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Cost of wind curtailment hits record high of £507m in 2021

The UK’s wind portfolio has increased from 5.4GW in 2010 to 25.7GW in 2021.

The UK’s wind portfolio has increased from 5.4GW in 2010 to 25.7GW in 2021.

The cost of curtailing wind generation in 2021 hit a record high, costing Britain £507 million.

This is up from £299 million in 2020, bringing the total cost of curtailing wind over the last two years to £806 million according to new research from Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP), commissioned by Drax.

Surging gas prices increased the cost of curtailing wind generation, as gas plants were used to support the system when wind generation was switched off due to transmission constraints.

This additionally had an environmental impact, with an extra two million tonnes of CO2 emitted due to gas being used instead of wind.

According to LCP, enough renewable power to supply 800,000 British homes went to waste in 2020 and 2021 when the system operator asked wind farms to switch off. Of this, 82% was located in Scotland, adding £663 million to energy bills.

The UK’s wind portfolio has increased significantly over the last decade, growing from 5.4GW in 2010 to 25.7GW in 2021.

“Increasing the output from wind power is essential for the UK to achieve its climate targets and ensure energy security,” said Chris Matson, from LCP.

“And yet because investment in the infrastructure needed to support this expansion has not kept pace, wind curtailment is costing the consumer and the environment. Every pound spent on curtailing wind power is a pound wasted.”

Wind curtailment costs over 2020/21. Image: Drax/LCP.
Wind curtailment costs over 2020/21. Image: Drax/LCP.

It follows research from LCP in 2021 that suggested an increase of 20GWh of battery storage could reduce the amount of wasted wind power in Britain by 50%.

Drax highlighted the need for long-duration energy storage to help manage periods when renewable generation outstrips demand. The company recently applied to expand its Cruachan pumped hydro storage plant.

It has been a vocal critic of the lack of a support framework for long-duration energy storage technologies in the UK, with no new pumped hydro plants having been built anywhere in the country since 1984.

Research from Aurora Energy Research and KPMG suggested that a cap and floor mechanism would be the best way to reduce investor risk while encouraging operators of long-duration facilities to respond to electricity system requirements.

“This report underlines the need for a new regulatory framework to encourage private investment in long-duration storage technologies,” Penny Small, Drax’s Group generation director said.

“The UK is a world-leader in offshore wind, but for the country’s green energy ambitions to be realised we need the right energy storage infrastructure to support this vital technology, make the system secure and reduce costs.”

In February, the government announced nearly £7 million in support for long-duration energy storage projects, in an effort to “turbocharge” the sector. Current± recently spoke to six of the companies to win funding across demonstration and proof of concept projects.

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