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UK Grid Capacity

November 5, 2015

By Paul Homewood  




With news yesterday that the National Grid had to issue an urgent request for energy companies to make more power available after multiple breakdowns at UK power stations, I thought I would have a look at what capacity there is on the system.  


This is what DECC show as at the end of 2014: 


5.6 Plant capacity – United Kingdom

All generating companies
Total capacity 84,987
Of which:
Conventional steam stations (8) 24,838
Combined cycle gas turbine stations 33,784
Nuclear stations 9,937
Gas turbines and oil engines 1,787
Hydro-electric stations:
Natural flow (4) 1,567
Pumped storage 2,744
Wind (4) 5,585
Renewables other than hydro and wind (4) 4,747


Obviously, we can exclude wind, reducing the figure to 79.4 GW. Solar is included in the Other Renewables number, at, I would estimate, about 1GW, so excluding this would reduce capacity down to about 78.4 GW.

Most of the Conventional Steam figure is coal, about 20 GW, which also includes coal/biomass co-fired.  

Of the coal capacity, Longannet and Eggborough are due to close in March 2016, with a combined capacity of 4.2 GW, thus reducing capacity next year to 74.2 GW.

Offsetting this loss will be the new CCGT station at Carrington, with 880 MW, so we are looking at about 75 GW for next year.


Current plans indicate that most of the remaining coal-fired capacity will go by 2023, because of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, which supersedes the Large Combustion Directive. Only Rugeley and Ratcliffe have committed to meeting the new standards, although Drax, Ferrybridge and Fiddlers Ferry will continue with some biomass generation.

Best guess is that there will be no more than 10 GW of existing coal capacity remaining by then.


According to the National Grid, they were expecting peak demand of 49 GW yesterday, but were concerned about multiple breakdowns at UK power stations. This shows just how much reserve capacity is needed.

Last winter, which was mild, demand peaked at 53.5 GW in January. However, as recently as February 2012, demand peaked as high as 59.1 GW, and in the following winter, demand frequently exceeded 56 GW.



Might be time to invest in a few of those diesel generators!

  1. November 5, 2015 2:27 pm

    By the end of the week, solar capacity will exceed 9GW.

    I am reminded that in the days of the CEGB, reserve capacity was about 19%.

    Mine’s a LPG generator.

    • November 5, 2015 2:29 pm

      Correction: I believe reserve was 20 to 25%, nominally 24%.

    • November 5, 2015 6:42 pm

      DECC show the capacity at end of 2014 as 5.3 GW, in their renewables section.

      However, in the table I showed, which the “other renewables” which presumably includes bio, is noted as

      (4) Small-scale hydro, wind and solar photovoltaics capacity are shown on declared net capability basis, and are
      de-rated to account for intermittency, by factors of 0.365, 0.43 and 0.17 respectively.

      Hence my estimate of 1GW

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    November 5, 2015 2:34 pm

    ..and, forgive me but is this at a time when we are adding hundreds of thousands to the population every year….
    The UK’s CO2 obsessed energy policy, as developed by successive deluded governments, can only be described as INSANE.
    Within a few years, will the last person to leave the country turn the lights out.
    Oh, sorry, won’t need to!

    • November 5, 2015 6:43 pm

      Well, at least we’ll be able to all cuddle up together to keep warm!

  3. c777 permalink
    November 5, 2015 3:33 pm

    I always thought that regular blackouts will be the only thing that brings back common sense to the institutionalised Green corruption insanity that has infested our government.
    No government survives blackouts, Callaghan’s Labour government learned this hard lesson in 1979.

  4. November 5, 2015 4:03 pm

    According to the article on page 4 of the Telegraph today part of the panic yesterday was that coal plants broke down and also a lack of power from the wind and solar generators. However, a quick look at the data supplied by ‘’, had shown that there was no decrease in power from the coal fired power stations at the ;time of peak demand of 1600 to 1800 hours and all was normal. Wind supplied electricity was running at 0.5 to about 1.5% of its much vaunted 13.1GW and since it was dark there was nothing from the solar panels. This raises the question: why are coal fired power stations being partly blamed causing the supposed problem when all indications were that they functioning normally? Is it a case of the author of the Telegraph article just taking someone’s word that it was a coal plant problem or what?

  5. Paul2 permalink
    November 5, 2015 4:23 pm

    I’m confused. According to Wiki installed wind capacity in the UK is roughly 13 gigs.

    • November 5, 2015 6:46 pm

      13 Gw is right Paul

      See my reply to Philip below:

      The DECC table which I showed notes:

      (4) Small-scale hydro, wind and solar photovoltaics capacity are shown on declared net capability basis, and are
      de-rated to account for intermittency, by factors of 0.365, 0.43 and 0.17 respectively.

      • soundarden permalink
        November 5, 2015 7:31 pm

        meterd capacity is 8403MW, the rest, like solar is seen as a demand reduction

      • Joe Public permalink
        November 5, 2015 10:45 pm

        @ soundarden

        Metered capacity might be 8,403MW, but in 2014 the maximum contribution all the turbines made to meet demand was 6,835 MW (at 19:50 on 9th Dec)

  6. November 5, 2015 5:40 pm

    Ironbridge coal-fired power station due to close at the end of this year, by order of the EU:

    • John, UK permalink
      November 6, 2015 9:54 am

      I believe Ironbridge has been burning Biomass for at least a year now possibly two or three, at least that is what the trains have been carrying to the power station.

  7. November 5, 2015 6:59 pm

    How long before the first death due to electricity cuts
    which politician should be tried for it?

  8. A C Osborn permalink
    November 5, 2015 7:08 pm

    It makes you wonder if the values that NG gave for 2014 are actually available.
    There have been closures of Power stations declared since 2014.
    How much of their spare capacity is actually “mothballed” and therefore not available at any kind of short notice.
    Or could it be that someone in NG has decided to put the squeeze on the Government as I suggested last year.
    If this keeps hitting headlines the Public will be demanding the Government do “something” about it.
    Like ignoring the EU over coal, re-opening mothballed stations etc, you know like Germany has been doing.

  9. soundarden permalink
    November 5, 2015 7:27 pm

    power plant closures/capacity reduction end March 2016;
    longannet 2260MW
    eggborough 1940MW
    the last remaining Ferrybridge unit 480MW (all others closed)
    littlebrook 800MW (oil fired LCPD closure)
    part of Fiddlers Ferry 498MW
    Wylfa 450MW
    Ironbridge (LCPD closure) 385MW
    Deeside 259MW
    Barry 235MW
    Peterborough 146MW
    some smaler reductions all adding up to 7552MW see national grid tec register;

    Nothing particular happens in 2023 other than rumours the government wants all coal shut.

    come the end of July 2020 all coal plants have to comply with IED and meet lower NOx limits.. Currently the only planned units that can or will be able to achieve this are Ratcliffe, Aberthaw and 1 Fiddlers Ferry Unit. No other plants as yet have decided to fit nox reduction (west burton, cottam, Rugeley, Uskmouth a total of 6.5GW)

    • November 5, 2015 10:41 pm

      As I understand it, plants which dont comply with IED can continue till 2033. 2023 (sorry)

      Aberthaw has already decided to opt out.

      The other question is how many other coal plants who have decided to opt in, will actually spend money doing so, when govt makes it clear they must shut down soon after anyway.

      • soundarden permalink
        November 6, 2015 6:05 am

        For Ord you can with opt in and fit box reduction, join the tho which has an emissions bubble that gradually reduces to tho levels by mid 2020, opt for 1700hrs then shut or opt for 1500 hrs per year indefinatly.

      • soundarden permalink
        November 6, 2015 6:08 am

        For ied you can opt in and fit nox reduction, join the tnp which has an emissions bubble that gradually reduces to ied levels by mid 2020, opt for 1700hrs then shut or opt for 1500 hrs per year indefinatly. …sorry predictive text !

      • soundarden permalink
        November 6, 2015 6:40 am

        Yes why invest for only anoth three years of life. That will mean plants will either opt for the 17500 hrs or tnp id imagine. From 1st Jan all coal plant that have not installed nox reduction will cut back their production to either save hours or emissions bubble.

  10. J Martin permalink
    November 5, 2015 8:51 pm

    So minimum energy available at about the time the sun arrives at its next solar minimum in 2022. During the last 2 year minimum about 2009 we had a pretty convincing winter. The next minimum might be interesting. Think I might start looking into electric generators as I guess we still won’t have fancy new battery technology by then.

    • November 5, 2015 9:27 pm

      J Martin, as someone with patents and business interests in energy storage, rest assured you are correct about your last sentence. The best foreseeable energy storage system is fossil fuels. Sunlight stored as carbon and hydrocarbon. Next best is hydro. Sunlight stored as precipitation potential energy. After those two, we run out of practical engineered options. Rather than its finest hour, it appears the UK is about to experience its darkest hour thanks to its climate act of 2008. Across the pond, we are stopping Obummer with congessional refusal to pass suicidal climate laws, congressional subpoenas to uncover malfeasance (Rep. Smith to NOAA is hotting up), and state initiated lawsuits to tear up unconstitutional regulatory over reach (CPP). A riproaring multifront constitutional slugfest.

  11. Joe Public permalink
    November 5, 2015 11:06 pm

    An interesting post and table here:

    Several coal units were offline because they had problems, and several more developed problems throughout the day, causing National Grid to raise the alarm. In total, 35% of coal was offline at the peak, compared to National Grid’s general assumption of 12% of unplanned outages for coal.

    7 out of 10 coal-fired power stations had at least one unit out of action. Fiddlers had only 1 out of 4 generating.

    The most-modern (?!) of the 10 is only 39 years old; the other 9 ranged from 43 to 49 years old.

    I wonder how many turbines will be generating towards the end of their 4th decade?

  12. john in cheshire permalink
    November 6, 2015 10:33 am

    I’m sure that I read several years ago that the ultimate objective is to transform the power supply industry from demand lead to supply managed. I haven’t read anything recently to suggest that plan has been dropped. In that case, I suspect power outages are already baked into the cake and the controllers of this plan are preparing a narrative that tells us it’s our fault and we’ll have to get used to having electricity when they determine we should have it. Nothing short of death is going to stop these people.

    • Green Sand permalink
      November 6, 2015 11:08 am

      You are correct, first I came across was from Steve Holliday CEO National Grid back in 2011. Hope the following works:-


      • Green Sand permalink
        November 6, 2015 11:09 am

        Try link again:-

      • Green Sand permalink
        November 6, 2015 11:10 am

        Last go!

      • john in cheshire permalink
        November 6, 2015 1:40 pm

        Thanks for the info. I have no doubt this is what they are planning and we’re all just letting them do it.

  13. November 6, 2015 10:47 am

    This is obviously something that is NOT of great concern to our leaders. They have better things to worry about, like making sure DECC is good value for taxpayers’ money as it destroys the electricity system.


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