My field value: Helen Gavin

10 October, 2019

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

If we don’t measure it, we can’t manage it!

BEIS has published renewable energy trends and information which, at first sight, look great. Total renewable electricity capacity at the end of June 2019 was 45.9GW; a 7.9% increase on the previous year. The portion of electricity generated by renewable sources between March and June 2019 was 35.5%, at 27 TWh.  BEIS also published data showing that UK solar deployment at the end of August 2019 is 13.3 GW.

But can we be sure that these numbers are accurate? Not really

At the 2019 Oxford Energy Conference, Claire Spedding from the National Grid stated that four years ago, there were real-time common discrepancies between known (metered) production, and the electricity in the grid system of up to 4GW. A key reason for this was the lack of export meters on small scale PV systems. Since then the National Grid has reduced this mismatch by using predictive modelling from the Sheffield Solar group, and others.

This gap still exists however due to the continuing lack of export meters, and now the lack of a requirement to register installations following the closure of the Feed in Tariff at the end of March 2019. As a result, the Solar Trade Association (STA) has called on the government to stop publishing inaccurate information, given that the methodology for data collection relies on subsidy schemes that have closed, or exclude significant schemes such as large-scale commercial and industrial rooftop PV installations.

Timely, detailed and accurate data is important!  Let’s count the ways… (1) to ensure safe, efficient and cost-effective grid operation and electricity supply; (2) to provide an accurate picture to drive investment and new business models; (3) to create a robust evidence base for research, innovation and policy-making… and more!

How can the energy sector fully decarbonise unless there is certainty how the grid is being powered?

It is currently hindered by poor quality, inaccurate, or missing data, while valuable data is often restricted or hard to find. These were the findings of the Energy Data Taskforce, which was commissioned by Government, Ofgem, and Innovate UK.  Its report in June 2019 advocates for a Modern, Digitalised Energy System, and set out a number of recommendations, based on two key principles – filling in the data gaps through requiring new and better-quality data, and maximising value by ensuring open data.

Critically, it calls for a coordinated generation asset registration system, to enable truly accurate monitoring of renewable energy sources and battery storage deployment and a Digital System Map to increase visibility of infrastructure and assets, enable optimisation of investment and inform the creation of new markets.

We await the government’s response…