UK Wind Constraint Payments

Electricity generation from wind power has grown dramatically in the UK in recent years (Figure 2) and so has the challenge to balance the grid, especially when it is very windy. One of the balancing tactics deployed by National Grid is to pay wind farms to switch off when it is windy. This cost, borne by the consumer, is called a constraint payment. In 2015, UK consumers forked out £90 million to pay subsidy driven wind farms to switch off.

The amount of UK wind that is constrained is growing with the level of penetration. At 10% wind penetration, 6% of the wind power available is constrained (Figure 9).

All of the data presented in this post are from the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) [1] web site that provides a truly excellent database for UK power generation, especially renewables. REF provides daily, monthly and yearly figures for wind curtailment payments, the former behind a paywall. They were understandably reticent about me buying and then publishing their daily data, so this post is based on the public domain monthly data [2].

Let me begin with a look at total electricity supply that shows annual cycles with peaks centred in the winter months (Figure 1). But UK electricity supply (and demand) is falling. If we use electricity consumption as a marker of our level of civilisation and prosperity then this may give cause for concern.

Figure 1 There are many possible reasons for the decline in UK electricity consumption, among them 1) improved energy efficiency of appliances and homes, 2) high energy prices causing demand to fall and in some cases causing energy poverty, 3) offshoring of heavy industries and 4) embedded wind and solar generation that show up in statistics as reduced demand.

Figure 2 shows how metered wind generation has grown steadily: rapidly from 2011 to 2013 and more slowly since 2013. Only large wind farms are metered. Smaller wind farms and individual turbines are embedded in the low voltage transmission system and show up in statistics as reduced demand. Hence total wind generation is  higher than shown here. In 2015, roughly 73% was metered and 27% was embedded [3].

Figure 3 shows how monthly average wind generation has grown as a percentage of total generation. The current record is 12.4% in December 2015.

Figure 4 shows that the amount of wind constrained has grown steadily but as we shall see this growth is not linear with wind generation (Figure 9).

Figure 5 shows wind constrained as a percent of total generation. In record production month of December 2015, 11.2% of wind generation was constrained.


Figure 6 shows that the cost of constraining wind has grown in line with the amount of wind constrained (Figure 4). The unit price has been fairly constant since 2013 (Figure 8).

Figure 7 In 2015, total wind constraint payments exceeded £90 million and have been increasing at around £30 million per year.

Figure 8 The unit price of constraint fell rapidly until 2013 but has since largely flattened out. In 2015, the average price paid to wind producers to not produce was £71 / MWh. I am uncertain if producers are also paid the Renewable Obligation subsidy of roughly £45 / MWh for not producing. That would bring the total to £116 / MWh. This is an interesting number since it is similar to the price where storage is considered to become competitive [4].

Figure 9 Finally in Figure 9 we get to the chart I want to show the most. Plotting percent wind constrained against percent penetration we see that problems absorbing wind onto a balanced UK grid begin at 3% penetration. Below 3%,  little wind is constrained on a monthly basis, above 3% in certain circumstances, some wind is constrained. Above 6% penetration some wind is always constrained on a monthly basis. Constraint has grown along with the level of penetration but the relationship is unclear,  r^2 for linear and exponential fits are similar at around 0.4.


In 2015 the UK consumed 283,092,000 MWh of electricity. At a retail price of £167 / MWh, the UK electricity market has a notional value of £47 billion per year. Against this backdrop it is to be anticipated that RE enthusiasts and the pedlars of wind power might argue that the £90 million spent on constraint payments is an irrelevant 0.2% of the market.

The real issues here are economic and social ones. Our economies thrive and are based upon efficiency and competitiveness. Here we have acceptance of £90 million being spent in a single year to pay heavily subsidised companies to not do what they are established to do and that is to provide low carbon electricity to the British people. This is Orwellian (or Soviet) economics of the worst kind. In 2015, £90 million pounds was transferred from the pockets of the poor to the pockets of the rich in order to sustain an unsustainable electricity production mirage.

The official Green / Government narrative says that at times of surplus wind production, it will be stored for use at times of scarcity. OR alternatively surpluses may be exported. AND a third option is to balance wind off hydro generation combing the two to provide dispatchable supply.

The reality is that little if any surplus UK wind is stored. The investment decision on the main but puny storage scheme at Coire Glas appears indefinitely delayed [5]. Exporting surplus wind to Europe is a fantasy, not because we don’t have sufficient interconnectivity but because when it is windy in the UK it is also likely to be windy in Europe [6] hence there will be no demand for our surplus. Atlantic depressions are continent sized. And UK hydro is woefully under-dimensioned to have capacity to balance UK wind output. UK hydro is instead used to provide some base load and some diurnal load-following capability [7].

Hence, the official narrative is simply fantastical rubbish. The reality is that on windy days in the UK wind producers are paid by you and I to not produce their heavily subsidised electricity.


[1] Renewable Energy Foundation
[2] REF monthly constraint payments
[3] The Changing Face of UK Power Supply
[4] The Holy Grail of Battery Storage
[5] The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast
[6] The Wind in Spain Blows
[7] Hydro Balancing Wind in the UK

Footnote added 14:00 on 5th September.

In the caption to Figure 8 I leave an open question about the exact structure of constraint and subsidy payments. Dr Lee Moroney of the Renewable Energy Foundation has provided this clarification:

The producers are not paid the RO but, in addition to the constraint payment, they do get whatever they would earn under their PPA for the constrained-off generation, i.e. something around the wholesale electricity price, so your point still holds. In other words, the constraint payment is just to compensate them for the RO foregone, and prior to August 2015, the LEC foregone, plus – we are told – the additional costs inherent in reducing output. We have struggled to understand how the latter can be as much as they have been. For what it is worth we have been told there are, for example, costs associated with the risk of not being able to power up again. We incline to think they are charging what the market will take. Ofgem is looking at the constraint price issue at the moment – see and REF’s response to the Ofgem consultation at

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

78 Responses to UK Wind Constraint Payments

  1. Nial says:

    One green response is to point out that conventional power suppliers also get massive constraint payments.

    What they usually fail to mention is that this is to turn ON unexpectedly, where wind gets paid to switch OFF.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The FF generators are required to switch off all the time to balance the grid. Its just that they don’t get paid for doing so.

      • Alex says:

        A quick look at BM data and plotting daily gas versus wind output, shows how gas is being used to balance wind: (2015, figures in MWh/day)

        For every 1MWh increase in wind output, there is a 0.82MWh fall in gas output.

        Coal shows little correlation – it appeared more weather related.

        They sort of get paid for turning off through capacity payments. In an ideal market though, the capacity payments would cover all the fixed costs of the gas plant, and then they’d sell MWh at variable cost. I think for this to happen, the capacity market payments would have to rise a few fold (and wholesale prices of electricity would fall correspondingly).

    • gmlindsay says:

      The NG distinguishes between actual constraint payments (to shut down when output not required) and payments to rebalance the grid system – see tables in section 5 of monthly MBSS report issued by NG From these tables it is clearly seen that the “massive” payments to fossil generation fall into the “rebalancing” category (unlike wind)

      • Alex says:

        Can you clarify:
        “When National Grid asks a generator to reduce output (constrain) we still need the electricity it would have produced to keep the network balanced, it’s just that we can’t move it in or out of a certain area. We manage this by buying energy from the market for another generator elsewhere on the network to increase output and make up the difference essentially.”

        “The total cost of managing transmission constraints in this month [July 2016] was £31.82m.”

        Although this payment appears to go mostly to gas and coal providers, is it mostly a cost on the system imposed by wind and solar?

        That does rather dwarf the £90 million.

        • gmlindsay says:

          Alex – you cannot really see what is going on from one month’s Nat Grid MBSS data. July 2016 was apparently a month of relatively low wind (and hence little constraint payments) However, the MBSS for May shows an entirely different story with wind constraints outpacing fossil generation – as does the YTD data.

          • Alex says:

            Understood. What I want to understand is whether these payments constitute a subsidy to wind (or solar).

            The UK has historically had excess generation in the North, and more demand led growth in the south, so some of these payments could be due to fossil fuels.

            But as I understand it,
            – If e.g. Scotland produces a surplus of wind which can’t shipped south due to grid capacity, NG buys the “shortfall” from a coal/gas station in the south, the Scottish production is curtailed, and this is called a “rebalance payment”. These totalled £273 million in 2015 (Dec 2015 YTD figure).
            – If e.g. Scotland produces a surplus of wind which can’t be shipped south due to the fact that other producers can’t reduce their output fas enough, the Scottish production is curtailed, and this is called a “constraint payment”. These totalled £90 million in 2015.

            Total, £263 million, for 40TWh, so an extra subsidy of £6.60/MWh. Is that correct?

            Plus ~12GW x £20/KW = £240 million in capacity payment, so total extra subsidy (on top of strike prices) of £12/MWh, or about £20 per household.

          • gmlindsay says:

            Alex – I believe that the situation is less complex that your Scotland to England transfer. The total level of wind constraint payments correlates with the strength of the wind (and, of course, demand) – the higher the wind and the lower the demand, the higher are constraint payments. If you look at the actual constraint data (REF) it can be seen that the total constraint payment over a period in many cases assumes that the turbine is operating at capacity (which, by the way, is another scam as in such cases, the chances are high that the generator would have to be turned off anyway!!). NG will always get wind turned off last in the for commercial reasons (it’s more expensive to compensate). There are grid constraints all over Scotland – not just Scotland to England but also in local grids – as a consequence of the Connect and Manage policy. The wind generator not only gets the agreed constraint payment per MWh not generated but also gets compensated for the electricity not generated (in accordance with the contract with the grid) as explained by Lee Moroney (REF) in Euan’s article. Hence generators make more £££s when constrained off than when generating (the constraint payment – circa £80/MWh is way above the value of a ROC.It is also worth noting that the published constraint payment totals are only about half the actual payment since there are numerous generators (in Scotland anyway) who have entered into “secret” bi-lateral contracts with NG – this is explained on the REF web site.

  2. Joe Public says:

    Not forgetting that when wind subsidy-farms are paid to not generate electricity, they’re not generating ROCs either. This means the cost of ROCs which conventional generators are obliged to buy, and electricity consumers pay for, increases.

  3. dpcwp says:

    Until storage and exporting becomes more practical I don’t think £1.5 a year per person is going to break the bank.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Obviously banks should be allowed to skim 1 penny a day from their customers’ accounts too since its such a small amount no one would notice. They could keep doing this until their balance sheets are fully repaired.

  4. Robert H says:

    Presumably, it’s just the subsidy that is wrong. Is it the case that the wind turbines ‘don’t wear out as fast’ when not generating? I don’t know if they turn their blades to slow them or stop them. My point would be that if it’s purely a case of a subsidy, then despite the wind power not being useable sometimes, if the plant didn’t wear out, it would be better to not cycle the FF plant so much.

    I have a car, but I walk to work. In short, it’s politics

    ps. If Hinkley is an ‘overpriced dodgy deal’ with the Chinese, can’t we just have a Hitachi GE job, known design put there instead?

  5. OpenSourceElectricity says:

    Mayor question is: is curtailment due to local bottlenecks or due to production exceeding demand? It looks like local bottlenecks which tend to vanish with the next grid extension.
    E.g. there have been payments in Meklenburg-Vorpommern some years ago until a new 400kV-Line towards Hamburg was opened. Similar in Texas, and now again ingermany, ending most likely when the north-south extensions open.
    [6] shows that at many times when there is strong wind in UK there is a export markte in the rest of europe, in varying directions.

    • singletonengineer says:

      If the wind producers want more grid capacity, then they should pay for them.

      Next question?

      • Michael Kirby says:

        I don’t think this is correct. If the british government is subsidizing both production (and prevention of production), then the government should subsidize the creation of more efficient grids to support their policy.

        I agree with the basic premise though. It is moronic to subsidize both sides. I’d rather let the price of electricity fall, and that would curtail both production (no one wants to lose money), and new construction (regardless of subsidies). Then the government can take the savings and invest in the grid.


    • pyrrhus says:

      So the utilities and ratepayers should pay to create a Rube Goldberg transmission system just to accommodate an uneconomical sort of power?

  6. edhoskins says:

    Green oriented Prof David Mackay FRS in his final interview he let many casts out of all sorts of bags amongst them

    “if you can get through the winter, there is no point in adding expensive intermittent Renewables particularly wind and solar” min 14 – 15

    Also DECC knew full well that Solar was worthless in the UK: min 16. In spite of this the UK installed vast amounts in 2014 – 2015 bringing UK installations up to be third in Europe after Italy and Germany.

    See youtube

    David Mackay’s called the thought of powering the UK with Renewables “an appalling delusion”. The key statements in this final video, can be summarised:

    “whatever combination of renewable energy is used it will always fall far short of actual consumption in the UK” min 8+
    “power the UK with renewable energy is an appalling delusion” min 9.10+
    “ pay attention to mathematics, the laws of physics, the realities of engineering” min 9.40
    “intermittency is a real problem” min 9.50
    “renewable proponents haven’t done the numbers to achieve proposed solutions” min 10.10
    “winter” min 10.30
    “batteries are not scalable” min 11.05

    “if you can get through the winter, there is no point in adding expensive intermittent Renewables particularly wind and solar” min 14 – 15

    “DECC always knew that solar was worthless in the UK” min 16+
    “society needs reliability in its electrical system” min 18 +
    “CCS is crucial” min 19: the author would disagree with this but as far as David Mackay was concerned it would allow the continued use of fossil fuels

    “delusion about the ease of CO2 reduction and the error of not taking account of the simple mathematics” min 21

    • Euan Mearns says:

      David MacKay’s final interview was full of stunning revelations. We covered it here:

      He never missed an opportunity to distance himself from Greens and Green Thinking. But even I was surprised at what he had to say in his final interview. He was a pure scientist, interested from a theoretical point of view what had to be done to decarbonise electricity generation. Many folks mistook that for advocating RE.

      I gather Greens over at The Guardian didn’t waste much time before moving to insult their former hero.

      What he had to say on UK solar epitomises the politicisation of science and energy policy. But the thing that bothers me most is the academic establishment lining up to support the bonkers policies instead of opposing them.

      • Euan

        “But the thing that bothers me most is the academic establishment lining up to support the bonkers policies instead of opposing them.”

        I think a lot of this is due to academia not having look at matching intermittent power sources with the existing grid to any great extent, compared to research on the technology behind the solar and wind generators.

        Why? Well there is not much money/patents to be had from the existing but mature grid and companies who build e.g. solar cells say don’t care much on integration of their devices into the grid, especially with priority access and the like.

        Thus there is a vacuum on a topic that is central to renewable energies.

        • pyrrhus says:

          I think it has a lot to do with academia being a worthless bunch of leftist time servers….A child could look at the weather in the UK, or Germany, and know it can’t be good for solar.

          • But the point is the academics are so engrossed on getting a higher percent on their new fangled solar cell and because there is no money, funding or glory to be had on integration studies, they are never set up to look at that issue.

            It is the same in industrial processes. There is more to be had looking at novel production processes than asking whether we already have enough of it.

            Regardless of whether they are leftist or rightish time servers (you have both you know…)

        • Nathanael says:

          Balancing a grid with highly distributed renewables is *easy*. I know some fairly advanced ways to do it (the math papers have been published in the right journals), but it can be done in dumb ways too (though it’s more expensive), and it’s already happening on island grids.

          • Rob says:

            ‘Balancing a grid with highly distributed renewables is *easy’

            Have you actually read any articles on Energy Matters

          • Nial says:

            “the math papers have been published”


            You haven’t actually done anything in the real world have you?

        • Simon Cove says:

          Ref the solar cells. It’s almost a question of ideology. If the scientists are set targets ref solar cells then it’s Soviet style politics. If they are allowed to do what they want and the market sorts it. Then it is free market economics. Apart from free markets are always coloured by other constraints eg welfare and environmental (and even if you don’t believe in global warming there’s plenty of habitats destruction and extinction problems that exist).

          Also, scientists are not designing solar cells for the UK!! Why would they?? Currently, the silicon layer made from molten silicon (and then sawn into wafers with MUCH kerfloss) is 200 micrometers ie much embedded energy. New processes look like they can 3d print epitaxially at 30micrometre, reducing embedded energy by half. They improve the energy conversion from 18 to 30% and put them in that fairly expansive band of land say southern France to Argentina and I think the EROEI will do alright. Yeah, I know storage an issue.

          I’m quite in favour of more nuclear as well but the sellafield panorama documentary this week was not awe-inspiring. Roll on small modular that burns most waste – can’t come soon enough to get rid of waste and more energy.

      • Bernard Durand says:

        Euan, a question is why the academic establishment behaves that way. Any answer?

  7. Rob says:

    To see the real waste of wind power we need to look at the top up payments for gas power back up

    £2 billion for generators to increase or decrease there power at short notice

    £1.4 billion in capacity payments

    Not to mention batteries and £11 billion smart grid

    Add these all up claims that price of wind power coming down seem ridiculous .

    Also has anyone seen this

    Spending £66 million on 200 MWh of batteries will keep the lights on

  8. An obvious question should be WHY the electricity generated but windturbines is curtailed. Can it really be lack of demand or is it rather lack of capacity to deliver the power to where the demand is? The power output of the windturbines is never above totalt UK demand, right?

    • singletonengineer says:

      DH, you evidently do not understand.

      Yes, transmission capacity is limited, as also every other resource on every other project on our planet.

      That isn’t the end of though. There are limits to the speed at which other energy sources can ramp up and down and this comes at a cost – principally, due to reduced efficiency. The supplier that causes the need to ramp up and down should morally pay for this service, but it does not – it is either the gas/coal/other fossil fuelled plant owner that initially foots the bill and who might or might not receive partial payment for his doing so.

      Further, it is essential that spinning reserve be maintained on the grid so that the frequency and voltage drop arising from a loss of generating capacity can be accommodated. This sometimes called the need for inertia. Neither wind nor solar power can provide either spinning reserve or the inertia that is needed in the first fraction of a second to ride through loss of generating capacity elsewhere in the grid.

      These are hard and fast engineering requirements. Wind cannot and does not provide what is necessary.

      I really envy your simplistic lack of understanding. Those who are ignorant of the complexity of the situation are able to believe that the answer is simple. Well, it is not quite as simple as you suggested.

      • Michael Kirby says:

        I don’t think that is true, is it? Constraint payment are basically “paying for a reserve”

        Wind can absolutely generate a reserve, you just have to keep production idled to do it (which is basically what an unused gas plant does, except most of the cost in a gas plant is in the fuel, which isn’t being spent when it is idle).

        The issue is paying for the reserve.

        • Greg Kaan says:

          Wind can absolutely generate a reserve, you just have to keep production idled to do it (which is basically what an unused gas plant does

          You conveniently ignore the fact that the wind does not always blow when needed in which case the wind “reserve” does nothing while the gas plant can be ramped up as required.

          Ignoring this simple facts is what has led to the mess in Scotland, South Australia and South Africa where pricing volatility is through the roof.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      or is it rather lack of capacity to deliver the power to where the demand is?

      I suspect this has a lot to do with it. The UK has about 50% of installed wind in Scotland and there is probably a lack of interconnection to transmit that to population centres in England. I will be taking another look at cross border electricity transfers Scotland – England in the near future. Ramp rate of FF plants may be another issue.

      • gmlindsay says:

        Quite so, Euan – this lack of grid capability to deliver to the market is yet another consequence of political folly. When developers were whinging about lack of grid capacity, the government came up with the Connect and Manage requirement – where the grid was obliged to allow new installations to connect to the grid and then the grid had the responsibility of managing the consequences. Inevitably this has been instrumental in causing the ever growing level of constraint payments – there simply nowhere for the electricity to go on windy days.

        • Nathanael says:

          The political folly was privatizing National Grid.

          As a private company, they have had a strong incentive to NOT invest in transmission lines (or anything else), and to instead collect money and mail out dividend checks while the infrastructure deteriorates.

          As a public utility, the government could have had them build the necessary transmission lines.

  9. Cheshire Brough says:

    Many thanks for putting this post up for discussion.

    Quote ‘ the real issues here are economic and social ones’

    Well here we are 5th Sept. 2016, where somewhere in the world at a small meeting called G20 some delegates might use the same above quote when discussing the hot topic of the day ‘Brexit’.
    Gail Tverberg in her post 6th July 2016 concerning widening wealth disparity, suggested that maybe Brexit might be due to thermodynamic degradation of the UK. This appears to be born out by the declining electricity consumption of the UK shown in Fig1.

  10. Kaj Luukko says:

    Thank your for an interesting analysis!

    You might be interested in my allmost real time wisualization of wind power production in Europe. It has been up and running now for a couple of weeks and it seems to be working.

    I hope you find it useful.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks for that, I’ll add it to my sidebar menus when I get time. Does Sweden really produce more wind than Denmark? Does your website have a name?

    • meliorismnow says:

      Could you add the summation of solar + wind to the 2 week chart? For Nordic countries, could you showcase “hydro as a battery” model for wind+solar?

      • Kaj Luukko says:

        Yes, I can. Maybe next week when I should have some time.

        How should the “hydro as a battery” model look like? Simpy the output for wind and hydro in one graph? There is not much solar power in Nordic countries, so it can be ignored.

        • jacobress says:

          About hydro- first we need to understand if hydro is constrained by weather – i.e. fluctuations of hydro electricity due to water availability. Lack of water, some months, is a problem in Spain but probably not in Norway or Sweden. Therefore we need a graph of hydro alone over a year.

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

            Norway has seen significant constraints on hydro output due to lack of rain and snow. It produced 142.2TWh in 2000, but as little as 106.1TWh in 2003 and 109.4TWh in 2004. Sweden dropped from 79.2TWh in 2001 to just 53.6TWh in 2003.

        • meliorismnow says:

          Great, thanks! Wind and hydro in one graph like you did for wind and solar (for EU) would be great. 1 year timeframe along with graphing hydro capacity over the same period if you can get that data to show the potential for a “seasonal battery”. It would also be nice to show excess capacity (water diverted or power curtailed) during particularly rainy seasons if that exists. I think it would also be useful to graph a shorter timeframe (say a month) to show us its (current use) as a battery. We should see hydro plotting as an inverse relationship to wind. Hydro capacity may not be (particularly) useful at that timescale.

    • Alex says:

      Really nice Kaj,

      It would be nice to extend the time period on the charts. I see that European wind capacity factor varies from 12% to 33% over a month.

      Over 4 years, UK capacity factor varied between 1.0% and 85%.

      My assumption is that if the lights are going off because of poor wind in the UK, Germany and others won’t be in a position to help. Italy and Spain might be, but that needs a whole load of extra inter-connectors.

  11. brianrlcatt says:

    Those here who understand the facts and can expose the bad science (BS) used to create the batshit crazy and technically incompetent Bryony Worthington’s climate change protection racket, should write and tell the ECC Select committee, who are reviewing what we should do about energy policy now we are leaving the EU. I say it’s very obvious. Do what works best in engineering delivery fact.

    Want to get in the Lords? Find a pseudo science excuse to defraud the public for government lobbyists that Humphrey can put into law and senior politicians can do nicely supporting, during and after office. Deben, Hendry, Huhne, Davey, Yeo et al.

    It is a massive LIE. On the science facts. No consensus required. Not that poiticians understand the inconvenient difference. They believe theirown Bad Science.. If climate change is made worse by CO2 emissions, subsidising renewables must make it much worse, not better, versus gas replacing coal and nuclear both, unsubsidised.

    The action is obvious. Cancel the subsidies and allow the most decarbonising, adequate, affordabe, sustainable and secure solutions of gas and nuclear to be preferred. No hurry for nuclear, but get fracking. Stop wasting £Bilions pa on renewable subsidies that can only make all the policy measures of supply, in particular CO2 emissions, worse by law, and place our economy in jeopardy by false beliefs and direct deceits made law. When we are already in far too much debt we should be paying it off, not carrying on wasting £Billions pa on renewable energy that just can’t deliver anything it promises, while the rich and renewable companies cynically skim the bill payer using Worthington’s laws.. etc.

  12. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    Impressive job. Figure 9 demonstrates that the curtailment is going to be larger than one might have anticipated from looking at the hourly generation statistics as Roger has done. It is is part of the problem with European residential electricity being much more expensive than one might have anticipated from levelized cost calculations for solar and wind.


    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hi Dave, levelised costs calculated for a device operating at optimum conditions is all but meaningless information. What is required is the levelised system cost that takes into account grid, storage, balancing, balancing reserve, curtailment and eventually the cost of blackouts.

  13. w p says:

    The Germans are experiencing the effects of ‘stochastic’ production in a way that propels the cost to consumers to the top of the EU price list, together with Denmark, in the region of 30 € cents per kW/h.

    Among many other surcharges, subsidies, taxes etc., the German consumer indirectly pays for stand-by conventional capacity, the cost of ramping up and shutting down of coal plants. In addition there are regularly ‘negative’ wholesale prices, i.e. the Germans pay for others to take their excess production at a loss. In doing so, they are destroying surrounding countries clean hydroelectric production by dumping their surplus at a loss.

    The problem exists since a number of years as can be seen from the interactive charts here (price chart):

    The entire German ‘Energiewende’ is a supreme example of failed central planning, an ideologically and politically driven disaster. No sane person would build a house with rain water supply from the drains on the roof (subsidized) and no pipes, no connection to the water grid, no reservoir to store excess when it is raining and available for supply when there is a drought. Well that’s exactly what they did in Germany. No storage, No transmission from the North (wind production off shore) to the South where the energy is needed. Still in the planning stage – or thereabouts. German perfection – even when all goes wrong.

    • meliorismnow says:

      How do brief blips of cheap surplus energy destroy hydro production? They should pair brilliantly, because hydro can ramp quickly and can act as a battery. As for high retail rates, what are the rates for large energy users? I’ve read they are kept low to retain industry, in effect forcing consumers and smaller businesses to pay most of the costs of Energiewende? And I’ve also read that the North-South transmission capacity has been stymied by NIMBY communities, not the central planners (who have been pushing for it for years). If sufficient interconnection is created, solar significant amounts of solar should flow north as well as (significantly more) wind flows south and Germany could get by with less exports and imports (or greatly increase their RE capacity while holding these at similar levels).

      • Kees van der Pool says:

        Hi meliorismnow,
        You wrote “How do brief blips of cheap surplus energy destroy hydro production?”
        WP probably meant the pumped storage business of the Swiss, Austrians and Germans.
        They used to purchase cheap nighttime production and sell it for a profit at the daytime peak.That price differential is now being eroded in the summertime by cheap solar.

  14. gweberbv says:

    I would say that interconnectors (and grid enforcement) will help a lot at the current levels of penetration.
    See here for the German numbers: (much more RE, but curtailment payments on the same level as UK)
    And other European countries: (Table 1 on page 2)

    But in most countries, wind turbines are errected much faster than the grid is enforced. So, the problem gets bigger and bigger (for the moment). Curtailments above 10% of production indeed indicate that there is something needed to get fixed.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      And yet one of the key complaints that we have down in Australia by the renewables lobby is that grid operators are “gold plating” the grids by overbuilding transmission capacity, hence ripping off consumers. Quite ironic since the lobby also clamors for interconnectors to be built and upgraded so that renewable generation can be exported to where it is needed (ie away from where it isn’t needed).

      That overall demand is not always equal to overall renewables generation consistently escapes them. But then they have academics of the same nature as those advising the UK government that it is possible by looking at the averaged demand and generations figures – academics that have no expertise at all in the field of power engineering.

      • gweberbv says:


        I can very well imagine that PV lobbyist are pointing their fingers on expensive grid enforcements as PV usually is less reliant on new transmission lines (unless you are sitting in the Atacama desert). But wind lobbyist usually are very in favour of them.

        Acedemics looking at RE generation compared to demand in UK, Australia or Germany will usually come to the same finding as ordinary people: The latter is much bigger than the former.

        • Greg Kaan says:

          The renewables lobbyists down here are very rarely specific as to to the technology they support. Wind, PV, CST, geothermal – they tend to be for all of them with hydro only seen to have a supporting role.

          The transmission inconsistency is something they refuse to acknowledge

  15. Leo Smith says:

    It is sad but true that the only models that politicians seem to believe are the ones they find politically convenient. For years engineers have been warning about the issues of intermittent renewables, but were not heeded, whereas so-called scientists who warned about Global warming, and whose message was so much more politically convenient were afforded top status.

  16. Alex says:

    As I understand it, in 2015, the UK produced 18 million MWh in 2015, so the £90 million comes in at £5/MWh.

    That’s not too much, but it really ought to be seen as a subsidy for wind, so we need to add it to the “strike prices agreed”.

    In terms of capacity payments, the 8GW of wind capacity requires about 7GW of firm capacity, at (a remarkably low) £20/KW, or £20 million/GW, or about £140. That’s about another £8/MWh, so we’re up to £13/MWh hidden subsidy.

    Add in grid reinforcements needed …. any ideas?

    I won’t judge the benefit of these subsidies – but they ought to be recognised.

  17. Greg Kaan says:

    Well, it looks like the payments will only increase with a new wind turbine being deployed in Scotland on a daily basis

    energy companies were paid almost £5.5 million to switch off their turbines in Scotland for one day this summer

  18. Pingback: Energy & Environmental Newsletter: September 12, 2016 - Master Resource

  19. Pingback: Recent Energy And Environmental News – September 12th 2016 | PA Pundits - International

  20. Owen says:

    Over 40% of wind power in Ireland shutdown on sunday night to maintain grid stability

Comments are closed.