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Coal Power Exceeds Wind/Solar As High Pressure Reigns

January 8, 2019

By Paul Homewood


We’ve just has five days of high pressure over the UK. It has not been unusually cold, nor has there been any snow over lowland areas as far as I know. Indeed, temperatures have been close to normal in the last week.

What you might call a typical spell of quiet, dry weather for this time of year.


As a result wind power has been running at below average levels:




Onshore and offshore wind combined have averaged 2051 MW over the period, meaning they have been operating at about 10% of capacity. Average demand has been 37.5 GW, so wind power has contributed just 5% of the total.

It has by no means been a windless period, and some days have been quite breezy. In fact, wind output has varied between 801 MW and 4253 MW.


Solar power is virtually irrelevant at this time of year. Despite some sunny days, it has averaged just 465 MW, little more than 1% of demand. Total installed solar capacity is 13.1 GW, so capacity utilisation in the last week has been about 3%.

As a consequence of all this, we are still relying on coal for nearly 7% of our electricity, more than wind and solar combined.

Demand has peaked at about 46 GW, and at these peak periods CCGT and coal power have been running at about 26 GW and 6 GW respectively.

Our current, effective dispatchable capacity is:


CCGT – 27 GW

Coal – 11 GW

Biomass – 3 GW

Nuclear – 9 GW

Small Scale Peakers – 3 GW

Giving a total of 53 GW.

I must stress that this last week has not been particularly cold. With temperatures below freezing and snow on the ground, we could well see total demand top 50 GW.

Even with switching demand away from peaks and use of storage to smooth demand flows during the day, our current capacity is extremely tight. Without the current coal capacity, it will simply not be manageable, even allowing for maximising imports.

  1. January 8, 2019 2:00 pm

    Hi Paul
    You might take some precautions that you are not left out in the dark and cold this winter. Generally looking back over historical weather, I noticed that the winter cold would grip and paralyze one region (U.S, Europe, Russia) and the other regions would be minimally affected. Last year we saw abnormal cold weather in my region of the U.S. This year I suspect this might be a year when the Baltic freezes. So anyways make sure you have a winter backup plan. The polar vortex is spinning down and the cold will be heading somewhere.
    James Marusek

  2. Jack Broughton permalink
    January 8, 2019 2:06 pm

    The wreckers are determined to destroy what is left of our excellent, but aging, fleet of coal fired power stations irrespective of the damage caused to the UK. We will then become totally dependent upon gas as the stand-by fuel for winter: holy CO2 as Robin might say. At present and for a while to come, gas prices are low, but this is a volatile commodity that can easily rocket in prices, especially if the Dutch close Groningen: what then?
    The USA have forced coal plants to be preserved for back-up and storage purposes. Coal is the only significant long term energy storage that the UK has, so needs to be preserved. Of course it is the lowest real-cost energy source, but who cares when it produces CO2!

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 9, 2019 1:48 pm

      A No Deal Brexit – the most likely outcome at the moment – will see the UK exit the Single Energy Market and shut down all interconnectors, both gas and electricity. I was surprised to find out the it was the GAS interconnector that saved us from running out of power last April.

  3. Trevor Shurmer permalink
    January 8, 2019 2:58 pm

    Paul this is an excellent appraisal, something that will help those of us who try to voice our discomfort at newspaper articles, and the stupidity of MP’s pushing for, and unjustifiably praising, wind and solar as the way forward. Why do I doubt the BBC or any other TV/radio channel, will report this as the do when they take delight in reporting wind and solar supplying, for a short period, usually in the summer, as substantial proportion of our needs? Funny that!

    • Rowland P permalink
      January 8, 2019 5:02 pm

      You can keep tabs on electric generation at “gridwatch templar” if you don’t already do so.

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 8, 2019 2:58 pm

    Elsewhere there’s a Guardian piece about how ‘everybody’ is disinvesting in fossil fuels. Needless to say, the blogosphere is screeching with laughter – sellers are always matched with (lucky) buyers and the company doesn’t really care who owns the stock. One of these lunatic disinvestors is the Synod of the Church of England. In correspondence with me the Bishop
    of Salisbury who leads on this for the Synod says that the famous IPCC 1.5degsC study ‘has had the most enormous impact on governments and businesses around the world’ and that practically all businesses are now aligning themselves with the UN Paris Agreement 2015. ‘We will be moving to a low carbon/ carbon neutral economy in the course of this century.’ Of course none of these proud prelates will be walking home to their unheated palaces while the WHOs 3 million p a will continue to die of cooking inhalation without coal fired electricity. I’ll bet Salisbury hasn’t read Prof Bates (see GWPF website) on the ludicrous IPCC paper which is nothing less than a fraud on the free world. But he has refused further exchanges- a standard alarmist tactic.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    January 8, 2019 3:54 pm

    Perhaps there should be a public list of volunteers who would accept voluntary power cuts when the wind blows insufficiently, and the sun isn’t shining?

    No doubt all the so-called Greenies would rush to sign up.

    • January 8, 2019 4:43 pm

      We’ve already got such volunteers. It’s called load-shedding but they’re mainly large companies.

      • January 8, 2019 6:58 pm

        Unfortunately the rest of us have to pay these volunteers to load-shed!

      • Hivemind permalink
        January 9, 2019 11:57 am

        It isn’t so much that they’ve volunteered, as that the alternative (reliable power that works whenever they do business) was made too expensive.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      January 8, 2019 4:53 pm

      Why should the sign-ups be voluntary?
      If the person or entity (the Church) supports the UN IPCC then he/she/them should have the power cut; the biggest ones first.
      All of these folks signal their belief in the green utopia so if should not be hard for the utilities to make a ranked list.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        January 9, 2019 2:52 pm

        Start with evry bloody MP in the country and see how long the Climate Change Act lasts.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 8, 2019 9:25 pm

      “A public list of volunteers who would accept voluntary power cuts”

      If they are prepared to pay me enough (and I don’t mean a few percent off my bill), I might consider “Load Shedding” at peak times… It would give me a chance to thoroughly test my back-up system!

    • Ian Terry permalink
      January 9, 2019 9:05 pm

      No need to have a list the thousands with smart meters will soon realise how smart when the Ower companies can turn off their input anytime anywhere

  6. January 8, 2019 4:59 pm

    Just try getting this messaged through to the Government. They refuse to listen to sense. Instead they watch the BBC propaganda and, like the gullible fools they are, they believe it.

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      January 8, 2019 6:16 pm

      I emailed my MP, to ask how the government proposes to replace the power being generated by coal, when they’re all due to be phased out.
      Just got back waffle about capacity auctions.

  7. January 8, 2019 5:06 pm

    Hmmm ………………. gullible fools or deliberately ignorant?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 9, 2019 1:46 pm

      It is sometimes very difficult to tell if they are truly ignorant and stupid, or just lying.

  8. Robin Guenier permalink
    January 8, 2019 5:59 pm

    And, as so often, the problem was particularly acute during the rush hour. For example last Thursday, 3rd Jan, at 8.30 AM coal was contributing 11.1% to our electric power and CCGT 59.4%. Wind/solar’s contribution was 3.2%.

  9. markl permalink
    January 8, 2019 6:23 pm

    The scam is playing out quite well in the UK for the perpetrators. Soon the choice will be shut down industry or let people freeze to death. Next it will be who can afford energy when they are not working but don’t worry the UN will provide if only you subscribe to the One World Government. How far down this rabbit hole are the people willing to go before they revolt?

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 8, 2019 9:34 pm

      “Soon the choice will be shut down industry”

      And they’ll probably try and blame it on Brexit…

      “How far down this rabbit hole are the people willing to go before they revolt?”

      Sadly, the vast majority of people don’t appear to follow blogs like this, and simply aren’t aware of what’s happening behind the scenes. They seem to implicitly believe all the crap put out by the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, and the mainstream newspapers. I’ve said before, it will take extensive power cuts to get through to them…

      • dave permalink
        January 9, 2019 9:11 am

        “…it will take extensive power cuts to get through to [most people].”

        At which point they will be fooled again. They will be told NOT ENOUGH windmills are being built; and a crash programme to cover the entire country with them will be neighed through Parliament. It is all so predictable.

      • dave permalink
        January 9, 2019 9:13 am

        Oh, and NOT ENOUGH batteries will also be invoked, as another bamboozlement.

  10. January 9, 2019 11:37 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    January 9, 2019 1:51 pm

    Ever since Booker raised the issue, it has been obvious that every year we creep closer to the point of insufficient energy supply. When more coal closes down due to it being made uneconomic to run, then you just need to add a bit of cold to the current weather and there is the shortage. A cold April might be interesting…

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