Politicians are asleep at the wheel about the growing energy crisis

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by Shaun Richards

It is hard in some ways to believe that we could be having an energy crisis in summer. Some countries use a lot of electricity for air conditioning but the UK does not. Actually I was involved in a discussion the other day where Americans were rather shocked how little we use. But the crisis is all over Europe and indeed worse in much of it and Japan is facing all sorts of problems at the moment partly due to the fact that aircon is required in its hot and humid summer. So we have quite a few additions to out long-running theme that renewables were putting more and more pressure on the UK grid due to their unreliability. This was added to by the way that politicians thought they were being clever by closing power plants that provided both flexibility and security of supply.

Here is UK government minister Alok Sharma from less than a year ago.

This morning I triggered the demolition of the boiler house and two chimney stacks at ⁦@SSE⁩’s Ferrybridge C coal-fired power plant Consigning coal power to history in action! ( 22nd August 2021)

Here is energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng heading in the opposite direction from the 22nd of June.

Now, West Burton coal power station will remain open this winter, and negotiations with Britain’s 2 other remaining coal plants are ongoing.

Those power plants are going to have us over a barrel as Kwasi begs them to be open this winter. After all Alok will be along with his hard hat and a load of explosive to blow it up if he gets the chance. So there is no future in it.

The unreliability of wind

This is a charged issue so let me be clear I have nothing against wind power per se but I do have an issue with the denial of its problems. One of them is being shown right now.

GB Grid: #Wind is generating 3.62GW (11.88%) out of 30.45GW ( UK Wind Energy)

Out of a claimed capacity of 25 GW that is a poor result and one of the sources I follow has never gone above 16 GW so there is a maths or if you prefer a reality problem here. Now let me return to the speech from energy minister Kwarteng.

Our ambition is for offshore wind to generate 50GW by the end of this decade…more than enough to power every home in the UK.

Let us say that is now built and the wind is as now we would have a bit over 7 GW this morning. But we hit the next problem as our demand is 29.6 GW leaving us over 22 GW short. There is some weasel room in that I note he mentions homes and thus could claim not industry but most would hear that and think out power needs would be covered.

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Anyway let me give you some soaring rhetoric follower by reality.

Here is the hot air.

Not since the wind God Aeolus gifted wind to Odysseus have human beings been able to harness the power of the winds with such efficiency and effectiveness

Here is the reality from last week.

On July 20, surging electricity demand collided with a bottleneck in the grid, leaving the eastern part of the British capital briefly short of power. Only by paying a record high £9,724.54 (about $11,685) per megawatt hour — more than 5,000% higher than the typical price — did the UK avoid homes and businesses going dark. ( Javier Blas )

Now from UK wind are the numbers for it from that day.

Wind generation: 152.34GWh (20.14%) GB total: 756.37GWh

Wind power places pressure on the infrastructure because of its location especially the offshore wind Kwasi is so keen on.

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On most days, the bottlenecks mean distorted costs. Sometimes, it results in sky-high prices where energy is in short supply when it is needed. At other occasions, prices can tumble to zero, or go negative, when producers cannot sell their power into a congested transmission system. Increasingly, it puts the whole system at risk.  ( Javier Blas)

So we have raised pressure on the system just as we have failed to invest in it.

There was also another issue and it came from the timing so let me return to Javier Blas.

The £9,724.54 price, settled between noon and 1:00 p.m. on July 20 via the so-called NEMO interconnector that links the UK with Belgium, was the highest Britain has ever paid to import electricity, nearly five times higher than the previous record. The absurdity of that level is apparent when comparing it with the year-to-date average for UK spot electricity: £178 per megawatt hour.

We were in a heatwave so if not awash with solar power we should have a maximum supply surely? No because they do not work well on very hot days which is an irony as one might reasonably think that solar power would be an obvious source for aircon. The reality is that the peak on that day was 5.25 GW out of the UK maximum of 8 GW which unlike wind is a genuine capacity on that we do hit it as we hit 8.19 GW on the 18th according to Sheffield Solar.

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Minds should have been further focused only yesterday by this.

Gazprom to reduce gas flow through Nord Stream to 20%, blames turbine issue. Russian state-owned Gazprom said gas exports to Germany would drop to about a fifth of the pipe’s capacity starting July 27. ( The Kyiv Independent) 

Which added to this issue.

While all the eyes are on the Nord Stream saga, the TransMed pipeline, bringing Algerian gas to Italy, goes into a planned maintenance and a total of 67 mcm/d will be unavailable from July 20 to July 27. In 2022, has become the 1st supplier of gas to Italy, overtaking Russia ( Frank Stone)

It should be back later this week but there will be some itchy shirt collars in Italy until it does.

Russia’s latest move to cut natural gas supply to Europe is intensifying global competition for LNG  Asian importers accelerate plans to buy LNG cargoes for winter out of fear Europe will hoard supply  LNG prices seen surging to mid-$40s/mmbtu ( SStapczynski )

There were other effects yesterday.

German Year-Ahead Baseload Power Price Up 4.6% To 350 EUR/Mwh After Gazprom Said It Is Reducing Gas Flows On Nord Stream 1 ( @PriapusIQ )

Also today.

European Gas Futures Rise More Than 10% For Second Day ( @PriapusIQ)


This is a story of a combination of incompetence and willful ignorance of reality. It is not that wind and solar cannot be used but it is true that they are being promoted beyond their abilities. The lies about both capacity and reliability have led us to where we are. The event last week would have meant that using a kettle would be £1.50. Fortunately it was small scale but this winter it may not be.

In some ways we are better off than much of Europe because we do have an existing Liquid Natural Gas or LNG infrastructure. But we have willfully ignored our own energy resources and we may face some of what is happening to German industry.

FRANKFURT, July 24 (Reuters) – A number of industrial companies in Germany are cutting production in reaction to soaring energy prices, a survey by the country’s Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) showed on Sunday.

The survey of 3,500 companies in Europe’s largest economy found that 16% are scaling back production or partially discontinuing business operations.

It looks bad enough for us as it is.

Annual energy bills could reach £3,244 under the October price cap, rising to £3,363 from January, according to new estimates from consultancy Cornwall Insight.


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