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Ross Clark: The National Grid is falling apart thanks to Net Zero

January 24, 2023

By Paul Homewood



We’re left with demand management to keep the lights on – rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor, and all using taxpayer funds
So near, and yet so far. A couple of weeks ago, when the air was mild and the wind was blowing strongly, it became fashionable to thumb your nose at Vladimir Putin. We made it through the winter of 2022/23 without the blackouts he tried to inflict on us. Russia can keep its filthy gas and oil – we can do without it thanks to our cheap and plentiful renewables.
Not so fast. Temperatures have plummeted again, Britain is becalmed by an anticyclone, and the National Grid is warning that supply is going to be tight this evening. Coal plants are being dusted down several months after they were supposed to have closed, and the National Grid is activating what it calls its Demand Flexibility Service. This means customers signed up to the scheme can earn up to £6 per kilowatt-hour saved if they agree to turn off their appliances between 5 and 6pm.
It is not hard to spot a slight issue with this offer: the more electricity you use on a normal Monday, the easier it will be for you to cash in today. As with so many green subsidies, it perversely rewards the well-off at the expense of the poor. If you own an 18 bedroom mansion you can easily claim your fee by switching off the lights in the east wing and delaying recharging your Tesla until 7pm. If you normally use only one electric light, there will be no savings for you. And needless to say, the free electricity for some households will ultimately be subsidised through higher bills for everyone else.
But there is a far bigger problem with trying to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar power through demand management. The gaps in supply are far too big to be filled in this way. Britain already has enough installed wind and solar capacity – 38 gigawatts of it – to theoretically meet 100 per cent of average electricity demand. On a good day, such as we had a fortnight ago, solar and wind generate more than 50 per cent of our energy needs. But this morning at 10 am it was down to 19 per cent, and at times in December it fell to less than two per cent. If you are going to try to build a grid based on wind and solar, and try to manage demand by paying people to switch their appliances off, you are going to have to chuck such enormous quantities of money at people that they are prepared to spend days on end shivering in the dark.
The trouble is that that is more or less what the Government is trying to do. For years it has incentivised the green energy industry to build more and more wind and solar farms. Energy storage, on the other hand, has followed way, way behind. A few token – and very expensive – battery installations have been built, but, together with pumped storage systems built between the 1960s and 1980s, they can only store enough energy to keep Britain powered-up for less than an hour. Meanwhile, the steady baseload provided by nuclear is shrinking as old reactors shut down and new ones fail to open; Hinckley C is still years away.
At the moment we fill the gaps with gas-generated power, but once that has been removed from the grid, as the Government intends to do by 2035, all we will have to save us from unplanned blackouts is demand management – which is really just blackouts through bribery.

  1. January 24, 2023 5:18 pm

    Excellent piece by Ross.
    But what on earth can we do about it? What WILL we do about it?

    You know the answer: – S.F.A.

    • John Brown permalink
      January 24, 2023 8:54 pm

      If every UK national who is concerned that our unilateral Net Zero Strategy will destroy our economy were to write a weekly letter to their MP the MPs would start to take notice.

      • January 24, 2023 10:39 pm

        Britain already has enough installed wind and solar capacity – 38 gigawatts of it – to theoretically meet 100 per cent of average electricity demand.

        Bzzzt! By definition the sun don’t shine at night, not even theoretically.

      • Julian Flood permalink
        January 25, 2023 8:04 am

        No they wouldn’t. They know better than uneducated plebs like us. OK, so a previous Minister for Energy and Climate Change didn’t know that electricity once generated has to be stored or used.,it doesn’t just hang around somewhere waiting to be used.
        Anyway they have nice little earners lined up that depend on looking the other way. Shut up, he explained.

        I fear we’ll have to see a major blackout before reality hits them in their majorities.


    • Hivemind permalink
      January 25, 2023 12:24 am

      Install a home generator. It’s getting to the stage that it will be cheaper than the mains electricity.

      • Julian Flood permalink
        January 25, 2023 8:13 am

        During winter we should use home gas-powered mini generators to produce electricity. The waste heat would keep us warm. We could use locally fracked gas via the extended UK gas grid, which could also replace diesel and petrol in cars etc, lower CO2 emissions.
        All we need do is to replace STEM-illiterate civil servants and politicians. It’s called voting.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        January 25, 2023 9:36 am

        ” It’s getting to the stage that it will be cheaper than the mains electricity.” Actually it went past that stage quite a long while ago.
        As I have posted many times before, Red Diesel (legal to use in a domestic generator) is currently about £1.00 per litre and has and energy content of 10.7kWh per litre. Run that through a decent generator at optimum output should comfortably achieve 4kWh thus about 25p per kWh or half the current unsubsidised Ofgem authorised amount. And no standing charge!

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        January 25, 2023 9:41 am

        Julian Flood, that’s just naive. It has nothing to do with what people study. The civil service is power. It is clever people believing they should make all the decisions. They are not (or at least were not) Left-wing per se, just classic bureaucrats who dovtheir job because they chose who we live. They abhor free markets because that let’s us choose. They love the EU because the EU is a giant version of the civil service. Most people in power are deciding what makes them “better off” – ego, position, enacting their prejudices and biases, pure power – not what is good for us.

  2. Mike Jackson permalink
    January 24, 2023 5:28 pm

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.
    And none as thick as them as wants to be!

    The message will get through in time. The only question is whether it will be. In time, that is. What are our politicians trying to prove? How stupid they can get? How arrogant? How blinkered? It really is enough to make strong men weep. Tears of frustration mainly.

  3. GeoffB permalink
    January 24, 2023 5:39 pm

    It concerns me that National Grid just go along with all this Net Zero dilution of grid reliability. They must have some old school engineers (like Me) who understand reactive power, spinning mass kinetic energy, Rate of change of frequency trips, the folly of storing days worth electricity in batteries, I guess they all retired.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 24, 2023 6:24 pm

      You don’t have to have worked in electricity generation to know Net Zero is an impossible dream if it depends on wind and solar

      • Julian Flood permalink
        January 25, 2023 8:17 am

        No, but you do have to be technologically literate. A first in PPE (Media studies for poshoes) is no loner enough.


      • January 30, 2023 4:45 pm

        That’s right, you don’t.
        Most of us have an in built, bull detection radar.
        Net Zero is never going to happen….

    • January 24, 2023 6:34 pm

      Geoff, (and Paul Homewood) please subscribe to The Times, comment on the articles, point out their errors and the lack of engineering and scientific knowledge.
      As far as I can see none of their scientific or environmental journalists have a strong background. They are mostly history or English graduates and make basic blunders.
      They banned me for pointing out that The Times itself ran a front page article in 1976 saying scientists forecast 20,000 years of cooling. The Times moderators denied its existence and banned me for pointing out it was on their own archive. I even sent them a copy from the archive. Still banned for posting “false” facts !

      You can see the relevant page at the bottom of this website:

      Feel free to send me an email.

      David Tallboys

      PS – note also the “inconvenient” screenshot from NASA 2010 too.

      • GeoffB permalink
        January 24, 2023 7:05 pm

        I got banned by the guardian for my comments, strangely it seems to have lapsed and I managed to comment the other week. Unless you subscribe to the times or telegraph you cannot comment, and I am not prepared to support them. If you switch off Java script you can read their articles without subscription.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      January 24, 2023 10:27 pm

      I have commented on this before but to reiterate, in short, a senior DNO manager queried why two of us subbies were discussing football. Initially we were mystified, then thought he was making a joke and then were quite horrified to realise he genuinely did not know what VAR meant even though we were standing next to an SVC unit.

    • January 25, 2023 7:13 am

      NG is a big organisation, people with technical skills seldom rise to positions of power. NG likes NZ because it generates a lot of money, via all the extra poles, wires and controls. The old model of just 200 large power stations is their worse nightmare, but is the dream of consumers.

    • Nial permalink
      January 25, 2023 9:28 am

      “It concerns me that National Grid just go along with all this Net Zero dilution of grid reliability”

      There’s money in it for them, constructing a vastly bigger, more complex grid., all those bird chompers need connected.

      They aren’t rewarded for a reliable supply (AIUI).

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 25, 2023 9:44 am

      There is no choice. Push back and you will be sidelined. The vast majority believe the climate change propaganda and believe that those who do not are cranks and right-wing fanatics. The “Denier” claim is prevalent, so if you voice doubts you arenot just wring about climate change but evil, racist, greedy, anti-science, etc etc. We are at a point where dissent is no longer possible without far reaching consequences.

      • Jules permalink
        January 25, 2023 2:04 pm

        Any hierarchical organisation that disables the feedback from the bottom will eventually crash. Doesn’t matter if it is political (Soviet Union, Nazi Germany) or technical (NASA Shuttle Challenger). Systems fail. Better to have a small system that fails quickly. Greenery, most ironically, is not sustainable.

  4. Tim Spence permalink
    January 24, 2023 6:40 pm

    I doubt that Ross understands the real technical problems and while ‘Demand Management’ is a useful phrase it doesn’t do justice the fact that the national grid was not designed to have so many windmills plugged in.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      January 24, 2023 7:45 pm

      Judging by the quality of his articles he seems pretty well informed. I have no idea why you’d assert he’s uninformed.

      • January 25, 2023 11:33 am

        Well, you can point out that Clark doesn’t understand that the pumped storage at Dinorwig is there not to power the grid when the sun and wind stop but to provide time for additional thermal generating plant to come on line to meet demand. The turbines ramp up to speed very quickly once the valves are opened. By the same token, the banks of diesel generators around the country were also created to buy time although in this case it was for the failure of windmills.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        January 25, 2023 12:59 pm

        The original purpose of Dinorwig was to take power from Wylfa nuclear power station overnight and store it for use during rush hour demand peaks. It was also designated a key black start resource. Back then the grid had lots of inertia and enough droop capacity and spinning reserve to handle the odd generator trip.

        It was very striking that Dinorwig appeared to play almost no role in handling the consequences of the August 2019 blackout. I assume that was a combination of contracts, maintenance and grid transmission constraints.

    • Iain Reid permalink
      January 25, 2023 7:50 am


      I would rather you had said, windmills are not technically suited to being plugged into the grid. The grid is fine, it’s the rubbish they made us connect to it that is the problem.

  5. Stonyground permalink
    January 24, 2023 7:18 pm

    Demand Management is just a euphemism for rationing. Everyone here has been predicting a day of reckoning for the pie in the sky schemes of our utterly brainless politicians for decades. It is obvious to anyone with a grain of sense that the green energy dream can’t possibly work. Now their train is about to come crashing into the buffers of reality. Meanwhile I’ve got the battery powered emergency lights installed and the genny serviced and ready to go.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 24, 2023 7:31 pm

    We weren’t actually becalmed, wind has been down but still providing pretty much 5GW ~10% throughout, it could have been worse.

    It is crazy how most of the media makes this demand management sound like some brilliant new idea, easy money off your bills, completely failing to address who pays in the end and not even acknowledge the underlying reason/ problem being wind/solar/suicidal energy policy.

    Aside, on an episode of in the dog house a short while back I noticed their wind turbine was causing horrendous sun shadow flicker, made it difficult to watch at times.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 24, 2023 11:24 pm

      We’ve been lucky with the weather so far this winter. After several weeks of high winds only half the country has had still cold conditions, the south, meanwhile Scotland has had mild and windy conditions.
      Not only that but the total rainfall in Scotland was pretty close to normal, above average Sept through Dec meaning that hydro will be contributing normal amounts despite the mega drought of 2022.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        January 25, 2023 7:55 am

        Yep the hydro (not pumped storage) was making cash, the Norway interconnector also delivered our way consistently, unlike the French one.

      • Julian Flood permalink
        January 25, 2023 8:24 am

        A big blocking high pressure system from Norway to Morocco at this time of year often comes with low stratus so very low solar.
        Eventually that’s what will crash the Grid. Unless we are very lucky.


  7. January 24, 2023 7:46 pm

    We have been warning politicians for two decades that their policies will lead to regular blackouts, but it has been impossible to get past their gatekeepers in the civil service and the media.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 25, 2023 12:06 am

      When will the lights go out? by Derek Birkett 2011.
      Still available in paperback (Amazon etc.)
      If you are feeling rich, send a copy to your MP with a covering note
      Government Warning – read only in a blackout.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      January 25, 2023 8:25 am



  8. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 24, 2023 7:54 pm

    And why does everyone keep saying the price of renewables is fixed by the price of gas.
    No, the headline price of wind/solar is not the whole story. Add in:
    Remote grid connection.
    Curtailment payment.
    Smart meters.
    Demand management bribes.
    Failed energy companies.
    Building and maintaining duplicated generation capacity that sits idle/underutilised.
    The price of gas reflects its value to meet the true cost of these renewables.
    It’s a chicken/egg situation.

  9. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    January 24, 2023 10:19 pm

    “all we will have to save us from unplanned blackouts is demand management – which is really just blackouts through bribery.’
    Then the bribery will – STOP
    Is it not possible that this situation, this new reality has been planned all along ?

    Oil, gas and coal are all around, plentiful, just waiting to be extracted. Yet the country is bribed to swallow farcical renewable propaganda, that is it all down to man made climate change.
    It is quoted and printed day in day out.
    There is another agenda here …
    …and it has absolutely nothing to do with keeping the lights on.
    Or keeping the poor and vulnerable warm.
    Just look through the archives here. The warning bells have been ringing long enough now.
    The controlled mass media will not even tolerate any discussion.
    It would be heresy.

    There is a different, a dark (pun intended), sinister agenda here.
    ‘As with so many green subsidies, it perversely rewards the well-off at the expense of the poor.’
    Why do you think these scum are grabbing the loot with no fear of being held to account ?
    Net zero has more to do with the population count than any CO2 amount.

  10. Ray Sanders permalink
    January 24, 2023 11:15 pm

    Meanwhile over in Guardianista land, the kids really loved it apparently.
    Shit for brains or what?

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 24, 2023 11:32 pm

      Children will love it, indoor camping a great adventure the first time. Not being aware of the implications helps.
      My boys were always fascinated by my mother’s house with no mains services. Particularly the gas lights hissing quietly, the Aladdin and other paraffin lights and candles . Cooking toast with a toasting fork and open fire, especially when the bread fell into the fire causing much hilarity.
      Truly happy days and memories.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 25, 2023 9:48 am

      Children love different experiences. I was quite excited by the first blackouts of the 3 day week back in the 1970s. You lose your enthusiasm quite quickly, as they will when their phones can’t be charged.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        January 25, 2023 10:24 am

        Apologies for the unclear direction of my last sentence. The Shit for brains remark was directed at the Graun not the kids.

  11. January 24, 2023 11:29 pm

    Green decarbonislattion efforts to influence world climate will fail. CO2 is “innocent”. The sun and water vzpour control cliimate

  12. REM permalink
    January 25, 2023 7:07 am

    “On a good day, such as we had a fortnight ago, solar and wind generate more than 50 per cent of our energy needs.”

    Almost slipped through. Surely this should read “electricity needs”? Electricity is only around 20% of our total energy needs. Which does raise the question of what, exactly, does a net zero target mean to politicians? Is it zero emissions from generating our electricity needs or zero emissions from our total energy usage?

  13. Stonyground permalink
    January 25, 2023 7:43 am

    I just spotted this at the Daily Mash.

  14. January 25, 2023 8:23 am

    Here’s a good idea to save energy. Why don’t we get all the 24 hour supermarkets, fast food joints, and other places that have their lights, displays, etc on all the time, to turn them off between 11 and 5, and maybe go back to ‘normal’ shopping hours? We managed in the past so why can’t we manage that today?

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      January 25, 2023 9:49 am

      We managed in the past with smallpox. So what?

      • January 25, 2023 9:58 am

        What a stupid and out of context comment. This thread is about wasting energy not medical issues. What has smallpox got to do with electricity? Grow up.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        January 25, 2023 10:01 am

        Oh dear delboy. Your comment was about shopping, not energy. Try and understand your own comments before exploding in incoherent rage.

      • January 25, 2023 11:42 am

        No it wasn’t. The original post was about energy and my comment was about all the wasted energy. Perhaps you should re read it to see what it was about. Why should there by millions of watts of wasted energy keeping lights and advertising boards, neon signs etc., on everywhere when they are not needed. As an aside, yes we still don’t need 24 hour shopping but that’s another issue for another time.

  15. thecliffclavenoffinance permalink
    January 25, 2023 9:22 am

    On my recommended reading list for today:

  16. It doesn't add up... permalink
    January 25, 2023 12:49 pm

    OFGEM is helping it happen.

    What that means is imposing the inflexibility of wind on a fragile market with ever greater amounts of demand curtailment on the one hand and renewables curtailment on the other. It will be expensive. Consumers will be asked to fund grid expansion on a massive scale to allow more wind to be connected as and when built. They will pay for the intermittency coming and going. Live in the wrong place and your power may cost a fortune under locational pricing.

    Truly horrific

  17. liardetg permalink
    January 26, 2023 9:49 pm

    And CO2 doesn’t control the weather

  18. January 26, 2023 10:54 pm

    this from Mark at adds to the madness – quote –
    “Between 4.30pm and 6pm on Tuesday, wind farms were paid about £65,000 to stop producing enough electricity to power 50,000 homes for a day, according to data from the UK Wind Curtailment Monitor.
    At the same time, households were being asked to switch off their devices to help save electricity, amid concerns from National Grid ESO, the legally separate part of the National Grid which balances supply and demand, that it would not have sufficient energy supply.”

  19. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    January 27, 2023 7:52 am

    What are the emergency plans in the case of a power outage effecting Smart Motorways ? !

  20. January 27, 2023 2:36 pm

    At election time Republicans assure us the important things are bullying pregnant women and beating, robbing and jailing potheads. None mention legalizing energy, do they?

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