UK power prices turn negative for nine hours, balancing costs spike during ‘extraordinary’ weekend

Image: BT.

UK power prices turned negative for nine consecutive hours on Sunday in what’s been billed as an “extraordinary turn of events” for the country’s electricity system.

Unusually low demand, some 2GW below forecasts, combined with high wind generation to send prices spiralling, and National Grid was even forced into instructing onshore and offshore wind farms to turn down their generation.

Between the hours of 12:00pm and 9:00pm on Sunday 26 May, the UK endured an extended period of negative pricing, with wholesale power prices falling to as low as -£71.26/MWh.

National Grid Electricity System Operator’s daily balancing report for 26 May 2019 reveals that the SO paid more than £6.6 million on balancing costs, having spent just £300,000 the day before, providing an indication as to the scale of the volatility experienced on the system throughout the day.

At nine hours long, it amounts to the longest consecutive period of negative pricing the UK has encountered and has been described as “unprecedented” by energy tech company Limejump, which acts within the balancing mechanism.

In addition, after a slight recovery, the market dipped back into negative pricing between 11:45pm on Sunday and 1:45am on the morning of Monday 27 May, meaning that negative prices were in action for around 11 hours within a 24 hour period.

The instances of negative pricing left the average system price for power on Sunday 26 May at -£12.16/MWh.

Those prices were essentially created by low demand. The average power demand on Sunday was just 25.4GW, while the minimum demand in that period was 19.8GW, recorded between 3:45am and 4:15am, right towards the lower end of minimum demand forecasts within National Grid’s 2019 Summer Outlook.

The event comes just two months after the previous long run of negative system prices, a period of six hours which occurred on Sunday 24 March that witnessed system prices fall to similar lows.

Limejump said in a trading note issued to customers: “The question traders have been asking themselves earlier this year – ‘Are negative system prices an anomaly or are they here to stay?’ – has now been answered without a doubt by these an a number of other observed similar scenarios.”

Speaking to Current±, a Limejump spokesperson said that those operating battery storage plants over the weekend were obvious winners.

“Smart trading strategies deliver great revenue especially those with accurate forecasting. Batteries that were charging during these negative prices time frame, including Limejump’s, were definitely happy recipient.”

It was also a significant weekend for the carbon intensity of the grid, which at times dipped well below the 100g CO2/kWh threshold required to comply with the Fifth Carbon Budget. Sunday afternoon saw carbon intensity dip to just 69g CO2/kWh on the back of surging wind and solar activity.

Coal meanwhile is in the midst of yet another record breaking absence from the UK’s power mix, having not generated for more than 250 hours, equivalent to almost 11 days. Only earlier this month Britain celebrated its first coal-free month since the Industrial Revolution, and coal has now experienced more than 1,500 hours off the grid in 2019.

Wind meanwhile spent large portions of Sunday afternoon providing more than 11GW of power, equivalent to 37-39% of total demand.

UKPN invests £15 million in ‘world’s most advanced’ network control system

Image: UKPN.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is to create what professes to be the world’s most advanced electricity network control system, enabling more than 500MW of distributed energy to connect to its network cheaper and faster than before.

The distribution network operator (DNO) has teamed up with Smarter Grid Solutions to invested £15 million in new Active Network Management (ANM) software which is to be integrated into its new control system.

The ANM will be capable of processing significant quantities of data to run the South East of England’s power network, providing UKPN with a more comprehensive view of what’s happening on the network at any given moment.

The software will then make complex decisions to optimise the flow of available power autonomously, essentially creating more capacity for distributed energy resources such as wind and solar and reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades.

Sotiris Georgiopoulos, head of smart grid development at UKPN, said that the firm was creating a platform for the network of the future and “taking it further and faster than anyone in the world has done before”.

“This business-as-usual project demonstrates that innovation is truly embedded in our business. Having ANM integrated into our entire network control system is going to open the door to an almost limitless range of smart grid applications,” he said.

While other networks in the country operate some form of ANM, UKPN said it was the first to undertake a major investment in the technology and roll it out across its entire network at all voltage levels.

Georgiopoulos added that in practice, the software would function like apps on a smart phone.

“Once we have the core platform ready, we’ll be able to add a vast number of smart applications to it without having to build and maintain individual platforms for individual projects. The fact it acts as a platform, as opposed to a solution to a specific problem, means it will be able to take advantage of emerging technologies around big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said.

Smarter Grid Solutions is to lead the consortium tasked with the build and deployment of the system and Bob Currie, chief technology officer at the firm, described the project as a “watershed moment” for distribution networks.

“Our ANM Strata platform has been proven in commercial deployments at major international utilities across the world. ANM Strata provides UK Power Networks with the ability to manage all types and sizes of distributed energy, with a unique layered approach to optimisation, management and control of DER. Our consortium partners will augment our ANM Strata product with leading control centre analytics and a distributed energy marketplace,” Currie said.

ScottishPower seeking battery storage rush to support net zero ambitions

Image: ScottishPower

ScottishPower has revealed intentions to make Glasgow the UK’s first ‘net zero’ city, in collaboration with Glasgow City Council.

And the utility is also preparing a battery storage rush in a bid to support its renewable energy ambitions.

To achieve net zero emissions, the city will need to decarbonise heat and transport, as well as upping its renewable energy sources.

Scotland’s current goal is to be net zero by 2045, however a spokesperson for ScottishPower told an audience at last week’s All-Energy that the company is looking to have the majority of the infrastructure for decarbonising heat and transport in place by around 2037, stating that they are “ruling nothing out” when it comes to how decarbonisation of heat will occur.

Glasgow is one of only two cities in the UK – the other being London- to have a Low Emission Zone. As such, EVs are to form a large part of the decarbonisation programme.

With over 70% of Glasgow citizens living in flats, ScottishPower says the transition towards EVs could be tricky. An EV programme that will become a template for other cities is to be rolled out, with commercial fast chargers, residential chargers, on-street charging and workplace charging infrastructure to be installed.

The prize is the future of our country and our planet

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cited the Committee on Climate Change’s landmark Net Zero report as a driving force behind the Scottish Government setting a net zero target of 2045.

“[The] announcement between ScottishPower and Glasgow City Council – to make Glasgow the UK’s first “net zero” city – is a very welcome step.

“Reaching our goals will need exactly this kind of partnership approach – with government, business, local authorities and citizens all playing their part,” Sturgeon added.

Keith Anderson, chief executive at ScottishPower, said: “It is our hope that this declaration kick starts a race to zero with other ambitious cities, like Edinburgh, because then we will all be winners. The prize is the future of our country and our planet.

“The maths for going net zero is simple. Renewable energy capacity has to quadruple and electricity generation has to double. We can’t do this if we keep inventing ways to block new renewable capacity.

“We’ve been able to compensate to some extent by racing ahead with large offshore wind projects, but quadrupling capacity can’t rely on putting all our eggs in one renewable basket. We’ve said very clearly we will aim to invest £6 billion in renewable capacity by 2022. The easier it is to do this, the quicker we all get to Net Zero.”

Meanwhile, ScottishPower is ramping up its large-scale battery storage and EV offering, having announced a £2 billion investment earlier this year.

A 50MW battery is to be installed at Whitlee, the country’s largest wind farm. Once planning permission is in place, ScottishPower will seek similar arrangements for its other UK wind farms, with potential for batteries to go onto solar and wind sites in the future.

ScottishPower seeking battery storage rush to support net zero ambitions

Image: ScottishPower

ScottishPower has revealed intentions to make Glasgow the UK’s first ‘net zero’ city, in collaboration with Glasgow City Council.

And the utility is also preparing a battery storage rush in a bid to support its renewable energy ambitions.

To achieve net zero emissions, the city will need to decarbonise heat and transport, as well as upping its renewable energy sources.

Scotland’s current goal is to be net zero by 2045, however a spokesperson for ScottishPower told an audience at last week’s All-Energy that the company is looking to have the majority of the infrastructure for decarbonising heat and transport in place by around 2037, stating that they are “ruling nothing out” when it comes to how decarbonisation of heat will occur.

Glasgow is one of only two cities in the UK – the other being London- to have a Low Emission Zone. As such, EVs are to form a large part of the decarbonisation programme.

With over 70% of Glasgow citizens living in flats, ScottishPower says the transition towards EVs could be tricky. An EV programme that will become a template for other cities is to be rolled out, with commercial fast chargers, residential chargers, on-street charging and workplace charging infrastructure to be installed.

The prize is the future of our country and our planet

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cited the Committee on Climate Change’s landmark Net Zero report as a driving force behind the Scottish Government setting a net zero target of 2045.

“[The] announcement between ScottishPower and Glasgow City Council – to make Glasgow the UK’s first “net zero” city – is a very welcome step.

“Reaching our goals will need exactly this kind of partnership approach – with government, business, local authorities and citizens all playing their part,” Sturgeon added.

Keith Anderson, chief executive at ScottishPower, said: “It is our hope that this declaration kick starts a race to zero with other ambitious cities, like Edinburgh, because then we will all be winners. The prize is the future of our country and our planet.

“The maths for going net zero is simple. Renewable energy capacity has to quadruple and electricity generation has to double. We can’t do this if we keep inventing ways to block new renewable capacity.

“We’ve been able to compensate to some extent by racing ahead with large offshore wind projects, but quadrupling capacity can’t rely on putting all our eggs in one renewable basket. We’ve said very clearly we will aim to invest £6 billion in renewable capacity by 2022. The easier it is to do this, the quicker we all get to Net Zero.”

Meanwhile, ScottishPower is ramping up its large-scale battery storage and EV offering, having made a £2 million investment earlier this year.

A 50MW battery is to be installed at Whitlee, the country’s largest wind farm. Once planning permission is in place, ScottishPower will seek similar arrangements for its other UK wind farms, with potential for batteries to go onto solar and wind sites in the future.

Solar Set For Post-Brexit Boost

Solar Energy News: Solar Set For Post-Brexit Boost

The United Kingdom’s rough divorce from the European Union could provide a boost for solar energy, with the renewable sector capitalising on turbulent times for gas and oil.

The UK currently imports most of its traditional energy from within the EU, but with no EU-UK energy transfer deals in place, predicted post-Brexit energy shortages and price rises on the way, trade association Energy UK believes solar will step in and fill the void.

No agreement on the UK’s departure from the UK “will have significant and negative consequences for the energy industry and could impact customers’ bills,” said Lawrence Slade, Energy UK’s chief executive.

The positivity comes despite an initial Brexit-related 56% drop in investment in UK renewables, relating to concerns about the cost of exporting energy and importing equipment.

Solar Should Fill The Void

Andrius Terskovas, from Sun Investment Group (SIG), one of the largest solar providers in Central-Eastern Europe, which has previously exported equipment to the UK, is positive.

“The void created by the lack of a secure energy transfer between the UK and the continent could potentially be filled by solar energy providers given their drop in prices and increasing popularity,” he said.

With the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations still uncertain, it’s predicted that whatever the scenario, be it no-deal or a withdrawal agreement is met, solar could — and should — capitalise.

Secure Rates For Your Business Before They Become Too Volatile

Energy switching service, Make it Cheaper, has urged consumers and businesses to find better energy deals while the UK’s future relationship with the EU is still being thrashed out in London and Brussels.

John Elliott, Make it Cheaper CEO, said: “Energy UK’s report highlights some of the causes of these likely rises and only goes to strengthen the case for switching soon for longer fixed term tariffs, securing rates for your business before they become too volatile.”

2018 was a record year for energy switching with one in five consumers in the UK switching to a new energy supplier, according to another release by Energy UK.

People Are Mobilising In Demand For Climate Action

On Monday 15th April 2018, thousands of environmental activists marched in London over climate change in what’s been called a ‘climate rebellion’, aiming to force the government to take action against climate change.

Organisers, Extinct Rebellion, want governments to “take decisive action on the climate and ecological emergency,” with a strategic move towards halting biodiversity loss and reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the centre of the group’s demands.

Go Solar Today And Join The Renewable Revolution

Labour Party unveils new solar commitment in push to install PV on 1.75 million homes

The Labour Party has announced plans to install solar one 1.75 million homes as part of a huge energy sector shake-up.

The plans would see solar installed on 1 million social homes in a bid to tackle fuel poverty, while a series of interest free loans, grants and regulatory changes will help enable an additional 750,000 domestic installs.

Full details of the plans are to be announced by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn later today.

The party said the policies stood to create nearly 17,000 jobs, while raising as much as £66 million for local authorities through the export of surplus generation.

Corbyn said that the party’s self-styled Green Industrial Revolution would benefit homeowners and revive parts of the country through the creation of new industries.

“By focusing on low income households we will reduce fuel poverty and increase support for renewable energy. Social justice and climate justice as one. Environmental destruction and inequality not only can, but must be tackled at the same time,” he said.

The industry has strongly welcomed the plans, with Solar Trade Association director Leonie Greene arguing that climate change had emerged as a critical issue for all modern political parties.

“The solar industry would relish scaling-up rapidly to deliver on these commendable ambitions which would see deployment rates double compared to the past decade. A solar homes push would give a tremendous boost to green jobs across the UK, which are good quality and local in nature.

“We are particularly pleased to see Labour’s focus on social housing, since solar can save households potentially hundreds of pounds off their energy bills. Current policies deter those who need solar the most from accessing it, which is a great shame,” she said.

Greg Jackson, chief executive at clean energy provider Octopus Energy, meanwhile described Labour’s new commitment as commendable.

“Policy detail aside, the key to success and a greener future is to bring technological innovation to the UK energy market, fast.

“We need to transform our grid to become a ‘people powered’, decentralised energy system where increasing numbers of citizens can become generators as well as consumers. Solar panels on every home could bring cheap, smart energy to local communities,” he said.

Yesterday Labour unveiled plans to renationalise the country’s energy networks, bringing National Grid and the country’s DNOs back under public ownership as part of a radical overhaul of the energy sector.

UK power records continue to fall as solar sets new generation high

Image: Getty.

Yet another power generation record fell in the UK yesterday afternoon, as the country’s solar fleet set a new generation record.

The UK’s solar generation topped out at 9.47GW around midday yesterday (Tuesday 13 May 2019), toppling the previous record of 9.38GW set in May 2017.

And with the bright skies set to continue, there’s every chance the record could be beaten again today.

National Grid’s ESO confirmed the news in a tweet, before confirming later that solar was providing more than a quarter (26%) of the country’s total power output at the time.

Cookies are currently disabled. Please accept cookies to view this content.

The solar record is the latest in a spring of landmark achievements for the UK’s power system. Last week the UK celebrated going a whole week without coal generation for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, aided by substantial wind generation.

Leonie Greene, director of advocacy and new markets at the Solar Trade Association, said that solar’s ability to meet big portions of electricity demand when skies are bright and temperatures mild was impossible to argue with.

Greene was, however, quick to point towards barriers to deployment that could prevent solar’s contribution from growing still.

“Days like these show that the technology can deliver clean, affordable power in abundance. We now need government to provide a level playing field with other technologies and then solar can thrive without public support. Currently solar in the UK faces a plethora of barriers which have dramatically slowed deployment.

“The sobering reports out recently from the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund show fossil fuels subsidies are rising globally as renewables investment stagnates. Every country now needs to buck that trend and particularly the UK given we still lag behind the EU average for renewable energy,” she said.

As well as a potential increase to VAT attached to solar panels, energy regulator Ofgem is preparing its final plans for a set of reforms to network costs that could delay the onset of subsidy-free renewables by up to five years, new research has claimed.

The UK’s total current solar PV generation capacity stands at just north of 13GW, but that figure has not materially increased since the closure of the Renewables Obligation in 2017.

How Does Solar Battery Technology Work?

How Does Solar Battery Technology Work?

Renewable energy is rightly growing in popularity. According to data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), bioenergy, wind, solar and hydro accounted for 27.5% of all energy supplied in the UK in 2018, up from 23.5% in 2017.

The Solar Trade Association also reports that the UK now has more than 1 million solar homes, counting both solar and solar thermal. While statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show there are now 800,000 UK homes with photovoltaic (PV) panels.

If you’re considering installing solar, either at home or on your commercial premises, it’s important to do your homework. Which is why, in this post, we answer questions about solar battery technology, so you understand how solar batteries work in conjunction with solar panels and government incentives for exporting power to the grid.

What Are Solar Batteries Used For?

Solar batteries are used to store energy generated by PV panels. The stored power is usable when the panels are operating under capacity, such as on cloudy days when they operate at under 25%, or when they’re not generating electricity at all, during night time, for instance.

Think of it in the context of a regular weekday. Imagine it’s a sunny day and you’re at work from 9am to 5pm. Because you’re in the office, you’re not home at 12 noon, when the sun is at its strongest and your PV panels are most effective. Therefore, you can’t use that solar energy straight away.

A solar battery stores that energy created at peak sun-hours for later. This means you’ll have renewable energy to use when you get home later in the day, and can use household appliances as usual. Essentially, storage batteries mean you can nearly always rely on renewable energy.

How Is Solar Energy Stored In Batteries?

Solar energy is stored in solar batteries as direct current (DC) electricity, after being generated from direct sunlight by PV panels. A built-in converter then turns the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is usable for powering devices and appliances.

How Long Will A Fully-Charged Solar Battery Last?

It depends on the battery model and what you are using the power for. But in many cases, solar batteries generate around 10 to 12 hours of energy, which is enough to use on winter’s nights, or on cloudy days when PV panels aren’t operating to full capacity.

The average UK household uses between 13 to 14 kWh of electricity per day (5,000 kWh per year), mainly in the morning and evening. Solar batteries range in capacity; from 1.2 kWh to 16 kWh, so calculate your household energy usage, or ask an energy expert for an estimation and advice.

As a rule of thumb, the more household appliances you use, the bigger you will want your solar battery capacity to be. Your decision will also depend on battery cost, as there are plenty of different price options available, meaning there will be a battery to suit your requirements.

Warranties are available, but they vary. Some manufactures guarantee unlimited charges, and some offering a certain number of charges, whether that’s three or ten thousand. Some manufacturers offer a guaranteed power range – often between 7,200 kWh to 80,000 kWh – over time.

In addition to capacity, the makeup of the solar battery is important too. Lead acid, while being the cheaper option, doesn’t last as long as lithium ion. Lithium ion is now seen as the go-to material, due to its lifespan. Saltwater electrolyte batteries are available, but remain relatively untested.

How Do Solar Batteries Feed Into The Grid?

Solar batteries have a dual purpose if you are connected to the grid. Firstly, being able to export unused power to the grid when you don’t need it. Secondly, being able to import electricity into your property from the grid itself, when the combination of your PV panels and solar battery isn’t generating enough electricity.

You may have heard of the feed-in tariff (FiT), whereby small-scale renewable generators, such as homes or small businesses, were paid for green electricity exported to the grid. FiT has now ended, however, with a new system set to be implemented in 2019 following a the results of a now-closed consultation: the future for small-scale low-carbon generation.

Can You Use A Solar Battery To Go Off-Grid?

Yes. Although PV panels in isolation aren’t enough. That’s because cloudy days (and we get plenty of them in the UK!) might not always provide you with enough sunlight to turn into power. A solar battery, however, could help you store enough energy to go completely off-grid. Although whether this is viable or not depends on both your household energy usage, and the solar battery model you choose.

Generating your own green power by going completely off-grid is an admirable goal. Energy experts will help you assess both the technology installations and lifestyle changes required to make it happen.

Do Solar Batteries Work During A Power Cut?

Yes. In the same way solar batteries store power that’s usable when PV panels aren’t at full capacity, batteries store backup power that’s usable during a power cut. This means you’ll carry on as normal, while properties around you without the same technology are plunged into complete darkness.

The battery stores the energy and you can use it whenever — and however — you wish to.

UK smashes yet another coal-free record

Image: EDF Energy.

Coal last generated in the UK before 2pm on last Wednesday 1 May, and smashed through the previous record at around 9am on Sunday 5 May.

The most recent coal-free record was set also on a bank holiday weekend. From 10:30pm Thursday 18 April 2019 until 5:30pm on Monday 22 April 2019, a period of just over 90 hours, the country’s energy demand was met entirely without coal.

However the country’s coal-free record has shown no sign of abating and as of 4pm today (Tuesday 7 May 2019), the UK has gone 146 hours without coal.

Should the UK make it another 22 hours, it will set a new milestone of having gone a week without any coal generation.

And the signs are good, with Duncan Burt, director of operations for National Grid, System Operator, commenting that it looks promising for that feat to be achieved, having lasted today’s morning peak.

Burt also tweeted to commend the work of those at National Grid in making it happen.

Cookies are currently disabled. Please accept cookies to view this content.

Figures provided by Drax Electric Insights show that for a period on Saturday afternoon, the country’s solar and wind fleet combined to supply more than 53% of the country energy demand, also coinciding with the lowest carbon intensity of the period at 72g CO2/kWh.

The new coal-free run also means that the UK has exceeded 1,000 hours without coal generation this year already, as figures compiled by MyGridGB confirm.

Suppliers set for late 2019 smart solar export deadline

Image: Nottingham City Council.

The government is eyeing a late-2019 deadline for qualifying energy suppliers to have solar export tariffs up and running.

A consultation launched earlier this week, which seeks views on amendments to licensing conditions necessary to make way for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), revealed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), envisages that a “final deadline” for suppliers to offer tariffs to solar households and businesses could be set by the end of this year.

The consultation’s publication was followed by the subject being discussed within a BEIS oral questions session in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with the UK’s domestic solar industry having expressed frustration at the policy vacuum it currently finds itself in.

The small-scale feed-in tariff closed to new applicants on 31 March 2019 and, since then, there has been a lack of policy support for domestic renewables.

While the government first consulted on the SEG in January this year, there had been a lack of news on when the mechanism was to be implemented, essentially rendering all new installations open to exporting their surplus power without guarantee of payment.

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy questioned BEIS officials on when the consultation response would be published, to which universities minister Chris Skidmore, standing in for energy minister Claire Perry, insisted the government wished to start the legislative process before the summer recess, expected in July.

However McCarthy responded to Skidmore with the frank assertion that many in the solar industry would consider that timeframe as unacceptable, before calling for a fair, minimum floor price to prevent suppliers “taking advantage” of solar households.

Skidmore confirmed that this would be consulted on, but suggested that the “right signals are already emerging”, pointing to the fact that some suppliers were voluntarily bringing forward tariffs already.

E.On was the first to publicly announce its equivalent of the SEG, albeit on a limited basis, by confirming that it would honour the previous export tariff for a period of one year for the first 500 households that installed domestic PV under the company’s offering.

That was followed by Octopus Energy launching two separate ‘Outgoing’ tariffs, including a tracker tariff that followed day-ahead pricing.

Leonie Greene, director of advocacy and external affairs at the Solar Trade Association, said action was needed “as soon as possible”.

“We urge ministers to confirm now that households and communities can have full confidence that they will receive payment at a fair market rate for the clean power they provide for others to use as we decarbonise the UK electricity grid. With the CCC today underlining how vital public engagement will be to meet net zero, it is important that households & communities who make the effort can at least have confidence they will be treated fairly.

“This seems to us the minimum government should do, in line with EU law. Much more is required to ramp up investment if government is to meet the recommendations of the CCC on net zero,” she said.