Here are summaries of several current stories from the industry.
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Ofgem is in negotiations to pay more than £50m to EDF to reduce output from Britain's largest nuclear reactor (SZB) to avoid blackouts this summer. Low demand threatens to overwhelm the network with surplus electricity, notably from nukes and windfarms that "must run". National Grid warns of a "significant risk of disruption to security of supply" over the Bank Holiday unless it is granted emergency powers to disconnect excess solar and wind farms. The costs of paying off all these plants will feed through to consumer energy bills - of course!Ofgem (again) warns of a potential shock to consumers after research revealed only 35% have thought about the impact of coronavirus on their energy bills. 23% feel their finances are negatively impacted and 44% expect their financial situation to deteriorate in the next six months. 56% say they are using more energy than normal for the time of year, rising to 75% among families with children. Despite this, only 35% have given consideration to the roll-on impact to their bills, prompting the regulator to warn of potential “bill shock” further down the line
UK power network balancing costs for Q1 2020 climbed 36% year-on-year, driven by rising constraint payments to natural gas and wind powered facilities, National Grid data show: £430m, up from £312m in Q1 2019
Wind and solar power have stepped into the baseload role in Europe, with very little coal-fired plant running and less gas-fired plant than usual, wind and solar output having priority on the grid
* * * * *What's interesting about this last snippet is that it offers something of glimpse of where we expected to be in, say, 2030 as ever more renewables are developed, and ever more energy efficiency measures are taken. Some grid operators are now proving able to manage grids at 70% or more renewable energy and with a much lower level of demand. This would have been hard to believe until, errr, it actually happened. Well, those grid chappies are good engineers - and they have a lot of tools at their disposal, some of them rather blunt instruments (see above). What we'll learn later is, ahem ... the cost! Which we shall all pay, one way or the other.
Finally, as a rather detailed but potentially significant consequence of all this, the output of gas-fired power plants in the UK and elsewhere has absolutely cratered (down by 90% in UK in April). It is gas-fired plant that has been the great bulwark and standby in our system for two decades now - the grid's go-to source of flexibility, taking the strain of most of the ups-and-downs caused by intermittent wind generation (coal isn't nearly as flexible, and nukes not at all). I foresee some very awkward premature closures in this sector - or, as above, the need to throw some big money at them to keep them available.
All the greenies (and a lot of lefties) are hoping these unexpected developments point the way to the green future of their dreams. Maybe. But it won't be cheap.
Oil might be, though ...