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UK relies on emergency measures to avert winter blackouts

July 9, 2016

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Patsy Lacey




From the Telegraph:


Britain may have to rely on costly emergency measures to keep the lights on this winter after spare capacity in the power market fell to the lowest level on record.

Power stations operating under normal market conditions will produce barely enough electricity to meet peak demand following a series of coal plant closures, National Grid analysis shows.

The "spare margin" between peak electricity demand and the supplies likely to be available in the market has fallen to just 0.1pc, the lowest on record.

As a result, National Grid has been forced to intervene and bolster supplies by paying 10 power plants £123m to stay open through an emergency scheme, the costs of which will be passed on to consumers through their energy bills.

It will then make additional payments to these back-up power plants to fire up, if they are needed as a "last resort" to prevent blackouts. These costs, which could easily run to tens of millions of pounds in a cold snap, will also be passed on to consumers.

The emergency scheme will bring the UK’s overall spare power margin up to 5.5pc, a "manageable" level to keep the lights on, the company said.



This is the third year that National Grid has had to prepare such emergency measures, which were originally only intended to last for two winters.

However, the underlying situation has deteriorated since last year, when there was still spare margin in the main electricity market of 1.2pc.

Last winter the emergency measures, which bolstered the overall margin to 5.1pc, were only called upon once, in early November.

With the underlying margin now falling to a wafer-thin 0.1pc, it appears more likely that the back-up plants will have to be called upon at extra cost to consumers.

National Grid analysis suggests that there will be almost 14 hours over the course of the winter when there is likely to be insufficient power in the market to meet demand and it may have to call on the emergency scheme.

Cordi O’Hara, director of UK System Operations at National Grid, said: "The surplus margin for this winter is 5.5pc. This is the additional power we expect to have available over and above what is needed to meet electricity demand.

"We believe the margin is manageable and that we have the right tools and services available, including extra power we can call on if we need it, for times of highest demand.

"We expect there to be sufficient gas supplies available to meet demand which will be met from a wide range of supply sources."

Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, said: "When it comes to making sure our families and businesses have the certainty of secure energy supplies they can rely on now and in the future, I’m clear that this comes first and it is not negotiable. I will take no risks with the security of our energy supply, which is why we have taken prudent steps to protect supplies ahead of this winter."

From winter 2017/18 the emergency scheme will no longer apply, with the Government instead relying on a new policy called the ‘capacity market’ to ensure supplies are adequate.

This will provide retainer-style subsidy payments to all power plants that are deemed necessary to keep the lights on to guarantee they will be available when needed.

Ms Rudd said: "In the longer term the Capacity Market is acting as an insurance policy for our electricity needs, securing future supplies at the lowest possible cost to consumers."

A spokesman for National Grid added that although 0.1pc was the lowest "de-rated margin" it had on records dating back to 2001, the methodology had changed over the years.


The National Grid listed the SBR contracts for winter 2016/16 a few months ago:



  1. Terbreugghen permalink
    July 9, 2016 5:51 pm

    Of course we know that the use of “emergency measures” will be used to explain the much higher costs that will be tacked on to everyone’s power bill.

  2. AlecM permalink
    July 9, 2016 5:52 pm

    DECC is clearly staffed and led by technologically and economically-ignorant lunatics. On May 9th, a day of no wind energy, I went to my Tesco local at 7.00 PM and couldn’t get in. I later verified that this part of Tesco had signed up for load shedding. The near power cut was because the coal fired power stations were ‘down for maintenance’.

    Not on your nelly, mate. They were and are down because it is much more profitable for their owners to have them cold and lifeless until next winter when they’ll get 10x grid price as the NGC desperately bids up prices. In short, these producers control prices when it isn’t windy. I warned a source close to government of this inevitable outcome nearly 6 years ago when I saw what a mess the Lib Dems were making with their control of energy policy.

    Now we have the equally lunatic Rudd and Leadsom, the latter pushing for zero CO2 emissions, compounding the problem when CO2-AGW is near zero.

    PS I do not claim to be the only one who foresaw this debacle; the 2009 Poyry Report stated the same except that part of the economic collapse of the country involves the inevitable refusal of generator companies to invest in CCGTs to replace Coal power stations because they’ll only be used a few 100 hours per year and will be forced out of existence by Rudd and Leadsom type lunacy.

    There is a solution, but it will involve an emergency industrial programme akin to the Aircraft Construction Programme in WWII, and it’s almost too late to save the lives of 100s of 1000s if not millions of vulnerable people as we enter the new Little Ice Age**. I just hope that there will be charges of Corporate Manslaughter for those found to be responsible. After all, they can’t use the excuse that they weren’t warned.

    **Latest solar data show the latest solar cycle is weaker even than SCs 5 and 6 of the Dalton Minimum which preceded 19th century cooling. The next SC is on track to being as low as those that preceded the viciously cold 1690s.

    • July 9, 2016 6:54 pm

      “these producers control prices when it isn’t windy”
      Yes @Alec that sums it up.
      DECC have negligently caused market destabilisation.

      In the old system fossils-corps used to have competitive pricing.
      But now with DECC disrupted market
      – When it’s windy Windcorp get priority, and fossils are shut out
      – When the wind drops – standby fossils get the emergency price

      • AlecM permalink
        July 9, 2016 7:14 pm


        Totally inept forward planning.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      July 9, 2016 7:23 pm

      “I just hope that there will be charges of Corporate Manslaughter for those found to be responsible.”

      Don’t be silly Alec,
      these are politicians we are talking about (look at Iraq & Chillcot), B lair had a lucrative job as a ‘peace envoy to the Middle East’ for 7 years & is now worth ~ £60 million

      • AlecM permalink
        July 9, 2016 7:39 pm

        All we have to do is to scare off the incompetents from this economic suicide.

        Piano wire and lamp posts next!

  3. July 9, 2016 6:32 pm

    Sadly, Brexit is unlikely to make any difference, the worship of “The EU” has been dented, but there is still the worship of the “Single Market”, which will not allow the UK to get a competitive advantage by failing to worship “The Battle against Climate Change”.

    Those who think religion is in decline should be aware of the race between those who want to blow us up, and those who want our lights to go out, both driven by irrational religious dogma.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      July 10, 2016 9:14 am

      The DECC should be shut down and replaced by the knowledgeable people not robots with strings pulled by Rudd. Not that this is a surprise, Rudd is related to Roland Rudd, EU fan and hater of all things British.

  4. daveR permalink
    July 9, 2016 7:15 pm

    “This is the third year that National Grid has had to prepare such emergency measures, which were originally only intended to last for two winters.”

    Not worth bothering about.Top exec earns just £100K/wk. Nice work per kWh supplied – and we get the added value stuck across shopping bills. Clusterferk’s working as intended…

  5. July 9, 2016 7:46 pm

    I’m checking about why Tescos shut…Flexitricity Conclusions of a DSR report page 56 PDF

    estimate that non-domestic buildings (excluding industry) contribute approximately
    15GW to peak demand .
    The retail sector is the single largest contributor to peak loads across nondomestic
    buildings (excluding industry), accounting for around a quarter of peak
    demands. The next most significant sub-sectors are education (18%) and
    commercial offices (11%). Each of the other seven sub-sectors contributes 5–
    10% to peak demands.
    This suggests that the retail, education and commercial office sectors should be
    prioritised for DSR measures. However, further engagement across all building
    types will be required to fully exploit the DSR potential.
    The total technical potential for peak demand reduction via DSR measures in nondomestic
    buildings is estimated to be from around 1–4.5GW (or 0.6–2GW if no
    flexibility can be provided from lighting). The three sub-sectors that may contribute
    most to delivering this potential are retail, education and commercial offices.
    A large part of the National Grid requirement for frequency response could be
    provided by commercial refrigeration loads. (Really?? you can’t mess with food safety)

    . Any connection between Tesco and mad GreenBlob ?
    “Speaking at the briefing, James Summerbell, former head of energy at Tesco turned consultant at JES Advisory”
    Ah but here’s him in 2013 On video describing Gov policy on FIT etc as ‘out of control’

    The DSR Event 2016 takes place in London on 8 September at the Banking Hall, in London’s Square Mile. “Find out how to assess DSR schemes and maximise revenue with Baringa Partners, Dong Energy, REstore and Marriott”

    June 24th News “UK construction material manufacturer Saint-Gobain has made a total saving of £165,000 and experienced an 11% fall in energy demand across its 20 sites in the UK and Ireland, after powering down its factories at peak energy periods.”
    – Remember DramaGreens usually overestimate the positives of their pet schemes

  6. July 9, 2016 8:09 pm

    Video Execs at a DSR conference – Anglian Water guy – ‘we’ve put our own exisiting standby generators into STOR* ”
    Nissan guy ..says ‘this will make electricity cheaper’ ha ha

    * Aha that explains why STOR allows dirty diesel : the generators signed up are NOT NEW but rather often existing ones.

    Wherever there is a SUBSIDY , there is a SIGNATURE (from a money hungry corp)

    Wherever there is a SUBSIDY, it’s the normal taxpayer who pays.

  7. July 9, 2016 10:38 pm

    That Manchester gas power station that we expecting to get built “Carlton Power, developer of the Trafford gas-fired power station, confirmed that it had received a termination notice after missing a deadline set by the government to begin the project.” Times
    ..the thing is “the only large gas-fired power station to have won financing under the government’s capacity market scheme”

    • July 10, 2016 10:06 am

      That’s right, they’re trying to get a 3-month extension

      • July 12, 2016 9:06 am

        Update “Today the Secretary of State has confirmed that she will grant Carlton Power an extension to meet the financial commitment milestone for Trafford power station. ”
        bottom of last Thursday’s DECC Blog
        Strange the DECC blog quotes Utility Week as if the blogger is working for a PR firm outside’d think DECC would already have such inside info.

  8. July 10, 2016 8:32 am

    Rudd: ‘I will take no risks with the security of our energy supply’

    That’s the exact opposite of what is now happening. Closing coal plants and not replacing them with any equivalents is about as risky as it gets.

  9. July 10, 2016 8:37 am

    stewgreen: Carlton Power has been granted an extension to December 19 for the Carrington plant according to the local newspaper.

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 10, 2016 11:28 pm

    Has anyone looked at the basis of their calculations this time? Last time I recall they were assuming wind at 22% of nameplate, and nice positive contributions from interconnectors. That’s at least 5.5GW that might no be there – 10% of demand.

  11. Oh Dear permalink
    July 11, 2016 2:45 pm

    I don’t agree with the idea that last winter there was only need to use emergency measures during November. I pass Fiddler’s Ferry power station on my way to work, and it’s been intermittently running throughout this Spring.

  12. July 11, 2016 9:23 pm

    Sounds like they’re running out of rope so they’re going to tie a noose in end so they can hangon.

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