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Power Cuts? What Power Cuts?

August 14, 2019

By Paul Homewood


While Britain is still trying to establish what caused the worst blackout for years last week, the two companies directly responsible still continue to not even mention their involvement:

The Danish state owned Oersted, the pop singer formerly known as Prince company formerly known as DONG, who are responsible for the monstrously inefficient wind farm at Hornsea, which was mainly responsible for the blackout, can only offer this self aggrandising puff on its website:


Global energy transition? Do they mean transition to blackouts?

Meanwhile, German owned RWE, who own the Little Barford gas power station, cannot tell us what went wrong either:


All they can do is brag about their profits, and boast that they have shut a source of reliable power which would have gone a long way to reducing the grid’s reliance on intermittent renewable power.

Meanwhile, nobody in the media seems to have picked up on the crucial role of proper reliable, dispatchable power generation to get the country out of the disaster it was heading towards.

Although short term contributions from pumped storage, OCGT, DSR and other temporary measures helped to stabilise the grid for the few minutes after the crash, it was CCGT which restored proper grid stability within half an hour.


There has been much talk in the media about how Tesla type batteries would have “solved” last week’s problems.

However they all share the same childlike misconception as to how long batteries and the like can continue to supply power for. In Tesla’s case, using the South Australian example, it is about an hour.

If we had no spare dispatchable CCGT or coal capacity available last week, how long would that battery, DSR or pumped storage capacity have lasted for?

You certainly would not have been able to turn up the wind, or ask the sun to stay out all night! And nuclear needs to  run flat out for obvious reasons.

When will the media wake up and ask the obvious question? What would have happened last week if all of our coal and gas power stations had already been shut down to satisfy St Greta, OJ Corbyn and the rest of the loony left?

  1. Joe Public permalink
    August 14, 2019 11:02 pm

    The (Tesla) Hornsdale Power Reserve is 100MW / 129MWh.

    But 70MW is reserved for frequency control.

    Whether that would have been sufficient to prevent the widespread blackouts, I’ll leave the experts to decide. But if it wasn’t, the remaining 30MW for ~3 hours wouldn’t have done much when demand prior to blackout was of the order of 30GW.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 15, 2019 11:07 am

      There is a 49MW/24.5MWh battery at West Burton which is on the transmission lines South from the Humber towards London. It probably kicked in within a second of the first trip with an output profile quite similar to that from Upside Energy I.e. full output for around 3 minutes followed by scaling back to nothing as frequency returned close to 50Hz. The trouble is that 49MW isn’t going to cut it when you lose 1400MW of supply. Batteries are a very expensive way of providing for those kinds of events, since the capacity can only earn its keep when they happen. It’s much cheaper to take advantage of capacity you have to have to meet peak winter demand via plenty of inertia that allows time for the other backup to get up to speed. Slower acting backup is much cheaper than batteries. Remember that grid stability is compromised by a high proportion of wind and solar, so is much more likely in summer or overnight when demand is low, rather than on a cold winter day when demand is high. The problem then will be whether there is sufficient capacity when the wind is calm and the sun has set before peak rush hour demand.

    • Frosty Oz permalink
      August 17, 2019 4:09 am

      Just to add some further detail on the 129MWh Tesla Hornsdale Power Reserve battery in South Australia:

      – Under normal conditions 119MWh @ 30MW is available to its owner (Neoen) for power storage and/or frequency control services sold to the system operator (max 3.97 hours storage), and 10MWh @ 70MW (8.5 minutes) is available for dispatch by the SA Government as reserve power when all other available units have been bid in and there is still unserved load.

      – Under emergency conditions the SA Government’s 10MWh is also available for dispatch @ 100MW (6 minutes) as part of a special protection scheme to assist preventing the Heywood Interconnector from overload.

      Data from the system operator suggests that its energy load since commencement has been 150% of its energy discharge (see McCardle and Dyson 2019 Generator Report Card).

      Click to access Initial-operation-of-the-Hornsdale-Power-Reserve.pdf

  2. Philip Mulholland permalink
    August 14, 2019 11:17 pm

    I had to look up CCGT
    Combined Cycle Gas Turbine
    Now you don’t have to.

    • Payl petley permalink
      August 15, 2019 11:26 am

      Philip, I think you will find that just about everyone reading this article will already know what (and why) a CCGT is as opposed to an OCGT.

  3. Brian James permalink
    August 15, 2019 2:24 am

    Jan 4, 2019 Why renewables can’t save the planet | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxDanubia

    Environmentalists have long promoted renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind farms to save the climate.

  4. Athelstan. permalink
    August 15, 2019 6:34 am

    ♫Woah, we’re going to barbados end up in Venezuela.♪

    madness, the captains – greta and compo at the wheel.

    it’s going to be a night train, destination blackness.

  5. Athelstan. permalink
    August 15, 2019 6:36 am

    and watch out, make sure that you don’t step in that Dong!

  6. August 15, 2019 7:35 am

    Going back to the late Prof Sir David McKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’, we have four significant pumped storage schemes with a total maximum power output of 2.86GW and a total maximum storage of about 30GWh. In comparison, talk of installing Tesla type batteries is irrelevant.

    In theory Dinorwig, which can run up to full power of 1.3GW in 12 seconds (total storage 9.1GWh), can provide the power for a black start.

    It is also noted in the book that we would need at least 1200GWh of storage to get through a calm period lasting 5 days (and that was for 10GW of installed wind capacity, let alone today’s amount). Talk of Tesla type batteries for use when most needed, in winter, is just nonsense.

    • dave permalink
      August 15, 2019 8:59 am

      “…Dinorwig…Can be run up in 12 seconds…”

      Up to full power in 12 seconds…IF all six turbines are ALREADY running; otherwise, it is 75 seconds. And what if it is already at full power? Or the lake has been almost drained by earlier desperate measures?

      It is all rather like saying, “If the Panzers break through, the Line-of-Communications troops can stop them.”

      • August 15, 2019 9:07 am

        Yes indeed, all these factors have to be taken into account when determining the likelihood of being able to recover from events brought on by too much unreliable, weather-dependent, asynchronous generation.

        It’s a good job we can rely on energy ministers who are on top of the situation!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        August 15, 2019 12:22 pm

        At 9.1GWh when full, Dinorwig can run for about five and a half hours at maximum output of 1.7GW. It gets to top up overnight when electricity prices are usually much lower, and when the extra demand it places on the system to do the pumping actually helps to provide grid stabilisation at a time of low demand, both through increasing the overall demand, and through the inertia from the spinning turbines and generators turned to motors. (It should not be forgotten that one of the causes of reduced grid inertia has been the demise of large motors used by some heavy industries that have emigrated to China. It is very rare for Dinorwig to be run at higher levels of output – it did so to for about an hour a day to meet peak demand during the Beast from the East for example.

        Its output during the events of 9th August appears not to have exceeded 1GW, and it was already running at just under 300MW when it all happened. I suspect that it was unable to contribute more than that effectively because of the difficulty of trying to route its output to the supply shortfall across the transmission grid without breaching constraints on transmission lines, given the configuration in which the grid was operating at the time.

    • Athelstan. permalink
      August 15, 2019 10:41 am

      “It’s a good job we can rely on energy ministers who are on top of the situation!”


      Even said in sarcasm, Phil that’s so not very funny.


  7. Ian Wilson permalink
    August 15, 2019 8:03 am

    Slightly off topic, the Daily Mail’s business section has a piece by Francesca Washtell fulsome in her praise for Legal & General’s policy of ‘disinvesting’ from fossil fuels and praising other companies prominent in ‘fighting climate change’

    I am sending an e-mail to pointing out these are precisely the policies doing huge damage to British industry and all to solve a non-problem. I hope other readers of this blog will do likewise. Let’s make our voices heard. If anyone has investments or pensions with L & G perhaps they might cancel them and tell the company why.

  8. August 15, 2019 9:02 am

    Two myths have been successfully injected into the woke/gullible media, “the wind is always blowing somewhere”, and “solar power still works on cloudy days”. Just last week The Telegraph published a letter that said “daylight is guaranteed, come rain or shine”. Try searching for “solar power on cloudy days”, you will find ridiculous claims of up to 40% on cloudy days. The late David MacKay said 10% in a footnote, which I believe is way too high.

    Next time Climate Change gives us a sunny/cloudy day I’ll measure it again and report the outcome.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      August 15, 2019 10:02 am

      In a UK winter the days are so short and the sun so low, that it really doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or not, solar PV can’t contribute anything worthwhile for 3 months+.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 15, 2019 10:21 am

      There’s another letter about a PV installation in today’s letters. Worth a read – if not the installation.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        August 15, 2019 10:43 am

        it goes…………………..I’ve ‘planted’ a field full of solar panels and I can’t even boil a kettle? /sarc

        aye, maybe not.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      August 15, 2019 10:31 am

      Try searching for “solar power on cloudy days”, you will find ridiculous claims of up to 40% on cloudy days”

      A few years back I used a 15 watt solar panel at at remote building to (try and) keep a 12v battery charged. In summer it was more than adequate – the demand was just an ultrasonic pest scarer, and occasional low power lighting. I installed a digital voltage/current display to show what was going on, and I can tell you that from a baseline of clear sky at midday in July, cumulus clouds drifting by would reduce the output by 30-40%. Overcast would be more like 50-60% (this is still in summer). But come winter, and even a bright clear day, it would give no more than 15%, and during overcast would be virtually zero.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 15, 2019 10:50 am

      No need to do that. Simply look at recent historical data on Gridwatch or BM Reports. For solar there may also be data from Sheffield University you can look at: they supply the estimated solar output data to the grid which is picked up by Gridwatch. I might take a look myself later.

    • Paul Petley permalink
      August 15, 2019 11:37 am

      If you go to you can play with the parameters and get generation for every single day and month. This year so far it has varied from 1.54GWh on 5th January to a maximum of 78.7GWh on the 27th June. The variation from one day to the next even in summer is quite remarkable for example on Tuesday this week it was 59.1GWh but Wednesday fell to just 14.7GWh.

    • August 15, 2019 12:28 pm

      “daylight is guaranteed, come rain or shine”

      Night-time is also guaranteed.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 15, 2019 1:51 pm

        But only in Spain does solar also work at night…..

  9. August 15, 2019 9:07 am

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  10. Saighdear permalink
    August 15, 2019 9:35 am

    Hmmm really getting fed up / annoyed with all this climate promulgation in the MSM this past few weeks: WHAT DO journalists learn when they study to be a Journalist?
    a. Do they learn “Something” about the chosen subject matter they intend journalisting on?
    b. Do they learn how to manipulate the readeship?
    c. Do they only learn how to increase revenues through sensationalism?
    What power cut? = what Storms & rain & Thunder ( maybe with lightning ) ? Here wher I’ve been throughouut N Scotland E & W Coast this past 4 wks , we’ve had very little of any of it. Localised flooding thru’ poor drain maintenance and increased property development with inadequate / poor infrastructure to cope.

    • Athelstan. permalink
      August 15, 2019 12:07 pm


      All journo courses at uni are all about propagandizing and spreading the filth of cultural Marxism and that’s all to do with the EU-UN erasmus programme.

      Long gone, an apprenticeship in a local newspaper and introduction into honest to goodness investigative journalism which incidently is a vital requisite in a free and open democracy the EU couldn’t allow that, now could they? Real journalists used to have a field day, reporting the persistent, widespread, permanent corruption peculation, all the kleptocrats in Brussels so dedicated themselves to.

      Hence the fourth estate’s unofficial motto; Free, Frank and Fearless – has been booted likely across to the other side of the universe.

  11. Angelika Monks permalink
    August 15, 2019 10:15 am

    I can hear Christopher Booker laugh from beyond his grave. Miss his column in the Telegraph.

  12. Harry Passfield permalink
    August 15, 2019 10:23 am

    Those who like to big up the SA Tesla battery and wind farms need to take account that, iirc, the total population of SA is 1.7M people.

  13. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 15, 2019 10:43 am

    I suspect that all companies involved will be under instruction not to comment at least until National Grid makes its first report, due on the 16th. The problem with that of course is that they are the ones with the strongest interest in a cover-up, since it was their actions in running with inadequate inertia instead of curtailing wind and or solar to run more CCGT that put the system at risk in the first place. It remains to be seen what the precise causes of the trips at Hornsea and Little Barford were, but in the case of Hornsea it’s possible they were not all that heavily to blame themselves, while at Little Barford their shutdown may turn out to be wholly the consequence of how National Grid were operating.

    I wasn’t encouraged to see Andrea Leadsom retweet this from National Grid

  14. john cooknell permalink
    August 15, 2019 10:58 am


    The loony right have had there hand in this as well, with ill thought through privatisation and de-regulation and a blind eye to any risks.

    A perfect storm of loony left and right.

  15. Paul Petley permalink
    August 15, 2019 11:40 am

    If you go to you can play with the parameters and get generation for every single day and month. This year so far it has varied from 1.54GWh on 5th January to a maximum of 78.7GWh on the 27th June. The variation from one day to the next even in summer is quite remarkable for example on Tuesday this week it was 59.1GWh but Wednesday fell to just 14.7GWh.

  16. paul petley permalink
    August 15, 2019 11:45 am

    i think it is worth noting that they had to fire up this unit at Indian Queens to help save the system
    That must have cost rather a lot!

  17. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 15, 2019 12:37 pm

    The Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has commissioned the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) to undertake a comprehensive review of the incident. The review should identify lessons and recommendations for the prevention and management of future power disruption events. In particular E3C will:

    assess direct and secondary impacts of the event across GB electricity networks
    Identify areas of good practice and where improvements are required for system resilience
    consider load shedding in regard to essential service customers and prioritisation
    consider timeliness and content of public communications during the incident
    make recommendations for essential service resilience to power disruptions

    E3C will submit a final report to the Secretary of State within 12 weeks, with an interim report within 5 weeks.

    So they won’t be reporting on what actually happened?

    E3C will not consider whether participants correctly met their responsibilities under the licensing regime and Grid Code. This will be considered separately by Ofgem in delivery of their responsibilities as the independent regulator.

    Indeed not. Will OFGEM make their report public, and when? They’ve yet to say so.

    Click to access gb-power-system-disruption-review-terms-of-reference.pdf

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 15, 2019 12:54 pm

      Perhaps I should have added that since OFGEM are responsible for setting the rules there is a conflict of interest here as there is no independent investigation as to whether the rules are adequate, or were set in ways that were influenced by ministers and civil servants pursuing green targets while in practice risking grid stability – unless the BEIS Select Committee can be persuaded to ask awkward questions. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to have anyone with the beginnings of the right expertise now that they’ve lost Graham Stringer, Alan Whitehead and Peter Lilley.

  18. mjr permalink
    August 15, 2019 12:58 pm

    talk of Dinorwig and other pump storage. The whole point of these was they could be used for anticipated surges – like when the adverts are on during Coronation Street and everyone puts the kettle on and goes for a pee. Not for instantly covering c*ck ups like this

  19. Ivan permalink
    August 15, 2019 2:30 pm

    Ultimately the greatest scandal here is not that we had to handle an incident by load-shedding – load-shedding is something that happens fairly often. (How often do you have a power cut? We had one only a few weeks ago before this one.) Rather it is the behaviour of the distribution companies, who are responsible for deciding which load is shed. They apparently shed some critical assets like transport and hospitals, whereas they could in principle have shed more domestic, which is much less severely affected by a 40 min power cut. That was the part of it which made this into much more of a crisis than it should have been. We haven’t heard much from the distribution companies.

    This is much more complicated than “wind farms are unreliable”. The wind farm didn’t suddenly stop generating (as might potentially happen if it was suddenly hit by a storm – turbines have to be stopped for their own physical protection in excessive winds – though you would get a bit more notice and a gradual wind-down in such a case), rather it’s connection tripped out. It was reconnected fairly soon afterwards.

    There has been no clear identification of exactly what happened and why. It is speculated it might have been driven by the frequency reduction that already occurred from the loss of the gas station, but that is speculation, and didn’t happen anywhere else. It is generally assumed the problem lay with Oersted’s asset, but there is often a separate independently owned transmission link between an off-shore wind-farm and the grid. So there are other locations for such a problem to have occurred, though Oersted has not apparently sought to blame anyone else. Nevertheless we should understand that these things can happen regardless of the kind of generators we have, and in fact it is often problems with connection equipment that takes generators off-line.

    Nevertheless as Philip Bratby points out, the fact that at the moment of the supply reduction, around 50% of the supply was asynchronous, (stations running steam turbines – gas, nuclear, coal – are generally synchronised to the 50Hz of the electricity system, whereas things like solar and wind can’t be and have to be connected in a different way) made the severity of the incident greater, because such a system has less inertia. That inertia gives you a short-term response buffer, eg the 75 seconds that are enough to turn Dinorwig on full blast.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 15, 2019 7:36 pm

      I fear the debate will concentrate too much on the load shedding priorities and not enough on the basic underlying problem of too little inertia causing the problems in the first place, and running the grid in a configuration that apparently made it impossible for Dinorwig to make good the loss less other generation increases fast enough to prevent reaching 48.8 Hz. When you lose generation you don’t just have to increase it elsewhere – you have to ensure there is a viable route to supply the areas of shortage without overloading any of the transmission network. If you overload parts of the network, they will trip out too, and you will get a cascading blackout.

      Part of the reason why the blackout was so widespread may turn out to be related to the difficulties with rebalancing the grid. We know very little about that side of things. All we have is National Grid called for a reduction in demand of 931MW between 15:54:00Z ( ten seconds after trips started according to the frequency charts) and 16:40:00Z, with no further detail on how that was to be spread.

  20. Jon Scott permalink
    August 15, 2019 7:54 pm

    Oh Paul! How can you be so unreasonable whey they come forward wish SO MUCH detail!

    • August 15, 2019 8:24 pm

      It is reassuring that they still don’t appear to know what went wrong a week later!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        August 16, 2019 10:58 am

        I’m sure they know. It’s a question of working out how to do the cover-up of National Grid’s failings and perhaps those in OFGEM and BEIS who authorised them. I noted that they were vituperative about the story of previous incidents of the frequency dropping close to 49.5Hz, claiming that they were not a problem because system black only happens at 47.5Hz. However, as I have already noted, it does seem strange that the latest posted month of 1 second frequency data is April so we are unable to evaluate what happened. Supposedly today we get the first report from National Grid to OFGEM. Early this afternoon I expect the data on generation by Hornsea and Little Barford for 9th August will become available. Not having a Telegraph subscription I’ve not been able to see whether they offer more detail on the curtailment story, but the greying out portion did seem to look like National Grid were getting in their excuses again.

        There is something rotten in the State of Denmark.

  21. August 15, 2019 8:19 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  22. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 16, 2019 10:28 am

    The wind farm which contributed to a massive blackout was awarded nearly £100,000 in compensation after being ordered to reduce its output the day immediately after the power cut, the Telegraph can reveal.

    Which is of course what they should have done on the Friday to maintain adequate inertia. Nice to see them being cautious after the event.

  23. Saighdear permalink
    August 16, 2019 11:34 am

    Anyone been listening to BBC News this now? – a ?Mr Hunter? from Schneider Electric, setting the scene for the report due out later…The contradictions in his waffle – about Renewables and Backup andthe cost of the Backup etc. Menatally I switch ogg now with this hypocrisy If Renewables is to be mainstream and we can’t determine output due to vagaries of weather, what does that say for the way we want to conduct our Daily Business? ” it takes a while to run up standby power….” he says but we will soon hve electric cars and batteries……. er em what does that mean exactly. when we have a power cut aand I have to do some workshop work – ismy Torch and cordless drill and grinder fit for purpose ….. – I’ve just come home and all are FLAT nd 5 minsof Power did NOT re-charge ANYTHING. Oh and I needthe Welder andtheelectricfuel pump to re-fuel the standby generator and tractor and Pickup and the Combine Harvester is waiting in the field for fuel before the imminent rainstorm – I only have 1 hour left to harvest – my Profit element. There is no Night glow from the distant street-lights since they’ve mostly been converted to LEDs and I just dropped the Torch and the batteries have fallen out – need a light to find them. NO Matches around ‘cos no one smokes any more so can’t light a candle, not even old 4candles askindlers to light a fire andboil the kettle. Call out for saint G.

  24. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 16, 2019 12:05 pm

    The Mail now has some version of the report:

    Lightning hitting a transmission line near Little Barford caused it to trip. The way “Hornsea was configured” (perhaps not quite in line with the supposed design?) meant it followed. I asked Meteoradar last night if they could offer historical maps of lightning strikes around the time of the power cut. I may not hear anything back from them until next week.

    • Frosty Oz permalink
      August 16, 2019 2:40 pm

      In the 2016 South Australian blackout, there 5 voltage dips on various transmission lines within 100 seconds, probably induced by cloud-to-cloud lightning. The wind farms rode through each of these. But their protection equipment was set to disconnect if there were 6 dips detected within 120 seconds.
      Yes, you guessed it. There was a 6th dip, and 600MW disconnected on the 6th dip.

  25. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 16, 2019 1:14 pm

    a project spokesperson for Hornsea 1 said: “During a rare and unusual set of circumstances affecting the grid, Hornsea One experienced a technical fault which meant the power station rapidly de-loaded – that is it stopped producing electricity.

    “Normally the grid would be able to cope with a loss of this volume (800MW). If National Grid had any concerns about the operation of Hornsea 1 we would not be allowed to generate. The relevant part of the system has been reconfigured and we are fully confident should this extremely rare situation arise again, Hornsea 1 would respond as required.”

    National Grid will share blame for the outage – which affected more than a million Britons and caused transport chaos at peak commuter time – between a range of parties after an initial lightning strike on a power line, according to leaked media reports.

  26. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 16, 2019 7:13 pm

    I found an historic lightning strike map: white crosses mark strikes within the previous 20 minutes of the chosen time. It does look as though there was a fair amount of lightning in the St Neots area, and some that could have hit transmission lines North of there.

  27. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 16, 2019 8:21 pm

    National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), a legally separated business within National Grid Group, confirms that it has submitted its interim technical report into the power outages of Friday 9th August, in accordance with Ofgem’s interim deadline of 6pm today, Friday 16th August.

    There will now follow a short period of deliberation by Ofgem, with the anticipation of the findings of the interim technical report being released next week.

    The final detailed technical report to Ofgem by National Grid ESO will be submitted by Friday 6th September, in accordance with the timeline set out by Ofgem.

    This is a separate and parallel process to the government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) inquiry into the power outages, and the response of other critical national infrastructure and essential services, which is expected to report back finally in early November. The scope of the inquiry by E3C, a panel made up of government, Ofgem and industry, has been welcomed by National Grid ESO.

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