UK’s Power Reserves Now Near The Bone
By Paul Homewood
Electrical generation from wind yesterday slumped at one stage as low as 0.4%, 152MW.
As this excellent new site from Stephen Morley shows, total demand peaked at just under 49GW.
With Drax now considering mothballing its remaining coal units, it is perhaps a good time to have a look at the dispatchable capacity position we are likely to be facing by 2020.
These are my assumptions:
1) CCGT includes all current capacity, (incl mothballed), plus the new plant at Carrington, due to be up and running this year.
2) The 2.0GW for coal is purely from Ratcliffe. Given the current economics of coal, there must be huge question marks whether this will survive till then.
3) I have assumed Drax do take their coal capacity off line.
4) Also assume that the last unit at Fiddlers Ferry (500MW) will also be gone. The other three units are all due to shut this year, and the only reason the last is being kept is that it is contracted under the Capacity Market Auction for 2018/19. As it has failed to extend the contract into 2019/20, there is no conceivable way it can be economic to keep it open beyond that.
5) The remaining coal plants, Cottam, West Burton and Aberthaw (combined 5.6GW) are all opted out of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive. This means they are allowed 17500 hours of operation between Jan 2016 and Dec 2023. They will inevitably want to use these hours up as soon as possible, to keep costs down. If we assume that they operate at 50% capacity, this would amount to 4380 hours a year. That would take their operational life up to Dec 2019.
It is therefore assumed that these too will be shut by 2020.
6) Biomass principally is accounted for by three units at Drax, plus Lynemouth.
7) Misc includes Gas Turbines, Dual Fired, Oil Fired and CHP.
As dispatchable power refers to power which can be supplied on demand, unreliables such as wind, solar and hydro are not included. There are of course the Interconnectors from France and the Netherlands, which could conceivably supply 3GW, but how reliable these would be in times of high demand and low supply remains to be seen. Yesterday they supplied under 2GW on average.
It is hard to see how any new CCGT plants could be brought on line before 2020, given planning lead times, arranging finance and construction times, even if operators could be persuaded to build the darned things. I understand that Carrington’s plant, due this year, has taken four years already.
Let’s be clear. If I am anywhere near right here, we are in deep trouble. The above capacities are “rated”, ie the theoretical full capacity. In practice, with breakdowns and stoppages, we can never expect to get anywhere near this, particularly when demand is high for a length of time, as when we get the sort of extended spell of really cold weather which we have not seen since 2010.
The Centre for Policy Studies, in their report The Great Green Hangover last year, suggested that we need to allow for 15% downtime to arrive at a reliable “derated” capacity. This means that if demand peaks at 50 GW, a very optimistic figure, we actually need about 59 GW of dispatchable capacity, something we clearly are not going to have in a few years time.
We may get extremely lucky and just manage to get by, due to a combination of wet and windy winters and low downtime. But is this really a way to run a country?