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UK will have too much electricity this summer, National Grid forecasts

April 8, 2016

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Patsy Lacey




From the Telegraph:


Britain will have too much electricity this summer due to the growth in wind and solar farms, National Grid has forecast, warning it could be forced to issue unprecedented emergency orders to power plants to switch off.

Businesses will also be paid to shift their power demand to times when there is surplus electricity, as the UK energy system struggles to cope with the huge expansion in subsidised renewable power.

National Grid, which is responsible for balancing Britain’s power supply and demand, warned that operating the system at times of low demand was “becoming increasingly challenging”, in part due to the growth of “intermittent power capacity” such as wind and solar farms.


Historically, supply and demand on the national electricity grid largely balanced themselves out through market forces, because power plants would not be generating if there were no buyers for their electricity.

But that market has been changed radically by the growth of renewables, which generate when the wind blows or sun shines, receive subsidies on top of the market price, and in some cases feed their electricity directly into local power grids.

National Grid said that the “changing generation mix” meant there would be increasing reliance on it to intervene in the market “to keep the system secure”.

The boom in solar panels in recent years, fuelled by subsidies, has far exceeded expectations. These panels feed the power they produce directly into homes or the local electricity grid, reducing demand on the national system to what is expected to be a record low this year.

National demand is now forecast to fall so low that at times it would be outstripped by supply from wind farms, nuclear plants and a core of conventional flexible plants that National Grid needs to help balance the system, forcing the Grid to intervene.

“Wind generation may need to be curtailed this summer during minimum demand periods to help us balance the system,” it said, in its annual summer outlook report.

Wind farms are already paid millions of pounds every year to switch off when there is insufficient power cable capacity to transport their electricity to areas where it is needed. The report suggests National Grid may now have to pay them to switch off because their power is simply not needed at all.

The company warned it may also have to “issue emergency instructions to inflexible generators to reduce their output during some weeks in order to balance supply and demand”.

‘Inflexible’ generators are those that are not able or willing to adjust their output quickly to respond to changes in demand, including nuclear reactors and most small wind farms.

National Grid said current data suggested emergency orders could have to be issued for the first time on record during the weeks commencing 20 June, 25 July and 29 August.

It is also preparing a trial of a new system that will see businesses paid to shift their energy-intensive processes to times of low demand, to help use up surplus power on the system.

The unprecedented steps to prevent excess power on the system in summer come at the same time as National Grid is being forced to take emergency measures to ensure there is enough power to keep the lights on in winter.

Jon Ferris, of energy consultants Utilitywise, said the report showed that “the energy system has grown without strategic planning”.

“We have too much inflexible generation for summer demand, [and] dangerously little flexible generation for winter demand,” he said. “Current policy isn’t going to resolve this dilemma, yet the solutions – more interconnectors, demand response, storage and flexible generation – have been known for years.”


Mr Ferris is half right. It is a shambles. But his solutions are not going to help matters.

Storage, in reality, does not exist. Demand response is irrelevant in such times of low demand, as there will be surplus power night and day.

As for interconnectors, who in Europe will want to buy our surplus electricity in summer, when they are all in the same boat?


It does not take a genius to work out that the only real answer is to drop our obsession with renewables, abandon all subsidies for any new wind/solar projects, and ensure there is sufficient flexible gas generation available.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    April 8, 2016 1:07 pm

    “The boom in solar panels in recent years, fuelled by subsidies, has far exceeded expectations……..”

    Rather – the boom in solar panels in recent years, fuelled by overgenerous subsidies, ……..

  2. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    April 8, 2016 1:26 pm

    We certainly will have surplus when industry either dies or leaves.

  3. April 8, 2016 1:52 pm

    bottom line wind and solar screw up the grid surprise surprise

  4. roger permalink
    April 8, 2016 2:28 pm

    Oh dear! Not another offshore problem for Cameron?

  5. April 8, 2016 2:51 pm

    Well who could have predicted this? Well many engineers predicted it, but the Government PPEs ignored the warnings. Just wait until all those onshore wind turbines and wind farms, the offshore wind farms and all the solar farms that have already got planning permissions and are in the pipeline get built. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Looking back at my copy of the ‘UK Renewable Energy Strategy’ dated 2008, I can see that the Labour Government (bless them for their knowledge of the electricity industry) were happy with 40GW of uncontrollable, intermittent, unpredictable and asynchronous renewable generators connected to the grid. The warnings I gave in my consultation response about what would happen when generation approached and then far exceeded demand were brushed aside in the BERR response.

  6. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 8, 2016 3:13 pm

    The lawyers and contract writers for the wind and solar companies were abetted by the government in ensuring the clients (investors, land owners, “follow the money”) would become wealthier regardless of predictable problems. [note Phillip Bratby’s comment above.]

    Paul writes: “… real answer is to drop our obsession with renewables, abandon all subsidies for any new wind/solar projects …

    Ronald Reagan (quoted in the WSJ): “… there are simple answers, they are just not easy ones.” {April 7, p. A15}

  7. AlecM permalink
    April 8, 2016 3:23 pm

    What is needed is mass micro generation so that he and small business owners can generate their own electricity and heating, saving 40% of the fossil fuel for a windmill/diesel generator solution AND slashing grind prices.

    Then many of the wind farmers will go belly up and the assets bought to operate with no subsidies and with a condition that10% of their earnings are sequestered to pay for pump storage.

    I’ll take 20 years to rebuild a stable National Grid: better start real soon.

  8. April 8, 2016 3:35 pm

    If the government were to give us all subsidies to install air conditioning in our houses we could use all the intermittent power from the non-reliables …….while powering our battery cars. Then in the winter we could all relocate to Spain.

    • April 8, 2016 3:51 pm

      The Government prefers the opposite solution: a smart grid with smart meters and smart appliances. When the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, all your powerful appliances will switch themselves on. Your oven will come on every day in summer at about noon to get rid of all that solar power. Of course you could also have air-con at the same time to get rid of the heat from the oven. It’s a win-in situation, but don’t tell Amber Rudd.

      Those ten or so Labour Energy Ministers between 1997 and 2010 (Peter Hain, Patricia Hewitt, Ed Miliband etc) set the competency bar very low, so it was no problem for Chris Huhne, Ed Davey and Amber Rudd to get under and continue withe the same disastrous renewable energy policy.

      • Gamecock permalink
        April 11, 2016 12:10 am

        All your appliance belong to us.

  9. April 8, 2016 4:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Petrossa's Blog.

  10. A C Osborn permalink
    April 8, 2016 6:14 pm

    Sorry I just do not believe it.
    Currently we have
    Demand 35.89GW
    Coal 1.57GW (4.37%)
    Nuclear 7.79GW (21.70%)
    CCGT 18.54GW (51.65%)
    Wind 1.75GW (4.88%)
    Summer demand only drops to 25-30GW
    Since when have we seen coal at only 4.37% in the past, we also have 51.65 of Gas, which has been lower in the past when coal was high Nuclear is also up at the moment.
    Take a look at last year on Gridwatch, we may get more solar, but we get less wind in the summer.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 9, 2016 6:46 pm

      Solar capacity installed is now a nominal 9.2GW. The problem is that its output can’t be curtailed, unlike wind, which appears to be curtailed when output reaches 6 GW.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        April 9, 2016 9:44 pm

        …which of course begs the question “why are we investing in any more wind capacity if we’re simply going to pay for more and more of it to be curtailed?”

  11. April 10, 2016 5:44 am

    IDAU: Because the lunatics are in charge of the EU and UK asylums.

  12. April 10, 2016 9:43 am

    To quote the journalist Richard Littlejohn, ‘you just could not make this up’


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