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back to article UK electricity crisis over - for now

The UK electricity market has recovered from a troublesome shortage of supply on Tuesday, according to network operator National Grid. However, some analysts are seeing the problems - which included power cuts and reduced supply voltages - as a warning sign of more trouble to come. National Grid spokesman Stewart Larque …

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Joke

Time to adopt the Disaster Area solution?

I.e. meet with the environmentalists and have them all shot.

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No supprise

What the Govenment will say is "its up to the engergy supliers to find ways of coping with demand." not us we just like to accept bribes...oooppsss incentives to promote nuclear power plant.

Well Mr Brown is another mess for you to deal with....any more pigeons wanting to to make their way home.

Regards

Sir Bobby

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Black Helicopters

Cospiracy Theories...

will no doubt abound.

(Nice to see the Scottish Parliament rushing through permission to use gas at the 'Gannet. Boiler Burner mods have been done there quite recently too. How terribly convenient!)

Having worked, albeit breifly, at Longannet a few years ago, it's a bloody miracle that this decrepit old plant is still functioning, LONG after it's expected lifespan, like a large proportion of our larger generation sites.

We need new generation capacity in this country NOW. And at the moment, if you want it to be relatively pollution free, then it'll have to be nuclear.

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ah, there is a god (and she's an angry lesbian)

I just picked up my copy of the April BBC Top Gear. If any of you read it, you'll know that it's the edition where Clarkson revels, like a pig in shit, about South Africa's power crisis.

God, I hope where he lives was hit by The Unthinkable Happening In Britain

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Flame

Low Volts ---> High Amps?

To anyone who knows lots about electric supply/appliances - what would actually happen if voltage drops?

I assume for simple devices (light bulbs etc.), it just means a proportional loss of power, but I remember reading something at the time of the big US blackouts a few years ago about server PSUs making the whole thing worse.

Apparently they could vary their resistance in response to voltage, and therefore draw more current and end up running quite happily on exactly the same power as before.

Essentially, what proportion of plugged-in devices will just do an electronic "You want to cut my power? er..., NO." when the grid drops their voltage?

Icon for what might happen if that idea gets taken too far...

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Unhappy

Is the UK regressing to developing country status?

Hmm!

"One energy-market analyst, speaking to the Times, blamed lack of investment owing to years of uncertainty over government policy.

"The Government’s inability to make long-term energy security decisions over the last decade is coming home to roost," said the industry watcher. "Lack of political will to make tough decisions has left Britain short of power."

Sounds remarkably similiar to what's been going on in the South Africa over the past year!!!!

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thinking selfishly.....

could someone knowledgeable comment on the need for UPS at home? The article only says that supply variations are 'mostly harmless'.

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"Green" propaganda coming home to roost

For yonks the Greenies have been telling us that Nuclear power will cause our kids to have two heads, whereas factually, every single X-ray dept (several hundred) in the UK releases a similar amount of radiation as a typical nuclear plant with no apparent outcry.

This, er, misunderstanding of the facts by the greenies has paralysed the government for fear of scaring voters. So we end up in the mire once again thanks to a combination of lying greenies and terrified politicians.

What we need is a bundle of nuclear plants. What we'll get, no doubt, is a rush of Russian-gas-powered generators.

I despair.

O

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Paris Hilton

Typical....

Just goes to show that this government needlessly interferes ins tuff it doesn't need to (and sibsequently f*cks it all up) and leaves alone stuff that it should have a handle on, and lets it slide.

Paris because she knows when to go down........

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Black Helicopters

Can't wait for the movie

Sounds like an exciting day for the power-bods.

So what happened? Virus? Network attack of some kind?

9 going down in sequence sounds very iffy to me.

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Slight correction

Although Longannet is capable of producing over 2GWe, much of the plant had been shut down for maintenance, so the loss was only about 350MWe.

Now will there be a baby boom in February 2010?

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Boffin

Re: Low Volts ---> High Amps?

Yes that is true for switch modes and what have you, but for straight online resistive loads, this would have a large net effect.

For AC motors, the torque would drop off a bit, so if the shaft is not heavily loaded, the shaft speed will be unchanged.

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Happy

Meany Greenys....

Seem to want us to move back to the dark ages (Sorry about the pun).

As above, shoot the lot of them. Then we could compost them for fule. That would be a green option.

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Anonymous Coward

@lIsRT

It be surprised if a server did that. A decent UPS on the other hand...

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Anonymous Coward

@lIsRT - PSU's

Decent computer PSU's are switching supplies that switch the input on and off loading up an internal capacitor to stabilise the energy available. (Approximately)

So, yes, falling voltage on the supply will result in more on than off on the switching however the total energy draw should remain steady.

Of course part of the reason for such high voltage transmission in the first place is that there is less loss in a high voltage/low current set up, so a falling voltage would actually make the entire distribution system less efficient. More of an issue that any number of PSU's.

The result of this will be that they "manage demand" by "putting up prices".

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Government Advisor

Ex advisor on again this moring on BBC R4 pushing Electric Cars and Nuclear.

What is the grandchildren going to do with decommissioning & waste?

Electric cars waste energy. Up to 30% grid loss and upto 20% charging loss. Diesel is a better bet.

What about the carbon / engergy cost of all the concrete for a NP station?

Yes SMPSU used in Servers, PC, laptop, TV, many chargers and almost every electronics and also CFLs etc, take more current to keep power constant. They may even lose efficiency and consume MORE power.

Only really filament bulbs, electric heating (Immersions, Washing, tumble driers) but often not the motors take less power.

Grid losses on SMPSU current is higher at lower voltage as the current is higher and grid resistance is the same P = i2 r

Coal but with better scrubbers and CO2 removal on stacks is best power solution. We know there is 100's of years. The Arabs have been estimating the same reserves fro 30 years which is a bit suspicious and appear to be past peak production unable to increase flow on most fields. North Sea is also past peak and I'm sceptical about claims this week of increasing its production.

Rising oil prices is good. The UK may have Tax on it too high, but USA has tax far too low.

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Dead Vulture

@Anonymous Coward "Disaster Area"

Completely the correct solution- I bet that the people who complain about nuclear/wind/hydro power being generated where a small moth once lived or anywhere that could be described as "picturesque" are the first to complain about this and shout about it being Gordon Brown's fault. The sort of people who'd drive their battered old bus up the whole of the UK to complain about environmental issues.

Maybe this will make people sit up and think "sod the conservationists, to Hell with the protestors. We're building wind power on hills, hydro power in moving water and nuclear anywhere where the fuel-supply/waste-disposal logistics would work. They complain, we roll out the army."

I mean this- security of power- is one of the few points where I'd imagine Reg readers would be in support of a forceful government.

My icon was killed by a wind turbine. And you know what, no-one cares since they've now got heating and refrigerated food-storage.

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Tinfoil hat time

No one's remarked on the fact that all these "coincidental" shutdowns have ramped the wholesale price of power up 35%. Very profitable, I'm sure.

I worked on Sizewell B back in the early 90s. It was a huge, and hugely prestigious, civil engineering project. The people who built it felt, and feel today, very proud to be able to say they worked on it.

The tragedy we face now is that if we wanted to build anymore PWRs like Sizewell B, they'd have to be built by foreign companies and foreign engineers. I suppose there'd be one or two jobs for the natives, as they'd need people serving in the canteen and the toilets would need cleaning.

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Geographical morons

If Sizewell B is in Suffolk then Longannet is in Fife. Conversely, if Longannet is in Scotland then Sizewell B is in England.

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9 all at once?

Even terrorists couldn't be that good.

I like the way the Scottish government rushed something through. Where the UK one takes fricking ages to do anything except vote on porn laws or things that are completely pointless.

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Greed > Strategic Provision

This failure is an easily predicted outcome of Electricity Trading schemes. In essence power generation equipment capacity will be configured to make a profit, not to provide resilience in the event of failure of someone else's machinery.

An CTO who permits a Data Centre to be constructed or refurbished in the UK without a full capacity UPS and Generator system should be fired and sued for negligence.

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Anonymous Coward

@ lIsRT

if i remember my physics correctly, watts = volts * amps. so if a server PSU is 300 watts, so in mathematical theory, this server running on 230 volts will consume 1.30 amps. now if the voltage drops, the amps consumption will rise. if the voltage were to drop just 10 volts to 220 volts, it's power consumption will increase by 0.06 amps. most computer and server power supplies these days are designed to run on both 230 & 110 volt mains, so they can be used across the seas in the states without changing PSU's. so basically these supplies should, in theory, continue running until the voltage drops below 105 volts. at 110 volts this server will consume 2.72 amps.

this is only theory though. most datacentres will filter voltage fluctuations as extreme at that and, more than likely, hop over to UPS/generator power supplies until the main feed returned to normal.

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Boffin

@Low Volts ---> High Amps?

yea when the voltage is dropped the current (amps) in the circuit increases, most modern equipment is happy to run on reduced voltages for a short time in my experiance, the problem tho is if your pulling bigger amps through a circuit you risk tripping the circuit's protective device (fuse or mcb) which in a home would only knock off a few things.

However it runs a risk of taking out a portion of the final grid since all the transformers are protected by fuses on the supply side

although im speculating on the grid since i dont know for sure>_<

my coats the one with the tester hanging out the pocket

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Coat

Ah! So that's how to do it.

<blockquote>Scottish politicians rushed through approvals for the station to be allowed to use gas if necessary in future, with one saying they were "lucky it wasn't cold".</blockquote>

Tory B Liar was all set to rush through a new Nuclear Power programme. Typically he hadn't thought it through.

They seem to have learned a thing or two since.

First kill all the thinkers. Then promote all the politicians?

<blockquote>One energy-market analyst, speaking to the Times, blamed lack of investment owing to years of uncertainty over government policy.</blockquote>

Isolate, compromise, threaten and abuse. Everyone has a weakness. so just kill all the experts adjust a meeting off ze Kommittee, pull a few plugs and you can do what you want; invade Iraq if you like.

Whose going to know the truth?

Besides a few dead Iraqis that is.

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re: amps/volts

Devices like computers, which have switch-mode power supplies that can adapt to different voltages, will indeed draw more current as the supply voltage drops, in order to maintain the same power output. However I would guess that this is pretty insignificant compared with the power draw of heating, lighting, cooking, big industrial motors etc which will reduce with lower supply voltage.

For a special case like a huge server farm which takes a significant fraction of the output from a particular substation I guess things might be different...

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Bronze badge

What a suprise

More UK government under investment. Of course you've got to hand it to them each time they get caught like this they manage to pass the blame to someone else or say it's for the sake of the environment.

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Fuck the envirotards

I'm bored literally shitless by the mentality we have in this country when it comes to sorting basic infrastructure out.

1. Ignore envirotards who are push abstinence rather than reduction*.

2. Acknowledge we're heading towards a problem.

3. Acknowledge that big windmills, tidal barriers and other such shit won't suffice.

4. Embark on a proper program of new nuclear power generation.

5. Allow a moderate PPP (emphasis last P) to achieve #4

6. Stop dicking around and make a decision.

*These people should simply be taken out to a land fill site and buried. They're one of the root causes of the problems we're increasingly facing - no solutions, only complaints; no understanding of the real world, only a desire to run everywhere bare foot. Indeed, they may be joined in the land fill by any politician who doesn't understand the basic tenets of energy security, and who believes their current term in office is somehow more important than the national energy strategy.

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Oh, mercy mercy me.......

This is just another area of the British infrastructure that this Administration has dithered, avoided discussing and pointedly ignored; the Government knows it will have to embrace nuclear power into the power generation map and that's going to alienate some core votes. Which is the last thing they want right now. Maybe, just maybe, they'll start to put the long-term future of this country ahead of their miserable backsides - but having seen the way politics has evolved over the last few years that's very unlikely. Let's face it, after the utter lies in trying to introduce retrospective taxation of motor vehicles just recently, would you trust them to get anything right?

I may well be alone here but I really do find the buying and selling of electricity and gas on an open market to be rather immoral. This isn't some optional commodity, it's an essential aspect of living. Why should any population be subjected to the whims of a few? Perhaps we'll only learn when the markets make power a luxury good out of the reach of the poor, the elderly and the socially disadvantaged - or has new Labour completely forgotten it's heritage?

Sir Christopher Hinton must be doing a triple twist with pike over all this nonsense.

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Black Helicopters

move to "sunny" Cheltenham... : Enron

no power cuts there... there's a damned great big "super secret" building there which requires lots of electricity...

and didn't Enron do a similar thing with the power supplies to cause rolling blackouts in California to ramp the electric price up????

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_electricity_crisis

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Anonymous Coward

Just poor regulation really

>>More UK government under investment. Of course you've got to hand it to them >>each time they get caught like this they manage to pass the blame to someone else

>>or say it's for the sake of the environment.

What do you mean government investment - the power industry (not including the nuclear,well not really) is privately owned.

Maybe the shareholders wish to put up the price of energy by not investing in new plant and making shortages of a commodity, whilst taking cash out of the industry by having nice big dividends.

Paris because she has loads of energy

Now that's a regulatory fault - so still a government problem, but where else would all the ex ministers and MPs go but to big business.

Perhaps all government employees above a certain grade should be banned from working in a related industry, on pain of imprisonment.

Now that would really stop all the ID card proponents, if there was no trough to stick the snout in once they leave government.

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Coat

Clarkson...

(like me) lives on the Isle of Man. Which, by the way, was providing electricity to the UK grid to help out when all this was going down.

Mine's the one with three legs.

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Tom
Coat

I just wanted to say...

1.21 gigawatts?! What was I thinking?!

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According to the Times...

According to an article in yesterday's Times, we can't be told exactly what caused these 9 "units" to fail at the same time because "it might have an effect on the wholesale price of electricity".

So what's next: "We cannot tell you how late your train will be, because it might affect our share price." "We cannot tell you if there is lead paint on your toys, because it is commercially sensitive information."

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Fuck the envirotards

Um, obviously it's a heated debate and all, but could we refrain from suggesting people with whom we disagree should be buried alive? Thanks. (And no, I'm not an envirotard, I'm just weary of comments suggesting Ultimate Solutions.)

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Paris Hilton

Re:- Conspiracy Theories

"And at the moment, if you want it to be relatively pollution free, then it'll have to be nuclear."

A nuclear plant can produce "relatively" cheap leccy for twenty to fifty years, with "relatively" little pollution escaping, as long as the plant is well maintained. It will stop producing leccy after fifty years max and will still release "relatively" little polution, for as long as the plant is well maintained. Great, except that someone will have to pay to maintain the plant even when it no longer produces leccy, and they will have to keep paying to maintain the plant for fifty to one hundred thousand years. That is longer then human beings have been recognisably human.

Still think they are a good idea?

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Anonymous Coward

>move to "sunny" Cheltenham...

I suspect the bloody big super secret building there has its own power supply when necessary anyhow, and probably won't use it to shore up the grid supply to Cheltenham.

@GremlinUK

The Isle of Man has a 2GW energy surplus?

What the hell are you lot up to over there?

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Pollution? Well it's nothing really

So a nuclear power plant has a waste problem now, has it? Well, how about the mountains of ash piling up just outside my back yard - there's a coal fired power plant not 300 metres away and they generate large amounts every day. How about the radon released when the coal is crushed and burned? Not to mention all the gunk scrubbed out of the exhaust so it'll only cause acceptable damage when it's released. To all the emotional little know-nothings busy having an opinion on nuclear power: shut your gob while the adults are speaking... Yes, I feel strongly about this. If we'd done it right from the start the Russians and Arabs wouldn't have the stranglehold on our wealth that we're busy handing to them ATM.

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Waste!

So, what is the plan for dealing with the nuclear waste then?

Stony silence.

Umm, let's leave that to our children to deal with...?

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Anonymous Coward

Nuclear Fusion...

<Rant>

Spend billions on researching Nuclear Fusion instead of wasting it on crap IT systems, implementing governance via the 1984 User Guide and buying big nukes to enter an international dick waving contest.

</Rant>

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@JonB

I never suggested the IOM had replaced the entire 2GW supply. Between the four power stations the island has about 135MW generating capacity, some of which can be exported through the 40MW capacity sub-sea cable to the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

nucleotards

How is possible to believe you have a valid point of view if (i think 3 examples so far), people who may hold an alternative view you propose to kill....?

It is not even rational that there are just two sides to this, it seems to be quite the thing for anti-environmentalists (for want of a better word), to try to polarise the argument - just because you want more wind energy does not meen you are a hippy and dont want nuclear.

I can see a positive benefit for using less energy and therefore needing less nuclear, but still having nuclear as a useful part of our energy strategy.

For myself, the obvious pattern with this issue and with the rising price of oil, is that the UK is too dependant on oil and energy consumption. If we could all use less energy and e.g. distribute consumables with less energy, we would not be so dependant on energy and so affected by the price of oil. I agree that the government should take more resposibility, but so should the individual.

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@ Nuclear Waste

We bury it in deep granite depositories, as various scientists and researchers have been saying for a decade or two.

Fill the depository with concrete cans for a few decades and then re-fill and seal the shafts.

We've got variants of concrete that last, unmaintained, for at least 2000 years (the Romans used it), so we know that it won't be a problem for quite some time.

By which time the 'mine' is buried under many hundreds of metres of rock.

Then, our children's great-great-grandkids can dig it up for useful bits - I have no doubt that there'll be a lot of by-products that our descendants will find useful, if a little bit dangerous!

The best long-term solution is actually to deeply bury it where it'll go into a subduction zone and be recycled into magma, but that's quite difficult to do as those are in unreasonably deep water, which is quite difficult to excavate.

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Dealing with nuclear waste...

"could we refrain from suggesting people with whom we disagree should be buried alive?"

At no point did I suggest they should be buried _alive_.

That would after all be rather cruel.

"So, what is the plan for dealing with the nuclear waste then?"

Package it up and fire it into the sun. Surely by the time its an issue the ISS loo will be operational and we'll have enough time to work out how to slingshot a bit of spent fuel someplace safe.

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Alert

Threat Level

Is there a website where the current power situation or warnings are published in real time so the general public can see what's going on? (Provided they still have a working computer of course, like a laptop/UPS)

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Die Hard 4.0

This happened in Die Hard 4.0 during the "Fire Sale", power stations going down.

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Unhappy

Coincidence?

While I was reading this, we had a five second brown out...

Didn't affect the laptop or UPSed server, mind you.

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@ Chris Walker

Firing nuclear waste into the sun is all well and good, bit of a problem when the rocket goes wrong as they invariably do.

Also another problem with nuclear (even though it is the best solution) is that we need Uranium from somewhere, and then just beholden ourselves to other foreign governments who are currently a little easier to get on with, like Nigeria.

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Stop

Nucleotards

Quoted from http://www.fraw.org.uk/mobbsey/papers/oies_article.html

'At the current level of uranium consumption (67,000 tonnes per year) known uranium resources (2.8 million tonnes of uranium) would last 42 years – a fact highlighted by the European Commission in their Energy Green Paper [EC 2001]. The known and estimated resources plus secondary resources (such as the military inventory), a total of around 4.8 million tonnes, would last 72 years. Of course this assumes that nuclear continues to provide just a fraction of the world's energy supply. If capacity were increased six-fold then 72 years would reduce to 12 years. This is because nuclear energy, in terms of global energy supply, must increase by a factor of four to eight to make any significant difference to the use of fossil fuels around the globe. Consequently the expected lifetime of the uranium resource would fall by a similar factor.

The actual lifetime of the uranium resource will depend upon the technologies adopted as part of any new nuclear capacity. New reactor designs are more thermally efficient (up to 45% to 50% rather than 30% to 35%) which could extend the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 1.7. Introducing a number of fast breeder reactors, to increase the efficiency of uranium consumption, might increase the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 2. Even so, taking these two factors together alongside a six-fold increase in capacity, the lifetime of the known and estimated uranium resource would still be less than 50 years.'

Yes, let's build lots of nuclear power stations. That's a great long-term solution.

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Burying envirotards causes problems

If you think of the quantity of envirotards buried in the local landfill, you're increasing the meat content of the pile. That will cause increasing numbers of pests etc. and probably dangerous gases released when they decompose.

You're also storing up a problem for the future, what if someone digs up those envirotard remains and gets envirofected? Then the epidemic will start again. People of the future will not have such good resistance to diseases from the past, considering that health and safety will mean they can't leave their houses without being cocooned in a rubber ball.

To show that I'm not an envirotard, I've got a solution. Use the same method we used for all those foot n mouth infected carcasses and burn them.

How about "envirotard fueled power stations". Solves 2 problems in one.

(I know it's a short term, unsustainable solution but I can't decide if I used to work for the goverment)

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@ Paul Smith, Adam

Yes, basically.

BTW, where did you get your figures from?

"fifty to one hundred thousand years"?

That, I'm afraid, sounds rather like envirotardal shite.

Adam, rockets do not "invariably" go wrong, just seems that way, although I do think that the idea of launching rockets filled with nuclear waste is a tad insane.

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