• Dear Guest, and welcome to RailUK Forums. Our non-railway discussion forums are currently restricted until members have five or more posts, and you will not be able to make a new thread or reply to an existing one in this section until you have made five or more posts elsewhere on the forum.

HS2: "Zero Carbon From The Start"

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
16,348
Location
Mold, Clwyd
The government is promoting HS2 in its decarbonisation strategy, claiming it will be "zero carbon from the start of operation".
HS2 to be powered by zero carbon energy from Day One
HS2 trains will be powered by zero carbon energy from day one of operation, offering a cleaner alternative to long distance car journeys and domestic flights, while supporting the government’s 2050 target to tackle climate change.
This commitment will play a key part in HS2 Ltd’s aim to make the project net zero carbon from 2035, with targets of diesel-free construction sites and major reductions in carbon emissions from the steel and concrete used to build the railway

There are two strands to this, the operation of the railway itself, and the methods used to build and maintain it.

For the UK network as a whole, Network Rail has had a 10-year contract with EDF to supply the railway with low-carbon electricity from nuclear sources for all uses including traction.
NR is said to be the electrical supply industry's biggest single customer and should be able to command the best price on the market.
The EDF contract was signed in 2013, so expires in 2023 - presumably a new contract is in the pipeline (but at what cost, I wonder, with the recent surge in wholesale prices).
I don't know if this contract covers HS1, or will cover HS2 - so far HS2 has been commercially separate from NR.
But I find the claim of zero-carbon deceitful, as the railway will take the same feed as anybody else, with the variable carbon mix offered by the grid system.
If EDF claims the NR feed is "zero carbon", it just means the rest of us take up a larger portion of non-zero power to make up the overall balance in the supply.
Since 2013 the mix of power supply has also shifted towards wind and solar, while nuclear has fallen back with the closure of older sites.
Coal is now insignificant in the supply, while biomass is growing as are feeds from continental Europe with an indeterminate mix of supply (but plenty of zero-carbon content).
But gas is still the dominant form of power in the UK, usually amounting to about 50%.

Then there's the fact that HS2 trains will travel extensively over NR metals away from HS2 itself, so if HS2 has a different supply contract it will only apply to its local services.

The NR press release in 2013 (by David Higgins) makes much of the increasing demand for electric power for new services, as a result of the CP5 electrification plan.
Ten-year deal powers Britain’s biggest rail electrification programme in a generation (networkrailmediacentre.co.uk)
One can only read the list and weep:
On Tuesday 8 January 2013, Network Rail set out its plans to build a bigger, better railway for Britain over the 2014-19 funding period.
These plans included the following electrification schemes:
• Great Western Main Line (Maidenhead to Oxford, Newbury, Bristol and Cardiff) and Thames Valley branches
• Cardiff to Swansea and Welsh Valley lines
• Midland Main Line (Bedford to Corby, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield)
• North-West Electrification Scheme (Liverpool to Manchester, Manchester to Preston and Blackpool)
• Transpennine Electrification Scheme (Manchester to Leeds and York)
• Electric spine (Southampton to Nuneaton and Bedford via Oxford)

Of the six schemes outlined (note: none of those actually completed in Scotland was mentioned), only the NW scheme has been completed.
MML and TP wiring are now back on the agenda after the IRP was published recently, but without any details; partial Welsh Valleys wiring is under way for the South Wales Metro.
But wiring to Oxford, Bristol TM, TV branches and Swansea are stalled, and the Electric Spine has sunk without trace.

While there will have been undoubted increases in electricity consumption from the completed schemes, recent events will have reduced that by quite a chunk - maybe 20%.
It should be interesting seeing how these issues are handled by HS2 Ltd and NR over the next few years.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

quantinghome

Established Member
Joined
1 Jun 2013
Messages
1,950
A couple of brief points.

Firstly gas is significantly lower than 50% of electricity production - 41% in 2019, 36% in 2020.

Secondly we would expect this to have reduce significantly by the time HS2 opens.

As for saying it's zero carbon you may have a point. There might be an argument to say that in choosing a zero carbon tariff, it encourages more investment in zero carbon electricity schemes, but this is difficult to apply to nuclear where the decision to proceed with a new nuclear power station is unlikely to be significantly altered by a customer (even a big one) going for a particular tariff.
 

Ken H

On Moderation
Joined
11 Nov 2018
Messages
3,542
Location
N Yorks
A couple of brief points.

Firstly gas is significantly lower than 50% of electricity production - 41% in 2019, 36% in 2020.

Secondly we would expect this to have reduce significantly by the time HS2 opens.

As for saying it's zero carbon you may have a point. There might be an argument to say that in choosing a zero carbon tariff, it encourages more investment in zero carbon electricity schemes, but this is difficult to apply to nuclear where the decision to proceed with a new nuclear power station is unlikely to be significantly altered by a customer (even a big one) going for a particular tariff.
the proportion of types of generation varies from hour to hour. OK on a fine breezy summers day we can be carbon zero. But come a february anticyclone (cloudy, cold, windless) then its anything goes. Keep an eye on http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ (Link to image site showing current generation feeding to the grid, and graphs showing historical data)
Image is snip of the site (1735 on 14th Jan 2021) showing current generation mix (major sources)
1642181762787.png
Not sure biomass is zero carbon. Cut down in Canada, hauled to the Atlantic port by diesel train, across the atlantic by heavy oil powered ship, then another diesel train from the port to the power station.
 

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
13,970
Firstly gas is significantly lower than 50% of electricity production - 41% in 2019, 36% in 2020.
It was 36% in 2020 largely because of the collapse in demand however.

The grid operator even forced EDF to cut Sizewell B output by half for months.
 

quantinghome

Established Member
Joined
1 Jun 2013
Messages
1,950
It was 36% in 2020 largely because of the collapse in demand however.

The grid operator even forced EDF to cut Sizewell B output by half for months.
Sure. I wasn't intending the two years make any sort of trend. I included 2019 to show a more typical year.

Nevertheless, the proportion of electricity supply from gas will drop significantly by the time HS2 opens. CCS is also a long term possibility but unlikely to be significant by the opening of HS2.
 

Ken H

On Moderation
Joined
11 Nov 2018
Messages
3,542
Location
N Yorks
Sure. I wasn't intending the two years make any sort of trend. I included 2019 to show a more typical year.

Nevertheless, the proportion of electricity supply from gas will drop significantly by the time HS2 opens. CCS is also a long term possibility but unlikely to be significant by the opening of HS2.
if not gas, then what?
 

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
16,348
Location
Mold, Clwyd
In 2013, Network Rail was still nominally a private sector company, and HS2 Ltd was being readied for private sector investment (pension and sovereign investment funds) for both construction and operation.
But now both NR and HS2 Ltd are creatures of the DfT/Treasury.
Ultimately you'd expect an energy contract to be the responsibility of GBR (if GBR encompasses HS2).
 

Elecman

Established Member
Joined
31 Dec 2013
Messages
2,358
Location
Lancashire
The government is promoting HS2 in its decarbonisation strategy, claiming it will be "zero carbon from the start of operation".
HS2 to be powered by zero carbon energy from Day One


There are two strands to this, the operation of the railway itself, and the methods used to build and maintain it.

For the UK network as a whole, Network Rail has had a 10-year contract with EDF to supply the railway with low-carbon electricity from nuclear sources for all uses including traction.
NR is said to be the electrical supply industry's biggest single customer and should be able to command the best price on the market.
The EDF contract was signed in 2013, so expires in 2023 - presumably a new contract is in the pipeline (but at what cost, I wonder, with the recent surge in wholesale prices).
I don't know if this contract covers HS1, or will cover HS2 - so far HS2 has been commercially separate from NR.
But I find the claim of zero-carbon deceitful, as the railway will take the same feed as anybody else, with the variable carbon mix offered by the grid system.
If EDF claims the NR feed is "zero carbon", it just means the rest of us take up a larger portion of non-zero power to make up the overall balance in the supply.
Since 2013 the mix of power supply has also shifted towards wind and solar, while nuclear has fallen back with the closure of older sites.
Coal is now insignificant in the supply, while biomass is growing as are feeds from continental Europe with an indeterminate mix of supply (but plenty of zero-carbon content).
But gas is still the dominant form of power in the UK, usually amounting to about 50%.

Then there's the fact that HS2 trains will travel extensively over NR metals away from HS2 itself, so if HS2 has a different supply contract it will only apply to its local services.

The NR press release in 2013 (by David Higgins) makes much of the increasing demand for electric power for new services, as a result of the CP5 electrification plan.
Ten-year deal powers Britain’s biggest rail electrification programme in a generation (networkrailmediacentre.co.uk)
One can only read the list and weep:


Of the six schemes outlined (note: none of those actually completed in Scotland was mentioned), only the NW scheme has been completed.
MML and TP wiring are now back on the agenda after the IRP was published recently, but without any details; partial Welsh Valleys wiring is under way for the South Wales Metro.
But wiring to Oxford, Bristol TM, TV branches and Swansea are stalled, and the Electric Spine has sunk without trace.

While there will have been undoubted increases in electricity consumption from the completed schemes, recent events will have reduced that by quite a chunk - maybe 20%.
It should be interesting seeing how these issues are handled by HS2 Ltd and NR over the next few years.
The EdF supply contract is purely for Traction supply only nothing else.
 

paul1609

Established Member
Joined
28 Jan 2006
Messages
5,045
Location
Wittersham Kent
the proportion of types of generation varies from hour to hour. OK on a fine breezy summers day we can be carbon zero.
I don't think we can actually, because wind generation is largely asynchronous we require a base generation to maintain frequency control of the UK grid. Otherwise if a large windfarm somewhere suddenly trips you risk a cascade trip scenario.
I guess that this base generation needs to be around 25%. Its currently met by a combination of nuclear and gas. However nearly all of the Uk's nuclear stations are scheduled to end generation by 2030 with only Hinckley Point C building as replacement. I guess in the medium term that means more Gas generation. I am sure there are more learned members on this forum who can explain it better than me.
 

NoRoute

Member
Joined
25 Nov 2020
Messages
252
Location
Midlands
HS2 has got to do something because by the time it opens, sometime around 2030, selling new petrol and diesel cars will have been banned and many drivers will already have switched to electric cars, many will be on electricity tariffs which claim to be zero carbon or 100% renewable, so it becomes increasingly difficult to use environmental arguments that rail is superior to road.
 

Gostav

Member
Joined
14 May 2016
Messages
248
I believe the trouble is still to come. With the advent of Cold War 2.0, Western countries will really face painful choices. Many high-polluting enterprises will have to be rebuilt, and a lot of wild land will need to be redeveloped, which will make electricity demand soar.
 

Ken H

On Moderation
Joined
11 Nov 2018
Messages
3,542
Location
N Yorks
I don't think we can actually, because wind generation is largely asynchronous we require a base generation to maintain frequency control of the UK grid. Otherwise if a large windfarm somewhere suddenly trips you risk a cascade trip scenario.
I guess that this base generation needs to be around 25%. Its currently met by a combination of nuclear and gas. However nearly all of the Uk's nuclear stations are scheduled to end generation by 2030 with only Hinckley Point C building as replacement. I guess in the medium term that means more Gas generation. I am sure there are more learned members on this forum who can explain it better than me.
Electricity made by rotary alternators makes for a stable frequency because if there is a sudden change in the load, the rotating machines take time to slow down, adding stability to the frequency. Wind and solar make DC, so the power is converted to AC with inverters. The inverters 'see' the current frequency and match it. So will not stabilise the frequency
Some years ago we lost a gas plant and a north se wind plant in a very short time. There was not enough rotatiing capacity to keep frequency stable so it dropped before stuff that is on 'rotating standby' could be switched in. That caused problems with frequency sensitive kit. A load of Siemens trains tripped. Think they were Thameslink.
 

DerekC

Established Member
Joined
26 Oct 2015
Messages
1,683
Location
Hampshire (nearly a Hog)
I don't think we can actually, because wind generation is largely asynchronous we require a base generation to maintain frequency control of the UK grid. Otherwise if a large windfarm somewhere suddenly trips you risk a cascade trip scenario.
I guess that this base generation needs to be around 25%. Its currently met by a combination of nuclear and gas. However nearly all of the Uk's nuclear stations are scheduled to end generation by 2030 with only Hinckley Point C building as replacement. I guess in the medium term that means more Gas generation. I am sure there are more learned members on this forum who can explain it better than me.

Electricity made by rotary alternators makes for a stable frequency because if there is a sudden change in the load, the rotating machines take time to slow down, adding stability to the frequency. Wind and solar make DC, so the power is converted to AC with inverters. The inverters 'see' the current frequency and match it. So will not stabilise the frequency
Some years ago we lost a gas plant and a north se wind plant in a very short time. There was not enough rotatiing capacity to keep frequency stable so it dropped before stuff that is on 'rotating standby' could be switched in. That caused problems with frequency sensitive kit. A load of Siemens trains tripped. Think they were Thameslink.
There is an existing technology, the rotating condenser, which can stabilise the grid frequency. Essentially it consists of a machine like a large synchronous induction motor which can act as either a motor or a generator, linked to a flywheel. And a lot of work is going into investigating other (cheaper) options to enhance grid stability. Wind turbines have a lot of rotating mass and although in current designs the inverter doesn't do anything to support grid frequency there doesn't seem to be any reason why an intelligent version shouldn't increase the output power of the turbine for a short period to overcome an outage elsewhere. I think we will see intelligent load control being much more widespread as well - so that load can be matched to generated power in real time. Applications such as battery charging are ideally suited to that.
 

paul1609

Established Member
Joined
28 Jan 2006
Messages
5,045
Location
Wittersham Kent
I think that the point is that some time in the future we may have the ability not to use gas as a major part of our generation but that's not in the short or even medium terms because currently in many cases the proposed technology doesn't actually exist, is unproven and is certainly not installed on the 2022 Grid. This point is (perhaps understandably) rather under made by the renewable industry but at the moment there is very much a ceiling on the proportion of energy that can be generated with the existing renewable technologies.
 

DerekC

Established Member
Joined
26 Oct 2015
Messages
1,683
Location
Hampshire (nearly a Hog)
I think that the point is that some time in the future we may have the ability not to use gas as a major part of our generation but that's not in the short or even medium terms because currently in many cases the proposed technology doesn't actually exist, is unproven and is certainly not installed on the 2022 Grid. This point is (perhaps understandably) rather under made by the renewable industry but at the moment there is very much a ceiling on the proportion of energy that can be generated with the existing renewable technologies.
There's a difference here between "zero carbon" and "renewable". Nuclear isn't renewable but it is (arguably) zero carbon and can form an excellent base load generator. It is an established technology, as are wind and solar - so "zero carbon" is within the reach of current technologies and phasing out gas for electricity generation is eminently doable in the medium term (20-25 years). Gas for heating is another story altogether and (probably) covered by another thread.

Getting back to the point of the OP, though, the claim that HS2 will only use zero carbon electricity is a typical marketing claim - the sort of thing that might be understandable from a commercial operator and gets taken with a pinch of salt, but shouldn't be pushed out by government because it gives a misleading impression that zero carbon electricity is already here.
 

paul1609

Established Member
Joined
28 Jan 2006
Messages
5,045
Location
Wittersham Kent
There's a difference here between "zero carbon" and "renewable". Nuclear isn't renewable but it is (arguably) zero carbon and can form an excellent base load generator. It is an established technology, as are wind and solar - so "zero carbon" is within the reach of current technologies and phasing out gas for electricity generation is eminently doable in the medium term (20-25 years). Gas for heating is another story altogether and (probably) covered by another thread.
On currently approved schemes in 2042 (20 years time) the UK will only have 3.2 GW of Nuclear Generation (Hinkley Point C)plus an additional 420 MW if Sizewell B is extended beyond its 2035 final date. Assuming Sizewell C is approved and completed by then it will add another 3.2 GW. So on current planning nuclear would be an absolute maximum of 6.8GW. Thats nowhere even near replacing the generation needed to back up solar and wind. Gas Generation will continue well past 2050 .
 

DerekC

Established Member
Joined
26 Oct 2015
Messages
1,683
Location
Hampshire (nearly a Hog)
On currently approved schemes in 2042 (20 years time) the UK will only have 3.2 GW of Nuclear Generation (Hinkley Point C)plus an additional 420 MW if Sizewell B is extended beyond its 2035 final date. Assuming Sizewell C is approved and completed by then it will add another 3.2 GW. So on current planning nuclear would be an absolute maximum of 6.8GW. Thats nowhere even near replacing the generation needed to back up solar and wind. Gas Generation will continue well past 2050 .
I accept that as a statement of your opinion.
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
20,849
I think that the point is that some time in the future we may have the ability not to use gas as a major part of our generation but that's not in the short or even medium terms because currently in many cases the proposed technology doesn't actually exist, is unproven and is certainly not installed on the 2022 Grid. This point is (perhaps understandably) rather under made by the renewable industry but at the moment there is very much a ceiling on the proportion of energy that can be generated with the existing renewable technologies.

We have, recently*, seen gas generating as little as 2GW instantaneous, whereas 3 years ago it very rarely fell below 5GW. The grid balancing has changed in that time, and there’s lots
more to come. I suspect we are close to the time when we will indeed switch all gas plants off, if only for a few hours; but that will be quite a landmark moment for the country’s power generation.

*recently being the early hours of 7 Jan this year.


It would be more constructive if you explained how UK demand in 2042 - 7 was going to be met without Gas generation particularly during the periods of low wind generation.

This is all laid out in the Governement energy strategy. In short, lots more wind, lots more nuclear, and rather less gas. Albeit there will still be gas, but with Carbon Capture technology.

Firstly gas is significantly lower than 50% of electricity production - 41% in 2019, 36% in 2020.

It was 36% in 2020 largely because of the collapse in demand however.

But 37% in 2021 when demand returned.
 

paul1609

Established Member
Joined
28 Jan 2006
Messages
5,045
Location
Wittersham Kent
We have, recently*, seen gas generating as little as 2GW instantaneous, whereas 3 years ago it very rarely fell below 5GW. The grid balancing has changed in that time, and there’s lots
more to come. I suspect we are close to the time when we will indeed switch all gas plants off, if only for a few hours; but that will be quite a landmark moment for the country’s power generation.

*recently being the early hours of 7 Jan this year




This is all laid out in the Governement energy strategy. In short, lots more wind, lots more nuclear, and rather less gas. Albeit there will still be gas, but with Carbon Capture technology.
Don't get me wrong Im all for low carbon but the 2 GW was at a time when demand was very low, nuclear was very high due to lack of maintenance and wind was also very high. From now on Nuclear will be in decline until unit 1 of Hinckley Point C comes on stream with up to 1.6 GW sometime in 2026. There's no go ahead for Sizewell C which would come on stream optimistically sometime in the 2030s. With a bit of luck, the Small reactor demonstrator might start sometime in the early 2030s. The Governments energy strategy is all very laudable but its time scales are pure fantasy.
 

The Ham

Established Member
Joined
6 Jul 2012
Messages
8,643
HS2 has got to do something because by the time it opens, sometime around 2030, selling new petrol and diesel cars will have been banned and many drivers will already have switched to electric cars, many will be on electricity tariffs which claim to be zero carbon or 100% renewable, so it becomes increasingly difficult to use environmental arguments that rail is superior to road.

Yet in 2019 rail as a whole (which included a LOT of diesel use) was broadly the same emissions (on a per person per km basis) as EV's.

As such rail doesn't need to do a whole lot to keep its place as being a green mode of travel.

Now whilst it's true that the grid will decarbonise and so EV's will improve, we're still likely at least 5 years from half of cars from being EV's (even that would require all new cars next year to be EV's and we're currently at 25%). In that timeframe is likely that there'll be more bimodals (well this is certain as there's some due to be delivered) as well other measures to reduce diesel use. That's even assuming zero additional electrification.

By the time we reach >90% EV's (likely 8 years plus) I'd hope that we'd have got even a few more miles of wires (most likely given MML and TPU) and a few battery EMU's to reduce diesel use further.

EV's are part of the way we reduce carbon emissions, they will never be more efficient than trains. As the electricity use from a battery train is higher than a pure EMU due to charging inefficiencies and trains require less energy to move the same stuff (unless in small quantities) - which is seen by the fact that a diesel freight train is more efficient than a diesel lorry.
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
20,849
Don't get me wrong Im all for low carbon but the 2 GW was at a time when demand was very low, nuclear was very high due to lack of maintenance and wind was also very high
IIRC demand at the time was 27GW; very low for a January night, but on a summer night demand can drop much further to around 20GW. And with more wind coming on stream every month (an average of around 150MW a month for the next few years), it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that on a windy summer night we could be entirely wind / nuclear / import powered.
 

Top