Demand response is becoming a hot topic in energy circles, how we can help to level out the peaks and troughs in the energy system by utilising flexible demand. Energy demand changes hugely over the day, from being very low in the middle of the night to peaking on weekdays usually around 6pm. It also changes in less predictable ways, responding to co-ordinated mass activity such as the ad breaks in popular tv programs. As Wimbledon has just finished, the graph below shows how electricity use changed during Andy Murray’s victory in the finals in 2013.
The Netherlands is a rare example of a country where consumers have a high willingness to pay for green power and a correspondingly high enrolment in green tariffs. By the end of 2014 64% of Dutch consumers had a green power contract for their electricity. This is by far the highest recorded enrolment out of any country in the world. It’s closest rival, New Zealand which has a large amount of renewables generated anyway, only has 26% of consumers enrolled. Despite this apparent success, renewable energy still comprises a small proportion of the total energy generated in the country. This case study will look at several of the factors which have driven the increase in households purchasing green electricity, before engaging in a discussion on whether these trends are uniquely Dutch, whether the program has been a success, and whether there are lessons which can be learned for other countries looking to support a demand side policy.
In a recent moment of procrastination I found myself on the product accreditation page of the Vegetarian Society and was intrigued by one of their requirements, that all products must be free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This seemed interesting as not even the Vegan Society goes this far – it only excludes GMOs which contain animal genes or animal derived substances. This got me thinking, why should the vegetarian society accreditation, which exists to help vegetarians avoid foods containing meat, care at all about whether the product contains GMOs? After all, if the world was to start eating less meat for both ethical and environmental reasons, GMOs would be a great way to both increase the yield of crops and to create meat substitute products.
As has been pointed out by many commentators in the past few weeks, now is a time for the Lib Dems to engage in some protracted soul searching. This is our eat, pray, love moment if you will. The familiar camps of the liberal left and the orange bookers will be out in force trying to assert which direction would be best for the party. Potential leadership candidate Tim Farron has even reportedly considered rebranding the party with a new logo and colour. While the new colour and logo would no doubt be a disaster, if it were to change then green would be a solid option.
The government has recently announced that it will enter into negotiations to fund the £1 billion pound investment needed to build the UK’s first tidal lagoon power scheme at Swansea Bay. The project is going to be expensive, very expensive. If it is completed on budget it will require a subsidy of £150 per megawatt hour (MWh), which is high even compared with the £98 figure agreed for the new nuclear power station at Hinkley.
The key to the pitch delivered by the Tidal Power Lagoon team rests on one element; learning. This is the basic idea that as you produce more of any given good, the cost per unit will decrease. As a general rule, you can expect a 20% saving every time the total unit quantity is doubled. Under this logic, while the first power lagoon at Swansea Bay may be astronomically expensive, future projects will be cheaper and may even achieve grid parity. Mark Shorrock, Tidal Lagoon Power’s chief executive and founder, has said that by the time the first two are operation “a third lagoon will be competitive with the support received by new nuclear”.
As the election is coming up I thought it would be interesting to look at each of the main parties’ proposals for regulating retail energy markets in the UK. I will focus particularly on markets for electricity, but many of the same issues will also apply to gas. Continue reading “Election 2015: How to regulate the big six energy suppliers?”
As is customary for people with more ideas and opinions than places to put them, I have started a blog. I will be writing about things related to energy and environment policy, and will spend a fair bit of time looking at how the academic literature can help to add a bit of nuance to the policy debate.
I am currently a DPhil student at the University of Oxford looking at voluntary renewable electricity tariffs, so you can expect that to be a recurring theme on here. It’s not as dull as it sounds, I promise. I have never before worked in energy, so hopefully I can avoid the sort of biases associated with blogs written by those who work/ lobby for green/grey energy.