Wholesale electricity price in UK soars to record high as solar slumps

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Britain’s energy crisis deepened today, as the wholesale cost of electricity hit new record highs. A major factor for this price spike has been the weather, as the country has been hit by cold, dry days, with very slow winds that have resulted in wind energy generation plummeting. This is a major problem for the UK’s energy mix, as the country has tremendous wind energy generation potential. Last month, the National Grid announced that wind power in the UK hit a new milestone, generating over half of its electricity from wind alone for a day. Furthermore, as the price of wholesale gas has skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion, wind energy has become a lifeline, being nine times cheaper than natural gas. 

While wind and solar are very cheap, critics have argued that these energy sources are unreliable as they depend on the weather, meaning that they could fail when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Brexiteer John Redwood MP tweeted: “This morning solar and wind has slumped to just four percent of our electricity with gas, coal and wood at 73 percent.

“Those who say rely on wind turbines need to explain what we do when the wind does not blow instead of telling us to close all the generators that keep the lights on.”

These low wind speeds had a huge impact on wholesale electricity prices, with energy and commodities expert Javier Blas tweeting: “UK wholesale day-ahead electricity prices surge to a **record high** as cold, dry and calm weather cripples wind production and sends demand soaring.

“On the EPEX platform, UK baseload for Monday clears at £674 per MWh, while the evening peak load clears >£2,000 per MWh.

“UK wholesale day-ahead electricity prices have cleared a bit lower on another platform (N2EX), but still the price for Monday is the 2nd highest ever for baseload power on that platform (£570 for Mon, while the record was £571 set in Aug).

“The situation should start to improve from Monday evening as weather models forecast more wind, which should ease the tightness in the UK (and also in continental Europe). But demand will remain high due to below seasonal normal temperatures.”

Over the past year, Russia’s weaponization of wholesale gas supplies has led to the UK increasing its push to offshore wind, announcing an ambition to “deliver up to 50GW by 2030, including up to 5GW of innovative floating wind.”

Defenders of renewable electricity note that in order to solve this intermittency issue, the UK needs to build more energy storage solutions, like pumped hydropower and batteries. 

These sites would store excess electricity being generated when the wind is blowing at high speeds, and then use them during times of high demand or low wind generation. 

Aside from helping balance the grid and ensuring that the lights stay on, this would also significantly slash energy bills, as, without adequate energy storage, the UK is forced to rely on expensive natural gas imports as a during such times. 

On Wednesday, EDF Renewables UK announced that it is building one such site, a new 100MWh battery at its new Energy Superhub in Bedfordshire.

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Once built, this site could power 100,000 homes for two hours, playing a critical role in supporting the National Grid during times of high demand.

The battery will enable more renewable energy integration – storing energy when supply is abundant and discharging it when demand peaks – and increase the resilience of the electricity system.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Matthew Boulton, Director of Storage and Private Wire at EDF Renewables UK, said: “Battery storage is integral to creating clean, reliable and independent power systems.

“By storing renewable energy at times when it is abundant and discharging it when it is needed most, batteries work in tandem with wind and solar to keep the lights on and ensure energy security. As we scale up homegrown renewable energy in the UK, batteries will help to avoid the risk of blackouts.”

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