New battery power-storage plants scheduled to keep UK lights on

11th December 2016 | Commercial Energy

A series of new battery power-storage plants and two small new gas power stations will be built in the UK. This follows the award of subsidies designed to bolster energy supply and head off the threat of shortages.

The Government’s hopes of a “dash for gas” were dealt a blow after this week’s auction of subsidies to build backup capacity for Britain’s energy network. No new gas power station of a significant scale won a subsidy contract in the bidding process. This is where companies and technologies compete to provide backup power for the lowest price during the winter 2020-21.

However, Centrica, owner of British Gas, won support for a small-scale gas power plant to be built by 2019 at King’s Lynn in Norfolk. An extension will also be added to US company InterGen’s plant in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

“Overall we believe the auction will largely be viewed as a disappointment by the UK government in terms of securing the significant levels of new gas generation capacity they hoped for in order to ensure security of supply,” was the verdict of analysts at Barclay’s banking group.

Batteries took a much larger share than in previous years, with about 500MW awarded to new storage plants being built by EDF, Centrica and smaller companies. Such power storage facilities can provide electricity in seconds to keep the lights from going out, compares with gas plants which take more than 40 minutes to supply electricity when called upon, if for instance, it is not windy enough to power windfarms.

“Smaller embedded generators, including batteries, were the big winners in this auction,” said Tom Edwards, an analyst at Cornwall Energy.

Diesel generators won a smaller share than in previous energy auctions, but coal still fared well. It won a tenth of backup capacity – despite the Government’s promises to phase out the polluting fuel by 20205. Existing large coal, gas and nuclear power stations will provide 85% of backup power storage in 2020-21.

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