UK Blackout Risk – Amber Warning

In recent months, three companies have announced closure of 4 large coal-fired power stations in the UK representing a total loss of 6.671 GW base load capacity*. Combined with closure of 1 nuclear station and the pending closure of two CCGTs, total capacity loss in 2016 will amount to 8.726 GW. If there was a blackout risk this winter, then things will obviously be much worse next winter.

In effect traditional generators are throwing in the towel confronted with a neo-Marxist system of production quotas, targets, subsidies, levies and regulation that places their superior technology at an impossible disadvantage to inferior wind and solar power, both of which are useless in averting a blackout risk when it is highest during a calm winter evening. UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, needs to re-discover her Tory credentials and sort this situation out.

[* Note that this is a fluid situation with other announcements made since I wrote these words]

The last time I visited this topic was in October 2015 and at that time I saw little risk of UK blackouts this winter. The lights have thus far stayed on! But in the five months since, a lot has changed. The main variable is on-going closure of legacy base load power stations. But I have also learned a bit more about system operation and how the statistics should be interpreted. Mainly I have learned that power stations located in Northern Ireland should not be counted in UK generating statistics since National Grid does not include Northern Ireland in UK demand figures. And plant availability is never 100% and needs to be de-rated by approximately 15% to represent the real world of fires, boiler leaks and vibrations that are common place in the world of electricity generation and maintenance schedules.

UK Blackout Risk

An electricity grid is almost like a living organism. It is live all the time and it needs to be fed and maintained properly, all the time, in order to be live. A blackout is like the grid suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Those responsible for the grid, should therefore have as their absolute top priority to put measures in place to ensure that avoidable blackouts never occur. The sanctions for not doing so should be severe.

It is worth while explaining once again when the UK blackout risk is most acute. UK electricity demand follows three superimposed cycles. The daily cycle sees demand peak around 6 pm every day. The weekly cycle sees demand higher Monday to Friday than at the weekend. And the annual cycle sees higher demand in winter – November through February. Hence, the blackout risk is highest at around 6 pm on a weekday in winter.

Figure 1 UK blackout risk is at its highest in winter, on a weekday near 6 pm when it is cold and calm. The data shown are from 2009. Peak demand has now fallen close to 52 GW a result of embedded renewables being metered as negative demand; demand reduction due to recession, de-industrialisation and high price; and successful policy in improving energy efficiency.

Superimposed on this are annual fluctuations in weather. If it is mild in winter, electricity demand is lower and vice versa. With 13.5 GW of installed wind capacity, wind turbines provide the UK with a substantial hedge against blackouts for so long as the wind is blowing. The risk lies when an Arctic high pressure is centred on the North Sea bringing severe cold and calm conditions to NW Europe. Under these conditions, wind power falls effectively to zero and demand is high because of the cold.

These conditions have not occurred this winter (thus far) but most certainly will in the next few years. And the UK power system is no longer fit to survive these circumstances without power interruptions.

Solar does nothing to avert blackout risk during the UK winter. Winter time solar production is negligible and always zero at 18:00 since the Sun has already set.

Figure 2 The lower right panel shows how solar provides virtually no contribution to UK electricity supply November to February and a daily chart would show zero contribution at 6 pm when demand is highest and the Sun has set. Graphic from UK Grid Graphed.

In summary, during cold, calm and dark conditions in November to February wind and solar do nothing to mitigate the blackout risk in the UK. In fact, investing in and placing reliance upon these renewable technologies has created the blackout risk.

Capacities and Capacity Changes

In my post last October I compared the installed capacities for 2015 with 2004. I now add the projected capacities for 2016 to these lists. Coal is most affected by capacity reduction but there are also closures of nuclear and CCGT (gas) generators. The tables below are based on Table dukes5_10 which is a list of operational UK power stations provided by DECC.

In Summary

Coal plant closures

  • Eggborough 1960 MW – perhaps reprieved with capacity reserve contract
  • Ferrybridge C 980 MW – 50% of Ferrybridge was destroyed by fire a few years ago
  • Fiddler’s Ferry 1961 MW – 25% will maybe remain with capacity reserve contract
  • Drax 3870 MW – 50% to remain as coal, 50% converted to biomass
  • Longannet 2260 MW
  • Lynemouth 420 MW – already closed, converting to biomass

Nuclear closures

  • Wylfa 490 MW

CCGT closures

  • Killingholme A 665 MW
  • Killingholme B 900 MW

Total closures = 11571 MW partially offset by capacity reserves and conversions to biomass.


Figure 3 Click all graphics to get a large readable version. The table charts the closure of UK nuclear power stations. The most recent being Wylfa at the end of last year. Wylfa was the last of UK Magnox power stations, originally rated at 980 MW, this was a large unit. It is pertinent to ask how much it would cost to build Wylfa today.


Figure 4 Kilroot in Northern Ireland is now excluded from the UK list. Closure of Eggborough was announced but may now be mitigated by giving the plant a “capacity contract” paid for by the consumer. Ferrybridge C (already de-rated by 50% owing to a fire) and Longannet (that has become a political football) are scheduled to close. Lynemouth is already closed but scheduled to re-open as a biomass plant. 50% of Drax coal is already closed and converted to biomass, accounted for in Figure 6. 75% of Fiddler’s Ferry will close with 25% maybe transferring to a capacity contract (Figure 7). The remaining coal stations have all opted in to the European Large Power Plant directive and have scrubbers in place. Since making this table, it has been announced that Rugeley will close. It appears to me that coal generators, essential for keeping the grid alive, are bidding for subsidies which seems to be the order of the day under this limp Tory regime.


Figure 5 Ballylumford and Coolkeragh in Northern Ireland are now excluded from this list. Rye House has opted for a capacity contract (Figure 7). Peterhead has kept a refurbished 430 MW in operation and has transferred 750 MW to capacity reserve. Centrica has announced that its Killingholme A and B power plants will close.


Figure 6 Biomass capacity has received an enormous boost with 50% of Drax converting from coal to N American sawdust and hedge clippings. Lynemouth is in the process of converting. I will predict that this biomass experiment falls flat on its face within a few years once N American environmental groups awaken to the risks.

Capacity reserve

Figure 7 The capacity “market” is a new invention of the “market” reform where companies get paid to maintain plant, and presumably a workforce for doing nothing most of the time until they are needed, maybe once or twice every couple of years? This is paid for by you.


These capacities and changes are summarised below. Between 2004 and 2015 the dispatchable capacity loss was just 3.1 GW. Nuclear and coal closures were being compensated by expansion of CCGTs – the dash for gas. But the projected fall of 8.7 GW in 2016 is potentially catastrophic for grid integrity as explained below.

Figure 8 The loss of 8.7 GW of dispatchable capacity in the UK in 2016 is significant and should be setting alarm bells ringing in Whitehall. Some of the lost coal capacity is transferred to biomass and capacity reserve. When you have an energy policy designed to eliminate fossil fuel based electricity production that is the lifeblood of the UK economy, one should not be surprised that this policy runs out of control.

De-rating of Capacities

Peak winter demand in the UK is of the order 52 GW. With 67.4 GW dispatchable capacity in 2015 I could not understand why there was a perceived blackout risk. I  have since learned that this is because all plant is not available all of the time at nameplate capacity. For example, 1.74 GW of hydro are booked in the summary chart above while in reality UK hydro rarely produces more than 1.1 GW which presumably reflects availability of water and resource management.

I have de-rated capacities based mainly on observations made from the UK Grid Graphed resource that is based on Gridwatch. This allows one to observe the production peaks for the various sources and to compare this with the installed capacities. Brief descriptions of de-rating are given below.

Nuclear: The UK has 8 nuclear power stations comprising 16 reactors. It is rare for all 16 reactors to be operational and for example, at time of writing, 2 are off line. Check out the EDF status link in the right margin. The most I have seen offline at once was 5. In recent past availability has varied from 87.5 to 68.8%. I have de-rated nuclear to 85% of nameplate installed.

Coal: In 2015 the UK had 20.1 GW of installed coal capacity, but inspection of the UK Grid Graphed charts shows that actual production never got above 18 GW. Coal is also de-rated to 85% of nameplate installed.

CCGT: In 2015 the UK had 28.8 GW of CCGT capacity but never produced more than 22 GW. CCGT is also de-rated by 85%.

Biomass: Towards the end of 2015, there was 2.8 GW of biomass capacity that owing to the merit order runs as base load 24/7 (see December’s grid graphed charts). In October and November plateau output was as high as 2.4 GW suggesting once again plant availability of 85%.

Hydro: With 1.74 GW of installed capacity, hydro production never got above 1.1 GW this past winter despite all the storms. Hydro capacity is de-rated to 1.1 GW.

Pumped storage: With installed capacity of 2.5 GW, pumped storage did not deliver more than 2 GW in 2015 and capacity is derated to that amount.

Capacity reserve: The capacity reserve of 2 GW is derated to 85% although one needs to wonder if this plant, that will rarely be used, will function at all when needed.

Inter connectors: The UK has 4 GW inter connector links. 3 GW with Europe and 1 GW with the island of Ireland. These have allowed 3.5 GW of imports in recent months which is the de-rated capacity allocated to imports. [text added 14:40 on 11th February].

The de-rated capacities are summarised below where we see that there may be insufficient capacity to meet peak demand on a windless winter evening. There is a fair amount of uncertainty here. For one, a winter anti-cyclone over Europe may result in little to no wind power everywhere leading to blackout risk across the continent. In these circumstances it is not obvious that the UK will be able to import the 3.5 GW allocated to the interconnectors. Furthermore, small wind farms are embedded by National Grid into the demand figures. We have not had nationwide low wind this winter since October. Hence wind in the recent past has helped suppress the apparent demand and during windless conditions peak demand may rise by another one to two GW. In short, National Grid, DECC and the Government are now playing with fire and we need to declare an Amber warning for the UK.

Figure 9 The projected capacities for the UK in 2016 shown in Figure 8 are de-rated by on average 15% in this chart to reflect the likely plant availabilities. It illustrates the clear potential for a capacity shortfall next winter that may be better or worse than illustrated here.

Amber Warning

Amber Rudd was appointed UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in May 2015. Her career before politics reads like this:

Graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in history, Amber worked in investment banking in the City of London and New York, before moving into venture capital.

I think it is safe to assume she doesn’t know the difference between a MW and KJ and will be around 100% reliant upon policy advice from DECC. We also need to assume that she is a true blue Tory, caught in a Green Marxist energy trap.

The trap was sprung by the enactment of the 2008 Climate Change Act. And I don’t really see any way forward until that act is repealed. The Tories need to understand the Act is founded on Green Marxist ideology and once that simple concept is grasped then gaining support to repeal it should be straightforward.

If this sounds a bit strong then consider this. We have wind producers getting paid for not producing power when it’s not needed. We have a system for paying consumers to not consume electricity when they want to but none is available (Demand Side Balancing Reserve) . We have a system for fining (punishing) FTSE listed companies for making business decisions in a mire of government made Green crap, and those fines will be paid by hard pressed customers and share holders that are normally pensioners. Electricity market reform is a euphemism for market abolition.

Figure 10 The benefits of UK energy policy to UK citizens are negative. The benefits to the citizens of the world are all but invisible.

I could write at great length on the scale of ineptitude bound up in the current system of “market” control but will refrain for now in favour of concluding with this simple graph that shows the UK contribution to global emissions and in dark red at the very top right emissions reduction since 2006, the year UK CO2 emissions peaked.

And so my warning to Amber is this. Blackouts, which look likely to occur, will occur on your watch. Halt this madness and endless tinkering, the cost of which is always borne by the hard-pressed consumer. But time is of the essence. Allow this most recent tranche of coal fired station closures to go ahead, and you will lose the means to stay afloat. They do not need to be rescued. They just need to be allowed to generate electricity in a free but lightly regulated market.



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150 Responses to UK Blackout Risk – Amber Warning

  1. Peter Lang says:

    You’ll be OK. The sun will shine all through the winter and PV will power GB, no worries!

  2. GeoffM says:

    And they’re saying that due to global warming the UK is going to get stormier and have more rain/floods; meanwhile they’re saying that solar is a good idea.

  3. robertok06 says:

    please check the vertical scale of your fig.2… can’t be TWh…

  4. David Richardson says:

    What could possibly go wrong?? I think DECC believe in fairies and are stocking up on powdered Unicorn horn. Well they are definitely snorting something.

    • Mike Parr says:

      Nope, DECC have, for a very long time (25 years++) believed in nuclear. However, the government is looking for a nuclear solution that keeps any gov’ cost close to zero. Relying on foreign companies (EdF/) is now coming home to roost given that the French nuclear unions have asked the main EdF board “if Hinkley is such a good investment why arn’t the English investing”. Lots of other fossil and non-fossil tech could have been supported by DECC (CHP for example) – but support was, at best half hearted. Myself & my business partners deal with DECC and Ofgem on a regular basis – so the above is most certainly not speculation.

  5. hfrik says:

    Well, to be a interesting article, the extremely valuing words in the beginning should be skipped.
    The interchange to other states is missing in the calculation, which eases capacity situation in all states. The arctic high pressure area is neither wind free nor covering whole europe. It might be useful to delay some closures till more import/export links to UK are online.
    And add a recent graph for worlds CO2 emissions – it has ben falling in 2015. China had big savings. Other states too. that’s why 195 out of 195 states signed the treaty in Paris.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The interchange to other states is missing in the calculation

      WRONG – the imports and exports to the UK are included via the inter-connector capacity that I have in there as 3.5GW when in fact it could be zero

      The arctic high pressure area is neither wind free nor covering whole europe.

      WRONG – this is a subject I have looked into exhaustively

      The Wind In Spain Blows….

      If global emissions have fallen in 2015, then its likely due to onset of another global recession. The only question then will be if it is the adoption of Marxist economic policies that is the cause.

      You need to think long and hard before posting another comment here. I don’t have time to deal with your BS and if its not accurate and reasonable you’ll go to comment moderation.

      • garethbeer says:

        Soviet style rationing and with soviet style control, 5 year plan anyone, some will love this clearly…

      • hfrik says:

        Sorry, your “article” about spain does include a few countries in Europe, but by far far now whole europe. I guess you took the worst case you could find and already in those few coutrys you get the smoothening effect. the smoothening effect becomes bigger the more areas the grid connects. Here: you can see the statistical effects if you extend the area, calculated on 2 years of weather data of whole europe. Wind only no photovoltaics, Biomass or hydropower. You should never forget that continental Europe has a combined Hydropower of 250GW Turbine capacity and a usable Storage capacity of 150.000GWh to fill gaps. OK, the interconnectors I missed, since they were not mentioned in the text so clear. But the conclusion for me would still be to keep some power stations in cold reserve untill more interconnectors go online.
        Always remeber – everybody promised blackouts in germany after closing down a set of nuclear stations in 2011. But it were the french who wer grasping for each single Watt in Februar 2012, whein it were clear sunny nad very cold winterdays. they accepted very happily serveral GW solar Power from germany and several GW of Wind too when their reliable nuclear could by far not scale up to demand. Two more GW for example cam from the norwegian Hydropower via Danmark, germany, nethrerlands and belgium to france, the botelneck were the interconectors between danmark and germany (which are under construction for some more GW capacity). more GW came from other directions. Balancing nearly 110GW damand with around 55GW available nuclear capacity was quite tough for the french then. It’s always a good idea to have a strong, really big grid.

        • hfrik,

          Sometimes it pays to stop focusing on the details, step back and look at the big picture:

          Germany Can’t Bear €24 Billion-a-Year Green Costs, Minister Says

          Germany must reduce the cost of its switch from atomic energy toward renewables to protect growth, Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

          German companies and consumers shoulder as much as 24 billion euros a year for renewables because of subsidy payments, Gabriel told an energy conference in Berlin.

          “I don’t know any other economy that can bear this burden,” Gabriel said today. “We have to make sure that we connect the energy switch to economic success, or at least not endanger it.” Germany must focus on the cheapest clean-energy sources as well as efficient fossil-fuel-fired plants to stop spiraling power prices, he said.

          Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the top priority of her third-term government, which took office last month, reforming clean-energy aid after rising wind and solar costs helped send consumer bills soaring. Germans pay more for power than residents of any European Union nation except Denmark.

          While renewable aid costs are at the “limit” of what the economy can bear, Germany will keep pushing wind and solar power, the most cost-effective renewable sources, Gabriel said. Biomass energy is too expensive and its cost structure hasn’t improved, he said.

          Germany is demonstrating the real world cost of trying to reduce emissions with only renewables; $25 billion a year, according to Germany’s economics ministry. $25 billion a year would pay for 34 AP1000 reactors over ten years. Add those to existing reactors and they could supply about 80% of Germany’s electricity by 2025.

          • hfrik says:

            Well, if I look at the cost of Hinklea point each kWh would cost _more_ than each additional kWh from wind or solar in germany for now on – and payment in germany runs just for 20 years, not 35, and does not include a compensation for inflation rates.
            pushing Wind and solar to the costs per kWh we have now did cost a lot of money. Developing nuclear the alst 50 years did cost a similar amout of money. Spendings or renewables will not rise any more the next years on the spending side, but might rise due to sinking electricity market prices. The sum of electricity market price and EEG costs in germany is about constant since 2008, so overall costs for electricity usesrs did not rise much from this side 8it did rise due to other factors) Electricity costs for large industrial consumers fell significant from 2008 till today.

            There are enough forcasts how costs will develop for the next years. There will be a small rise in the next year, mostly balanced by the billion Euros on the EEG account. in 2020 the first big block of renewable generation falls off the EEG support, and will sell directly on the electricity market (yes, earnings there are still well above the costs to keep these system operational ->maintenance, management) from that on costs will remain about constant, and then get a sharp drop till 2030 whan the expensive PV falls out of support, same as the rise was from 2006 to 2010. (January 2011).

            A alternative scenario with conventioal generation comes to same or higher costs, since generation becomes old in germany too (not as old as in UK) so generation needs to we built new again. which would need to the wholesale electricity price to rise to a level wher eit covers the costs (capital, fuel, operation) of new conventional generation. Which is at or above the level which you get by the sum of wholesalem market price and EEG today. So either way you go supplying a country of the size of germany with electric power is expensive.

        • robertok06 says:

          “But it were the french who wer grasping for each single Watt in Februar 2012, whein it were clear sunny nad very cold winterdays. they accepted very happily serveral GW solar ”

          No way, there was no German PV helping whatsoever. France imported coal and lignite electricity from Germany… because that was the biggest source.
          If things had gone the way you say they did, it would mean that Germany sold to the French at 150 Euro/MWh electricity that cost to the Germans 320 Euro/MWh.
          In addition, if Germany doesn’t use its PV electricity, because as you say it is exported, then it is even worse, because that means that you export CO2-free electricity and keep on using the one made burning coal and lignite…at 10-30 deaths/TWh.

          The day that you green guys will learn what logic is and what elementary math is, it will be possible to discuss with you.

          Have a happy continuation of trolling.

          • robertok06 says:

            …. forgot to mention that the record consumption of Feb 7th 2012 took place at 19:00 hours… question to our new german green troll: “how much electricity do all PV panels installed in Germany produce at 19:00 of such a winter day”?

            C’mon hfrik, answer.

          • hfrik says:

            The world is not that simple. Electrons at the german border are not sorted weather they come from CO2 free or CO2 producing generation. So it is nonsense to argument this way. But it is clear that every Watt germany expoert has to be generated in germany, too. This also accounts for the peak GW which were generated by german, swiss austrian and french pumped storage at 19:00 at this day. So the energy needed to come from some source for this task. Nearly 10 GW wind ans solar at noon and another 7 GW of other renewable generation made this task a lot more easy, and at 19:00 there were 7 GW of wind in the german grid, although it was a high pressure area.
            But topic were the interconnectors. Pelease explain how france could have come along in this situation with nuclear and no interconnectors, and what would have been the comparative costs.
            I am sure interconnectors which give acces to the reserves of many countries which do not need these reserves at this time are much much cheaper. France erelies on german and other reserves for many years now, and always could get the needed supplies. Without their grid connections in all directions this would not work.

          • robertok06 says:


            “The world is not that simple. Electrons at the german border are not sorted weather they come from CO2 free or CO2 producing generation.”

            Of course they don’t, the problem with your invented story (or aybe you took it from some GreenPiss leaflet?) is that on Feb7th 2012, the skyes of Germany were almost completely covered by clouds… Ijust checked that on a web site that stores images of Europe every hour.

            So, to summarise… nice try my friend with the story of the intermittent German PV coming to the rescue of 63 GW of baseload French nuclear at 7:00 pm… but your silly story is maybe good for some other non-habens blog, not here on this… we have a good sense of smell for green trolls here.

            Have a nice day.

          • hfrik says:

            Hmm – the one who gets insulting is usually considered to troll.
            If you’d take a closer look, you’d find out that mayor power lines to france run from south germany, some directly, som via swizerland (and a few meter austria in some cases). And that almost all pumped hydropower of germany is located in south germany, and that mayor pumped hydro in austria is connected to south german grid and get pump power from there (Illwerke etc.) and that swizerland also gets pump power either from south germany or france. And that the transfer capacity from germannorth to south is limitet (today less than in 2012). So there are limitations which cause that the spare capacitys in german north can not transfer all their power to france. Wich made german grid managers very happy to have the solar power which is located in the south of germany at hand for pumpng. More at the 6.2. than at the 7.2. when more wind came in. But the grid situation in france was similar in 6.2. and 7.2. Look at the prices EDF was willing to pay in some contracts.

          • robertok06 says:


            I understand that you are not able to answer my simple question: how much electricity has been produced by the 28 GWp (or whatever they were in 2012) of PV in Germany during the day that YOU have mentioned, Feb 7th 2012?

            This excellent web site shows the production of the 25 GWp that were installed in Germany at that time:


            … the peak power production was 4.5 GW… the day before 10.6, the day after 7 GW.

            This other website allows you to look at the cloud coverage on those days:

   (click on “history/archived images”)

            Coming to your moving target question …

            “Look at the prices EDF was willing to pay in some contracts.”

            … and so what?… France that day has beaten the record of power demand, slightly above 100 GW, at 19:00…so I find it normal, and I’m quite happy that they did it without a single glitch!… how about that had they been forced to use intermittent renewables?

            German households pay every kWh generated by German PV an average of 30cEUro… EVERY kWh!…not just when the meteo is bad!… what are you talking about???

            … by the way, I live in France,and my house at the time was heated 100% usinge electricity, same for hot water…

            Hfrik: the more you dig into this the more you find that the way France has dealt in the past with the generation of electricity has been a marvel of technology and strategic geo-political decisions, all things that we dearly miss these days in this continent raped by greenwash thinking.
            What you are proposing is a fast ticket to medieval ages… no, thanks!


          • hfrik says:

            Well I’ll do a laost effort answering. I already told you the PV production in germany this day from Agorameter. Nice your cross check with SMA came to about the same number although they are based on different data sources.
            It does not matter how much germany “pays” for historical PV contracts. The 30ct/kWh were the development costs which result in the worldwide availability of quite cheap photovoltaic power,. just that different from nuclear power this money did not come from 50 state budgets or so, but from 2 or 3 states from the (small) users of electrc power. These aree sunk costs to get the worldwide market running. As well as the three digit number of bilions germany spend in various ways on the development in nuclear power, where most industrialised countriss invested similar numbers in the development, some more, some less. The main difference is, that for solar and wind you can read your contributen by the cent on your energy bill, while dewelopment costs for nuclear are well hidden in the pile of states debts you have to pay for with general taxes., and also as non declared cost allocations on your electricity bills from 1960 till 2000 (in germany)
            New photovoltaic electricity in germany ranges from somewhere below 9ct/kWh up to slightly above 12ct/kwh. for 20 years.
            Important for france was that they could get those last GWh at the time they needed it. The french nuclear fleet was not able to deliver it.
            Most important lesson is: A powerful grid helps you out of most troubles you can have, eventhose you don’t expect. nd although PV-installation is still small, it helped to keep the french grid running. For a full renewable power supply for germany, something like 150-300 GW PV installation are expected for germany (the details remain for the markets to decide) Which would result in a PV Power output at noon at 6th of february somewhere at 67,5GW to 135 GW, and at 7.2. somewhere around 30 to 60 GW.
            Alternatively we could look at the share the first commercial nuclear power stations in the 1960’s could have had on th French consumption in February 2012.

        • hfrik,

          You’re focusing on the details again. German emissions reductions have also gone flat for the last five or six years. You can’t get that carbon back. I used the actual cost to build the latest AP 1000 reactors almost completed here in the states.

          • hfrik says:

            where are AP1000 Reactors nearly completet in the US? Would be interesting to know. Or you mean Vogtle?
            About german CO2 emissions -yes it could look bigger. If you dig a bit deeper, you see that improvement of buildings is far behind shedule, and traffic is producing more CO2 instead of less, also due to rising trans european traffic in some part.
            In the power area there are two major effects to be considered: about 10 GW of nuclear have been shut down and compensated by renewables. and in paralel export of electricity was risint to nearly 10% of german power consumption, rising the german CO2 emissions, and loweiring it in the neighboring countries. Still CO2 emissions by electric power production is falling.
            It is unlikely that Exports of electricity from germany will rise towards 100TWh per year, and decomissioning of nuclear will come to an end in 2023. So the reduction of CO2 emissions from the german power market will rise the next year. About the traffic sector somthing has to be done. As it happens I’m working on a project wich could take care about this in some years. Buildings most likely will need some push from the taxation side. Gas and Oil for heating receive too much preference in taxation so far in Germany.

          • sod says:

            I agree with hfrik, you have to consider the export surplus, if you want to analyse the german “pause” in CO2 output.


            The problem is the low carbon price, as it might actually happen, that cheap german coal is pushing out CO2 friendlier gas in neighbour countries.

          • @biodiversivist

            German emissions from the grid have been largely flat since 1999. Back then emissions were in the 321-310 mark. In 2014, they were in the 317-301 mark.

   (revolution being sarcastic)

            Several facets of the energiewende have been a great success in reducing CO2 emissions. They have cost little and gotten results. However most of the money has gone on green tech on the grid. No results.

            Further not only that but the wholesale price has plummeted due to massive over-supply. This means that traditional power generators cannot make profits easily. So when most of your grid is made from these traditional guys… In fact “newer” techs cannot make money either. It is only after the FiT that they succeed.

          • hfrik says:

            Naturally, when you increase the share of renewable generation, fossil generation is forced out of the amrket. Welcome to capialist economy. The problem, that market prices based on the variable costs of the most expensive power plant (in variable costs) does not ensure the existence of peaker plants and does for sure not pay the costs odf cold reserve plants is the same for fossile generation and rnewable generation.
            It is just maybe more obvious with renewable generation. Imagine a power system in this amrket with a reliable power supply provided by 100% renewable generation with variable costs of zero.
            This would result with the existing market rules that the wholesaleprice for electricity would always be zero. (If demand remais as inflexible as it is today)
            So although those who operate the power producing infrastructure provide the whole society with reliable power, they do not get a cent for this in return. So as it is obvious in this examle, the existing market rules are completely dysfunctional for a market with renewable generation.
            which leads to the surprising insight, that the long inherited market rules for power are not given by god and flawless, but manmade, and need to be adopted when technology changes.
            Finding Market rules which avoid the paradoxon shown above will be one of the mayor tasks for the next years.

          • robertok06 says:


            “Naturally, when you increase the share of renewable generation, fossil generation is forced out of the amrket. Welcome to capialist economy.”

            What??? It is exactly the OPPOSITE of what you claim here!… the renewables have pushed the traditional fossil sources out of the market because of the merit order effect which is in place only because wind and PV have a right to pass in front of all others only because it is the law which dictates this, not market!
            You have the world upside down hfrik!…
            Similar things have happened in other countries too, most notably Spain and Italy, and in both place as soon as the “incentives” have stopped or even only decreased the installation pace of new panels and/or turbines has come to a halt.

            Italy 2011 with “incentives”?… more than 9.5 GWp (first country on the planet)…
            Italy 2015 without “incentives”?… < 300 MWp …

            … and, believe me, it would make much more sense to install PVin Italy rather than in "sunny" Germany… do we agree at least on this or not?

            Try harder.

          • hfrik says:

            @robertokersevan You don’t really understand the basics….
            Renewables are at the base of the merit order a) because of law and b) because of lowest variable costs of all generation. To give a incentive to build them it needs some incentive, because with the variable costs they are not financed, since they nearly only have capital costs from the initial investment.
            And in spain many people would want to build solar, if they would be allowed to use it in their homes, and alo they build wind now without subsidies. Dig a bit deeper before writing.
            @euan Means – please tell that nothing was told. I am continuing on engineering and calculation base. If a function is that If you think that something is wrong go deeper into the numbers. You have a engineering qualification.
            The Headline is “Energy matters”. This is why I discuss here, not because of party colors or predefined opinions. If your arguments a4e so good they should survive some discussion. If you are afraid of my arguments do what you have to, if you cant defend your point of view with words. But don’t complain if the world does not folow your point of view.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Go deeper into the numbers

            Well, there’s one of me and 30 to 100 of you. And you have managed to post 20 comments on a single thread raising the stakes to 600 to 2000 comments that you expect me to respond to whilst also dealing with email and trying to write two posts per week for my blog. So looking at the numbers deeply I conclude that you are a Green moron. I suggest you spend a lot more of your time trying to learn than to teach.

            There was actually one of your comments I wanted to respond to, but hell I was caught in a cross fire of Green diarrhoea and simply didn’t have time to respond to it. And you will never know which of your comments actually had some considerable merit.

            So learn quickly. One or two intelligent comments may get a response if the content merits.

        • GeoffM says:

          Dear hfrik,
          I’m a bit confused by where you get some of your figures from:

          1. You say that Europe has 250 GW of hydro, but say 150 GW. What is the source of your figure?

          2. In the same sentence you say that Europe has 150,000 GWh of storage, or 150 TWh. This is an enormous amount and is very different to what I’ve read. Again, where do you get this figure from?

          3. You say that France had nearly 110 GW of demand. This huge figure surprises me as the record for the UK was something between 55- 65 GW I think. Can you prove your figure?

          • sod says:

            “3. You say that France had nearly 110 GW of demand. This huge figure surprises me as the record for the UK was something between 55- 65 GW I think. Can you prove your figure?”

            That is easy. Here is some older data:


            The difference is electric heating. And the article also explains a method of “demand management”: an SMS will ask people to keep electric heating low.

          • hfrik says:

            Well the answer is very simple: Europe != european community. E.g. norway and swizerland are a integral part ot the european grid, but not part of the european commuity, they have roughly 40GW turbine capacity and nearly 100.000GWh Storage capacity, which they happily sell to their neighbours if they throw in small coins in sufficient numbers. And also they buy happily excess power from their neighbours whenever available and store them by not leting the water run out of their storages (less by pumping) which also improves their energy safety. e.g. norway is importing power the recent months as I have seen. Norway so far had the problem that germany did not allow them to build the connections to the german grid they’d like to have. (which is a big stupidity in my eyes, but i’m afraid germany has no monopol on stupid political dcisions at some points)

          • robertok06 says:


            “”nearly 100.000GWh Storage capacity,”

            Norway does not have that much storage capacity… in your fantasy world maybe… you are confusing big time “capacity” with “potential”.

            The “capacity” you quote is simply the energy-equivalent (and I’d need to check the correct figure, which cannot be exactly 100 TWh”) of the total volume of water behind all dams… in reality, and I can provide ample evidence for this, Norway has almost NO pumped hydro capacity at all!… when the Danes send over to them the excess power generated by their wind farms the Norwegians simply use that power and throttle back their conventional hydro.
            A detailed paper/study by Eurelectric has analysed in detail the POTENTIAL of all hydro over all of EU-29 plus Norway and even included Turkey (which has the biggest potential of them all)… and come to the conclusion that there is no way (excluding Turkey and including Norway) to replace with pumped-hydro the production from conventional thermal sources.
            In addition to that, there is also ample evidence that the Norwegians would have no economic interest whatsoever to transform the landscape of their country in order to become the “energy reservoir” of Europe… simply because the capacity factor of pumped-hydro is way too low to justify it beyond a (very low) maximum level of penetration.

            You need to go back and study a bit more the matter, and then come back and discuss.

          • robertok06 says:


            “The difference is electric heating. And the article also explains a method of “demand management”: an SMS will ask people to keep electric heating low.”

            I live in France since almost 20 years now… and I have never seen such an sms… nor do I know anybody who’s received it.
            French people rightfully exploit the enormous potential of their nuclear power stations. During the peak consumption (which lasted only few days) the 63 GW of nuclear worked day and night at full power… contrary to what would have happened at the beginning of February had they used intermittent renewable sources… I can’t even think about what would have happened.

            No parent in his sane state of mind would swithc off or decrease the heating of the house were he/she and his/her children live while the temperature falls to record lows… hoping that this sort of demand-side management schemes (the sms you mention) could have more than an illusory impact of the real consumption is making a fool of oneself.

            Using electricity generated via emission-free sources (in particular low-cost nuclear) is the most intelligent thing one could do… the alternative I see it in neighbouring Italy, where nuclear has been banned by 2 referenda (but they are the first importer of french/swiss/slovenian nuclear) and when similar cold conditions take place the particulate and other pollution level goes to the roof, and authorities are obliged to force the heating of homes to be reduced… and hospitals’ admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies go up correspondingly.

            Nuclear saves lives, that’s a fact.

          • Stephen Richards says:

            We in France have never needed to take german or anybody else’s green power. Germany dumps excess green energy on it’s neighbours. The euro court recently told them to stop charging exhorbitant sums of money for green power that unbalances their grids.

        • @ hfrik

          Please stop telling lies.

          “The sum of electricity market price and EEG costs in germany is about constant since 2008”

          From a pro energiewende and pro renewable site

          You can also look at the Eurostat website and confirm the case.

          Please stop telling lies. The poor in Germany deserve to know the truth.

          • sod says:

            “@ hfrik

            Please stop telling lies.

            “The sum of electricity market price and EEG costs in germany is about constant since 2008””

            That claim is mostly true and definitely not a lie.

            Your source is talking about household costs for electricety. But hfrik is adding the market cost of electricity to the EEG price. These are two totally different concepts.

            In Germany, the EEG is calculated as a difference between the market price and the fixed price paid to the renewable producer. So EEG can rise because producers get a higher fixed price, but can also rise because market prices are falling.

            If you add the EEG to the market price (instead of to the household electricity bill price, as is done in the real world), you get a sum that compensates for sinking market prices.

            So the funny thing is, it can be true at the same time that “prices are rising” (household prices) and prices are falling (market prices) in Germany. A serious flaw in the way the EEG works.

          • hfrik says:

            donoughshanahan – ferst check your numbers, then start to insult people when ther is a cause.
            Houshold prices wary due to many factors, most of them different fees from the state in Germany (outside EEG).
            To exclude these factors the “energy only” calculation is wholesaleprice +EEG-costs.
            If houshold electricitty prices are too high or too low can be discussed. At the moment in germany to get a power connection at all is very cheap, each kWh if you are a household or a msll company relatively expensive. Idea behind this was to reduce electric power consumption (and also moving power consumption from electricity to gas and oil), since per kWh Oil and gas produced laess CO2 in earlier times.
            Due to the changing mix of generation the question rises more and more if this is a good idea. If you take the targets of Energiewende ernest, this is not a good idea. But changing it will cause some conflict with old greens which have been pushing for this way to price things for long times.

            I do not see it a fault that the EEG costs rise when wholesale market proices fall is a direct coneequence of the fixed price for renewable Energy. The fixed price was and is on the other hand neccesary to make the projects calculatable and to let the investors concentrate on bringing the costs down and the technology reliable instead of predicting wholesale market prices. Which results in the low kWh price for wind and solar in comparison with the average Wind and lower than average solar in germany.

            For energy intensive industry in germany poer ricas did decline a lot in germany since 2008.

          • robertok06 says:


            “Idea behind this was to reduce electric power consumption (and also moving power consumption from electricity to gas and oil), since per kWh Oil and gas produced laess CO2 in earlier times.”

            WOW!… really a wonderful idea!… eliminating in a few years 150 TWh of emission-free electricity (nuclear) and replacing it with (you say) gas and oil?

            Ahahaahah… sorry… if it’s a joke it is a good one!… ahahaah…


        • Willem Post says:


          The ANNUAL average COST of energy generated by the ENERGIEWENDE was about 20 c/kWh in 2013

          It is GRADUALLY coming down, due to PV solar feed-in tariffs being reduced; in 2015, it was about 19 c/kWh.

          When Germany produces excess energy due to too much wind energy and too much solar energy that energy cannot be balanced by Germany’s OTHER generators.

          Germany has to EXPORT that energy. 15-minute records of energy flow across connections to foreign grids show exports and imports.

          SIMULTANEOUS real-time wholesale prices of the export energy shows, it usually is exported at less than 3 – 4.5 c/kWh, sometimes at near-zero prices.

          This article shows all in detail, based on government sources.

      • willem post says:

        The lowest cost and quickest solution out of this mess would be more gas from Russia under long-term contracts and 60% efficient CCGTs (Siemens, GE has them), to produce energy at about 6c/kWh, but instead the UK os opting for expensive wind energy; due to a history major in charge of 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 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 current 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’s Brussels-inspired, energy myopia causes it 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 in the future, as high-cost RE energy is used for owning, operating and maintaining them, i.e., as high-cost RE replaces low-cost fossil energy.

        • gweberbv says:


          your numbers are probably wrong. According to The Telegraph the wind farm is expected to generate revenues of roughly $6 billions over the 15-year long feed-in tariff period. These revenues have to cover EVERYTHING, including maintenance and the profit margin of the owner. Hardly possible when building the wind farm alone would cost already $5.5 billions.

          • gweberbv says:

            Just noticed that The Telegraph was stating the amount of expected subsidy payments, not the total revenues. Hm, then maybe Willem is right with his estimate of capital investment.

          • willem post says:

            I have been collecting capital costs and performance data of onshore and offshore wind turbine plants for the past 10 years, so you may assume the numbers I quote are correct.

  6. garethbeer says:

    Some people honestly believe that Peter, or the same ilk will say just multiply the capacity of wind turbines by 10?

    Slow motion car crash…

  7. gweberbv says:

    Are operators of power plants in UK allowed to simply shut down a plant? If yes, maybe here is some legislative work to do.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      To be honest I don’t know. It has been reported that utility Scottish and Southern Energy will be fined £30 million for closing either Ferry Bridge or Fiddlers Ferry. That’s who I buy my electricity from. They have opted for this route because they estimated losses of £50 million to keep going. But no matter which way you cut this, losses get passed on to consumers and shareholders.

    • Lars says:

      “Are operators of power plants in UK allowed to simply shut down a plant?”

      I was thinking about that too. I know that in Germany (I suppose you are from Germany) the “Bundesnetzagentur” (equivalent of Ogfem in the UK I think) can deny a utility to shut down a power plant it deemes necessary for grid stability. But this isn`t a free lunch either, the utility must be compensated of course, so in effect it is the same as a capacity market.

      • gweberbv says:


        the possibility to veto the shutdown of a power plant that is regarded to be crucial for grid stability is complementary to setting up a capacity market. In the long run a capacity market with proper regulation might lead to lower prices for providing backup plants. But in the short run keeping alive plants that are known to work reliable might be less risky. And it might also disencourage companies that are announcing shutdowns of existing plants just to enter the capacity market the next day (hoping for higher profit margins).

        • Lars says:

          Gweberbv, does Germany have a capacity market? I thought you were still contemplating it. I don`t think you will have both, that sounds unlogical to me, please correct me if I am wrong. If you have a capacity market you won`t order the plant not to shut down and pay it, you will ask it (if deemed necessary) to enter the capacity market instead. Either way someone has to pay for it, whether it`s the German taxpayers through Bundesnetzagentur or through your electricity bill.

          I suppose what you are saying is that having shutdown veto is cheaper for Germany now than setting up a capacity market, and “less risky”?

          • gweberbv says:


            a capacity market is meant to bring/keep those plants in operation that might be necessary to provide peak demand from time to time but have much too low capacity factors to generate a sufficient income on the wholesale market. However, the amount of capacity that needs to be managed via the capacity market is not easy to define. Because if you can make good/predictable money as a player on the capacity market, why not shut down all your plants that are still acting in the traditional wholesale market and move them to the capacity market?
            One needs a very clever regulation scheme for that. And also a trial-and-error phase. Here, the possibility to veto the shutdown of an already existing plant is a very helpful instrument.

            To my knowledge, the German government is experimenting a lot these days. We have a reduction-of-demand market (so far never brought into action), some direct contracts of grid operators with individual power plants for backup services, a (probably completely useless) cold reserve of antiqued lignite plants and so on.

  8. Edward Greisch says:

    Name calling, as in “neo-Marxist” is un-called-for and uncouth. If you used the word “stupid,” that would be truthful.

    The cold tends to bring people to their senses. Perhaps they will wake up and realize that if they want electricity but not CO2 production, the only answer is nuclear. They need to learn that nuclear is actually safer than wind or solar.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Calling someone or some group stupid would come into category of an “ad hominem” which we try to avoid. My characterisation of the system as Marxist is a characterisation of the system of governance. Many individuals would see that as a compliment, not a slur. My point is that Amber Rudd and are government are supposed to be Conservative, pro-business and most certainly anti-communist.

      The system of governing our electricity industry certainly is not Capitalist. And so, if you don’t think it is neo-Marxist, what would you call it?

      • gweberbv says:


        maybe you could call the electricity market of the future simply ‘regulated’. Like public transport or taxicabs in most places of the world.

        • robertok06 says:



          Magic word, indeed… gives the impression of a good thing… like abiding a law or applying a rational thinking… but the real question about the electricity market in the making is “regulated BY WHAT?”…

          It’s not market (would prefer low-cost coal/lignite and gas wherever it is available), it is not natural resources or the environment or public health (would be nuclear all over the place)…so it is what, guenther?

          Say it, please.

          It starts with “i”and ends with “y”… a total of 8 letters.


  9. David McCrindle says:

    The closure of Killingholme CCGTs seems particularly perverse, unless there is some underlying technical reason for it – though Centrica say that they are closing them because it is uneconomic to continue operating them in the current climate. How DECC expect there to be investment in new gas stations (as their 26 Jan statement says they want) when existing ones are uneconomic to their operators is a mystery to me.

    The question is what can be done about the whole mess (and why DECC don’t seem to realise that there is a problem). Maybe we just need to wait until some large demand management event comes along before anything much will be done. It is not as if they have not been warned about it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      We currently have a system of gross over-capacity for most of the time where two slices of that capacity are given priority to the market – nuclear and renewables. With over-capacity for a lot of the time, this means that those without priority access get a smaller and smaller size of the cake. But at the same time they are asked to provide system balancing services – for free!

      So most / many are losing money and throwing in the towel. The closure of all that coal will create more opportunities for gas, so the situation should improve for the CCGT operators. But probably not enough for them to be running out to build another 20GW.

      And at some point the issue of gas security will raise its head again.

      • gweberbv says:


        keep in mind that from 2019/20 on you will have significantly more interconnector capacity that will provide electricity (most of the time) for lower costs than your domestic gas plants (assuming that gas prices will not decrease further significantly). If you combine this with the increase in wind (and maybe also a little bit of solar) there might be not too much room for the gas plants on the wholesale market.
        You need a scheme to keep them alive anyways.

        • robertok06 says:

          “that from 2019/20 on you will have significantly more interconnector capacity that will provide electricity (most of the time) for lower costs than your domestic gas plants (assuming that gas prices will not decrease further significantly). ”

          Now way!… this is simply impossible, market-wise and also from the physical point of view.

          • gweberbv says:


            the interconnectors are being built right now or at least have already been granted financial support within the floor and cap scheme:
            If investors are shielded from losses by the floor benchmark, there will be absolutely no problem to find the money to finance the interconnectors.
            Don’t you expected them to being used once they are available?

            See here:
            As prices in UK seem to be significantly higher than on the continent, most of the time the interconnectors transport power to UK near their capacity limit. If you are now going to nearly triple the capacity within 10 years, the fleet of power plants in UK either needs to match the prices on the continent or is driven out of business.

          • sod says:

            “Now way!… this is simply impossible, market-wise and also from the physical point of view.”

            Onshore wind and new PV solar already can get cheaper than all other sources. and This will get even worse over time.

            Countries can not just ignore this, as there will be huge pressure from other countries and their population to also get access to the cheap electricity.

            The Hinkley plant and its price fixed for the far future will turn out to be a horrible idea.

  10. Roger Andrews says:

    Eaun: You bring up the question of sanctions. But who are we going to sanction when the lights go out? It can’t be Nat Grid, they don’t make energy policy, and the government can hardly sanction itself. Besides, it’s all the fault of the previous government anyway, Seems to me the only recourse is to throw the rascals out at the next election, but that of course doesn’t solve the problem.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Rogre, the Tories have been in government now for almost 6 years. Part of the coalition deal was clearly to let the Lib Dems have the Energy brief – an easy mistake for them to make. And in their last manifesto they were soft on a continuation of energy policy, I suspect because they never expected to win a majority.

      But now they have the power to reverse things. I struggled writing the concluding section of this post. An email from Doug Brodie planted ideas of “The Kings new Clothes” and “Madness of Crowds” in my head. Both of which I believe are applicable.

      While their may be a temptation to blame DECC, OFGEM or National Grid, they are all simply obeying their masters and delivering policy. And so there is no doubt in my mind that the responsibility lies with Amber Rudd and the government. Its simply not possible to fix the mess for so long as energy policy is dictated by CO2 reduction and RE instalment targets. Rudd needs to simply look at the ludicrous system that now exists of subsidies, levies, targets, fines etc and ask the simple question – “is this how a Tory led capitalist government should govern?”

      • hfrik says:

        Euan, the question goes much deeper and is much more complex than you think. First question is: is a free energy only maktet able to provide a save electric power supply?
        Many market mechanisms which usually cause a market to stay in balance like storing, speculation over time, trading without capacity limits, etc. are not working with a non storable product like electricity. (Sorry, I am comming from Neoliberalism Freiburg school, so I love Markets, but there are poits where markets alone have severe difficulties to solve the problems, although they can solve most problems especially with any storable product like goods, money etc.) E.g. there is doubt in economic science if a power only market can supply peaker plants with enough money so they will be built. They are in area where it cah neither be prooven that they will get enough money. but also it can not be prooven that they wiill not. It is yet sure they will not get a lot of money. So when risk versus earning comes into play al a investor would calculate it, theere is very likly not enough incentive to build any peaker plant for the last peaks. For cold reserve it is even worse.
        So energy only markets without any other regulation have a strong tendency towards rolling blackouts under the condition of peak demand. I guess this is not your target.
        On the other hand I have sttrong doubts that UK politics is doing the best here, but as non UK citicen I will ot criticise it unless asked for. Ia slo miss a lot of occasions where an open market would make a better choice than existing fix regulations.

      • confused mike says:

        Two further thoughts on this

        1. Ms Rudd has also announced a policy of shutting down all of the Coal fired power stations by 2025 so the light grey supply block in figure 9 will have disappeared by then.

        2. Demand will not be unchanged – national emissions reductions policy (presently) is to eventually convert gas fired residential central heating to electric and also incentivise fossil fuelled cars to Hybrids/electric. The first will also exaggerate the increase in seasonal demand.

        Typically in business if you see this type of market effect forecast you would do a probability analysis on the extreme effect and, say 25% or 50% of the effect and identify the stepwise solutions in advance.
        I do not see such long term thinking even being considered or developed.

      • Doug Brodie says:

        Hi Euan,
        I have not yet had any reply to my “Open Letter to Mr Pete Wishart, MP”, posted about ten days ago. As you know I was prompted to write it when I heard Mr Wishart say in the House of Commons that our recent bad weather was due in significant part to climate change and that Scotland desperately needs yet more onshore wind power. My letter debunks both claims and shows our vulnerability to electricity blackouts with a snapshot taken at peak demand on 19th February when total UK wind supply was only 0.1GW. I suggest to Mr Wishart that the SNP owes it to the electorate, because of the changed circumstances, to change policies and take on the role of the boy in the fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes to point out that the “climate change movement” is not wearing a suit of fine clothes but is actually stark naked.


        The covering email is,MP.pdf

        Maybe the lack of a reply indicates that Mr Wishart and the other copied politicians don’t know what to say. Even if that it is all my letter achieves it will be an improvement on their normal boilerplate BS “climate change” assertions and mantras.

    • David Porter says:

      Roger: There are four candidates for blame (I used to chew this over when I was CEO of the Association of Electricity Producers) – government, Ofgem, National Grid and the electricity generating industry. My fear, at AEP, was that the generating companies would be in the firing line. Governments are skilled at avoiding blame, albeit this one has a problem in that it cannot exactly blame its predecessors; Ofgem is vulnerable, albeit the outgoing regulator warned in 2013 that there would be capacity problems in 2015-2016 and National Grid is neutral and so far it has a good record of keeping the lights on, by one means or another. If National Grid ‘let the government down’ it would be a candidate for some blame, though. The industry, of course, is the prime target. It would be depicted as having failed to invest and those who thought that it should never have been privatised because a privatised industry would not invest will scream ‘I told you so.’ But, of course, if they are ‘right’ it will be for the wrong reasons. The companies have shown plenty of willingness to invest – not just in gas-fired plant, but, remember they wanted to build new coal-fired plant, too. That came to a head in about 2006. They government did not get round to saying ‘no’, but it pulled a very sour face and eventually E.ON (there were other proposals waiting in the wings) withdrew its plans. The Conservative opposition at that time – seeking green credibility – did not oppose. The industry did invest in the renewables that the UK was obliged (EU policy) to build and bearing in mind the contracts on offer, how could the companies do otherwise? It would probably be hard to explain to the average voter, but, alongside falling consumer demand, public policy has helped kill investment in conventional technologies that can keep the lights on when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. When I left the AEP in 2012, there was a long list of CCGT projects in various stages of planning and new nuclear was expected to be running rather sooner than 2025 (it had originally been expected in 2017-2018!). I used to reassure sceptical journalists that there were CCGTs in the offing, new nuclear (unsubsidised according to its supporters) was around the corner, renewables were being built and energy efficiency would probably improve. Only two of those things are now correct. In the meantime, Amber Rudd comments in a speech that we have got to a point where no electricity-producing technology seems to be able to go ahead without government support. Quite! And, are the supporters of the various technologies pleased? Not on your life. Almost everyone – from the Solar PV interests to Carbon Capture and Storage – is grumbling about the uncertainty associated with public policy. That’s the world that we are now in.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        The source of the problem as I see it:

        Here are the subjects in which senior government officials who are presently/have recently been involved in the formulation and implementation of UK energy policy have earned degrees:

        Cameron: Philosophy, politics and economics
        Osborne: History
        Rudd: History
        Clegg: Archaeology and anthropology
        Davey: Philosophy, politics and economics
        Miliband: Politics and economics

        Not a scientist among them. They can’t be expected to understand something as complex as the UK energy industry. They are reliant on advice from experts, in particular the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor to set them on the right track.

        And who is the incumbent Chief Scientific Advisor? Sir Mark Walport. And what are Sir Mark’s qualifications?

        He’s a doctor, specializing among other things in the immunology and genetics of rheumatic diseases.

        • willem post says:

          In China, the cabinet is mostly engineers from their best schools.

          High speed trains, anyone?

  11. Stuart Brown says:

    Euan, I’ve recently found this blog – thanks for the interesting and informative read.
    As a politician, Amber Rudd is due any amount of flack – but this did seem a bit personal & to be fair she did say things like:
    “Opponents of nuclear misread the science. It is safe and reliable.”
    “We are dealing with a legacy of under-investment and with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid 2020s that is already changing. It is imperative we do not make the mistakes of the past and just build one nuclear power station.”
    “In the same way generators should pay the cost of pollution, we also want intermittent generators to be responsible for the pressures they add to the system when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. Only when different technologies face their full costs can we achieve a more competitive market.”
    So if she really believes that she can’t be all bad!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Stuart, I didn’t see any of this as a personal attack on Amber. Its a fact that her professional qualifications do not well qualify her for this job. And DECC appears to be populated by Green leaning supporters of existing legislation. I don’t see we should go on stumbling from one self made crisis to the next, digging out of the hole with new subsidies all of which at the end of the day are paid for by us.

      But you’re right to draw attention to the good things she said recently. But Hinkley and nuclear plans are a fiasco. The structures that are in place that have created this fiasco need to be dismantled.

      The intention of the latter part of my post was to send a warning to Amber. The government needs to act and it needs to know what is wrong and what needs to be done to rectify the problems. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But we currently have to incompatible ideologies grating against each other. One being the market can solve all problems. The other placing CO2 reduction at the heart of energy policy.

      • hfrik says:

        Well, if you like to discuss this, this is the heart of the discussion if you want neoliberal politics (not classic liberal school of Chikago, Hayek et al). It is neccesary to define the target of the society in a market, define the borders of the market according to this – make them as wide as possible to give the market enough headway for optimisation, but narrow enough to avoid the points you don’t want accouring your targets.
        CO2 reduction can be a target. But a lot of other regulations then hinder the market in optimisation. I do not know all details in UK regulations for sure, but some really make me wonder. E.g. the height limit in onshore wind power. If you want a market, define the emissions which are allowed at single houses and bigger settlements. Define allowed impact on wildlife. But then let the market find the optimum solution for the problem of generating wind power. The height reduction allows just outdated wind power stations to be installed in UK. With high costs and little production, and especially high variability in output. Most modern wind power stations which stard delivering at very low wind speed and deliver quite constant over a wide range of wind speed, and which ar high enough that almost all bats and birs simply do not fly high enough to get in reach of the rotor have tip height of arund 230m and rising.
        It is already close to the point that wind power equipment which is knocked down fro replacement in germany due to low efficiency and misbehaving in the grid gets shipped to UK to install it there, as if UK would be a developing country. (usually they are exported to africa for another 20 years of operation.) Modern equipment delivers >50% more full load hours than such old equipment. less peak supply, more supply on low wind situations.

  12. Rob says:

    Did anyone read the post from Carbon Brief actually arguing for no power stations to be built.
    The standard green lines seem to pop regularly.

    Demand side management

    Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Simon Bullock says:

    The quickest and safest way to deal with any concerns about power capacity is to prioritise investment in energy efficiency and storage, as the report says, and develop the UK’s massive wind and solar potential.

  13. sod says:

    Interesting article, lots of work. I disagree with multiple points though.

    But let me start with a compliment, the capacity evaluation you did for non-renewable sources are the most honest thing i have seen in a long time.Thanks for this, as it has real consequences for the way we look at those power sources!

    I do not think that there will be blackouts in the UK this winter. For a start, your list of graphs is missing an evaluation of the decline of electricity demand over the last 10 years.

    For example this one:

    via this source:

    you can also get the UK winter report there and look at their expectations for the next winter:

    “On the electricity side, we have taken action to support
    continued security of supply. We have procured balancing
    services for winter 2015/16 to ensure we have the tools in place
    to help us balance the system. This is in line with actions taken
    for 2014/15. The capacity from generation and these tools
    shows a loss of load expectation (LOLE) of 1.1 hours/year and a
    de-rated margin of 5.1% for our base case scenario. As a result,
    we are expecting the upcoming winter to be manageable.”

    In the scenario you use (peak demand with zero wind) we would know before and the UK would obviously need to do some demand changes (simple, as the weekends use so much less power).

    I really like the lsts of power stations. They show the real problem: so many plants are 50 years old.

    • GeoffM says:

      you are over-optimistic about the blackout risk. This article is not talking about the winter of 2015/16, it’s about the subsequent ones. Remember, the equivalent of >7 Sizewell Bs are closing in 2016 according to Euan.

      Don’t be so optimistic about demand reduction either. As someone’s already mentioned the powers that be want us to switch to electric heating and cars. That will mean an enormous increase in demand. And what about the net migration of an extra 500k people per year, and the increase of the min wage to £9.20 hourly? Remember, “they” predicted a few years ago that the price of fossil fuels would keep rising. But it collapsed. One has to be careful when making predictions/assumptions.

  14. gmlindsay says:

    Confused Mike – your point #2 is well made. Where exactly will the electricity originate from to enable gas to electric domestic conversion and to power the EVs the government is actively encouraging?

  15. Euan Mearns says:

    We are on blackout watch this evening 😉 Its flat calm across NW Europe. UK wind has dropped to 0.37GW. Two reactors are off line. The Sun has set and solar has gone to zero. The CCGTs appear to be running flat out. We are importing 3 GW from Europe and exporting 0.86 GW to Ireland. Coal has been ramped up late afternoon and is producing 12GW – we still have loads of spare coal capacity but next year we will have only 10.6 GW. Demand on 47 GW will probably rise another 4 GW from now.

    It will be interesting to see how the European system copes this evening and the coming week which is forecast colder and calmer.

    • garethbeer says:

      Ha ha watching like a hawk, biomass is on half mast too…

      • sod says:

        There will be no blackout today.

        How should a blackout happen? Do you really think that the folks running the grid just sit and wait until demand tops supply and then let the lights go out?

        They would know about the upcoming problems hours, if not days in advance and simply phone some big users, kindly asking them, to take some demand of the grid.
        Most likely even just asking people to switch of the lights they do not need might actually solve the problem.

        A real danger of blackouts (with lack of wind power being part of the reason) would be a massive storm (with some real misjudgement on the size), directly followed by a complete loss of all wind.

        I could also imagine a scenario with lots of snow and ice and temperatures in deep minus during totally wind still conditions causing problems when a couple of power lines go down (by accumulated ice).

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Yes, I read in an email this evening that Drax ran out of hedge clippings. Blue Peter (if it still exists) will be launching an appeal for children to pick up lollipop sticks (and chewing gum) and send them to Drax – but in what? When a bag costs 5p and probably contains more joules than a bagful of lollipop sticks – that is a challenge by the way to be refuted! Sod, hfrik, a chance to earn your spurs!

        I don’t think there ever was a blackout risk in the UK this evening or this winter. But with wind doubled to 0.67 GW and demand on the way down, the CCGTs are still running flat out – presumably making money, and we’re still importing 3GW and exporting 0.95 GW to Ireland.

        • garethbeer says:

          Lmao, Euan, blue peter is now called bbc news or r4, patronising, condescending, talking slowly and hypnotically NLP style… “Everyfing will be ok innit, aye man” cue northern accent…

        • Wm Watt says:

          EM: Aren’t those bags for the lolly stick “sunk costs”? 🙂

        • John F. Hultquist says:

          “… from coal to N American sawdust and hedge clippings.

          A euphemism for forest. English are clever writers.

  16. sod says:

    “We are on blackout watch this evening”

    The german grid still had 10 GW wind at 5 pm.

    And there was plenty of solar today (10GW peak) which with very little storage could help cover the tiny evening peak that Germany tends to have around 6pm.

    But looking at the UK, i see another option: I was at IKEA today and noticed that they only have LEDs by now. I did replace the last 2 non-LEDs in our place (One was a lamp that was simply to small for the last edition of LEDs).

    If we take 50 GW of UK peak evening use and assume 10% lighting, like in the US, we have 5GW of light bulbs, asking to be replaced by LEDs.

    This should cut 50% to 80% from those 5GW, dropping it to 2.5 to 1 GW, replacing about 2 to 4 coal plants. .

    • Lars says:

      “If we take 50 GW of UK peak evening use and assume 10% lighting, like in the US, we have 5GW of light bulbs, asking to be replaced by LEDs.”

      So you assume most of the UK still use incandescent light bulbs, lol? I am afraid those low hanging fruits have already been picked. You can`t even buy them anymore in Europe, I think they stopped selling them back in 2012 (?) due to EU legislation. There are still a lot of those fluorescent bulbs around but even though not as effective as LEDs the savings potential isn`t as big as in your calculation. Also, in general Europeans use lighting much more sparsely than in the US, so if 10% of consumption is correct for the US it must be less in Europe.

      • sod says:

        “So you assume most of the UK still use incandescent light bulbs, lol?”

        i actually fear there are still plenty around.

        “There are still a lot of those fluorescent bulbs around but even though not as effective as LEDs the savings potential isn`t as big as in your calculation.”

        by chance i can tell you exactly what i replaced lately (because they are still working and laying in a drawer): 40 W and 20 W halogen and 20W real bulb (yes, this did even still exist in a desk lamp in my place). They got replaced by 10W or less LEDs.

        And before that, i replaced enormous amounts of 20 or 40W halogen spot lights with 5W LEDs (all the multi spots in the house).

        Were fluorescent lamps really a big thing in the UK (i can not imagine that!). I would also assume that many people had a similar problem like i had, the big fluorescent lamp not fitting into a small lamp glass.

        So 50+% is fine.

        “Also, in general Europeans use lighting much more sparsely than in the US, so if 10% of consumption is correct for the US it must be less in Europe.”

        But the number in the US is an annual percentage and we are talking about evening peak in winter. So if we want to correct that number, we would most likely make an upward correction!

        • Lars says:

          Sod, obviously there are still a lot of incandescent bulbs around, but I suspect they are diminishing rapidly. If most people have done like I did, they have put the remaining ones in lamps that are rarely in use. Actually I bought a lot of them before they disappeared because I prefer them in lamps for reading, so I guess I`ll have enough for the rest of my life 🙂

          But believe me, you won`t see many of them around in Europe anymore, not even here in Norway where I live and I`ll admit that we waste a lot of electricity. Their life span of about 2000 hours makes that impossible.

          You might be correct about the 10% assumption though and the evening peak in winter. But as I said, those low hanging fruits have already been picked, at least most of them. And besides you forget something else. With incandescent bulbs you actually got quite a lot of heating whereas LEDs are virtually totally cold. Since you are talking about those cold evenings in winter that makes a difference. That loss of heat must be substituted by something else, and a part of that “something else” will arguably be electric heaters instead. This will of course vary between countries according to their heating mix.

          • garethbeer says:

            Incandescent bulbs still about; ‘rough usage’ the name. Many a hardware store stocks them. No UV or odd RF leakage either – from primitive times pre-green-evolution.

        • Jonathan Madden says:

          Well I for one am still using incandescent bulbs, along with a substantial inventory of spares. I have about 12x60W and a couple of 100W. The reason being that they dim so nicely, going a pleasant warm yellow/orange on low power; i.e. the colour temp. drops. They also of course provide a source of heat in winter, when most in use. I find, for example, the harshness of G9 LED bulbs too severe as a bathroom light and thus moderate the group with a G9 halogen.

          On another point, I was under the impression (from a year or two ago, I seem to remember) that load-shedding by wind turbines delivering to the UK grid was stipulated at 6GW max. input, so as not to permit an undue level of grid destabilisation. Has this limit been raised or rescinded?

          Thank you, Euan, for an excellent update on this topic.

    • @ sod

      According to the UK domestic energy factsheets from the .gov website, lighting was approximately 18% of total domestic electricity. Domestic electricity was itself 22% of domestic energy BTW.

      Since 2000, lighting energy has declined by 24%. Its decline has slowed.

    • GeoffM says:

      I’d LOVE to see proof that Germany generated a peak of 10 GW of solar yesterday, after all it’s 11th February at your time of writing. And please don’t insult our intelligence by directing us to one of those websites which gives theoretical solar outputs.

    • John F. Hultquist says:

      I don’t know about others but full conversion to LEDs will be out at about 7 years.
      Here is why:
      I replaced a hard to get to light (2 fluorescent tubes) with a 10 W LED. This new one is supposed to last 50,000 hours. I will likely do a few more of those as I will be installing a couple of ceiling fans and have to build new support boxes. These installs are not based on savings because I don’t ever expect to recover cost.
      Unfortunately, a few years ago (this in the USA) as the deadline for buying standard use incandescent bulbs approached various groups encouraged and subsidized the purchase of the CFL “pigtail” type bulbs. I bought a bunch of both old and new. Then, our local utility gave us a box of 20 or so. I have enough of incandescent and CFLs to last about 7 years.

      • Grant says:


        My wife did the same as you and bought supplies of all the different types of incandescent bulbs we have around the house. We avoided the CFL boom.

        Many seemed to have rather short lives for some reason despite being “brand names”. Others will probably outlast us being obscure sizes of fittings for units that we rarely use.

        I am replacing some halogen kitchen light fittings with LED as they fail. 2 top lights to go. A could of auxilliaries are used so little there is no point in changing for the sake of change.

        If I were to be able to persuade my wife to accept LED based bulbs in our main living room (unlikely) I am sure she would complain about the type of light and then feel even colder that she does normally and so have the “backup” electric fire (that supports our gas powered water filled radiators) turned on at higher output for ever longer periods. So no gains anywhere in that!

        LED bulb prices in the UK have reduced rapidly for commonly used sizes and fittings. However the best prices are bulk buys – 5 and 10 packs. Changing one is not such a good deal so people, having been tempted to buy packs of relatively long life bulbs are likely to change all of them “to save money”.

        Of the two I have left to change in the kitchen one fitting I have 3 spare Halogen bulbs and the other is the last of that fitting on which 3 LEDs have been deployed over the past 2 years. If life expectancy is achieved the replacement cycle for the LEDs will not start for several years. I really do not want to buy a 5 pack of bulbs at this time!

        So yes, I agree with you about 7 years BUT I also know people who will change large numbers of units, albeit usually halogen to LED, once they have purchased some bulk supplies.

        More importantly business may be persuaded to make the changes more readily than individuals as part of the “greening” requirements. The effects there and in public areas – like shopping centres and their bright, often overly hot, display cabinets – make for a faster response that would incluence demand more than home consumption and at peak demand times if, for example, street lights are adapted.

        Many – probably most – traffic management lights in the UK are now LED powered and with a fairly consistent replacement policy (the structures seem not to last as long these days as they once did) and local authorities looking for electricity contract savings the take-up seems to have been quite rapid.

        Of course man of the savings will have been offset buy wider use and more installation. Once a house might have a single TV. Now it may have 3 or 4 plus some computers and mobile devices for all. The overall consumption may not be so different to what it was. Boiling a kettle or cooking food is not likely to have changed demand much – other than for a growing population.

        Disposing of industrial activity seems to allow the various governments to meet CO2 reduction objectives (in part) when personal and socially directed campaigns and regulation would be political suicide.

        Alternatives to “greening” seem not to be contemplated under any circumstances.

  17. Graeme No.3 says:

    One of the problems seemed to be the short attention span of politicians and their outlook time.
    “A week is a long time in politics”. It might well be that Amber Rudd isn’t the least bit worried about next winter because she may not be in charge by then. How many Energy Ministers have you had in the last decade.
    It may well be that only a blackout will bring action, although from the history so far I would not hold out hope for any rational approach for years.

  18. garethbeer says:

    Who’d put an expert left-brain repeater in charge of energy- really industrial policy of the U.K.?

  19. Chris Vernon says:

    Has anyone looked into the Electricity Demand Reduction Pilot?

    Might be a promising way of shaving demand from the peak. We’re funding 37 projects to permanently reduce their peak demand at a cost of £203/kW.

    So, if you wanted to compensate for all of Hinkley C’s 3.2GW it would cost just £650 million at that rate, compared with current price tag of £18bn. Demand reduction seems way cheaper than new supply.

    Okay… this pilot might just be super cheap ‘low hanging fruit’ and maybe there isn’t much to be had at this price. But it’s well over an order of magnitude cheaper than building the power station and it is effective next winter rather than next decade.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Chris, I 100% support action to reduce peak demand in the UK. You just need to look at the charts to see that we could perhaps shave 3 to 4 GW supply base by this route. We’ve discussed this for about a decade. The real question is why this has not happened? Smart meter role out seems like a disaster. Why?

      You mention “we” and 37 projects. Why 37 projects?

      Route 1 seems fairly simple to me and that is you make electricity prices x% more expensive in the UK 16:00 to 20:00 and this discourages consumers from washing clothes, drying clothes, washing dishes etc in that time interval. The solution, which is a stick rather than a carrot seems absurdly simple to apply. And so my question for you, why has this simple solution not been pursued?

      • sod says:

        “The solution, which is a stick rather than a carrot seems absurdly simple to apply.”

        I agree with the solution of shifting peak demand via a rice increase. This would be a very good and really simple way.

        It will not happen, as it is a stick.

        Most solution in this sector will come as a carrot, mostly to producers. Sticks (mostly to consumers) will be hidden in obscure billing changes as long as possible.

      • hfrik says:

        Why demand side management takes so long in Europe is also a riddle to me, although I understand the high IT-security problems around it, making it neccesary to make a very careful design of the smart meters – but utilities do in no way adress the IT-security problem in the discussion, but simply neglect the topic as nusance. It is a stick and carrot poiticy, because the average price will be the same. It will lower prices when supply of electricity exceedes demand, and it will rise prices when demand exceeds supply. And to my experiece people develop a ot of phantasy how they can shift their demand if they can save money with it. The main part which has to be done here is paperwork. In the whitpaper for the new EnWG there are a lot of good proposals to this topic too – but again this paper is written in german.
        @ Grant – French politics in electricity is relatively simple. They have a large baseload nuclar fleet, and a relatively big hydropower fleet, some baseload some fully adoptable with storage, some with pumped storage. And a little bit of adoptable gas and cola power plants. Demand changes which exceed this are compensated by either dumping surplus nuclear baseloadpower in germany+swizerland+austria (+Italy?) + benelux staters in summer nights, and to buy missing supply in cold winter days in germany, swizerland, austria and the benelux states. France as a island grid would instantly run into blackouts. Which is not a problem sine France is not a island.

        • GeoffM says:

          You claim “it will rise prices when demand exceeds supply” if we switch to time of day pricing. But how will the average householder know? Will an alarm need to be installed next to the smart meter to inform the householder that they need to cease cooking their meal and to get the kids to switch their Playstations off? Or will they find out when a monthly bill of £500 drops through their letterbox? After all I would bet that only a tiny % of folks will keep an eye on their smart meter at intervals of a few minutes.

          • hfrik says:

            You’ do it as simple as the typical owner of a newer PV System here in Germany with PV power prices below household power prices: here the inverter provide programmable switch signals and interfaces, e.g to let the heat-pump produce hot water or heat the house a degree more if PV power is available – or do the inverse if no power is available. Same with modern household devices which can be switched on and of this way too, if you want radio controlled (no wire).
            Watching the smart meter is more done by the poor, as test installations proved, while the middle-class and rich do automation People shift at least 20% of their demand from high price (no PV poer, 25-30ct/kwh) to low price (12ct+tax=14,5ct/kWh when PV power is available), and reduce their consumption accordingly during the other time. In the longer run the shift-able demand increases, because the “equipment” gets adopted to fit to demand shifting – e.g. a bigger heat-pump in a well insulated house can make better use of a few hours with low prices, and stay off grid then for a long time with higher prices. (no matter if internal PV-Power) or external (smart grid).

          • gweberbv says:


            a severe power shortage won’t come unexpected. So most probably the households that have subscribed to flexible rates will receive a SMS/E-Mail/etc. some time before to make them aware that prices might be very high/low the next day/hours.
            However, I would not expect a significant contribution from households to peak demand reduction unless electric heating is adressed (assuming that a reasonable amount of heat is generated from electricity).

      • Chris Vernon says:

        Euan, why 37 projects? It’s only a trial, they only had £4.7m. I do like the idea of bidding for money to permanently reduce demand – with the ‘winners’ those projects able to save the most energy for the least capital expenditure. The key point however is that reducing demand is demonstrably cheaper than increasing supply – if I had several £bn of public money to spend I’d certainly focus on subsidising reduced demand instead of subsidising increased supply.

        I don’t like the idea of hiking domestic bills at peak time. It would be politically toxic, it would only really affect poor people as wealthy people really won’t care that the unit cost has tripled for a few hours. Large industrials users are already exposed to variable pricing – I don’t think this a goer for domestic users.

        That said – I am a fan of offering Economy 7 like tariffs to those who want them. I think more efforts should be made to shift demand (short of price hikes). Refrigeration and air conditioning could employ ‘dynamic demand’ type technology and timers should be mandated on washing machines!

        • hfrik says:

          well, from my point of view peak demand reduction is all about shifting demand. saving energy is a second always present topic, but shifting demand is a topic which was not addressed yet in most areas. So far everybody has “insurance power” – you pay constant price per kWh no matter how big demand and supply are, and you pay an extr insurance fee to your supplier which enabels him to compensate the varying prices and balance his risk.
          Today t is possible to allow people to have “non insurance power”, which would include the changes ot wholesale prices, and which would most likely work better if the state would calculate his fees in % of wholesaleprice instead of ct/kWh. while keeping the same yearly amount of fees)
          this would makke people start thinking which demand they could and want to shift and which not. and I have no problem if somebody says that he can afford to consume during peak prices. This one will also contribute al olot of money to increasing grids and power production infrastructure. And poor people would have the chance to reduce theircosts by being super fleixible with their demand.
          It is astonishing that when you start talking about flexible prices, the poor always have to consume power t the maximum prices, while the rich are the oner which are flexible and get the benefit of the low prices. (not in practice but in argumentations)
          Being flexible costs a little labour. Labour of poor people is usually cheaper than labour of rich people. So chance is big that poor people invest more work in being flexible, and so reduce their costs.
          Naturally it can also happen that rich people are more clever in handling their flexibility, so get more cost reduction with less labour. But this is then the same cause because of which they might be rich.
          In the end it would be good to allow the market to test how flexible people anc equipmant can become, and how much grids and power infrastructure have to adopt to the inflexibility of people (as they had to so far in all cases). Most important task is to choose clever market rules for this.

  20. Stuart says:

    In the UK, politics needs a crisis in order to summon the political capital to do something.

    There will be no preventative action.

    the only way for us to prevent black outs is for us to first have a series of very large black outs.

  21. Grant says:

    The STOR arrangements for diesel generator farms are very likely to cover most problems of electricity supply shortage for the rest of this winter.

    However if you look at the long term forecast for next winter on the bmreports web site

    it currently shows a number of weeks somewhat below the line. When I last looked 2 or 3 weeks ago there were 2 weeks calculated as being a little marginal. Just now it’s pretty much the whole winter. period.

    I suspect that some of the generators are play for a better deal while they can. However the reduced operations of the large coal plants and their subsequent closures are likely being accelerated to minimize losses against contract arrangements. The reduced maintenance and rapid demolition after closure is likely in most cases to mean that there is no way back for those plants even if green policy decisions were reversed and financial viable contracts were to be negotiated.

    I don’t feel it is acceptable (even if currently feasible) to surcharge usage during peak periods that are only peak periods because of social structures. If I lived in a flat somewhere I would be extremely annoyed by using noisy washer and driers in their the middle of the night in an effort to keep themselves clean and tidy. Nor do I think it is reasonable to stop people cooking evening meals after work or school.

    Bear in mind this will only get worse if they really do manage to stuff the Gas market by 2030 as has been suggested. Even the threat may be enough to kill off the availability of gas powered cookers and heating boilers long before that year (it’s less than an appliance lifetime away) and load up the demand on electricity supply with no obvious way to cater for it – other than diesel generator farms.

    Moreover the manufacturing waste as people dispose of perfectly usable products well before their natural life would be immoral. The same goes for the earlier comments about changing light bulbs. Ludicrous if “saving” CO2 is the objective since existing working product represent a past manufacturing cost that is now to be dumped early creating more CO2 output form manufacturing and distribution.

    If we really want to seek a solution to peak demand we might consider banning TV use during peak hours. Although TV screen efficiency has markedly improved in recent years the numbers of screen per house – often left on with no one watching – has increased to counter the benefit.

    In the old days one could simply have banned broadcasting between certain hours. Now, with on line availability it would be more difficult to make a ban stick.

    Obviously people might not agree with the concept either – but then they would not be too pleased with being gouged for premium rates either.

    Perhaps the only hope is to see everyone buy electric cars and so shift peak demand to the overnight period where a usage tax could also be applied as a substitute for the loss of revenues from fossil fuels.

    Maybe we will see the star of an illicit trade importing cooking charcoal from Africa. Or celebrity chefs espousing the benefits of eating cold food raw and Domestic Science Trainers demonstrating the wonders of hand washing clothes in cold water.

    Meanwhile France, with the same population as the UK, more or less, has, typically, a 50% higher electricity demand. Is that balanced by a lot lower availability (and use) of other forms of energy or do they still have Industrial users with high demands? (Compounded by larger distance between locations due to their greater land area.)

    • sod says:

      “The same goes for the earlier comments about changing light bulbs. Ludicrous if “saving” CO2 is the objective since existing working product represent a past manufacturing cost that is now to be dumped early creating more CO2 output form manufacturing and distribution.”

      This needs a detailed calculation. But i am sure that replacing a 100 W incandescent bulb immediately and throwing it away makes sense from all points of view.

      I was replacing mostly halogen spots in multi spot lamps. As i would not put different bulbs in, i would replace all with LEDs when the first halogen failed. As LEDs were still expensive when i started this, i used the remaining halogens as replacements in other lamps (though they had different watt numbers, so there was a limit to this).

      But today, LED is a non-brainer. and as i said above, IKEA Germany is only selling LEDs now and people buying a lamp at IKEA also automatically get the LEDs.

      These are saving people money, i doubt that they cause more waste (and they might only go to waste in 20 years!) and they are taking down peak evening demand. Again, the switch to LED is simply good in all aspects (you can even lease them, if you can t afford the initial price).

      I found some number about the US, saying that 70% of the bulbs are still inefficient.

      “If we really want to seek a solution to peak demand we might consider banning TV use during peak hours.”

      That is a horrible idea. Just compare it to the switch to LEDs, being a win win situation for everyone.
      Instead of banning TV some simple changes to standby modes could reduce the power saving even more, without any negative consequences.

      [i]”Perhaps the only hope is to see everyone buy electric cars and so shift peak demand to the overnight period where a usage tax could also be applied as a substitute for the loss of revenues from fossil fuels.”[/i]

      Why would people load their cars at night? With solar PV around, it makes more sense to load during daytime (so we need to load at our workplace, for example).

      • David Porter says:

        “Perhaps the only hope is to see everyone buy electric cars and so shift peak demand to the overnight period where a usage tax could also be applied as a substitute for the loss of revenues from fossil fuels.”

        ‘… everyone buy electric cars…’

        An electric car with the capability of my present diesel-powered car is in the ‘nice to have’ category for me. But, it is too simple to say that everyone should buy an electric car. Policy makers that promote electric cars should think of the practicalities. Not just the engineering and power system challenges, but, the impact on family budgets where the car is such a big investment; the impact on the government budget which I accept was mentioned here (in the UK, billions in fuel duty would be lost) and the loss of revenue in today’s fuel infrastructure (petrol stations) during the transition. Personal, commercial and political pain at that level is difficult to address… however nice electric cars may be.

        • Grant says:


          I was being somewhat facetious.

          I very much doubt that anyone has really considered what would be required to widely implement electric vehicle usage at scale through the entire country.

          That, of course, will not stop them making policy to do so within a very short period of time in order to be seen to be attempting to hit their self imposed “promises” about carbon emissions that emerge from their personal vanity projects.

          Failure to conform will, naturally, be a consumer problem to do with “education” that will be be “encouraged” by taxation. What a stroke of luck for future chancellors!

          Electric vehicles will no doubt be encouraged now that the effective “encouragement” to go diesel is being decried by many as a long term health risk.

          The process can be sped up by ensuring that the actual life span of existing vehicles is artificially reduced. Increased taxes and various mechanisms that ensure they are quickly moved into the “uneconomic to repair” category for trivial problems will see to that.

          That long life engineering with its already accumulated “carbon costs” can be jettisoned in favour of yet more carbon intensive engineering and vast infrastructure overheads (and carbon emissions associated with them) is a dreadful indictment of the thinking ability of our “smart” leaders.

          Everyone of a Green persuasion seems to be convinced that the next handful of carbon atoms released will take the planet over a Climate tipping point. (Or at least that seems to be their public massage.) Yet the “solutions” being proposed suggest immediate and vast emissions now to save not so much in the future. To me it looks like cognitive dissonance on an industrial scale.

          Personally I don’t see the problem they are trying to solve but even if I did I would have to say that I would be far from convinced that they had any chance of thinking through an appropriate strategy to address the perceived needs. I don’t think they even care about practicality. It seems to be a Command and Control exercise from the UN downwards run by people whose day to day lives will be unaffected by the diktats they create.

          I blame the education system.

          Note that the majority of political leaders appear to come via Oxford University these days.

          As an academic friend of mine once pointed out there is a saying in academia “You can always tell an Oxford man – but you can’t tell him much.”

          I think that just about sums things up.

      • GeoffM says:

        I wonder if more efficient lights make much difference, in buildings which have the heating on. After all, the waste product was heat, so if that waste heat’s not there then the heating would need to go up, to compensate! Law of unintended consequences?
        This doesn’t apply in summer, but the point of this topic is winter demand.

        • hfrik says:

          This would be the case if you heat your home directly with electricity. If you heat it with a well designed heat pump, for each W you dont consume for lighting or similar but use it in the heat pump you get 4 or 5W heating power. So the efect is just 20 to 25%. In case you heat with oil, gas or wood, the energy consumption is shifted from electricity to oil/gas/wood.
          But if we assume we want to cut CO2 emissions drastically, heat pmps would be the most likely heating to think about. And well insulated houses, which have another positive effect: the time constant (building mass/energy loss) is becomming bigger, which allows to choose the time when to heat the house while keeping the temperature in the house in a given corridor more freely. Which is again very good for flexxible demand. A well insulated house can “tunnel” thew a week of dark cold calm without electricity consumption for heating. But that’s just a side effect here in this discussion.

  22. Rob says:

    Question the supply side management or smart grids how much electricity or number of power station can they replace.

    • robertok06 says:

      Nobody knows, and nobody will ever be able to answer your question in a meaningful way.
      If you listen to the greens it is a game changer… if you listen to the lobbies it is peanuts.

      The reality is probably in the middle… but since it cannot be stated in a mathematically/scientific precise way it cannot be relied upon, and therefore should not be used as a means of running the energy network in a rational way.

      Only a luddite view of a world “à l’ancienne”, with happy peasants living off the produce of their land would suggest anything like that as an energy policy solution.

    • hfrik says:

      Problem is so far that nobody collected the exact number of diesel Power plants for emergency backup which are grid connected, and nobody did ever care to send them a trigger to start operating when needed. For germany the estimates based on some reseaches ist that the fleet of bigger diesel gerneration available in hospitals, safety relecant industry,, power staitions, tunnels, railroad stations, concert halls, univercitys, computer centers, etc… are above 20 GW. I let several MW be installed in my projects alone. Contracting them in advance and making them available for peak demands could be very useful, since they already earn their costs by the infrastructure they secure, so the capacity produces no extra cost. The kWh will cost 30-40ct/kWh from this source. Expensive, but much cheaper than a blackout. But also here nobody really cares about this topic. There are still enough “big” power plants in the Grid here. It might be different in UK in the next years.

      • gweberbv says:


        I really would like to understand why the huge fleet of emergency diesel generators is not utilized already now. It could be very helpful to prevent/reduce the power outages which happen from time to time due to malfunctions in the grid. Think about the ‘Ems power line crossing event’ in 2006.

        • sod says:

          I do not think that those diesels would be a lot of help after a huge blackout.

          They could be a perfect resource for the type of event we are talking about here (planable demand higher than supply).

          and they could form a emergency backbone of local grids, in a far future, when a stable grid is made up of potentially independent cells. Like given as advice in this video (still in german, sorry):

        • hfrik says:

          Well, I’d like to know too. Well, so far utilities wrote the regulations of the tenders by which they buy primary and secondary reserve, and also the amounts which are tendered. So far they tendered many MW as smallest contract, which is to big for most Diesel generators. Also the tests and so on to qualify for the tenders were much too expensive for ” small” Diesel engines (100kW-2MW) so the tenders went to old gas and coal plants. They changed regulations recently to allow smaller “plants” to participate, let’s see if it works. Big hospitals and computer centers participate now, and costs have come down a bit, but many owner of diesel generators don’t know they could participate.
          But legislation has to be developed further over time.

  23. Hugh Sharman says:

    At, I read the following

    French energy law might shut down third of EDF
    11/02/2016 |

    France’s energy transition law could oblige state-controlled utility EDF to shut down around a third of its 58 nuclear reactors by 2025, the state audit office declared in its yearly report on Wednesday. The Cour des Comptes predicts that the projected reduction of the share of nuclear in French energy output to 50 percent by 2025 from over 75 percent now might lead to the closure of 17 to 20 reactors if electricity consumption and exports stay at present levels.

    It declared that this could influence jobs at EDF and increased the possibility that the utility might require state compensation. The auditor said that it anticipates the cost of improving EDF’s older nuclear power stations will total approximately 100 billion euros ($112.79 billion) over the 2014-2030 period. This estimation is well above EDF’s 55 billion euro estimate for the 2014-2025 period, which the auditor said is because of the fact that it also comprises EDF’s operating expenses over that period. EDF has constantly declared it wishes to maintain its nuclear power stations at the existing capacity level since it expects that the reduction of the share of nuclear in the French energy mix will come from increasing demand, not from closing reactors. For now, EDF intends to shut down its nuclear plant in Fessenheim, close to the German border, in 2018, when it hopes its new Flamanville reactor on the Normandy coast to begin operating.

    end quote!

    It appears that this is a completely serious story also covered by Reuters!

    The world, at least in NW Europe, is going bonkers! Or am I just another, rather silly, old man?

    • sod says:

      ” EDF has constantly declared it wishes to maintain its nuclear power stations at the existing capacity level since it expects that the reduction of the share of nuclear in the French energy mix will come from increasing demand, not from closing reactors.”

      The nuclear industry has huge problems, and this point (which i also saw in the news) is a major one of them.

      There wont be any increase of demand at such scale. Instead we might actually see a decrease.

      The industry is in huge trouble, when they keep denying this reality. BP does the same in their new outlook report:

      “For now, EDF intends to shut down its nuclear plant in Fessenheim, close to the German border, in 2018, when it hopes its new Flamanville reactor on the Normandy coast to begin operating. ”

      Flamanville will not start working in 2018. At the moment, it is totally unclear if it will ever go online. This is another self-betrayal, and in the long term constantly telling lies leads to trouble, mostly because people start to believe their own lies.

    • gweberbv says:


      with increasing interconnector capacities and the ongoing shutdowns of FF plants France might be able to sell more and more electricity from their NPP fleet to its neighbours (while using less and less at home). As long as the price is low, of course.
      We will see, if it is possible to keep low prices while investing a lot of money into modernization of the NPPs (and also the closure of the EPR business?).

      • gweberbv says:

        P.S. Could someone who reads French better than I do please tell me if the operation costs of the French NNPs really amounted to more than 6 Eurocents per kWh in 2014?

        • Grant says:

          Google translate gives this result.

          “However, the Court adopted a longer period, from 2014 to 2030, on which the expenditures will amount to 100 billion euros (75 billion investment and operating 25 billion). It believes that these investments will not have a significant impact on the cost of electricity compared to today. But she stressed that the cost has increased significantly between 2010 and 2013, from 49.6 to 59.8 EUR / MWh (Euro / MWh), and even to 62.6 euro / MWh in 2014, “because of the sharp rise maintenance investments, “she wrote.”

          It seems that, post COP21, France is even more insane than the UK, if that is possible.

          • gweberbv says:


            if this 6 Eurocents/kWh are the ‘true’ production costs of NPPs that already earned their building costs, I am really shocked. On the wholesale market in (continental) Europe you can earn only about 4 Eurocents/kWh.

          • hfrik says:

            Well, people tell EDF needs to earn somehow 75 billion maintenance and necessary improvement of their existing reactors, and 150-200 billions to close them and wreck them. At the end of this cost they have nearly no power production in 20 years. So the German version looks comparatively cheap.

          • sod says:

            EDF is in huge trouble. They need to modernize their own fleet of nuclear and th3ey actually can not afford Hinkley. and Flamanville is a disaster. And they were forced to take over Areva.

            The french system is bad, simply because it has too many eggs in one basket.

          • Leo Smith says:

            hfrik: ‘People tell’ is what is technically known as ‘hearsay’ and has no legal status in any court of law.

            Decommissioning a reactor can vary from ‘shut it down and leave it for 500 years, then bulldoze it’ to any more of the insane levels of ‘zero radiation detected from a site comprising green fields covered in waving poppies’.

            And the cost of course is equally as broad a canvas.

            AS with all things energy related the cost is almost entirely related to government and European Union legislation, not to the actual costs of doing stuff that is needful.

            The large corporations long ago realised that in the EU, they had the perfect vehicle to eliminate the competition and indeed the need to compete, by using Regulations – which are not even subject to ANY democratic oversight – to make other products than their own either illegal or uncompetitive.


            Green energy companies have been far more effective than coal or nuclear, so the latter are burdened with Regulations, whereas the former get subsidies.

            The same process is underway in the USA, where federal law is abused for the same purpose. The whole thrust of getting CO2 declared a ‘pollutant’ rather than a harmless plant food, is so that it falls within the remit of the EPA which can then exercise draconian powers to drive e.g., coal plant out of the mix altogether.


  24. Hugh Sharman says:

    Euan, congratulations on another interesting, well documented post.

  25. climanrecon says:

    BBC channel Four had a very interesting short series recently on UK power generators, filmed from an old coal station that was about to close, with a small skeleton staff of maintainers, and from an offshore wind farm, with a small army of technicians with helicopters and boats to do the daily maintenance runs.

    Bottom line was that despite the very high maintenance costs of offshore wind the companies were making much more money from it than from the coal plants. The economics of new baseload power stations is even worse, given the uncertainty in how much electricity they will be allowed to generate.

    Privatisation of the electricity system, as done in the UK, has been a slow motion car crash with impact imminent. The system has only survived for so long because of the over-capacity it inherited from the days of the CEGB. Changing the system will be a legal and political nightmare, and so is probably unlikely to start in earnest until the lights go out.

    While not perfect I suggest a system like they have in defense, in which engineering mistakes are made but nobody milks the customer. The “state” should buy power stations from the private sector, then own and operate them, just as it does with tanks and warships. The state should start with the current mix of power generators, then make SMALL and SLOW changes to that mix to suit whatever is the latest political flavour of the month.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Economical with the truth.

      The only reason that windmills are profitable and coal is not, is government interference.
      The only reason for no investment into any power technology that isn’t guaranteed profitable, by government, is government interference

      So your solution is…more government interference?

      The grids is already nationalised de facto if not de jure all across Europe where legislation both guarantees returns and proscribes certain technologies. In short the government doesn’t have to own the power stations to dictate the terms on which they will be built and run.

      This clever way of socialising privatised industries was cooked up by Blair et al.

      If things go wrong, blame the privatised companies.

      If things go right, claim it as a successful government policy.

      • sod says:

        “The only reason that windmills are profitable and coal is not, is government interference.”

        And all over the world, governments fell for the same green idea? Sorry, your theory does not make any sense.

        Windmills and solar need government support, because they are competing with established technologies that do not pay all their costs (for example pollution).

        New coal by now can not compete with wind and solar, simply because new coal is more expensive, even without government interference.

        And grid access for renewables is not a government interference, it is simply a market mechanism.

        • JerryC says:

          And all over the world, governments fell for the same green idea? Sorry, your theory does not make any sense.

          Have you never noticed that western elites tend to think rather similarly, regardless of nationality or nominal place on the political spectrum? And not just about energy policy – about issues like trade, immigration, aid to developing countries. Human beings have a herd mentality and the same bad idea can absolutely be held simultaneously in many different countries. It’s called the conventional wisdom for a reason.

          Windmills and solar need government support, because they are competing with established technologies that do not pay all their costs (for example pollution).

          Goodness. This is 80% of the problem right here. People think, for some reason, that windmills – windmills! – are a disruptive, new technology that is right on the brink of exponential technological gains if just subsidize it a little bit longer. The windmills that have been around since Cervantes wrote Don Quixote. Unreal. Solar, too, has been around a lot longer than people think it has. The efficiency gains that windmills and solar panels are making are small and incremental, which is characteristic of a mature technology. Which they are.

          Speaking of paying all their costs, do wind and solar pay for their environmental costs? Or the costs of intermittency that they impose on the grid? No and no. Have you seen the places in China where they mine the rare earth minerals used to make windmill magnetos? The idea that windmills are environmentally pristine is about the furthest thing from the truth. Give me CO2 any day.

          New coal by now can not compete with wind and solar, simply because new coal is more expensive, even without government interference.

          Complete nonsense. Coal provides dispatchable power, renewables provide intermittent power. They’re not even the same product.

          And grid access for renewables is not a government interference, it is simply a market mechanism.

          Renewables getting priority access to sell electricity on the grid is a political decision, pure and simple.

          • Grant says:

            sod wrote:

            And all over the world, governments fell for the same green idea? Sorry, your theory does not make any sense.

            JerryC responded:

            Have you never noticed that western elites tend to think rather similarly, regardless of nationality or nominal place on the political spectrum? And not just about energy policy – about issues like trade, immigration, aid to developing countries. Human beings have a herd mentality and the same bad idea can absolutely be held simultaneously in many different countries. It’s called the conventional wisdom for a reason.


            In the last 100 years or a little less the capability of travel, communications and other disruptive capabilities, notably computing, along with some rather global conflicts and near conflicts (Cold War) have focused the attention of the great and the good on “Peace”. Or at least it has at the higher echelons of a rapidly conforming society. Less so at the more tribal end.

            The great and the good benefit from wealth and personal satisfaction that generally makes for a pleasant and secure life experience though they may not always see it that way being “alpha” people.

            Logically everything leads, slowly, to standardisation usually under the auspices of the UN in one form or another.

            When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World he suggested that it was set some centuries in the future and only came about after a 600 year period of widespread warfare.

            When I read the book for the first time many years ago the setting seemed distant and quite far fetched – though perhaps nit quite as far fetched as it likely did when first published.

            Today, however, some of it already looks out of date and other aspects are either happening in some form of look like they may come about, perhaps by accident, in the near future.

            With ever increasing global ownership, global marketing for global goods things will become “standardised”. It makes manufacturing cheaper and so offers more profit. Many other factors too so it will just happen. Social changes may take a little longer although some forms of homogenization my be hoped for (by the UN) as populations move more rapidly then ever around the world. Whether the long term and natural tribal influences we all experience will fit with that remains to be seen.

            Against such a background (and the wider concept of compensation and apoligising for the past in some cultures) it is hardly surprising that political classes are broadly adopting the same opinions – although not always for the same reasons.

            These phenomena are well known – both the Madness of Crowds and problems like the South Seas Bubble and the Dutch Tulip investment stupidity, amongst many others, show how logic can be jettisoned very rapidly and very widely.

            As I right this I have spent a coupld og hours in my garden in fresh air but bright sunshine. The first buds were out on one of my bushes – somewhat earlier than usual … ‘but it was somewhat late last year so just random variability.

            5 minutes ago, as I wrote, a rather nice golden sunset light suddenly disappeared and it has started to snow.

            Things can change very quickly in politics as well as weather.

      • climanrecon says:

        Leo, the govt is currently intervening like crazy, and hoping that the private sector will go along with it and everything will be OK, which it clearly won’t. If the govt “owned” power stations then they could not be closed unexpectedly. If the govt wanted a new power station it could simply invite tenders to build it, and pay the builders for it, hence greatly reduced risk for the builders, hence a much lower price.

        I’m no fan of state ownership, but this is a war, and it needs central control, run by engineers not by politicians.

  26. garethbeer says:

    Off shore wind get more than 4x the rate MW/h (approx £152) than coal, underpinned by susidies guaranteed by the state, a coal or gas plant has to ramp up/down filling in the gaps left by wind & solar (they get first priority) they get approx £37 MWh (last time I checked) working part time and inefficiently – who’d want to be in that business?

    This is all passé to most on here, but to some, the hammer has yet to drop!

    Warren Buffet has said he wouldn’t be in wind farms unless they were subsidised, I paraphrase.

    If we had any (we are acting like and listening to idiots at this moment) sense as a country, we’d be re building a coal and gas based grid, it was nice to see not so long ago that was a consideration, safe, clean, effective and very cheap in a world literally drowning in coal and gas!

    First move, throw renewables under-the-bus.

  27. Leo Smith says:

    Dear Euan,

    Articles like this make me glad I stuck Gridwatch together. This is exactly what it was intended for, and its fantastic that you and others are doing the analysis that I never got around to.

    Thank you.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Well thank you Leo for providing us with the fantastic resource. Neil has now graphed 2012 to 2015 and made some summary charts which are all now live in the UK Grid Graphed section.


  28. Euan Mearns says:

    Dear hfrik and Sod, at time of writing this comment there was 127 comments on the thread, 20 to hfrik and 13 to Sod. Between you have hogged 26% of the conversation. And what have we learned from you – next to nothing apart from you are both Green Trolls reading from the Green Babble. We have heard it all 100 times before. The only reason this site functions is that I am fairly ruthless placing Green Trolls into comment moderation. I suggest you try to moderate your own excesses and limit yourself to two comments per thread. Otherwise moderation looms.

    Moderation is not a ban, it simply means that only when you have something instructive to say, will it get published.

    • sod says:

      I do not mind being moderated.

      But i think it is rather strange that the comment section can not handle 1 in 4 comments being made by dissenting opinions.

      And i am pretty sure that not a single comment i made here qualifies as “troll” in any sense of the word.

      I will restrict myself to few comments and i don t mind if those are moderated. A restriction to 2 posts per thread does not make any sense to me, as there are simply some topics that i am interested in (for example el Hierro) and other that i am not.

  29. I quickly learned to skip straight over the comments from hfrik and Sod and only read the comments of people who know what they are talking about, Hugh Sharman, Leo Smith and many others.

    The other thing that concerns me is what will happen during the minimum summer demand when there is much more embedded generation (such as wind and solar) and taken together with operating nuclear plants providing baseload, supply gets close to exceeding demand.

  30. Grant says:


    I think we need to hear from everyone mainly to understand the representative “understanding” of any group inflicting their views on policy.

    For instance we might assume that the representative views of most politicians and many civil servants are a long way from reality but they are still the ones with the authority and influence. It seems wise to try to understand alternative positions if only to attempt to be in a position to counter them influentially.

    True it can be very trying to get into an attrition loop and see what is believed to be nonsense claims but then that is real life and is not going to go away. Maybe comments could be allowed but simply flagged up as probably invalid (colour coded?) to save time?

    Meanwhile …..

    The minimum summer demand concern fits interestingly with the financial issues of making supply economic for both consumer and provider. What is the point of having a large percentage of generating capacity doing little for much of the year? Our temperate climate tends to make logical decisions about economic power generation capacity rather challenging in an austerity based economy.

    Thinking far outside the box we could take into account the approach heatwave summer being promised and mandate the use of air conditioning for spring, summer and autumn months and a “demand balancing” function. This should help to balance the books for the providers whilst saving several tens of thousands, perhaps millions, from heat related deaths.

    Bear in mind that the public now expects air conditioning in its cars and would seem to prefer it in work environments. There would seem to be little likely resistance to making it mandatory.

    If the generating plant has been built and is being paid for it would an on-cost is carried whether used or not. Running cost, vs. maintenance when idle but available for standby capacity, is likely not much different and that would just leave fuel costs as an additional overhead.

    Economically even fuel costs, once deals have been done for higher volumes and demand with greater continuity, may not be too bad and could even compensate for the overheads of, say, health costs and lost efficiency from the workforce when days are warm in the extreme.

    (If we accept that the extended use of “renewables” will, as claimed, create somewhere between 100,00 and 200,000 “new jobs” the additional cost of running capital intensive plant more efficiently may be little or no different to the cost associated with 200k presumably well paid employees with quite high support overheads. I can’t image the average cost per new employee would be less than £100k pa taking everything into account. It’s not cheap providing a working environment out at sea for example. Plus the entire fleet of turbines may require replacement every 20 or so years. That in itself provides food for thought in terms of workload and investment and consideration of what “replacement” means. Will existing bases still be suitable for a new generation of designs in 20 years from now? Or will floating unit be developed to be towed back to shore for maintenance?)

    CO2 wise this would probably work best in grids with a high contribution from Nuclear – like France.

    Lowish fuel costs and increased base load would seem to fit well with a nuclear based concept.

    We might then be able to reverse the flows through the Interconnectors and help other parts of Europe in their times of need. It would be most interesting to contemplate helping out France, for example, as their current vanity policies seem to be taking their power industry in the same direction as UK policies have taken ours for the past 2 or 3 decades.

    NB: For some aspects of the comments above I may be borderline serious … but since so many of out “leaders” seem to be thinking thoughts that should not be taken seriously in a sensible world I could not see much harm in adding a few of my own.

  31. Rob says:

    Power stations are now operating at half their designed utilisation and only used for approximately 30% of the time, isn’t about time that the government scrapped the wholesale price as it seems meaningless if power stations are losing money with no prospect of any new builds.

    If we keep adding more onshore wind to the grid perhaps CCGT is the wrong technology and perhaps gas reciprocating engines and OCGT should be considered if utilization falls to 15%.

    Always been fascinated by the price of energy as it seems so difficult to determine. In particular greens can quite correctly claim onshore wind power is now the cheapest source of new build electricity generation at £80 per MWh since no new build power stations in the pipeline other than Hinkley Point at £92.5 per MWh

    I think it is important that the costs of load balancing or back up are calculated as lots of green groups have a valid claim that renewable costs are coming down and the media are ignoring the crisis in conventional power stations.

    • gweberbv says:


      probably the conventional capacity/backup capacity will end up earning their money in a ‘floor and cap’ scheme like it is now introduced for financing the interconnectors. This means that operators/owner of capacity that is regarded as being necessary by the regulators will get a minimum profit even if the plant is producing next to nothing. The profit can be increased when the plant manages to sell its production for reasonable prices. So, there is still an incentive to act with economic rationality. However, there is also a ceiling for the profits.

      To me such a scheme looks reasonable. You still have the wholesale market to ensure that those plants are producing which have the lowest costs. But you also take into account that the income generated on the ‘free market’ will not be enough in most cases to cover the full lifetime costs of the plants.

      • michael hart says:

        Sadly, under that scenario, it seems like the best we can hope for is something like the North American (or European) car industries before Japanese competition was taken seriously: A stagnant ‘market’ where the consumer just has to suck it up, when things could be so much better and actually improving, not just maintaining a status quo.

  32. AlecM says:

    Prepare a case against Rudd as named Executive and DECC as a Corporate Body for Corporate Manslaughter.

    Crown Immunity? As DECC is controlled by the Climate Change Committee, not Ministers, it is not an arm of Government!

  33. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #216 | Watts Up With That?

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