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What Would We Do Without Gas?

January 28, 2021
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood



Yesterday, a not untypical January day weather wise, wind and solar power contributed just 11.1% and 0.7% of the UK’s electricity. As usual, the country is dependent on gas and coal to keep the lights on.

But electricity is only part of our energy mix. Demand for natural gas, for instance peaks during winter months, yesterday reaching a rate of over 380 million cubic meters a day.



To put this into an energy context, 380 mcm equates to 167 GW, which is about four times the peak demand for electricity.

The government wants to move rapidly towards ending the consumption of gas in homes and industry, and replace it with electricity consuming applications such as heat pumps.

But currently there is no way our power grid could cope with a fivefold increase in demand. It does not have enough generating capacity, and neither would the transmission and distribution be able to cope.

The plan, of course, is build more wind farms, but the chart below shows just how fanciful this notion is.



The government target is to increase wind capacity from 25 to 55 GW, of which 40 GW is to be offshore. But even assuming we can get around the problems of intermittency, doubling the current contribution from wind will barely begin to meet the demand switched from natural gas.

It is worth reminding ourselves that solar power is pretty much useless in winter. Also gas powered generation is often close to being maxed out on the occasions in winter when winds are light.

These changes won’t just happen in the dim and distant future either. The Committee on Climate Change, for instance, wants to ban all new gas boilers from 2033, and aims for 10 million heat pumps to be installed by the mid 2030s.

And, of course, we have not even discussed electric cars, which will put even more pressure on the power grid long before then.

Unfortunately our energy policies seem to be run by Greenpeace instead of energy experts.

  1. January 28, 2021 11:43 am

    Not forgetting that biomass, which also trumps wind, is burning stuff with an elephantine carbon footprint.
    When will the idiots learn?

    • Mack permalink
      January 28, 2021 12:27 pm

      Biomass does, indeed, have an ‘elephantine carbon footprint’ but, because our political masters have labelled it ‘zero carbon’ hey presto, with one wave of the magic green wand, it now has the carbon footprint of a teeny, weeny, little mouse. If you say otherwise, you are a filthy, science denying, climate heretic. Ditto, if you don’t believe that becalmed windmills and unlit solar panels can replace gas in the middle of a northern hemisphere winter. The lunatics have not only taken over the asylum they are now destroying it brick by brick.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 28, 2021 1:21 pm

      Just look at who is on the CCC alongside Gummer.

      Rebecca Heaton is responsible for Drax Group’s efforts to mitigate climate change, ensuring that sound science underpins climate change polices and business strategy. She is also responsible for developing sustainability and climate change research programmes.

  2. 2hmp permalink
    January 28, 2021 11:54 am

    When will the people who think man can heat up the planet to high levels with CO2 check the facts ?. If they have checked the science then they have ignored it for political reasons. They still command the press but for how long ?

  3. January 28, 2021 12:00 pm

    God help us!

  4. January 28, 2021 12:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Truth is difficult but essential… and commented:
    How much longer before the general public wake up to the fact that ‘green power’ is not workable, cannot sustain a modern economy.

    • Penda100 permalink
      January 28, 2021 3:31 pm

      i2choose – why do you think the greens want to sustain a modern economy? Get back to subsistence farming, reduce the population back to medieval levels, and all these electricity and energy problems disappear. And we’ve saved the planet! What’s not to like?

      • January 28, 2021 3:49 pm

        I don’t think the greens do, or know better. I think the vast majority want better than the ‘green new deal or ‘new normal’. Most want sustainability and low pollution, but that is achievable with gas, hydro etc. The so called ‘renewables’ are a disaster. I can’t find it right now, but this article alludes to a suite of patents granted to the US Navy. There were more than this, one being a fridge sized fusion reactor that could power a town or small city. I’m assuming that could be miniaturised to shoe box size, for cars and off the grid properties. In fact, it could totally decentralise electricity generation, down to house level. Very disruptive tech though.

  5. Mad Mike permalink
    January 28, 2021 12:13 pm

    Interesting article by Lee Jones in the DT yesterday. Its about the way government has changed since the war which was a command and control organisation to what he terms as a regulatory state where decision making has been out sourced to quangos, NGOs etc so basically politicians are not in charge of the decision making process.

    I’ll quote from the piece for those that can’t get past the paywall.

    “The outsourcing of responsibility and decision-making is clear with respect to the NHS. The Department of Health and Social Care no longer has control. Responsibility has been outsourced to dozens of quangos and local commissioners.

    Britain’s pandemic preparations followed the same approach. The Government’s latest strategy. issued in 2011, created no additional capacity to deal with an outbreak. It merely established bureaucratic guidelines that outsourced all the real work.

    Years before Covid, the Government tested the regulatory state to see if it could withstand an pandemic. It could not. In 2016, Exercise Cygnus “war gamed” a pandemic, finding that local agencies had not or could not develop the capacities and strategies need.”

    This has little to do with CC except that it outlines just how far we have come from having Government with the power and capacity to investigate or control it’s approach to that subject. It has to rely on outside bodies, Greenpeace or the IPCC, to formulate policies and, as we know these numerous bodies have been taken over by people that have agendas quite different from simply “saving the planet”.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 28, 2021 12:40 pm

      I would say that the UK changed from an entrepreneurial and inovation based industrial economy to command and control during WW2 and because that worked with the special circumstances of a global war we’ve never gone back to what makes nations wealthy. Unfortunately, in the short to medium term at least, nothing is going to change as a result of Brexit. The government will claim the vaccine saga will prove that they know best.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        January 28, 2021 6:15 pm

        Yes, WW2 did change the British outlook and not for the better. Sadly they thought the Soviet Union had done well with its command and control economy but did not note that had it not been for the western allies they would have starved, so bad was their food production. There was also the hilarity of the production targets such as nails by weight so one factory put all its effort into making one nail that was the required weight of production.

        I also saw a good programme on the Baku oilfields where the brother of Alfred Nobel had a hand in getting it running. Then after 1917 along came the Communists to take over and instigate the murder of most of the capable staff and managers. And then started the decline in output down to less than 15% of the peak at which point the evil western oil companies were invited in to help and increase the revenue flow to the state coffers that had taken such a hit.

    • John Peter permalink
      January 28, 2021 12:43 pm

      Boris can’t read the article. He is in Scotland to ‘save the Union’. Maybe he should visit Whitehall to save the Government.

  6. NeilC permalink
    January 28, 2021 12:56 pm

    It really annoys me that BoJo and the rest of his polllies do not know the difference between capacity and generation. You can have 1,000 times the capacity you need, but if the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, particularly in winter. You get little generation.

  7. Jackington permalink
    January 28, 2021 12:56 pm

    Yes, but, on the other hand there is a piece in the DT print ed. by “Environment Editor” Emma Gatten today headed “Renewables power most of UK’s electricity” for the first time in 2020 42% renewables vs 41% fossil fuels. She says this analysis is from think tanks Ember and Energiewende. Daft I call it.

    • Colin R Brooks permalink
      January 28, 2021 1:04 pm

      Same in the Times

    • JohnP permalink
      January 28, 2021 1:07 pm

      Not only that but apparently ‘gas generation was at a record low of 5 per cent’. Where are these people living?

  8. Joe Public permalink
    January 28, 2021 1:06 pm

    1. The answer to your question is: Freeze in the dark.

    The powers that be seem to not realise that in 2019 only 191.3TW of Britain’s electricity was generated without Nat Gas.

    2. “Demand for natural gas, for instance peaks during winter months, yesterday reaching a rate of over 380 million cubic metres a day.”

    There are two significant but generally unappreciated facts illustrated by that gas Supply vs Demand chart. [NB 1million cubic metres (mcm)of Nat Gas is approx 11GWh, and 1million cubic metres per day is approx 0.46GW]

    2.1 It was a relatively mild morning, and yesterday’s 3-hour ramp between 5am and 8am was 110mcm = 50.6GW/3 = 16.9GW per hour ramp for 3 hours.

    2.2 Between approx 6:30 am and 8pm, notice the area where Demand exceeded Supply curves? That gas was supplied out of storage. Analysis via a Mk1 eyeball suggests roughly 240GWh. [(360-320)mcm/day *rate* x 13 hours = 520mcm; 520mcm x 0.46 = 240GWh)

    3. Scroll to the bottom of the page in Paul’s link, and you’ll see “Storage Stock Position”. Helpfully it uses familiar units. Today’s stock is approx 11,000GWh in conventional storage, plus a further 8,500GWh stored as LNG.

    For comparison, Britain has a piffling 27GWh of pumped hydroelectricity storage.

    NetZero advocates are expecting a few car batteries to see us through winter.

    • January 30, 2021 3:41 pm


      there is a general misunderstanding about batteries and pumped storage, The intention is not to cover intermittency or provide back up as such. The sole purpose of them is, due to their very rapid switch on time (Dinorwic’s 1.8 Gw can go from zero to maximum in just over ten seconds.), that they can cater for rapid rise in demand which cannot be met by dispatchable plant ramping up output as they are too slow. It is frequency support, the most critical parameter on the grid.

  9. saighdear permalink
    January 28, 2021 1:12 pm

    Not so much all this discussion, BUT WHY are Gas Boilers still being advertised for sale? Looks like use of Gas is still being ENCOURAGED. and who, by the way , is taking up all the F Future Heat nonsense heating systems ?
    I’ve experienced ALL ELECTRIC Heating and it didn’t “Feel” good at all. Nothing does beat the heat GLOW from a real fire / stove HOT SPOT, does it?

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 28, 2021 1:47 pm

      “BUT WHY are Gas Boilers still being advertised for sale?”

      Why shouldn’t gas boilers be advertised for sale? They’re legal, and will continue to be so. There’s approx 20 million of them, so assuming 15-year life, 1.3m will be replaced every year.

      Electricity is already 4x the price of Nat gas per useful kWh, and will rise further as demand grows for generally un-timeshiftable demand, especially for those enjoying the ‘benefit’ of a Smart Meter which will impose rationing-by-price on the less well-off.

  10. Broadlands permalink
    January 28, 2021 1:13 pm

    “….replace [gas] with electricity consuming applications such as heat pumps.”

    When the outdoor temperature drops below ~4°C, heat pumps automatically turn on electrical “heat strips” to maintain the indoor temperature settings. These consume even more energy.

    “The optimal temperature range for conventional air source heat pump operation is above 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat pump begins to lose efficiency once temperatures dip to 40 degrees and is no longer the most efficient heating option once temperatures fall to 25 to 30 degrees.”

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 28, 2021 1:33 pm

      Of coursevthe economics depend on relative prices, not relative efficiencies. Since electricity is of the order of 4 times the cost of gas, any time the efficiency drops heat pumps become the expensive option.

    • Vic Hanby permalink
      January 28, 2021 7:31 pm

      The coefficient of performance of a heat pump is adequately modelled as a constant fraction of the ideal (Carnot) COP i.e. T2/(T2-T1), hence the performance falls off as the outside temperature drops. However, when you get conditions where the evaporator surfaces start to freeze up, the performance worsens markedly. Just what you need.

    • January 30, 2021 3:47 pm

      All the efficiencies of heat pumps seem to use the input power as a basis of their figures. Electricity is a carrier not a source of power. The fuel used to generate the power and the transmission and distribution losses mean that a heat pumps’s effciency is 50% approximately (Variable) down at the start. And as already mentioned, electricty is expensive when compared to gas or even oil?

  11. David Cowdell permalink
    January 28, 2021 1:47 pm

    A gush piece by Emma Gatten today 28 Jan in the Daily Telegraph ” Renewables power most of UK’s electricity” contains the curious statement ” Gas generation was at a record low of 5%, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende showed”

    Am I living in an alternate universe?

  12. Patsy Lacey permalink
    January 28, 2021 2:49 pm

    They are all at it. The Mail repeated it today

    • Steve permalink
      January 28, 2021 6:38 pm
      Wind, solar, biomass and hydro came to 35%. Imports would be mainly French nuclear. In ten years time, with most nuclear closed, will need much more gas or gas to hydrogen.

      • I don't believe it! permalink
        January 29, 2021 12:37 am

        Recent piece on here highlighted French generated import would not have been nuclear more than likely coal

  13. David Allan permalink
    January 28, 2021 4:49 pm

    No problem! The hot air from Horrible Harrabin and St Greta will keep us going.

    Talking of whom, Greta’s surely keeping her head down right now, isn’t she?

    • Robert Davies permalink
      January 28, 2021 5:36 pm

      Very useful info but could you give us the temperatures in Celsius?

  14. MikeHig permalink
    January 28, 2021 11:49 pm

    “The government target is to increase wind capacity from 25 to 55 GW”.

    Even if they could achieve that increase, they will be running hard to stand still because the imminent retirement of lots of nuclear and coal plants will cancel out the increase in wind.
    That 30 GW increase is equivalent to about 10 GW of dispatchable capacity, after allowing for the capaciy factor of wind. The plant closures will take out roughly 12 GW.
    That is already a problem before trying to address the intermittancy issue of wind…..

  15. Dave Cowdell permalink
    January 29, 2021 9:28 am

    A clarification from the Daily Telegraph received today

    “Thank you for filling out the webform.

    The article has now been amended online to correctly state.

    Wind made up 24 per cent of the electricity mix, a 20 per cent increase compared to 2019 and a doubling of its share since 2015. Gas generation was at a record 5-year low of 37 per cent, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende showed.

    We appreciate you taking the time and trouble to write and bring the error to our attention.

    Yours sincerely,

    Andy King
    Editorial Compliance “

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 29, 2021 5:25 pm

      The difference between BT & BBC responses to corrections is noticed.

      BBC standard respones are always words to the effect “P1ss-off you’re wrong”, delivered maybe a month or more after a correction is requested.

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