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Coal & Gas Keep The Lights On Tonight

January 6, 2021

By Paul Homewood


It’s cold tonight, and gas and coal power stations are working pretty much flat out. Meanwhile wind is contributing a pitiful 8%, even though winds have been moderate today:



We could double wind capacity, and it would barely make a dent in the mix.

As for running CCGT plants with carbon capture, none of the existing power stations are “CCS Ready”, other than Carrington. This means that you cannot simply bolt on some carbon capture equipment, without major refits first, something that would not be economically viable.

We could, of course, build a whole new fleet of CCGTs, but there is no sign, or indeed planning, that this will happen in the foreseeable future.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    January 6, 2021 6:52 pm

    The Grauniad informs us “Cold snap forces UK electricity market prices to new high
    National Grid issues urgent call for suppliers to generate extra 524MW of electricity capacity”

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 7, 2021 8:47 am

      “Cold snap”.

      It’s winter.

  2. Dan permalink
    January 6, 2021 6:59 pm

    There were 4 triad periods out for big industrial users tonight (16:30 to 18:30).

  3. Broadlands permalink
    January 6, 2021 7:03 pm

    Carbon capture? What does one do with the CO2 captured…make dry ice?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 6, 2021 7:59 pm

      Yes, and how does one pay for it in the bills to come?

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 7, 2021 8:47 am

      Its turned into rocks.

    • January 7, 2021 12:44 pm

      Good question.

    • A man of no rank permalink
      January 7, 2021 8:24 pm

      Chill Pfizer vaccine.

  4. bobn permalink
    January 6, 2021 7:09 pm

    Ive noted that the solar panel industry routinely quotes that Electricity will increase in price by 7.5% per annum. The lowest forecast from the solar industry i’ve found is 5%. I expect these are pretty accurate forecasts. So much for the UK Govts fiddled 2% or below inflation forecasts. With oil getting cheaper and electric pricing through the roof I might look for an oil furnace. electrics just not affordable nor likely ever will be.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 7, 2021 3:05 pm

      Gas had been getting cheaper as my monthly bill was always telling me they had a cheaper option but it had to save me more than £30 to be worth switching due to the exit fee. I did do it once. But with demand rising as much of the northern hemisphere freezes I would think prices are going to rise.

  5. GeoffB permalink
    January 6, 2021 7:10 pm

    BM reports were showing a price of £900+ for MWh at 1800, but it seems to have packed up now as it will not refresh.

  6. Robert Jones permalink
    January 6, 2021 7:10 pm

    The UK needs to wise up and buy Small Modular Reactors (which are practically on the shelf now) and put one in every city and large town.

    • Gamecock permalink
      January 6, 2021 7:19 pm

      Your enthusiasm grossly exceeds supply.

      • Robert Jones permalink
        January 6, 2021 7:33 pm

        Rather like the Covid vaccine?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        January 6, 2021 8:01 pm

        Demand would enable supply. A government with foresight would create demand.

    • GeoffB permalink
      January 6, 2021 7:35 pm

      There is a 52 page report on SMR, basically it says it will only save money when number eleven is built that is at 5GW installed capacity More to the point EDF has not actually got any new designs working yet, delayed 15 years and 10 years, although China has got 2 working. Hinkley Point is going to be years late

      Click to access TEA_Projects_5-7_-_SMR_Cost_Reduction_Study.pdf

      • GeoffB permalink
        January 6, 2021 7:38 pm

        the link disappeared, must have a control character in it that confuses wordpress. just search for SMR costs.

      • stuart brown permalink
        January 6, 2021 10:48 pm

        Link worked for me, thanks. You said:
        “… delayed 15 years and 10 years, although China has got 2 working.”

        Are you talking about EPRs? Those are not SMRs. Not small or modular!

      • Duker permalink
        January 7, 2021 4:34 am

        SMR is the British Version with Rolls Royce Power systems and John Laing.
        Thats the advantage of getting out of EU, the project can have direct state aid now.

    • Gamecock permalink
      January 6, 2021 10:48 pm

      I assume your eyes are brown, Mr Jones.

      ‘The firm says that once it has orders for at least five of them, it can deliver each unit for about $2.2 billion. It has plans to build a fleet of them at existing nuclear power stations in the UK starting in the early 2030s.’

  7. January 6, 2021 7:48 pm

    I must remember to test the generator. Woodburner is working flat out this evening.

  8. Alan permalink
    January 6, 2021 11:20 pm

    from what I remember, even if ccs is feasible it requires s huge amount of power, so every CCGT plant output will need to be downgraded and more capacity added to compensate.
    What about cold still winter nights?

  9. MikeHig permalink
    January 6, 2021 11:33 pm

    There is an interesting alternative for new gas plants: the Allam cycle. It is currently being tested at industrial pilot scale. It is projected to be much more energy- and cost-efficient than a conventional gas plant fitted with CCS.

  10. Sunface permalink
    January 7, 2021 6:13 am

    CCS is simply another fleecing scheme. There was recently an article from another Sustainable Green belieiver that it would be a good idea and a very profitable business to plant mechanical trees. Of course being a breakthrough innovation, it requires more tax payer funding.

  11. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 7, 2021 8:45 am

    Two points on wind capacity.

    First, it seems reasonable to assume that so far we have installed capacity in the best places for it – most wind, most consistent wind, lowest maintenance costs, lowest capital costs relative to the wind levels. Thus more capacity will probably be “worse”.

    Second, the UK is relatively small so when there’s not much wind there’s not much wind anywhere. Thus more capacity – particularly sitting offshore in the North Sea – will not add much if anything when existing capacity us not doing much.

    In other words we are probably approaching diminishing returns quite rapidly now.

  12. Mad Mike permalink
    January 7, 2021 10:32 am

    Currently coal(at 8%) is generating more electricity than wind(7%) whilst solar is coming in at 1% of our electricity demand. When you consider that electricity only accounts for around 30% of UK’s energy demand, its a pretty poor show for renewables. I don’t suppose Carrie whispers this at bedtime.

  13. Dan permalink
    January 7, 2021 11:45 am

    Another traid warning again today. Below is a snippet of what we receive from the grid.

    Thursday 7th January 2021 (16:30 to 18:30)
    This is Triad warning No.14 of this winter period.
    Commentary: Another extremely high UK demand with cold temperatures and low winds, significant risk of a Triad today (and tomorrow), likely to be one of the peaks.

    • Mad Mike permalink
      January 7, 2021 11:51 am

      Should remember but can’t. Whats a triad in this context?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 7, 2021 2:37 pm

        Triads are the three highest demand half hours over the winter, provided that they are separated by at least 10 days. Large consumers on half hour metering have a substantial portion of their annual energy bill determined by their grid consumption during those periods. However, the system will soon be changing – and quite radically – so that those who found it made sense to install their own generators simply to reduce grid demand during Triads will find that they will not be able to escape substantial hikes in network charges, amounting to tens of millions of pounds a year for the largest consumers. I’d guess it may be enough to tip some of them over the edge in to closure.

        Click to access full_decision_doc_updated.pdf

      • Gamecock permalink
        January 8, 2021 12:58 pm

        Interesting, doesn’t add.

        In U.S., we have demand charges. Based on single peak use in a year. Usually occurred in summer, with high air conditioning load.

        In my corporation, we called it capacity-to-consume. We distributed demand cost based on each each business section’s capacity-to-consume.

  14. Micky R permalink
    January 7, 2021 9:47 pm

    Moat of the gas powering the CCGT stations should be burnt by the end users.

  15. MikeHig permalink
    January 7, 2021 11:32 pm

    Looks like today was a repeat performance with coal matching wind, kW for kW!

    • Micky R permalink
      January 8, 2021 5:10 pm

      Coal stations continue to perform with crap coal from the bottom of the heap and aging machjnery that is maintained on a shoestring budget.

  16. It doesn't add up... permalink
    January 9, 2021 7:39 pm

    Yesterday the system buy price reached £4,000/MWh for a whole hour. The problems continue. Wind dipped below 1.2GW, and coal was again running at over 3GW. An early price spike in SP 35 (17:00-17:30) of £2,750/MWh was eclipsed by the later one for SP39/40 (19:00-20:00).

    The reason for the later spike is clear: at 9.35GWh the equivalent of more than the entire energy storage at Dinorwig (9.1GWh, of which a certain amount is supposed to be kept in reserve for black start operations) was used up in pumped hydro production earlier in the day, which plummeted during SP 39, while at the same time imports from Ireland via Moyle and E-W reduced to zero as Ireland became short itself, forcing use of STOR and OCGT unusually late into the evening. And still they pretend they can get away with tiny quantities of storage in a renewables world.

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