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Coal Power Capacity Update

December 11, 2018

By Paul Homewood


I noted last week that the National Grid was desperate for coal power to keep the lights from going out last Monday:



Last week, coal power peaked at 5.7 GW, and it has already gone higher this week, reaching 6.4 GW yesterday. It has certainly not been particularly cold today, or windless.

In addition CCGT is running at close to capacity.



It is worth looking at the current position regarding the amount of coal power capacity we have.

Ratcliffe 2021
Cottam 2008
West Burton 2012
Aberthaw 1610
Drax (Coal only) 1980
Fiddlers Ferry 1961
TOTAL 11592


With Eggborough now being decommissioned, following its loss of the Capacity Market contract for this winter, we are down to 11.6 GW. It looks as if we are going to need most of this at peak periods in the next few months.

Bear in mind as well that these are all nameplate capacities, which cannot be guaranteed to be on stream all of the time. The Capacity Market auction assumes a de-rating of 85% – in other words, if capacity is 1000 MW, the auction assumes only 850 MW will be available at any one time.

All of the six plants listed above  have Capacity Market contracts for this winter. However, the ECJ has ruled that such payments are illegal, putting the whole system in jeopardy.

This will not affect capacity this winter, as it is too late for the industry to do anything about it. It does however throw into doubt the viability of coal power stations next winter and beyond.

We have already seen that the loss of the contract at Eggborough has caused it to shut. A Capacity Market contract there would have been worth in the region of £30m, about half the value of their sales.

The ECJ has thrown the matter back into the hands of the EU Commission, so Capacity Market payments may well be reinstated. But unless they sort themselves out pretty quickly, coal plant owners may well vote with their feet.

Eggborough’s Annual Accounts for last year show the very real problems facing the industry:


Without standby payments, no coal power station can possibly make money running at just 6% of capacity.

With little in the way of new CCGT capacity due on stream in the next few years, we had better hope that coal power hangs around a bit longer.

  1. December 11, 2018 8:32 pm

    I can remember the good old days when we had an efficient grid. Can’t see it returning in my lifetime

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      December 11, 2018 10:05 pm

      I was at school during the war and we got on very well, no blackpouts. And that was in the middle of the Sheffield Steel makers, 13 open hearth furnaces, working 24/7. To now say we are short is criminal negligence and the grid should be brought to answer for it. I am 85 and do not want my life cut short because of a stupid group of our politicians who are apparently illiterate in things technical.

      • Allan M permalink
        December 12, 2018 10:43 am

        The stupid politicians should certainly be brought to answer for it. Unfortunately, they have long since passed laws which make it impossible for this to happen.

  2. December 11, 2018 8:36 pm

    Imports from the continent are also currently near maximum. The fate of the UK may well depend on the winter weather, mild and windy, OK, cold and still, not OK. Prolonged power cuts may be the UK version of “yellow jackets”, especially if black-start takes several days.

  3. AZ1971 permalink
    December 11, 2018 8:55 pm

    If and when the bodies in Britain begin piling up next winter, I think there’s going to be a hard re-assessment of the abilities of wind and solar. To which I say, let them eat their frozen cake.

  4. December 11, 2018 9:18 pm

    I’ve just topped up my oil tank, the log store is full and all I have to do now before winter sets in is to stock up on propane for the generator.

    • Ian permalink
      December 11, 2018 11:06 pm

      With such an enormous carbon footprint, haven’t you just outed yourself as Bigfoot?

    • Russ Wood permalink
      December 13, 2018 3:50 pm

      I’m glad to see you’ve got a genny, Philip. Too many people have forgotten that they need ELECTRICAL power to run the oil furnace and pump the central heating. I keep reading about people in the USA mountains freezing ‘cos they lost power and all their oil-fed heating couldn’t work!

  5. David Wojick permalink
    December 11, 2018 9:54 pm

    Re “windless” keep in mind that a wind generator needs about 30 mph to reach full capacity. At 20 mph it may put out 50% and at 10 mph it generates nothing.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 12, 2018 5:38 pm

      Most large windmills are spec’d at 3-4m/s and optimum at 13-15m/s. Assuming typical manufacturers optimism and over-hyping then you could assume the true numbers are nearer 5-6 and 16-17 m/s respectively; in real numbers 12 and 38 mph.
      No surprise that performance of wind is so bad.

  6. December 11, 2018 10:45 pm

    ECJ ruling: It does however throw into doubt the viability of coal power stations next winter and beyond.

    Won’t Brexit make the ECJ be history after next March? Just wondered.

    • bobn permalink
      December 12, 2018 12:15 am

      Hope so. Country will be in perpetual turmoil if politicians surrender and let the ecj CONTINUE TO RULE THE uk. We’ll all be donning yellow vests in the UK if the traitors in Westminster keep us tied to the EUSSR.

      • Tom O permalink
        December 13, 2018 2:34 pm

        On this side of the pond, I keep hearing that the vast majority of UKites want to stay in the EUSSR. I never understood how they could think that way since your history is as a Eagle not a placid chicken. Never understood why you put up with DC, for that matter. I’d like to figure out how to have a civil insurrection over here and throw out the politicians that want to kiss the butts of the UNSSR.

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 12, 2018 12:35 am

      Well oldbrew that depends on what the ‘deal’ exactly is …

      3. The European Court of Justice is decreed to be our highest court, governing the entire Agreement – Art. 4. stipulates that both citizens and resident companies can use it. Art 4.2 orders our courts to recognise this. “If the European Commission considers that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties or under Part Four of this Agreement before the end of the transition period, the European Commission may, within 4 years after the end of the transition period, bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union”. (Art. 87)

      4. The jurisdiction of the ECJ will last until eight years after the end of the transition period. (Article 158).

      5. The UK will still be bound by any future changes to EU law in which it will have no say, not to mention having to comply with current law. (Article 6(2))

      • December 12, 2018 10:17 am

        If the Tories don’t sack May tonight they will surely be in big trouble at the next election.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 12, 2018 1:56 pm

        Well since the great Free Trade Agreement May keeps promising us will fail to create a frictionless border in Ireland, the backstop will remain in force in perpetuity.

      • tom0mason permalink
        December 12, 2018 3:09 pm

        Gerry, England,
        Correct. With the May ‘deal’ we’ll never be in control of all our borders, and through the ECJ we can not be wholly in charge of our import/export trading regime.
        Good isn’t it? We’re being given a reduced fat, lo-cal version of BREXIT and are expected to swallow it all with thanks to dear leader Teresa.
        “Gawd bless ‘er gov’, she’s been trying!” 😀

      • dave permalink
        December 13, 2018 10:08 am

        If Labour is cunning (and all pols. are cunning like weasels) they will at some point vote with May to pass the BRINO deal.

        Now, a ‘leader’ who gains victory with the assistance of the enemy causes the break-up and dispersal of her own army.

        May has, with malice aforethought, poisoned the never-very-robust body of the Right in Britain, and thrown it as a sacrifice onto the altar of EU worship.

  7. Joe Public permalink
    December 11, 2018 10:46 pm

    It’s obvious why our coal plants are being resurrected.

    With the closure of Rough Gas Storage facility last year, we’re down to our remaining 14,404 GWh of gas in storage. /sarc (For context, our Electricity Storage is 33GWh.)

    [Bottom right-hand ‘Actual Storage Stock (GWh)’ click ‘Graph’ button]

    It may be a shrewd move by our energy powers-that-be.

    Burn our coal now, whilst the majority of our Enviro whingers are over in Poland at the CoP24 junket being prevented from freezing courtesy of Polish coal (& lignite), and so in no position to complain about coal use anywhere. 😀

  8. avro607 permalink
    December 11, 2018 11:01 pm

    Do not be concerned folks as we will soon be submerged by rising seas from the East Antarctica ice melt.It must be true as the BBC and NASA are saying so.

  9. tom0mason permalink
    December 11, 2018 11:04 pm

    The whole trick that is being played is the inherent value of reliable and long lived coal power generation is being undermined by converting it into payments for unreliable, short lived, and ineffective renewables.
    Not mining or importing coal saves money until it is given, with generous tax additions, as a subsidy, together with along with a rigged market favoring the least reliable generators of wind and solar. But worry not, it’s all done in the name of ‘Sustainability’ and against the natural workings of the nasty free market.

    With the politics of maintaining coal fired generator plant becoming evermore problematic, and many nuclear power plants reaching their end of life, unless all these are replaced soon, Britain will find electricity power demand increasingly difficult to reliably cover, especially during the winter. Thankfully for the government, the Met Office’s computers says that the upcoming El Nino will mean the UK will have another warm, wet winter. However I doubt the Met Office’s computers can really calculate diddle-swat about the upcoming weather trends.

    Maybe the UK government doesn’t mind being the poodle for Vladimir Putin and his Gazprom oligarchs, or any other foreign interest. It certainly doesn’t seem to damage any politicians career as they whizz through the revolving door of politics and business.

    • Ian permalink
      December 11, 2018 11:39 pm

      Don’t talk to me about “Sustainability”. Barnsley’s about to officially launch its government-approved Local Plan any day now. This involves “creating” 28840 jobs and 21546 dwellings between now and 2033, which is three years after the world will end according to COP24. This will mainly be logistics jobs (they’d better hurry up and develop those electric trucks) and abodes for commuters working in Leeds and Sheffield, accessing the M1 in a section where, any day now, it will have a speed limit imposed for air quality improvement.

      The council make a feature of their “Sustainability” credentials whist removing 13% of Barnsley’s urban green belt to make way for (very well insulated I’m sure) “sheds on roundabouts.”

      Parallel universes?

      • tom0mason permalink
        December 12, 2018 12:13 am

        Ian that’s yet another example of the irrationality, if not complete insanity, inhabiting all levels of government (both local and national).
        Some of us wonder why more of Europe is not rioting, or at least protesting.

  10. Jack Broughton permalink
    December 11, 2018 11:29 pm

    Trump legislated a few months ago to keep US coal fired stations available: we ought to do the same for the stored energy reasons given by JP above and because they are still reliable and efficient power generators

  11. markl permalink
    December 12, 2018 1:43 am

    Another unintended consequence of the shoot, ready, aim approach to energy requirements by the AGW supporters.

  12. Robin Guenier permalink
    December 12, 2018 7:48 am

    At 8:23 AM yesterday (i.e. during the rush hour) coal contributed 10.1% of UK electric power and gas 51.1%. In contrast, wind contributed 6.7% and solar zero – as we’ve noted before, they can be almost useless when really needed.

  13. Coeur de Lion permalink
    December 12, 2018 9:25 am

    Philip Bratby’s carbon footprint is zero, as is mine. CO2? Oh, that’s different

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 12, 2018 12:35 pm

      Enhance your carbon footprint with these carbon fiber shoes…

  14. Athelstan permalink
    December 12, 2018 12:09 pm

    “All of the six plants listed above have Capacity Market contracts for this winter. However, the ECJ has ruled that such payments are illegal, putting the whole system in jeopardy.”


    As the grid switches, there have been one or two nigh total cut outs here in the last few weeks, as I read of outages elsewhere, I really do fear for a major UK outage this time (winter) around, STOR won’t be able to cope and a major trip will f*** the system for days and that portents something far blacker and threatens a social disorder on a scale not seen in this country for circa 400 years.

  15. Shalewatcher permalink
    December 12, 2018 2:50 pm

    The Grid in their Winter outlook seemed quite confident that this winter’s U.K. supplies would be OK. However they said that with the massive rise in wholesale gas prices would bring more coal generated electricity into the market. In other words the Greens, who must know we need a back-up fuel, are shooting themselves in the foot by opposing the development of U.K. gas. If you don’t have gas or it’s pricey, then you get coal.

  16. keith permalink
    December 12, 2018 4:08 pm

    I’m still wondering where all the power is going to come from to charge Gove’s millions of electric cars?

  17. December 12, 2018 5:13 pm

    100 MW of OCGT power being generated at 5pm today, expensive last-resort stuff, on a windy not-at-all cold day.

    • Hivemind permalink
      December 12, 2018 11:04 pm

      OCGT: does that mean jet engines?

    • Athelstan permalink
      December 13, 2018 2:40 pm

      scraping the ‘grid’ barrel and not even cold, that’s not good at all.

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