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Too Much Power This Summer? Just Wait Till 2030!

April 10, 2016

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
Nuclear 11 6 8
Onshore wind 20 22 20
Offshore wind 20 25 20
Carbon capture & Storage 4 4 7
Solar 20 40 20
Tidal 1 1 1
Biomass 3 3 3
Hydro 2 2 2
Total 81 103 81


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.

  1. Green Sand permalink
    April 10, 2016 10:25 am

    Too much power in summer? Not possible, well not according to our glorious ‘Jewel in the Crown’:-

    Impacts on the UK energy industry

    “……..We also studied the potential changes in demand as our seasons are altered under climate change – such as an expected shift in peak power demand to the summer as people rely more on air conditioning.”

    Seriously? In the UK? O yeh! Because “Everything we do is based on world-leading science…..”

    Ho hum….

  2. April 10, 2016 10:55 am

    This is why greenies love interconnectors, for exporting the surplus, Germans ones in particular, and the Chinese are even talking about export from China to Germany via very high voltage lines.

    Of course they fail to mention that everyone will have a surplus, and a deficit, at more or less the same time, hence the April 1st suggestion that the EU forces some countries to work entirely night shifts.

    Greenies are also planning to convert any surplus to hydrogen, nothing is impossible when you have a license to extract money from bill payers under the guise of saving the planet:

    • Rowland Pantling permalink
      April 10, 2016 6:10 pm

      Gawd help us if we have to burn hydrogen on our stoves. The excess water vapour will lead to massive problems of condensation.

  3. TinyCO2 permalink
    April 10, 2016 11:29 am

    Historically, conventional power stations used the opportunity in the summer to take everything to bits and check for defects so were not all available to supply. Much potential oversupply was taken care of by necessary maintenance, engineering projects, holidays, etc.

  4. April 10, 2016 11:38 am

    But is Germany in the same boat ? No, no, no
    In the game of being world leader LOSER in solar/winf, germany is walking backwards, as the UK ambles forward ..and other nations mutter but sit on their hands
    Germany To Abandon $1.1 Trillion Wind Power Program By 2019 Daily Caller: Germany plans to stop building new wind farms by 2019, gradually turning away from its $1.1 trillion wind power program, according to a Thursday report in Berliner Zeitung.”

    Anyoneseen any proper auditing of solar/wind projects to see if they did deliver promised lower CO2 ?

  5. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 10, 2016 11:41 am

    As I noted on the other thread, it appears we’re already seeing curtailment for grid stability reasons when metered wind output reaches about 6GW – one wonders what happens with the ~4GW of unmetered capacity.

    The growth in (registered) solar has at times been astonishing. At 9.2GW nominal peak capacity, and no means to switch it off other than drawing curtains over the panels, it’s already adding greatly to midsummer midday output peaks.

    There was a peak of almost 7GW of solar on 30 June last year for example.

  6. April 10, 2016 11:48 am

    Electric vehicle charging has not been mentioned.
    GreenDreamers will think ..yeh but all that extra electricity can go into vehicle charging.
    but of course in the winter when wind/solar are don’t deliver much.. EVs need more electricity, cos of heating etc.

  7. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 10, 2016 2:07 pm

    Have you seen in today’s Sunday Telegraph that someone’s had the bright Idea to convert Leeds from natural gas to Hydrogen? Glad I don’t live there, but I think Tallbloke does.

  8. April 10, 2016 3:58 pm

    The problem probably stems back to the Sustainable Development Commission (led by arch-green Jonathon Porritt and other equally green members) and its report ‘Wind Power in the UK’, dated May 2005, which stated that there were no limits to how much wind power could be connected to the grid. It was only economics which was the concern. In its words “there is no absolute technical limit to UK wind capacity”. This green idiocy was believed by successive energy ministers, like Miliband, Huhne, Davey and Rudd.

    • April 10, 2016 6:15 pm

      The other side of the coin is the minimum output from wind, and there is clearly a determined effort to not discuss this issue. I’ve been searching for this figure in South Australian operator (AEMO) documents, which trumpet the maximum in the annual “wind reports” but make no mention at all of the minimum.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        April 10, 2016 9:19 pm

        The minimum is likely close to zero: look at the histogram of metered wind output I posted for the UK above. The maximum will be set by the available capacity (some will be in maintenance) and the wind speed at which they operate safety cutouts.

      • tom0mason permalink
        April 10, 2016 9:42 pm

        But as far as I understand it Windmill operators are allowed to fill-in as required with diesel power. This ability is allowed and is not separately metered, so these diesels are accounted for as part of the renewable power generated — thus minimums are not necessarily all about what the windmill can generate.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        April 10, 2016 9:49 pm

        AEMO is the Australian i.e. federal monitor of both generation & demand by type, but does SA separately. You can go into the wind generation page and use the switches to narrow down to wind by State or individual wind farms.
        As for the minimum it is zero. See

        There are a number of days in winter ( May-August here) where output slumps, as it does in summer which is the peak demand period.

  9. Rowland Pantling permalink
    April 10, 2016 6:13 pm

    If we are going to (if not already) have excess capacity why on earth are we importing from France?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 10, 2016 9:23 pm

      Mainly because we’ve already closed so many power stations in the South East and not replaced them locally (there are also almost no windfarms in the South East): it’s not really feasible to route power across the grid all the way from Scottish windfarms and not reliable in any case.

  10. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    April 11, 2016 9:57 am

    There is a third scenario: that we will all be forced to drive electric cars and use electricity to cook. Since this is what the greens have been wittering on about for quite some time, is it not the most likely outcome?

    • April 11, 2016 10:27 am

      Trouble is that we will need yet even greater capacity for winter!

      • nigel permalink
        April 11, 2016 1:51 pm

        Evening out the power loads…

        When I visited Canada for the first time, in 1967, I noticed that in the cold of winter they heated everything indoors to 85 F and in the heat of summer they cooled everything indoors to 60F! The hot dry atmosphere indoors in winter wrecked your nasal passages and made colds spread like wildfire, and the chilly wet atmosphere indoors in summer… made colds spread like wildfire.

        They had just really got going with the big natural-gas pipeline from the West to Ontario. One evening there was a report on TV of a couple of houses in Toronto being blown to kingdom-come. The fellow with the microphone dutifully said “The authorites are unsure of the cause,” whereupon the camera-man swung his shot round, to show a large van with “Consumers’ Gas Company” written on the door.

  11. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    April 23, 2016 10:09 pm

    Perhaps the Government will issue free air conditioning…?

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