Opinions and Papers

These papers are distilled dispatches from the energy frontline. None of the collations of notes and materials below is intended to indicate that legal materials needed to make an assessment are complete. No legal advice is offered in providing these materials.

They are, however, food for thought.


Supporting Intermittency - (October 2021)


THERE ARE TWO main reasons, it is claimed, why more onshore wind plant isn’t being built:


  • the planning system is tilted against the technology (and probably has been ever since Eric Pickles was accused ‘buying’ votes by stalling the approval process); and


  • they aren't cost-effective, i.e., they don’t have a predictable level of income for capex and opex costs.


RenewableUK aims to tackle these issues in its new...


CfD Strike Prices - (September 2021)


THE NEXT CfD AUCTION opens in December. It is intended that twice as many CfD contracts will be awarded in this auction than were awarded in the last one.


Each of the technologies eligible to enter the auction is in a 'pot'. Each pot has limitations placed on it.


  • Pot 1 is solar, onshore wind and hydro. All three together have an aggregate budget of £10 million and each of onshore wind and solar have a cap of 3.5GW.


  • Pot 2 is floating offshore wind, tidal, wave and geothermal. They have a dedicated £55 million budget with £24 million of that earmarked for...

The Hydrogen Strategy - (August 2021)


MUCH OF THE TIME when talking about some aspect of the government's net-zero strategy, it has seemed best to put the 'strategy' part of that phrase into scare quotes just because it normally fails to provide enough to count as a strategy or to be taken as a realistic route forward.


BEIS’s recent UK Hydrogen Strategy* essentially consists of lists—lists of decisions yet to be taken or lists of things yet to be done, often by others, often seeming to expect that others will take part voluntarily. And it is hopeful, but not sure, that its...


Flexibility on Slow - (July 2021)


GOVERNMENT gets flexibility – that it is essential for an electricity system with increasing numbers of small, intermittent, renewable generators that are set to grow by 300% (give or take a fairly large amount) per technology. (That excludes offshore wind, because it feeds onto the transmission system.)


It also gets the associated need for the digitalisation and interoperability of assets to facilitate flexibility. That is to be achieved to a substantial extent by means of (involuntary, or automatic) Demand Side Response through centralised assets switching other assets on or off. This is DSR on a far bigger scale than...


Keeping Unabated Gas - (June 2021)


THE CARBON TRUST, working with the Imperial College team whose study on batteries was embraced by government almost as soon as it was published, has produced a report called Flexibility in Great Britain*.


The report outlines a number of different ways of reaching the 2050 zero-carbon target and the costs of doing so.


It goes without saying that it argues for flexibility as the key to keeping down costs. We've known that for some time. In the last five years smart meters...


Online Supply - (May 2021)


THE GROWTH of renewables kick-started a process that is transforming the old-style supplier-customer relationship. There are so many small (and not so small) generators seeking to sell their output and they are, for the main part, agnostic about who they sell it to and even more agnostic about how they sell it. ‘Revenue stacking’, or sales of output in timed ‘tranches’ which yield multiple income streams, is becoming something that all renewable plant looking for the best return needs to consider.


The changes begun by the growth in this sector have helped to break the market power of the Big Six. But at the same time, the proliferation of generators has clogged up the...


Electricity Market Reform - (April 2021)


THE OLD electricity system was centralised: big plant sent power to the transmission network where it was ‘thinned out’ through substations before being sent on to the distribution networks.


The growth of renewables has changed all this. These schemes are (mainly) relatively small and they mainly (excluding offshore wind) connect to the distribution network, bypassing the...



Government Energy Policy? - (October 2020)

BEIS HAS RESPONDED TO the report of the Committee on Climate Change outlining government progress in its emissions reduction target (Update July 2020).


Rather startlingly BEIS says:

We are pleased that the Committee has recognised the progress we have made over the last year in establishing an appropriate policy framework.


Whatever the CCC said, it didn’t amount to that kind of pat on the back. For the main part it criticised the lack of...

Government Policy & Balancing - (September 2020)


IT HAS BEEN A CURIOUSLY 'bitty' month for news. It is curious because we have a zero carbon target and also intermediate targets (carbon budgets) to meet and no sign of the possibility of meeting any of them. It is curious also because at the end of the year we will assume the G7 chair and start plans to host the Paris Treaty discussions and we have, to date, nothing of relevance to say. And it is curious because we have again and again been promised an...

The Predicted Future - (August 2020)


EACH YEAR National Grid ESO (NGE) sets out its view of the energy system thirty years ahead. Since it can’t know the future, it models outcomes based on scenarios. This year it has four scenarios*. One of them doesn’t get to zero carbon by 2050, so is of no interest to us except as a benchmark of what to avoid. The second is implausibly ambitious, so we can leave that aside, too. That leaves two scenarios whose outcomes are meant to tell us how things...

A Threat To Action - (July 2020)


THE COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE takes the idea of zero-carbon very seriously and its recommendations to government in its 2020 annual progress report on how we are doing in reaching our goals are ordered on that basis.


So it is that it sets out a timetable by which a number of events – events it clearly wants the reader to see as being...

Too Much Power, Too Few Users - (June 2020)


TOTAL ELECTRICITY consumption in the UK has fallen during the lockdown by around about one fifth. At the same time, warm weather and windy days have increased the output from renewable generators. The two together cause the network to become unstable.

To cope with this, renewable generators have been turned off (although they will be paid) or excess output has been channelled through interconnectors to users overseas. At the same time, gas plant continues to run at generally high levels – and it does so because the system operator cannot yet get stabilising “inertia” onto the net-work except through running large plant (or through there being high levels of demand).

As a result, there is currently much more plant needing to be...


Greening The System - (April 2020)


TWO YEARS AGO the National Infrastructure Commission made clear its opposition to new nuclear plant on the ground of cost. It recommended that planning for any new plant after Hinkley Point be postponed to post-2025. By then, the argument went, we will know enough to avoid getting trapped if new low-carbon technologies emerge to fill the capacity gap at a lower cost.


The Commission’s new report, based on a re-run and updating of figures, repeats that view—and puts its toe in the new technology water. 


The core argument for every scenario in the report looks very simple: renewables, taking account of whole system costs, are far and away...


The Heathrow Runway Case - (March 2020)


MUCH HAS BEEN SAID about the Heathrow Runway case and much of it has been wrong or misleading. It’s an interesting case, partly as a result of what it doesn’t do and partly as a result of where it leaves the government.


The Appeal Court found the arguments of the parties who were opposing the Heathrow runway (because that’s what the case was about, even if it had been cast in different terms) wrong, misfounded or based on misunderstandings and misinterpretations. But on one point (and, to a lesser extent, on an associated point) they were right...

The Price and Future of Biomass - (February 2020)


THERE IS A NEW SET of recommendations for government to deal with as it revamps its climate change policies*. They concern incentives for and restrictions on land use, biomass sources, biomass uses and, inevitably, biomass costs.


In Phillip Hammond’s last budget, provision was made for a scheme to buy carbon from new woodland. An auction (the auction: there is just the one) closed this month.


At the auction bidders offered a price at which they were prepared to supply Woodland Carbon Units (WCUs), each of which is  equivalent to one tonne of CO2 (calculated at any given time by halving the biomass of a tree). The bidders offer to supply a....

The Extinction Rebellion Effect - (January 2020)


EXTINCTION REBELLION has just been classified as an extremist organisation. Alongside that, one of their major demands is in the process of being put into law, viz1:


       Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and 

       ecological justice.


There is to be a Citizens’ Assembly; it is to determine well-being goals for the future, covering the environment, culture and economic and social conditions; these goals will be binding on all public bodies.


The route to the Citizens’ Assembly and its decision-making tasks is through the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill2. It has a bit of a history, which explains the surprising parts of the Bill and also the impact of Extinction Rebellion.


IIn 2015 the Welsh Assembly passed into law the Well-being of Future Generations Act, (restricted to Wales, of course). The Act appointed a commissioner, set out a list of broad and general ‘sustainable’ well-being goals and instructed all public bodies to take note. It’s probably true to say that this Act of grand ambitions...

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