Date: March 21, 2017
Author: KiWi Power

I was inspired by Elon Musk’s offer a week and a half ago to deliver 100 MW of batteries to Australia in 100 days or give them away for free. Elon made the offer in response to Australia’s growing power problems, with South Australia experiencing intermittent blackouts over the past six months. I would like to offer a similar deal to the UK in response to our challenges with the proposed Hinkley Point C suspension.

Five days after Elon’s tweet, last Monday, South Australia announced a tender for 100 MWs of batteries. As well as Tesla maintaining their offer, this spurred AGL Energy to plan to tender a ready-to-go site, Zen Energy to bring forward a project at Upper Spencer Gulf, and Carnegie Clean Energy to come forward with a proposal too.

One of the amazing things about new energy technologies is the speed at which they can be implemented. Where a coal or gas power station can take 4 to 5 years to build, a solar or battery project can be installed in months. This compares even more favourably with the nuclear powered Hinkley Point C, which has been planned for years and won’t produce power till 2025 at the earliest. Where delays happen in the new energy space, especially in the UK, it is caused by policy rather than technology barriers. This is especially true for Demand Side Response (DSR), the fastest, cheapest and cleanest new energy technology.

Demand Side Response is a very simple idea: instead of generating expensive and polluting power at the highest peak times, businesses reduce non-essential consumption temporarily. The process is fully automated, and businesses are paid to do it because it’s cheaper than burning diesel or coal at inefficient power stations. It’s a proven concept, with thousands of businesses participating in programmes in North America. It also saves a lot of money: the National Infrastructure Commission report titled “Smart Power” estimated that UK consumers stand to achieve savings of £8 billion annually through DSR, battery storage and interconnectors.

At KiWi Power we have been trying to bring Demand Side Response to the UK, and while we have achieved some success we are slowed by regulation and policy. Inconsistent markets, barriers to competing with traditional power stations, and slow changing rules have meant that while DSR and storage are seen as important technologies of the future, their impact today is limited. And today is when we need them most. Our reserve margin for the past few winters has been dangerously low, approaching zero, prompting National Grid to pay huge sums of money to old coal power stations as backup reserve. Unfortunately, our existing policy is not supporting the technology that could solve these problems and instead, has encouraged the build out of new diesel power stations.

Yesterday, the UN asked the UK to suspend work on Hinkley Point C, joining many previous opponents to the project who maintain that it is too expensive and will be delivered too late. The current plan is to deliver 3 GW by 2025 at the earliest. So, in the example set by Elon two weeks ago, I would like to offer an alternative:

We will deliver 3 GW of DSR and storage by 2025, or it’s free.

Now, to be sure, baseload nuclear power and DSR and storage for balancing the grid are two different things. But in an increasingly intermittent grid powered by renewables, we need the latter just as much, if not more, than the former. And to be clear, businesses still need to get paid to participate. But the potential is there: the Association for Decentralised Energy estimated that as much as 9.8 GW of DSR could be developed in the UK, and last year’s EFR tender saw multiple GW of battery projects bidding for capacity. So our offer is to get this operational by 2025, and if we can’t, we won’t charge for any of the equipment, operations or our time to get it done.

My hope is that, just like in Australia, we are able to seize the opportunity to make a change and create a true market for new, clean flexible technology, rather than one that just subsidises our existing power stations. KiWi, and the rest of the new energy industry is ready to deliver.

Yoav Zingher – Co-Founder & CEO – KiWi Power