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Why Accelerating the Energy Transition is Vital






The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index benchmarks the performance of 115 countries in terms of their progress toward decarbonising their energy mix. The UK has made solid progress since the measurement was introduced in 2012, but the pace of the transition across the board has now slowed.

As things stand, the pace of improvement is inadequate to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and limit warming to 1.5C by 2050. Geopolitical events over the past three years have only made that challenge more difficult, but the need to transition global energy generation to a net zero model remains as vital as ever.

Why has the energy transition slowed down?

The impact of Covid-19 played a major role in derailing energy transition progress. The International Energy Agency reported that the downturn in productivity resulted in a slowing in both the development of vital energy efficiency improvements and the rollout of wind and solar generation. Lower energy prices and a drop in manufacturing output provided a further disincentive for investment in energy efficiency measures for many businesses, a decision many are likely regretting now as demand for energy post-pandemic was one of the major factors that triggered the current energy price crisis.

As a result, global energy intensity improved only 0.5% during 2020. While it has since returned to the pre-pandemic rate of around 2.3%, this is still well short of the 4% needed to meet the targets of the Paris Accord.

Britain’s departure from the European Union appears to have further hampered the transition here in the UK. A report by Cornwall Insight found that leaving the EU had damaged the UK’s position as the global leader on sustainability, leading to a period of missed opportunities. However, it also pointed out that the UK still has strong prospects for accelerating the energy transition, including a strong supply chain, a healthy appetite for energy investment and a useful geographic location.

Finally, the current energy price crisis poses the biggest short-term threat the energy transition. The winter outlook appears to be growing more pessimistic by the day, and large amount of gas and coal generation will be used to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.

How can the UK accelerate the transition?

While we are facing a short-term energy crunch, the UK still has plenty of options to drive the energy transition forward over the longer term and progress towards an ultimate goal of achieving a net zero energy system by 2050.

Much of the generation required to meet this target is already either in place or in the pipeline. Six of the world’s ten largest wind farms are in British waters, with four with the potential to exceed even those under construction. Combined with nearly 14GW of solar generation, the UK has committed to enough renewable generation to balance the books if the right infrastructure is introduced elsewhere.

Key to this transition, and the ability to move away from fossil fuel generation, is an expansion in grid balancing. Much of this will be provided by grid-scale energy storage, with the UK set to lead the world in the rollout of grid-scale storage through to 2031. The lack of foresight meaning more is not already in place has played a significant role in the rise in energy prices despite wind and solar power continuing to become more cost-effective.

Grid balancing presents a wealth of opportunities for businesses, particularly those with a large overall energy demand. Several mechanics are in place to allow companies to unlock new revenue streams by varying their site’s draw on the grid to help the grid balance periods of fluctuating supply and demand. Behind-the-Meter battery energy storage is one of the most effective ways of doing this, able to rapidly increase or reduce the demand of a site in response to requests from National Grid for support in balancing the grid.

To find out more about how your business could earn additional revenue helping to balance the grid, click here

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