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