Blackout: the sequel

Reactor 1 (600 MW) of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland tripped at 09:00 on 22nd November whilst reactor 2 was on half load for refuelling. Since then Scotland has been dependent on electricity imports from England for every hour of every day peaking at 2552 MW at 20:00 on 23 Nov as the mercury plunged towards -5˚C. At that point, Scotland was dependent on England for half of its electricity. In the past, Scotland was always 100% reliant on home-grown power.

In March of this year Scottish and UK government energy policies that are founded on Green thinking conspired to cause the closure of the 2.4 GW Longannet coal fired power station in Scotland that was the beating heart of the Scottish grid. In anticipation of this event Leo Smith at Gridwatch began to monitor electricity transfers between England and Scotland as reported by National Grid with the data series beginning on 30 December 2015.

On the charts below, Scottish wind output is modelled as 0.4*UK wind, data from Gridwatch.  This is based on installed capacities and is far from perfect since at certain times it may be windy in Scotland and calm in England and vice versa. The 5 minute resolution Gridwatch data has been averaged to 1 hour resolution.

Figure 1 shows electricity transfers in blue and wind production in red for January and February 2016. This is before Longannet was closed. Some key observations:

  • Scotland was an exporter of electricity to England for virtually the whole of this two month period with only a handful of incidences where trivial imports occurred.
  • Wind production appears to have reached a plateau at around 3500 MW suggesting this is some sort of curtailment level, bearing in mind this is pro-rated from UK data. Pro-rated Scottish wind never gets above 62% of installed capacity.
  • Curiously, electricity exports have this same 3500 MW export plateau. The 4800 MW inter-connector capacity may have an effective de-rated capacity of 3500 MW.
  • There is a correlation between wind output and Scottish exports. An argument can be made that most of Scotland’s wind output is simply exported to England. If I were living in the Scottish borders gaping at wind turbines everywhere, I would be particularly furious about this point.
  • If the derated capacity of the inter-connectors is 3500 MW, this might explain why wind is curtailed to this same value.

Figure 2 shows the picture for October and November (to date) 2016. This is the first data for winter months post Longannet closure. The key observations:

  • Scotland has become a serial electricity importer as was to be expected. In Jan-Feb imports were 2,733 MWh. This has risen to 227,002 MWh in Oct-Nov (to date), an increase by a factor of 83.
  • Imports of 1000 MW or more are commonplace peaking at 2552 MW on 23 November following the reactor trip at Torness.
  • Oct-Nov was less windy than Jan-Feb, which was particularly stormy and wind never got close to the presumed 3500 MW curtailment level (dashed line lower panel). However, exports seem to be curtailed at a lower level of 2600 MW. This is difficult to explain other than wind did not get above this level.
  • Exports and wind output are still correlated but with one notable exception. From 11 to 17 Nov there was a block of exports not correlated with windy conditions. We can speculate that it was windy in Scotland but not in England at this time.
  • The reactor trip at Torness was followed by a sudden fall in wind, which just goes to show how events can conspire against grid integrity.

Figure 3 shows how Scottish exports have fallen by a factor of 2.4 from Jan-Feb to Oct-Nov. This number is impacted by Jan-Feb being particularly windy. Imports have risen by a factor of 83. In a normal world, swings in export and import dependency of this order would be viewed as catastrophic. But shrouded by the cognitive dissonance of Green thinking, its quite acceptable for Scottish Government policy to create this outcome.

Figure 4 In my earlier post called Blackout I laid out a scenario where 50% of Torness and 50% of Hunterston B nuclear power stations were off line (one reactor down in each station) and that owing to a prolonged wind lull, pumped storage was empty. This created a 1945 MW import call on England. I didn’t expect these circumstances to arise so soon. Current events have in fact led to a larger import requirement of 2552 MW but this time England was able to answer, despite the 5 to 10 GW nuclear shut down in France. In fact, despite having so much power off line, and importing for much of the recent past from England, France is still exporting to the UK at times of peak demand.

One factor working in favour of the grid is that it has in fact been relatively windy despite the plunge in wind output on the 22 and 23 Nov (Figure 2). At 18:00 on the 22nd, wind was still 2099 MW and at 18:00 on the 23rd it was 1089 MW. The calm conditions that increase the blackout risk were absent and the generally windy nature of this episode means that storage can still be filled at night.

Further reading:
The Destruction of Scottish Power
Blackout
One Step Closer to Blackouts
UK Blackout Risk Amber Warning

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75 Responses to Blackout: the sequel

  1. gah789 says:

    October & November are usually among the windiest months of the year in Scotland with a low probability of the calm conditions that can occur in the main winter months of December to February. By this comparison autumn 2016 has had unusually low levels of wind – certainly in the Scottish Borders where we monitor off-grid turbines – and this is expected to continue for a period. Exports from Scotland may have received a boost from hydro facilities (not pumped storage).

    You are right about the vulnerability of the Scottish system to nuclear outages (though the SNP will never admit this) once Longannet was closed, especially since the Peterhead plant has been downrated to a maximum output of 400 MW under normal conditions. The interesting point is that National Grid refused to offer Longannet a backup contract though they have given one to Peterhead for up to 750 MW. Presumably, they reckon that they can meet peak demand in Scotland even if several units of the nuclear plants are offline by a combination of interconnector imports, roughly 1000 MW of hydro and up to 1150 MW from Peterhead.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      This is what we have by way of installed capacity. But the dispatchable capacity adds up to only 5.4 GW including 100% of Peterhead, biomass and pumped storage. I’m surprised that the loss of 600 MW at Torness has created a 2552 MW import requirement. Something doesn’t add up. Perhaps they are electing to import instead of using Peterhead. But Peterhead has always had the problem of lacking transmission capacity. Difficult to get the juice from there to Glasgow. The new HVDC inter-connector lands at Hunterston.

  2. Greg Kaan says:

    The synoptic chart I’m looking at suggests the wind is about to drop (or has dropped) out across the UK with calm conditions across northern Europe over the next 24 hours.
    All the best for you and the rest of Scotland, Euan.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Not much wind in the UK or Iberia today. The chart is for Monday. Its cold and demand is already 45 GW (11:30). UK metered wind is throwing out 1.6 GW. It could be an interesting day for the grid. I’m in Perthshire today, the heart of hydro country 🙂

    • I just checked Weatherzone, wind is 1kph for Edinburgh right now (11PM in UK). I expect this can drag out for a week or two.

      Let’s hope it is windy for Christmas. 🙁

    • Euan Mearns says:

      We’ve decided to ignore that one since we don’t know if it was a simple power cut. But the timing at 17:15 is bang on peak demand.

      • ok, thanks

        by the way the peak demand in France has decreased during past years
        the only reason can be the ongoing economic crisis and factory closure.

        in France during cold days in 2011/2012 was 102 GWe (8.2.2012 at 19:00)
        during 2013/2014/15 on a few similar cold weekdays peak was
        at 92 GWe.

        michael
        ps.. this paper from 2008 might be an interesting reading for some
        https://arxiv.org/pdf/0803.4421v1.pdf

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Michael, in the UK domestic solar and domestic wind (farms) is not metered. These sources connected to the low voltage network appear as negative or reduced demand. It could easily be the same in France. Recession and energy efficiency are also in the frame, but this I believe is the main driver of giving the illusion that demand is suppressed.

          • Euan,

            concerning the “little private” solar in France,
            I think it can not explain the peak load reduction
            at around 19:00 during the winter times.

            for the economic crisis reduction ..

            it is not only closed factories. But I presume that
            people pay a little more attention for
            high price time of electric energy.

            After all, the every year increasing peak records
            in France on cold days around 19:00
            .. was around 85 GW in 2005
            and increased almost 2 GWe every year
            7.1.2009 = 92.4 GWe
            15.12.2010 = 96.7 GWe
            8.2.2012 = 102.1 GWe
            17.1.2013 = 92.6 GWe
            all on Wednesdays 19:00
            and a cold Friday 6.2.2015 = 91.6 GWe

            it was/is simple to switch off electric heaters
            during the day and quickly on during the
            evening when coming home ..

            I believe that people have just reduced by
            money saving arguments the evening peak ..

            a more careful detailed analysis during last 10 years
            might answer the question..

            http://clients.rte-france.com/lang/an/visiteurs/vie/vie_histo_courbes.jsp

          • A few years ago at a public inquiry I tried to explain to the Planning Inspector that embedded generators appeared as negative demand. The concept was far beyond his comprehension. The real problem we have is that decisions about planning permissions for wind and solar power are made by experts in planning law and by politicians, not by power engineers.

        • juliusbeezer says:

          >the only reason can be the ongoing economic crisis and factory closure

          Figures for industrial electricity use extracted from published RTE data:

          Consommation de grande industrie et PMI/PME* (GWh)

          2015 237,755
          2014§ 234,844
          2013 240,365
          2012 242,975
          2011 248,844
          2010 259,254

          (*Annual small/medium business and major industrial consumption)

          The secular trend seems rather lightly downward. This may be due to reduced economic activity as you say, but it might also be explained by increased energy efficiency.

          [from http://www.rte-france.com/fr/article/statistiques-de-l-energie-electrique-en-france

          § from http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.rte-france.com/sites/default/files/* as 404 error at rte-france]

          • thanks,

            interesting data to separate “grande industry” ..
            and significant trend I would say ..

            I had checked/compared a few times the daily
            load curves during comparable low temperature
            and weekdays ..but just too little statistics
            for me..

        • robertok06 says:

          Dittmar:

          you can’t compare the 8/2/12 with any other day. That was a real long and cold spell, with electricity imported to france even from italy, which is something almost unbelievable.

        • robertok06 says:

          Oh, the interesting reading… unfortunately it is the usual anti-nuclear rant from prof. Dittmar…

          One small exemple: how can a knowledgeable person, a soit-disant “expert” in this matter, write such a patently false statement?

          “Another small problem for the nuclear power option is the acknowledged fact that nuclear power plants are always operated at 100% power.”

          1) It is not a problem at all;
          2) It is not true at all, France modulates its fleet in load-follow mode every day of every year.

          Acknowledged by whom? You? Greenpiss?

          Pathetic.

          • ah my friend from CERN … good to hear from you!
            and that you find my old article interesting.

            perhaps you should read a little on the WNA website
            before saying these things.. smile

            so admit that “the devils is in the details”

            http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx

            you might also follow the edf website
            showing the nuclear power over 24 hours per day.

            and after all, it is (was!) great for Switzerland and Italy
            that cheap night nuclear electric energy imported to pump water up the mountain and

            sell it for a factor of 6 or so during day peak load time and during the week.

            .. bad luck now the model does not work anymore
            and some market distortion is compensated by
            another solar market distortion..

          • Leo Smith says:

            If you follow the nuclear power graphed over a day you will see that in France reactors are clearly being throttled back.

            This fact is known and was the subject of a paper some years back:

            http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/0203_Pouret_Nuttall.pdf

            The chief reason to run nuclear plant as near flat out, is economic. The cost of not generating electricity is almost the same as the cost of generating it, so no matter how low the wholesale price is, its always worth selling it. Only when there are no more buyers are the reactors throttled.

          • robertok06 says:

            @dittmar

            “ah my friend from CERN … good to hear from you!
            and that you find my old article interesting.”

            I never miss any of your papers, don’t worry. They are case studies during my seminars.

            “perhaps you should read a little on the WNA website
            before saying these things.. smile

            so admit that “the devils is in the details”

            http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx

            you might also follow the edf website
            showing the nuclear power over 24 hours per day.”

            Well, that may surprise you but I already did what you are suggesting… and in fact both the WNA website and, especially, the eco2mix daily production site say EXACTLY what I claim, i.e. that the french nuclear fleet does load-follow every day of every year.
            So, would you please stop your nonsense?

            “and after all, it is (was!) great for Switzerland and Italy
            that cheap night nuclear electric energy imported to pump water up the mountain and”

            It still IS… why do you use the past tense? Nothing has changed.

            “sell it for a factor of 6 or so during day peak load time and during the week.”

            Actually, contrary to popular galore that you seem to apply in your statements, France exports towards Italy (and probably CH too) 24h/24, not only during the night.
            Could you please stop spreading this nonsense too? Thanks.

            “.. bad luck now the model does not work anymore
            and some market distortion is compensated by
            another solar market distortion..”

            Actually, the model still works perfectly… another nonsense statement by Prof. Dittmar.

            Italy has imported a record amount of electricity in 2015, more than 43 TWh, mostly from FR, then CH and SL.

          • OpenSourceElectricity says:

            @ Roberto, it’s cold at the moment in france. So france is importing from spain UK, swizerland germany and is at zero level at the italian border, only exports are to belgium, seems their nuclear power stations are down again.

          • Stuart Brown says:

            @OSE –

            At 14:30, when you commented, RTE anticipated importing 106MW from Belgium. Where do you see that it didn’t? RTE don’t seem to break down the real time imports by country? Actual total imports were 2389MW, forecast imports were 3744MW, less exports of 1062MW to Italy, so 2682MW or 300MW less than they expected.
            http://www.rte-france.com/en/eco2mix/eco2mix-echanges-commerciaux-en

            5 out of 7 Belgian reactors are working. Overall availability in the 80%s according to PRIS
            https://www.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=BE.

            Max Belgian nuclear MWe is 5700, currently generating 3970 MW. The difference is Tihange 1 and Doel 3. Doel 3 is down for a scheduled overhaul and due to start up again next week according to Elia (Belgian grid), which should add another 900MW. I can’t immediately see why the other one is out – I read somewhere it is due to restart today, but Elia don’t have it in their forecast, so maybe not.

            The recent low availability of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 has been a lot of argument about hydrogen bubbles in the steel of the reactor vessel, similar to what is happening now in France perhaps, but AFCN pronounced them safe a year ago. Only the Germans don’t like it, but they are not getting their way.
            http://www.fanc.fgov.be/fr/news/-our-conclusions-regarding-the-safety-of-doel-3-and-tihange-2-remain-unchanged-despite-what-minister-hendricks-says/820.aspx

          • robertok06 says:

            @OpenSourceElectricity

            “@ Roberto, it’s cold at the moment in france. So france is importing from spain UK, swizerland germany and is at zero level at the italian border, only exports are to belgium, seems their nuclear power stations are down again.”

            No. They were not “down again” at the time you wrote your comment. They still have 21 reactors off line, for scheduled and un-scheduled maintenance and administrative issues… that’s all.
            It is simply an “aperitif” of what will happen every day come 2025, when 1/3 of the reactors will have to be off by choice… e.g. Hollande’s government decisions.

        • robertok06 says:

          Another small comment on the “interesting”reading:

          “The so called nuclear option, e.g. the building of new nuclear power plants, is considered
          by some politicians, by some “ivory tower” scientists and the ones who make their living from
          constructing these power plants the preferred solution. ”

          You are wrong on this too Michael!

          http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Swiss-reject-rapid-nuclear-phase-out-2711161.html

          “A majority – 54.2% – of people voted ‘No’ to the rapid phase out, recording a clear victory by winning both the popular vote and by taking majorities in the most cantons.”

          Again a clever reply to GreenPiss’ scare campaign. Any sensibly intelligent person should be able to understand that…

          “They are now likely to continue until the age of 60, closing in the 2030s-2040s. They are expected to generate some 320 TWh of electricity in the longer operating period, which would avoid “at least 50 million tons of CO2″ compared to a typical replacement mix of natural gas and imports from France and Germany, said EfH.”

          … is a very good thing, good for the Swiss people, economy, employment, health, environment.
          The only drawback could be a couple of copies less sold of M. Dittmar’s books, no big deal. 🙂

          Try again.

  3. burnsider says:

    I live in Caithness, which is (usually) a pretty windy corner of the UK and we are blessed with an abundance of wind turbines as a result. For about the last week, the weather has been excellent, with calm sunny (if short!) days and some frosty nights. The local turbines that I have seen still seem to be turning, but I doubt if they are generating anywhere close to their rated output.

    When we had this same situation last December (just before Xmas) and January (when wind output dropped to 0.3% of demand!!!), I emailed Rob Gibson (our SNP MSP) and Fergus Ewing (who purported to be the SNP’s Energy Minister) and asked what the future plan was to cope with nuclear closures and winter spells with no sun (ie night!!), no wind and neap tides or slack water coinciding with peak demand. Replies came there none, not so much as an acknowledgement – a case of “cover your ears and shout La La La” maybe.

    The Meygen tidal array is just about on stream, I think, but only provides a few MW at the moment (doesn’t stop them claiming they will provide power for up to 400000 homes in their press releases, though). I presume tidal output is too small to be worth including on Gridwatch at the moment

    • gweberbv says:

      burnsider,

      I guess this is their plan: http://northconnect.no/
      But the Scottish connection point is Peterhead and above I read that the plant already existing there struggles with limited transmission capacity to other parts of the country.

      • Lars says:

        Gweberbv, the future of this project is very uncertain because the Norwegian TSO Statnett strongly opposes private power companies and regional grid operators own and run an interconnector to other countries. This struggle will end up in the parliament for approval to change the energy act which can take years.

        There is a growing opposition here to more interconnectors now. After all, who is foolish enough to want to import higher power prices?

        Besides I think with the new connectors to Germany (2019) and the UK (2021, 2800 MW combined) the Norwegian grid will be at the limit of what it with reasonable certainty can provide of power.

    • David McCrindle says:

      Most people in Caithness are used to power cuts anyway (or at least they were when I lived there). There are worse ways of spending an evening than an oil lamp, an open fire and a bottle of wine.

      I guess that more people will have to get used to that pleasure.

    • Chris Hogg says:

      May I query your figures for the Meygen project? According to BBC Scotland they plan eventually to have 269 turbines with a maximum capacity of 398 MW, and be capable of powering 175,000 properties. http://tinyurl.com/zf9obce

      In the first, pilot stage (Phase 1A), they say they’re installing four 1.5 MW turbines. This phase, which is probably what you’re thinking about, is due to be completed by the end of this year. The number would then be increased to eighty-six 1 MW turbines for the full implementation of Phase 1. http://tinyurl.com/h3owuja and http://tinyurl.com/zh7bbml

      Needless to say, and in common with all renewable energy project descriptions, they quote maximum capacities, never the average output. They also state the number of properties their scheme will power. That annoys me, because it’s always a seemingly impressive large number. But what does it mean in reality?

      Any tidal flow scheme will only produce power for about twelve hours per day, in four 3-hour bursts (the National Grid will love that!). Ofgem give the average domestic electricity consumption as 3,300 kWh. http://tinyurl.com/kps75c7 . Combining that with the Meygen figure of 175,000 properties, gives an average output from their full scheme of 65.9 MW (3,300 x 175,000 / 365 / 24 / 1000) and hence a capacity factor of 16.6%. When put that way, the numbers don’t look so impressive IMO.

      • burnsider says:

        Sorry – I was being lazy and relied on my imperfect memory rather than checking it out.

        I asked a MeyGen rep at a display in Thurso a few years ago what their capacity factor was and was told 25%, so they have obviously back-pedalled a bit.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Smoke going straight up here tonight until it cools and falls back to Earth. Zero is too small for Gridwatch 😉 Tidal may work but at what cost? $1000 / bbl synfuel equivalent the last time I checked (or maybe it was only $500).

      • Iain says:

        Euan,

        As with Solar and wind, the price drops substantially with economies of scale. Tidal has big advantages of predicatability and that peak flow occurs at different times up and down the coastline.

        BTW I have had a look around and don’t agree with many of your assertions. For clarity is this simply an anti – renewable or anti-wind blog?

  4. Rob says:

    What plans do the Scottish government have I assume they want more gas turbines but it doesn’t seem to be commercial viable for CCGT to operate in high wind penetration markets.

    Also how many more pumped storage schemes does Scotland have potential for there must be a limit to the number of suitable locations for hydroelectric.

    Do the SNP have any idea what replaces Scottish nuclear I think Scotland drifting towards dependence on UK shale gas electricity imports which beggars belief that a nationalist government has made Scotland more dependent on England.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      beggars belief that a nationalist government has made Scotland more dependent on England

      Exactly! They don’t have an energy plan beyond the closure of Hunterston B in 2023. We do have scope to build out pumped storage hydro but this is only economically viable on the daily cycle – nuclear surplus at night being stored for daytime peak. The economics go out the window when you talk about storing energy for weeks spanning storms to lulls.

  5. pyrrhus says:

    If the Russians and solar experts are right and we are entering another Maunder Minimum, it sounds like England and Scotland could be in a lot of trouble….But if so, I’m sure the Greens will blame it on climate “deniers.”

    • Euan Mearns says:

      This has genuinely worried me for years. Where we head into new LIA conditions, a series of very cold winters, N Sea oil and gas going down. Nukes closed and being dependent on wind and solar crap that just won’t work when the panels are covered in snow, and the Sun has set, and turbines with broken blades, not designed to cope with severe winter conditions.

      I’d feel much more comfortable with two or three Gen III reactors.

    • Javier says:

      If the Russians and solar experts are right and we are entering another Maunder Minimum, it sounds like England and Scotland could be in a lot of trouble

      They aren’t. Grand Solar Minima are pretty infrequent and tend to occur on clusters at the lows of the ~ 2400 yr Bray solar cycle or the ~ 1000 yr Eddy solar cycle.

      http://euanmearns.com/periodicities-in-solar-variability-and-climate-change-a-simple-model/

      The most likely outcome is that Solar Cycle 25 should be similar to SC24 and then back to higher than average solar activity for about another 100 years. We have been very lucky with solar activity and are living a solar period similar to the one that took place during the Roman Warm Period.

  6. Euan Mearns says:

    Its 17:15 here. 2˚C outside, the smoke is going straight up, and I just went out to buy some candles. Virtually everything is on apart from solar and rather limp wind that is putting out 1.8 GW nationally. Coal, nuclear and the CCGTs are all red lining. The French ICT is switched to import at 1 GW. Pumped hydro is on. Hydro is on at 0.9GW which is close to max. Notably its been cold here for weeks (defective CO2) and so recent precipitation is lying as snow in the mountains. And the OCGTs are on.

    But notably Scottish imports are running at only 200 MW (16:35). I guess they must have got Peterhead CCGT fired up.

  7. John ONeill says:

    CO2 could be doing it’s job and the Scots still get cold because 1/ the jet stream slows down and forms standing waves, meaning highs or lows stay in one place long enough to create problems ; or 2/ the Gulf Stream slows down. James Hansen reckons New Zealand could get hit with storms coming out of Antarctica as the glaciers there speed up. Not the balmy beach weather we were promised.

    • robertok06 says:

      “James Hansen reckons New Zealand could get hit with storms coming out of Antarctica as the glaciers there speed up. ”

      You’ve got some pretty big confusion on this, I’m afraid.

      1) Antarctica’s glaciers on land are not melting, in fact Antarctica is gaining mass from snow accumulation, since many years already;

      2) Antarctica is shedding big ice shelves, i.e. glaciers which are already floating on the sea, and therefore do not contribute at all to sea level rise (not that that should be worrying, as it is steadily going up since centuries at a few mm/y).

      Cheers.

  8. jim brough says:

    There has been a tendency for wind, solar, tidal, wave and biofuel electricity projectors to claim that a project will power a certain number of homes. That is not a measure of electricity, its a measure to make it sound good, and virtuous.

    It does not take account of other energy sources such as gas, wood and peat. I live in a retirement village and for an obvious reason we do not use gas for cooking. More importantly it door not explain how solar can provide electricity to “power” a 340 tonne train from Sydney to my home at Stanwell Park or other destinations to the South.
    The proponents of the technologies should tell us how many steel manufacturing or aluminium refineries it will run. The refining of silicon, aluminium, copper and all the other materials need electricity.

    Time we challenged the use of such a loaded unit of energy.

    PS
    I challenged a company about its claim to make the first “carbon neutral ” brick and got no reply.
    Mankind has never been carbon neutral since it started to burn wood, or make silicon from silicate

    • burnsider says:

      By the same token, if wind power, say, is ‘renewable’, then it should be possible to build another wind turbine using only the electricity generated from the first one. This would include mining, shipping ores (using sailing or solar ships), refining of metals, glass fibre, resin, etc and the manufacture and installation of the turbine. Needless to say it is impossible, and just as impossible to build a nuclear power station using the electricity generated (but no-one is claiming that nuclear is renewable).

      I am reminded of a quote from a book by Hoyle, which sums up the looming problems nicely:-

      “It has often been said that, if the human species
      fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some
      other species will take over the running. In the
      sense of developing high intelligence this is not
      correct. We have, or soon will have, exhausted
      the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this
      planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone,
      high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however
      competent can make the long climb from primitive
      conditions to high-level technology. This is a
      one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system
      fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same
      will be true of other planetary systems. On each
      of them there will be one chance, and one chance
      only.”

      — Sir Fred Hoyle, “Of Men and Galaxies,” 1964 —

      ‘This is not a rehearsal’. Technological civilisation has just the one shot and if it collapses, it will be a one-way trip. Or, as the weed said in a US ad I saw for Roundup weedkiller, ‘There’s no growing back, Louie’

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Burnsider, I don’t know why your comment went to moderation, perhaps it was punishment for forgetting about the expanse of geological time – or perhaps it is Sir Fred that should be punished.

        Man has merely scratched the surface for resources. In 100 million years time the Pacific Ocean will have closed lifting up vast mountain ranges. Antarctica will have drifted off the pole perhaps colliding with Australia. A vast new ocean will have opened through E Africa and the Dead Sea ripping the holy land in two.

        The surface as we know it will be eroded and deposited along coastlines of new oceans. Existing coal, copper, iron, platinum and gold that is too deep to mine will be exposed at surface. New oil and gas deposits will have formed.

        And then a flightless, featherless bird one day may find some burning embers and discover that by placing sticks upon them, fire would keep her warm from the cold that ravaged Planet Ice (which is what the birds called it 😉

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    Torness is back on line (Tuesday). Clearly it was back yesterday, the EDF reports were running three days behind. Today however, Hartlepool reactor 1 is offline for refuelling – that seems like bad planning, meaning that the net supply to the UK has not changed.

    https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/power-station/daily-statuses

    High pressure is with us for the rest of the week.

  10. Coalgasnuclearactuallyworks says:

    A perverse side of me is hoping for a power cut…

  11. Roberto,
    are you mixing things?
    I agree the 54% of the vote was not in favour
    of closing right away .. (and I am not sure of what I would have voted in a vote where the options were not
    100% clear!)

    but if you read the quote again:

    “The so called nuclear option, e.g. the building of new nuclear power plants, is considered
    by some politicians, by some “ivory tower” scientists and the ones who make their living from
    constructing these power plants the preferred solution. ”

    I am sure you understand that nobody would
    even propose to construct a new nuclear power plant
    in Switzerland these days..
    not because it is or is not an option
    but because the people are against it!
    and that even 46% of the voters still voted
    for a fast closure is amazing to some extend
    and many had the idea that one can and must indeed live with less if the vote would be yes
    and if the vote would be respected by the government
    (which is another interesting question.. )

    • robertok06 says:

      @dittmar

      “Roberto,
      are you mixing things?
      I agree the 54% of the vote was not in favour of closing right away .. (and I am not sure of what I would have voted in a vote where the options were not 100% clear!)”

      No, I am not mixing anything up. The options were clear.
      “The sooner you shut down the nukes the sooner the electricity import/export balance will get negative, instead of positive, and prices will skyrocket: are you in favor of this?”… that was the question to answer.

      “but if you read the quote again:

      “The so called nuclear option, e.g. the building of new nuclear power plants, is considered
      by some politicians, by some “ivory tower” scientists and the ones who make their living from constructing these power plants the preferred solution. ”

      I am sure you understand that nobody would even propose to construct a new nuclear power plant in Switzerland these days..
      not because it is or is not an option but because the people are against it!”

      Says who, “people are against it”? Michael Dittmar?

      “and that even 46% of the voters still voted for a fast closure is amazing to some extend and many had the idea that one can and must indeed live with less if the vote would be yes and if the vote would be respected by the government (which is another interesting question.. )”

      It is not amazing at all. In a highly politicized and ideologized vote like this, it is clear that there has been a big push to have all the pro-going-back-to-medieval-ages running to the ballots, and voting “yes”… and, anyway, they were only 46% of the 45% of those eligible to vote… so a small (luckily!) minority of 0.46×0.45=21% of the voting base.. 1 every 5… the politicized/ideologized useless tail of any human population distribution.

      You can preach your abstinence from energy, Michael, as much as you like: the vast majority of the people will never follow you down the “let’s go back to the Moyenne Age” path, rest assured.
      All you can do is to keep on using BS statistics and data, producing BS papers on the future disappearance of uranium (really hilarious, you will certainly get a doctorate honoris causa from some Geology Department, just look in the mail box), but the fact of the matter is that Swiss people on average keep on buying BIGGER cars every year, and the oximoronic “2000 W society” that some of your fellow ETH colleagues have set up will remain a joke for the light minded, for the remainder of times.

      Have a look at the data from time to time, Michael… it helps.

      http://www.bfe.admin.ch/php/modules/publikationen/stream.php?extlang=fr&name=fr_683280437.pdf

      http://www.bfe.admin.ch/php/modules/publikationen/stream.php?extlang=fr&name=fr_129456705.pdf

      • “You can preach your abstinence from energy, Michael, as much as you like: the vast majority of the people will never follow you down the “let’s go back to the Moyenne Age” path, rest assured.”

        has nothing to do with preaching.. the energy per capita
        decline will just happen because fossile fuels and extractable uranium
        are finite .. (how finite needs to be determined and Euan does a good job
        in helping to find it out!)

        The way people face it might be middle age horrors indeed.
        Perhaps acceptable alternatives better than the middle ages can be found. But I agree ,Trumpels and Hillaries are progressing us into dark ages.

  12. mark4asp says:

    A connector between UK and France is broke. Reported an hour ago by FT’s Andrew Ward. A ship’s anchor is suspected of damaging it. The link between UK and France will be at half power until Febuary Down from 2MWe to just 1MWe. https://t.co/zCrQN613IP

    • Grant says:

      Hmm. Not quite as bad as the problems with the Bass Strait link were for Tasmania but not great if it does get colder for an extended period.

      Still, we have STOR to fall back on ….

      ….. always providing the is enough spare diesel fuel refining capacity available.

    • It doesn't add up... says:

      That’s probably a benefit to the UK given the ongoing problems in France: at least we only have to handle swings between +/-1GW rather than +/-2GW. I’m sure it undermines the grid’s theoretical calculations about winter cover though.

  13. Javier says:

    It is a shame that we are doing this to ourselves. And it is pretty much the same all over most of Europe. We are reducing our energy security and increasing risks. Scotland appears to be a leader of the trend. I guess she will be our canary in the coal mine.

  14. Dear Leo Smith

    “Leo Smith says:
    November 30, 2016 at 6:29 am
    If you follow the nuclear power graphed over a day you will see that in France reactors are clearly being throttled back.”

    well, if you look at http://clients.rte-france.com/lang/an/visiteurs/vie/prod/realisation_production.jsp
    and choose any day .. it contradicts what you wrote
    nuclear does not follow demand.

    the paper you linked has some points (especially what is wished for Gen 3 reactors)..

    but you say it well: it is economic .. and indeed in contradiction of what you wrote just before
    run flat out. It is not a problem when nuclear makes 20-30% at most and if sufficient
    hydropower pump storage system exists .. but the on average 75% nuclear in France makes it
    more tricky.. (switching off nuclear power plants during summer means high cost and that is why
    EDF is in trouble these days.. make it private and you will see!)
    meaning:
    changing power output according to demand can be done easily with hydro, gas

    “The chief reason to run nuclear plant as near flat out, is economic. The cost of not generating electricity is almost the same as the cost of generating it, so no matter how low the wholesale price is, its always worth selling it. Only when there are no more buyers are the reactors throttled.”

    • robertok06 says:

      “well, if you look at http://clients.rte-france.com/lang/an/visiteurs/vie/prod/realisation_production.jsp
      and choose any day .. it contradicts what you wrote
      nuclear does not follow demand.”

      Your are clearly a troll, Michael Dittmar:

      http://www.rte-france.com/en/eco2mix/eco2mix-mix-energetique-en

      Choose ANY day of ANY year, and click with the mouse on the yellow part of the curve, the one about nuclear.

      What do you see?

      Now: 13:30 of 30/11/2016… nuclear 47708 MW… was 48365 MW at 9:30, in the middle of the morning ramp-up, and was 49045 MW at 00:15 last night.

      Please, stop bullshitting this blog.

      • can’t you use a more civil language?
        if you call such tiny changes in nuclear power following load.

        why don’t you try to follow the production load curve..
        from 62 GW in the early morning to 74.5 GW around lunch time

        and in comparison demand curve 80.5 GW and 81 GW at 19:00
        http://clients.rte-france.com/lang/an/visiteurs/vie/courbes.jsp

        anyway.. please read the WNA article about France and what is written
        on load following i suggested before .. so here is the text
        (not my writing WNA..!)

        http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx

        Load-following with PWR nuclear plants

        Normally base-load generating plants, with high capital cost and low operating cost, are run continuously, since this is the most economic mode. But also it is technically the simplest way, since nuclear and coal-fired plants cannot readily alter power output, compared with gas or hydro plants. The high reliance on nuclear power in France thus poses some technical challenges, since the reactors collectively need to be used in load-following mode. (Since electricity cannot be stored, generation output must exactly equal to consumption at all times. Any change in demand or generation of electricity at a given point on the transmission network has an instant impact on the entire system). In France, because electricity is cheap relative to other sources (based on imported fossil fuel), electric heating is widespread and a 1°C temperature change in winter means that demand on the grid changes by about 2400 MWe, making it the most temperature-sensitive demand in Europe, adding to the normal challenge of satisfying the balance between supply and demand.RTE, a subsidiary of EdF, is responsible for operating, maintaining and developing the French electricity transmission network. France has the biggest grid network in Europe, made up of some 100,000 km of high and extra high voltage lines, and 44 cross-border lines, including a DC link to UK. Electricity is transmitted regionally at 400 and 225 kilovolts. Frequency and voltage are controlled from the national control centre, but dispatching of capacity is done regionally. Due to its central geographical position, RTE is a crucial entity in the European electricity market and a critical operator in maintaining its reliability.All France’s nuclear capacity is from PWR units. There are two ways of varying the power output from a PWR: control rods, and boron addition to the primary cooling water. Using normal control rods to reduce power means that there is a portion of the core where neutrons are being absorbed rather than creating fission, and if this is maintained it creates an imbalance in the fuel, with the lower part of the fuel assemblies being more reactive that the upper parts. Adding boron to the water diminishes the reactivity uniformly, but to reverse the effect the water has to be treated to remove the boron, which is slow and costly, and it creates a radioactive waste.So to minimise these impacts since the 1980s EdF has used in each PWR reactor some less absorptive ‘grey’ control rods which weigh less from a neutronic point of view than ordinary control rods and they allow sustained variation in power output. This means that RTE can depend on flexible load following from the nuclear fleet to contribute to regulation in these three respects:
        Primary power regulation for system stability (when frequency varies, power must be automatically adjusted by the turbine).
        Secondary power regulation related to trading contracts.
        Adjusting power in response to demand (decrease from 100% during the day, down to 50% or less during the night, and respond to changes in renewable inputs to the grid, etc.)
        PWR plants are very flexible at the beginning of their cycle, with fresh fuel and high reserve reactivity. An EdF reactor can reduce its power from 100% to 30% in 30 minutes. But when the fuel cycle is around 65% through these reactors are less flexible, and they take a rapidly diminishing part in the third, load-following, aspect above. When they are 90% through the fuel cycle, they only take part in frequency regulation, and essentially no power variation is allowed (unless necessary for safety). So at the very end of the cycle, they are run at steady power output and do not regulate or load-follow until the next refueling outage. RTE has continuous oversight of all French plants and determines which plants adjust output in relation to the three considerations above, and by how much.RTE’s real-time picture of the whole French system operating in response to load and against predicted demand shows the total of all inputs. This includes the hydro contribution at peak times, but it is apparent that in a coordinated system the nuclear fleet is capable of a degree of load following, even though the capability of individual units to follow load may be limited.Plants being built today, eg according to European Utilities’ Requirements (EUR), have load-following capacity fully built in.

      • robertok06 says:

        @michael dittmar

        “can’t you use a more civil language?
        if you call such tiny changes in nuclear power following load.”

        It is you who’s using an un-civil language, Michael, not me!
        You are abusing the patience of many people out here.
        You have cited documents which CLEARLY explain the contrary of your statement/position, so who’s uncivilized here?

        The “such tiny changes” is what is necessary, no more and no less, because this is the french network goes, whether Prof. M. Dittmar likes it or not.
        The changes are tiny now because there is 1/3 of the nuclear power plants off, otherwise it would be more.
        Fact is, your statement that french nuclear doesn’t do load following is FALSE, that’s the important thing.
        So, why are you doing that, Michael? Why a reputed physicist like you puts himself in this odd position? Why?

        • Dear Roberto,

          first of all, I am not a Prof.,
          just what is called senior research scientist
          (meaning too old to understand how to communicate facts with short modern things like Facebook and Twitter.)

          It seems we as non native english speakers share problems
          with understanding longer texts

          So, please could some native english speakers translate
          the article from the World Nuclear Association I quoted

          for me the key parts are:

          “But also it is technically the simplest way, since nuclear and coal-fired plants cannot readily alter power output, compared with gas or hydro plants. The high reliance on nuclear power in France thus poses some technical challenges, since the reactors collectively need to be used in load-following mode.”

          and

          “In France, because electricity is cheap relative to other sources (based on imported fossil fuel), electric heating is widespread and a 1°C temperature change in winter means that demand on the grid changes by about 2400 MWe, making it the most temperature-sensitive demand in Europe, adding to the normal challenge of satisfying the balance between supply and demand.”

          “There are two ways of varying the power output from a PWR: control rods, and boron addition to the primary cooling water. Using normal control rods to reduce power means that there is a portion of the core where neutrons are being absorbed rather than creating fission, and if this is maintained it creates an imbalance in the fuel, with the lower part of the fuel assemblies being more reactive that the upper parts. Adding boron to the water diminishes the reactivity uniformly, but to reverse the effect the water has to be treated to remove the boron, which is slow and costly, and it creates a radioactive waste.”

          and here is for my understanding the key for understanding the problem:
          (but for Roberto this seems not to be a problem ..
          may be you would get a better paying job at the EDF
          ..imagine how many millions they could save following you
          knowledge..)

          “PWR plants are very flexible at the beginning of their cycle, with fresh fuel and high reserve reactivity. An EdF reactor can reduce its power from 100% to 30% in 30 minutes. But when the fuel cycle is around 65% through these reactors are less flexible, and they take a rapidly diminishing part in the third, load-following, aspect above. When they are 90% through the fuel cycle, they only take part in frequency regulation, and essentially no power variation is allowed (unless necessary for safety). So at the very end of the cycle, they are run at steady power output and do not regulate or load-follow until the next refueling outage.”

          regards
          michael
          ps… T. Noah said it perhaps best
          we are living in times when “You can’t force anybody to
          accept facts.. when facts become opinions”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSIUZFM3VVA

    • Leo Smith says:

      “All France’s nuclear capacity is from PWR units. There are two ways of varying the power output from a PWR: control rods, and boron addition to the primary cooling water. Using normal control rods to reduce power means that there is a portion of the core where neutrons are being absorbed rather than creating fission, and if this is maintained it creates an imbalance in the fuel, with the lower part of the fuel assemblies being more reactive that the upper parts. Adding boron to the water diminishes the reactivity uniformly, but to reverse the effect the water has to be treated to remove the boron, which is slow and costly, and it creates a radioactive waste.

      So to minimise these impacts since the 1980s EdF has used in each PWR reactor some less absorptive ‘grey’ control rods which weigh less from a neutronic point of view than ordinary control rods and they allow sustained variation in power output. This means that RTE can depend on flexible load following from the nuclear fleet to contribute to regulation in these three respects:

      – Primary power regulation for system stability (when frequency varies, power must be automatically adjusted by the turbine).
      – Secondary power regulation related to trading contracts.
      – Adjusting power in response to demand (decrease from 100% during the day, down to 50% or less during the night, and respond to changes in renewable inputs to the grid, etc.)

      PWR plants are very flexible at the beginning of their cycle, with fresh fuel and high reserve reactivity. An EdF reactor can reduce its power from 100% to 30% in 30 minutes. But when the fuel cycle is around 65% through these reactors are less flexible, and they take a rapidly diminishing part in the third, load-following, aspect above. When they are 90% through the fuel cycle, they only take part in frequency regulation, and essentially no power variation is allowed (unless necessary for safety). So at the very end of the cycle, they are run at steady power output and do not regulate or load-follow until the next refueling outage. RTE has continuous oversight of all French plants and determines which plants adjust output in relation to the three considerations above, and by how much.

      RTE’s real-time picture of the whole French system operating in response to load and against predicted demand shows the total of all inputs. This includes the hydro contribution at peak times, but it is apparent that in a coordinated system the nuclear fleet is capable of a degree of load following, even though the capability of individual units to follow load may be limited.

      Plants being built today, eg according to European Utilities’ Requirements (EUR), have load-following capacity fully built in.”

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx

      • OpenSourceElectricity says:

        And how long does it take to get from 30% to 100% again for the nuclear power stations?
        Roberto : “load following” betweeen 47,4 and 49,0 GW????? Good joke

        • robertok06 says:

          Another one! Who many trolls can this blog feed?

          Listen, my friend, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to use the eco2mix web site and find day when the load following is much bigger.
          Put that finger to some good use on the mouse button, OK?

          Cheers.

        • robertok06 says:

          Forgot this one:

          “And how long does it take to get from 30% to 100% again for the nuclear power stations?”

          all french nuclear reactors are designed to ramp at at “few” %/minute.

          According to this excellent paper…

          goo.gl/dOOVR1content_copyCopy short URL

          … at 5%/minute it’d take 70/5=14 minutes.

          For normally endowed people, this should dispel all myths “a-la-Dittmar” and also ridiculous anti-nuclear myths “a-la-OpenSourceElectricity”.

          Have a nice reading, my friend.

  15. climanrecon says:

    It looks like Scotland kept the GB grid alive on 30th November (plus 500 MW extra coal from somewhere), GB wind at peak demand time was around 4GW, no isobars in England/Wales, so it must have been mainly Scottish wind farms.

    Ireland, similarly obsessed by that which sometimes produces only a few percent of peak winter demand, was producing only 200 MW of wind power: https://climanrecon.wordpress.com/irish-electricity/

  16. mark4asp says:

    Seems those shut French nuclear reactors are coming back on line one by one, according to

    William Icquatu: “yet another french reactor seems to have started up again… their output is now over 48GW – up from 47 yesterday.”

    • robertok06 says:

      Correct!… and in fact, being a Saturday morning i.e. a non working day with lower demand, the EdF reactors have done load-following going from 48.8 GW to 46.7 GW early in the morning,… just to show, once more if necessary, that they do follow the load.

      Cheers.

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