Wantage Cafe Scientifique: Sustainable Energy Talk by Eoin Lees

Affordably Keeping the Lights on in a Low Carbon World

The costs of producing electricity from renewable energy have been falling rapidly in recent years. But intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are often criticised as being unreliable at electricity peak demand times. 

Sustainable energy expert Eoin Lees explains the new and innovative ways of “keeping the lights on” (listen to his talk below).

Remarkable achievements have been made in the development of renewable and low carbon electricity sources since 2008, with renewables increasing five-fold and largely replacing coal, the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels.

Also, electricity demand has been dropping every year since 2005. In households the savings have come from LED lights and appliance standards. A particular achievement has been the reduction of electricity standby use in new appliances from 20W to 1W.

The falling price of renewables, particularly wind and solar, has been dramatic, with both on- and off-shore wind prices now below the wholesale price of electricity (4.5 p/kWh) – they need no subsidy.

In contrast, the last nuclear power station approved, Hinckley Point C, requires an electricity price in today’s prices of 10.4 p/KWh, which is being guaranteed by the Government over a 35-year operating life.

Of course, renewables are intermittent and balancing the grid is important. Denmark manages its grid with 47% wind generation facilitated by integration into the Scandinavian electricity grid. Our inter-connectors to the EU grid are currently 4.5 GW more the equivalent of two big power stations such as Didcot A was but this could be tripled by 2023.

Demand side management has an important role to play. In households, appliances such as water heaters, heat pumps for space heating and refrigeration, could be used for grid balancing by using price signals communicated via smart meters.

Battery storage is currently expensive but the automotive industry is moving rapidly to reduce costs and increase manufacturing capacity.

Eoin Lees

Eoin Lees has worked in sustainable energy for over 32 years, holding high profile senior roles in public and private sectors, including Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, Director of ETSU, Harwell, and vice-President of the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Until recently he was chair of the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative.

Wantage Cafe Scientifique

Free science, engineering and technology-based talks at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month (usually at The Beacon in Wantage but currently on Zoom). For more information visit cafescientifique/wantage or follow them at facebook.com/WantageCafeSci

Upcoming Talks

7.30pm Tuesday 14 July: Who Needs Geologists? The Role of Geology in the Energy Transition with Mike Simmons


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