REA: New fossil power fails to deliver as biomass, renewable can

By Renewable Energy Association | July 08, 2016

REA: New fossil generation fails to deliver as biomass, renewables do

On July 8, the United Kingdom Department of Energy and Climate Change set out the framework for the next Capacity Market auctions, including how much capacity to procure. The Capacity Market aims to “keep the lights on” by paying new and existing generators to provide electricity at times of high demand.

DECC’s data revealed that 5 GW of conventional, fossil fuel-powered generation that were awarded earlier contracts under the scheme have missed their targets for delivering the projects and therefore more capacity must be procured in the next auction rounds to cover the possible shortfall.

The REA believes this is because of the increasing cost and difficulty of financing major new fossil fuel generation projects, in part due to low wholesale power prices and prolonged policy uncertainty.

These difficulties serve to highlight the advantages of renewable generation; notably, that they can be reliably and cost-effectively delivered at scale in the time period required under capacity market rules. This serves to bolster our security of supply in the coming years.

Technologies such as the conversion of existing coal power stations to sustainable biomass offer large amounts of capacity which can be deployed with relative speed using existing infrastructure to meet a capacity crunch.

Frank Gordon, Senior Policy Analyst at the REA, commented, “The news that 5GW of conventional power plants missed their delivery deadlines under the Capacity Market program shows that a disturbing lack of new capacity is being built at present.

Renewables offer a more sustainable form of power production and the opportunity to grow new industry in Britain. Government support schemes such as the Capacity Market must be reformulated to focus on renewables, such as biomass, wave and tidal, wind and solar.

Renewables are the only form of power generation that have been delivering new capacity at any scale in recent years, so the government’s best chance of ensuring supplies and meeting legally binding renewable and emissions targets is to better support this sector.”

In addition, the REA believes the mechanism should be reformed to better support innovative energy storage projects which could offer greater system stability and enable the roll out of more solar and wind power, alongside other low-carbon options.

Gordon continued, “Countries around the world are rushing to support the growth of a domestic energy storage industry. While government has made positive noises regarding the sector, there have been missed opportunities for action, including by making some straightforward changes to the Capacity Market that would incentivize storage using an existing mechanism.

Storage developers need longer-term contracts and clarity on how long capacity will be required for delivery, in order to size their projects appropriately. A recent government report highlighted that storage and increased flexibility could save the U.K. as much as £8 billion by 2030, so the prize is great.”