Feb 15, 2017

GMB urges UK to learn from Australia's power issues

Nell Walker
3 min
Over the past five months, there have been at least four large-scale power outages in Australia, with one in September 2016 affecting 1.7 million cus...

Over the past five months, there have been at least four large-scale power outages in Australia, with one in September 2016 affecting 1.7 million customers. As a result, GMB – the union for energy sector workers in the UK – is calling for urgent inquiries into power cuts arising from the switch to renewable sources from fossil fuels, so that it can apply the learned information to UK energy policy.

GMB National Secretary for the Energy Sector, Justin Bowden, offered the following expert comment:

"It is essential that all involved in energy policy in the UK learn the practical lessons from the widespread power cuts in Australia.

“There have been at least 4 major power outages in several states in Australia over the last 5 months, with one event in September 2016 affecting 1.7 million customers.

“Preliminary indications suggest that the transmission systems are not able to cope with the scale of power that has to be moved from one part of the country to another when renewable sources are not generating supplies at times of peak demand in the areas the renewable sources are located. 

“The same changes from fossil fuels to renewable sources is taking place in the UK so it is essential that lessons are learnt from these power cuts in Australia.

“GMB remains very concerned about possible power supply shortages across the UK as a whole, at times of peak demand, as the fossil fuel stations are phased out before the new fleet of nuclear power stations is on stream, particularly on the one in eight days that renewable sources are not supplying energy to the grid. 

“This concern is real and added to it are the concerns arising from regional dimensions and the capacity of the grid to move power for one part of the country to another.

“In particular, if Scotland closes Longannet and Peterhead fossil fuel power stations - as seems likely, and if there are technical outages at the two nuclear power stations in Scotland - is there enough capacity in the grid to supply Scotland when renewables are not generating power? It would seem therefore prudent to keep Peterhead open. 

“This will become an even more pressing issue when the two Scottish nuclear power stations close and are not replaced.  The new nuclear power station at Sellafield will be needed to put power into the grid on these days to replace them. 

“It is essential that proper planning by experts takes place across the UK as whole to avoid the sorts of power cuts we are seeing in Australia. 

“GMB is calling on all stakeholders to commit to enabling the experts to tell elected representatives what we need to do to keep the lights on while aiming to decarbonise the economy. The electorate will punish representatives who refuse to listen to the experts and fail to make the necessary investment to keep the lights on.  

"Lobbyists and axe grinders can no longer be relied upon to maintain the secure power we need for prosperity and civilisation.”


Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine

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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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