Wednesday 30 November 2022

Winter blackouts: more likely now than for years

October was quite exceptionally warm in N.Europe.  November has also been warm, but in the UK also extremely wet; so the heating season really started this month.  And already we've had two 'capacity mechanism' warnings from the National Grid.  I realise many of you won't know exactly what that means: it certainly doesn't mean "blackouts imminent" - the whole point is that it puts providers of standby power on notice - but equally, it's very rare, and there's never been a November with two such warnings.  

Both came about for the same reason: wind generation subsided fairly suddenly, and to a great extent than forecast.  This week's was quite spectacular, in that the wind output fairly collapsed - to zero in the afternoon and for the rest of the day.  We'd been exporting electricity at the start of the day but that switched to importing for a bit of top-up: needless to say, gas-fired generators carried by far the greatest part of the load, with some nuke and biomass, and a tiny amount of shortly-to-be extinct coal. 

And it's not even cold yet.  Granted, Europe as a whole is better placed as regards availability of gas than might have been foreseen back in June.  But we're all in trouble if a serious cold snap comes along, both in terms of wholesale energy prices and absolute energy availability.  Prices are already surging.  Industry will be switched off in many countries, with the UK being better placed than most (FWIW).  

Yet we still find people airily saying we don't need gas.  Possibly the highest profile example, and the most irresponsible, is Ed Miliband, who announced at his Party Conference that we could dispense with gas for all but 0.3% of the time, by 2030.  He's lying through his teeth, his slim defence being that he'd commissioned some "modelling" which told him this was possible.  Well, in the real world, it ain't.

Will this all come to some dramatic, sticky end - if not this year, then shortly thereafter?  I doubt it.  Rather, it'll be years of messy, pragmatic muddling through - which, as it happens, the UK is quite good at.  Targets of all kind will be missed, but it won't have to matter.  Timetables will simply slip, and kit will be refurbished for yet another season.  How much egg will end up on politicians' faces?  Not much.  Greta will be very upset, of course; but most people just want to stay warm.  



Anonymous said...

It was always going to get worse before it gets better. When the iPhone naz*is can't charge their phones, it will all change. Me? Where I live, in the sticks, power cuts are not unusual so we have a generator and multi-fuel stove.

Yet Another Chris

Matt said...

Solar generators (Li batteries) and genny on standby here as well.

Might even be worth buying extra to sell at a large markup when the inevitable hits.

Anonymous said...

Candles check. Our gas hob is run from bottled gas. We have two log burners. We even have battery powered radios.

I see Telegraph said people like me, reliant on oil, would have to switch to heat pumps in 5 years, no matter what the cost. People on gas get until 2035 and they won’t be forced to switch until heat pumps cost the same as conventional boilers. Total nonsense and typical of how urban green lunatics have no knowledge of anything at all.

All the best


Nick Drew said...

We had a very informative go at heat pumps a short while ago

Some crazy stuff going on in BEIS

Elby the Beserk said...


Solar past 3 days

The cranky but rather fine blogger the Slog (who has fled France to Gambia) used to ask

"Why don't we rise up and slaughter them?"

Why indeed.


2. Anon on gas boiler ban, 2035.

Oil boilers - 2026. In other words, fuck you rural people, to put what's in my mind. Same as the fuel duty rise not announced in all the other crap the other day. 12p a litre. WTFF? This has to be deliberate. We need to go Chinese on these bastards and riot.

rwendland said...

I see the govt have again given EDF three more years to complete Hinkley Point C before CfD penalties are applied, from 2033 to 2036 (2025 in original contract). This is quite puzzling as EDF are currently claiming it will be ready in 2027, though they have warned of a possible slippage to September 2028. So why are they so bothered about the 2033 penalties date? Is it that in their heart-of-hearts they expect another big slippage, which would be embarrassing to announce before Sizewell C is fully agreed?

2028 would make it 11 years to build (plus a year or two of site preparation time). If it really slips to 2036 that would be 19 years to build, much worse than our infamous UK AGR reactors in the 60s to 80s which averaged 14 years, and even matching the disastrous HPC sister reactor build in Finland which looks likely to take 19 years.

So what beholds us with Sizewell C, where under RAB financing the electricity consumer picks up most of the risk rather than EDF (or in reality the French govt)? Certainly no help with the gas crisis.

"Flagship project may not be ready until 2036, new contract suggests"

Matt said...

The government don't care when (or if) Hinkley C is built. They care about the media headlines now so want to be seen to do something.

The further down the road the can is kicked before someone has to own up to what a white elephant it is, the better.

Clive said...

While I can and do criticise the U.K. government endlessly (successive governments deserve all the scorn heaped on them and much more besides) I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how LNG importing has stepped up to save the country from any gas crunch. So far, anyway. And I don’t see anything to change that, albeit at a price. This is possible because of the huge LNG re-gasification capacity which has been built out.

Gas supply security combined with CCGT generators which are adequate in terms of installed capacity (I wouldn’t put it more strongly than that) should, barring extreme bad luck in terms of weather, keep the show on the road.

(stats for nerds — see “instantaneous supply” chart)

Nick Drew said...

indeed so, Clive - and, as remarked on C@W before, all done by private enterprise on the basis of purely commercial initiative. The need was clear, the investments were forthcoming: no government direction, nor subsidy.

Trouble comes when co's smell subsidy in the air: they take the easy route and all become idle, wheedling subsidy-farmers. Centrica, this includes you.

E-K said...

All for the sake of an ideology that has swept the West. Greenism isn't just about making us cold, it's about the whole redistributive reparations thing too, and a hatred of our language, wealth and attitudes - it is an older generation lying prostate before the young BNOCs (Big Names on Campus's)

Conservative politicians cave and then tell us that getting poor is "...for our own good" it's the only way they can cover their own weakness and incompetence.


Hard to think that Christine McVie was 80 !!! She was one of my MILF fantasies whenIwerealad. This, now aged, generation were free loving, easy going progressives in their own day, marked by their most popular music which was some of the most inspired and lovely in history. Now the enemy of the state. A scourge whose attitudes must be wiped out - because Susan Hussey (85) is truly representative of the 1970s zeitgeist.

This is how far Left we have been dragged.

lilith said...

So we first we are not allowed out of our houses for more than an hour a day, not allowed to work and earn a living, and now they want us to freeze..this didn't used to be what we elected governments for..

Clive said...

Re: “the reason for our problems is the country has been kidnapped by green loons” (several comments are touching on this…

… while I think there is some mileage in this and green nonsense has been far too readily disseminated and, worse, taken at face value by policy makers, it’s worth looking at the developed world more generally. Japan, which I know well, is somewhat subscribing to the environmentalists’ siren calls but not to anything like the degree we’ve seen in, say Germany and (to a slightly but only slightly) lesser degree here in the U.K.

But it too has energy security of supply problems years in the making which it’s trying to resolve right now
The Fukushima disaster is one moving part to all this, but not the whole story.

Outside of the US, Canada and Australia, it is I think fair to say no-one has got this right.

Nick Drew said...

Germany is 10x worse than UK ! Completely deranged (and utterly ignorant) on almost every aspect of energy policy - until Putin gave them a much needed wake-up.

Clive said...

@ND 10:21

Yes, you’re right on reflection. What drove my thought process was that it was just luck the U.K. has got the Continental Shelf domestic natural gas production and would have had to have been perverse to the point of insanity not to tap into Norwegian supply. I’m loathed to put down to good policy responses what has been driven by fortunate geology and happenstance.

But but but… that LNG import infrastructure didn’t get stymied the way that decades of German exceptionalism and Russian fanboy‘ishness killed off any chance of replacing (or even augmenting) Nordstreams 1 and 2 and other related dependencies on The World’s Worst Energy Partner. So, yep, in the nuttiness stakes, Germany wins. By a wide margin.

Nick Drew said...

In the mid '00s, I did some consulting work for Ruhrgas (still more or less independent at that stage, though a subsidiary of E.on by then) on a putative LNG terminal in N.Germany. Like everyone in UK, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Neth etc, they knew it was the right way to go, and had detailed plans. Were even in consultation with the EC over regulatory arrangements.

But German High Politics intervened and they were told to step back ...

Clive said...

More stats for those who like data:

It's LNG to the rescue for most of continental Europe. You can hover over the LNG import terminals (the dark blue dots for the EU, light blue for us separatists in the UK). Them there Europeans are drinking up LNG through a straw like a kids birthday party at McDonalds attacking the milkshakes. Standout is Spain. But France and Italy are all at it.

Spot the odd man out (amongst the big industrial countries). Yep, that's you I'm looking at Germany. What is interesting but sadly beyond my technical understanding is how Germany is managing to snaffle a 1.376 GWh/day offtake from a North Sea pipeline with a Firm technical capacity of 1.173 GWh/day. Maybe like Spiral Tap's amplifier, the pipeline infrastructure has a knob which you can turn up to "11" on the scale...

Fascinating to flick back to Gas Days from a year or two ago to see how the energy landscape has changed in Europe. It'll no doubt change some more, though it'll be painful for some. My take? I give it a couple of months before we see the EU (cough, guffaw stifled) "solidarity mechanisms" invoked. The solidarity being shown to Germany by the rest of the EU. Glad we're out of that bunch of thieves and scoundrels.

Don Cox said...

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Misery's here to stay.
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it's no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won't roll by,

__ Noel Coward, "Bad Times Just Around the Corner"

There's more of it ...


jim said...

Noel Coward produced this gem - as apt today as it was in 1941.

We must have a speech from a minister.

We must have a speech from the minister
It’s what we’ve been trained to expect
We’re faced with defeat and despair and disaster
We couldn’t be losing our colonies faster
We know we haven’t the guns to defend
The ‘Mermaid’ at Rye or the pier at Southend
You have no idea how we’ve grown to depend
In hours of crisis
On whacking great slices
Of verbal evasion and dissimulation

And it goes on and on - but worth it.

Jeremy Poynton said...


Christine McVie - yes, wonderful, thought I always preferred Fleetwood Mac as the blues band they were before they crossed the pond. Though yes, I did buy and love Rumours.

Regardless, for me her finest moment was with Chicken Shack, before she joined FM, with her sine tingling version of the Blues classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind".

In hope that this posts, and then that if it does, it doesn't then dematerialise, here it is

And turn it UP!

Anonymous said...

"until Putin gave them a much needed wake-up"

Or possibly the USS Kearsarge and maybe the SBS it was that made the wake-up call. The only thing wrong with German energy policies pre-2020 was that they didn't fit in with the US State Department.

I hadn't realised how long this all went back, at miniumum to “The Grand Chessboard – American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1997.

“support for the new post-Soviet states—for geopolitical pluralism in the space of the former Soviet empire—has to be an integral part of a policy designed to induce Russia to exercise unambiguously its European option (i.e. become part of GAE). Among these states, three are geopolitically especially important: Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine…most important, however, is Ukraine”

The US are playing a remarkably hubristic game - having become the unipolar power centre in 1990, they don't want to relinquish it by allowing any rival power centres. Drag Queen Story Hour for all the world's children! Note they seem to subscribe to Mackinder's World Island theory - the Stans, forgotten for seventy years, being a fulcrum.

I still think pushing together the world's manufacturer and the world's energy supplier will turn out to be a huge mistake. China and Russia now realise that if they don't hang together, they'll surely hang separately.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say, China and Russia have been flying joint patrols over the Sea Of Japan and China Seas since March - they've now got to the point of co-operation where they are landing and refuelling at each other's air bases.

Anonymous said...

Clive -what's amazing is that AFAIK Russian gas is still flowing through Ukraine to the EU even if not in vast quantities - and presumably being paid for?

If you want to be scared, just look at this - an ex-military intelligence guy who now lectures at Halton talking about "finishing off Russia".

What's scary is the commentariat, although I don't know how many of the upvotes have been created by some troll farm in Utah. I get a distinct air of September 1914, "it'll all be over by Christmas once NATO get involved", and you can imagine white feathers being handed out to people who demur.

Anonymous said...

You have to wonder if Frau Merkel was a Russian sleeper all along

Anonymous said...

loving the data clive. can't beat a good graph.
i make that 60gw/h of electrical equivalent germany imports down that one pipe.
and its going to cold/calm across most of europe next week, lets hope nothing breaks.

turbines - when its windy they work, when its night and the wind is calm we burn gas.

nuclear is clearly not going to deliver with these delays and costs. coal, no uk government is going to approve mine reopening or importing millions of tons a month.

yes we can import/export a bit of power, but not a huge %. interconnects are ~10% of uk demand and that relies on the french/Norwegian etc to sell it to us, sure there are a few more in the pipeline... even some crazy thing to get sunlight from Morocco down a wire to cornwall.

batteries are never going to be more than a small niche, there is not enough to go round. we have a grand announcement that we have the biggest in europe. '300k houses for 2 hours' its a tiddler, 4 orders of magnitude larger please then its serious.

hydrogen from water might help, but its still needs a lot of power and somewhere the keep it, and the tech to work at a _big_ scale.
solar is lovely on a june afternoon, got one myself. much fun to work out when to turn on the dishwasher.

so the corner we are in seems to be that we get as much gas from the north sea or the Norwegians. the rest we bid for on world lng market.
we put as many turbines up in the north sea as possible because the work well 50% of the time. build a bigger grid - probably offshore - because no turbines in the south. and hope that we can somehow carry enough gas capacity to burn at 30gw for the cold calm days of January.

any serious alternative to that ?