Seven years ago around these parts we used to do an occasional series, "watching the lights go out". Back then (was it really 7 years ago? - yup!) we noted that 2015 looked like being the crunch year, and dismissively reported EDF offering new-nuke power from Hinkley in ... 2017, hahah. Indeed, EDF's chief frog-in-the-UK said we'd be needing his bloody new nukes by 2017 because otherwise he wouldn't be getting hot Christmas dinner.
Well 2015 is certainly set to be crunch-year; EDF are now offering new-nuke power by, errr, 2024 at the absolute earliest; by 2017 the capacity margin will almost certainly be negative, as everyone knew even back in 2008; and last week we had the first NISM of the new era. It won't be the last.
Now some silly things have been said about this, not least by the DTel who said the Grid was using its 'last resort measures'. Not so - the Grid has no end of tricks up its sleeve before actually shutting off power to residential customers. And a NISM is only the lowest level of three emergency stages it can trigger before Granny is finally plunged into darkness.
The thing is, it's a crass way to run the whelk-stall - crass, and expensive and, of course, CO2-intensive, because the further down the slippery slope the Grid goes, the more diesel gennies spring into life: firstly the standby diesels the Grid itself has contracted for these purposes; then the privately-owned diesels that various industrial customers maintain against the day when the Grid pays them to come off the system (stages 1 & 2), and then forcibly kicks them off the system (stages 3 and blackout); then the hospitals' diesels (stages 3 & blackout); then (on a tiny scale) private individuals' diesels (blackout). And the CO2 output of this lot is as bad as or worse than coal, with the particulates being a lot worse, hahah. Check out that black smoke, greenies.
Amber Rudd is promising an 'energy policy reset', and it can't be quick enough. But the mithering about missed renewables targets doesn't make one optimisitic on this score. An entertaining sequence of winter crises lies ahead.