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Centre For Policy Studies Publishes Damning Report On Electricity Imports

October 23, 2017

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Hugh Sharman

 

Hot off the press from the Centre for Policy Studies, a new report highlights the dangers of the UK government’s increasing reliance on imported electricity:

 

 image

http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/the-hidden-wiring/

 

 

Britain’s energy strategy, as set out by the Government, is to replace its old coal fired and nuclear power stations with a blend of renewables and new gas fired power stations.

 

But the Government is failing to meet this ambition. The 2012 Gas Generation Strategy estimated that 26 GW of new gas generation would be needed by 2030. Yet the actual amount of new domestic capacity being created is falling well short.
Britain has therefore begun – with little public acknowledgment – to import an increasing amount of electricity from continental Europe. It is now projected that the UK will receive 67 TWh of power from undersea interconnectors by 2030, which is a tenfold increase in the projection made in 2012.

 

‘The Hidden Wiring’ by Tony Lodge and Daniel Mahoney – published by the Centre for Policy Studies on Monday, 23rd October – shows why a move towards a greater reliance on imported electricity could be problematic.

 

Its key conclusions include that:
• Interconnector capacity will almost quadruple by 2030, allowing 20% of UK electricity to be imported from Europe.
• Interconnectors can be a useful way of delivering secure and cheap supplies across Europe, given they can be used to import and export. But in Britain’s case it is increasingly one-way traffic.  In the 12 months to March 2017, the UK imported 17.22 TWh but only exported 2.78 TWh.
• There are concerns about growing reliance on imported electricity from Europe as surplus supplies there decline. This is particularly the case in light of the German elections. Germany is already decommissioning its nuclear plants. If the Greens form part of the governing coalition, as is likely, they will demand the closure of fossil-fuel plants.
• The more reliant Britain becomes on energy imported from Europe, the more vulnerable we become to disruptions in supply, to sudden price spikes, or a wider tightening of capacity which pushes up prices. (This is already set to happen.)
• This imported electricity also has an unfair competitive advantage, as it is not subject to the GB Carbon Price Floor or transmission charges faced by British generators.
• Indeed, rather than cutting carbon emissions, Britain is to some extent “offshoring” them – closing down our own coal fired power plants but continuing to buy energy from Europe which is likely to have come from plants of the same type
• National Grid’s responsibility for managing the grid and transmission lines gives it a vested interest in building and promoting new interconnectors, rather than in promoting the creation of adequate domestic capacity.

 

In response to these conclusions, the report argues that the UK’s energy policy must prioritise the building of new gas fired power to deliver energy security. The paper also argues that there should be a Competition and Markets Authority inquiry into the role of interconnectors.

 

Tony Lodge, Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies and lead author of the report, said:
At a time when spare electricity generating margins across Europe are falling, it does not make sense to build an infrastructure which risks making the UK over-dependent on imports.  There are significant supply, cost and market distortion implications of doing this at a time when the Government should be looking to strengthen energy security and reduce bills.  It would make much more sense for the UK to build up a safe electricity supply surplus from generators in Britain on a fair and level playing field.”

 

The full report is here.

       
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40 Comments
  1. October 23, 2017 1:46 pm

    Strangely it’s the main headline in the uber green Yorkshire Post.. and the editorial “keeping the lights on for Britain”
    Maybe cos it’s an easy cutnpaste ..they do add a ridiculous quote from anti-fracker . ‘can’t have new fossil fuels cos they are dirty, causing 9 million deaths per year’ ..em gas power stations are of course not Dirty or particularly polluting.

    • sean2829 permalink
      October 23, 2017 5:09 pm

      Or even in the developed world at all. The pollution deaths are in India, China, Bangladesh & others struggling to become emerging economies.

      • martinbrumby permalink
        October 24, 2017 9:04 am

        I’m not convinced even India, China etc. actually have all that many “pollution deaths”.
        Life expectancy is increasing quite nicely.
        Pollution is usually unpleasant but only life threatening to particularly vulnerable groups. The asthmatics, heavy smokers etc.
        The “9 million deaths” is just another gang-green computer model lie.
        They can’t name one.

    • October 23, 2017 6:38 pm

      GB has a big balance of payments deficit especially with Europe. This level of imported electricity would add more than £500 million to the total.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 24, 2017 12:41 pm

        The outcome of May’s Brexit strategy as it currently stands will shut down our trade with the EU and most others as well, so we might not be able to afford the electricity.

  2. Jack Broughton permalink
    October 23, 2017 1:48 pm

    Good common sense in a world that is becoming more dogmatic regarding energy and pollution. We are becoming about 60% dependent upon foreign gas and electricity suppliers: fine while prices are at a low, but what of the high price scenario that will occur sooner rather than later?

    The UK is manufacturing less and less every year and depends upon the “invisible earnings” sector more and more: not a sound long-term strategy.

  3. October 23, 2017 2:08 pm

    This message, like all sensible ones, will be ignored by the bureaucrats at BEIS (ex-DECC) who will continue to prevent the relevant Ministers from hearing the true facts about the parlous state that green policies are having on the electricity supply.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 24, 2017 12:44 pm

      You can’t get ministers to understand something they don’t want to hear. It may not be the civil servants to blame. Certainly enough civil servants and others have told the likes of Liam Fox that the US, China etc do not trade with the EU by WTO rules but still Fox spouted the lie that they do on Peston on Sunday and just to show that the media are equally inept, Peston failed to pick him up on it.

  4. Jackington permalink
    October 23, 2017 2:15 pm

    Will we ever get locally produced fracked gas? What a game changer this would be!

    • A C Osborn permalink
      October 23, 2017 2:28 pm

      Not if you don’t have any Gas Fired Generation capability.

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    October 23, 2017 2:30 pm

    I am staggered that that report did not mention France, who have avowed to remove their Nukes and replace them with windmills.
    That will really curtail the amount of spare capacity across the whole of the EU, which will no longer be part of.

  6. HotScot permalink
    October 23, 2017 3:00 pm

    I suspect when Brexit is finally concluded, things will begin to change rather quickly, or at least it should.

    When we’re no longer part of the EU there will be many opportunities to profit from the split, and I suspect electricity will be one method of punishing we recalcitrant Brits.

    Common sense would dictate that without an inside track from Brussels any longer, we’ll never know what’s really going on therefore we would be wise to secure our own interests and make damn sure our energy supplies are kept in house.

    Of course the anti fracking nutters are a problem. We endured hundreds of years of a network of coal mines being dug under our feet, yet gas extracted, and replaced with fluids, is all of a sudden going to cause earthquakes.

    Its a bit like saying, for example, that human emissions of a trace gas at 2ppm a year will cause the planet to warm up whilst water vapour won’t. Utterly ridiculous of course, no one would be stupid enough to suggest that…….Ahem.

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      October 23, 2017 6:57 pm

      I happen to live near Coalville in Leicestershire. Guess what most people used to do. I was sat in front of a couple of retired miners in a theatre a while back…

      ‘Do you remember when that road from Ibstock to Bagworth was flat all the way? You can’t put a ruler on it anywhere now’

      Now I’ve no idea if it was ever flat, but…

      • HotScot permalink
        October 23, 2017 11:34 pm

        Stuart Brown

        It may well have been flat, but if’s not now, and it is coal mining that’s caused it, that’s subsidence, not earthquakes.

        There’s also the claims of aquifer contamination from fracking pumping fluids. But there must have been substantial aquifer contamination with innumerable mine shafts being sunk through them big enough for lift cages to drop down.

        There’s also the loss of life associated with coal mining. Whatever anyone imagines, it’s a lot safer to remotely sink piping for 5 miles underground than it is to send hundreds of miners down there.

        Then there’s the environmental damage from coal mines which occupy acres of land with networks of rail and roads to transport the coal. A completed fracking site takes up a few hundred square metres and distributes the gas via underground pipes with limited personnel. Nuclear power stations occupy huge acreage, and of course windfarms, well the land they occupy is just insane, with a pathetic dribble of electricity.

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        October 24, 2017 10:31 am

        HotScot – ‘that’s subsidence, not earthquakes’

        Yup, of course it is, but I’ll bet there was the odd rumble as the depleted coal face was allowed to collapse. Anyway, I was agreeing with your contention that we’ve been burrowing for things underground like moles for centuries, and causing problems thereby, but mostly without a great deal of harm.

        And I agree we should be fracking – I read recently we are importing an increasing amount of electricity. After Brexit we would surely want to be in a position to export as much as possible, or at least be self reliant. Build more CCGTs!

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        October 24, 2017 10:36 am

        ‘I read recently we are importing an increasing amount of electricity.’

        Like in the post above – doh!

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 24, 2017 12:49 pm

      Yes, Brexit as currently planned will hit quickly in that the ports will be closed down by the end of the first day as truck movements are halted by border controls in France such that ferries are stuck waiting to unload and no further sailings from the channel ports can take place. Flights will have stopped too as flight plans can’t be filed and pilot qualifications are no longer recognized, same as our passports, drivers licences and vehicle insurance. Food supplies in will grind to a halt and the shelves empty. The crash in sterling will make imported energy much more expensive. Tell people this and they don’t believe you and accuse you of scaremongering or being a remoaner. Time will tell.

      • HotScot permalink
        October 24, 2017 10:00 pm

        Gerry, England

        If you’re convinced it’s going to be that bad, why are you still here? Assuming you live in the UK.

        And I don’t mean that as a nasty dig. I’m serious.

        Brexit is a bit like the AGW scare, nothing good about it has been predicted over the last 40 years, but nothing bad has happened. Indeed, the only observable manifestation of increased atmospheric CO2 on the planet is that it’s greening.

        Brexit is going to happen, the best thing we can all do now is support it as best we can.

        And frankly, what I predicted would happen, is happening. The UK might not have a brilliant plan, but the EU has even less of an idea than we do. It’s never happened to the UK before, but nor has it happened to the EU before. They are prevaricating, blustering and beginning to squabble amongst themselves. If you imagine it’s difficult to get a single UK parliament to agree, how much more difficult must it be to get 27 parliaments to agree on anything? Several former Eastern bloc countries formed an alliance within the EU and the Czech Republic has elected a right wing Eurosceptic.

        And not that I read the Daily Mail, but this article was pointed out to me as an objective view of what’s actually going on in Europe. It’s worth a read.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5006907/MARK-ALMOND-shock-elections-Germany-Austria.html

  7. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 23, 2017 3:21 pm

    It seems as though interconnectors are like banks offering loans or umbrellas – they’ll offer you supply when you don’t need it. Last winter, the UK spent quite a bit of time supplying France, and it’s beginning to look as though it will be much the same story this winter too, as the charts at gridwatch reveal:

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

    We’ve been supplying 2 GW for most of the day to France so far since about 6 a.m. today.

    Meanwhile, the Irish use their interconnectors to cover for shortages of wind, or to dump wind in order to allow sufficient conventional capacity to run to keep their grid stable. It rather looks as though the UK is tail end Charlie, picking up all the flack on the other grids. When it comes to a real supply shortage, prices will spike in a bidding war as to who gets the blackout. Meanwhile it will become necessary to have ever greater spinning reserves or more Dinorwigs (which can produce 1.3GW from a standing start in just 12 seconds) to cover for interconnector failures or market switching. It is clear that government prefers to ignore these risks.

  8. keith permalink
    October 23, 2017 3:29 pm

    So are these interconnectors going to supply all the additional electricity that is going to be needed for all the electric cars the Government will make us change to?
    Looks like another fine mess the idiot Government of May’s is getting us into.

    • October 23, 2017 6:47 pm

      Keith. You can hardly blame Mrs. May. We have had about 20 Energy Ministers in the past 20 years. No wonder Energy Policy in GB is all over the place.

      • keith permalink
        October 23, 2017 6:53 pm

        Oh I agree Nick, but she doesn’t do anything to correct the situation. She appointed Gregg and that idiot so called Climate Change Minister we have.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 24, 2017 12:50 pm

        And who will replace her that will do anything different?

  9. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 23, 2017 4:05 pm

    2030 – 2017 = 13 years

    13 years. For complicated and expensive projects, 13 years is not a lot of time.
    The UK has ruled out (so it seems) producing power at home, ex., wood chips.
    Cables to other countries are required. If to enough places, someone will produce power.
    When this is the only plan you have, promote the good points!
    [Don’t mention downsizing and impoverishing the nation.]

  10. Bloke down the pub permalink
    October 23, 2017 4:32 pm

    • This imported electricity also has an unfair competitive advantage, as it is not subject to the GB Carbon Price Floor or transmission charges faced by British generators.

    I hadn’t been aware of that little gem.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 23, 2017 6:10 pm

      The real gem is that the BritNed connector comes ashore at Maasvlakte, Rotterdam. Here’s what is at the other end via Google Streetview:

      http://alturl.com/7bkmh

      Great piles of coal alongside the power stations. Of course, the Dutch are now promising to close these stations down by 2030 (even though one has only recently been completed). What will supply the connector in their place?

      The French connection is supplied by nuclear power in Normandy. Monsieur Hulot wants to close down 25% of French nuclear capacity and replace it with wind farms. We’re already supplying the French in winter time. They want even more interconnection capacity with the UK – yet they will have far less reliable power in future, but may hope to dump their surplus wind on the UK as and when it happens.

  11. markl permalink
    October 23, 2017 5:24 pm

    The whole purpose of AGW is wealth redistribution. The whole purpose of the EU is wealth redistribution. If the EU doesn’t start taking care of itself it will become a Second World country in a decade. America saved itself by ignoring the entrenched politicians that put policy before people and the UK needs to do the same.

    • markl permalink
      October 23, 2017 5:25 pm

      That should read “if the UK doesn’t start taking care of itself”….

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 24, 2017 12:52 pm

      In terms of wealth redistribution in the EU it has made Germany richer from Greek debt.

  12. October 23, 2017 8:04 pm

    A wee ray sunshine:Rolls Royce have just obtained a contract to develope small nuclear reactors. Armed with these we could export carbon free power to the the wind starved Continent and make a bob or two in the process. Mind you we would need to give the old heave ho the green blob first. Huge opportunities here and I haven’t even mentioned fracking. Come on you politicians get your act together and stop pandering to minority activists brain washed with false news.

    • HotScot permalink
      October 23, 2017 11:44 pm

      cognog2

      The problem with that is, it’s the government making a choice on electricity infrastructure, not the market. And the governments track record of it making successful choices of anything is atrocious.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 24, 2017 12:56 pm

        The market’s decision is to not build any new gas plant because they can’t see it being profitable under the current government rules.

      • HotScot permalink
        October 24, 2017 10:07 pm

        Gerry, England

        Agreed, but that’s the government manipulating a market by offering tax incentives to build wind farms and solar arrays.

        When the subsidies were withdrawn from household installations, look what happened. The domestic photovoltaic installations industry collapsed overnight.

        Withdraw the subsidies from the commercial renewables industry, the same would happen and conventional power stations would be built again with private money.

        At the moment, it’s in the UK governments interest to continue with renewable subsidies until Brexit is concluded in order to curry favour with Brussels. But it can’t go on much longer following Brexit as our government is perfectly aware that energy security will be a priority in order not to be held to ransom, or ‘punished’ for having the audacity to leave the EU.

  13. Geoff Sherrington permalink
    October 24, 2017 5:29 am

    From the distance away of Australia, one can look at the UK problem with dispassionate ignorance and just go for lateral thinking.
    Britain should buy and relocate the nuclear reactors that Germany is closing down. Should be selling very cheap, should later reverse the interconnector flow as Britain’s enlarged nuclear sends reliable energy to intermittent Germany.
    What is not to like? Geoff.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 24, 2017 12:55 pm

      The time it would take to achieve all this possibly? Nuclear power stations aren’t mounted on wheels so you can just tow them somewhere else. And why not build newer better nuclear stations? Coal is the best fuel choice since its combustion can be made efficient and in clean controlled conditions leaving gas for domestic and industrial use.

      • Geoff Sherrington permalink
        October 25, 2017 3:09 am

        Gerry,
        With diplomacy, UK might be able to buy the German nuclear generators where they are. It is clear that the German govt does not want to operate them. Why should some entrepreneur offer to take them over?
        Also, while I agree that dismantle/reassemble is costly, I would think it would be less costly than a green fields build like Hinckley Point. Geoff

  14. Europeanonion permalink
    October 24, 2017 7:58 am

    So power generation by whatever means is OK…as long as it is being done elsewhere?

  15. Apoxonbothyourhouses permalink
    October 25, 2017 4:25 am

    Who do UK politicians think their European counterparts will protect in the event of their country – think votes – being short on power? Would-be conquerors will only have to cut the cable to bring the UK to its knees.

  16. October 25, 2017 8:16 am

    ‘Interconnector capacity will almost quadruple by 2030, allowing 20% of UK electricity to be imported from Europe. ‘

    There might be a tariff on it soon if Brexit talks collapse.

  17. Richard Phillips permalink
    October 27, 2017 5:16 pm

    Our whole energy policy is a dog’s dinner, or even a dog’s dinner after he has finished with it.

    Is it any wonder; no Minister responsiblele for these matters has had graduate qualifications as a scientist or engineer. They all listen only to the business lobbies whose only interest is financial.

    Tell them this, and are not pleased, but do alter their ways in the slightest.

    And one might look at the cushy little numbers some of them have been given in the renewable sector, immediately on leaving office. Nothing unethical of course!!

    The problem will no be properly addressed until the engineers are allowed to resort to sanity as they did in !926.

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