UK hits minus 13˚C and wind hits “zero” output

It’s been cold in the UK the last few days. Monday 19th January was the coldest day of the year when temperatures dropped to -13˚C in parts of central Scotland. It’s been beautiful clear, cold, calm weather.

At 14:05 on 19th January the output from the UK’s 11.99 GW fleet of wind turbines dropped to 0.191 GW. This is effectively zero and it’s hard to believe it could get so low given that 4 GW are off shore. This translates to a wind load factor of 0.016 – effectively zero.

Nuclear was working flat out and so was coal more or less. Gas peaked at 22.5 GW around 17:00. I don’t know if that is peak capacity but it’s notable that the UK has been using its pumped storage throughout the day and especially to cover peak demand. Hydro has also been run 24/7 which is not usual for the UK.

For the 24 hour period, wind provided 1.9% of UK electricity. The cold and calm conditions have continued into today.

I just happened to grab this plot from Clive Best at about 17:00 yesterday, corroborating all of the above.

The pressure chart from the BBC shows why it was so calm with a ridge of high pressure in charge of the UK. Notably there seems to be very little wind across the whole of Northern Europe.

With cold and calm conditions continuing into today and spread across much of northern Europe, it will be interesting to see what resources are available at peak demand today, that’s in about 5 hours time.

This entry was posted in Energy, Political commentary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to UK hits minus 13˚C and wind hits “zero” output

  1. Sam Taylor says:

    Hows the gas storage looking at the moment?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I suspect its OK, its still early in the winter and its not been that cold. Rough, the biggest long-term store has 26253798253 KWh in it today, which seems to be more than half full. LNG also needs to be taken into account. Plenty data available, but I don’t have the data base to be able to interpret it.

      • Ben Vorlich says:

        where is the data located, I sometimes get an urge to mess about with that sort of stuff?

        My current is to download all the GridWatch data and compare wind and inter-connectors, something different to worry about would be a diversion.

    • Willem Post says:

      Not to worry, Russia has plenty of gas at attractive prices.

  2. A C Osborn says:

    Sorry that this is off topic, but it is another Green failure in the EU which is a slap in the face for idiot Davey.

    We know from the past when we get this kind of weather when it is most needed that Wind power is pretty useless.
    Our blinkered politicians just do not want to see it.

  3. Hi Euan, I have been following this too. And waiting for something to happen. “Luckily” all the conventional power is still working. And “luckily” the next small front rolls in and the wind blows a bit and the chill changes. Because when the old coal conventional power fails (not if), there will be more than a snowflake hitting London and Edinburgh. I am also interested to understand if any of the wisdom amongst followers “out there” can give me any greater granularity on the Scottish-located generation and consumption for afternoon 19 January. Longannet has passed its Nth MoT, but is not in the 2018 capacity mechanism, neither is Peterhead, and Cockenzie no longer exists, and Hunterston B is cracked and on a unclear life extension. If the proposed interconnector gets built “its all fine”. But if not…. Can we do the arithmetic ?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Stuart, I covered a lot of this in “Scotland gagging on wind power” a few weeks ago.

      What I know now that I didn’t know then is that we can have absolutely zero wind. Today we will have the following assets:

      Longannet coal: 2.4 GW
      Torness nuclear: 1.2 GW
      Hunterstone nuclear: 0.86 GW (derated)
      Hydro: 1 GW (based on yesterdays peak output)
      Peterhead gas: 0.78 GW (maybe, the status here is not clear to me)
      Wind: close to zero

      TOTAL: 6.24 GW out of notional Scottish peak demand of 6 GW. So no local problem today.

      If you read the post I link to you’ll see that the problem as I see it is a chronic glut of expensive electricity, much of which may be wasted. What happens to Longannet? Are they going to keep it on standby for 45+ weeks per year? And what happens when our nukes close down before 2030?

      • shaszeldine says:

        Hi Euan,

        I agree thats the nameplate capacity. But actually…. 25% of Longannet is broken and unlikely to get fixed. Peterhead is mothballed. Hydro is short term (what if the blocking High weather system lasts a week ? Hunterston B – correct but nobody knows how long an extension for, never been done before, anywhere. What you omit, is the existing interconnector to Englandshire, which Grid state can import 2.5GW, but thats a much larger number than ever before. And you omit our interconnector to Moyle Ireland, where we act as a conduit to power the North of Ireland, so have a liability.

        My point is the mid-term 2 to 4 year future, though. I’ll mail you on gmail, to see if we can continue.

        But the Ask still stands – can anybody compile the generation out within Scotland on Friday 19th January, say 11 am to 18 pm

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I know that Peterhead failed its test run, didn’t realise that was that. Didn’t realise that Longannet was 25% down. Didn’t mention the interconnectors because it looked like Scotland would be exporting.

          We will have problems after Longannet closes but if you read my “Gagging” post you’ll see that the plan is for us to become dependent on England for electricity.

          Energy policy is an utter shambles, especially in Scotland. But it has become a fait accompli with so many turbines either built or approved.

          To answer your specific question, I don’t believe the data you seek is generally available, but Leo Smith is the guy to ask. BM reports must have access to this data.

  4. Willem Post says:


    Thanks for this revelation we all knew was waiting in the wings. Last winter, Germany had similar problems when wind AND solar were near zero.

    Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, France likely had minimal wind as well. It would be nice to add it all up and show the coincidence, to keep for future reference, to show to RE aficionados whenever they make stupid statements.

  5. Florian Schoepp says:

    well, offshore can be calm too – must have been overlooked when the drums were beaten for support of offshore wind. I find it interesting that the big ones like Siemens have abandoned their offshore activities after losing lots of Euros – despite all the subsidies.

  6. Roberto says:

    On wind energy, this is what the Danes have to say…

    ‘39% of the electricity consumed by the Danes’? .. don’t think so!


    • Louis says:

      ‘39% of the electricity consumed by the Danes’? .. don’t think so!

      Why not ?
      The Scandinavians seem to do things like wind and geo thermal quite well.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Stats on Scandinavian geothermal please. I think you will find it is zero. Iceland is not a part of Scandinavia. And wind power in both Norway and Sweden is simply window dressing.

        • Louis says:

          Heat pumps are the main geothermal use in the country, with the Lund district heating project being the largest geothermal plant producing about 250 GWh/yr, and has been doing so for 25 years.

          The majority of the heat pumps are small and typically used in single houses. There are currently around 230,000 installations with about 25,000 units installed annually

          Sweden, Population – 9.593 million (2013)
          Number of households – 4,554,824 (2008)

          Roughly 5% of the population by household using geothermal.

          Finland …. not so good……. mainly due to the geology but the conclusion points to a renewed public interest.


          According to the world update given at the World Geothermal Congress in 2005. Sweden and Iceland are on the “top five list” of direct use of geothermal energy and Denmark and Norway have the largest increase in geothermal energy use over the past five years. 
          The total energy use from geothermal energy in Norway is 1.5 TWh
          I sit in the ‘we will need a range of power solutions going forward while we look for a turnkey solution’ camp … So whilst heat pumps still need a secondary power source generating electricity to run the pumps I still think going down that route in terms of life span power conservation is a positive step and 25000 new household installations a year in Sweden alone is good news…..and not only for the Swedes.

          • Louis says:

            link for the Norway info

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Louis, neither air source nor ground source heat pumps at high latitudes are tapping geothermal energy. You may be an innocent victim of renewables propaganda. Are you here to learn or to spread propaganda?

            If you want to learn I am happy to teach. If you are here to spread propaganda then I will simply moderate your comments.

            For starters, geothermal energy is ultimately derived from the natural radioactive heat produced by fission of U, Th and K within the Lithosphere.

            Its your choice – here to learn or here to preach?


          • Euan Mearns says:

            Louis, you may find my reply a little strange. But unfortunately we have regular infestations of Green Trolls who pollute the discussion at the expense of reasoned debate. I am a great supporter of heat pumps. They multiply energy efficiency. But they are expensive to install.

            The Scandinavian countries are leaders in energy efficiency. But if you go underground in Scandinavia it gets colder, not warmer. And that is because the ground is still “frozen” from the last glaciation. This temperature inversion means its impossible to tap the heat within the Earth with devices located in the surface.

          • Lars says:

            Louis, I didn`t know you can count most heat pumps as “geothermal” although some with a bit of imagination could be called so I suppose. Referring to Norway where I live it is true that in the last ten years several hundred thousand heat pumps have been installed, but the vast majority of these ( I am guessing more than 95%) are air to air pumps and not the kind where you drill a hole in the ground. In other words most of them are not geothermal at all.

            Actually the grid operators are NOT all that enthusiastic about these air to air pumps. It is true they save some electricity but not that much because many people use them to increase temperature + sometimes as cooling in the summer.

            But more importantly they add to grid woes because their efficiency decreases exponentially by falling temperatures. In many instances they replace firewood and oil heating, that means when it is extremely cold they add a further burden on the grid because the other fuels they have substituted are no longer there. Statnett, the TSO says that heat pumps in Norway only makes it even more necessary to upgrade the grid to tackle peak power. I think your positive view on heat pumps need a bit of moderation 🙂

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Lars, it looks like Louis has been scared away which is a pity. My understanding of ground source heat pumps is that the heat exchanger is in the top couple of meters of soil. This is effectively warmed by the Sun. If the Scandinavians are conflating this with geothermal, then there is no hope for science.

            Geothermal heat is derived from radioactivity within the Earth. Geothermal heat drives plate tectonics which is in turn responsible for bringing hot rocks close to surface in a few very special parts of the Earth. Scandinavia, like Scotland, is not one of them

          • Bernard Durand says:

            Louis, your are making the usual confusion between deep geothermal energy, which exploits the heat accumulated in the earth crust, which originates mostly in radioactive elements decay, and shallow geothermal energy which exploits the heat accumulated by insolation of soils. Iceland, Italy, the US, Philippines, Costa Rica … use the first one, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland the second one with heat pumps. Surface geothermal energy has a much greater (and geographically much larger) potential than deep geothermal energy, but you cannot make electricity from it, only heat at low temperature.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Bernard, the term surface geothermal should be banished from the vocabulary. For a start it’s not geo – it’s in the soil. And second it’s not thermal – it is basically sucking heat out of cold soil. What’s wrong with the term “ground source heat pump”?

          • Heat extracted from soil heated by the sun is SOLAR energy.

        • Louis says:

          No … not here to preach only to learn.
          No … not scared off always happy to be pointed in the right direction.
          I was indeed labouring under the misunderstanding that geothermal included all the sub soil heat exchange technologies, and yes I knew that all except the deep (water boiling temperatures) wouldn’t generate electricity.
          Thanks to the conversation above I now have a bit more of an understanding.

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        Deliberate confusion. 39% of the amount produced (that hour, that day, that week?) may well have come from wind farms, but most would have been exported to other countries, usually at low prices.

        We had this situation in Sth. Australia where it was hyped that wind supplied 100% of the electricity. It turned out that it was for 5 hours in the early hours of the morning. See

        Note that conventional sources continued generating during that time. What happened to most of the electricity from the wind farms? It was sent by interconnectors to Victoria to compete with brown coal fired stations. These didn’t (and don’t) shut down, so it was off loaded to hydro (and possibly some into NSW). Hence the lower price recorded – an average of standard conventional sources and the lower price necessary for the other States to take the excess wind.

        Try also
        NOTE that the conventional plants all kept going despite ‘renewables’ supposedly supplying the whole State.

        I would also point out that Sth. Australia depends very much on importing power from Victoria’s brown coal fired stations, and in March 2014 agreed to boost interconnector capacity from 460 to 600MW (typical demand 1500MW). With demand falling it is hardly a vote of confidence in the ability of wind farms to supply.

      • Willem Post says:

        But those Danes are living in Norway

    • I’ve been working with P.F. Bach’s Denmark data recently. Here’s a plot of hourly Danish wind generation against hourly exports/imports for (most of) 2013:

      Notice how exports (negative on the graph) increase every time wind output increases. The correlation coefficient (0.76) is remarkably high for hourly data. The suggestion is that a large fraction of Danish wind power gets exported and never used in Denmark at all. I’m looking into a way of coming up with a numerical estimate of how much but am not there yet.

      Any comments, Hugh Sharman, if you’re there?

      • Leo Smith says:

        Worse, Denmark exports that surplus wind way below cost, allowing Sweden and Norway to save their water in reservoirs in order to sell hydro back to Denmark when the wind drops – at a much higher price..

        • Willem Post says:


          You are very correct, and as Denmark increases its wind energy production, that loss will become greater.

          Denmark thinks it can use more of the wind energy to heat hot water storage tanks for district heating and charge plug-in vehicles.


          1) How did you determine the 0.76 correlation coefficient; exports increase 76 units when wind increased 100 units. Alas, if had 15 minute data…….

          PF Bach has access to many sources. He may be helpful.

          2) Other than nuclear energy, is not all other energy some form of solar energy?

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          Some years ago the Norwegians would buy surplus Danish wind electricity at €29 per MWh and sell it back at €86.

          These days the buying price sometimes drops below zero, i.e. the Danes have to pay to get rid of it.

          A thousand years ago the Norwegians were very good at pillaging and looting; interesting survival of an old folk tradition.

  7. Louis says:

    I think the 39% is averaged out for the year 2014.
    The wind power share of power consumption over the last ten years
    2013: 32.7%
    2012: 32.0%
    2011: 28.3%
    2010: 22.0%
    2009: 19.4%
    2008: 19.3%
    2007: 19.9%
    2006: 17.0%
    2005: 18.7%
    2004: 18.8%

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      You still don’t understand do you? The wind power share of production is not the same as the share of consumption.
      Beyond a certain minimum that doesn’t disrupt their grids in Denmark (~10%) the rest of the electricity from wind is sent to other countries. To get them to take it, the price has to drop below the minimum there (hence the claim that wind energy drops prices) but the wind farmers get subsidies based on the amount they produce – or in the UK the amount they don’t produce at requested times lest it crash the grid.

      There is NO big pond that you can put electricity into to store it until such time as you want to take it out. The nearest to this is pumped storage, but you lose ~25%. You also lose money as the pumped storage operator wants to make money. 4 units in at $120 means 3 units out at $160 just to break even. If the market price averages $60 then the output is only worth $180 total, and the price to the pumped storage operator is going to be below $45 per unit. Wind is likely to be $110-120 per unit.

      The rising share of GENERATION from wind power means that the Danes have a rising loss on disposing of the excess electricity. They cannot just shut down base power stations, firstly they aren’t designed to fluctuate in output and any attempt to force them to do so results in less efficient operation and MORE emissions per unit of amount generated. Secondly, they have to have plants generating (and on standby) for when the wind drops. The only plants they can shut down when the wind starts supplying more are OCGT. Denmark has to rely on Norway, Sweden and Germany to take any excess beyond that (mostly by pumped storage of which there is a shortage in Denmark).

      NOTE if there is higher demand in Denmark than the supply they have to draw from Norway, Sweden and Germany, so some of the incoming electricity results from nuclear and other from coal, making a nonsense of the claim that Denmark doesn’t use nuclear power.

      NOTE also: exporting wind energy for a low price and buying it back at a higher price is so expensive that the Danes throttle back their efficient CHP (combined heat & power i.e. the district heating) which means less exporting, but the CHP plants still have to supply heating so their emissions per unit of electricity go up. Claims that X amount of electricity generated by wind equals X amount of emissions reduced, are from fools.

      • Lars says:

        You`ve got the point Graeme No.3. As of writing the Danish wind mills are producing 44 MW, that`s a load factor of slighly less than ONE PER CENT! Not even at sea is it blowing apparently.
        They are importing from Sweden and Norway and sending some of it on to Germany which of course faces just the same problem right now, it is cold and the wind is not blowing neither places.

        Still both the Danes and Germans are set to increase the number of wind mills in the years ahead. What a folly!

        • Graeme No.3 says:


          in ancient days vain politicians used to have large statues of themselves built.
          Then 3 hundred years ago they had large palaces built.
          One hundred years ago they wanted Museums etc. as a monument.
          These days they want wind turbines.

          Console yourself with the thought that you can visit the palaces or see the statues in the museums, but in 15 years time the only wind turbines standing will be preserved as ‘follies’.

  8. Leo Smith says:

    Its instructive to look at Gridwatch France today.

    Demand, coal and gas are off the end stops, solar and wind there are a joke, and even exports to the UK are down to a mere GW.

    Thank Clapton EDF has got all the UK nukes up to scratch and we are running at more nuclear than I have seen in years right now

    EDF has also chosen the moment to announce that regulatory bodies willing, it will keep at least one nuke going well beyond its expected closure date.

    • Ben Vorlich says:

      Precious little wind in Limousin for the last couple of days, not much more in the previous 12 months.

  9. fjpickett says:

    “exports to the UK are down to a mere GW”

    1.27GW at the moment, plus another GW from Holland. Trouble is that this is now the norm in the UK and I suspect that we depend upon it, especially when there’s almost no wind, as most of this week. I notice that the daytime (8am to 8pm) consumption this week has risen by about 10% from last week, thanks to the drop in temperature. It doesn’t feel very secure…

  10. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, this has been picked up by the Telegraph and that has been reported over on Paul Homewood’s Forum as well.

  11. Pingback: Když vítr (ne)fouká | Trpasloj

  12. Pingback: Fracking Moratorium in Scotland

Comments are closed.