Skip to content

National Grid Forecasting Tight Margins This Week

October 15, 2020

By Paul Homewood

h/t Joe Public

Rather startling news from the National Grid yesterday:


This is astonishing for a number of reasons:

1) It is still only autumn, and demand is nowhere near winter peaks. Yesterday demand peaked at around 40 GW. During winter, we can expect at least 45 GW on a regular basis, with 50 GW possible during really cold spells.


2) We are not experiencing particularly “windless” weather. Our local wind turbine, which I can see from here, is still turning, and winds are forecast at between 7 and 10 mph for most of the country, Winds are still brisk from the north east over the North Sea coast.

There will be days in winter when the wind virtually stops completely across the whole of the UK.


As a result, wind power is still supplying around 5 GW at the moment, which is about 20% of capacity. There will be many days in winter, when much less is wind power is produced.


3) The HDVC interconnector to France is only running at 0.99 GW, out of a capacity of 2 GW. This shows how dangerous it is to rely on imported electricity:


4) Above all, of course, gas is still supplying more than half of demand.


The excuse given about “availability of generators” is just that, an excuse. The Grid should always have plenty of spare capacity on hand to cover for such outages.


Finally, let’s take a look at how wind power performed in January this year:


It varied between 992 and 13703 MW during the month. Between the 20th and 24th of the month, wind power never got above 5 GW, averaging 2.6 GW over the period of 192 hours.

The average for the month was 8.5 GW. The shortfall against average over those four days was therefore 566 GWh.


The final graph has been updated to correct for GW shown instead of MW

  1. Dave Ward permalink
    October 15, 2020 11:51 am

    “Winds are forecast at between 7 and 10 mph”

    Which isn’t much above the cut-in point for most turbines. And even if turning, they won’t be producing any significant power.

    • October 15, 2020 11:59 am

      Yes, but offshore winds are likely to be stronger than inland.

  2. Richardw permalink
    October 15, 2020 11:57 am

    No, that’s not right. You’ve forgotten all those generators powered by unicorn poo.

  3. spetzer86 permalink
    October 15, 2020 11:59 am

    On average, wind isn’t doing too badly. It’s that damned standard deviation that’s screwing the pooch.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    October 15, 2020 12:14 pm

    Not forgetting we’ve 13GW of solar capacity. That’ll surely help keep our lights on every evening.

    • October 15, 2020 1:54 pm

      We need to import some of the “magic” Spanish solar panels…..the ones which were famously producing electricity ….at night

  5. October 15, 2020 12:18 pm

    Just completed my latest download of windfarm constraints payments from REF (which as they explain does not include the secret ones) and it’s just under £835m for the whole of the UK to date. Just under £773m. is in Scotland. Over £185m. of the total was this year. All of which is coming from our bills of course.
    If we’re paying all that to switch the wretched things off there’s something seriously wrong, not least that most are built too far from where the electricity is needed yet they keep building them in the same remote locations. Can you imagine if a lovely village in the south of England was threatened with 35 250m. high turbines on its doorstep? Yet that’s where they are needed.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 15, 2020 1:01 pm

      Those payments are only going to get a lot bigger as wind capacity increases. Wind farms in Scotland and the North Sea will increasingly depend on export links to the Continent (Vikinglink etc., rather than to France – we don’t have spare transmission capacity to go over the top of demand in London) – but we get to pay the subsidies as they flog the exports off for negative prices when it is windy.

    • Thomas Carr permalink
      October 15, 2020 2:51 pm

      Time to set out for the ‘expert commentators’ the cost to the public of receiving no electricity. That my be a simplistic assessment but at least it is easily understood by the R. Harrabins of this world. I would have thought that this posting from Paul would justify a press release on these lines . Perhaps via Tax Payers Alliance who seem to be getting some exposure across the press nowadays. Excellent work Brenda.

  6. October 15, 2020 12:30 pm

    I wonder what generation they are expecting to fall off? Those damned fish might be having an effect on the French I/C , amazing what gets caught up in those nets when the talking gets tough.

  7. Phillip Bratby permalink
    October 15, 2020 12:55 pm

    I can see the French interconnectors being isolated after we have left the EU and there is a fishing war going on. E3C warned consumers in their report on last year’s blackouts that they should take measures to ensure that they are prepared for a fragile electricity system to cover “a range of credible power disruption scenarios”. In other words, you have been warned – expect and be prepared for frequent blackouts!

    Even the Telegraph has covered NG’s warning:

  8. October 15, 2020 1:05 pm

    What is really needed is a good old blackout for the people to realize the real consequences of relying on Green Energy. I wonder if there is any way to show Schellenburger YouTube presentation to the public. The politicians may be forced to come to their senses, assuming they have any.

    • Philip Mulholland permalink
      October 15, 2020 1:20 pm

      I was at university in 1872 during the blackouts introduced by the Heath conservative government. Those were dangerous times and should be avoided.
      The only real solution to all of this is to recognise that there is not and never has been a climate emergency and to build decent modern clean and efficient coal fired electricity power stations.
      An Analysis of the Earth’s Energy Budget

      • Philip Mulholland permalink
        October 15, 2020 1:22 pm

        Duh 1972 … (still too long ago)

      • Adam Gallon permalink
        October 15, 2020 10:07 pm

        Yes, I remember the power cuts. We lived on a hill & could see parts of Mansfield still lit, as other parts were in darkness.
        Bit of a pain, no tele, so early to bed.
        Now, power off, so no central heating, no electric cooker, no Wifi, better hope your mobiles & devices are charged & a bit tough if you can’t get a full charge in the old Tesla for that long drive in the morning.

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 15, 2020 1:09 pm

    The wind generation forecast is looking less encouraging, but still the real problem seems to be that we can’t rely on the Continent to feed us during the evening peak.

    Only BritNed (coal fired) is supplying us at present:

    I think there are more problems in France.

    The Grid Winter Outlook should be published next week. Will they try to pretend there are no problems again?

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    October 15, 2020 1:26 pm

    Would the NG be happy if all the anti-ICE activists included STOR generators in their campaigns. The loss of this backup could be borderline.

  11. October 15, 2020 1:50 pm

    Hope this does not come across as cynical but so much of the time I feel that on the Sceptical side there are adults and on the Doom laden alarmist side there are children.

    Constantly I am seeing money being spent of projects where I wonder how many adults were in the room when the proposal was first considered and decisions made to go ahead with it?

    Wind power CAN make electricity, that is not the issue which is of course HOW MUCH and HOW STABALLY? It falls down on both counts and so to any reasonable adult it is a NON STARTER.

    The fact that these simple arguments are thought unimportant or ignored speaks of many things which indicate the anti empirical corruption which runs right through the climate industry from “scientists” refusing to divulge their data upon which they make doom laden statements, to us allowing our legislators to hamstringing us with intermittent shockingly expensive energy while being lied about wonderful renewables with which we will “fight climate change”. On that note, next time you get brow beaten by a believer ask them what is the relationship between the rate of change of climate and the claimed % increase in CO2 responsible for each unit of rate change and how does it increase? It is also fun to point out that there are different climates all over the planet so asking which ones are affected and will the effects in the specific locations be positive or negative? You ask this of course because you a deferring to their superior knowledge …….based not on empiricism but on a belief system.

    Regarding those great guys sucking on the tax payer dollar, we have the the great MANNipulator of data himself who refused to divulge his data and just this week Terry Huges making shocking and highly questionable claims about corals while again refusing to divulge his data.

    That far from this having a negative effect, their scientifically unsupported “work” has positively enhanced their careers which is in stark contrast to the experiences anyone brave enough to stand up and challenge them with empiricism.

    This shines a very bright light on the reason behind why we are running not walking into an unnecessary energy supply crisis because the real name for the corruption of which I speak is …….MONEY!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 15, 2020 3:09 pm

      I always bear in mind Bob Dylan’s dictum: ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’. So true.

    • Bernard Taylor permalink
      October 15, 2020 4:07 pm

      Good comment Pard.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 15, 2020 1:58 pm

    Here’s the Winter Outlook


    Haven’t read it yet.

    • October 15, 2020 3:35 pm

      Banking on COVID apparently!!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 15, 2020 7:37 pm

        Having glanced through they appear to be banking on 16% wind effective capacity, and 3GW of interconnectors.

  13. Ariane permalink
    October 15, 2020 2:02 pm

    Thanks to Brenda I looked up constraints payments and found this which has gone to my MSP with a demand to halt being oblivious to the costs of renewables:

  14. Steve permalink
    October 15, 2020 2:38 pm

    Nuclear down to 5%. Coal gone. Looks like we’ve got to 2030 already. Get the candles and thermal underwear out.

  15. Joe Public permalink
    October 15, 2020 3:05 pm

    We’re currently burning a bit of coal (as insurance) and exporting electricity to France!

    Exporting ‘clean’ British power (298 gCO₂eq/kWh) and importing ‘dirty’ Dutch power (415 gCO₂eq/kWh). [Click the chevrons to see flow rates & carbon intensities]


  16. C Lynch permalink
    October 15, 2020 3:07 pm

    Don’t know about the UK but it’s been cool to downright cold for the first half of October here in Ireland – not surprised the grid is under pressure if people are turning on the heat more than they normally would this time of year and the fact that the grid is quite literally relying on fresh air.

    • Steve permalink
      October 15, 2020 3:45 pm

      Same here. Gas central heating came on last week. Imagine what it would be like if we all had heat pumps instead.

  17. MrGrimNasty permalink
    October 15, 2020 3:59 pm

    5 reactors under maintenance/inspection, at least 4 expected back Nov-Dec 2020, so depths of winter might be a bit less strained.

    • Mack permalink
      October 15, 2020 5:00 pm

      Love that word ‘expected’ in relation to U.K. energy provision. It’s almost as reliable a word as ‘capacity’ when discussing wind power, particularly when used by subsidy troughers.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        October 15, 2020 5:16 pm

        In this case I could have said ‘will be’, no reason to expect otherwise. Just reflecting the fact that nothing in life is 100% cast iron guaranteed.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 15, 2020 10:31 pm

      I think it’s the reactors in France that are of more concern. Over 20GW out currently, and staying above 10GW out until into December. Much higher than last year. See Fig 10 in the Winter Outlook on page 10.

      Plus additional shutdowns can’t be excluded.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      October 16, 2020 5:34 pm

      More info on the outages in this:

  18. Ariane permalink
    October 15, 2020 5:18 pm

    Does anyone know how much people in England are paying for wind energy from Scotland?

    • October 15, 2020 6:21 pm

      Don’t forget the expensive and unreliable interconnectors e.g. Western Link (on the blink) in the figures.

  19. Ben Vorlich permalink
    October 15, 2020 5:22 pm

    Cut in for most turbines is about 7 mph, but the outage of gas/nuclear or whatever is offline will be blamed by generators and msm

  20. October 15, 2020 6:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Something else for the usual miserablists to claim will be even worse after Brexit.

  21. Kelland Hutchence permalink
    October 15, 2020 6:03 pm

    While this has the potential to be painful if there are indeed power cuts, that can only be a good thing as surely it will start to open the public’s eyes to the reality of what awaits them in the near future.

  22. October 15, 2020 7:30 pm

    (Wind) varied between 992 and 13703 GW during the month.

    Paul it looks like those GW should be MW. atb

  23. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 15, 2020 10:20 pm

    The system buy price peaked at £108.81/MWh in settlement period 38 today (18:30-19:00).

    Demand was met with 1.4GW of coal (in addition to 1 GW via BritNed), 1.5GW of pumped storage, up to 500MW of STOR (probably most as diesel rather than batteries), 150MW of OCGT, 870MW of Hydro and wheedling out 1GW from France and Belgium. Wind was not all that low at just over 4GW.

    The problem comes in part because Covid has delayed summer maintenance on some of the CCGT generation, which is now not available either because it was under belated maintenance, or it cannot run until it has been maintained. Maintenance delays are also likely to cap other sources of generation, including wind.

    Continental problems are also maintenance related, with the French nuclear fleet an ongoing risk. Plant closures both here and on the Continent reduce the margin that can be called on as cover.

  24. Athelstan. permalink
    October 16, 2020 8:54 am

    Is there not, some ‘mothballed’ coal fired plant still avaiblable and to see us through winter?

    What future, after the clowns of energy policy shutdown these plants permanently – with no prospect of nuclear being buitt (at all?) in time.

    A policy of, rolling blackouts/shutdown of industry is the only foreseeable prospect.

    • October 16, 2020 10:26 am

      Diesel gensets…

      The total capacity of reliably operable standby generation in Britain is estimated to be around 20 GW, nearly all of which is driven by diesel engines. This is equivalent to nearly 29% of the British system peak, although only a very small fraction will ever be generating at the same time.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 16, 2020 11:33 am

        That presumes that they are regularly tested and that they have oil delivered and ready to use. With infrequent use, diesel eventually goes off and is at risk of diesel bug. We are talking about industrial sized units rather than household ones. Even then, many are not grid tied, but are used to operate machinery on farms.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        October 16, 2020 4:47 pm

        Thanks oldbrewn and noted, diesel 20GW of diesel fumed lecky blimey coal would be clearner and probably cheaper!

        some other questions, how long can it, ‘stored capacity’ be,

        i relied upon,
        ii, be kept going ie can these things provide 20GW for a week or two perhaps.
        iiii, I’d be wiling to be bet, diesel generated lecky, it don’t come cheap.

  25. It doesn't add up... permalink
    October 16, 2020 2:11 pm

    National Grid have just published their latest fantasy documents – their 2020 Future Energy Scenarios, available here:

  26. October 16, 2020 8:52 pm

    This Sunday (18th October) will be interesting, wind is forecast to die across the entire UK (and Ireland), unlikely to be a problem as demand is low at weekends, but the wind power figure is likely to be scary:

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: