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No Coal Power For Two Weeks? We Imported It Instead!

June 8, 2019

By Paul Homewood



Britain, we are told, saw its first two week period without coal power last month.

But it turns out that we imported coal power from Europe instead:



From the 17 – 31 May 2019, Britain saw its first two week period without coal-fired power plants generating power since the 1880s. However, modelling carried out by energy market data analyst EnAppSys shows that power generated from coal has been imported from abroad over the same period.

Consultancy and information services EnAppSys has provided the following analysis.

High carbon taxes in Britain were the key reason why Britain’s electricity system has run without coal for the last two weeks – a record which stretches back almost 140 years.

That’s the view of EnAppSys, which indicates that further no-coal records could be broken should these taxes remain at current levels.

These higher carbon taxes do not, however, apply in neighbouring regions and over the initial two week period of zero coal, Britain imported 50.9 GWh of power from coal-fired power plant operating abroad.

Of this power, only a relatively low share of the modelled coal-originating imports came from France and Ireland (0.1G Wh and 0.9 GWh respectively), with France seeing a high share of power from nuclear plants and with Ireland seeing high levels of wind generation over the noted period.

Instead, the largest share of the modelled total was from the Netherlands where coal-fired power plants continue to operate at a high level of activity as a result of only paying around half the carbon taxes paid within the UK.

Rob Lalor, Senior Analyst at EnAppSys, said: “Britain’s move towards a green future has seen an increased reliance on low carbon power sources to generate electricity. This has coincided with a shift in Britain’s energy policy, with coal plants set to be phased out by 2025 and high polluting power plants penalised by higher carbon taxes, which include the GB carbon price floor of £18/t.

“This has translated into a two week period without coal-fired power being generated within Britain, but with European markets seeing less aggressive carbon pricing, electricity generated by coal-fired power plants would have continued to have been consumed within British households.

“Without a shift in policy, the number of ‘no-coal’ days is likely to increase again in future as more electricity is generated from renewable sources. Indeed, our latest GB quarterly market report revealed that the amount of clean energy derived from renewable sources hit a record high in the first three months of 2019.”

The figures produced by EnAppSys are based on the different sources of power generated around Europe (incomplete for the Netherlands leading to a potential under-estimate of real coal production). This shows that the Netherlands produced 535.8 GWh of power from coal over the period.

With the country also seeing exports to Britain over this period at 7.8% of demand, this translates into an assumed export of coal-fired generation totalling 40.4 GWh.

This analysis was also extended into Germany, where 5017.3 GWh of power was produced from coal or lignite plants over the period, but with only 2.1% of demand in Germany being exported to Netherlands, there was only a 0.16% modelled pass-through assumed for German coal into Britain. This translated into a 9.5 GWh import of coal from Germany over the period.

These import totals at 50.9 GWh imply an effective 151 MW baseload production of coal from outside of Britain over this period.

Lalor said: “Whilst the absence of the higher UK-only carbon prices would have prevented this coal-free run from occurring (or at least for as long), the same carbon price levels applied outside of Britain might also have prevented coal from being imported from neighbouring regions.”

  1. Robert Fairless permalink
    June 8, 2019 11:55 am

    A whiff of madness permeates the entire ruling class of England and the UK. The citizens are reduced to poverty and the ruling elite become very rich. What have we become? Marxist, Communist, Fascist or what? Greedy but deluded perhaps?

  2. It doesn't add up... permalink
    June 8, 2019 12:41 pm

    I have written to the author of that article pointing out that the quoted figures are likely to be a gross underestimate of the coal fired supply via BritNed. The converter station is right next door to the Uniper 1070MW MPP3 coal fired power station that can use up to 20% woodchips for co-firing. It is also connected to another 800MW of coal fired capacity across the dock at Maasvlakte. When these power stations are running at above the demand on the Interconnector they will supply 100% of its demand, with only any surplus going onto the Dutch grid, since power lines don’t operate in two directions at once. When they operate at less than the demand on the Interconnector, then 100% of their output will go to it, with the balance coming from elsewhere on the Dutch grid.

    I haven’t done the download from Gridwatch, but I suspect that imports via BritNed averaged over 800MW over the 336 hours of the fortnight, so we are likely looking at some 270 GWh of supply or more, with 80% of it coming from coal assuming maximum biomassa.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 8, 2019 4:09 pm

      Now done the download. The average level of import via BritNed (periods of export factored as zero import) was 714MW during the fortnight. That’s 239.9GWh, or 191.9GWh from coal assuming maximum biomassa.

  3. Douglas Brodie permalink
    June 8, 2019 12:43 pm

    The government does not count the CO2 emissions of imported electricity, nor the emissions used to manufacture the products we import from abroad.

    What a scam! They jack up the cost of our own energy by imposing green taxes, renewables subsidies, stand-by power for the intermittent renewables, smart meters, you name it which renders our fossil fuel power stations economically unviable and forces industries to shut down, then they take us all for fools by not counting the emissions of the imported substitutes and claiming that they have reduced our emissions.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      June 8, 2019 1:07 pm

      The answer is to persuade the Netherlands not to put carbon tax on exported electricity (as it won’t be used inside the EU). Then the cheaper coal fired electricity could all be imported, reducing the UK’s emissions. And building coal fired stations in the Netherlands would boom, adding more capacity that may be useful to them as well as stabilising the grid in the UK.

  4. Sheri permalink
    June 8, 2019 1:12 pm

    “This has translated into a two week period without coal-fired power being generated within Britain, but with European markets seeing less aggressive carbon pricing, electricity generated by coal-fired power plants would have continued to have been consumed within British households.”

    Wow, are Brits really that ignorant?????

    • Ian Magness permalink
      June 8, 2019 1:21 pm

      Yes Sheri. And the MSM like the BBC won’t report and analyse such issues so the great majority of people just don’t have the required knowledge to criticise such insanity.

  5. Gamecock permalink
    June 8, 2019 1:40 pm

    ‘This has translated into a two week period without coal-fired power being generated within Britain’

    Yet the fixed cost for those plants continued. If you want your coal plants to continue to exist, the above is NOT good news. It is evidence of gross mismanagement. You can’t eliminate a power source unless you have a replacement for it.

    Two weeks without coal-fired power is SUICIDAL.

    These aren’t normal times, either. On the cusp of Brexit, you better have your own damn power!

    • I_am_not_a_robot permalink
      June 8, 2019 9:26 pm

      Indeed there is no future importing power and exporting jobs.

  6. johnbillscott permalink
    June 8, 2019 3:13 pm

    One of the worst things one can do is to cycle boilers and turbines on and off as it causes damage – steady state is the best way to run power plants. Therefore we must assume the furnaces were kept on line withal the associated costs of running a power plant. In this case what were the real savings? – it certainly was not zero. How much did this publicity stunt really cost the consumers – it could never be cost neutral.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 8, 2019 4:12 pm

      Most of the capacity is shut for the summer. The maximum coal generation recorded over 13 May to date is 648 MW – just one 660MW genset at Drax I suspect.

      • June 8, 2019 7:13 pm

        As a matter of interest, we can see Drax from the top of our hill (though it is about 40 miles away)

        Most days it is partially working, which is presumably the biomass part!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        June 8, 2019 10:09 pm

        Days without biomass would be something to celebrate, at least if they were not the result of high volumes of wind and solar subsidies

  7. Stonyground permalink
    June 8, 2019 3:16 pm

    Meanwhile I notice that we are sweltering in the midst of a blistering hot summer.

  8. June 8, 2019 3:34 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  9. daveR permalink
    June 8, 2019 6:12 pm

    O/T, but maybe ‘insightful’: from Ch4’s 1992 ‘A Stab in the Dark’ programme featuring Michael Gove and FoE raking through Attenborough, Sting and Roddick’s buckets (from 01:00)

    Oh dear… 😉

    • June 8, 2019 7:16 pm

      He has a Scottish accent then!

      • Pancho Plail permalink
        June 8, 2019 7:59 pm

        Did you not hear his only discussion with Donald Trump was about Gove’s kilt.

      • Pancho Plail permalink
        June 8, 2019 8:00 pm

        Did you not hear his only discussion with Donald Trump was about Gove’s kilt. So he goes native when the voters aren’t watching.

    • dennisambler permalink
      June 9, 2019 11:46 am

      Ooh, that made me snort!

  10. June 8, 2019 7:12 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  11. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    June 8, 2019 10:02 pm

    “… high polluting power plants penalised by higher carbon taxes … clean energy derived from renewable sources …”.
    It is disappointing to see a publication declaredly devoted to “high quality information” adopting loaded language: ‘carbon taxes’ are in fact carbon dioxide (CO2) taxes directed at CO2 emissions that are not polluting but on-balance beneficial and ‘clean energy’ is a tautologically vacuous term.

    • Bertie permalink
      June 8, 2019 10:34 pm

      Or, maybe, an oxymoron.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    June 8, 2019 10:19 pm

    Meanwhile I wonder how expert at these experts?

  13. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 9, 2019 4:39 pm

    So Michael Gove used to take drugs, used to? I wonder what Claire Perry is on?

    Just saw this article on people displaced by a dam.

    Made me think, the number of ‘green’ project refugees must vastly exceed any actual climate refugees.

    Greens subscribe to the the policy of do harm first, instead of firstly do no harm – the true ethos of the precautionary principle.

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