Too Much Power This Summer? Just Wait Till 2030!
By Paul Homewood
As I reported yesterday:
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”.
Given that we still only have 23GW of wind/solar capacity, things will get much worse in years to come. But one of the problems not acknowledged is the effect that such surplus capacity will have on the viability of renewables.
Currently, wind and solar rely on selling effectively all of their output in order to be viable, even with the attractive subsidies they receive. They are enabled to do this at the moment because of the system of ROCs and Strike Prices.
However, as renewable capacity continues to grow, we will increasingly see a situation where too much electricity is produced, and therefore not sold.
For instance, the Committee on Climate Change suggest these three scenarios for the capacity needed by 2030, in their Fifth Carbon Budget. (All three options assume about 100 TWh of CCGT, although this is not shown in their capacity table).
||High nuclear||High renewables||High CCS|
|Carbon capture & Storage||4||4||7|
Clearly the CCS option is not realistic, and given problems with Hinkley Point neither is the high nuclear one.
If we therefore look at the high renewables scenarios, we could have times when the grid has to cope with 100GW. Yet, according to Gridwatch, UK demand rarely gets above 30GW in summer. Even in winter 40GW is the norm.
So something has to give.
Of course, there is always too much capacity in summer. But in the past market forces have balanced the grid without any problem.
The difference in future is that, for much of the time, the grid won’t be able to take all of the electricity being generated.
Even when there is no solar output there will be many times when there is still much too much power. We can forget about interconnectors, as the rest of NW Europe will likely be in the same boat. Even if the surplus power was dumped, it would incur huge losses for the National Grid.
So it appears there are only two scenarios.
1) Wind farms will have to be paid massive amounts to switch off.
2) All generators will have to accept that they cannot sell all their electricity, which will significantly affect their economic viability.