Escalating costs of black start grid support

National Grid has applied to Ofgem for the recovery of £113m it has committed under two “Black Start” contracts signed with SSE Fiddlers Ferry and Drax power stations in late March this year. Black Start provisions are incentivised under the Balancing Services Incentive Scheme, a two-year scheme (2015-17) where National Grid is measured against a…

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Winter 15/16 in 3 charts

  Last week, to little fanfare, National Grid published its review of the UK’s electricity and gas markets for the 2015/16 winter period. Despite literally dozens of reports in the press at the start of the winter warning of the very high risks of blackouts, the lights remained very firmly on. The reports were right…

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Nuclear power: is small also beautiful?

In a recent post I outlined some of the challenges facing Hinckley Point C – the flagship next generation nuclear project in the UK. Various commentators have suggested that new nuclear in the UK has missed the boat since the deployment of renewables combined with the problems with the new EPR technology means that there…

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Stalin, eco warriors, and the truth about smart meters

When I decided to write about smart meters, I thought it would be fairly straightforward…explain what they are, why they are being introduced, what are the costs and benefits etc. What I have discovered is that the world is split into three groups…people like myself who hadn’t given the subject much thought and were therefore…

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Driving storage innovation

Domestic solar + electricity storage has for some time been seen as a potentially disruptive combination for electricity systems. Add in electric cars and use of recycled EV batteries in those storage systems, and the story becomes even more interesting. Car companies expanding into energy storage have been all over the news recently. Electric vehicles…

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Igniting Change: combatting inertia in the energy sector

This week saw the launch of the Igniting Change 2 report commissioned by Powerful Women, an organisation committed to improved gender balance within the energy industry. The study, undertaken by PwC, found that of the 89 top UK-headquartered energy companies, almost two-thirds (62%) have no women on their boards and only 9% of board seats…

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Keeping the lights on

Last week the Daily Telegraph reported that Sainsbury’s, the second largest supermarket in the UK, has built a series of gas-fired generators due to its concerns over security of supply. The article quotes Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at the company, who said that worrying about energy security keeps him awake at night as his…

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Unintended consequences

In my last post I wrote about the nature of innovation and the challenges of delivering commercially successful innovations even when a clear need has been identified. In the energy sector those clear needs to innovate can be found across the board, from the cost-challenged E&P environment to the re-shaping of the power markets. European…

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“Innovate or Die!”

I was recently asked to give a presentation on how innovation can be harnessed to boost productivity and competitiveness. This is an interesting question, particularly coming as I do from an industry that is in a period of rapid systemic change, and which is not really famed for its ability to innovate. The UK is…

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The changing face of the energy mix

In my previous post I wrote about the basic design of the gas and electricity systems and the importance of balancing supply and demand in real time, and how de-carbonisation is posing challenges for maintaining this balance in the power network. The electricity industry is undergoing a period of significant change. De-carbonisation is leading to…

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