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Renewable Gas

Tom Heap : Storage Sensible

Finally, it appears Radio 4’s Tom Heap is on my kind of wavelength, and I don’t mean radio.

On the other hand, David MacKay still believes that more research is needed before we actually spend money to do anything – which essentially amounts to a tactic of delay.

Warning : the following transcript is not verified, but is my best attempt at the moment.


“Costing the Earth”
Radio 4
13 May 2014

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042zsy5

“Energy Storage”

“Massive batteries ? Compressing or liquefying air ? Moving gravel uphill on ski lifts [this is not one of the options presented] ? Tom Heap looks at some of the big ideas proposed for storing energy using science or the landscape and explores which may become a reality if we’re to keep the lights on.”

“Huge investment is being made in renewable energy but as solar and wind fluctuate and are intermittent often energy goes to waste because the points at which they generate isn’t when the demand occurs. So why not use that energy and store it in another form to be used when it’s required ? Many companies are proposing ideas to do that – from extending traditional pumped hydro to compressing or liquefying air, electrolysing water or shifting heavy materials up mountains. Or will a revolution in batteries – making them cheaper and from different materials – help the cause ?”

“Tom Heap takes a look at some of the bold ideas to see how far they’ll go to keeping the lights switched on, what they’ll cost financially and aesthetically and if there’s any sign of committing to any of them at all.”

“Duration: 30 minutes”

“First broadcast: Tuesday 13 May 2014”

[ Starting 01:13 ]

[ Presenter ]

…But now, “Costing the Earth”. Tom Heap asks if we’ve got enough left in the tank.

[ Weatherman 1 ]

Where the warnings for the strength of the wind, which really will be picking up, and the rain will be turning really quite heavy, from the South West.

[ News anchorman, probably Huw Edwards, probably on BBC News 24 ]

Hurricane Force winds batter southern Britain. At the height of the storm, half a million homes were left without power.

[ Tom Heap ] In the winter just gone we got to feel the full force of Nature. And the power of the weather was frequently too much.

[ Weatherman 2 ]

South West 7 to Severe Gale 9. Increasing Severe Gale 9 to Violent Storm 11 for a time. Perhaps Hurricane Force 12 later.

[ Tom Heap ]

That seemingly unending conveyor belt of Atlantic lows drew sighs from many of us. But not all. Wind energy providers were loving it as their blades were spinning faster and longer, providing record highs of renewable electricity. Indeed, sometimes there was so much moving air, that wind generators were in danger of producing too much power. They had to shut down and were paid millions of Pounds [Sterling] to do so. Paying clean, green electricity suppliers not to produce electricity ? Sounds absurd, but the wind blows, and the sun shines according to Nature’s clock, not ours. We have learned to harness that power, but not to store it.

[ Chris Goodall ]

If we continue to increase renewable electricity, which I profoundly think is the right thing to do, we are going to have to marry it with real long-term cheap energy storage. And we have not yet begun to think through the consequences of the need to do that.

[ Dave Holmes ]

The five day Winter lull is the UK’s nightmare scenario when it comes to renewable power, because you have high pressure – barely a breath of wind – and really high demand, because everybody’s cold.

[ David MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor ]

If we could get the cost of storage down, it could really unlock the potential of renewables.

[ Chris Goodall ]

Without energy storage, we are not going to be able to run our lives in the way that we do at the moment.

[ Tom Heap ]

To get a grip on this problem, let’s take a wander through my home.

Up there on the roof I have some solar panels, generating aplenty when the sun is out. But keeping that electricity for when I want to use it, is really very difficult.

I do have some stored energy here, in this wood pile [ cracking sound ]. Good for the fire during the Winter.

And here, in the shed, we find a gas canister, on a blow torch [ sound of igniting the blow torch ].

But turning electricity into a power source like this gas [ chink, chink ] which’ll just sit there, is expensive, and relies on batteries, as my waning cordless drill will testify [ sound of power drill ] frequently rather impotent.

So today on “Costing the Earth”, we’re going to hear some radical thoughts on how to capture the spark.

Use electricity maybe to spin a giant flywheel [ sound of a bicycle wheel being spun freely ]. Or compress air, so when you release it the pressure drives a turbine [ sound of a gas being released from a canister ].

Or even use electricity to create gas.

Energy writer, Chris Goodall, lays out the challenge.

[ Chris Goodall ]

The problem is that you can’t actually store electricity, in any large quantities. Yes, we’ve got batteries, but there’s really no way of storing a large amount of electricity from day to day, from week to week. We have to convert it into something else.

The second point is that the United Kingdom, and other countries around the world, are developing more and more sources of electricity that come from unpredictable sources of generation – wind, solar, tidal, whatever.

Everything we do in the low carbon world is going to have a problem,
that it’s going to be intermittent, variable, unpredictable; and we need to find a way of ensuring that we’ve got the electricity when we want it.

And therein lies this enormous challenge.

[ Tom Heap ]

So what you’re saying is one of the major differences between renewables and fossil fuels – leaving aside the whole carbon thing – is that most fossil fuels, when you’re not using them, you can just leave them there, in the tank, or the pile, or whatever.

[ Chris Goodall ]

Absolutely. The great advantage of fossil fuels is they’re incredibly [energy] dense. We can get a lot of energy from a small amount of material, both in terms of weight, and in terms of volume. Nothing in the renewable world corresponds to that. Nuclear has some of the same characteristics. But for all the renewable electricity that we’re talking about, storage is a huge problem compared to fossil fuels.

[ Tom Heap ]

Both dense, and storeable, and up to a point, you can sort of pretty much turn it on when you want it.

[ Chris Goodall ]

Absolutely. So you’ve got your pile of coal by your coal-fired power station,
and when you want to turn the coal-fired power station on, you shovel some coal into the boilers, and it works.

[ Tom Heap ]

Do you think the scale of that challenge, you know, yet another asset if you like, in the fossil fuel armoury, has been appreciated by those who want to move to a more renewable future ?

[ Chris Goodall ]

Not at all. In this country it’s only barely registered : the fact that if we continue to increase wind, and increase solar penetration on the National Grid, we are going to have to find a way of storing energy.

At the moment, some countries around the world – Germany’s a little more advanced than us – Denmark, have begun to think about the problem.

In the UK, nobody’s actually even really begun to contemplate the scale of the challenge, yet.

[ Tom Heap ]

[ Sound of tweeting birds, and boots clumping through undergrowth ]

The electricity storage system we do have is pumped hydro [power].

There are a handful of these systems in Scotland, and here, in North Wales.

If I can fight my way through this thicket of Buddleia and scrub birch, I’m going to find Dave Holmes of the Quarry Battery Company, who thinks there’s room for more.

[ Dave Holmes ]

We’re in Glyn Rhonwy, which is in Llanberis, North Wales. We’re in a cathedral of slate [ sounds of dripping water ]. We’re 50 metres below the lip. All around us is this wonderful rock. So, my company is trying to turn this quarry into a pumped storage facility, and fill it with 1.1 million tonnes of water. That’s what we’re up to.

[ Tom Heap ]

Pumped storage is an idea that’s been around for a while. In a sense you’re going back to the future, here. Just explain in very simple terms how it works.

[ Dave Holmes ]

Well, any battery takes electricity and turns it into something else. And then you can turn it back again. This is a gravity battery. You push water uphill when you’ve got too much energy, and then when you need it again, you open the tap. It’s connected to a hydroturbine. Spinning one way, it generates electricity. Spinning the other way, it pumps the water back uphill again.

[ Tom Heap ]

So in order to make this work, what have you got uphill ?

[ Dave Holmes ]

So uphill, there’s a quarry again, about the same size as this one. Now, it’s a kilometre and a half away as the crow flies, but it’s 250 metres higher than this quarry. And that’s important, because the further you push the water uphill, the more energy it releases when it comes back down again. 600 megawatt hours of power, and at 50 megawatts we’d be able to power 50,000 houses for 12 hours a day. To put this into perspective, our facility is just 5% of the facility over the lake Llyn Padarn, at Dinorwig. Dinorwig have
10 gigawatt hours, so 10,000 megawatt hours, and we’re just a small five, six hundred here. And they can power up to 2 gigawatts. Incredibly, within 12 seconds of requiring the power.

[ Tom Heap ]

Just give me an example, if you can, of the kind of way, the kind of circumstance, in which you think this place would be used, and what its potential is.

[ Dave Holmes ]

That fast and powerful output is extemely valuable to the National Grid. If you have a sudden drop, let’s say, a generator falls; or, the thing you often hear said is the “TV pick up” – Coronation Street in the ad break – everybody goes out and has a cup of tea, right ? Well, where do you get the power from ? Everybody in the country turns on a 3 kilowatt kettle. That adds up to, you know, maybe a nuclear power station or two.

[ Tom Heap ]

But in simple terms. When that does happen, that’s literally when water will be rushing downhill.

[ Dave Holmes ]

Yes. But they’ll be trading more than that. You know, at night time we have excess energy, and [in] the daytime, we have the morning peak, when some people are starting at work, some people are still cooking breakfast at home. And the same in the afternoon. [At] those times of day, the amount of energy demand in the UK changes very rapidly and you need to be able to respond to that. Because you can’t store electricity in the wires. You can only store it in batteries. And we’ve got a 40 gigawatt average demand in the UK and we have just 3 gigawatts of storage, and that’s if it’s all turned on, all at the same time, which is pretty rare.

[ Tom Heap ]

Well, this is why, as I understand it, energy storage is so much the coming issue, because the more renewables, which are generally unpredictable in when they generate, the more you need storage. Is that right ?

[ Dave Holmes ]

Yeah, that’s absolutely right. We should be able to deliver a low carbon UK at an optimal cost. And that involves storage. Because if you don’t have storage, you have to not only build enough wind to cover the entire UK demand, you also have to build enough backup to cover the UK demand. Well, with storage, you can reduce that last bit of wind, because you don’t need to build it, you can just store it instead. Likewise, you don’t need to build that last bit of backup, because the storage can come in and cover the shortfall.

[ Tom Heap ]

So, at the moment, we’ve got, er, varying between, is it, 10 and 15 percent electricity from renewables in the UK at the moment ?

[ Dave Holmes ]

Well, it’s around 15%, at best. So if everything’s operating at maximum capacity…

[ Tom Heap ]

…and as those proportions of renewable energy increase. how does that change the argument for the need for energy storage ?

[ Dave Holmes ]

Well, a little bit of wind can be absorbed by the National Grid. ‘Cause you already have, you know, gas generators, nuclear generators, coal generators, who can kind of take up the slack. But when you add a lot into the system, that’s when the intermittency problem really becomes much more apparent.

[ Tom Heap ]

At the moment, what happens when’s the wind blowing hard and we don’t need the energy ?

[ Dave Holmes ]

It causes a problem for the National Grid. And National Grid actually have to pay people to turn their energy down. And sometimes they actually turn the wind farms off. Now wind farms are subsidised by the Feed-in Tariff, the Contract for Difference, or in the past, the Renewable Obligation Certificate. And so far it’s cost about £30 million to the UK taxpayer.

[ Tom Heap ]

So, that’s an extraordinary figure, that most people would say, “Hang on a minute ! They’re being paid not to generate ? That seems amazing !”

[ Dave Holmes ]

Well, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could store that energy instead of throwing it away ?

[ Tom Heap ]

Dave Holmes believes solving our entire electricity storage problem with water flowing up and downhill, could be done, but only at the cost of public anger.

[ Dave Holmes ]

It would mean flooding Areas of Natural Beauty, triple S I’s [SSSI], Special Areas of Conservation, and the National Parks, and that’s obviously something that none of us want to do. But there’s lots of places, where, you know, like this, it’s an ex-industrial site, we have potentially contaminated land in some of these areas, where we can come in, and clean them up, re-purpose them, turn them into energy storage facilities, reduce the amount of cost on wind power, and reduce the amount of fossil fuel burning [in] power stations and meet the energy demand for the UK. And that’ll be cheaper for the UK taxpayer and for the Government.

[ Tom Heap ]

I was perhaps a little too dismissive of batteries earlier in the programme. Big improvements have happened. At least I have a cordless drill in my workshop, and my information-rich phone and tablet depend on the latest generation of Lithium-ion power sources. And better batteries are fuelling the steadily increasing competence of electric cars. Cosmin Laslau from the Boston-based analysts Lux Research says the car manufacturer Tesla are hoping to change the game with their proposed gigafactory.

[ Cosmin Laslau ]

Their long-term plan is to really halve the price, to introduce a lower cost electric vehicle, while not sacrificing on driving range. And the way that they think they will be able to do that is really mass-produce these batteries at a scale never seen before. The scale of a Lithium-ion battery production factory – it’s about one gigawatt hour. That’s on average. What Tesla’s looking to do is to increase that by a factor of about 30 to 50. And they hope with that massive economy of scale they’re going to be able to really lower the cost of the battery itself.

[ Tom Heap ]

Do you, and the market, have confidence that they’re going to be able to deliver this dream ?

[ Cosmin Laslau ]

In short, no. Not to the scale that they’re promising. They have demonstrated that there exists a niche for luxury electric vehicles. So they have positioned a product quite well. But it’s one thing to sell 20,000 vehicles. It’s another thing to sell half a million.

[ Tom Heap ]

You were going to talk I think about another challenge, alongside the scale ?

[ Cosmin Laslau ]

Right. Absolutely. The other approach is innovation. There’s also the question of can we go away altogether from Lithium-ion – and go to some more advanced battery chemistries – that could potentially be cheaper or be able to pack more energy in the same amount of space or weight ?

And so there’s some very interesting developers, and actually quite a few out of the UK. So there’s er, a start-up out of Oxford called Oxis Energy and they’re working on what is called the Lithium sulfur battery. Sulfur is quite a cheap material, and so they think that, in the long-term, you know we’re talking 5, 10 years out, they might be able to develop a battery that is a lot cheaper than the Lithium-ion batteries that we see today. So far, however, cycle life isn’t quite there. So the battery just doesn’t last long enough for a vehicle application.

Another one is a company called Nexion, out of Imperial College London. They’re trying to change half the battery, what they actually going to put in [is] silicon in what’s called the anode. And this improves the amount of energy that you can pack into this battery. And there’s quite a lot of interest there, particularly from [the] consumer electronics side of things.

[ Tom Heap ]

But for the foreseeable future, energy storage in batteries on a grid scale is just not viable. The solution is something familiar. Gas. In my case, a big metal bottle full of it [ chink, chink ] that runs my cooker for months. For the nation, something much grander. And the surprising thing is, it can be created using spare green electricity.

Energy writer, Chris Goodall, again

[ Chris Goodall ]

There is only one conceivable way of doing it. And that’s turning spare power from wind, from solar, into another medium. Probably hydrogen. Possibly methane. Methane is the main constituent of the Natural Gas that’s coming through your gas taps.

[ Tom Heap ]

How do you do that ?

[ Chris Goodall ]

The way that we can store electricity is through a process known as electrolysis. It’s the kind of thing that you did in the chemistry lab at school when you were 15. You’ve got an electric current which you pass through a beaker of water. And at one side of that you get hydrogen forming, as water breaks up into hydrogen and oxygen, and at the other side you get oxygen. If you can collect that hydrogen, which you can, and store it, you can then use that as a way of providing you energy at some time in the future when you need it.

[ Tom Heap ]

Now that sounds simple in terms of chemistry, but how efficient is it ?

[ Chris Goodall ]

That process is up to 80% efficient. That is to say, about 80% of the energy value of the electricity you put in can be collected in the form of energy value for the hydrogen. So this is a reasonably efficient process, roughly comparable to the very best pumped storage.

The problem with hydrogen is that it’s not very energy dense, so you need a large space to store a reasonable amount of energy in the form of hydrogen. It would be much better, if we took that hydrogen and we merged it chemically with carbon dioxide to create methane (which is a combination of carbon and hydrogen atoms) and water.

Methane, we have an almost infinite capacity to store, because we can put it into gas reservoirs beneath the sea, we can put it directly into the National Grid for gas.

[ Tom Heap ]

And one Sheffield-based company, ITM Power, has begun supplying the German energy network in exactly this way.

I linked up with Managing Director, Graham Cooley, on the road.

[ Graham Cooley ]

So, we’re at the Hanover Messe in Germany, which is a massive technology show. And we’re in Germany because of a very significant project the Germans are running called the Energiewende, which is to transform their whole energy network from fossil fuelled-energy to renewable energy.

[ Tom Heap ]

Are you suggesting pumping this hydrogen as neat hydrogen into the grid,
rather than combining it into methane ?

[ Graham Cooley ]

All over the world there are compliance rules about how much hydrogen you can put into the gas grid.

Across Europe, basically, the average is around 3 to 5%. 12% in Holland. 10% in Germany. And so you can actually put hydrogen directly into the gas grid.

What you’re doing really is you’re putting a device between our two major energy networks, and where you have an excess of generation in the electricity network, you can transfer the energy into the gas network.

And because the gas network is so massive and we already own it, it’s the lowest cost energy storage.

[ Tom Heap ]

Graham, give me your kind of roster of different energy storage techniques.

[ Graham Cooley ]

OK. So, look energy storage is segmented in terms of discharge time and scale. So, if you want a very small amount of energy storage almost instantaneously, you’d use a flywheel. If you want two hours of energy storage, you’d use a battery. If you want a few hours, you’d use pumped hydro. But if you want years, or seasons, of energy storage, you use hydrogen, Power to Gas energy storage. And the reason for that is that the gas grid that’s storing that energy, is so large.

[ Tom Heap ]

For a glimpse into the future where energy storage is a more acute problem, I’ve come across to Northern Ireland, in fact, to Larne, just on a very blustery hillside overlooking the Irish Sea. In front of me, is a drilling rig, about 10 or 15 metres high. And here they’re trying something quite radical [ sound of motor starting up ].

Well down here, next to the rig, adorned in the high viz and hard hat are Keith McGrane and Stephen Aherne, from the company Gaelectric, a big electricity provider here, particularly in the renewables sphere in Northern Ireland. Keith, tell me what we’re looking at here.

[ Keith McGrane ]

We’re looking at a drilling rig, that drills down to a depth of 950 metres, to identify salt deposits, that we use to store compressed air.

[ Tom Heap ]

Now Stephen, you’re the geologist here…

[ Stephen Aherne ]

…that’s right…

[ Tom Heap ]

…Explain to me how that process works. At the moment I guess you’re looking at a solid salt deposit block, and you’ve got to turn that into some kind of cavern.

[ Stephen Aherne ]

Exactly, yes. The caverns are created by pumping in water, the salt is dissolved, leaving a void, which is essentially an airtight container, which is used then, as a storage vessel for the compressed air.

[ Tom Heap ]

So you’re going to dissolve a big void under there. How big ?

[ Stephen Aherne ]

It’s going to be about 100 metres high, and a diameter of 70 to 90 metres. It’s a very well-established technology, and method. Round the world, there are about 500 caverns, mainly used for storing gas.

[ Tom Heap ]

Now, perhaps we ought to take a step back. How can compressing air enable you to store electricity ?

[ Keith McGrane ]

What we have here is such a process of taking surplus electricity from the grid, that drives a compressor, converting it into air. That air is then stored underground, and it can then be withdrawn from the cavern, and that air is run through a turbine that regenerates electricity back to the grid.

The system that we are designing can generate 268 megawatts. One megawatt of electricity generation can supply electricity for about 1,000 homes. So we could actually generate 268 megawatts of electricity for 8 hours.

[ Tom Heap ]

So you could supply a reasonable chunk of the electricity for Northern Ireland for a few hours ?

[ Keith McGrane ]

Yes, we absolutely could. But the primary application is one of enabling the Grid to manage renewable energy.

[ Tom Heap ]

Compressing air and storing it underground, Stephen, is it just going to work here outside Larne, or are there other places in the UK and across Europe, where, if you can prove it can work here, it can work elsewhere ?

[ Stephen Aherne ]

On the island of Ireland, it appears that this is the only location. But certainly in Great Britain, there are a number of locations. Cheshire, Yorkshire, and I suppose in the South West, if we’re looking at salt. There may also be potential in depleted gas fields or aquifers.

When this is demonstrated, the potential will be seen all the way from Portugal across to Poland, Bulgaria, and up to Denmark.

[ Tom Heap ]

In terms of the scale of the storage here, what’s it comparable to ? I mean, it’s clearly more than a battery, but it’s not necessarily going to keep you going over a Winter period. Is it like pumped storage ?

[ Keith McGrane ]

Yeah, it’s of the same scale as pumped storage, but of course, the storage is all underground, so there is a major difference in terms of environmental impact.

But the need for largescale storage does provide opportunities for technologies such as batteries, such as compressed air, and such as pumped storage.

My own view is that these technologies will find their own respective applications, in seconds-to-seconds variation on the Grid, minutes-to-hours, and hours-to-days.

[ Tom Heap ]

So complementary, rather than competing ?

[ Keith McGrane ]

Absolutely, and a lot is talked about what technology’s going to be the winner, and everyone thinks we’re in a race here. My view is that we’re not. The optimum solution is to find economic storage that can be deployed at different scales to give the best solution to the system.

[ Tom Heap ]

The problem is that the electricity grid can’t store electricity. So in the words of the [Chief] Scientific Advisor at the Department for [sic] Energy and Climate Change, David MacKay, we need something easily turn-on-and-off-able, and it needs to be big.

At the moment, that’s mainly done by turning gas-fired power stations up and down. And at times, just like wind, they too are paid not to generate.

But as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels to less controllable renewables, that option shrinks.

And while how we produce electricity changes, David MacKay says the overall amount we need continues to go up.

[ David MacKay ]

All of our projections for 2050 pathways see an increase in total electricity demand, because of the electrification of heat and transport, and we do expect the peak electricity demand in Winter to grow as part of that future decarbonisation.

[ Tom Heap ]

As the Government’s [Cheif] Scientific Advisor on Energy, he sees a lot of energy storage ideas, and believes that compressed air is a frontrunner.

[ David MacKay ]

It has absolutely enormous potential because there are places with appropriate geology for making large underground caverns, and so it is a technology that could be done at very large scale, in contrast to pumped storage, where we’ve only got one Snowdonia, and one Highlands of Scotland, and so there’s only a limited land area that could conceivably be used for any additional pumped storage.

Another technology that’s coming up and looking very promising is an invention that’s being developed by a company called Isentropic and they’re trying to develop an extremely efficient heat pump that could be used to take electricity and use it to pump heat from a cold pile of rock into a hot pile of rock, and then when you want your electricity back, you run the same heat pump in reverse, to turn the heat back into electricity. And a prototype of this is being developed in Southampton at the moment.

Now again, this could have really large potential. It would occupy far less land area than pumped storage facilities. So if the costs can be driven down enough, and if it performs as well as hoped, it could be a substitute for pumped storage that could be deployed at much larger scale.

[ Tom Heap ]

One of the technologies we’ve looked at for long-term storage, is the electrolysis of water into hydrogen, either storing that hydrogen, or then combining it again with CO2 [carbon dioxide] to create methane. What do you think about that ?

[ David MacKay ]

I think it definitely makes sense to include on our list ways of dealing with supply and demand variation, not just ways of storing electricity so that we can get electricity back, but other ways of solving the problem. So if we could have a piece of demand that is flexible, for example, making hydrogen – which could then be used for other purposes like transport, or putting into heating systems in industry, or home heating – that demand for hydrogen in principle could be flexible and could be turned up and down as the price and availability of electricity goes up and down.

The biggest concern on that side is the risk that the electrolysers will remain expensive, and if you’re only using them say 10% of the time when the sun’s shining, then you’re not getting very good use out of those expensive assets.

But I am optimistic that we will be able to drive down the cost of electrolysers.

[ Tom Heap ]

Should we not have been doing this 10 or 15 years ago ?

[ David MacKay ]

I think Britain has been investing in innovation support for various storage and energy conversion technologies for decades now.

[ Tom Heap ]

[We] haven’t been doing enough ? I mean, it should have been the twin for renewables all along, shouldn’t it ? We always knew they were intermittent. We always knew

[ David MacKay ]

It’s definitely the case that if we could get the costs of storage down, it could really unlock the potential of renewables. There have been projects doing exactly this, decades ago. In my book, I mentioned the case of the island of Fair Isle, where they get a lot of their electricity from a couple of turbines. And they have a backup system which is a diesel generator. And they added to that system as an experiment a flywheel to do electricity storage to help balance out the fluctuations in the wind. So there have been very good innovative experiments going on for a while in Britain but I think we really do recognise the importance now of storage.

[ Tom Heap ]

With respect to Fair Isle, that’s a little bit “garden shed”. And we’ve had some stuff from the lab bench. Isn’t it really urgent that we start doing enough ? I mean, Germany seems to be doing far more than us.

[ David MacKay ]

Well, in terms of urgency, it’s still the case that most of the capacity on the electricity system in the UK, is flexible fossil fuelled power.

[ Tom Heap ]

But we want to be rid of that, don’t we ?

[ David MacKay ]

Yes, but there’s no way we can get rid of it overnight.

It’s absolutely right to be putting the money into innovation support to drive down the costs of storage, rather than doing a mass deployment of whatever happens to be the best storage technology today.

I do think we’ve got at least 5 or 10 years to go before we need we really get into mass deployment.

[ Tom Heap ]

In his book “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air”, David MacKay floats the possibility of hugely increased pumped hydro in Scotland, suggesting enlarging Loch Sloy above Loch Lomond, and pumped storage at 13 other sites across the country. So, an obvious question. Are the Scottish Glens safe from being flooded ?

[ David MacKay ]

I think that the Scottish Glens, especially if the storage of electricity in gravel and the compressed air energy storage breakthroughs happen in the way that I hope they’re going to happen, I think they will be safe.

[ Tom Heap ]

Energy storage should have been the twin to renewable energy.

But, it’s been starved of investment and innovation.

So now, to avoid undermining green electricity generation it must develop fast.

[ Presenter ]

“Costing the Earth” was presented by Tom Heap and produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.

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