Storm Katie Cuts Power Across Southern England

On Easter Saturday the Met Office announced the impending arrival of another named storm from across the Atlantic:

Storm Katie is forecast to affect southern England and south Wales on Easter Monday

Anticipating the development of an area of low pressure, which will affect southern England and south Wales on Easter Monday, The Met Office has decided to name the storm Katie. This will be the 11th named storm since last autumn.

A National Severe Weather Warning for strong winds has been issued, covering much of Easter Monday.

The Met Office also issued a severe weather warning for the winds from Storm Katie across Southern England:

Issued at: 1031 on Sat 26 Mar 2016
Valid from: 0115 on Mon 28 Mar 2016
Valid to: 1400 on Mon 28 Mar 2016

Winds will strengthen markedly across southern England and through the Bristol Channel from the start of Monday, with the potential for 50-60 mph gusts inland and 70 mph gusts around coasts exposed to the south. Whilst there is a low likelihood of all areas seeing these strong gusts for a time southern coastal counties from Hampshire eastwards look most likely to see the strongest winds. These will then ease from the southwest during the morning, clearing from the east early in the afternoon. Additional hazards may include large waves around exposed coasts as well as a period of heavy rain.

Please be aware of the potential for disruption to outdoor activities and travel, as well as the possibility of fallen trees and temporary interruptions to power supplies.

On Easter Sunday the Met Office’s “Chief Forecaster’s assessment” firmed up the forecast a bit, saying that:

There is increased confidence in the likelihood of a period of disruptive southerly winds, veering westerly later. Winds are likely to be strongest in southern coastal areas, but there is potential for some very strong, squally gusts inland during the morning before winds ease from the west during the day.

Now the morning of Easter Monday has arrived, as have those “temporary interruptions to power supplies”. Storm Katie has done her worst, and here’s how the damage looked at 08:00 BST. First of all here’s Western Power Distribution‘s current power cut map:

Further east here’s Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution‘s power cut map:

and here’s one from UK Power Networks‘ for South East England:

Unlike WPD, SSEPD and UKPN don’t publish real time tables of the number of properties without power. SSEPD are however providing a “Live Storm Feed” for Katie:

According to their latest news bulletins:

Southern Electric Power Distribution has more than 900 engineering, technical and support staff on duty to deal with Storm Katie, and since last night power has been restored to 40,300 customers.

There are currently 28,497 customers in West Sussex whose power supply have been affected by Storm Katie.

There are currently 4,152 customers in Berkshire whose power supply have been affected by Storm Katie.

There are currently 2,893 customers in Dorset whose power supply have been affected by Storm Katie.

According to the UKPN Press Office:

There are currently 19,000 properties without power across South East England (Kent, Surrey and Sussex)

SSEPD are also “Live Tweeting” about the problems Katie’s winds have caused their network:

Solar Smart Charging in Utrecht with 150 Renault ZOEs

In a press release earlier today Renault announced that:

Renault has signed a letter of intent with the Dutch Utrecht City Council, ElaadNL and LomboXnet on Smart Solar Charging for electric vehicles.

The signature took place during the state visit to Paris of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.

According to the letter of intent, the city of Utrecht could be the testing ground for the solar smart-charge project. Renault, Europe’s leader in electric vehicles, would supply a fleet of 150 Renault ZOE models through 2017 to the city. ElaadNL would handle management of infrastructures and the smart-charge standard, and LomboXnet would take charge of installing the network of unique public charging terminals powered by a 44 kW grid connection. Grid operator Stedin would be involved to balance supply and demand of the grid.

The Royal Family might have left better weather behind during their trip to Paris, but here’s a Renault ZOE charging outside the LomboXnet offices in Utrecht, in the rain:

Moving on to some more technical details of the Utrecht project:

Phase one of the project would involve setting up 1,000 smart solar-charge stations, powered by 10,000 photovoltaic panels in the Utrecht region. Infrastructure installation would run side by side with development of a car-share service of electric cars, powered by renewable energy, for Utrecht residents. The Renault ZOE R.Access connectivity and 22 kW charging make it ideal for car-share and smart charging applications.

So far so good, and then comes phase 2!

Phase two of the project would proceed with the partners developing a vehicle-to-grid ecosystem, with the network of solar chargers capable of both charging the electric cars and of feeding energy stored in the batteries of parked cars onto the grid to meet demand peaks. This could be the starting point for a new system storing renewably sourced energy.

As always at this juncture, one cannot help but wonder where and when the first “vehicle-to-grid ecosystem” will evolve here in the United Kingdom!

Nissan’s New Office Will Be Electric Vehicle Powered

Nissan announced at the Geneva Motor Show today that:

Its new regional office in France will house the largest grid-integrated electric vehicle (EV) system and second life battery storage unit ever installed in a building, anywhere in the world.

The new building will feature 100 vehicle-to-grid chargers, from Nissan’s partner ENEL, allowing Nissan’s range of EVs to plug in and draw down energy from the grid at off-peak periods with the ability to “sell back” the stored energy to the grid. It will also feature a 1 MWh energy storage system, from Nissan’s partner EATON, the battery storage experts, powered by 64 Nissan LEAF second life EV batteries combined with solar energy generation.

The company hopes to extend this innovative battery technology to other major Nissan sites and facilities around the world over the next few years. The systems which will be installed at Nissan’s new French office will serve as a live test case of what can be achieved when electric cars are used to their full potential.

By reducing grid dependency and using excess energy stored in EV batteries in a smart way, Nissan believes today’s announcement will be a game-changer in the way people and businesses utilise electric vehicle fleets.

The new technology is expected to slash energy costs at the new France office by reducing drawdown of energy during peak periods in favour of off-peak tariffs. The new energy management system will also decrease the amount of contracted power consumed from the local electricity supplier.

Nissan announced plans to create a viable long-term solution to environmental protection in relation to energy use and storage at the COP21 climate conference in Paris last year. This included a partnership between Nissan and EATON on giving electric vehicle batteries a second life as stationary energy storage units and a partnership with ENEL on vehicle-to-grid integration. Grid integration trials have already begun in Denmark.

What Should Be In SEWTHA 2.0?

In case the six letter acronym (SLA for short) in our title for today means nothing to you it stands for “Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air“, the title of a 2008 book by David MacKay, who amongst other things is Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. We first mentioned SEWTHA back in 2012, when Bill Gates praised it in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. I mention it again today because my attention was drawn by a bit of a barney (BoB for short) on Twitter between Prof. MacKay and Jeremy Leggett, who amongst other things is a founding director of solar PV company Solarcentury.

First of all here’s the BoB in question, including the V2G UK addendum!


In case you would like to listen to the edition of Evan Davies’ “The Bottom Line” on the topic of “Renewable Energy” under discussion, here it is:

Evan’s guests were Jeremy Leggett, Juliet Davenport of Good Energy and Paul Cowley, managing director of RWE Energy UK. Here are of few of my own “edited highlights”:

01:30 JD – One of the examples is Wyke Farm Cheeses. When they wash down the dairy every night and when they make the cheese, that they then anaerobically digest which creates a gas and they generate power. That’s one of our generators.

02:37 JL – A small cottage with bespoke solar tiles. these are different from the modules you use in solar farms or on a big installation on a commercial roof because they really are tiles. They go straight on the battens of the house. They generate electricity. They’re waterproof.

08:45 ED – I also wanted to talk about the physical constraints on whether you can get, in a country like ours, to 100% renewables. I’ve been very influenced by a particular book called SEWTHA by David MacKay.

09:30 JL – That book was published a good few years ago now. It’s out of date and I don’t think Dr. MacKay even believes that any more.

10:18 JD – We did some work, following David MacKay’s book actually, and used the work that he did. He went on to be the scientific advisor to DECC. He developed these pathways/models and we used them to look at how hard can you push the system to get it 100%. The UK has sufficient resource, whether it’s wind, whether it’s solar, to get to 100% on the current usage. [My emphasis!]

One of the things about climate change, it’s going to change the way we use power as well. So we saw last year energy usage in the domestic gas market dropped by 10%. 2014 one of the warmest years ever. You’ve also had the highest ever wind power production this winter. We’ve seen a lot of storms come through… So the parameters that David used in that book, I think we’re now looking for Hot Air 2.0.

11:30 ED – To give another example from the book, taking that it’s out of date, to get 50 kWh per day per person, and we’re currently using 125 kWh per day, to get 50 from offshore wind would mean filling a sea area twice the size of Wales. It would be expensive. It would be a very big deal.

One of things here, and it’s been much under-discussed in this area, is not only do we need to get our current electricity decarbonised, but we’re talking about decarbonising the transport industry to a large degree, and David MacKay’s good on this. You’ve got to almost double or triple your electricity generation, so not only do we have to replace the nuclear power and the coal that’s falling out of use over the next decade. You’ve got to replace that and add in plug-in cars. [My emphasis!]

12:59 JD – That’s what really exciting about right now. We’ve got a different problem on our hands. We’re going to have different technologies coming through, and we’re going to have to figure out how consumers use that. And actually the car storage part is really interesting because each car has a battery in it, and suddenly you’ve got a flexible power source that you can either use for transport or potentially use within people’s homes. And that piece of technology hasn’t really been thought through, about what that can really deliver [Juliet’s emphasis!]

13:45 PC – We see it in the press all the time. Wind turbines not running because the wind’s not blowing! The reality is that turbines generate around 85% of the time. They start generating at a very low wind speed… and then builds up to an optimum wind speed.

14:13 ED – We haven’t got yet a very efficient mechanism for storing electricity have we?

14:25 JL – Things are moving so fast. Let’s not forget, Apple is going to be mass producing electric vehicles four years from now. That is their stated intent. Each one of those is going to be a little power plant, and who knows how they’re all going to be hooked up to each other? It’s going to move so fast Evan, and I think this is the criticism that people like me have of, you know good guys like David MacKay with his book. They’re still flogging the idea of these vast centralised, humongously expensive centralised power plants, nuclear in particular, that take 10 years to construct.

The upshot of all this, apart from the BoB? More and more people are mentioning the concept of vehicle-to-grid technology in public pronouncements here in the UK. Andrea Leadsom at DECC assures us that she’s “as keen as mustard” on energy storage. That is of course nice to hear, but what do Physics & Chemistry have to tell us about the hard realities of distributed energy storage? And what about DECC & Ofgem too, with their assorted rules and regulations?

I might also have a minor quibble about Juliet’s “hasn’t really been thought through” remark. Some people have been thinking quite hard about V2H and V2G for quite some time!

Consumer Attitudes to Smart Meters

According to a press release from Smart Energy GB:

Consumers who have upgraded to a smart meter as part of Britain’s national rollout are continuing to demonstrate high satisfaction with their new technology, and greater control over their energy bills.

Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for Britain’s smart meter rollout, today publishes the third Smart energy outlook, the largest independent barometer of national public opinion on energy and smart meters. The research surveys more than 10,000 people around the country.

The bullet point from the “Smart Energy Outlook” report are:

  • More than half (52 per cent) of people with smart meters say their new meter is helping them save money
  • Eight in ten (80 per cent) people with smart meters have taken at least one step to reduce how much energy they use
  • Eight in ten (79 per cent) people with smart meters would recommend them to others
  • 85 per cent of those with smart meters say they have a better understanding of what they are spending on energy
  • People with smart meters are more confident in the accuracy of their bills (81 per cent) when compared to those with traditional meters (64 per cent)
  • Three quarters of people with smart meters (75 per cent) say that they understand their energy bills, while just 61 per cent of people using traditional meters said the same
  • Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of people with smart meters say that they have the information they need to choose the right energy tariff, far higher than those with traditional meters (57 per cent)

Just in case you are now wondering “How do smart meters work?” here’s a video explanation from Smart Energy GB:

I wonder how many of the people surveyed by Populus would be interested in having an electric vehicle capable of powering their home, together with a smart meter and a “Smart Grid” that allowed them to optimise the charging and discharging of their EV’s batteries to their own financial advantage?

In partial answer to that supplementary question, here is our report on consumer attitudes to “Smart Charging” of electric vehicles

Riversimple Launch the Rasa Hydrogen FCEV

We’ve mentioned the Riversimple open source hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle before, and we could not help but notice the countdown to the launch of their new “Rasa” model on their Twitter feed:

Today there’s an in depth article in the Financial Times about the Rasa and the reasoning behind it. Here’s the edited highlights:

Riversimple Movement is taking its hydrogen fuel-cell project — now 15 years in the making — to the next stage with the unveiling of its first production-ready, road-legal prototype and the start of a public trial.

In the autumn, about 20 people will have the chance to drive away a carbon-fibre Rasa, which may look slightly kooky with its rear-wheel spats and butterfly doors but packs four electric motors and can travel for 300 miles on a single fill-up.

“We’re not targeting the ecological market. We want it to look good,” says Hugo Spowers, who founded the company in 2001.

The Rasa was named for the blank-slate approach the company says it is taking to carmaking. Parts are chosen not on the basis of how cheap, light or powerful they are but how they will affect the business model.

“One investor told me this was the first time he’d seen a car built for a business model rather than the other way round,” says Mr Spowers.

Please read the FT article in full, but also take a look at what Riversimple themselves have to say. According to “Technology behind the car” section of their web site:

Every aspect of the hydrogen Mark ll Alpha has been created and interrogated for simplicity, efficiency, lightness, strength, affordability, safety and sustainability.

This first car is a two seater ‘network electric’ car, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The chassis is a carbon fibre monocoque made from very lightweight but extremely stiff carbon fibre composites. The monocoque chassis weighs less than 40kg.

Our car is very light – we have a target weight of 520 kg. It embodies various key features:

  • Four electric motors, one in each wheel
  • Motors as brakes – recovering over 50% of kinetic energy when braking
  • Super-capacitors to store this energy and provide most of the power for acceleration
  • A low powered hydrogen fuel cell ( 8.5 kW)
  • A body made of lightweight composites

It’s the synthesis of all these technologies that delivers the groundbreaking efficiency and range, many times better than inserting fuel cells into conventional, heavy, vehicles. The production prototype should do c.250 mpg (equivalent), with a range of 300 miles. Emissions are zero at tailpipe and c.40gCO2/km Well-to-Wheel – even if the hydrogen comes from natural gas.

We’ll keep you posted as the Rasa launch countdown continues. According to Twitter:

Here’s a teaser video to whet the appetite for the big reveal on 17 Feb – 5days to go!

[Edit – February 17th 2016]

The Riversimple Rasa has been unveiled today:

According to the Riversimple blog:

The new car reflects a simple idea that was first mooted in the 4th century BC by the great philosopher and scientist, Aristotle. It is the idea that something new begins, not with predetermined structure and characteristics, but with a blank slate – tabula rasa – moment of potential.

We set out with a blank slate, to design a car for the world in which we now live, shaped by the best technology available to us and answerable to our most pressing concerns. We set out to build a local car that will take people on their local journeys, in the way that they wish to travel, at a cost that is affordable – and without leaving a heavy footprint of air pollution and environmental degradation. To do this we selected a still evolving, but incredibly promising and safe technology. This is hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Here’s another video, this time revealing the Rasa in all its low drag glory:

I did enquire on Twitter where the nearest suitable filling station for a Rasa might ultimately be. I haven’t received an answer yet, but if it isn’t “Exeter” then I rather hope it will be “Plymouth”. According to the SWARM Project web site:

This project will establish a demonstration fleet of small passenger vehicles that builds on and expands existing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Three European regions will be participating in this effort: the UK (the Midlands and Plymouth), the Brussels area and Wallonia, and the Weser-Ems region in NorthWest Germany. Each of these regions will deploy a new hydrogen refuelling site to close the gaps in a continuous ‘hydrogen highways’ that leads from Scotland via the Midlands to London, connecting to Brussels and on to Cologne and Hamburg/Scandinavia/Berlin via Bremen.

The vehicles employed are low-cost, high fuel-efficiency, hybridised, light-weight passenger cars specifically designed for city and regional transport. These vehicles provide a complementary pathway to commercialisation to the large Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of hydrogen fuel cell options, by allowing near-term rollout on a commercial basis to a wide range of users – in parallel with the planned rollouts for large OEM vehicles from 2015. Their deployment regions will gain the infrastructure, public exposure and technological understanding to act as seed locations for future large scale OEM vehicle rollout.

You will note that Riversimple are a member of the SWARM project consortium.

Robin Berg’s TEDx talk on “A new local energy and transport system”

I had the pleasure of meeting Robin Berg in Utrecht last summer at the launch of the LomboXnet solar PV powered bi-directional vehicle to grid system. Here is a video of Robin’s recent presentation at TEDx Utrecht:

Robin says many interesting and enlightening things, but for the moment please consider this one:

Tomorrow your car will run electric. The day after it will power your house. It will be 100% renewable, it will be 100% clean, and it will be the end of coal, oil and gas.

Storm Imogen Follows Floods in South-West England

The United Kingdom’s Met Office is just down the road from here in Exeter, and they have just announced that the newly named “Storm Imogen” is heading our way:

Imogen follows in the footsteps of her brother Henry further north and the unnamed storm that has just deposited 57.8 mm of rain on Okehampton in 24 hours:

whilst Exeter Airport endured gusts of wind up to 50 mph and a mere 21.0 mm of rainfall:

We have previously speculated about the effects of such storms on Western Power Distribution’s network in the South-West Peninsula, so here is how things look qualitatively at the moment, following today’s flooding:

and here’s the associated quantities

Here’s how Haldon Hill has been preconditioned for Imogen’s imminent arrival:

and here is the Met Office’s forecast [updated Sunday AM] for our back yard on Monday:

Do you suppose there will be another power cut here tomorrow?

V2G and Energy Storage are in the News. In the UK!

Spring is in the air here in the United Kingdom. Several of the people I debate the future of distributed energy storage with on a regular basis have been in the news this week!

First up was Mark Thompson of Innovate UK. According to the headline in an article in Utility Week:

EVs are stable energy storage asset, says Innovate UK

The article goes on to explain that:

Innovate UK has brushed aside ongoing fears around using electric and plug-in vehicles as an energy storage facility, insisting they present a “car park of energy storage” for UK network companies after 2025.

Innovate UK’s lead technologist for energy systems Mark Thompson said at a recent storage event that fears that using EV batteries for grid support will rapidly degrade the batteries are unfounded. Innovation projects already undertaken into EV charging reveal the batteries will be accessible to the grid 95 per cent of the time.

Thompson said “a lot of anxiety” around using EVs as energy storage centres on battery recycling, but tests show that using an EV battery to provide 7kW of grid support is equivalent to driving at just 20mph.

Mark went on to point out:

That is a modest amount of power but aggregated would be very useful for a distribution network operator. The stress level on that battery of sitting there continually pushing out 7kW compared to a 35 minute journey is a no-brainer, it’s an extremely calm and un-stressful environment for that vehicle. Car manufacturer Nissan has been very vocal on the potential benefits of using EVs for grid support because there really isn’t an issue compared to the complexities and stresses that the battery goes through for a pretty normal driving scenario.

If we can be clever and come up with the right business models to engage people in moving their charging and allow network operators to have some control, if we can be savvy about that then network investment costs are virtually zero until you are well into the 2020s

Here’s one of Nissan’s infographics showing how they see the technology working:

UK Plc “being savvy” and providing support for the “right business models” is another matter entirely however! Utility Week continued:

Projects such as My Electric Avenue have revealed that vehicles are sat stationary at either the home or workplace, both potential charging locations, 95 percent of the time making EVs a “stable storage asset”. Based on “very modest projections” there could be as many as 300,000 EV or hybrid vehicles on UK roads by 2025, presenting around 4GW of potential storage to the UK’s electricity system with very little network reinforcement required.

Having discussed the Utility Week article with Mark Thompson it seems they have misinterpreted a couple of points:

I didn’t wish to imply that cars would be 95% available, just that they are “parked for 95% of the time” but that data DNO projects such as My Electric Avenue and ETI analysis indicate that a “very healthy proportion” of plugins will be accessible over the 24 hour cycle for grid support given charging and use patterns. The 95% figure as currently illustrated is not of course realistic, but perhaps eventually grid “connected availability” may be in the region of 30-60% depending on the time of day, which in time will amount to a significant amount of grid connected resource.

Also, the 4GW figure should be 4GWh.

Here’s the original slide from Mark’s presentation, with the correct units clearly visible on the Y axis and in big letters towards the end of the headline:

Today the mainstream media picked up the story in the form of an article by Damian Carrington in The Guardian entitled “From liquid air to supercapacitors, energy storage is finally poised for a breakthrough”. Damian opens with a quote from Jill Cainey, director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network.

It doesn’t always rain when you need water, so we have reservoirs – but we don’t have the same system for electricity.

A battery project can take 12-18 months from saying we will do it, to completion. California is aggressively pursuing a low-carbon agenda and they don’t want diesel [generator back-up] on the system. Amber Rudd is talking a lot about energy storage, but we need a clear regulatory steer. The planes are circling, but there is no runway to land on.

Next Mark Thompson is quoted once again, apparently from the Utility Week article rather than from his actual presentation:

Using electric car batteries as a smart storage network while still in the cars is a promising option in the future, according to Mark Thompson at Innovate UK, a government agency. He says there could be 4GW capacity – a nuclear power station is about 1GW – by 2025 across the 300,000 electric cars projected to be on UK roads by then. He says cars are stationary for 95% of the time and using them could save billions of pounds, removing the need for new power stations and power lines.

However the article continues:

While interest in energy storage projects in the UK is surging – a recent call from National Grid for 200MW of short-term storage was oversubscribed six times – it is starting from a low base: just 24MW has been installed compared to the 5,000MW the government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, envisages in a low-carbon nation in 2030.

In November, energy secretary Amber Rudd said: “Locally generated energy supported by storage, interconnection and demand response, offers the possibility of a radically different model… We are looking at removing regulations that are holding back smart solutions, such as demand side response and storage.”

Removing the regulations that are holding back smart solutions is one of the reasons Mark and Jill were already on my list of people to call this week. That’s because DECC’s current consultation about how to “Ensure Regulation in the Energy Sector Encourages Innovation” closes on February 11th!

The Great Storm Henry Blackout Saga

Regular readers will realise that here at V2G UK we take an unhealthy interest in power cuts, or outages as they call them on the other side of the Atlantic. Not least that’s because we suffered an extended lack of mains electricity ourselves not so very long ago!

We recently followed the progress of the controversially named “Storm Jonas” along the eastern seaboard of the United States using helpful information provided online by Distribution System Operators (DSO using the generic term, or ISO if you’re from the US!) such as Duke Energy. Here’s an example:

Since “Storm Henry” was officially named by the UK’s Met Office a couple of days ago, and is due to arrive over on this side of the North Atlantic today, we thought we’d undertake a similar exercise for the western seaboard of the United Kingdom this week. However there is a fly in the blackout ointment. After perusing the web sites of the Distribution Network Operators (DNO in the Queen’s English) most likely to be affected by Storm Henry it seems none of them provide the summary information available in the top left hand corner of Duke Energy’s power outage map, including in particular “Active outages” and “Affected customers”.

Following some conversations with the DNOs on Twitter it appears as though we’ll need to keep track of a set of press releases to try and keep real-time tabs on the forthcoming Great British Blackouts. The first of these that we’ll bring to your attention is from Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD for short), the Scottish portion of Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD for short):

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has moved to Yellow Alert after closely monitoring the development of high winds.

Our weather models anticipate Storm Henry will bring wind speeds over 90 mph in the Western Isles and Skye. All other parts of our network area will see winds reach 70-90 mph.

We have frontline and support staff standing by and we have engineers in the areas we expect to be hit by the storm.

Our customer service team has been making outbound calls to customers on our Priority Service Register in the affected areas to alert them and offer extra assistance, where required.

Members of the public should not approach fallen or damaged power lines, which may still be live.

Whilst we wait for the full force of Storm Henry to hit, here’s how the SHEPD live power cut map looks at lunchtime on Monday February 1st 2016: