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Inside the National Grid’s epic challenge to keep the lights on

May 15, 2017

By Paul Homewood




The Telegraph has an article by Jillian Ambrose, little Emily’s successor, which is ostensibly about the challenges faced by the National Grid.

The beginning summarises the situation quite well:



Before the Nineties we had a very clear-cut industry,” says Richard Smith, head of National Grid’s networks business.

Across the country, thermal power plants fired up by fossil fuels would send power via giant cables, strung up by pylons and criss-crossing the country. After spanning miles, cables meet substations which dim the power to a voltage which smaller distribution wires can carry into homes and companies.

“It’s not as simple now,” Smith says.

National Grid sits at the heart of this energy system. Now the £39bn company faces one of the country’s greatest challenges – delivering the energy system’s biggest shake-up since deregulation……


But industry veterans, including Centrica boss Iain Conn, fear that the boom in small-scale generation could tip the energy system on its head. Where once National Grid was at the centre of the UK’s energy universe, it could find itself running the safety net which backs up a thriving market for locally produced energy.

“The big challenge that National Grid is facing is that we have 38GW of large thermal plant that are going to be closed by 2025 and they were traditionally what we would use to keep the system stable,” says Tim Rotheray, boss of the UK’s Association for Decentralised Energy.

“At the same time we’re seeing a rise of variable, intermittent generation coming on to the system. The traditional tools that National Grid had are falling away so the challenge is to look at the new options which exist.”

The traditional tools that National Grid had are falling away so the challenge is to look at the new options which existTim Rotheray, boss of the UK’s Association for Decentralised Energy

Within the next decade the pipes and wires of the nation will need to accommodate a new generation of electricity generators and users. National Grid plans to harness these changes to overhaul the way it balances the system. By 2030, keeping the lights on will rely as much on bringing together the cumulative impact of small-scale power sources as it will on major power plants, it says.



However, there are a number of highly misleading statements and claims, including this fake table:





As two commenters point out, transmission losses are nowhere near 54%:




Official government figures from the BEIS show that total losses only amounted to 27 TWh last year, which is 7.7% of generation.

This includes losses tight up to the customer, most of which would occur under any circumstance.




To make matters worse, it is claimed that this “energy waste” is equivalent to 37 nuclear plants. In fact, 27 Twh is about the output of Hinkley Point.

The table comes from an outfit called the Association for Decentralised Energy. It will come as no surprise that this is yet another lobby group for the renewable scam, as their website explains:

The ADE is the voice for a cost effective, efficient, low carbon, user-led energy system; a market in which decentralised energy can flourish.With over 100 members we bring together interested parties from across the sector to develop a strong, dynamic and sustainable environment for a range of technologies including combined heat and power, district heating networks and demand side energy services, including demand response.


Needless to say, both CHP and DRS receive large subsidies, paid for by bill payers.

Much of the Ambrose article is then given over as free propaganda space to Tim Rotheray, boss of the ADE.


The article is full of misleading statements, such as:

The UK is home to about 12GW of solar PV, the equivalent of more than three Hinkley Point C nuclear power projects or 24 gas-fired power plants.

While this may be true in terms of capacity, why is it not explained that solar power only runs at about 11% of capacity. Therefore, in terms of output, all of this solar power is only the equivalent of 2 CCGTs?


The report then assures us that all of the electric cars on the road by 2030 will come to the rescue!


A boom in chargeable cars could mean an increase in electricity demand of 13- 21 TWh. By 2030 this could mean a drain of 1GW, or two large gas-fired power plants, at peak times. But National Grid believes there is the potential for the flow of electricity to go both ways, from the grid to the battery and vice-versa.

How EVs affect demand could be shaped by a number of factors: consumers could take up so-called “time-of use-tariffs” which offer cheap deals to charge up when demand is low. This would allow National Grid to make better use of surging wind and solar power on balmy summer Sunday afternoons. Conversely, the energy stored in the vehicle could be used to avoid peak tariffs imposed at times of low demand by flipping the mobile batteries to export power on dark January evenings


So we are all apparently going to charge our cars up in summer, leave them in the garage for six months, and then send all the juice back to the grid in January!

And Jillian Ambrose writes all of this with a straight face.



As usual, it takes a Telegraph reader to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.





Why is it that the Telegraph’s “journalists” have not worked this out?

  1. May 15, 2017 10:56 am

    Unbelievable, except that the Government seems to believe all the lies and propaganda that come from the renewable energy industry. The MSM only seem to employ people who have been indoctrinated through the dumbed-down “education” system (except a few like Booker).

    Get your own generator and a large supply of fuel.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    May 15, 2017 11:05 am

    Love the statement on the graphic: “… by generating power close to the point of use huge cuts can be made to energy bills”

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      May 16, 2017 1:00 pm

      Perhaps the biggest lie in the whole article. Back in the days when we had a grid of large, fairly reliable power stations, power was generated close to areas of demand, and the longer distance grid was only there to handle smaller regional imbalances and to handle occasional outages. Now, we need to double investment in the grid so it can carry power from distant Scottish and offshore wind generation, and disperse the solar surplus from the South West on sunny summer days, while backup reliable generation is no longer located close to all areas of demand, so it also has to be imported over much longer distances as routine. That’s before you add in the interconnectors: at least at the moment they are relatively short, if expensive subsea cables.

  3. Jack Broughton permalink
    May 15, 2017 11:16 am

    The letter from Mark Rogers is a beautifully concise statement of the idiocy of the current generation of Fat Controllers. Even without debating the stupidity of “climate change”, this exposes the nonsense that our leaders are espousing concisely.

    • May 15, 2017 11:34 am

      Thank you. 🙂

      • Tom O permalink
        May 15, 2017 12:50 pm

        Mark, IF the reason was to reduce carbon dioxide, I would agree with you, but don’t take your eyes from the prize – global cooling and unreliable energy source equals deaths by hypothermia. They CAN’T say the truth because the product they are selling are the lives of your children and grand children, and generations beyond. The only thing “sustainable” they are looking for is a sustainably LOW population.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    May 15, 2017 11:17 am

    “The article is full of misleading statements, such as:

    The UK is home to about 12GW of solar PV, the equivalent of more than three Hinkley Point C nuclear power projects or 24 gas-fired power plants.

    While this may be true in terms of capacity, why is it not explained that solar power only runs at about 11% of capacity. Therefore, in terms of output, all of this solar power is only the equivalent of 2 CCGTs?:”

    You’re too kind Paul.

    When we most want power (winter evenings – 18:00 to 19:00) our 898k solar PV installations generate sweet FA.

    During winter days, they operate at a measly ~2% capacity factor. Euan Mearn’s chart puts their productivity into perspective:

  5. Athelstan permalink
    May 15, 2017 12:37 pm

    It’s all daft enough as it is! Ruinables will cause untold misery and yet…………..

    But the fekkin green loonies are never satisfied, thus, the idea that most of the population would voluntarily take up and begin driving electric vehicles is an even more insane smorgasbord green wet dream………………..It gets more hilarious, then actually telling us – ‘oh btw it’ll be a two way thing – electric vehicle car owners will stick their juice back into the grid’!
    Who TF dreamed that one up?!

    When I was a kid, I used to read lots of Scifi novels and short stories from Wells to, writers like Assimov, Pournelle, Heinlein, McCammon, Strieber and Clarke, their vision was astonishing but you always had the uncomfortable nagging feeling that most of what they speculated on, would come to pass and much sooner than one would have credited, apart from travel to deep space, much of it is nigh.

    But green gits fantasizing about a future Britain – that’s too horrible to come anywhere near true………………………….unless Totalitarian methods are employed and it seems to me that, everything concerning the green agenda needs to be enforced, see how that’s going with ‘smart meters’ – they’ll have to make them compulsory – watch out for looming legislation – yer know it it’s for you own good – SONNY!! and you;’ll do as we bleedin’ well tell you to – bastards!!” ………...

    Aye, it’s mother untersturmfuhren theresa’s [and therein Berlin’s] Modus Operandi all over it.

    • Dung permalink
      May 15, 2017 1:17 pm


      Overjoyed to see that you are a fellow SciFi fan and May doubter. The tory manifesto on Thursday should be a real eye opener on energy policy, the main man Nick Timothy hates the Climate Change act but will May allow him to gut it?

      • A C Osborn permalink
        May 15, 2017 3:25 pm

        I am also an avid Sc Fi reader as are quite a few over at WUWT, see some of the comments here

        That post is talking about Sci Fi being taken over by the Catastrophe merchants, they are just about anti everything
        FF & CO2
        and last but not least MAN himself, you know the one that is destroying Gaia and the very Earth itself.

      • Athelstan permalink
        May 15, 2017 4:43 pm


        I cannot say that I anticipate Mrs May’s manifesto with any great enthusiasm at all, whereas turning the first page of a new novel, now that was, still is, exhilarating!

        Mother theresa’s toryboys are no conservatives and that’s a great shame of British politics…………What mother theresa luvs; Big government hand in glove with the corporate blob = statism. Statism, where, the leeches of the magic circle, the banksters and big four auditors, Crapita etc………………melding into monsters like the NHS, quangoshire, charidee sector who are.sucking the lifeblood out of the nation, over regulating, overtaxing, overseeing, overdoing, overarching, over your shoulder, big brother, Nanny state………….. will kill us all off. And better not – get me started on the energy sector!

        Corbyn is a non starter, the greens are a more extreme version and timmi farron is a Berk. but know it, mother theresa is no solution, mark my words.

      • Dung permalink
        May 15, 2017 7:03 pm

        Totally agree with everything you said ^.^
        Have you read anything by John Meaney? IMHO the best hard SciFi writer in the world right now but too intelligent for the average reader and so does not sell many books (I have them all).

      • Dung permalink
        May 15, 2017 7:07 pm

        A C Osborn
        Bearing in mind what you said: have you seen the film Kingsman? It is the only big budget film I have seen that is anti AGW but it is not to everyone’s taste hehel

  6. May 15, 2017 12:50 pm

    Surely the grid transmission losses from remote windfarms will be significantly higher than the losses from conventional power stations located near population centres. As more wind is added the average distance to a generator will increase. So the Times article is nonsense on stilts.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 16, 2017 12:56 pm

      Of course it does but you wouldn’t expect that to get mentioned in a propaganda article. As I have said before here, I can run off a string of power stations that are no longer in operation but can’t tell you of where my electricity in Surrey comes from. There seems to have been a policy to move generation away from demand before the green madness. Battersea, Wandsworth, Bankside, Croydon, Stone too I believe?

  7. geoffreygb permalink
    May 15, 2017 1:08 pm

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    — Joseph Goebbels

  8. May 15, 2017 1:20 pm

    Has The Times not heard of the Western Link? Transmission losses don’t seem to be an issue there.

    ‘National Grid and ScottishPower Transmission have come together in a joint venture to build the Western Link, a £1 billion project which will help to bring renewable energy from Scotland to homes and businesses in Wales and England’

  9. John Smith permalink
    May 15, 2017 3:31 pm

    Don’t worry. A Stanford University economist say that all road transport vehicles will be electric by 2025. That should sort out the CO2 problem for good.

    • Dung permalink
      May 15, 2017 3:50 pm

      Nah ^.^

      That was Evans Pilchard at it again, he is a SciFi writer, well at least he does not bother with facts hehe

    • mikewaite permalink
      May 15, 2017 9:48 pm

      If the Stanford economist is correct it may have the opposite effect from what the Greens may be anticipating .
      How much of the domestic energy budget is consumed by business and personal road transport ?
      Unless I have misunderstood the data in the following refs( not unknown ) the situation in the US (2015) is given in :
      -” The share of total US energy used in transportation is 28%”-
      For UK there is this document:
      Latest figures are for 2001 and the energy in terms of tonnes of fuel equivalent for 2001 was :
      transportation(road) 42 million tonnes
      domestic energy use 45 million tonnes

      So that for UK in 2001 approx 50% of energy use was for road transport.

      What this means therefore , in a future where all transport is electric, the grid( at least in UK) will need to be greater than at present , and very stable and reliable..
      At the present state of renewables’ performance none of these requirements can be confidently assured and an all – electric makes a conventional power grid almost an absolute necessity.
      Probably the opposite conclusion from that which the Greens declaim..

  10. May 15, 2017 4:03 pm

    BBC Radio Humberside was gurgling with this PR story today.
    Vodafone and IBM joining Yorkshire Energy Park plans to bring 1,000 jobs
    Hull Daily Mail – 12 hours ago”

    ‘Old aerodrome being turned into a business park for high energy intensity biz like data centres’

    ‘There will be low carbon onsite electricity generation… cos natural gas pipelines pass nearby. ‘
    (Sounded like PR guff)

  11. Bitter&twisted permalink
    May 15, 2017 4:32 pm

    Jillian Ambrose’s “qualification” to write about energy generation and policy is a degree in Media Studies and Journalism.

    Nuff said.

    • May 15, 2017 6:40 pm

      Here degree course should have taught her to distinguish between marketing material and a balanced analysis. National grid is a private company making (lots of) money, not an organisation dedicated to Saving The Planet, so of course they love “The Transition”, simply because stasis is very bad for the bottom line.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 16, 2017 12:59 pm

        Not really – this is putting extra costs onto National Grid although these should be passed on to the suppliers and then to the users in rises in their energy bills that blue Labour intends to cap. Still, as long as they keep the dividends rolling in to us shareholders.

    • May 15, 2017 9:31 pm

      So do we add the Telegraph to this list ?

      • waterside4 permalink
        May 16, 2017 8:23 am


  12. Ian Magness permalink
    May 15, 2017 6:14 pm

    Am I the only one who has noticed that Theade is suspiciously like “thneed” – the production of which resulted in the destruction of the environment in Dr Zeuss’s brilliant “The Lorax”? If I recall correctly, thneeds were fundamentally useless but everyone wanted to buy one at any cost because they were led to believe it was wonderful.
    Is someone having a laugh here (all the way to the bank….). I think we should be told.

  13. mwhite permalink
    May 15, 2017 6:26 pm

    Also from the telegraph 2011

    “families would have to get use to only using power when it was available”

    Steve Holliday chief executive of National Grid.

  14. May 15, 2017 7:27 pm

    Talking of Steve Holliday, here’s quite a remarkable interview with the man himself, on the Today programme earlier this year (transcript):

    Have a read!

    • May 16, 2017 9:14 am

      Looking forward to being ‘a lot more flexible’ with electricity use 😂

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 16, 2017 1:00 pm

        Would having to stay up all night to run the dishwasher and do the laundry be a good reason not to go into work in the future?

  15. May 16, 2017 9:00 am

    So if I’ve got this right, I’m sitting at home on a dark (windless) January evening, my electric car charged up outside, expecting to drive to work in the morning and the government wants me to allow them to drain my battery to make up for the fact that there’s no spare capacity?

    B*gg*er that. I’ll disconnect my car and keep my battery charged, thank you very much – regardless of any “incentives” I might be offered.

    What planet are these people on?

    • May 16, 2017 9:50 am

      If the ‘incentives’ were enough to cover the costs of a portable diesel generator, you’d be in business.

    • May 16, 2017 9:50 am

      Times reported that gov Brexit deal with Nissan included a guarantee to support a Nissan home power wall system.

  16. Dung permalink
    May 16, 2017 11:41 am

    From a comment by golf charlie on Bishop Hill (about intelligent driverless cars)

    An intelligent driverless battery car, would leave the Tesla showroom, and drive itself direct to a recycling centre, alerting Fire and Rescue Services to its presence en route.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 16, 2017 1:21 pm

      Provided it doesn’t crash into a large white truck in the sunshine on the way.

  17. May 17, 2017 8:53 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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