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More Problems Looming For The Grid

August 23, 2016

By Paul Homewood




Oh dear!

The Telegraph reports:


National Grid’s drive for hospitals to help keep the UK’s lights on by using their back-up diesel generators is "highly questionable" because it will cause air pollution right in the vicinity of patients, a think-tank has warned.

The energy utility is encouraging NHS sites to sign up for schemes where they will be paid to use their back-up generators for electricity routinely, not just in the event of an emergency power cut.

National Grid argues that making greater use of these existing generators represents a cost-effective way of helping to meet peak UK power demand as the country builds more intermittent wind and solar, instead of building new power plants that would sit dormant much of the time.

But Policy Exchange has urged the Government to restrict the use of such diesel generators beyond genuine emergency back-up because of concerns about air quality, especially in urban areas that are already polluted.

Diesel generators emit significant amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter which can be "extremely damaging to health", it warns.

"National Grid has been actively recruiting hospitals and other organisations to make back-up generators available at peak times and avoid blackouts.

"Whilst this is desirable from a security of supply point of view, it is highly questionable from an air quality point of view – particularly since hospitals are typically located in urban locations close to some of the most sensitive receptors," Richard Howard, Policy Exchange’s head of energy and environment wrote.

Mr Howard said he had even heard of "generator flues venting directly into car parks and communal areas in hospitals used by patients".

Ministers are currently considering how to curb the growth in diesel generators, dozens of which are being built around the country after becoming the unintended beneficiaries of the Government’s "capacity market" subsidy scheme, which procures power plant capacity.

The environment department is considering new emissions regulations to target diesel, which are also likely to affect existing generators.

"The regulations need to be designed so as to avoid placing undue restrictions on genuine back-up generators, but at the same time limit the extent to which these same generators can run purely for commercial reasons," Mr Howard said.

However, any such restrictions could be a setback for National Grid’s efforts to keep the lights on cost-effectively.

The company is trying to promote "demand side response" schemes where industrial or commercial users reduce their demand on the grid at times when national supplies are scarce.

To date, about 95pc of the capacity procured has come from users switching to alternative sources of power such as diesel engines, rather than actually reducing the total amount of electricity they are using. 




Oh dear, oh dear!

More from little Emily:


Plans to help keep the lights on this winter by paying big businesses to cut their power usage during weekday evenings have been scrapped after National Grid failed to find enough willing participants.

The company launched a tender in April for its “demand side balancing reserve” scheme to ease the strain on the grid between 4pm and 8pm as a “last resort” if UK supplies were scarce.

Under the emergency scheme, which was used when power plants broke down last winter, businesses could either cut their total electricity usage, or switch to using alternative source of off-grid power such as a back-up generator.

But National Grid has now announced it will not proceed with the plans for this winter after the tender showed that “minimal volume would be available”.

The company was seeking to recruit businesses that could reduce their demand by 177 megawatts (MW), but only had offers totalling about 30 MW from firms willing to take part in the scheme between 5pm and 6pm, the hour when UK demand typically hits the absolute peak and the last resort measures are most likely to be needed.



A spokesman insisted the failure of the scheme would not affect National Grid’s ability to keep the lights on this winter, as it has already procured extra generation capacity through a separate last-resort scheme that pays old power plants to stay open on standby.

However, it raises the prospect that keeping the lights on this winter will be more expensive than hoped, since demand-reduction measures were expected to be cheaper than calling on the old power plants to generate.

When old coal plant breakdowns caused a supply shortage in November last year, National Grid used the DSBR scheme to pay dozens of large office buildings to power down their air conditioning and ventilation systems to reduce UK demand.

Electricity supplies available in the normal UK market are expected to be even scarcer this year than last, making it more likely that the last resort schemes are needed.

Fiddler's Ferry coal plant

Black water vapour coming out of cooling towers


The failure of the scheme this winter is also likely to raise questions about the appetite of big businesses to become more flexible in their energy usage in general, something that National Grid sees as a key way of cost-effectively coping with the increase in intermittent wind and solar power.

National Grid said part of the reason for limited sign-up was that many industrial energy users already took steps to cut their energy usage during the 5-6pm peak to avoid the risk of being stung by ‘triad’ charges.

The triad scheme is a long-standing system that intended to curb peak demand by effectively placing extra costs on companies that use a lot of energy during the periods of highest demand each year.

Such companies were not eligible for National Grid’s scheme, since they would already be cutting their demand anyway without extra subsidy.

In a letter to would-be participants in this winter’s scheme, Cathy McClay, head of commercial operations at National Grid, said: “Despite National Grid amending the DSBR service via a consultation in September 2015 to encourage participation over the peak, it is clear this has not been successful.”

She said National Grid remained committed to encouraging demand side solutions more generally.



BTW – can anyone explain the logic of this statement:

National Grid said part of the reason for limited sign-up was that many industrial energy users already took steps to cut their energy usage during the 5-6pm peak to avoid the risk of being stung by ‘triad’ charges.

The triad scheme is a long-standing system that intended to curb peak demand by effectively placing extra costs on companies that use a lot of energy during the periods of highest demand each year.

Such companies were not eligible for National Grid’s scheme, since they would already be cutting their demand anyway without extra subsidy.

In other words, the NG has not hit its target because companies, who were not eligible anyway, have not applied!

  1. martinbrumby permalink
    August 23, 2016 6:06 pm

    Whatever happens this Winter (or the next), in some ways it would be better if this nonsense on stilts was brought to a head and significant numbers of people (north of Watford, at least) shivered in the dark for significant periods.

    This is the only way I can imagine that the smug, hubristic fantasists who are the architects of this farce just might be held to account, together with their croney thieves like Vince and their media apologists like AEP.

    • August 23, 2016 8:32 pm

      I suspect that widespread power outages will be blamed on “Tory Cuts” (in this case to the income of the beloved wind industry), and most of the MSM will just go along with it and call for more wind farms, which is why the low-wind meteorology of “blocking highs” is so important.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      August 24, 2016 1:28 am

      “significant numbers of people (north of Watford, at least) shivered in the dark for significant periods.”

      I suspect that for technical reasons concerned with grid balance the power cuts will actually come to roost in the area with the greatest density of electricity consumers – ie the South-East.

      Interesting times…

  2. August 23, 2016 6:13 pm

    At least Theresa May is acting to remove the logjams on fracking in the UK.

  3. John F. Hultquist permalink
    August 23, 2016 6:39 pm

    Above, the “related” posts are interesting.

    It has been reported: Common sense isn’t very common.

    The question is — do you want to freeze in the dark while breathing clean air, or consider alternatives. Fracking might be one of those alternatives. It’s cleaner than diesel.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    August 23, 2016 6:58 pm

    And on top of Maximum Demand Charges!

    According to Nat Grid:
    “(Triad Charges) for the year is based on a tariff ranging from £16 to £39 per kilowatt depending on where they are in the country. This is multiplied by their average demand during the three Triad half-hours. For example, boiling a 2kW kettle for two minutes gives an average of 0.044kW over the 90 minutes and therefore a network charge of around £1.50.”

    According to EnergySmart

    “Triad charges fall under the category of TNUoS (Transmission Network Use of System) charges, which are determined between 1 November and the end of February. Historically, they occur between 4pm and 7pm Monday to Friday, although the actual Triad periods used may not be the exact three highest periods of demand because each period must by at least 10 days apart from the others.

    FACT: Triad charges have increased by 80% over the past five years.

    FACT: Triad charges are expected to increase up to 40% by 2020.

    These charges could differ greatly depending on location. Eg if you have sites in Scotland and London, your charges in London are almost double those in Scotland.”

  5. AlecM permalink
    August 23, 2016 7:36 pm

    The energy chickens are coming home to roost. Either the politicians who have risen to the top from supporting fake CO2-AGW pseudoscience back down or they will kill millions as we enter the new Little Ice Age, starting this winter which is predicted to be as bad as 1962 -3:

    There is a solution to the problem, but it is highly innovative, needs no subsidy but by slashing grid power costs will break the business model of about half the wind farms. Hence it is being resisted like mad and the politicians do what they’re told otherwise they don’t get the promised jobs.

  6. August 23, 2016 7:57 pm

    Closing power station after power station where did they think the power was going to come from, solar, wind? Nup nowhere that’s where!

  7. CheshireRed permalink
    August 23, 2016 8:12 pm

    “Theresa May can reduce carbon emissions or protect British jobs – but not both”.
    David Green in the Telegraph.

    They’re definitely pushing Mrs May to ditch the CC Act in everything bar outright calling for it to be abolished. Progress.

    • August 23, 2016 9:27 pm

      Mrs May has inherited the UK electricity fiasco, but if things do go seriously pear-shaped this winter or any of the next few, it will be her and her party that takes the hit at the next election – which could well arise suddenly if there’s a major blackout.

  8. August 23, 2016 8:16 pm

    Well, let’s all switch to electric cars. What could possibly go wrong?

    And once you get a smart meter, boiling a kettle at peak times could be expensive 😉

    • AlecM permalink
      August 24, 2016 8:33 am

      Those of a certain age will remember Peter Butterworth’s candle under his kettle……

  9. August 23, 2016 8:52 pm

    That reserves chart is frightening. Essentially zero. Relying on old shut stations remaining on standby as an emergency matter is just asking for trouble. No industrial scale demand side emergency buffer this coming winter, unlike last (and iirc it was used).. And the normal minimum peak reserve is 10%, with 12-15% ‘comfortable’. One multiday winter high pressure system, cold and no wind, and the UK could well go dark. A black restart for the entire grid takes days. In the August 2003 NE North America blackout (from Cleveland to Toronto, all of New England and New York) it took 3 hours to completely crash as about 280 generation units tripped off to save the generators. It took 4.5 days to bring it all back up. You can survive summer without AC. You cannot survive winter without heat.

    • August 23, 2016 9:07 pm

      In the CEGB days, the reserve was kept at about 19%. Perhaps power stations are now more reliable, but zero margin is really frightening. It’s a good job all those DECC civil servants who knew what they were doing have all been moved to the new Business Department to carry on with ensuring the closure of even more power stations.

  10. August 23, 2016 9:01 pm

    Meanwhile, National Grid gets hit by Ofgem for not anticipating the closure of Drax and its black start capability. So when we do get the first major blackout, how will the grid be restarted? We are entering new and uncharted waters.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 24, 2016 12:14 am

      Never mind – it can all be solved with car batteries:

      The video does include a good layman’s description of grid inertia and why it matters – but the claim that batteries will fix it is absurd.

      • August 24, 2016 5:52 am

        It’s quite frightening if the PsTB believe that car batteries can solve our grid problems.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 24, 2016 12:54 pm

        That is why they are so keen on electric cars so that all the batteries can become part of the grid. So on a cold still winter morning the workforce could be stranded because all the energy in the car batteries has been used for heating homes, heating water, providing light, power for cooking (no gas remember is all part of the plan), hair drying, kettles etc.

  11. August 23, 2016 9:10 pm

    The question is, when they finally get around to pulling their heads out of their backsides will they blame the brown hair on Global Warming?

  12. tom0mason permalink
    August 23, 2016 9:25 pm

    The NHS does not want to frighten patents too much but according to the site ( ) diesel is considered as a cancinogenic.
    Who will be the first to sue for NHS generators giving them cancer?

  13. Kevin permalink
    August 23, 2016 10:37 pm

    Not just heat. Without electricity there will be no petrol pumps, and no tills in the shops without backup generators, schools and offices shut. Doesn’t really bear thinking about.

    • August 24, 2016 8:55 am

      No traffic lights, no burglar alarms etc etc.

      • Joe Public permalink
        August 24, 2016 3:50 pm

        But the SmartMeters will be primed, ready to impose maximum Time-of-Day charges as soon as the power is back on.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      August 27, 2016 4:34 pm

      Not to mention no power for the systems that run the water and sewage utilities, also the computers that manage the just-in-time warehouse logistics that keep the supermarkets and other food outlets supplied.

      Three days of no power in London will be an utter catastrophe.

  14. August 24, 2016 12:52 am

    Looking at that graph – perhaps the post could be re-titled:

    “National Grid a Grid applies sticky plaster to electricity generation forecast”

    – pitiful hardly covers it!

  15. August 24, 2016 12:53 am

    that should have read :

    “National Grid applies sticky plaster to electricity generation forecast”

  16. Andrew Duffin permalink
    August 24, 2016 6:59 am

    Ah, the law of unintended consequences! It’s a bugger isn’t it?

  17. Andrew Duffin permalink
    August 24, 2016 7:00 am

    “And once you get a smart meter, boiling a kettle at peak times could be expensive”

    Not really. The Aga is hot all the time 😉

  18. AlecM permalink
    August 24, 2016 8:35 am

    I’ve just invented a new term to apply to our electrical power system: the Notional Grid.

  19. Derek Buxton permalink
    August 24, 2016 9:10 am

    When is an example going to be made of the idiots currently running, or not, the National grid. They are acting against the interests of the Country and its People. In wartime, they would be shot, they are a fifth and sixth column. Down with the lot.

  20. Eric Hutchinson permalink
    August 24, 2016 10:28 am

    Mostly down to a group of so called “climate scientists” who seem to feel that “groupthink” is,actually, a further branch of scientific endeavour.

    If CO2 is reflecting heat from the planet then, surely, it must be reflecting heat before it reaches us, back into space. Or am I being ridiculously naive?

    If we are not causing any increase in temperature, it seems a logical conclusion that we cannot prevent it. So, like the rest of the “developed” world, maybe we should abandon our punitive self flaggelation and resume conventional power production while we can – while spending huge amounts on research for proper alternatives. (Please, not windmills or solar farms!)

  21. Mick J permalink
    August 24, 2016 10:45 am

    The current Telegraph front page 24/8 at 11:43am has this text for a link to a sponsored article. Boots your business sums it up perhaps.

    “A new approach to energy strategy can boots your business”

  22. TinyCO2 permalink
    August 24, 2016 11:11 am

    Since hospital generators are there to back up the hospital if the supply fails – what happens when the grid fails while that hospital emergency supply is holding it up?

    • August 24, 2016 6:09 pm

      The notion of using NHS generators surfaced a few years back.

      I’m told by somebody familiar with the situation that it was hoofed right off the playing field by the matter of liability and the pitiful standards of maintenance (and grid connection facility) that prevail across that political football and overseen by administrators that wouldn’t get a normal job in charge of a whelk stall….

      It might make an interesting post to dig up the arguments for not allowing the NHS to be the country’s “energy pacemaker” as some goons have been portraying it.

      • Russ Wood permalink
        August 27, 2016 10:28 am

        South Africa’s public hospitals continue to have the problem of poor maintenance of their emergency standby power systems. During the last lot of rolling blackouts (‘load shedding’), some of the main Johannesburg hospitals could not start their generators, (and in one case – there was no fuel!). There were news items of surgeons finishing operations by the light of nurses’ cellphones!

  23. A C Osborn permalink
    August 24, 2016 11:30 am

    Over at Talbloke’s Talkshop they have this piece from Utility Week, where they actually know what is going on.
    UK needs to invest £215bn in energy by 2030, say analysts

    and the original article.

    That is right £215 BILLION.

  24. bushkid permalink
    August 24, 2016 1:41 pm

    Gosh, if the grid wasn’t being eviscerated for sacrifice to the great green god of global warming, the hospitals wouldn’t need to use the nasty, dirty diesel generators, would they. Who would have thought……

  25. August 25, 2016 12:35 pm

    Probably too late now, but the countries excellent although aging, fleet of coal fired power stations could be brought back to use saving millions in fuel costs and guaranteeing power reserves as per Philip Bratby’s comments about the CEGB reserve requirements.

    Just suspend (or much better scrap) the CCA and Common Sense could follow: burn coal as Germany decided a few years ago.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      August 27, 2016 4:42 pm

      Unfortunately, much of the coal fired plant has been scrapped and components sold to the Germans to use in the 20+ lignite burning plants that they are commissioning.

      Didcot power station transformer moved

      Traffic was delayed as the third transformer from a decommissioned power station was moved from Oxfordshire to Bristol.

      The 637-tonne load, measuring 294ft (89m) long, began its weekend journey from Didcot power station to Avonmouth Docks at 19:00 GMT on Friday.

      Police said the escorted convoy would “effectively close” the southbound A34 from Didcot to the M4 junction 13.

      During the move it travelled at a maximum of 10mph.

      The load, which was straddling two lanes, was expected to stop for the night on A420, close to junction 18 of the M4, before continuing to the docks on Sunday morning.

      The final move was due to take place last weekend but operator Npower said there was a problem with the transporter lorry.

      After its arrival in Bristol, the transformer will be transported by sea to a Siemens plant in Germany.

      Didcot power station was disconnected from the National Grid in March after 43 years of service.

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