the expected increase in gas prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
British and European gas prices have both hit record highs since the start of the war in Ukraine.
While the UK only has about 5% of its gas supplied by Russia, the prices we pay can still rise globally if Russian supplies to Europe are affected.
According to the National Grid, in April 40% of electricity generated in the UK came from gas, 23.4% from wind, 17.1% from nuclear and 6.1% from solar.
Following the conflict and its disruption of the international market, the government hopes that its energy security strategy will help increase our self-sufficiency in energy production.
The plan includes an ambition to build up to eight nuclear power plants to meet around a quarter of projected electricity demand by 2050.