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Clean Energy Insights: Energy Exemplar's Executive Forum at Battersea Power Station

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Team Energy Exemplar

On Thursday, 12 October 2023, Energy Exemplar welcomed 55 senior energy decision makers to our very first invite-only Executive Forum. ‘Navigating Clean Energy Investments’ took place inside the iconic Battersea Power Station – once a coal-fired power plant, a “Temple of Power”, suppling over 1/5 of London’s electricity (including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace), now a beacon of modernity and a symbol of the changing energy future.

Guests from across the entire energy value chain (Government Officials, TSOs, Consultants, Bankers, OEMs, Traders, and more) took the time to come together to address the challenges of and solutions to investing in the energy transition.

Inside the Cinema, memorable and thought provoking presentations by the likes of the Government of South Australia, RWE Supply & Trading, Equinor, Wartsila, National Grid and Dr. Paul Deane were shared on the big screen, shining a light on..

  1. 🔦 .. Australia as a prime example of a transformed energy market
  2. 🔦 .. the importance of sector coupling in modelling
  3. 🔦 .. the need to consider electrification at full scale
  4. 🔦 .. the role of balancing the grid and re-thinking how we make long-term decisions
  5. 🔦 .. unprecedented grid expansion and the required buy-in
  6. 🔦 .. The future.

1. .. Australia as a prime example of a transformed energy market

The Hon David Ridgway, Agent General at The Government of South Australia, took the audience through the clean energy journey for South Australia. From almost zero renewables in South Australia some 17 years ago, today over 70% of demand is met by renewables.

With the state regularly breaking records (the entire supply comes from roof top solar and wind on perfect days), South Australia is a prime example of a transformed energy market and a great case study for the rest of the world. Multiple opportunities were described demonstrating South Australia’s commitment to a greener energy system and highlighting several key projects for potential investment in renewables and hydrogen.

David also discussed the latest developments in South Australia including the recent tabling of the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act.

2. .. the importance of sector coupling in modelling 

Thomas Pieper, Head of Commercial Analysis & Global Strategies at RWE Supply and Trading, presented RWE’s strategic roadmap “Growing Green” to expand the company's green generation capacity over the next years and how they model the energy transition towards net-zero.

The future of the low carbon German energy industry was projected, revealing the importance of modelling to support RWE’s massive renewable objectives around the world. Most importantly the presentation highlighted the essential role of sector coupling analysis, especially between power and hydrogen, to meet demand at the lowest system cost.

The efficiency of current power plants and losses and intermittency of renewables is a key challenge which should be eliminated by 2045 through electrification, renewable energy sources and hydrogen power plants. So, even though electricity demand will rise, overall energy requirements will decrease due to improved efficiency.

3. .. the need to consider electrification at full scale

Marc Lupianez, Head of Power Analysis at Equinor, discussed Equinor’s renewable ambitions and the challenges to achieve the energy transition in Europe.

There is no way back from electrification. We now need to consider it at full scale, looking beyond Europe and how resources will stretch to keep the lights on globally. We must develop an integrated approach, as there is “no point in building a million wind turbines” in one area if the electricity generated can’t make it onto the grid. Investments must be made globally and not just in Europe, so the challenge should be considered through a global, rather than a local lens. This goes hand in hand with the development of hydrogen and CCS value chains.

Also, the presentation highlighted several challenges, such as sourcing rare earth minerals and market design. According to Marc, “Renewables have brought the energy market their internet moment” - and the potential for investigating new market designs like charging for "bandwidth".

4. .. the role of balancing the grid and re-thinking how we make long-term decisions

Louis Strydom, Director Growth & Development, Africa & Europe at Wartsila, delved into the role of balancing the grid in Sustainable Energy Systems. Diverse challenges require diverse solutions and Balancing is a multi-faceted and dynamic driver in the energy transition.

Louis also unpicked how we can make long-term decisions in uncertain environments, including the need to work with common models. This would mean that as change happens, you can revisit assumptions and challenge decisions faster. We need dynamic energy planning: Agile strategies, minute-by-minute analysis, and adaptable systems.

5. .. unprecedented grid expansion and the required buy-in

National Grid Group Head of Strategy, Steve Smith gave an overview of National Grid in the UK and the US. Steve highlighted the traditional electric network compared to the future, more dynamic, to-way network. The T&D grid must be expanded at an unprecedented scale to support electrification, and optimise not just the transmission system, but the distribution system as well.

Incredibly, the UK needs more transmission built in the next 7 years than what was built in the last 45, by orders of magnitude. This requires a fundamental re-engineering of the platform as well as leveraging technology and data.

The government and regulators will need to reform planning and capex assumptions, paving the way for regulatory reform around investments.

There is an immense need to bring everyone, especially the general public, onto the journey together: “If you’re really ‘green’, hug a pylon, not a tree”.

Read more about how National Grid ESO uses PLEXOS here.

6. .. the future.

Senior Researcher in Clean Energy, Dr Paul Deane, provided the academic perspective on the energy transition by looking to the past to explain the future.

At the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, people projected that, based on previous improvements over the years, future life expectancy would follow linear trends and increase to 150 years and there would be zero pollution. This headscratcher showed that the future is not linear, nor does it reveal its secrets easily. It showed that examining the future is a humble science.

We can’t predict the future, but we can understand what shapes it and minimise surprises. Today, powerful computer models like PLEXOS allow us to simulate many different futures and help us understand how our decisions today can shape tomorrow. The key message was that we must constantly change our assumptions and model as many scenarios as possible. Consider the thing that changes your results the most and focus on that.

The technology to drive the energy transition exists already... 

The consensus was that the technology exists to drive the energy transition – the real challenge lies in getting buy in from all relevant parties and overcoming social and political barriers. We need to think more about human nature and how we can bring people along on the journey. Community acceptance of new infrastructure is necessary as there is no time to waste if we are to hit our ambitious CO2 reduction targets.

Rich discussions were continued over drinks and private tours at the Power Station’s former Control Room B.

We would like to thank all our speakers and guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend and add value to this event. Thank you to everyone involved in the organisation including staff, venues, and suppliers. We look forward to the next event!

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Team Energy Exemplar

We love it when our blogs come from specific people but often it's a team effort. These blogs are written by the numerous outstanding people at Energy Exemplar.