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Frequently Asked Questions About the Energy Transition






The UK has some of the most ambitious net zero targets in the world, and a major part of that effort is the energy transition. Spend time reading about global geopolitical events and changing energy generation, and you will come across the term, with frequent headlines describing the energy transition as accelerating, slowing down, behind schedule or similar. While in practice the energy transition appears a relatively simple concept, actually achieving it is incredibly complex. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions. 

What is the energy transition? 

The energy transition refers to the global effort to shift from a fossil fuel-based system of energy production, using coal, oil, and natural gas, to one that uses clean, renewable energy sources. This transition is a key part of global efforts to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic climate change, limiting the world’s collective carbon emissions and impact on temperature increases. 

Why is the energy transition so challenging? 

On the surface, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable generation appears relatively simple: simply build more renewable generation, such as solar and wind farms. However, even setting aside the costs involved, renewable generation brings its challenges to contend with. Unlike fossil fuel generation, which can be turned up, down, or off as required, most renewable generation is at the mercy of weather conditions. When it is windy or sunny, generation is plentiful, but when it is calm or dark that generation slumps.  

Why is battery storage key to the energy transition? 

Battery energy storage is one of the key technologies that will deliver the energy transition. As renewable generation increases, maintaining grid reliability becomes more challenging. Storage is able to make up for the inflexible nature of renewable generation by storing excess power during periods of peak generation, before feeding that stored energy back into the grid when required. Inflexible generation can also make the grid more vulnerable to disruption and outages, as well as making the recovery from those outages more difficult and prolonged. Increasingly, large-scale battery storage is called upon to play a key role in either avoiding or minimising this disruption. 

How far is the UK into the energy transition? 

The UK has embraced renewable generation and battery storage, with large amounts of both already deployed and substantial pipelines to deliver far more. The expansion of renewable energy, in particular, has been remarkable. Sometime in 2023, the UK will produce its trillionth kWh of renewable energy since records began in 1970. The first half of that took 47 years to achieve. The second half was generated between just 2017 and 2023. The latest report on the growth of UK battery storage, published in April of 2022, showed that the pipeline for storage projects had doubled in the 12 months prior. 

However, whether the UK can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035 is another question. Considered an ambitious target when introduced by the prime minister Boris Johnson in October 2021, the twelve years remaining is precious little time to fully transition away from the gas power that is still a cornerstone of the UK generation mix. 

How has the energy crisis impacted the transition? 

The energy crisis in the short term has been a mixed bag in terms of impact on the energy transition, but in the long-term looks likely to have a net positive effect. The impact last year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on global gas markets was a severe crimping of supply, driving up prices and resulting in growing concerns of winter energy shortages. In response Western Europe, and the UK in particular, was forced to buy up what natural gas supplies it could, including LNG shipments, as well as tap into what stores were available. However, coal-fired generation that was placed on standby in the event of shortages was not called upon. 

In the longer term, Putin’s tactic of holding fossil fuel supplies to ransom in response to Western sanctions looks to be backfiring. The very tangible financial pain that many homeowners and businesses alike experienced, and are still experienced, brought into sharp relief the impact that volatile fossil fuel markets can have on energy prices. In turn, this is helping to drive a surge in support and investment for renewable energy, providing the energy transition itself with a welcome boost. A recent report from BloombergNEF found that total investment in cleaner energy projects globally reached £1.1 trillion last year, reaching parity with fossil fuel spending for the first time. 

Find out about more about the role your business needs to play in the energy transition

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