If only the sun shone all the time! The UK has two major energy challenges; providing reliable energy whenever consumers need the power, while lowering carbon emissions at a price UK consumers can afford. The Government has shown a strong commitment to the renewables market but as we all know, power derived from sun and wind cannot provide power every hour of every day. Flexible power generation is a means of providing power to the network when demand exceeds supply and at other periods of peak demand. It helps to relieve stress on local and national power networks through dynamic, flexible generation providing additional power when it’s needed. Flexible generation also helps to stabilise the system, by providing the inertia that is lacking in most renewable sources of generation.
What is flexible power generation?
To help understand the future of flexible generation, we can look to the Future Energy Scenarios (FES) published by the National Grid ESO. FES (July 2019) concludes that flexible generation will continue to play an important role in all four future energy scenarios, and particularly in the scenarios achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050:
“Gas-fired power stations continue to play an important part in the GB electricity generation mix, both in terms of larger plants like transmission connected CCGTs, as well as distribution connected or onsite small gas reciprocating engines.”
“With the recent and continuing growth in renewable, intermittent forms of electricity generation, thermal plant offer flexibility services as they are able to provide extra generation at very short notice.”
“We have therefore increased our projections for distribution connected gas generation across all scenarios, with the greatest growth in the more decentralised scenarios of Consumer Evolution and Community Renewables.”
“One of the key factors for growth will be this plants’ competitiveness against other forms of flexibility such as storage.”
“In addition, new emissions regulations came into force in 2018. These have led us to predict no further growth in small diesel reciprocating engines beyond currently contracted projects, and so we anticipate that most distribution connected thermal plant growth will be from gas projects.”