National Infrastructure Commission
Maintaining operability of highly renewable electricity system possible at little additional cost
Concerns about operating the electricity networks when there are high levels of renewables generation can be overcome without significant costs to the consumer through effective deployment of existing and emerging technologies, according to analysis from the National Infrastructure Commission.
The existing electricity network was designed around generation from coal, nuclear and gas-powered generation. Increasing the proportion of renewable generation to 65% by 2030 limits the scope for using these traditional sources of generation for managing electricity supply.
Operability of highly renewable electricity systems sets out how this will create potential challenges to the four key functions of an effective electricity network: its capacity to respond (inertia), its stability (short circuit level), its efficiency (voltage control) and capacity to deal with plant failures (system restoration). The UK’s electricity system will need to be adapted in response.
The Commission’s analysis confirms that these challenges can be managed through a combination of technologies already widely in use – such as synchronous condensers – and new technologies that modify how renewable generators are connected to the grid.
Professor David Fisk, member of the National Infrastructure Commission, said:
“Our findings should give reassurance that the electricity system can remain stable and operable when a high proportion of power is being generated from renewables. But with less scope for using traditional power stations to manage the networks, we have to future-proof the system.
“The investments necessary for a renewable future are affordable, but need government and operators to take steps now to stimulate the market to generate solutions that ensure the electricity system continues to offer a reliable supply. The electricity system operator’s commitment to run a zero carbon grid by 2025 is a very welcome step.”
The Commission concludes that developing efficient markets will support the development of the mix of solutions needed, at the lowest possible prices. The cost of meeting the operability challenges presented by increased renewables is not expected to be significant compared to the cost of the overall electricity system.
The Commission’s report follows commitments made in the government’s ‘10-point plan for a green industrial revolution’ published last November in areas such as wind power, decarbonising heating, developing hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, further details of which are expected this year.
- Commission analysis published in August 2020 showed that sharp falls in the cost of renewable generation meant that Britain meeting two thirds of electricity generation need through renewable sources by 2030 could be achieved at the same overall cost as meeting only half of total demand by that date.
Latest News from
National Infrastructure Commission
Bridget Rosewell speech to Westminster Social Policy Forum: Next steps for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc30/03/2021 14:15:00
The following is an edited transcript of remarks given by Bridget Rosewell, National Infrastructure Commissioner, at a virtual conference held on 26 March 2021 to discuss progress on the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc.
Young infrastructure professionals test top ten proposals for driving change17/03/2021 10:25:00
Our Young Professionals Panel considers the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy and Budget and puts forward its top ten recommendations in response to the Strategy and the Commission’s recent Annual Monitoring Report.
James Heath speech to CBI Infrastructure Board05/03/2021 16:05:00
The Commission’s chief executive spoke to members of the Confederation of British Industry’s Infrastructure Board today, offering reflections on the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, the Commission’s priorities for 2021 as set out in our Annual Monitoring Report, and to look ahead to some of the long term infrastructure challenges that the Commission is likely to tackle in its second National Infrastructure Assessment.
Commission welcomes next steps on UK infrastructure bank03/03/2021 15:10:00
The National Infrastructure Commission has welcomed the announcement in today’s Budget on next steps for the creation of a UK infrastructure bank, based in Leeds.
Learning the lessons for a highly renewable future25/02/2021 10:25:00
The last few months have been a busy time for UK energy policy. The government published its long awaited Energy White Paper, The Climate Change Committee produced its 1,000 pages of advice to the government on the level of the next carbon budget, and HM Treasury published its interim report on the costs of the net zero transition. And there’s more to come.
Commission welcomes next steps on Oxford-Cambridge Arc22/02/2021 10:10:00
The National Infrastructure Commission has welcomed government’s announcement of next steps in developing a spatial framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
Plans of action needed next to deliver strategic goals, says Commission17/02/2021 14:15:00
Detailed plans for decarbonising energy supply, accelerating the roll out of electric vehicle charge points and connecting hard to reach areas with high capacity broadband are among the next steps needed to ensure government can deliver its aims for levelling up and meeting the net zero target, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
'Aim for gain' to support natural capital assets05/02/2021 14:10:00
Infrastructure developments should aim to leave the environment in a measurably better condition than before to reinforce steps already being taken to protect the UK’s diminishing natural resources, according to a discussion paper published today by the National Infrastructure Commission.
Call for evidence opens on potential of greenhouse gas removal infrastructure to boost UK net zero strategy21/01/2021 11:15:00
The National Infrastructure Commission is inviting businesses, policy makers, scientists, academics, thinktanks and investors to share their views on the potential of emerging technologies designed to remove harmful greenhouse gas emissions directly from the atmosphere and store them.