UK could increase renewable ambitions at lower cost to consumers

Flexibility is key to unlocking greater levels of renewables in the next 10 years and paving the way for a net zero energy system by 2050, or earlier, according to research.

On 23 November, Wärtsilä published analysis, The Energy Transition Lab Report: Optimising the UK’s shift to a renewable-powered economy, where it claimed that investment in flexible energy technologies can rapidly increase the share of renewable generation in the UK by 2030 and at a lower overall cost to consumers.

It modelled three scenarios based on the current UK ambitions for renewable energy: achieving 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, with an anticipated 7GW of onshore wind and 20GW of solar; the same renewable generation capacity plus 3GW of new nuclear; and an alternative scenario where 7GW of flexibility is added to enable more renewables – 72GW total wind and solar – without increasing costs compared to adding renewables only.

It found that adding that level of flexibility to the UK power system by 2030 would deliver a higher share of renewable generation (62%) than could be possible by adding wind and solar without it. Such a scenario could power over 710,000 households with renewable energy, cut 2mn tonnes of CO2 emissions and cost the UK £270mn less each year.

Furthermore, when compared to installing another nuclear plant alongside renewable generation, it found it would save the UK economy £600mn a year owed to the high upfront costs and substantial market interventions required for more nuclear.