This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.
We’ve given a lot of information on this blog recently about renewable energy and how commendable it is that the UK (and King’s, of course) are in the process of switching to renewable sources. However, this cannot happen overnight, and it does put considerable strain on the existing energy network as we go through the transition. So that got us thinking – how many people actually know how all this works? The answer is hopefully everyone who has read this post, so read on to find out!
How is electricity generated?
As you will probably know, energy is typically generated by producing steam. This steam then turns a turbine, which in turn powers a generator and boom we have electricity. Although there are other methods to turn those turbines (falling water, wind, etc.), steam remains by far the most popular.
How does the National Grid work?
The National Grid is a system of power lines, pipelines, interconnectors and storage facilities. Once the energy is generated, the role of the National Grid is to deliver it to homes around the UK. Within the network, many Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) distribute the electricity locally where and when needed.
What is the challenge with renewables?
Official demand for renewable energy is increasing, and it poses a monumental challenge to the National Grid. As such, not only does the Grid require regular and costly maintenance, but it is now being upgraded on a never-before-seen scale. In addition to this, the demand for energy itself is also greater than ever. Since September, this has led to the National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) issuing four Electricity Margin Notices (EMNs). These are essentially warnings that there is not enough reserve energy to guarantee continued supply. To put that into context, one such notice was issued in the UK over the previous four years.
What is the solution?
Half of the problem is demand, so if we as individuals can reduce our energy demand even slightly, we will also reduce the pressure on the Grid itself. Besides this, some other technical solutions may become viable in the future, for example, battery storage. These are currently available in your home, and if you generate your own electricity (one to bear in mind for the future), they are a worthwhile investment. However, using them on a large scale is not yet feasible, though this would go some way towards having a permanent baseline. Reciprocating engine generator technology and black-start gas turbines are other technological advancements that could also support this.
In short, we all like things to be done quickly, but in the world of energy, the transition to renewables is a slow and complicated process. In the short term, we can all do our part by reducing our consumption, easing the pressure on the National Grid and making the renewable transition far smoother.
As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!