Power system flexibility in Great Britain
Maintaining a flexible power system able to rapidly respond to changes on the grid is increasingly critical in preventing power cuts as Britain transitions to a net zero economy, according to a new report.
Renewables supplied more than 40% of electricity during first quarter of 2020, with output overtaking fossil fuels for the first time in February.
Factories and supermarkets reduced electricity usage at key times to help keep the grid stable when power from wind farms fell and margins tightened.
Electricity demand on weekdays down 13% to lowest level since 1982 due to Covid-19 lockdown – with carbon emissions also falling.
Independent analysis, conducted via Imperial Consultants, by academics from Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights shows how volatile the country’s electricity system was in the first quarter of 2020 – but how a variety of energy technologies rose to the challenge.
Output from wind farms soared, up by 40% compared to Q1 2019, as severe storms meant Britain experienced its wettest and windiest February since records began – but it was flexible power stations and action from businesses, able to reduce their electricity usage in January, which helped prevent blackouts during cold, calm spells.
The report shows that:
When output from wind power fell sharply on cold, calm days the stress to the system increased and in one incident created a higher chance of blackouts, with just 0.2GW of spare capacity available, compared to over 4GW the following day
Flexible technologies like biomass, pumped storage and gas were able to increase their output to fill the void on some occasions when wind power reduced.
An evening peak in demand was also managed with factories and supermarkets reducing their electricity usage, helping to maintain normal day-ahead power prices.
After lockdown measures were introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19, weekday demand for electricity fell by 13% to levels not seen since the early 1980s.
Source / More information : Drax Group
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