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Groundbreaking study gives best insight yet into Britain’s energy future


How homes and businesses throughout the UK will be powered in the years to come has been unveiled following the most far-reaching studies ever undertaken.

Energy experts Pöyry Energy Consulting have revealed the impact the increased use of wind farms will have on gas and electricity supplies in both the UK and Ireland during two in-depth investigations.

The findings will help the Government and energy companies understand the steps that need to be taken to ensure the countries have the necessary systems in place to cope with the changes wind power is bringing.

Andrew Morris, director of Pöyry Energy Consulting said: “The studies look in great depth at the challenges that will have to be faced as wind takes an ever greater role in our energy mix. Huge resources were invested in modelling the effect of weather variations on energy demand and piecing together a comprehensive picture of how the world will look. It is very clear from our findings that our electricity and gas infrastructure will be very different in the future and we must start planning now.”

An initial report on the impact that increased wind power will have on the electricity markets was published by the company in July last year. The publication of the gas study today provides the most comprehensive view yet of Britain and Ireland’s future energy infrastructure needs.

The studies found that:

In the gas market:

* While the electricity market will need to make significant changes to cope with the increase in wind power, the gas market is expected to cope reasonably well, subject to suitable and timely investment
* The nature of wind energy means intermittent generation with peaks and troughs on windy and still days will be dominant on the system and gas-fired generation will be forced to compensate
* Increased volatility of demand and declining supplies create a need for greater flexibility
* Flexible gas storage facilities will form a key role in meeting this need
* The flow of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas through the interconnectors with the Continent would also fluctuate to meet demand
* The ability of the National Transmission System (NTS) to cope with the biggest within-day fluctuations could be stretched beyond its current operations
* The use of gas storage in the US and across Europe could have a direct effect on gas prices in the UK
* The gas market in Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) is likely to be affected more and earlier by wind intermittency than the GB market due to its smaller size and power generation being a larger proportion of gas demand. As a result it will be reliant on the UK for support.

In the electricity sector:

* The variation in prices will be extreme with periods of negative prices and very short periods with prices at almost £8000/MWh
* If significant wind energy is achieved, power stations which are built now will face much more uncertain revenues in the future
* Electricity demand rocketed on frosty nights when there was virtually no wind and low output but, when the temperature rose in strong south-westerlies and there was less need for electricity, there was almost full wind generation output
* Facilities interconnecting the supplies from different countries cannot be the golden bullet to solve the intermittency challenge, although they are extremely important
* Power plants will have to operate at low and highly uncertain loads and, under current market arrangements, the likely returns for any investment in new plants do not appear good
* Wind generation output varied by almost 25% in the Irish market and 13% in the British market

The UK Government has set targets of achieving 30% renewable electricity by 2020.

Electricity has traditionally been generated by power stations, using fuels such as coal and gas to drive large turbines which convert mechanical energy into electricity. Consistency of supply gives this system relatively predictable energy outputs.

But after 2020, increased wind power will result in the supply being more volatile which, for power stations, means unpredictable running patterns and a knock on effect on when gas will be required.

With 7500 hours of analysis, six months of development, and 100GB of data generated, this is the most factual and informative report ever produced on the challenges and issues faced by the energy sector.

Researchers built a highly sophisticated computer model that allowed detailed simulation of daily demand, based on historic weather patterns to calculate the effects of temperature and wind on the different supply sources in the power and gas sectors.

“Understanding how these different supplies will interact in the future is critical to everyone involved in the energy sector, from suppliers and large customers to infrastructure owners and Government regulators,” said Andrew Morris. “It dictates the extent to which new investment is required and whether the current market set up is sufficiently robust for the future.”

“There is no doubt that we will need greater flexibility of supplies, and the interactions between the electricity market and the gas market will become increasingly important with wind generation affecting the gas system as well as electricity.”

A summary of the Impact of Intermittency report was today made public. It can be accessed by visiting

Note to Editors

This project has been supported by the following founder members: Bord Gais Energy Supply, Bord Gais Networks, Centrica Storage, Exxon Mobil, GasLink, GDF Suez.

Pöyry Energy Consulting is Europe’s leading energy consultancy providing strategic, commercial, regulatory and policy advice to Europe’s energy markets. Our team of 250 energy specialists, based in fifteen European offices in twelve countries, offers unparalleled expertise in the rapidly changing energy sector.

Pöyry is a global consulting and engineering company dedicated to balanced sustainability. We offer our clients integrated management consulting, total solutions for complex projects and efficient, best-in-class design and supervision. Our in-depth expertise extends to the fields of energy, industry, urban & mobility and water & environment. Pöyry has 7000 experts operating in about 50 countries, locally and globally. Pöyry’s net sales in 2009 were EUR 674 million and the company’s shares are quoted on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki (Pöyry PLC: POY1V).

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