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Winter Outlook 2019: Brexit to have no impact as greener winter trend continues

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Britain’s looming departure from the European Union will have no impact on its ability to meet energy demand this winter, despite the country remaining reliant on its portfolio of interconnectors, National Grid has said.

Despite the looming Brexit deadline, increases in domestic generation mean there is a de-rated margin at underlying demand level of 7.8GW, ensuring fears over reliance on European interconnectors are unnecessary.

Today’s Winter Outlook report reassures that regardless of the planned exit from the European Union, analysis “shows margins that are sufficient even in a scenario with no interconnector flows between GB and continental Europe; however, the market would need to attract regular LNG supplies to the UK.”

Under normal transmission system demand this winter, the peak is expected to be 46.4GW, lower than last year. As such, normalised demand can be met throughout the entire winter regardless of the interconnector scenario.

National Grid is, however, expecting net imports of electricity from continental Europe during peak times as well as net exports to Ireland. “This is subject to changes relating to variances in renewable generation and relative electricity prices,” states the report.

A further positive from the report is the continued reduction in emissions predicted from the energy market this winter, continuing a trend for “greener winters” of energy supply.

According to Fintan Slye, director of National Grid System Operator, this is a result of the “changing nature of our energy system as a whole.”

“Last year had the lowest carbon intensity winter on record in terms of electricity generation. If weather conditions are similar this winter, we expect this positive trend to continue and anticipate more records being broken, including increasing levels of renewable generation.”

This reduction in carbon intensity has been welcomed by Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

"The outlook speaks to the ongoing trend of greener winters with each passing year, as low or zero carbon sources of electricity provide a growing part of the UK’s electricity supply.

“While a definite good news story, progress is being mainly driven by the electricity sector, within which there is an ever-smaller amount of low-hanging fruit to pick. To ensure that the UK remains within sight of the goal of becoming a net zero nation, the issue of reducing gas demand will become increasingly urgent.”

With the UK’s reliance on gas however, particularly should interconnector usage be challenged, progress could slow in coming years. As the Outlook shows, gas makes up a little more than 23% of the electricity market, but this increases with bad weather, which has a negative effect on renewables. Such weather also leads to an increased demand for gas fired heating throughout the winter.

“The approval of more gas-fired power stations would drag the UK further off track,” Marshall says. “With British gas reserves dwindling, now would be the time to crack on with reducing reliance on fossil fuels in general, bringing in a cleaner, cheaper future."

National Grid remains positive about the changing nature of the energy network in the UK, and expect many more progressive shifts ahead.

“The energy landscape is changing rapidly and there are fundamental changes to energy and society ahead – an increase in cleaner energy sources like wind and solar, and emerging technologies such as battery storage and electric vehicles,” says Slye. “Looking at electricity specifically, it’s our ambition to be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free by 2025, and it’s only through listening to stakeholders, and sharing our insight in reports such as this, that we can move forward toward our goals.”

A final change that the Winter Outlook Report highlights is the increasing challenge of forecasting Triads. These are the three periods of half an hour with the highest demands through the winter months. Theses peaks are hit with Triad charges.

Forecasting these peaks has been becoming increasingly difficult in recent years thanks to a combination of Triad avoidance, the wholesale electricity market and battery storage. The maximum Triad avoidance has increased still further this year, by 0.6GW from last years 2GW. This throws the future of Triads into some doubt, as the energy system advances, they may be being left behind.

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