Here comes the Sun

EIC explores the benefits and future of on-site solar generation for businesses, how COVID-19 has highlighted and bolstered the strengths of solar power and how EIC can help businesses engage with the technology.

The wild blue yonder

Lockdown, while effective, has been a source of ongoing financial and emotional strain for many in the UK and businesses are no exception. However, there have been a number of benefits to this economic slowing that perhaps are going overlooked.

Chiefly, air pollution, in proportion with industrial energy demand, has dropped significantly. Combined with the severe oversupply of Oil and faltering resilience of fossil fuels generally, this has given solar generation the opportunity to enjoy a moment in the sun. 

However, solar is not a recent arrival to the energy scene, existing theoretically since at least 1839 thanks to French scientist Edmund Bacquerel. Bacquerel’s work was groundbreaking because it was the first time that solid material with no moving parts had been used to convert sunlight directly into electrical energy.

A guiding light

Since 1839, we’ve come a long way and furthest perhaps in the last five years, during which time the costs of solar have halved while storage options have improved consistently with the introduction of graphene and vanadium technology.

The conditions of lockdown have demonstrated that renewable energy sources are likely to be the most resilient to the supply chain disruptions that a major crisis can create. 

In fact, EU solar generation jumped by 28% year-on-year, between March 28th and April 26th of this year compared to 2019, breaking generation records while doing so. 

Energy security is a basic necessity for the survival of any business and, as such, will be a subject of great scrutiny throughout lockdown and in its aftermath. Novel technologies like on-site generation will become more attractive, not only for their resilience but for the savings that their flexibility offers. 

The use of on-site photovoltaics can also improve a company’s carbon profile while providing a measure of protection against supply failure. 

EIC manages around 12TWH each year and with over 40 years industry experience, we are able to create bespoke energy solutions for your needs. We can help you engage with on-site generation, saving you as much as 20% on your energy usage or 40% when combined with on-site battery storage. Better still, in times of plenty, you’ll be able to sell excess energy back to the grid and further offset energy costs. 

Our solutions page contains full details of our on-site generation and storage offerings, as well as further information on the compliance service we provide that can be bolstered by such technology.

 

The role of renewables this winter

The increase in wind and solar capacity in recent years has contributed to the overall reduction in demand. Higher volumes of on-site renewable capacity allow more generation to be provided off-grid, as homes and businesses generate their own electricity supply during windy or sunny spells.

This reduces demand on the national transmission system. The high levels of solar availability during the summer season were a particularly strong influence on demand levels this year, as on-site solar panels increased embedded generation, reducing demand requirements for the transmission network.

During stormy weather conditions, installed wind capacity can now provide around 12GW of electricity to the grid. Average wind generation in the UK last month was 5.3GW a day; over 50% higher than in September 2017.

 

average wind

 

What happens when there’s no wind?

While high winds can reduce power demand, one of the biggest dangers to the National Grid electricity network is a high-demand scenario at a time when wind output is very low. Lighting has a bigger impact on electricity demand than heating, as the majority of home heating is gas-fired.

However, during severe cold periods, electricity demand does spike as additional electric heating is needed to cope with the very low temperatures. This scenario occurred during March as a result of the Beast from the East, when peak demand jumped around 10% as temperatures dropped. The cold snap also brought very high winds to the UK. Wind output at the time topped 10GW, which provided high levels of low-cost electricity to the grid. However, this renewable supply may not be available during another cold spell.

National Grid’s Winter Outlook report forecasts an electricity margin this winter of 7GW, while also expecting 7GW of wind output during the peak winter. Find out more here.

 

How could this impact energy bills?

Supply margins would be placed under significantly more stress during a similar cold snap this winter, if wind output was low or non-existent. This would require another 10GW of supply being provided by gas and coal plant or imports. Such a scenario is likely to require significant price rises in the Within-day and Day-ahead markets.

 

Renewable energy solutions with EIC

If you’re interested in generating energy from your own renewables sources we can support your business to implement solar at your site.

A cost-effective and sustainable energy source, generating power from solar panels will cut your emissions, help the environment, and can be linked with a battery storage solution to maximise ROI. With our support you can install a battery solution as part of your wider energy strategy. Batteries can work in tandem with renewable energy sources such as solar or wind and can help you generate additional revenue via potentially lucrative demand side response (DSR) schemes.

To find out more, call us on 01527 511 757 or email info@eic.co.uk.

Britain running on sunshine as summer demand falls

The changes have come from an evolution in how energy is being used, and those who successfully manage these demand patterns, particularly if combined with Demand Side Response (DSR), could see significant cost savings.

Analysis from EIC has shown that maximum summer demand (seen between May and August) has fallen 17% in the last decade. From a peak of 44GW in 2012, maximum consumption for the current summer has fallen to just 35GW.

This near 10GW loss in demand is similar to the reduction seen during the winter. Furthermore, it’s not only peak consumption that’s been reduced but baseload generation. Minimum summer demand has fallen by 19% since 2009. How much of this is down to efficiency improvements or consumption moving behind the meter is unclear. However, the change does mean National Grid has nearly 10GW less electricity demand to manage on its transmission network.

The trend can be seen more clearly when broken down by month. Average peak demand during May 2012 was over 39GW. This year that figure was just 31.5GW, a reduction of over 7GW in only six years.

Improving energy efficiency

The cost of LED lighting halved between 2011 and 2013. During this time, consumers switching towards the more efficient bulbs helped facilitate a strong drop in demand. This could be helped further with news that the EU will ban the use of halogen lightbulbs from 1 September 2018.

Another major explanation for the demand drop, aside from efficiency improvements in appliances and lighting, is the significant growth in small-scale on-site solar capacity over the same period. Small-scale distribution connected solar has a capacity of under 4KW but the number of installations has grown from under 30,000 in 2010 to nearly 900,000 in 2018. An increase of almost 2,900%.

The total capacity of the small-scale solar now available is over 2.5GW, which is not far off the total capacity for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

As the use of small-scale solar (the type typically installed on housing or commercial property) has grown demand has fallen. More and more of within-day demand is being met by onsite generation. Consumers can take advantage of the bright and warm summer weather conditions to generate their own solar power, thus reducing the call for demand from the transmission network.

The solar impact

The introduction of high volumes of solar generation to the grid – total capacity across all PV sites is over 13GW – has also significantly altered the shape of demand. Consumption across a 24 hour period has flattened in recent years.

The traditional three demand peaks (morning, early afternoon, and evening) have shifted closer to the two peak morning and early evening winter pattern. The ability to generate high levels of embedded – behind the meter – generation during the day in the summer has flattened and at times inverted the typical middle peak. This has left the load shape peaking in early morning (as people wake up) and later in the evening, as people return home from work.

The absolute peak of the day has also shifted in time, moving from early afternoon to the typical early evening peak of 5-5:30pm, again similar to the winter season.

The below graph shows the change over time of the July load shape, which highlights both the reduction in demand and the change in shape, with consumption flattening during daylight hours as a result of behind the meter solar generation dampening network demand. With electricity costs – both wholesale and system – reflecting supply and demand, if consumption is being changed, then it also has an impact on these costs.

Stay informed with EIC

Our in-house analysis highlights the impact of onsite generation on load patterns and the extent to which demand can be changed by taking action, and subsequently how behaviours can alter a business’ energy costs.

If you can shift demand away from historical high consumption periods, you can cut your energy costs and make significant savings. One such way to do this is by using smart building controls, such as our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution.

To find out more download our brochure, call +44 1527 511 757, or email us.