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UK Power Station Capacity

November 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood

We’ve looked at power capacity scenarios for 2050, but that of course is much too far away for us to know what the grid then will actually look like. If in 2040, say, the powers that be realise we are heading for oblivion, I strongly suspect they will simply go back to building an army of CCGT plants again, and repudiate the nonsense bestowed upon them by the current crop of idiots.

However we can realistically foresee what the grid will look like in the mid to late 2020s.

We currently have 55.8GW of dispatchable capacity. This is based on BEIS data at the end of 2019, but excludes Hunterston B nuclear, which we now understand won’t reopen.

It also excludes two CCGTs, Sutton Bridge and Baglan Severn which are mothballed due to being in administration – these may be bought from the Receiver, but interest at the moment seems non existent.

[By the way – the lists which follow are to my best knowledge. If anybody has more information, please let me know and I will update].


GW Due to close New GW

Current By 2030 Additions 2030
Coal 6.8 6.8 0.0
CCGT 28.7 0.8 29.5
Nuclear 8.3 6.3 3.2 5.2
OCGT 2.2 2.2
Hydro 1.4 1.4
Biomass 3.7 3.7
Others 4.7 4.7
TOTAL 55.8 13.1 4.0 46.7

Obviously, all coal plants are due to close by 2025. Also all nuclear plants, other than Sizewell B are currently due to close between 2023 and 2030. Whether some are allowed to extend their lives remains to be seen.

Some older CCGTs may also close, but most date from the 1990s, so should still be operational after 2030.

The biggest area of uncertainty concerns potential new CCGTs. My list includes only Keadby, which is already under construction. However there are a batch which have received planning approval, but which are all still waiting final investment decisions:

GW
Teeside 1.7
Ferrybridge D 1.9
Eggborough 2.5
Drax 1.8
Kings Lynn 1.8
9.7

Drax specifically say that they are waiting for a Capacity Market contract before going ahead, and I suspect the rest are too.

Certainly some have been on the shelf for some time now. For instance, EPUKI received approval to build Kings Lynn and Eggborough in 2018, but have not got any further. Their Annual Accounts, signed off in June this year, states:

image

https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/09255154/filing-history

Which does not sound to me as if they are going to start construction any time soon. I suspect the same applies to Teesside and Ferrybridge.

The big problem lies in the way the Capacity Market mechanism works, in that it favours existing operators, who can bid low.

It also allows bids from storage, demand side response and small scale peakers such as diesel engines. These are all low cost options, but can only offer short term capacity, typically for an hour or two. As such, they cannot offer the baseload which CCGT can, and which the Capacity Market was originally set up to encourage.

We have already seen the planned new CCGT at Trafford abandoned, despite winning a Capacity Market contract, because the finances simply did not stack up. With CCGTs being increasingly marginalised by heavily subsidised renewables,

Trafford’s contract was priced at £19.40/KW/Yr, meaning it was worth £32m a year for 15 years. But even this was not enough to make building the new plant profitable, as trading losses would be greater.

The economics have not changed, and I doubt whether these other new entrants will find it profitable to go ahead, unless the next Capacity Market auction comes up with much higher prices.

There is one other consideration. Net Zero commits to eventually phasing out conventional CCGTs, unless they can fit Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). This could come as soon as the 2030s.

If Drax, for instance, go ahead now with their new plant, they may only get 15 years of operation out of it, unless they are prepared to pay out millions more fitting CCS at some stage. Hardly an enticing prospect, when investments like this need an income stream of at least thirty years to recover capital costs.

Even with all of these planned CCGTs, UK capacity looks extremely tight, given the extra demand on the grid in years to come.

Without them, the situation looks dire.

 

UPDATE

Baglan Bay is still operational and not mothballed, as I originally wrote. In fact it is Severn Power Station which has been mothballed.

The table however remains correct

50 Comments
  1. November 29, 2020 6:04 pm

    “We currently have 55.8MW of dispatchable capacity.” ?????

    • November 29, 2020 9:18 pm

      It’s not quite that bad!!!!

      Too much wine – I meant GW

      • Dave Ward permalink
        November 29, 2020 9:36 pm

        If the Greens have their way we might end up with a mere 55.8MW…

      • Ariane permalink
        November 30, 2020 12:12 pm

        Paul, 55.8GW is in the text up top. Where do you say 55.8MW?

  2. Dave Ward permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:17 pm

    “Fitting CCS at some stage”

    Something yet to be demonstrated viable, either technically or economically…

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 29, 2020 7:38 pm

      CCS – being run by the same economists who came up with the NHS IT systems and the Covid T&T system. CCS has had yens of millions thrown at it and it has all disappeared. CCS is not going to work.

  3. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:22 pm

    Have we reached peak greentard yet?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 30, 2020 10:42 am

      Sadly not, it needs to get much worse before the legacy media starts to report with some honesty as well as that almost non-existent thing – competence, before the ignorant masses start to understand what the future holds.

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:37 pm

    You mean GW third para?

  5. MikeHig permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:55 pm

    Paul,
    Thanks for this analysis – it will be very useful. I was hoping to see these figures because the issue of demand/capacity comes up in many discussions.
    One further consideration is the impact on the existing CCGT fleet of increasing renewable generation. As more and more solar and wind come on stream the economics of the gas plants will only get worse which will lead to more being mothballed or even closed. For the same reason there may be some which lose access to the grid or find it unaffordable – like the relatively new plant at Peterhead.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 30, 2020 11:24 am

      If that starts to happen then I think the CCGT plants will be given subsidies (yet more taxpayer cash) to keep generating. I think this happened in Germany when the coal plants were finding it uneconomic but were desperately needed to keep the grid going. Nothing really underlines the insanity of it all when a form of generation that is capable of running economically has to be propped up with subsidy because of all the subsidised unreliable uneconomic generation that has been created.

      • Ariane permalink
        November 30, 2020 12:16 pm

        Gerry, renewables were not in the original plan which was to stop supplying energy, ruin economies and industrial life and reduce populations.

  6. MikeHig permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:58 pm

    Forgot to add that life extensions for the AGRs is unlikely, as I understand it, due to ageing issues with the graphite cores. Iirc, a few have already closed earlier than expected due to this.

  7. In the Real World permalink
    November 29, 2020 7:14 pm

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/911906/DUKES_5.11.xls

    Paul . try this list for power stations . I don,t know if it is the same as tours .

  8. Young John permalink
    November 29, 2020 8:26 pm

    Not wanting to be labelled a pedand but it’s Teesside (side of the river Tees), not Teeside

  9. Yoing John permalink
    November 29, 2020 8:27 pm

    Now I can’t spell! Pedant. Sorry.

    • Duker permalink
      November 29, 2020 10:49 pm

      isnt the new approach to call it the ‘Tees Valley’

  10. Joe Public permalink
    November 29, 2020 10:53 pm

    “Net Zero commits to eventually phasing out conventional CCGTs, unless they can fit Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)”

    Canada’s Saskpower Boundary Dam CCS project highlighted issues that CCS’s proponents often forget to mention.

    1. The generating plant had to be derated by 18%, from 139 MW to 115 – 120 MW.

    2. The CCS process incurs large parasitic heat+electrical loads – can be almost 25% of the power plant’s output – associated with solvent regeneration and to run additional emission control components as well as associated pumps and other equipment. This reduces effective ‘efficiency’ of fuel input vs useful output to grid.

    They’re not inconsequential capacity hits.

    3. BBC: ‘EU green light for UK carbon capture and storage project’

    “It is estimated that adding CCS to a power plant could increase the cost of electricity by between 50-100%.”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27063796

  11. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    November 29, 2020 11:55 pm

    Sometime in the next 10-15 years there needs to be a major adjustment of how the 30 years after that will proceed.
    Investors do not want to buy into anything that is not part of the government’s plan to green the future.
    Therefore, either the government and the people accept an under-powered and occasionally blacked out society; or
    the government will become the owner of nuclear and CCGT plants.
    Tax dollars at work.
    Of course a miracle could happen.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 30, 2020 11:31 am

      ‘occasionally’ should actually be ‘regularly’ if you read a piece that appeared on Jo Nova’s page looking at South Australia and how many times during a short period – month possibly – that without outside help their state generation was less than their demand and so grid collapse.

      Government ownership is not really an answer since this whole merrygoround of insanity will kill off tax generating business and industry so the government will run out of other people’s money very fast. All the evidence is there to show this but politicians in the West are generally morons – they most certainly are here in the UK with the Prime Minister being a shining example.

      • John Peter permalink
        November 30, 2020 2:45 pm

        That is the case in Scotland with less than 1GW produced by UK wind for days with Scotland at 50% of capacity and only one gas plant in Peterhead. I wonder how keen Boris will be to help out for as long as he can if independence is forced on us.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 30, 2020 1:58 am

    The solution is of course expanding interconnector capacity to 20GW, and importing blackouts from Europe as they shut down their dispatchable generation.

    https://www.powerengineeringint.com/world-regions/europe/uk-interconnectivity-with-europe-to-rise-despite-brexit/

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      November 30, 2020 2:02 pm

      As shown during the last 4 days, at the vital point when the UK will need it, France, Belgium, Netherlands etc. need it too, so of course non-GB interconnects all went to 0 when the wind failed.

  13. Phoenix44 permalink
    November 30, 2020 8:57 am

    The trouble is, in 20 years time, we will have lost the knowledge of building CCGT. We will have no companies that have built one, no engineers that understand one.

    • jack broughton permalink
      November 30, 2020 12:16 pm

      The UK was a major exporter of power plant world-wide (boilers and turbines) only a generation ago. The works facilities have now all gone and the designers are now retired: the UK imports all its waste fired boilers. We even import gas turbines now, despite Rolls Royce having financial problems. The RR gas turbines would be ideal for peaking / low hours operation as their efficiency compares well with CCGT, especially when only used for a few hours at a time.

      The UK government policies for the last 40 years have been basically anti-industry and pro-banking sector. Sadly, there are no engineers in parliament and few numerate people, so the crony-capitalists will continue to thrive.

      • dave permalink
        December 1, 2020 9:02 am

        “…anti-industry and pro-banking…”

        Industry is a necessity, banking is a luxury. Except that there is a little more to it than that, as Citizens’ Capitalism in the Western World suffers the death of a thousand cuts, from its uncountable and unaccountable, hate-filled and moronic, enemies.

        The financial system’s essential job, now, is to DISGUISE how close this economic collapse is. So long as EACH of us BELIEVES he has a meaningful stash of claims, on other people, for real assets, we can stagger on a little longer, pretending we are enjoying what is essentially a joyless, taxed-to-the-hilt life of froth and futility. But when we ALL try to draw on those claims at the same time, and each person realizes that as much is being demanded from himself as he is claiming from others…

        It will not even work for the Crony Billionaires and Oligarchs. Most of THEIR “wealth” is as illusory as everybody else’s.

  14. November 30, 2020 9:53 am

    Tilbury CCGT was shelved due to ‘market conditions’, code for ‘unlikely to make money’?

    https://www.energylivenews.com/2018/11/08/rwe-freezes-2-5gw-uk-gas-and-energy-storage-project/

  15. Gray permalink
    November 30, 2020 10:12 am

    Can Broadland repost how much CO2 he calculated would need to be stored to remove one ppm please.

    • Nordisch geo-climber permalink
      November 30, 2020 12:42 pm

      Are not 7,800 million tons (7.8 giga tons) CO2 = 1 ppm?? I may be wrong.

      • JBW permalink
        November 30, 2020 5:32 pm

        To convert from ppm to gigatonne of carbon, the conversion tables of the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center advise that 1 part per million of atmospheric CO2 is equivalent to 2.13 Gigatonnes Carbon. Using the 44 over 12 rule, this means 1ppm = 7.8 Gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. (skepticalscience.com)

      • Ariane permalink
        November 30, 2020 5:47 pm

        Can’t one just use metric tons? The US Energy Information Administration calculated there were 36 billion metric tons of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2017. Why bother with ppm? Natural CO2 is 0.04%. Anthropogenic is about 0.00065%.

  16. Martin permalink
    November 30, 2020 12:00 pm

    When this is considered alongside the example of the recent calm weather, when for more than 4 days on the trot existing wind turbines never contributed more than about 5% load, you can really see the disaster heading our way.

    • spetzer86 permalink
      November 30, 2020 2:00 pm

      Wait until you’re all trying to get around some future winter using electric cars and everyone is trying desperately to heat their homes with electric heat pumps.

      • Harry Davidson permalink
        November 30, 2020 2:14 pm

        It’ll work OK. What Deniers don’t understand is that all the heat pumps will cause a significant reverse UHI effect. That will a down-flow of air in urban areas, that is – wind. So as heat pumps become more common we won’t get these periods of calm weather and on power. I have a model that shows exactly how this will go and it proves that the net effect of heat pumps will be a substantial increase of despatchable power during cold periods.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 30, 2020 6:00 pm

        Harry – I see you have paid the great academy of Lagado a visit. Did you include cucumbers for preserving sunbeams in your recipe? I think the renewables industry could do with Swift’s astronomer:

        There was an astronomer, who had undertaken to place a sun-dial upon the great weathercock on the town-house, by adjusting the annual and diurnal motions of the earth and sun, so as to answer and coincide with all accidental turnings of the wind.

    • jazznick permalink
      November 30, 2020 3:08 pm

      In future children aren’t going to know what central heating is………..

      • JBW permalink
        November 30, 2020 5:34 pm

        I remember what it was like! Scraping ice off the inside of my bedroom window in the mornings. Coal fires and hot water bottles too.

      • Adam Gallon permalink
        November 30, 2020 8:52 pm

        Oooh, no coal fires!

  17. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 30, 2020 3:12 pm

    ENTSO-E’s Ten Year Plan for new interconnectors/transmission links:

    https://tyndp.entsoe.eu/tyndp2018/projects/projects

    Some really fanciful stuff, and some essential if they are not to have even greater renewables curtailment.

  18. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 30, 2020 6:09 pm

    Paul,
    do you know what has replaced this planned power station?

    Environment award for man who stopped new coal power plant in Ghana

    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-55105224

    • Farmer Sooticle permalink
      November 30, 2020 6:29 pm

      A typically “balanced” article by the BBC, celebrating the fact that the power plant now won’t be built. Supposedly to be replaced by renewable energy, but even in Africa sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. I wonder will the BBC go back in a couple of years to find out how the Ghanaians are coping without their coal-fired power station?

      • jack broughton permalink
        November 30, 2020 7:31 pm

        Nil desperandum sed carborundum, as Boris would say: the Japanese or Chinese (or Russians or Americans pre-Biden) will be happy to build them one. Ghana needs to increase its power greatly.

  19. Dan permalink
    December 1, 2020 9:49 am

    Eh?

    Baglan bay (near port Talbot) is still operational with the company running it, which was nestled under calon, not being part of the insolvency process of the parent.

    If baglan bay were out, there would be insufficient capacity to supply both Swansea and port Talbot, with the steelworks being required to reduce or stop production.

  20. John permalink
    December 1, 2020 3:39 pm

    No AGRs have been permanently shutdown yet. In fact Hunterston B now has both reactors on load, generating about 1 GW in total.

    • December 1, 2020 4:44 pm

      Thanks

      I gather that Hunterston will decommission in 2022

      • dave permalink
        December 2, 2020 8:57 am

        “…Hunterston will decommission in 2022.”

        January 7 2022, to be precise – in the middle of next winter.

        Hinckley Point B is another reactor which will close soon – in June 2022.

        These closures are CERTAIN. The reactor cores are KNACKERED.

        Dungeness B is STILL offline. They have a terrible situation with cracks in the underground piping.

        Let us face it. Nuclear Power stations in the UK are going the way of the dodo bird.

  21. MikeHig permalink
    December 3, 2020 6:07 pm

    dave,
    You clearly know a lot about the real situation of our AGRs.
    Do you think the current retirement schedule is realistic or are some of these dates going to come forward? Schedule:
    Dungeness B 2028
    Hinkley Point B 2022
    Hunterston B 2022
    Hartlepool 2024
    Heysham 1 2024
    Heysham 2 2030
    Torness 2030

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