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Weather patterns and renewable energy

The National Infrastructure Commission has published a new report, with research from the Met Office, indicating how our weather patterns might influence the drive towards renewable energy in the UK.

'Weather and Climate Related Sensitivities and Risks in a Highly Renewable UK Energy System: A Literature Review' was commissioned by the NIC, which is also separately undertaking a further Resilience Study. The latter is to consider what action government should take to ensure that the UK's infrastructure can cope with future changes, disruptions, shocks and accidents, including those resulting from climate change.

The Met Office reviewed the impact of a variety of extreme stress events, including very cold winters, highlighting the need for the intelligent deployment of renewables, combined with storage, demand management and the use of interconnectors, to maintain resilient energy supplies on which communities rely.

Increased innovation in forecasting techniques, the NIC suggests, could also play a crucial role in enabling energy companies to plan for extreme weather events and take action from alternative energy sources to smooth out 'dips' in supply. The review indicates the potential advantage of complementary wind and solar technologies in dealing with variable meteorological conditions across the UK.

At our recent London City Hall forum Mark Bramah, Strategy Lead for Robin Hood Energy - the Nottingham City Council owned firm whose electricity is 100% sourced from renewable wind and solar generators - said:

'We are all at risk from a lack of consistency in government energy policy. The government has set a decarbonisation target for the energy system, but the means to do that are not there yet. This week HMRC is levying VAT on solar battery installations at 20% while the government has set a target of 2050 (for decarbonisation) - so it's contradictory. Part of the answer lies with local authorities as a significant part of the energy transition will take place in cities.'

Mark warned: 'The risks and challenges of setting up a municipal energy company are significant, which is perhaps why it hasn't happened in London or Manchester. Nottingham took a calculated risk and has gone into partnerships with other councils and housing associations.'

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