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17 May 2004

Mott MacDonald study highlights network implications of the UK Government’s renewable energy targets on UK electricity network

Mott MacDonald has completed a study for the Carbon Trust and the DTI to assess the ability of the UK electricity network to accommodate the government’s target to have 10% of electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 2010 and its aspiration to double that percentage by 2020.

Mott MacDonald carried out a capacity mapping and scenario modelling exercise for the government’s 2010 target using a ‘bottom up’ approach to build up renewable power capacity on the networks taking information provided by project developers on actual projects and longer-term business plans. Due to market conditions, much CHP development is currently on hold therefore the study relies on predictions about likely capacity additions to 2010. The shortfall between developers’ plans and the 2010 target has been addressed by creating scenarios. This approach allows the network models to analyse the impact of actual and highly likely developments lowering the reliance on scenarios and projections. Due to the lack of business planning data for the longer term, the renewable power and CHP capacity added to the network for the period 2010-2020 is entirely based on plausible growth in renewables generation capacity across a range of technologies and fuels.

The company also carried out a transmission network topography analysis which highlighted the scale and level of investment required for the construction of new transmission capacity to enable renewable energy to be fed to load centres if the network is not to present a barrier to achieving the renewable target and aspirations. Much of the investment stems from the fact that most new renewable generating capacity will be located in rural areas away from existing grid strong points. A generic distribution network model was developed to assess the impact of increasing the level of renewables on the UK distribution network. The report outlines the scale and cost of modifying, reinforcing and extending the system in order to facilitate the connection of renewable generation. Issues associated with wind turbine generators complying with the two UK grid codes were also reviewed and recommendations made to prevent grid code compliance stalling the future development of wind farms. The study also considered the impact on the networks of the intermittent nature of renewables, in particular wind. At the current target levels, the study concluded that intermittency is not a significant issue affecting the development of renewable generation. Standby costs associated with wind power generation capacity consistent with the government’s 2010 renewables electricity target are of the order of 0.16-0.24 p/kWh.

The study concluded that from a network perspective, the most significant barriers to the achievement of the 2010 target in particular, are the level of investment required in network reinforcement and new build and the associated planning process. Planning bottlenecks could seriously delay construction of new network capacity and in turn frustrate renewable generation plans.

The study is now available on the Carbon Trust website. Visit www.thecarbontrust.co.uk

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