The National Grid Electricity System Operator has announced it is joining a global alliance of governments, businesses and organisations working to progress the transition away from coal power, the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
In recent years the ESO has overseen Britain’s transition away from coal and in May 2019 reported the first ever fortnight of coal-free operation of Great Britain’s electricity system, showing further progress towards it’s ambition of being able to operate a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025. The carbon intensity of the electricity system has halved over the last five years and 2019 is set to be the greenest year on record – with the ESO reporting a record number of coal free days and record levels of solar and wind generation too.
ESO plays a unique role in GB energy, relying on a mix of generation to balance the system and ensure that, whatever the mix, electricity is always there when its needed. Joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance is another example of its commitment to play a pivotal role in in bringing all parts of the energy industry together to address the challenges of decarbonization. For example, it facilitates the innovation programme Power Responsive, encouraging stakeholders to be more flexible in the way they use energy – helping them lower their bills at the same time as reducing their carbon footprint.
It also leads Distributed Restart – an innovation project testing how generation from the distribution network, mainly from renewable sources, can be used in the event of a Black Start scenario. Blackstart, the process of restoring power after a shutdown of the electricity system, is currently reliant on traditional power sources, including coal. Should this project be successful it will allow greater flexibility and aid the speed of any potential restart, further reducing the system’s reliance on carbon.
Speaking at a EU Commissions Coal Regions in Transition Platform event on 15th July 2019, ESO director Fintan Slye also announced that the ESO will speak at the BNEF summit in Delhi in August, supporting the PPCA share best practice with other system operators. He said:
“More renewable power generation is a trend that is here to stay. By 2025 we believe we will be able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free, an ambition we believe is world leading – so it’s only natural we are joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
We’ve been planning how to manage increasing levels of renewables for many years. This means that network investments have been made and grid operator services have been procured such that we can operate a network with no coal.
But it’s not without its challenges and initiatives like the PPCA, which encourage greater sharing and cooperation across the industry, are vital. Being able to run our system without coal for two weeks was only possible working in partnership across the industry, and we look forward to engaging with colleagues on a global stage to help the transition to cleaner forms of energy.”