UK’s Fast Looming Power Crisis
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|
|Glanford Brigg (9)||CCGT||150||1993||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|Killingholme||CCGT||665||1994||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|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|
|Cottam Development Centre||CCGT||395||1999||East Midlands|
|Grain CHP *||CCGT||1365||2010||South East|
|Killingholme||CCGT||900||1993||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|Thornhill||CCGT||50||1998||Yorkshire and the Humber|
|EDF Energy||West Burton CCGT||CCGT||1332||2012||East Midlands|
|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|
|RWE Npower Plc||Didcot B||CCGT||1470||1998||South East|
|Staythorpe C||CCGT||1772||2010||East Midlands|
|Thermal:||Damhead Creek||CCGT||805||2000||South East|
|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