National Grid has reported a huge reserve of energy in its storage after a boom in local solar generation and growth in the number of businesses and homes now producing their own power. This means that minimum demand levels on its high-voltage electricity lines are set to fall dramatically this summer, leading to the prospect of wind farms actually being paid to switch off their turbines and prevent an excess of unused power accruing in the system.
In its quarterly outlook report, National Grid said that it expected demand to drop to 20.8GW over summer, from 22.7GW. This reflects a sizeable upturn in solar energy deployment across the UK, even though the government has repeatedly slashed its subsidies.
It said that it expected to see flexible wind generation curtailed in minimum-demand periods over the summer. However, the costs of paying wind developers to stop generating renewable power will ultimately end up in the bills of the consumers who pay subsidies for them to produce energy in the first place through their energy bills.
Other energy producers, such as nuclear power plants, may also be advised to power down their operations over summer, but their ability to do so is more limited due to the nature of the technology.
The scheme that would apply is called the Demand Turn Up, which pays firms to boost demand by reducing generation or shifting consumption patterns as a means of mitigating excess green energy generation during periods of low demand.
It is a solution by which the grid can balance out periods of fluctuating demand and supply. National Grid has also said that it expects to see the trend continue, with new capacity of 150MW and above being brought online over the coming year.