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UK’s Fast Looming Power Crisis

November 20, 2015

By Paul Homewood




Further to my post earlier this week on our fast disappearing power stations, the Centre for Policy Studies has published its own report on the situation this month.

It covers a lot of ground, including impact on energy bills, but the section on generating capacity is particularly relevant.


The report lists the coal power stations, which have closed since 2012, or are due to next year.





They go on to discuss what these closures mean for UK electricity supply:


Britain’s present dispatchable electricity generating capacity now stands at just below 69,000MW. Due to the proposed closures announced throughout 2015 and into next year, by April 2016 this figure will have fallen by a further 7,400MW to just 61,600MW. This raises serious concerns for energy security. Spare generating margins are becoming perilously tight, if non-existent, for the 2016/17 winter and beyond.




In October National Grid published its 2015/2016 ‘Winter Outlook’ Report. The report calculated that the peak transmission demand forecast for the coming winter will be 54,200MW, a slight increase from last year. It is now therefore clear that the winter of 2016/17 will present the most significant challenge to maintaining affordable and available electricity supplies, as key dispatchable power plants will be closed early in March 2016. By winter 2016/17 British electricity generating capacity will have fallen below the minimum necessary margin to guarantee secure supplies of electricity generation for a growing economy. Electricity generating margins have not been this tight since the 1950’s.




National Grid are reacting to this looming crisis by spending millions of pounds to provide what it describes as ‘balancing services’ or reserves. This includes supporting the deployment of small scale and relatively inefficient localised diesel and gas fired generators, paying commercial and industrial consumers to reduce their electricity usage or switch to expensive backup generation sources at peak periods, and funding the operators of mothballed and uneconomic generating units to make them available at times of system stress. National Grid claim that these measures have secured an extra 2,400MW of extra ‘balancing services’ for winter 2015/16.

National Grid used this emergency measure for the first time in November 2015 after the unexpected shutdown of two large coal plants. The Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) was used to call on industry to reduce its power usage on Wednesday November 4 after National Grid issued the first Notice of Insufficient Margin (NISM) for three years. Electricity prices spiked with the Grid paying £2,500 per MWh to one operator, Severn Power, as it brought in emergency supplies. The present rate is under £60 per MWh.


Although the new gas-fired plant at Carrington is due on stream next year with capacity of 880 MW, this will be offset by the closure of Killingholme CCGT and Wylfa Nuclear, which have capacities of 900 and 450 MW respectively.


As I pointed out earlier, another 6 GW of coal-fired capacity could well be lost before 2020 at Aberthaw, Cottam, Lynemouth and West Burton, which have all opted out of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive. They are allowed 17500 hours of operation by 2023, but will almost certainly opt to use this allowance up as early as possible.

Furthermore, Amber Rudd’s promised execution for the remaining coal plants which have opted into the IED (Drax, Fiddlers Ferry, Rugely and Ratcliffe) may well persuade them not to hang around much longer, putting at risk another 7GW.



Mothballed Gas Fired Plant

The question has been raised of whether mothballed plant can be quickly brought back on stream. My understanding from DECC’s database is that the CPS figures for dispatchable capacity already include any such plants.

Below is the list of CCGT power stations as at May 2015, according to DECC.



AES Ballylumford C CCGT 616 2003 Northern Ireland
Centrica Barry (9) CCGT 235 1998 Wales

Glanford Brigg (9) CCGT 150 1993 Yorkshire and the Humber

Killingholme CCGT 665 1994 Yorkshire and the Humber

Langage CCGT 905 2010 South West

Peterborough (9) CCGT 240 1993 East

South Humber Bank CCGT 1310 1996 Yorkshire and the Humber
Coolkeeragh ESB Ltd Coolkeeragh CCGT 408 2005 Northern Ireland
Corby Power Ltd Corby CCGT 401 1993 East Midlands

Castleford CCGT 56 2002 Yorkshire and the Humber

Connahs Quay CCGT 1380 1996 Wales

Cottam Development Centre CCGT 395 1999 East Midlands

Enfield CCGT 408 1999 London

Grain CHP * CCGT 1365 2010 South East

Killingholme CCGT 900 1993 Yorkshire and the Humber

Sandbach CCGT 56 1999 North West

Thornhill CCGT 50 1998 Yorkshire and the Humber
EDF Energy West Burton CCGT CCGT 1332 2012 East Midlands
Intergen Coryton CCGT 800 2001 East

Rocksavage CCGT 810 1998 North West

Spalding CCGT 880 2004 East Midlands
ENGIE Deeside CCGT 515 1994 Wales

Saltend * CCGT 1200 2000 Yorkshire and the Humber
Marchwood Power Limited (16) Marchwood CCGT 842 2009 South West
MPF Operations Limited Severn Power CCGT 850 2010 Wales

Baglan Bay CCGT CCGT 520 2002 Wales

Sutton Bridge CCGT 819 1999 East
RWE Npower Plc Didcot B CCGT 1470 1998 South East

Great Yarmouth CCGT 420 2001 East

Little Barford CCGT 720 1995 East

Pembroke CCGT 2180 2012 Wales

Staythorpe C CCGT 1772 2010 East Midlands

Medway CCGT 700 1995 South East

Peterhead (22) CCGT 1180 1980 Scotland
Thermal: Damhead Creek CCGT 805 2000 South East

Rye House CCGT 715 1993 East

Shoreham CCGT 420 2000 South East

Blackburn CCGT 59 2011 North West
Seabank Power Limited (24) Seabank 1 CCGT 812 1998 South West

Seabank 2 CCGT 410 2000 South West


This totals 29771 MW, which is less than the total capacity of 31994 MW shown in DECC’s summary at Dec 2014. (Both figures are supposed to be for Major Producers).

It therefore does not appear that there is any more mothballed capacity available to add to the CPS list, certainly not that could be brought on stream easily.



The full CPS report is below



  1. Joe Public permalink
    November 20, 2015 2:54 pm

    Let’s pray Global Warming has made 1-in-25 winters a thing of the past.

  2. Adrian permalink
    November 20, 2015 3:01 pm

    Paul – you are so gloomy.

    Are you really suggesting that this country is run by a bunch of slogan-led cretins with as much of a clue about anything as a stale biscuit.

    If this was true such gross failures would soon be pointed out by the independent and unique tax-payer funded BBC. And they tell me windmills are perfectly ok and are going to save ‘the erff’

    So it simply can’t be that bad can it.

    Chicken Licken

    • A C Osborn permalink
      November 20, 2015 3:08 pm

      OK, we all knock the BBC, but what about ITV & the MSM, have you seen those special programmes/Articles that should be being continuously on display showing how corrupt and incompetent our Government and don’t foget the Civil Service are?
      No because they are all on board
      With the exception of Chris Booker, James Delingpole and a couple of others there is no interest in highlighting this

      • Adrian permalink
        November 20, 2015 8:24 pm

        I agree but I am not forced to pay for them.

    • Joe Public permalink
      November 20, 2015 5:17 pm

      It’s no mere coincidence, that the Climatic Research Unit and the School of Creative Writing are both based at the University of East Anglia.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      November 21, 2015 9:16 am

      NO, worse!

  3. A C Osborn permalink
    November 20, 2015 3:03 pm

    This situation has been predicted since before the mad dash for Wind & Solar and really needed action 10 to 15 years ago, instead the idiots in charge blew Billions on useless wind turbines and Solar.
    At least when we had the CEGB we had a grid and generation run by Engineers instead of no nothing politicians.

  4. November 20, 2015 3:07 pm

    If the power goes off dopey Dave is the only one to blame. Appointing dimwit Davey and prisoner Huhne to take charge of the DECC was an act of supreme neglect. It was obvious to anyone they were incompetent, and by not removing them on national security grounds he is negligent.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      November 20, 2015 3:11 pm

      Sorry, but his goes back to the EU, Labour and Milliband’s Climate Change Act written by a young Green Activist and voted in by all but 3 of the country’s MPs.

      • CheshireRed permalink
        November 20, 2015 5:14 pm

        @ A C Osborn.

        Correct. There’s a collective responsibility here that starts with the EU – it’s their directives we’re following after all, goes through Tony Blair for appointing Nick Stern to write the Stern Review – the platform for Ed Milliband’s CC Act, written by Green fruitcake Bryony Worthington, pushed by Ed via Gordon Brown’s government and since consolidated by green uber-knobs Huhne, Davey and Clegg. Cameron has continued the push and now Rudd is neck deep too.

        Chuck in dishonourable mentions for the corrupted Royal Society, University of East Anglia, Phil Jones, Reading and Exeter Uni’s, multiple green NGO advocates and of course the BBC / Guardian / Indy’ / Channel 4 media axis of the Green Blob and there you have it.

        There’s about 60 people who genuinely deserve jail over this scam, and this is just in the UK.

  5. November 20, 2015 3:26 pm

    Hope that they are going to preserve the coal fired power stations for future use as otherwise our energy mix will be all gas and wind.

    The outlook is desperate and, unless DECC open their eyes, rolling power cuts will soon be the norm in the UK. But our greenness will shine and the rest of the world will be full of admiration for our martyrdom.

    I’ll buy myself a stand-by generator, like all the wealthier people use in the developing world, for xmas: maybe I’ll get a payment for my 2 kW capacity.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      November 20, 2015 4:54 pm

      “… all gas and wind …”

      Just like our elite leaders.

  6. Tom Collins permalink
    November 20, 2015 3:44 pm

    So, we’re left with wind turbines and solar power! Does anyone know whether either of these 2 inventions are viable? Can they provide all our power and are they efficient, and cost effective, WITHOUT SUBSIDIES?

    • A C Osborn permalink
      November 20, 2015 5:13 pm

      Neither is “viable” due to intermittency, low wind at night in the winter and you have nothing, if you add “storage” you add further inefficiency and cost.
      On top of that they do not produce enough power to reproduce themselves and supply industry and domestic needs, so they are the products of the hated Fossil Fuel.

  7. November 20, 2015 3:52 pm

    how about turning all those closed coal power stations into tourist attractions – well healed chinese and german tourists might enjoy a guided tour round a quaint old historic power station!

    • November 20, 2015 4:16 pm

      Too near the truth!

      They turned the old steel mill at Templeborough, Rotherham into an “educational” experience a few years ago. It is now also near going bust!

      • A C Osborn permalink
        November 20, 2015 5:10 pm

        They already have with Battersea in London.

      • November 21, 2015 2:00 pm

        That’s very sad. I remember working in Templeborough many years ago. An incredible sight when in full flow.

  8. roy andrews permalink
    November 20, 2015 4:52 pm

    Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that the general public take little or no notice of the parlous state of our national power supply. I share some of Paul’s posts on my Facebook where they rarely attract comment or even a ‘like’. I guess that until there are cuts during Eastenders we face an uphill battle to spread the word. Thanks Paul for your unstinting efforts.

    • sarastro92 permalink
      November 20, 2015 6:01 pm

      Agreed Roy. The Brits and Germans will perform valuable service to the rest of the world by freezing, jobless in the dark Both nations will become object lessons in gross stupidity and corruption. Domestically, freezing in he dark will become a sublime teaching moment. But levity aside, people will die. But that’s the point isn’t it for the Green Malthusians?

      • November 21, 2015 2:02 pm

        The Germans will be fine as they are bringing more coal power online at a great rate of knots. We stand to be the main example of this stupidity whilst the US warming itself with shale gas.

  9. mwhite permalink
    November 20, 2015 7:23 pm

    The iIncumbent government will get the blame if we move to blackout Britain

    Don’t forget the alternative

  10. November 20, 2015 7:41 pm

    As I’ve pointed out before, the person in charge of “Security of Supply” at DECC is a history graduate whose civil service career encompasses the DWP and the Green Deal. We are in safe hands – DECC keeps assuring us. I don’t know what all the fuss is about; that is why my oil tank is full, my log store is full and my generator is on standby.

  11. Stephen John Taylor permalink
    November 20, 2015 8:16 pm

    Well, what with the ice-cold darkness about to descend on the UK, I can confirm that I have purchased a 2.8kW Inverter/Generator from Amazon; so my future is now bright! I’m so glad that I’m paying for renewables, as well.Thank you Mr Davey, Et al.

  12. markl permalink
    November 20, 2015 10:51 pm

    So the “burn down the house to save the village” plan is coming to fruition in the UK. My sympathies are with you and hopefully we in the US will learn from your indiscretion.

    • markl permalink
      November 20, 2015 10:58 pm

      Oops…..that should be “burn down the village to save the house”…..

  13. January 22, 2016 1:49 pm

    Paul, do you have an official link to that paper?

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