Gridwatch UK January 2015

This is the second in the series chronicling the electricity generation statistics for the UK. December 2014 is here. Wind had a good month and blew consistently strongly for much of the time. But for a four day period 19th to 22nd January we had an Arctic anticyclone, cold weather and the wind hardly blew at all. Combined cycle gas turbines provided most of the load balancing service throughout the month and the back up power during the 4 day wind lull.

According to Clean Technica, wind produced 4.13 TWh in January. This compares with my calculation of 2.95 TWh from BM reports / Gridwatch. This difference in metering continues to be a problem.

Figure 1 Nuclear, coal, gas and wind power provided 90% of UK electricity in January. CCGTs and to a lesser extent coal provided most of the load balancing service. Click on charts for a large version that will open in a new browser window.

Figure 2 This chart shows clearly how CCGTs stepped into the breach during the 4 day wind lull. Coal and nuclear, I presume, were already producing at maximum load.

Figure 3 The production share in January 2015 is virtually identical to December 2014.

Figure 4 Total generation was 28.5 TWh up from 27.4 TWh in December.

Figure 5 This table plots the maximum and minimum generation and timing. Summing maximum gives a handle on the total generation possible in the UK that stands at 65.8 MW, comfortably in excess of peak demand that was 53.5 GW at 17:30 on 19  Jan. Deducting wind from the total leaves 59.1 GW, still comfortably above peak demand from dispatchable sources. The peak generation from nuclear, ccgt and pumped hydro storage were all associated with the 4 day wind lull. Note that wind dropped to a mere 188 MW at 14:00 on 19th January.

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12 Responses to Gridwatch UK January 2015

  1. Nial says:

    Euan, following the links on the Clean Technica site the source of their figures… “includes National Grid estimates for embedded wind (turbines feeding into local networks) “.

    So it’s model output and probably balearics.

    This also puts into question the WWF Scotland claim “Minimum output was on 19 January, when generation was an estimated 8,371MWh, enough to supply 688,931 homes – equivalent to 28% of all Scottish households.”—new-data-published

    Again model outputs.

    The latest figures from my local solar ‘farm’ show this winter output is lining up to be as bad as last winter….

    • Euan Mearns says:

      For the whole UK I get 19 GWh wind for 19th January. WWF are saying 8.4 GWh for Scotland – seems about right.

      • Nial says:

        Fair enough, the Gridwatch graphs didn’t look that productive.

        The output over the last week has been particularly ropey though (especially the last day or two [10th/11th Feb]).

  2. Leo Smith says:

    A couple of days ago we were exporting to France for a short while.

    Germany very low on exports that day and very cold weather in France.

    I dont think we are quite maxing out on coal, but the stations have limited running hours available, and the govmint has to declare an emergency to allow them to breach it I think.

    Overall the weather has been pretty mild and Europe has escaped again by a whisker.

    But there is no doubt that European margins are very tight. And wind power and solar power are as much use a s a chocolate teapot in terms of emergency peak capacity.

  3. Willem Post says:


    “I still think the only mid-termsolution (50 years) is nuclear”

    That mid-term solution was derailed by the expensive RE fantasy, due to nuclear fear-mongering of the past 25 years.

    Had normal build outs of nuclear plants continued, far more low-cost, near-CO2-free, steady (not intermittent, not variable), 24/7/365, energy than the measly, expensive RE results of the past 25 years.

    Here are some data from this article for the 2002 – 2013 period, 12 years:

    Worldwide Energy Generation:

    As a result of gross world product, GWP, growth, world energy generation increased from 16,174 TWh in 2002 to 23,127 TWh in 2013, an increase of 43.0% in 12 years, about 3.0%/yr over 12 years. Analysis of the data shows:

    – Near CO2-free, nuclear energy decreased from 16.5% in 2002 to 10.8% in 2013
    – Fossil increased from 65.0% to 67.3%

    – Hydro decreased from 16.7% to 16.4%
    – RE increased from 1.6% to 5.3%

    Worldwide RE Investments and RE Generation: The below, recently issued report presents an overview of worldwide renewable energy (RE) investments from 2002 to 2013.

    As a result of RE build-out investments of about $1,700 billion from 2002 to 2013 (excluding mostly “socialized” investments for grid adequacy, capacity adequacy, etc., of about $400 billion not mentioned in the report), worldwide RE generation increased from 1.6% to 5.3%, a 3.8% addition, of which:

    – Wind increased from 0.3% to 2.7%
    – Biomass from 0.9% to 1.8%

    – Solar (PV + CSP) from 0.0% to 0.5%

    – Geo from 0.3% to 0.3%

    – Marine from 0% to 0%

    Thus, the total generation (excluding nuclear) of Hydro + RE increased from 16.7 + 1.6 = 18.3% in 2002 to 16.4 + 5.3 = 21.7% in 2013. The 3.8% addition of worldwide RE generation required investments of 1.7 + 0.4 = $2.1 TRILLION from 2002 to 2013. The report data shows, the 12 – year trend of RE investments to reduce fossil energy generation and replace it with renewable energy generation would take many decades.

    Worldwide CO2 Emission Reduction due to RE investments:

    The $2.1 trillion of non-hydro RE investments over 12 years produced 1,234 TWh of electricity in 2013, about 3.8% of total energy generation. The addition of RE to the grid primarily displaces oil, gas and coal energy. If we assume all of the displaced energy in 2013 had CO2 emissions of about 0.7 kg/kWh, or 0.7 mmt/TWh, then, in 2013, the CO2 emission reduction would have been 0.7 x 1234 mmt, or 0.7 x 100 x 1234/36100 = 2.39%.

    The 2.39% significantly overstates because: 1) biomass, while claimed to be CO2-neutral, is in fact not so; 2) gas energy has CO2 emissions of about 0.55 kg/kWh; 3) balancing generating plants are operated less efficiently, i.e., emit more CO2/kWh; 4) the RE build-outs had embedded CO2 emissions; 5) most of the RE build-outs have short, less than 25 year useful service lives and need to be partially replaced causing additional embedded CO2 emissions.

    NOTE: The increase of world CO2 emissions of 706 mmt in 2013 occurred despite the (overstated) reduction of 0.7 x 1234 = 864 mmt due to RE in 2013.

  4. Owen says:

    Is it possible to do a similar study on parasitic power on the UK system :

    • Nial says:

      Owen, that’s interesting reading.

      As well as orienting the nacelles big windmills need to keep the blades spinning to stop the blades or shaft from warping.

      I believe large ships face this same problem so have to constantly slowly spin their propellers when tied up in port.

    • Jamie says:

      That is not a good piece of analysis at all. With all of the intricacies of variabilities in demand, weather etc you simply can’t compare year to year. And then to claim that it’s down to wind turbine parasitic load is a pretty astonishing leap of the imagination.

      • Owen says:

        Jamie, change in temps was not the cause, any other ideas ?

        Windmills were spotted moving and using electricity on that day but we do know that none produced any power for long periods.

      • Graeme No.3 says:


        There are known (and admitted) cases where wind farms were using power rather than generating it. Horns Rev1 is perhaps the best known.

        I would agree that the drain on an ANNUAL basis is less than the output, but there is definitely some. Wind turbines spend approx. 30% of the time idle, and since they are basically 2 heavy weight on each end of a shaft, the probability of sagging is real. (Steam turbines in power stations are ALWAYS kept rotating when in service even if only 3 rpm. During maintenance the shafts are supported at intervals along their length).

        As to your other comment, I agree that wind output varies from year to year. Off the top of my head between 21.3 and 26.5% capacity factor (annual) for on-shore turbines i the UK.

  5. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, I was going to report on this yesterday as it is where I live, but I couldn’t find the original aerticle on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

    “The company wants a “strike price” of £168 per megawatt hour, compared with the £92.50 offered to EDF for Hinkley Point.”

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