Going green – the Ofgem vision

In previous posts we have devoted a good deal of attention to DECC, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but very little to its sister agency Ofgem, the Office of Gas and Electricity Management, which regulates the UK gas and electricity markets in the interests of the UK consumer (website here). But Ofgem too has its goals and strategies for a low-carbon future, and here we will take a brief look at them. I should perhaps mention before proceeding that this post is an outcome of an Ofgem article Hugh Sharman sent me, which Hugh says left him incapable of a coherent response.

Where Ofgem lives (image credit editoreye)

In September of last year Ofgem published a Position Paper in which it described its mission:

To deliver against our carbon commitments, while providing reliable and secure supply at minimum cost … to make a positive difference for energy consumers through independent regulation ……… to make networks more flexible and to provide residential consumers with new tools to manage their energy use through smart meters.

…. expressed dissatisfaction with the energy companies it regulates:

Against this background of ongoing change, consumers also face more immediate pressures from rising prices, poor customer service and, too often, serious failures by energy companies.

… and went on record as stating that the government’s strategy of ensuring security of supply by constructing more gas-fired plants, nuclear plants and interconnectors, as set out in the recent DECC Single Departmental Plan, isn’t going to work:

…. when there isn’t enough supply to match demand, we generate more and build more cables to carry it. As we decarbonise, simply building more power stations and cables to meet demand when the wind isn’t blowing, or the sun isn’t shining, is neither sustainable nor efficient.

One gets the impression that Ofgem is less than happy with the direction UK energy policy is taking. This is not surprising because Ofgem believes that demand-side management – smart meters, smart grids, flexibility, battery storage, asking people kindly to turn off their kettles, computers, TVs, offices, factories etc. – is the logical solution to meeting demand when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, and the position paper linked to above describes Ofgem’s vision of how this is going to work. The entire document is worth a read if only because it demonstrates how like-thinking people bouncing ideas off each other soon become detached from reality, but unfortunately I only have the space to hit the high points in this post.

First the problems as Ofgem sees them:

Simply building power plants to meet expected peak demand and to manage greater variations in supply (known as intermittency) from renewable sources, would mean having a lot of excess generating capacity during most of the day, and long periods of the year. This is expensive and inefficient.

If we don’t modify our consumption patterns to use or store energy when it is available, e.g. at times of high renewable generation (such as sunny or windy days) with low demand, some low-carbon generators may have to be ‘constrained off’ at a cost. We are already beginning to see this happen.

We also need to be able to make the most of times when we generate more than we need.

Here we have a succinct summary of the problems of intermittency that mirrors much of what Energy Matters has been saying, although it’s a little light on detail. Ofgem’s solutions, however, aren’t quite the same as ours:

We can use batteries to store electricity when it is plentiful, or when there is too much for the network cables to carry.

Consumers can make more informed choices about when they use electricity. For instance, businesses could make small changes to when they use air conditioners or other appliances, in order to make savings.

We can also use low carbon electricity which we generate locally at home or at work – for example from a rooftop solar panel – to help reduce the costs of transporting it and save us money on bills. In future, buildings could be designed to include generation and energy storage, so that people using them can manage their electricity to make savings.

We can of course do all these things, although it would be nice if Ofgem provided some numbers to show how doing them will keep the lights on. But nowhere in the Ofgem position paper is a single number to be found.

Most remarkably, energy storage is identified as a legal issue. Ofgem appears to be totally unaware of the physical magnitude of the storage problem:

However, there are several issues which could act as barriers to storage developing and reaching its full potential in the near term. In particular, the regulatory/legal classification of storage is unclear. Storage can be classified variously as “consumption” and/or “generation” and/or “supply”. This creates regulatory challenges ….

Ofgem provides us with this graphical summary of their vision of what “smart” looks like. Consumers will become “empowered” and “engaged”, providers will “seize the opportunity” and innovation will flourish in a “dynamic market”. According to Ofgem the result will be a low-carbon economy with enhanced security of supply, although exactly how tomorrow’s empowered and engaged consumers will unite with their opportunistic providers to create these outcomes is again left unspecified:

And for those who like flow charts there’s this graphic. Note all the little green battery icons that keep everything running, or will do so as soon as the legal and regulatory obstacles that explain why there presently is no worthwhile amount of installed energy storage capacity in the UK are removed:

But anyone looking for a quantitative analysis of how this flexibility mechanism is going to work in practice will be disappointed, because Ofgem doesn’t supply one. The absence of any kind of backup data anywhere in Ofgem’s paper in fact makes one wonder exactly how far Ofgem has got in its investigations. And we don’t have to go very far before we find that they still haven’t made it to first base. They’re still trying to decide what the issues are:

This year we conducted work to understand what issues should be addressed to facilitate the use of new flexibility sources across the value chain. This position paper sets out our findings and next steps.

And what are the next steps? Begin reading on page 23 of the position paper. Continue to page 46. Then there will be a quiz.

The Ofgem paper does, however, contain an important take-home message, even if Ofgem hasn’t picked up on it:

More work needs to be done to make these (demand side) approaches part of everyday life.

To make these approaches part of everyday life. Now we get to the heart of the matter. To make demand side management work people must change their lifestyles. Will they? By paying them enough money it might indeed be possible to induce them to watch television only during the early morning hours of a summer Sunday, to discharge EVs back into the grid whenever the wind stops blowing and to shut down offices and factories before the electricity supply dries up on a cold winter evening. But peak demand isn’t something that arose with the advent of electricity. It began when prehistoric man first kindled fire as the sun went down, and reversing a human instinct this deeply ingrained isn’t going to happen overnight, if it happens at all. What Ofgem is in fact proposing isn’t demand-side energy management at all. It’s social engineering.

Yet Ofgem has no doubt as to the outcome:

But system needs and consumers’ needs can and will change.

This is a curious, even frightening position for a regulatory agency to take, particularly when it seems to have nothing other than pipe-dreams to back it up.

One final point. Ofgem is empowered as a regulator not only by the UK but also by the EU. I haven’t checked to see what additional powers this might give them.

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119 Responses to Going green – the Ofgem vision

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    Comrades, if you click on the DECC link you’ll see that the UK has now adopted the 5 year planning system that was well tried and tested in the Soviet Union and its allies for many years, bringing so much freedom and prosperity to all.

    We are also on blackout watch today, with flat calm across the UK, wind is putting out 490 MW, 3 reactors are off line and we are importing flat out from Europe. It was the same yesterday evening with coal and the ccgts running flat out.

    Well done government, DECC and Ofgem!

    • David Richardson says:

      I didn’t spot any mention of tractors in the 5 year plan Euan – oh! wait a minute, it was reactors you were talking about!

    • RDG says:

      Euan, (and I am asking a serious question here)

      I don’t understand the reference to Soviet-style planning. If you agree that imperialism (1) is the highest stage of capitalism, V. Lenin having written a book about it, then isn’t it obvious that “renewables” energy is just that.

      Interconnectors are like an invisible invading army.

      To me, nuclear reactors would be far more applicable to Soviet-style communism than this nonsense of “renewables”.

      I’m certain that the banks that run the world must be in favor of “renewables”.

      1. imperialism: ‘a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.’

    • robertok06 says:

      Hi Euan:

      on the Five Year Plans and your comments… not only the USSR had them… powerhouse China still has them today, and it seems to work quite well.

      Another comment, heard it yesterday on Swiss radio… the 2015 list of cities in the world with more billionaires… 1. Beijing, 2. NY, 3. Moscow… seems like following Karl Marx dicta for decades has sowed the seeds of wealth… 🙂

      Just kidding, of course… I think that 5 years plans could be just fine… depends who’s behind the plan… put a social scientist in charge of energy and the likelihood of things going bad is very high.


    • I like the 5 years plans. When I worked for an American multinational in the seventies, they had also 5 years plans, like the commies, and they usually worked well. Then, we went to two years plans and were more difficult to accomplish. Finally, the year on year is almost impossible to accomplish and then big corporations have decided to report themselves on quarterly basis and demand their executives to nervously revise biweekly their sales plans that less and less accomplished as more in the brink of a nerve attack. My former boss, an intelligent person of the old generation said that while big Western multinationals were planning for the quarterly results and looking for the dividends and just focusing in give satisfaction to the stockholder (fast and furious, with double digit growth and double digit profit promises), Chinese were still planning at 1,000 years scale. And Jews were planning at 5,000 years scale.

  2. Joe Public says:

    Domestic consumers volunteering for a Smart Meter are but one step away from having Maximum-Demand charges imposed.

    In the UK, heavy power users are already familiar with the mechanism:

    Peak consumption is measured on a ½-hourly basis.

    The commodity charge (p/kWh) for a particular month is based upon the peak ½-hour demand of that month.

    Generally, should such a consumer use (say) one extra light bulb during that peak ½-hour, the cost of electricity used for every process within the entire premises, for the entire month, is increased accordingly.

  3. Willem Post says:


    I just read “Andrew’s view” in the link you provided, and I agree, the “Andrew’s view” article is planted firmly in the clouds.

    No wonder, Hugh said he could not make a coherent response.

    Where would one start?

    How did that idiot get into the position to write about complex energy issues?

    • Willem Post says:

      Addition to above:

      For starters, the UK should have enforced building codes requiring “zero-energy” and preferably “energy-surplus” construction for ALL NEW buildings to ensure building energy requirements are minimal. Such “energy-sipping” buildings would be energy efficient, Passivhaus-standard or better. Such buildings, with the addition of PV solar, and ground- or air source heating and cooling systems, could easily become “energy-surplus” buildings.

      New residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and governmental buildings would produce most of their own energy by having PV solar systems on their roofs or parking lots, and ground- or air source heat pump systems to offset building energy requirements, power electric heat pumps, and charge electric cars. The piping for the ground source heat pump systems could be under the parking lots.

      The energy efficiency measures, plus the distributed generation by buildings would significantly reduce generation by large central plants connected to high voltage grids, and would reduce overall energy requirements and fossil fuel CO2 emissions.



      My 74-year-old cousin in the Netherlands lives in a complex of 20 very well insulated buildings ALL OF WHICH ARE GEOTHERMAL HEATED AND COOLED. The geo loops are under the parking lots.

      She lives on the ninth floor of a 12-floor building. Other buildings are 2 to 4 floors.

      When you park your car, walk up to the front door of the 12-floor building, you click, the front door unlocks, the lights go on in the lobby, elevator door opens, and the elevator KNOWS (because of the click signature) she lives on the ninth floor.

      When the elevator arrives, lights go on that floor, and another click opens the front door, and internal lights go on, as pre-programmed.

      All appliances are high efficiency, all lighting is motion-sensitive and LED, toilets are low-flush, and showers are low-flow.

      The AUTOMATIC blinds are sturdy, and on the OUTSIDE of the windows, and move up and down, to increase/decrease solar energy, as needed.

      That complex is now at least 20 years old.

      All this in the land of the wooden shoes.

      This approach to housing is needed by all countries in the world.

      • David Richardson says:

        Willem – As somebody who has had an interest in low-energy housing since the first oil-price shock in the 70’s I applaud the vision. I see no reason for us to waste energy and we should have been moving in the direction of highly insulated housing for 40 years. After all the UK has a very negative balance of payments problem – so importing less makes very good sense. fracking our own gas makes even more sense.

        Trouble is we didn’t move in that direction and the UK has millions of badly performing properties that are a lost cause. Also I see plenty of similar properties in the Netherlands. The UK building standards have been appalling and now they would like to get to a better position all at once and at substantial cost – houses are not expensive enough already? Velux, the window manufacturer, have a research house in the English Midlands along the lines of the one your cousin has but the cost is quite high. It certainly isn’t for mass housing.

        BUT also – –

        We are already short of electricity generation and moving people to heat pumps just makes that worse. A heat pump may sound good at 4 units of heat for every 1 of electricity, but 2.5 is nearer “real world” performance. They are expensive (the most efficient very much so) and cost no less than a modern gas boiler to run – always worth remembering that electricity is 3 times the price of gas. They get less efficient as the weather gets colder as well.

        If you want to save energy then Passivhaus is a good start – but beyond that it is possible to build high spec buildings that need no central heating at all, and only require a top-up of any kind in the coldest of Winters (we may see some of those in the coming years). Then hot water is the only need, but every extra degree a heat pump raises the water temperature makes its efficiency disproportionately worse.

        Passivhaus has a large window area requirement for “passive solar heating”, but the only time you need that is on a Winter’s night when the sun doesn’t shine for 16 hours of the day and even the best windows are a order of magnitude worse at keeping the heat in than the adjacent wall.

        • Willem Post says:

          I know the ins and outs.

          “We are already short of electricity generation and moving people to heat pumps just makes that worse.”

          This would be the remedy for more energy?

          The UK is planning to build a 1,200 MW wind turbine plant, 75 miles offshore, in the North Sea. It will have 174 wind turbines, at 6.9 MW each, 623-ft tall. The capital cost will be $5.429 billion, or $4,524,000/MW, excluding subsidies and financing and amortization costs. The production would be about 1200 x 8760 x 0.45 = 4,730,400 MWh/y. The average output would be 0.45 x 1200 = 540 MW, but the minimum output could be near-zero MW, or up to about 1,100 MW.

          Energy will be sold at 20.3 c/kWh, whereas UK wholesale prices are 5.1 c/kWh. The difference, totaling $6.1 billion over the 25-year life, will be charged to users as a surcharge on their electric bills.

          Europe HAS to resort to such expensive wind energy production systems, because it has few onshore areas with adequate wind, and these areas are too densely populated. The LCOE of such systems would significantly increase as high-cost RE energy is used for owning, operating and maintaining them, i.e., as high-cost RE replaces low-cost fossil energy.

          It would be extremely unwise for the US to have such expensive build-outs of wind turbine plants off the Atlantic coast, which would produce heavily subsidized energy at 20 – 25 c/kWh, because the capital cost of Great Plains build-outs would be less than $2 million/MW, and would produce much greater quantities of energy at about 6 c/kWh, with minimal subsidies.

          Modern ground source heat pump systems have a higher annual average COP, about 4 – 5, than air source heat pumps would have in colder climates, about 2.5.

          My cousin tells me, her combined bill for heating, cooling and electricity is less than 125 euros per month for her 2,500 sq ft = 200 m^2 condominium in the building I described.

          The condo was pricy, but she lived THE MODERN LIFE, plus saved about $2000/y for 20 years thus far, which invested in high dividend securities, would be more than $60,000. One can be penny wise, but pound foolish.

          • Streetcred says:

            I see what you are saying, “let them eat cake!” So much the pity that the Knights of the Round Table didn’t have the foresight to insulate all of those old cottages, that the post-war social housing failures didn’t build “pricey condos”, that local building regulations were dominated by the need to maintain ‘character’, etc. What are the poor to do?

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        How deep are the loops in the ground for the air-conditioning? Just wondering about how stable the temperature is, and how the heat extracted in winter is replaced in summer (as the demand for heat would exceed that for cooling).

        As for Leo Smith says:
        February 28, 2016 at 2:42 am
        who raises the question of air exchange, I assume this would be done via a heat exchanger at minimal energy cost, but what actual % of air volume occurs (if known)?

  4. A C Osborn says:

    They failed their “Mission” at the first hurdle. “To deliver against our carbon commitments, while providing reliable and secure supply at minimum cost”
    You cannot do any of those with Green Energy of the Renewable variety, only FF & Nuclear Baseload.
    Every layer they add in terms of backup, control and subsidies just makes their mission even more impossible.
    They need to call in Tom Cruise AKA Ethan Hunt.

  5. Gaznotprom says:

    To take the important phrase from text above, to soften, correctly identified as ‘social engineering’ the public they actually need blackouts (problem), for the people to protest (reaction) and the answer (solution) to be presented and accepted by the general public – demand mgmt that is aka Smart meters with Wifi interfacing with your TV, dishwasher to power them down etc..

    Smart meters will be used also to punish you for using your appliances in the ‘wrong’ time as well and generally scalp you on bills and hope you never notice!

    Certain Govt areas will not have to put up with this though..

  6. David Ellard says:

    If consumers (both private and commercial) are going to change their behaviour w.r.t. electricity consumption, one might assume that this would work by providing financial incentives i.e. charging variable rates for electricity depending on the season, time of day, state of the wind and sun, demand/supply balance in the system etc;

    So that would imply a change in charging from flat rate (per unit electricity consumed) to variable rate, a bit like the difference between being insured against burglary through an annual insurance premium, and paying the full cost as and when one is burgled.

    That implies (i) that consumers KNOW what the current electricity rate is and (ii) that consumers can actually control and optimise their consumption according to these variable rates.

    It implies a wholesale change whereby retail electricity pricing would essentially converge with what is currently (at best) restricted to wholesale pricing.

    So, not impossible conceptually, but who has actually done any thinking as to how/if any of this could be implemented in practice?

    • There won’t be any more thinking done until the people who believe that demand-side management is the solution to a green, renewable energy future quit laboring under two misapprehensions.

      The first is that demand management is something new. It isn’t. Efforts to manage energy demand in the US (and I believe Europe as well) began almost forty years ago, and by now demand management programs in some states have expanded to the point where a lifetime’s research is needed to figure them out. A good example is California. Skim through this link and you will see what I mean:


      But none of these programs have had much of an impact. Demand curves still look much the same as they always did. Human behavior remains unmodified.

      The second misapprehension is that large amounts of intermittent renewables generation won’t make the demand management problem any worse than it presently is. In fact they will make it far worse. A comparatively mild example is the “California Duck Curve”, which shows what California utilities expect to see when the state gets through adding another gazillion megawatts of solar by 2020. They question whether they will be able to handle the doubled ramp rates, but the state doesn’t seem to be paying attention. Maybe Jerry Brown is still banking on demand management as the solution to the problem.

      More details at:

      • David Ellard says:

        Essentially “demand-side management” is trying to solve a problem (intermittency of supply and demand) by wishing it would go away.

        I am reminded of the story of the man who goes to see his doctor and says, “It hurts when I cough,” to which the doctor replies, “Well, don’t cough then.”

      • Willem Post says:


        On sunny days, Bavaria sends its excess solar energy, at distress wholesale prices (after subsidizing it at average legacy costs of about 30 – 40 eurocent/kWh), to France, which merely allows some of the flow of the Rhone River to bypass the hydro turbines, instead of going through it, as Norway does with is hydro plants to help out Denmark make an ever-bigger fool of itself.

        Wind and PV solar energy are weather-dependent, variable and intermittent, i.e., therefore are not steady, high-quality, dispatchable, 24/7/365 energy sources. In New England and Germany:
        – Wind energy is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors), minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons. About 60% of all wind energy is generated at night.
        – PV Solar energy is zero about 65% of the hours of the year, minimal early mornings and late afternoons, minimal much of the winter, and near-zero with snow and ice on the panels. CSP with 10 hours of storage provides steady, high-quality, dispatachable, 24/7/365 energy.
        – During winter in New England, PV solar energy, on a monthly basis, is as low as 1/4 of what it is during the best month in summer; 1/6 in Germany. On a daily basis, the worst winter day is as low as 1/25 of the best summer day.
        – Often both, wind and PV solar, are simultaneously at near-zero levels during many hours of the year. See URL, click on Renewables. In the Fuel Mix Chart you see the instantaneous wind and PV solar %.
        – Germany has excellent public records for the past 12 years showing the variability and intermittency of wind and PV solar energy.

        That means, in New England, Germany, etc., without adequate and viable energy storage systems, almost ALL other existing generators must be kept in good running order, staffed, fueled, and ready to provide steady, high-quality, dispatachable, 24/7/365 energy. At higher wind energy percentages, a greater capacity of flexible generators would be required to operate at part load, and ramp up and down, which is inefficient (more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh*) to provide energy for peaking, filling-in and balancing the variable PV solar and wind energy.

        * The CO2 reduction effectiveness of wind energy in Ireland, with an island grid, is about 52.6% at 17% annual wind energy on the grid. Peaking, filling-in and balancing of the wind energy is mostly with gas-fired, combined-cycle, gas turbine generators, as it would be in New England, unless adequate capacity HVDC lines to Canada were built to enable Hydro-Quebec to perform this service with near-CO2-free hydro energy.

        • Willem: Are you suggesting that California should send its surplus solar back to Nevada? 😉

          • Willem Post says:


            No, but California is connected to the Bonneville system, which is mostly hydro, and likely does some of the balancing.

            California has a problem with its distribution grids sending excess, irregular, variable, intermittent PV solar energy into high voltage grids.

            California has mandated utilities put in expensive battery storage for DAMPING purposes, which is different from storing now, and using it later in the day, after the sun has gone down and peak demand occurs!

            The round-trip of damping involves at least a 20 to 25 percent energy loss.

            All is explained in this article.


          • Willem: The California energy storage mandate calls for the addition of 1.325GW of “grid storage” capacity by 2020. This is widely regarded as a very large amount of storage (Cleantechnica calls it “huge”), but it actually works out to only about 2.5% of California’s anticipated 2020 peak demand. We can conclude from this that the State of California, like just about every other jurisdiction in the world, doesn’t understand the scale of the storage problem.

            Last year I also spent some time searching the storage mandate legislation trying to find out for how long the storage would be able to deliver 1.325GW (a day, an hour, ten seconds?). I was unable to find any information at all on this question. We can conclude from this that the State of California also doesn’t understand the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour.

          • Willem Post says:

            AES uses batteries from A123 Systems and can deliver 32 MW in 15 minutes (8 MWh). It’s co-located with a wind farm in West Virginia to provide regulation and reserve services.

            The batteries can be discharged to about 50% or less, so it can hold at least 16 MWh.

            AC from the wind turbine plant, to AC to DC inverter, into battery, out of battery, to DC to AC inverter

            That 4-step process looses 20 to 25 percent of the energy in, i.e., 9.6 MWh in x 0.80 = 8 MWh out for 15 minutes, or 32 MWh/h = 32 MW is the delivered power level.

          • Willem Post says:


            The battery capacity would need to be 22.2 MWh x 0.80, loss factor x 0.50 Depth of discharge x 0.90, aging) = 8 MWh.

            Lithium-ion units have a higher depth of discharge, up to 0.80.

            The battery capital cost would be 22.2 x 1000 x $400/kW (Tesla powerpack) = $8.9 million

            The system has to be in an enclosure with an HVAC system.

        • robertok06 says:

          Willem, you mention germany, so I post this here.
          Last issue of Energy Policy, article…

          “The reference forecast of the German energy transition—An outlook on electricity markets”

          The enactment of the Energy Concept by the German Government in 2010 set ambitious targets for the future energy transition in Germany.

          This paper presents the results of the German Energy Reference Forecast with a focus on the electricity sector. It is based on an investment and dispatch model for the European electricity sector over the planning horizon of the ‘Energiewende’ up to 2050, with an emphasis on the time period up to 2030.
          We find that almost all targets of the German ‘Energiewende’ are not reached, for the case in which no further measures are undertaken.
          In particular reductions in GHG emissions fall short to the target value. Contrary to the negative results, e.g., regarding GHG-emissions as well as gross electricity consumption, generation from renewable energy sources will exceed the policy’s target value.

          So, it means that “future measures” (i.e. further juicy “incentives”) are necessary in order to keep alive the oxymoronic Energiewende.

          Please don’t copy it in the UK!

      • Rob says:

        Will Energy matters be doing a piece on Smart grids as it seems the default position of all green groups when arguing against dispatchable power

      • jim brough says:

        The duck curve is a mirror image of the average solar production curve during daylight hours.

        It would be interesting to know how much solar electricity was used to move trains and other vehicles

      • It doesn't add up... says:

        Perhaps not something for every day, but didn’t we have a high ramp rate in Germany during the recent solar eclipse?


    • Euan Mearns says:

      David, the whole “Smart Meter” thing is a scam as far as I can tell. In 1984 you call something the exact opposite of what it actually is. Like “Market Reform” actually means market control or market destruction.

      As far as I can tell all that the so called “Smart Meter” being rolled out will do is to tell you how much power you are using. Big deal! I agree with you entirely that a system with variable tariffs is what we need but will forever be denied. This is something that would actually work to partly solve the problem that Ofgem, DECC, The Government and National Grid have together created.

      I don’t think this sensible system of variable tariff can work in our reformed market. Prices should be low at times of excess supply – right? So we are getting a solar surge on sunny summer days either side of noon – perhaps the time to stick on the dishwasher or the tumble drier? Snag is that excess solar is expensive, not cheap energy. Same with wind. A windy day may provide the opportunity to have that weekly bath ;-), or to bake some bread – right? But that excess wind is also expensive, not cheap. So a system has been created that is anti-market. Capitalism as we knew it is totally busted and our personal freedoms are next in line.

      • Willem Post says:


        Smart meters will be used for coercive purposes, i.e., behavior modification, lifestyle alteration, by varying the c/kWh several times a day, for each day.

        Smart computer programs will be written to maximize revenue and profit, just as the airlines are doing with pricing tied to times of travel.

  7. Rob says:

    After the oil and gas crash we are in the unique position of large amounts of skilled labour on the market who could design and build new power stations since the skillset for process engineering services are easily transferable.

    It makes my blood boil that instead we have people in authority from the DECC OFGEM to the national grid spouting green nonsense about batteries interconnectors and smart grids as they cheerfully close all our remaining power stations.

    • A C Osborn says:

      YOu forgot Diesel Generation, the exact opposite of Green.

    • singletonengineer says:

      The groupthink of the converted!

      Once the basic wishes (demand management, green power, affordable megabatteries and smart metering) are swallowed, the rest simply flows without restraint. The worst, it seems to me, is the term “smart metering”, which promises everything when used by the converted and delivers little or nothing in practice.

      There is little point trying to argue with an innumerate, unthinking Ofgem unless and until they are forced to wake up and question the physical and financial limits of their assumptions.

      This can’t happen until the fairytale-writing wordsmiths are replaced by engineers, accountants, economists and project managers in the corporate policy development processes.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        There is little point trying to argue with an innumerate, unthinking Ofgem unless and until they are forced to wake up and question the physical and financial limits of their assumptions.

        This can’t happen until the fairytale-writing wordsmiths are replaced by engineers, accountants, economists and project managers in the corporate policy development processes.

        So how do we bring this about? Who appointed The Board in the first place?

        • singletonengineer says:

          Hi, Ewan,

          I am writing from Australia. South of me, in Victoria, smart meters have been rolled out to all users, at a cost exceeding $2B, ie say 1B pounds.

          While hypothetically capable of delivering much more, current reports are that most users can’t even see their current usage rate, expressed as kW, or their current spend rate (cents per minute). It is used only as a billing tool and not in any realistic way to manage demand. Along with the meters comes TOU pricing, which is also a predetermined scale of charges, based on daily slices of time and not on actual wholesale energy costs, etc.

          So, the retail customers have been hit with the cost of a million or more metres which they didn’t ask for, can’t use and which do nothing except raise their energy costs.

          How do we replace the decision-makers? I don’t know – start with the camp-following members in the Greens Party? Armed revolt? Public petition but who would present it to government and lead a debate on the floor of the house?

          Thus far, the winners have been only the retail electricity companies (all private) and the meter manufacturers (all private and foreign).

          • Streetcred says:

            I make sure that when local councils mandate the use of ‘smart meters’ in residential development we protect our buyers by making sure that they will not be capable of being manipulated by unscrupulous energy providers and hair-brained greenies.

          • It doesn't add up... says:

            In the UK, smart meters have been used for two purposes: tying in customers to a particular supplier (because other suppliers can’t read the proprietary installed meter remotely), and for disconnecting those who drop behind on their bills without the expense of sending someone out to visit. The elderly who fall ill are at risk here, and it is the computer which will decide they die of hypothermia.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Actually, we can get 2 years of consumption in 1/2 hour intervals from either our retailer or supplier. It’s just that not many people know about it because it hasn’t been well publicized.

            While you don’t get the current instantaneous consumption, the consumption history is useful for seeing seasonal trends and the effect of changes in household behaviour or appliances. And if you put in the effort, it is possible to see which retailer’s pricing model best suits your household.


          • Rob: Thanks for the link.

            According to the Guardian “The UK’s biggest energy lobbying group has shifted its position on green energy and will start campaigning for low-carbon alternatives for the first time, in what environmental campaigners are describing as a watershed moment.”

            I’m not sure this is a position shift. Energy UK has always been green. Here’s a quote from 2010:

            Energy companies are committed to the sustainability agenda. They want to make a positive contribution to our society, economy and environment, and a range of initiatives are underway to reduce the sector’s environmental impact.


            They’ve always been big into smart meters too.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Roger, perhaps the difference is that Energy UK now seem to be actively lobbying for subsidies rather than simply supporting them in principle.

            That they now officially support the government’s phasing out of coal-fired power stations does seem at odds with their January 27th statement by Lawrence Slade that “We certainly need to see significant investment in thermal plant very quickly if we are to avoid a capacity gap in coming years”


            Confused thinking seems to be the rampant in the management of UK energy companies and departments given the recent statements by Energy UK, National Grid, DECC and, of course, Ofgem.

  8. Hugh Sharman says:

    Thanks Roger! You exceeded my expectations by making a silk purse from a very ugly sow’s ear! All the readers’ comments add to a fine critique!

  9. Hugh Sharman says:


    I seem to have been the only comment on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ofgem

    I am sure that both OFGEM and LinkedIn would be more htan happy to see more reader interest from such as you!

    Furthermore, I see their CEO has written a blog piece which I have yet to read!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Done. All members of LinkedIn should go over there and try to engage. We may well start a series of posts here scrutinising Ofgem. I can’t get over the level of competency on show:

      As we decarbonise, simply building more power stations and cables to meet demand when the wind isn’t blowing, or the sun isn’t shining, is neither sustainable nor efficient.

      So this is true and there is only one solution and that is to get rid of the PV and the turbines and return to dispatchable power.

  10. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, do you mean like right now, Zero Solar and 0.6GW (1.27%) of Wind when the requirement is for over 47GW.

  11. gweberbv says:

    Funny guys at OFGEM. In 2014 they wrote: “Electricity interconnectors are the physical links which allow the transfer of electricity across borders. They have potentially significant benefits for consumers: lowering electricity bills by allowing access to cheaper generation, providing more efficient ways to deliver security of supply and supporting the decarbonisation of energy supplies.”
    -> https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/regulation-future-electricity-interconnection-proposal-roll-out-cap-and-floor-regime-near-term-projects
    And last year OFGEM decided to accept interconnector projects that will triple UK interconnector capacity within the next 5 to 7 years.

    Probably team FUTURE NETWORKS is now at bad terms with team SMARTER GRIDS AND GOVERNANCE.

    • And with team KEEP THE LIGHTS ON over at DECC. But I’m sure they’re all dedicated team players. 😉

    • It doesn't add up.. says:

      Interconnectors are a two edged sword, as illustrated here:

      and here:

      Any time the Continent is short of power they may outbid us, and we get the blackout.

      • gweberbv says:

        The idea that UK should be afraid of power shortages on the continent being imported via additional interconnector capacity is just funny. This is like musing about the risk to step on board of Queen Mary II while you are actually cruising through open seas in a rubber raft.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Gunter, your line of argument is the Brits should be content using rubber rafts so that the Germans can come to our rescue at great cost to us if and when they feel like it. What the Brits need is an unsinkable energy ship.

          • sod says:

            Unsinkable energy ship? Like in Japan?

            It is utterly obvious, that the only way towards any kind of “unsinkability” is bigger grids and more interconnections.

            At the same time, regional grids should be developted to form independent cells in the case of a severe disruption. Renewables and local backup will have to form the backbone of such a stable cell.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            It is utterly obvious, that the only way towards any kind of “unsinkability” is bigger grids and more interconnections.

            A very strange thing to say since we have got by for about 80 years without bigger grids and interconnections.

          • gweberbv says:


            I expect that nobody has to rescue noone, as it is not too difficult to provide secure power supply (for a rich industrial country). As you said, this is working since nearly 100 years. However, if one is concerned of possible power shortages then the first thing you should do is to connect to a much bigger grid, which is less likely to face shortages and any kind of shocks than a smaller system.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            However, if one is concerned of possible power shortages then the first thing you should do is to connect to a much bigger grid,

            Gunter, I’m beginning to wonder if you have financial interests in grid. It should be abundantly obvious to everyone that the first thing you should do if confronted by power shortages is to build dispatchable power stations. Better still, don’t close down the perfectly good power stations that you already have. Where is the sense in Scotland importing brown coal power from Germany?

          • gweberbv says:


            what is the problem with using German coal, French nuclear, Norwegian hydro or Icelandic geothermal power when – taking into account the cost of the interconnector – it is cheaper than keeping ageing domestic plants operationable in UK? Italy imports about 15% of its electricity production. Why not? Countries like Switzerland or Denmark have interconnector capacities higher than their peak demand. Are they worried that the rest of Europe will steal their power production?

            Of course, one needs the crucial power plants in operation (and I still do not understand why it is not possible to veto the shutdown of a plant in UK). But what is crucial and what not depends also on the interconnector capacity. If it makes sense for Scotland to be connected to England, it makes also sense for UK to be strongly integrated in the European grid. Less costs, more security.

          • singletonengineer says:

            “Less costs?”

            How can I be sure about that? Less than what? Less than would have been the case if Great Britain had continued its nuclear power program? Any comparison leading to a less/more conclusion relies on an analysis of at least two scenarios, otherwise it is a baseless affirmation. One, the maximum interconnected proposal, presumably is costed against a base case, but what might that be?

            The Danish experience provides an illustration – they have the second highest tariffs in Europe, despite being massively connected to local wind, Swedish nuclear, Norwegian hydro, German lignite, French nuclear and more. How about a proper reference to support the “Less costs” affirmation?

            Yes, I know – I will be accused again of playing the man, or of ad hom attacks. Not so – I simply doubt unsubstantiated affirmations of all kinds.

            Ref: Here is an example of very high electricity costs in Denmark, Germany and Spain, three champions of unreliable electricity sources. https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/average-electricity-prices-kwh.html

          • A C Osborn says:

            There is very little cost to running old plants which have paid for themselves many times over, especially compared to building new ones.
            So do not close any of them unless they can no longer be maintained.
            The problem is the skewed market of Wind/Solar/Biomass having first call and subsidies making the plants uncompetitive to continue running.

          • sod says:

            Sorry, i was busy over the last couple of days, so i did not reply to this.

            It is actually no surprise, that 80 years ago there were no interconnectors, let us say between france and germany or the UK and Germany. But the world has changed a little since then.

            “There is very little cost to running old plants which have paid for themselves many times over, ”

            There are actually huge costs hidden by these old plants. Mostly they cause massive pollution and have a higher risk of blowing up or breaking down. Keeping old plants running is good for the company running them, as they have to pay only small amounts of money to keep them running and totally avoid the risk of huge investments in new plants or technologies. It is a pretty bad thing, and the japanese found out about this in Fukushima!

            The interconnectors will drive down prices in a market system. That is really economics 101. Many countries have been fighting against them, as the economical perspective from a state point of view might still be a little different (local power sources produce local work and local taxes). But in the world today, the fight against inetrconnectors will be utterly futile, because it gives access to incredibly cheap electricity and countries denying to participate will be in huge trouble soon. .

          • Greg Kaan says:

            sod, earlier your wrote “It is utterly obvious, that the only way towards any kind of ‘unsinkability’ is bigger grids and more interconnections.”

            followed by “regional grids should be developed to form independent cells in the case of a severe disruption.”

            And now you state “the fight against interconnectors will be utterly futile, because it gives access to incredibly cheap electricity”

            The question I have is who pays for the high capacity interconnectors that backbone your vision? These are neither trivial to construct nor cheap nor free of environmental and communal impacts. Just look at the situation in Germany where the northern and southern grids are basically independent and a plan for a high capacity interconnection has been stalled for years due to the factors I have mentioned. Yet you blithely talk about them being inevitable across all major european grids plus you seem regard them as being cost free and permanently available once constructed. In reality, high capacity interconnectors have large maintenance costs and require periodic shutdown for this (just as wind turbines do in the real world,- a cost factor ignored by nearly all “renewables” proponents).

            And if they are all you make them to be, why the need for the independent cells within the regional grids? To make the much ballyhoo’d self regulating “microgrids” (the common term used for your independent cells) requires either redundant generators, sitting around unused or else storage capability that does not currently exist.

            You are very generous in your vision – with other people’s money.

          • sod says:

            “The question I have is who pays for the high capacity interconnectors that backbone your vision? ”

            These will save money, not cost money. Just by chance there is a article on this subject out today:


            Storage and interconnectors and demand management. That is exactly what we are davocating for!

            “To make the much ballyhoo’d self regulating “microgrids” (the common term used for your independent cells) requires either redundant generators, sitting around unused or else storage capability that does not currently exist.”

            Those generators are already there. There are plenty of backup generators everywhere. We are talking about stabilising micro grids in case of a serious catatstrophe arrack on the grid. and such stable cells would of course make it much eassier to bring a grid back.

          • gweberbv says:


            the base scenario is business as usual (increasing installations of wind and solar, at the same time reluctance to invest into dispatchable conventional power plants), but without increasing interconnector capacity. Guess what the costs for Denmark would look like without/with signidicantly reduced capability to export and import electricity. Much higher than now, right? Same does/will apply for UK.

  12. The people running DECC have no competence when it comes to engineering. I suspect it is the same with the people running Ofgem.

  13. Dave Ward says:

    “A heat pump may sound good at 4 units of heat for every 1 of electricity, but 2.5 is nearer “real world” performance. They are expensive (the most efficient very much so) and cost no less than a modern gas boiler to run – always worth remembering that electricity is 3 times the price of gas”

    Why has little seemingly been done in the way of domestic CHP? If householders are expected to spend several £thousands on “Green” equipment, surely this would be a better solution. The existing gas network already incorporates storage (although nowhere near as much as it should), and it’s accepted that lots of the energy it delivers simply goes to waste. Why not make better use of it at the consumers end? The electricity generated will help the creaking grid infrastructure, and the by product of heat saves burning gas solely for that purpose. You could also take the view that any surplus electricity produced by CHP would be helping the grid supply householders with heat pumps. During summer when heating is not much needed all those solar panels will be generating at times that Aircon, fridges and freezers need the most power.

    As for Smart Meters, the only way I will consider one (short of legal compulsion) is if the supplier gave very substantial reductions in “off peak” charges, such that a battery storage system became economically viable. This would, at least, largely solve the security issues raised about electricity usage indicating when the property is being occupied, and when it’s not.

    • Willem Post says:


      Adding CHP to an energy hog house is like decorating a garbage scow with a flag.

      First one has to make buildings very energy efficient; it is expensive, but can be done. Here is an example of a 25-y old house in Vermont, USA.

      I recently, added 4 inches of blueboard, R-20, on the OUTSIDE of my north wall.

      Removed all the clapboards and trim
      Taped and sealed all the seams of the sheathing (1/4″ plywood), and the window nailing flanges Used 6″ screws and 1 x 3 strapping to attach the blueboard to the house
      Taped all the seams of the blueboard
      Installed PVC trim; never needs painting
      Installed composite clapboards; never needs staining

      Do I expect to get my money back during my remaining years?

      Heck no, but it showed a young carpenter what can be done, and next year we will do the east wall.

      • gweberbv says:


        for a very energy efficient building that consists up to maybe 4 flats, you will hardly find a good reason to invest a lot of money in the heating system. Just buy a mediocre air-water heat pump for round about 4000 bugs and be happy.
        Such a building cannot contribute much to demand management because it has very low demand in the first place.

        • Willem Post says:


          The UK should have enforced building codes requiring “zero-energy” and preferably “energy-surplus” construction for ALL NEW buildings to ensure building energy requirements are minimal. Such “energy-sipping” buildings would be energy efficient, Passivhaus-standard or better. Such buildings, with the addition of PV solar, and ground- or air source heating and cooling systems, could easily become “energy-surplus” buildings.

          New residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and governmental buildings would produce most of their own energy by having PV solar systems on their roofs or parking lots, and ground- or air source heat pump systems to offset building energy requirements, power electric heat pumps, and charge electric cars. The piping for the ground source heat pump systems could be under the parking lots.

          The energy efficiency measures, plus the distributed generation by buildings would significantly reduce generation by large central plants connected to high voltage grids, and would reduce overall US energy requirements and fossil fuel CO2 emissions. See Part II at the end of the article.


          • Leo Smith says:

            ” …and when Sir Henry broke a fast, you cursed double glazing…”

            energy sipping houses are all very well, but there is a level of ventilation required which defines how good you can get, even with heat recovery ventilation.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Willem, I went down the Gas Central Heating plus Double Glazing route over 40 years ago and the Wall Insulation plus UPVC Cladding route 20+ years ago, it had nothing to do with CO2 and everything to do with common sense in terms of efficiency and reduced maintenance.

            The ironic thing is the UK government ruined the gas central industry in the name of Climate Change many years ago with the introduction of Combi Boilers.
            My original simple boiler lasted 23 years and only required one spare part (a sensor) in all that time. The boiler eventually had to be replaced due to obsolesence as spares were no longer stocked.
            It was replaced with a mid priced (£2000 with fitting) government compulsory combi boiler which would supposedly save CO2 and Gas usage and hence money.
            Which is an absolute joke, the Boiler production must have a much higher Carbon Footprint than the original with all it’s extra pumps and controls, which all have a tendency to go wrong.
            It was never much cheaper to run gas usage wise than the original and due to 3 very expensive parts failures in 7 years cost a further £1000 (carbon footprint of the repairs anyone).
            I then had to replace it with an upper price boiler in the hope of a longer service life, which at least is guaranteed for 7 years, still no where near enough to get back my investment of £2500 with fitting, note the fitting is the most expensive part of boilers.
            So the boiler makers and fitters/maintainers are doing very nicely thankyou, while the poor public customers pay an absolute fortune to save a few pounds a year in gas.

            That is the reality of Government Climate Change economics for you.

            The combi boiler route was not the best one to go down, it should have been well insulated Solar Heated water (including the central heating water), that a simple gas boiler then heats further when required.

          • It doesn't add up... says:

            The UK should have enforced building codes requiring “zero-energy” and preferably “energy-surplus” construction for ALL NEW buildings to ensure building energy requirements are minimal.

            I see no logicfor enforcing uneconomic investments (particularly where the real all-inclusive global effects on emissions are limited at best). However, we were under zero carbon building regulations. The alternative was a fine per dwelling of £30,000, or offset investment.



            The present government understands this is folly when they’re trying o encourage builders to build more homes – a £30,000 per home tax on newbuilds is not what the doctor ordered.

          • guber says:

            Double glazing – And I thought triple glazing is Standard today (double was modern 70-200 years ago) – different countries, different habits, as it seems.

          • Jonathan Madden says:

            I wholly concur, AC Osborn, with your boiler story. My thinking too for many years, except that I have never replaced my old faithful cast iron block boiler. It now has 35 years on the clock and still runs as smoothly as it did when new. And the repair inventory? One thermopile, one mechanical timer clock, one thermostat and a diverter valve. Total cost, as I repaired it myself, less than £100. Efficiency is about 70%, but I get some extra from the boiler warming the airing cupboard.

            Two surprising things: the pump has been running faultlessly for about 12 hours per day since 1981. Secondly, I cleaned the primary circuit and radiators with Phosphoric acid about 30 years ago, which seems to have have the effect of pickling the steel/iron. I have had no build up of black oxide since then. A lot of Hydrogen gas was produced on filling with acid, which was exciting while it lasted!

          • A C Osborn says:

            Jonathan, well done in keeping it running yourself, I should never have listened to the guy I got to service it.
            My pump was 23 years old and running really well, it was an oversize “major” (forget the first name) and bigger than the system required so never had to work hard.
            Stay with it as long as you can, the Combies heat the rads a bit quicker as they don’t have to heat the tank in the Airing cupboard like the old one and obviously it works like Geyser for hot water.
            But apart from that they do not have the savings to pay for themselves, unless you can fit one yourself and then it might.

    • It doesn't add up... says:

      CHP is economic when there is a 24×7 demand for low grade heat. It works very well in association with a paper making plant, where such a demand exists, and reasonably well where winters are long and cold. It is not well suited to more intermittent demand patterns.

      • guber says:

        At least then you need a huge heat storage which only makes sense in big centralised plants, then the systrem can operate as peaker plant. Works in markets where peaker plants are payed well.

  14. Leo Smith says:

    Mein Gott. Their political idealism is only surpassed by their technical ignorance.

    • Willem Post says:

      Their political idealism does not just surpass, but is at least 10 times their technical ignorance.

  15. It doesn't add up... says:

    Point of information:

    OFGEM does NOT regulate in the interests of consumers – its obligations are defined by Ed Miliband’s 2010 Energy Act, as set out here:


    These give primacy to green interests, which are defined as being in consumer interest.

  16. climanrecon says:

    Somehow a large industry has been created from nothing, from a marketing trick that “clean”, “green”, “sustainable” etc is not only desirable (YES) but is also essential (NO) and achievable (NOT WITHOUT STORAGE). There are so many articles in the media about this “energy transition” that many people have come to believe that it exists, when in reality it does not.

    The reality is that without energy storage the notion of an “energy transition” is just a marketing slogan with no substance. There HAS TO BE (and just about still is) a network of conventional (dispactable) power stations, capable of meeting peak demand . Bolted on to that is an ever growing network of renewables, at ever growing cost but with very little real value. Solar and wind in the UK can never displace more than a GW or two of dispactable power, no matter how much they expand, simply because peak demand occurs at times which are always dark, and are often very calm.

    Nobody is going to put money into new gas-fired power stations on the basis of £ per MWh, because nobody knows how many MWh will be allowed to be produced by future govts. The only solution I can see is for the govt to pay UP-FRONT for new gas-fired power stations to be built, with separate contracts for maintenance and electricity production. Can anyone see an alternative solution to the problem of getting new plants built?

    • Rob says:

      Totally agree with you, the UK has become a global leader in the new bullshit green economy. Googling ‘storage’ or ‘smart grids’ and you can see the industrial output of articles from green groups all claiming we are just on the verge of a green revolution usually involving batteries.

      But to answer your question the way we can build new gas turbines is to simply be honest about the cost of power stations with reduced market share.

      I would guess this would be similar to OCGT at £180 per MWh

    • It doesn't add up... says:

      The best way to do it is to end subsidies to greenergy. However, to ensure that there is no backsliding, we probably have to endure some blackouts so the folly of current policy is evident.

      • A very simple solution to the problem would be to allow wind & solar producers to deliver as much power as they can generate to the grid – provided it’s delivered as dispatchable and not non-dispatchable power.

        • A C Osborn says:

          That does not solve the problem of the corruption of what should be a free market.
          New Generation will never be built unless they can get the same subsidies, when there should not be any at all.

  17. How likely is it that consumers will change. Not very (at least in a significant way) I would say. Parot of my reading of the UKERC report Transforming the UK Energy System Public Values Attitudes and Acceptability Synthesis Report, is below. Reading the introductory blurb and the report, i wondered if the two were written by different groups. The intro was far, far too positive.

    What is mentioned but not highlighted enough is that people place the burden of change on governments and not they’re on personal actions. Because the feel that they themselves cannot do much (P14), they do not have to (P19).
    Yet the report claims in its executive summary that the people are equally concerned with both demand and supply. The former is mostly person actions and the latter is mostly governmental actions so go figure.

    When asked about driving less and using less air flights, deep resistance was met (P15). Person responsibility in giving up leisure flights was resisted but business flights were the ones to be reduced. So even though the report says that 81% of respondents want to reduce their energy use, it is clear that very few actually will. This is a key point but is glossed over by the positive 81% figure.

    Further with regard to electrification of cars and heating, generally only half the respondents would use these services and this only increases if the ability of these services to be cheaper than gas (heating P14), and increase performance against petrol (P15) could be achieved. In other words as is commented many times in excerpts from the people, compromise seems to be very short on the ground. Etc.

    The problem with many of these reports is they highlight perception rather than action. For example I am against child labor. Yet I have done nothing to ensure the products I am using are not coming from such sources. So even though I have a concern, I will do nothing about it. What this report here highlights again is that people are ‘concerned’ but show a clear indication to inaction over this concern.

    One other point; It says that the public is fully able to discuss energy issues. I have my doubts and I think further education is required. For example a majority of respondents did not know what carbon capture was. A further majority supported offshore wind farms versus onshore despite they being 3 times more expensive.

    • gweberbv says:

      Supporting offshore wind is a no brainer. Once you have a significant amount of onshore wind, adding more onshore wind mainly leads to more production when you already have decent amounts of wind power in the grid. But offshore wind often allows for a much more stable production even when onshore wind is weak.
      See here: https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm
      Set the month to January 2016 and display only “solar, wind”. The relatively stable blue production curve is offshore wind from the North Sea. Compare this to the heavily fluctuating onshore wind production (in green).

      • singletonengineer says:

        So “Supporting offshore wind is a no-brainer”.

        The true no-brainer is the person who recommends a tripling of cost per unit because a blue line on a graph is a bit flatter and less wiggly.

        I’m not specifically anti-wind or even anti-offshore-wind. I am decidedly against committing expenditure for uncosted dreams which lack rigorous costings.

        Gweberbv might like to back up his assertion with comparative costings for all available energy options, of which there are plenty floating around the intertubes. He might choose to do his own. Either way, a “stable blue production curve” derived from a single month’s German data is no way to make decisions for Great Britain’s energy future.

        • gweberbv says:


          that offshore wind production is much more stable than onshore wind is well known. I doubt that decision makers in UK have to look at German data to verfiy that. The sole purpose why you want to go dozens of miles into the sea for building a wind farm is the much higher capacity factor/production stability compared to (allmost all) onshore locations.
          What is nice about the German data is the fact, that it is accessable for Jow Sixpack. Just have a look to January 2015 -> http://www.directupload.net/file/d/4282/iorg34rv_jpg.htm and January 2016 -> http://www.directupload.net/file/d/4282/fq7aqf8l_jpg.htm
          Note that the German offshore wind farms still suffer from severe problems with the new power lines connecting them to the onshore grid -> http://www.statkraft.de/Kunden-und-Handel/Market-Transparency–Integrity/Ad-hoc-messages-Europe/ (BARD 1 is one of the bigger German offshore wind farms)
          Thus, the physical production is even better than what you see in the production data that counts only the electricity that was feed into the German grid. At some point the connection problems will be solved, making the contribution of offshore wind even more superior compared to onshore wind.

          Bottom line: IF one is determined to have wind power has one of the main pillars of electricity supply, THEN one needs to rely on offshore wind farms to a large extend. With the more pronounced fluctuations of onshore wind you will soon reach a ceiling for the penetration (unless you consider unrealistic options like installing capacities many times above peak demand and/or building huge interconnectors across the whole continent and/or dozens of TWhs of storage devices). With offshore wind there is of course also a ceiling, but it will be significantly above the one for onshore wind.

          • singletonengineer says:

            @ gweberbv, March 3, 2016 at 9:53 pm.

            IF you decide that wind power is supreme, and IF you don’t care about trifles such as cost, and IF you are blind to facts and deaf to objections, and IF you don’t have to pay for transmission system upgrades, and IF you have preferential access to markets, and IF you receive subsidies, THEN perhaps you are a spruiker for so-called renewables.

            HOWEVER, that does not mean that the decision to support either offshore or onshore wind power is rational, economic or sustainable. Given that it must be backed up by one of coal, lignite or gas powered generation, THEN it probably isn’t sane either.

          • gubelu says:

            @singletonengineer – what about some substancial contribution istead of ad hominem attacks?

          • A C Osborn says:

            gubelu, what about some facts refuting what was said instead of attacking singletonengineer.

            I guess you haven’t read all the energy related posts on this forum.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        If you double-click the “Wind offshore Tennet” label to only show that generation, the “relatively stable blue production curve” looks like a roller coaster for most of the month.

        Admittedly, there is a reasonably stable looking block near the start of the month but if you choose week 5 to zoom in to this period and focus on the “Wind offshore Tennet” again, you will see some large variations hidden by the time scale compression.

        It would be nice if the site allowed a day to be displayed to show shorter variations.

        Or are you referring to the miniscule output from the “Wind offshore 50Hz” source?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        This may be true in the fantasy green world. But in the real world having off shore wind makes no difference at all during regional lulls.


        • gweberbv says:


          the fact that you will have times with zero production is important, of course. But for daily business it is even more important how often and how much wind production is changing.
          If you have a source that does not only report total wind production, but also exclusively offshore production for various European countries, I would be delighted be informed about it. Based on the German data, I would expect that offshore wind throughout Europe should show significantly less pronounced ‘zig-zac’ patterns than onshore wind. Which would be a good thing.

          • singletonengineer says:

            @gweberbv, March 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm:

            Thanks for mentioning the transmission lines from German offshore wind. I have heard that because they are still non-existent, each offshore turbine has been equipped with a diesel generator to keep the oil stirred and the batteries topped up.

            That would be hilarious if not for the fact that it demonstrates the huge scale of waste..

            The “cheap” wind power was too expensive to allow for transmission grid expansion in their budget, so that was left for other do design, to fund and to construct.

            German offshore wind is not a success story, it is an expensive shambles.

          • gubelu says:

            There was one wind park without power line connection which had one central 150kVA Diesel for the whole 108 MW or so Wind park to do this job by temporary switching on the Diesel for some time. Compare this with a coal power plant on standby without grid connection (It would use a much bigger Diesel in permanent operation). Just for your information, to get closer to the facts.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Why on earth would a coal generation plant be built without a transmission link to the grid? The point singletonengineer is making is the stupid waste brought about by the subsidies for “renewable” generation capacity which has led to a wind park being built with no means to deliver any power generated to where it can be used.

            That a single diesel generator is being used to maintain the turbines in this wind park rather than individual diesel generators per turbine is like celebrating that you have broken your little finger rather than your thumb. singletonengineer only mentioned the diesels (ok, diesel as you have pointed out) to emphasize how ridiculous the situation is that these stranded wind turbines can’t even generated the power they need for their own maintenance as a sour cherry on a very bad cake.

      • @ gweberbv

        And pray what has that got to do with the amount of energy people use? Euan was hard on Ofgem as they were saying that attitudes would change and it was not up for debate. However the UKERC study, once you get into the meat of it, provides a drastically different story with a much better dataset.

  18. Grant says:

    The OFGEM graphic with a lot of batteries is, er, interesting. Are they assuming battery technology will miraculously improve in the next decade?

    The King Island project was covered as an aside to the El Hierro project a few weeks back.

    There is some interesting in formation tucked away on the KI web site.

    For example:


    This is the new (i.e. second attempt) battery system installed to provide some cover for loss of output when try to run at 100% renewable – no diesel.

    “On King Island, Hydro Tasmania have installed an electrochemical battery system, capable of 3 MW of power contribution and storing 1.6 MWh of useable energy. This battery is the largest ever installed in Australia.

    The size of the battery will increase the amount of time the network can operate on 100 per cent renewable energy.

    When conditions such as high winds allow, the battery can store excess wind energy for later use. To put this into perspective the energy stored in the battery will be sufficient to power the island for approximately 45 minutes.”

    So that’s 45mins for an Island with a population of about 1500 iirc.

    Then there is the Project Update from December 2013


    It mentions the successful installation of the new battery system (The old one being replaced after 10 years) , the installation of the Flywheel DUPS and the decision not to add 2 additional wind turbines.

    “Wind farm expansion

    The closure of the abattoir on King Island in August 2012 reduced energy demand on King Island by around one-third. This significant drop in demand means that the two additional wind turbines that were planned cannot be justified at present, so this part of KIREIP won’t be progressed in the short term.”

    That suggests to me that, when planned, the new battery installation would have provided about 30 minutes of stored backup – maybe less. I wonder what would happen to demand if it were to be made known that there were likely to be outages? Would everyone boil kettles or have showers before the power went off?

    No wonder they want people to accept the Smart Meter concept.

  19. singletonengineer says:

    King Island succinctly demonstrates the need for electricity supply to be reliable and available. It also demonstrates that these two requirements are not able to be met by wind alone, or even by wind + batteries.

    Further, it is an example of a large, expensive battery bank which failed within 10 years and needed complete replacement.

    It demonstrates that the initial simple diesel system, though augmented by complex and professionally designed wind and batteries, is still needed in order to achieve reliability and availability targets. The initial simple system has been made more capital-intensive and complex yet still delivers the same outcome. The only saving has been reduced use of diesel – and this is being achieved, within limits, through use of biofuel.

    To serve a 3MW load, the installation is now 100% diesel plus 100% wind plus 100% battery. Is that, or is it not, a good outcome?

    Issue 1: Diesels
    King Island retained their diesels, which now use a blend of up to 20% biodiesel. Thus, they have close to 100% diesel backup for their “100% renewables” system, which is mentioned as having achieved non-diesel operation for 125 hours (5 days). Thanks to the reliability and availability of diesels, blackouts would be very infrequent.

    Issue 2: Recharging time for batteries.
    If the batteries hold a usable 30 minutes of average consumption, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to recharge in a similar time period.

    After using the batteries, the wind needs to generate sufficient energy to:
    (a) meet the demand – whatever that might be,
    (b) then direct surplus energy, about 2 to 2.5 MWh, to recharge the batteries.

    It would not be surprising if, during light wind conditions, recharging of batteries took days, not hours.

    What is the availability factor of the batteries, in practice?

    Issue 3:
    From the above, it seems to me that prudent King Islanders will have private generators that can be connected to their refrigeration, etc.

    • Singleton: Thanks for the info on King Island.

      I’ve wanted to write a post on King Island for some time but to do so I need some grid data. I’ve emailed Hydro Tasmania (Simon Gamble) asking them if they have any but haven’t received a response. You wouldn’t by any chance be a shareholder in Hydro Tasmania, or know someone who is? 😉

      You mention that King Island is now up to 125 hours of non-diesel operation. Do you have a link for this?

      Another interesting piece of information:

      Hydro Tasmania provides electricity services on the Bass Strait islands under a Community Service Obligation (CSO), funded by State Treasury. The State Government provides a CSO at a sufficient level to subsidise the energy rate for Bass Strait island customers; and provide a safeguard for customers from rising diesel fuel costs. The cost of the CSO in 2013/14 was $9.2 million.

      Which spread over a population of 2,620 works out to $3,511 per person. Not exactly cheap energy.


      • singletonengineer says:

        Hi, Roger. Grant provided two links to Hydro Tasmania’s site. The first included a reference to 125 hours of continuous non-diesel running.

        No matter where I look, I seem to find articles about wind and solar and batteries that are over-egged. I conclude that even the strongest apologist for Unreliables cannot produce reliable statistics for even a single unsubsidised success story. Has the world ever before embarked on such a well-funded folly as it is presently doing with Unreliables?

        If Wind+Batteries on King Island still needs 100% diesel backup and hasn’t even managed a straight week although sited in the face of the famed Roaring Fourties, what chance does the rest of the world have? When will real solutions to the world’s need for decarbonised energy gain favour?

        • The second link is the one:


          It says: The KIREIP team is excited to report that since July we have been able to run your power station on renewable energy alone (no diesel) for 125 hours (equal to five days) using the existing wind turbines and our advanced enabling technology. This achievement saves lots of diesel and reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and it is the first time this has been achieved on this scale anywhere in the world,

          What’s the catch? The hours weren’t consecutive. If they had been they would certainly have said so. They were just adding up the hours (or minutes) between August and December 2013 during which renewables had supplied 100% of demand. Expressed relative to the total number of hours in the period (3,672 with December included and 2,928 with December excluded) this works out to between 3 and 4% of the time.

        • sod says:

          “No matter where I look, I seem to find articles about wind and solar and batteries that are over-egged. I conclude that even the strongest apologist for Unreliables cannot produce reliable statistics for even a single unsubsidised success story.”

          Wow. This is really a extreme demand! So you want 100% renewables 100% of the time without any kind of subsidy?

          The lack of progress you are seeing seems actually like a moving goal post to me.

          Since the latest el hierro data, we know that a pretty big island grid can run on wind and wind alone. for extended periods of time. This is a point, that many people would have disputed just a short time ago!

          And look at King Island:

          “In August and October, renewable energy accounted for more than half of the total energy supplied. This was a significant increase from before the installation of the D-UPS equipment, when renewable energy averaged 35 per cent of the supply.”


          The data shows, that the system can run on 50+% renewables in the long run. That is just anopther point, that people would have disputed not so long ago.

          And the system is saving diesel in this process (this is also a point being disputed, “sceptics” claiming that ramping up/down of fossile plants in high wind penetration system would basically end up with same amounts of fossil fuels being used (or even more). El Hierro shows, that this is a lie (the diesel use is more stable than without the wind!)!

          • Greg Kaan says:

            El Hierro’s lack of ramping of their diesel generators has been achieved at massive capital cost. 80+ million euros is a huge infrastructure cost for the savings that have been achieved so far and even for what is conceivable over time.

            The same objection applies to KIREIP. The costs are harder to total up since the plans have been changed and infrastructure introduced (and replaced) at different times but 46 million australian dollars has been mentioned in some documents which, for a community of around 2000, is not close to being cost effective for the resulting savings in diesel fuel.

          • sod says:

            “El Hierro’s lack of ramping of their diesel generators has been achieved at massive capital cost. 80+ million euros is a huge infrastructure cost for the savings that have been achieved so far and even for what is conceivable over time.”

            The numbers keep getting bigger. El Hierro and KIREIP are experimental set ups. Their price is basically irrelevant. Future similar systems will be much more efficient at a much smaller price.

            The diesel fuel saved over the project lifetime is huge.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            “El Hierro and KIREIP are experimental set ups. Their price is basically irrelevant.”

            I’m sorry sod but I don’t see where these systems are providing information that will lead to large improvements in capital costs. Wind turbine development will continue to be driven by the large wind farms on continental projects, not these small projects and the same applies to battery storage developments.

            What is being developed is operational expertise which may increase efficiency to some degree but at massive cost.

            The diesel fuel used by these island grids is large over time but the cost is spread out over the period of consumption. The very large upfront costs of El Hierro and KIREIP means other projects that their governing bodies require are starved of funding, driving up their costs due to borrowing or else delaying or preventing them from proceeding at all.

          • singletonengineer says:

            Sod, I said nothing of the kind.

            Not 100% renewables, not 100% of the time. Either you chose not to read carefully or you choose to adopt a straw man approach.

            What I did challenge you and others to do is to find a single example where, unsubsidised, wind power or solar power (either PV or thermal) has a demonstrated positive net return. I am generously offering to consider any percentage of non-hydro renewables and any percentage of the time.

            The actual words were: “…even the strongest apologist for Unreliables cannot produce reliable statistics for even a single unsubsidised success story.”

            To refute this, please provide a reference to one single documented such installation of any size, anywhere.

            Need I say “commercial”?

            Can you do this little thing for us here, or are you admitting that the unreliables have never been worth the money that they cost anywhere on the globe?

          • sod says:

            “Can you do this little thing for us here, or are you admitting that the unreliables have never been worth the money that they cost anywhere on the globe?”

            I am not sure, what i am supposed to show. There is a solar powered calculator on my desk, which i bought over 20 years ago. (obviously a commercial success for me and the company).
            There are plenty of other off-grid solutions, which obviously make commercial sense (they would not be used, if they would not). It is also obvious that in many places solar PV makes commercial sense for personal use.

            But if we restrict your question to “commercial success of selling solar or wind to the grid at a bigger scale”, the answer is not that easy.

            We are currently seeing many auctions being won by unsubsidised solar and wind in multiple parts of the world.



            Whether these projects will be a commercial success will only become clear in the years to come.

            The question is also difficult for several reasons:

            1. people in the business will not proclaim that they are successful without subsidies, if they could still get them (a company making such basic errors would most likely not be commercially successful at all!)

            2. Solar and wind are competing with existing fossil electricity sources and with companies that have stocked plenty of money. even in the places where commercial success should be easy, the problem is subsidies on diesel and kerosene.


  20. singletonengineer says:

    Thank you for your response, sod.

    I was aware of the Spanish situation – after a break from solar and wind expansion they have tentatively re-entered the game with a small contract for unsubsidised renewables. As you stated, “commercial success will only become clear in years to come.” This is true for new anything, including nuclear.

    Chile’s situation appears to be somewhat different. The winning bid prices into the grid appear to be similar to those applying in China, ie approximately 7 cents per kWh US into the grid.

    Time will tell and I am always an optomist, but is there time to continue to turn away from nuclear power on the basis that solar and wind are still being developed; that they will soon be able to achieve the hoped-for results? Probably there is not and that in the interim, decisions need to be made based upon the demonstrated performers. Otherwise we will most certainly fail.

    My question remains unanswered. It is, to find a single commercial example where, unsubsidised, wind power or solar power (either PV or thermal) has a demonstrated positive net return. And, yes, I did say commercial in my post above.

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