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Solar and storage exports see 'exponential' growth as role of flexibility stressed

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Exports of battery storage and solar PV have seen “exponential” growth as weather independent generation falls to less than 40%, according to data compiled by ElectraLink and the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

Exports to GB distribution networks from battery storage rose from 50MWh in 2014 to almost 49GWh in 2018. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 600% increase in battery exports.

Solar PV also saw a significant increase in exports, according to the data, rising from 194GWh in 2012 to 8TWh in 2018.

The increase in solar exports, with both conventional solar and solar that behaves unusually, likely due to co-location, recorded. Image: ElectraLink/REA
The increase in solar exports, with both conventional solar and solar that behaves unusually, likely due to co-location, recorded. Image: ElectraLink/REA

Exports across renewable technologies as a whole seem to have seen substantial growth. ElectraLink’s data also found that exports from dispatchable sources has fallen from 60% in 2012 to 40% in 2018.

Exports from dispatchable and variable generation between 2012 and 2018. Image: ElectraLink/REA
Exports from dispatchable and variable generation between 2012 and 2018. Image: ElectraLink/REA

The data, taken from ElectraLink’s Energy Market Data Hub, highlights the increasing need for flexibility assets, as well as for distribution network operators (DNOs) to transition to distribution system operators (DSOs), the REA said.

However, the DSO transition still has a “long way to go”, with the latest RIIO-2 price controls set to shape the transition, according to panelists at Current±'s EnTech conference last week.

The data comes in a week where renewables’ contribution to the UK’s electricity mix has been particularly celebrated, with research from Carbon Brief finding that renewables generated more than fossil fuels for the first time in Q3 of this year.

Renewables have been steadily breaking records with each new quarter. In Q2 of this year, renewables overtook nuclear generation, producing 23.1TWh of power. Coal free stretches have been common, particularly over the spring and early summer when high levels of solar and wind contributed to keeping coal off the grid for a landmark two weeks.

Official statistics released from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that renewables had a record-breaking year in 2018, generating 110TWh collectively.

Daniel Brown, policy manager at the REA, said the data released by ElectraLink and the REA will hopefully add “timely nuance” to the debate taking place around flexibility markets, subsidy-free renewables and energy storage deployment.

Paul Linnane, head of energy market insight for ElectraLink, said: What we’ve found in the data is an unprecedented view of where embedded generation is going in contributing to the energy mix.

“An exponential increase like this cannot be ignored as networks plan for more solar PV to be connected, and especially with the uptake of electric vehicles.”

Further data is to be released in the Flexible Futures report on 24 October.

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