Renewable sector must cope with UK weather to avoid blackouts, report says

Renewable energy-based power systems must include energy storage and flexible forms of supply to contend with weather conditions changing from year to year, new research from University College London suggests.

Researchers from UCL’s Energy Institute analysed ten years of weather and assessed how to best configure a renewables-focused power system to meet domestic needs. Such systems must be designed to overcome situations of ‘suboptimal weather conditions’ in order to meet demand because relying on renewable sources like wind and solar depends on the weather.

The report found that unless renewable systems are planned to mitigate the changeable nature of Great Britain’s weather, they will fail to meet demand which may result in blackouts or a failure to meet carbon reduction targets.

The report recommends mitigation efforts including utilising energy storage, interconnection to other countries, demand-side management and flexible energy generation like natural gas.

Previous studies have used averages of multiple years or single weather years – but this research is the first to demonstrate the importance of factoring in the changes in weather between years when planning a power system.

James Price, research associate at the UCL Energy Institute, said: ‘If power systems with high shares of renewable energy sources are to play a key role in climate change mitigation, then modellers and decision makers alike must account for their particular system’s sensitivity to inter-annual weather variability.”

Marianne Zeyringer, senior research associate at the UCL Energy Institute, said: ‘Previous research analysed the impact of weather by looking at single years or averaging many years together, thus neglecting inter-annual variability. Here, for the first time, we demonstrate the importance of inter-annual weather variability when designing future renewable focused energy systems.

‘If policymakers fail to incentivise the design of systems that are flexible enough to handle how the weather changes from year to year, a renewables-based system could lead to blackouts or reverting back to fossil fuel sources.’

Read the report here

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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