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Power resilience for a net zero world

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Why the Transition to Net Zero Makes You Vulnerable to Power Disruption






At the 2021 Conservative Party Conference in early October, Boris Johnson laid out yet more ambitious targets as the UK works towards achieving collective net zero. This latest stated goal is to transition our energy generation entirely to renewable sources by 2035. With gas turbines still playing a pivotal role in our current energy mix, a radical overhaul of how we balance supply and demand will be needed over the next 15 years.

While renewable generation offers clean, plentiful, and low-cost power during good generation periods, the transition away from centralised, fossil fuel generation increases the risk of power disruption in a number of different ways. Whether your organisation has your own net zero plans in place or not, improving your power resilience is an increasingly vital part of your power management strategy that you cannot afford to overlook.

How renewable energy impacts on grid power resilience

The UK is already moving more quickly in the transition towards renewable energy than some of our neighbours. We have clearly established ourselves as a global leader for wind energy, with nearly 11,000 turbines and a total capacity of over 24GW installed across both onshore and offshore wind. Seven of the world’s 12 largest offshore wind farms are in British waters. Of additional offshore wind farms under construction, the six largest are all British.

Throughout 2020, wind and solar generation averaged 29% of our total generation capacity, including record generation during December when Storm Bella saw wind make up more than half of our total demand. However, this also clearly illustrates one of the main drawbacks of both wind and solar generation: they are reliant on weather conditions outside of our control.

Periods of highest demand are typically during the early evening over the winter, when domestic heating demand combines with industrial and commercial operations. Short winter days already impact on solar generation, so when periods of calm weather also coincide with spikes in demand it leaves our energy system badly out of balance.

While grid-scale renewable power can make balancing supply and demand more difficult, it is not the only impact that more widespread renewable generation can have on grid power resilience. As we transition to a decentralised generation and dispatch model, more distributed generation comes to rely on localised distribution networks rather than high voltage transmission connections. This can put significant additional stress onto local network infrastructure, such as transformers, and can even risk them being overwhelmed by more power than they can safely handle.

Rebalancing the system

A complex mixture of balancing services will be required to balance changing levels of renewable generation. This includes maintaining a sizeable operating reserve, often paying generators to stand by in the case that they are called upon. As well as adding costs that are eventually recouped through energy bills, these standby operators are often fossil fuels, undermining efforts to decarbonise our energy mix.

In the longer term, it is hoped that a mixture of battery energy storage and techniques such as demand side response, where end users voluntarily reduce their operations during periods of peak demand, will be able to balance out peaks and troughs in demand. Battery energy storage will play a key role in a successfully balanced system, able to rapidly increase either supply or demand as required by either charging or discharging.

However, in the meantime, the rapid shift towards renewable generation will continue to leave energy users exposed to potential power disruption. Innovative Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) technology, when combined with a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), is able to protect your operations site-wide, providing instantaneous backup power in the case of grid disruption to keep your operations running.

A BESS also makes a plethora of net zero carbon initiatives achievable on your site by maximising local and renewable generation, facilitating the connection of high-demand technologies like EV charging, improve energy efficiency and smart management of energy flows, alongside the potential for new revenue streams by allowing your business to engage with various National Grid contracts to help to maintain security of supply.

We call this Resilience+; all the benefits of complete power resilience through UPS, with the advantages of battery energy storage to support your net zero journey.

Contact us now to find out how to protect your business from the risk of power disruption

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