Not an area of work I am actively enagaged it but one that interests me. The roll out of renewable energy has (and still is) a bit of a roller coaster ride. The feed in tariffs change, planning challenges remain and policy changes all leading to uncertainity in the sector. Whilst all this is going on there has been a huge increase in renewable capacity and in particular with wind energy and solar power. There still remains all manner of issues and added to the generation problems we also need to add difficulties in securing connections to the national grid. Many proposed solar farms have stalled because it has not been possible to secure the necessay coonections.
What I do understand is that a balanced supply is necessary and that renewables can't fully replace traditional power supplies simply because the wind doesn't always blow and for a good part of the day it is dark. This was really brought home last Monday when it was a foggy and windelss day. UK renewables accounted for <1% of our power supply. Added to that apparantely two coal fired stations did not have full capacity available due to maintenance and outages. This resulted in a dangerously narrow gap between power generation and consumption. It was reported that "National Grid" implemented their emergency plans and started to cut/restrict supply with some customers. These customers have agreed contracts (I assume at discounted energy charges) that allow power supplies to be restricted.
I have also heard from friends who work in the power generation sector that last Monday's was a test run for the inevitable. That is scary.
David Mackay's excellent book ("Sustainable Energy - without the hot air" ISBN9780954452933) had two primary messages being that we need a balanced supply and secondly we all need to use less. He also explains that a long term plan is required to ensure that we build the requisite power plants and renewable capaicty and that is where it seems to go wrong. The cycle of elections in the UK and the desire for the political parties to constantly please the electorate results in not doing anything that rocks the boat, anything that may loose votes.
The result is inertia and avoiding the tricky decisions. This problem doesn't only affect our power supply it also impacts many large infrastructure projects. London's airport capacity, whether it is a 3rd runway at Heathrow or Boris's island or any other option, HS2 but with the topic in mind building new nuclear capacity or pushing ahead with fracking.
The question is will the new Natioanl Infrastructure Commission do its job and make some tangible progress. We will have to wait and see, I live in hope that it isn't yet another "Committee" that achieves little. We need progress and decisions.