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Britain’s Energy Security Is At Risk–But It’s Not From Putin

February 13, 2018

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Dave Ward

From GWPF:

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Britain’s electricity market is increasingly slanted in favour of importing more electricity from Europe and against securing investment in new power plants at home. Billions of pounds of domestic energy plant investment have consequently been put at risk, which will undermine the future security of supply and risk price rises.

It is important to appreciate our growing reliance on imported electricity, as well as the fact that current planning will quadruple this dependency with consequences for prices, competition and security of supply. A new Centre for Policy Studies paper, ‘The Hidden Wiring’, follows months of research into proposals for more undersea cables to import electricity, called interconnectors, and details their negative impact on Britain’s electricity market.

Power imports from Europe increased by 52 per cent in the three years to 2016, and they are set to surge as more interconnectors are planned. Back in 2012, imports were expected to account for just six terawatt hours (TWh) of supply per year in 2030. But four years later, the projection has radically changed. The 2016 forecast sees Britain’s electricity imports rising from 21 TWh today, to a peak of 77 TWh in 2025. That’s close to a fifth of supply.

Importing electricity can bring advantages – ranging from price to abundant availability – but crucially these depend on a series of important factors. Our research shows that it is increasingly unlikely there will be much spare electricity in Europe to send to the UK in the future.

The truth is that Britain’s rising electricity imports are, in the short term, an easy way out of failed energy policies that stretch back over a generation. Back in 2012, the coalition had the right plans for a new fleet of domestic gas-fired plants that would be easy to switch on and off to accommodate the sporadic nature of weather dependent renewable supplies and boost security of supply. It estimated that Britain would need 26 GW of additional gas generation capacity by 2030 to plug any potential gap left by cloudy, windless days and to replace the electricity output from closing older coal, oil and nuclear plants. On current trends, however, the UK is on track to build just 12GW by 2030. This goes some way to explain the panicked dash to build interconnectors to import power.

Declining electricity supplies in Europe add to the problem. Both France and Germany are reducing their reliance on nuclear power (in Germany’s case, to zero by 2022) without any clear policy for replacements. Coupled with this is EU policy to combat climate change and air pollution; this will accelerate the shutdown of generating capacity across the continent. Europe still generates considerable electricity from coal and these plants are increasingly vulnerable to new legislation and political factors. A likely condition of Angela Merkel’s new coalition will be the closure of Germany’s dirtier coal plants. Holland is similarly keen to close all its coal plants over time with plans for a new carbon tax.

All of this means that importing power is likely to get more expensive, not less. And yet the way in which Britain allocates access for imports to the electricity grid continues to discourage building new gas plants as imports enjoy clear market benefits. This preferential access is undermining the investment case for new power plants in the UK through the Capacity Market, which holds its next auction for future power next week.

Interconnectors enjoy an unfair competitiveness boost too, because electricity generators in Europe don’t have to contend with Britain’s high carbon price floor tax – unlike UK generators. This means they can undercut British generators even if their power comes from dirty coal-fired capacity in Holland or Germany. So instead of cutting carbon emissions, the UK is in some cases simply offshoring it. Foreign supplies also don’t pay the transmission charges faced by UK generators.

Perhaps inadvertently, the Defence Secretary has highlighted both the vulnerability and growth of interconnectors. While they are particularly susceptible to accidents – such as in 2016 when a ship in the English Channel dragged its anchor over the link with France and halved supplies for months – their growth also undermines the investment case for vital new power stations at home, not to mention any potential for sabotage.

Energy security is a central plinth of national security. The Defence Secretary is right to flag up the risks for the UK as it becomes more dependent on imported power, but the priority must now be for energy ministers to explain why they are pushing these policies and why they think it is in Britain’s national, economic and security interest.

https://www.thegwpf.com/uk-defense-secretary-is-right-britains-energy-security-is-threatened-by-russia/

Personally I don’t go along with all of this obsession about a threat from Russia.

But it does give us the chance to take a closer look at a very real threat to our energy security which is looming ever closer.

This is the CPS paper mentioned in the GWPF article:

 

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These graphs tell the story:

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But the really scary thing is this scenario:

 

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I don’t think Putin will have to worry about knocking out our energy infrastructure. We’re already doing a pretty good job ourselves!

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34 Comments
  1. February 13, 2018 11:23 am

    Add to the equation that ‘Theresa the Appeaser’ is building 300,000 new homes a year, with lots of EVs and we really will be up there without a paddle. After Brexit the interconnectors will mysteriously start to fail whenever we can be seen to be in short supply of electricity. Get your generator while stocks last.

  2. February 13, 2018 11:25 am

    If/when fracking gets going in England [sic] it would make sense to use some of it in new gas generation plants. Then the interconnectors might even turn a profit as mainland Europe heads further down the renewables rabbit hole.

    • John Fuller permalink
      February 13, 2018 12:06 pm

      Given the terms the government offers for new gas plant generation, who in their right mind is going to invest? This is not a hypothetical point, it’s reality, as we’ve seen over the last few years. We have an energy policy designed to fail.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      February 13, 2018 1:49 pm

      What new gas generation? The only one planned has been mothballed as the owners are not convince it will make a profit under the current state controls. Nobody will risk it in a market infected by government interference. Can’t say I blame them as an investor.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      February 13, 2018 3:54 pm

      “If/when fracking gets going in England”

      Fracking, what fracking?

      “Hidden report reveals ministers exaggerated UK fracking boom”

      https://www.oilandgaspeople.com/news/16084/hidden-report-reveals-ministers-exaggerated-uk-fracking-boom/

      We really are ruled by a bunch of people determined to destroy what was one a great country…

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 13, 2018 4:02 pm

        As I have said in a comment at the end of this post, the government needs to get to grip of its civil servants. Ministers need to grasp the nettle and drive the Greens out of their departments one way or another. They are working to a totally different philosophy to the government.

      • February 13, 2018 6:21 pm

        The biggest irony is that Greenpeace have objected that the govt exaggerated, when the report itself states that the main factor for fewer wells is planning delays,(mainly due to protests from ecotards)

        The other factor is low gas prices, which of course mean that renewble energy is even less competitive

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 14, 2018 1:54 pm

        The trouble with the UK is that the ministers are equally, if not more, as stupid as the civil servants. Blair was responsible for damaging the civil service by forcing out honest neutral people to replace them with Blairite toadies. Add to that 40 years of EU rule downgrading their role.

  3. Joe Public permalink
    February 13, 2018 11:30 am

    The penultimate graphic shows France’s capacity margin deteriorating from -1% in 2012 to -3% by 2023.

    Last July:

    Nicolas Hulot, France’s environment minister, announced on Monday that France could close “up to 17 nuclear reactors” by 2025.

    Hulot says the move aims to bring policy into line with a law on renewable energy that aims to reduce French reliance on nuclear power to 50 percent. France currently derives close to 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20170710-france-hulot-could-close-nuclear-plants

    Interconnectors, like tracer bullets, work both ways; continental power shortfalls could exacerbate GB’s shaky system.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 13, 2018 12:08 pm

      That really is utter idiocy. Why would you close nuclear plants to meet a renewables target? If anything, that will increase CO2 emissions – you use fossil fuels to back up the renewables and decommissioning nuclear plants must generate huge CO2 emissions. As does building the renewable capacity in the first place.

      Really sums up the trouble with targets- you hit the target regardless of the lunacy it brings.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 13, 2018 1:50 pm

        The French showing their government can be just as ignorant and inept as ours then.

      • February 13, 2018 2:14 pm

        Hulot is an anti-nuclear environmentalist, P44, that’s why.

        Macron hasn’t yet learned that you don’t give ministries to people with vested interests that might (probably will) turn into potential conflicts of interest.

        I shuddered when I read he had given Energy to Hulot! The outcome was inevitable. Bad news for the UK as well. Better get started on those long-promised power stations.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 13, 2018 6:04 pm

      Indeed, interconnectors are a two way street. That means we all get to join the auction for who gets the blackout. Losers get the blackout even if they have sufficient generation to meet their domestic needs if they have to give priority to exports to higher bidders. The only way you have security of supply with interconnectors is if your generation capacity is greater than peak domestic demand plus interconnector capacity in export mode.

      That is you need even more dispatchable capacity with interconnectors than you do without. If you reach that nirvana, you are free to extract full blackout extortion price on your exports, while not having to impose that price on your domestic market as well.

      The other side of the coin is that if you have a large local surplus of wind and/or solar, neighbouring countries are unlikely to want it because they will likely have a surplus too. Result is a competition to dump the surplus, and negative prices.

      These features can all be seen in action already in the Australian NEM.

  4. February 13, 2018 11:34 am

    Pierre Gosselin is ploughing a similar track this morning:
    http://notrickszone.com/2018/02/13/powerful-opposition-to-energiewende-storms-into-german-parliament-eco-populist-voodoo/#comments.

    Politicians representing 25% of the German electorate are now opposed to the Energiwende and even Greens are starting to ask where the balance lies between “environmentally friendly” electricity generation and trashing the environment to get it.

    How any government can plan for more reliance on foreign sources for something as vital as electricity supply is truly a mystery.

  5. Bloke down the pub permalink
    February 13, 2018 11:42 am

    The Russians have a long history of nosing around underwater cables, so I don’t expect the interconnectors will be anything new to them. Fair to say that the US and UK have also tapped Russian communications cables but the Russians would never be so stupid as to rely on so vulnerable a route for energy.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 13, 2018 6:07 pm

      The Russians have invested in several subsea pipelines across the Baltic and the Black Sea. Of course, those are for export markets.

  6. rapscallion permalink
    February 13, 2018 12:25 pm

    . . . and all this insanity because a trace gas which comprises 0.04% of the atmosphere is supposed to be responsible for global warming. Really?

  7. jim permalink
    February 13, 2018 1:00 pm

    Security of Supply used to be a sacrosanct aspect of UK’s electricity industry. The very idea of being anything other than 100% plus able to deliver supply to meet demand from national resources was treasonable. How times change with a ‘green, globalist’ mindset.
    One very simple solution to this is to change the basis of regulation of National Grid. Change their incentives and overnight interconnectors will go and new UK power stations will come.
    How very odd it is that the only politicians likely to make that change are sitting in the socialist camp.

  8. Jack Broughton permalink
    February 13, 2018 1:08 pm

    We are all victims of the USA arms lobby: Germany sacrificed massive sales to Russia to placate them. The CIA has to generate scares to maintain its massive budget. Russia is the modern equivalent of Big Brother’s enemy in “1984”, soon it will be China and so on….. Sweden will locate its annual Russian submarine just before their budget etc.

    It is hard to see how having good, free-trade with any country is a threat to us: surely increased trade must reduce the likelihood of conflict on the principle of enlightened self-interest. Remember that in the 19th Century we sold weapons to anyone who would buy them.

    The lack of resilience and storage in our energy mix is our biggest single security threat, followed closely by the risk of increasing imports cost to provide our energy.

    • Tom O permalink
      February 13, 2018 6:27 pm

      You are the victims of the EU lobby, not the US Arms lobby. There is no way that you can blame the US because your Union leaders decided to follow suit and jump through hoops for what the US wants. If you and your leaders had a set of your own and a brain to work with them, you would create your own policy, instead of screwing yourself by farting around in the Ukraine. As for the CIA? I am sure their budget is secure with the poppies thriving again in Afghanistan. They won’t care if you frack, either.

      • Jack Broughton permalink
        February 13, 2018 6:37 pm

        I must agree that the EU / UK leadership is really responsible for the silly international policies that are being followed in Russia, Ukraine, Middle East etc. We all seem to be frightened to follow independent agendas in case the USA is upset.

  9. February 13, 2018 1:14 pm

    I have been watching the 1952 series “Victory at Sea” on YouTube. The music score was done by Richard Rodgers and I have had the LP record of it since the 1960’s. Since I was born at the end of 1944, WWII was not yet “history” when I was in school. I am up to episode 13. It was done with actual footage and in in black and white.

    Last night I watched the account of running the gauntlet known as “The Murmansk Run” with WWII’s arctic convoys. It was incredible. Also, earlier episodes, dealt with the problems you had with supplies and the German U-boats sinking merchant vessels carrying supplies.

    When I read this piece, it was so timely with “Victory at Sea.” People need to take heed. It is folly to allow an unfriendly entity to have control over vital necessities such as energy. It also showed the stiff spines involved with the United States and Great Britain. Churchill was the man for that time. Now, Donald Trump is the man for this US time.

    The irony is that “Victory at Sea” was produced by National Broadcasting Company (NBC). At that time they were pro-United States. Today, they are pro-North Korea.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 13, 2018 3:55 pm

      And the BBC is anti-Brit.
      I well remember watching V at Sea. What a series! All the more poignant as my oldest brother was then in the Vanguard in the RN.

    • Tom O permalink
      February 13, 2018 6:19 pm

      Quick, Joan, look under your bed! The boogie man might be there, too! Enemies, enemies everywhere, and so much of it wing nut tripe. Your enemy isn’t in Moscow or North Korea, it’s in “every city” USA, disguised as educators and politicians. The war ended in 1945, yes, Joan, it WAS history by the time you went to school.

      • February 14, 2018 2:00 pm

        My goodness, snark comes to this blog. I am sorry to see that. First of all you assume that I am nothing more than a clueless “girl”. Then you assume that I am unaware of the situation with public schools and the political scene. Au contraire.

        You assume that “enemy” is one-dimensional. No, it is on many fronts, but basically the same mind-set. However, allowing others, especially non-friendlies, to control such vital interests as energy is asking for trouble. I was speaking of the situation in the post and not the US. However, if you assume that North Korea is not a real threat, you must be imbibing some of those funny little mushrooms. Their dictator has shown a dangerous instability.

        You conveniently took what I said literally in order to perpetuate your view of me as “clueless”. As WWII was over by the time I entered school, “technically”, it was history. However, it was not “history” yet in history books or classes. It was that to which I referred. Capiche?

        Speaking of when I went to school, my BA is in botany from WVU; my MA in plant taxonomy/ecology and PhD in plant ecosystems are both from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And yours? Now let us return to civility which has been a refreshing hallmark of this blog. Your comments to me are best left to the sewer that is FB, but not to this blog.

  10. Gerry, England permalink
    February 13, 2018 1:52 pm

    So figure 3 shows that in 2023 we will have -12% of our energy capacity margin. Something to look forward to then.

  11. Colin Brooks permalink
    February 13, 2018 2:56 pm

    There is a government committee aimed at making sure that (as those idiots see it) our environment is protected, why is there no committee making sure that (one way or another) the UK has the secure, cheap and reliable energy it needs and wants?
    Dung

    • John Palmer permalink
      February 13, 2018 6:35 pm

      +10!!
      Quite so.
      Radical idea!!!!

  12. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 13, 2018 3:19 pm

    The green blob is well ensconced in the Dept for Energy and with Claire Perry as their leader have nothing to fear from government for their policies. They, the greens, are the ones directing the energy policy of this country and are happily watching as power stations are closed, not replaced and that fracking is down-graded to a mere blip in our outlook – and even if it did bring in tons of gas we’d not likely have the gas stations to burn it and create cheap electricity.
    As long as the greens are permitted to undermine government with no intervention from ministers this country has had it.

    • Colin Brooks permalink
      February 13, 2018 3:28 pm

      You surely have read Agenda 21 and its follow up Harry:)
      Our government signed up to these UN agendas (with no mention to the general public) and these agendas specifically dictate that Non Government Organisations must have a role, not only in deciding policy but also implementing it!
      Dung

  13. Athelstan permalink
    February 13, 2018 4:14 pm

    Of course what Britain really needs is a government committed to doing the right thing for Britain……….Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha – no chance.

    What we have got, a PM who’s from planet idiot, a bunch of cretins playing at governance and full of shroud waving green nutters (claire perry et al + not least the administration).

    We expect too much if we require a sound policy and reliable energy provision.

    One of these fine days, the UK public will wake up and comprehend but it will take a calamity for reality to come knocking on their crania and to be realized.

    ‘Calamity’ yeah, I don’t make predictions but ‘Calamity’ Theresa is doing her damnedest to bring about the imminent green policy inspired catastrophe – and with her muppet-like bodging, will, given enough time and alongside; amber and claire, phil (laughingly called ‘the chancellor’) and michael (gove) facilitate that particular destiny.

    “Government” the papers name it, the only thing they do is wreak despair and are bringing about a financial implosion, with an Executive like that and inclusive of corbyn’s lot, they doom the nation, to bankruptcy and much, much worse.

  14. avro607 permalink
    February 13, 2018 7:40 pm

    Whether it is Putin or an ,acker in an attic,someone ,somewhere,will switch the country off via the smart meters deliberately offered up as a target.
    Also note the deliberate rundown of our Armed Forces and Police Force.I give the country two days before anarchy breaks out.

  15. February 14, 2018 12:30 am

    I like the cartoon where Putin shuts down fracking in the UK to sell Russian gas. It’s their ongoing twisting of our internal politics that is the real threat. No coincidence that the only environment ally acceptable option will be imported gas from Russia or more profitable for them imported electricity.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 15, 2018 11:05 am

      Despite the denials over whether the UK really imported Yamal LNG at Grain at the New Year (with claims that it was re-exported), there was no denying that a second cargo was discharged at Dragon LNG for the UK grid.

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