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Wiltshire Climate Strategy Discussion Document January 2021

Energy generation, storage and distribution

Electricity is largely provided through a central grid with the majority of participants as passive users. Grid electricity has been significantly decarbonised with almost half of electricity coming from renewable sources and further measures are ongoing. The burning of fossil fuels for heat (both domestic and industrial) and transport make up 80% of current energy use in Wiltshire and therefore this energy use will need to be decarbonised.

Wiltshire currently generates only a small proportion of its total energy use from renewable sources (6%) and this is predominantly from solar photovoltaic installations. Additional renewable generation will be impacted by grid capacity which has existing constraints.  Technology is beginning to change, for example planning applications within Wiltshire show battery storage starting to come forward at scale.

What does a climate resilient and carbon neutral Wiltshire look like?

The energy we require has been reduced as far as possible through energy efficiency measures. The energy we then use for heat and power has been decarbonised (see section below). The current grid system has been transformed so that all buildings (including homes) interact with the grid.  Demand is better managed as buildings can generate, export and store electricity, including from electric vehicles. There is access and participation for all.  Grid resilience measures (for example in relation to extreme weather and its effects, such as flooding) continue to be implemented.

What will make this happen?

As outlined above the grid will need to transform to a smarter more interactive system whilst ensuring fair access to smart technologies as well as the grid itself. There are various ways to get to net zero carbon and these are modelled by the National Grid under Future Energy Scenarios (opens new window). The scenarios set out overall national assumptions, including how energy generation is to be decarbonised at a larger scale, including for industry.  For example, hydrogen is stated as an important energy generation technology for replacing fossil fuels such as natural gas in various sectors as well as for its role as a storage technology. Bioenergy is seen as necessary however its provision raises considerations in terms of supply and land use.  Whilst it is not known what the exact future mix of technologies will be to reach zero carbon, the scenarios show different pathways to get to the same goal.  It is therefore important to focus on what can be done now.

Energy efficiency and energy reduction measures will be an important starting point to manage demand and to enable decarbonisation of all sectors including commercial and industry.

A considerable increase in renewables and storage will be needed. Grid capacity will be an important consideration for large-scale renewables, major development sites, and potentially for smaller scale generation where there are already grid constraints (opens new window) (particularly until a smarter system is in place).  The change to electric vehicles and the decarbonisation of heat are also likely to have significant impacts on electricity requirements and therefore also the grid.

The grid is managed by the local District Network Operator (DNO), soon to be renamed a District Systems Operator (DSO) to reflect the smarter grid we are moving to.  In Wiltshire our DNO is Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) (opens new window) and they are a key organisation to facilitate the required changes to the grid along with other national organisations such as OFGEM and central government. There are Smart-Grid trials running through the country such as Local Energy Oxfordshire: Project LEO (opens new window). For those buildings not connected to the grid, alternative net zero carbon solutions for heating may need to be investigated.  

Not all renewable energy or low carbon generation will be undertaken within Wiltshire, so national policy is key for setting out the way forward for future technologies.  For example, the government has committed to increasing offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030, which would be enough to power every home in the country based on current electricity usage. The UK currently has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world, with around 10GW in operation.

Many organisations and businesses within Wiltshire, including community energy groups, have been taking forward renewable energy and other innovative schemes and these can be built upon.

What Wiltshire Council can do

  • Use the council's own green electricity tariff to raise awareness of the benefits of these for zero carbon 
  • Invest in renewable energy generation in suitable locations through the council capital programme and Stone Circle Energy Company
  • Continue to deliver Warm and Safe Wiltshire to ensure fairness for all
  • Use the Local Plan review to increase renewable energy capacity, to consider the role of off-grid solutions (such as district heating) and other opportunities to use energy most efficiently.  The council will commission research to assess projected energy demands and opportunities for energy generation in the county to inform the Local Plan
  • Engage with organisations such as Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to investigate Smart-grid, battery storage and grid capacity (including and linking to Electric Vehicles) and the opportunities and barriers within Wiltshire
  • Work with partners to encourage local innovation using new technologies and develop a skilled local workforce
  • Explore the role of community energy in increasing renewable energy generation and supporting uptake of micro-generation, car clubs and other local initiatives

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