back to article Stand by for more big, windfarm-driven 'leccy price rises

The National Grid has released a report into the way things are headed for the UK's electricity supplies in the coming decade, and it's not good news for anyone who finds their 'leccy bill to be a noticeable expense. No matter what happens to fossil fuel prices, British electricity is going to cost a lot, lot more in the near …

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Holmes

Yawn.

British consumers get shafted again.

Ok, move along, nothing to see here.

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M7S
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I found this bit quite illuminating

"the grid said it could not cope with the surge of power from wind farms and will have to switch off turbines to avoid overloading the power transmission networks"

So in simple terms, the grid, who have no enviro-political axe to grind, can't use them when it's calm and can't use them when it's too windy. Short of putting a small turbine on the top of each chimney stack to take advantage of the relatively steady flow of hot gases from the fossil burners, are these things any good at all for on-grid use?

Dont get me wrong, I'd love them to be the solution and would have one in my field or on my house (vibration issues permitting) if it would do the job (either on- or off-grid) but it's such a shame we've neglected things like tidal mid-sized geo-thermal for this.

The DT article, which I think you have referenced, is here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8573885/Wind-turbines-switched-off-on-38-days-every-year.html

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Mushroom

Investment in storage

I think part of the requirements for ROC and FIT should be storage. Can't supply a steady flow to the grid? Sorry, less money.

I can't think of another industry where you get paid for overstocking. You don't get to the checkout of the supermarket to be told 'we ordered too many loaves of bread today, you've not bought one but we're going to charge you for one anyway so we're not out of pocket'.

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Happy

Or...

work on setting up the smart power grid between the UK and Europe and sell the energy that way...

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Indeed

It is a system that only a career politician or quango bureaucrat could have thought up. Utter shite.

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Anonymous Coward

pay for overstocking

You do pay for overstocking and waste from every industry. It's factored into the price you pay for all the items. Even if a company finds a way to reduce cost, the price will typically remain the same so the company can increase their profit margin.

You pay for the store lights that are left on when no one is in the room. You pay for the AC that goes out the propped door while an employee is smoking. You pay to pick up the parking lot where someone else dropped their trash. You pay for the gas in the delivery trucks that run their engines while parked. You may be paying for me playing on the internet while I'm at work.

Anon... for the last reason, obviously.

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In your dreams

But that will be ready when and at what cost?

It won't be much good if the weather across most of Europe is the same on any given day (which, surprisingly, it often is).

No, the problem is inherent in wind power and most other renewables. I'm sure that in the future it will be possible to store the power somehow. But at the moment it's a liability.

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Facepalm

there's already plenty of potential storage

Existing dams in Scotland are capable of handling storage sufficient to take wind electricity up to 40% of UK demand. For the most part you don't need to pump water from one mass of water to a higher one, though that is part of the story. The other part is uprating the generators on existing run of the river hydro dams and allowing the water level to vary more. There are costs concerning repurposing these hydro dams and in respect of extra grid capacity. But that is before you need to build new dams or look at using spare wind electricity for splitting water into oxygen and stored hydrogen etc.

http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/03-04/wind/content/conclusions.html

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FAIL

@copsewood: No, there damn well isn't.

You know this if you'd actually read the study you linked to, rather than just the conclusion page.

That study is actually saying "We might be able to build enough pumped storage if we used every single possible location in the Scottish Highlands"

It completely ignores the environmental cost of doing so, the local outrage (you want to do WHAT to the loch?) and greatly simplifies the massive additional north-south interconnect infrastructure it would need, and the monetary costs of building everything.

In other words, it's a typical short study done by postgrads.

It's interesting, and I hope the guys who wrote it got good marks because they do deserve them - but it should not be considered the general 'green light' that you appear to think it is.

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Stop

Easy answer

Scrap the ROC's and subsidies.

The renewables industry is not about saving the planet - it's about hoovering every last penny from the pocket of the taxpayer.

If it is viable the industry will survive - if not then we are better off without it.

I notice nuclear appears viable without the subsidies....

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Re; I notice nuclear appears viable without the subsidies....

Erm, not exactly. The power stations themselves were built by the government - not private enterprise. So we aren't paying for ROCs but they certainly required public investment. As always, the Register goes on and on about renewable subsidies as if public funding for power is an exception rather than the 100% norm.

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Sadly..

The simple fact is no renewable/green energy source will be viable when stacked against a modern CCGT plant. The only way to go green is to subsidise it!

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@Bassey

That was true for the last generation of nuke piles - where the government had a vested interest in a secure source of plutonium.

The current generation being built by Eon?

I believe no subsidies are being paid for nuclear, after all the green lobby hasnt thrown a hissy fit about it's not fair! they also get hand outs!

If I am wrong then I will accept the correction.

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Anonymous Coward

No initial subsidy for nuclear

but the cleanup costs once the power station closes are to be met by the tax payer - these could be astronomical.

This was the trade-off - Govt gets to say nuclear power plants will be built without subsidy, power generating company get to make money selling leccy and in 50yrs when everybody has forgotten the original deal our great-grandchildren can help pay for the cleanup...

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Facepalm

Useless company

E.on? Bloody hell I hope not.

E.on are the most useless company I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to deal with. I’ve seen things dead at the side of the road with better customer support and business efficiency than that bunch of losers.

I’d fear for my life if someone gave them a load of plutonium.

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not sure about

I have been talking to somone in the decomishing industry and the new genration of nuke plants do not have astrronomical clean up costs

the current gen do but they where built as test plants and wepons genrators and so they have complex clean up. But the new gen desines and easy to clean up and I bleave the ones in the US put asside a little form each MW they sell to pay "cleanup insurance" to cover decomishing costs

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Nuclear subsidies

Not sure what the front end subsidy situation is, but nuclear power plant developers contract with the government to supply electricity at a guaranteed minimum price for a guaranteed period, i.e. they are subsidized, just not up front.

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IT Angle

Power to the people

or not, as the case may be.

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Anonymous Coward

This will please the NIMBYs.

Time for Thorium based nuclear?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8393984/Safe-nuclear-does-exist-and-China-is-leading-the-way-with-thorium.html

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Coat

Thorium based reactors are far less advanced,

in development terms, than almost any other form of renewable energy and have the twin downsides of fuel importation and environmental threat.

You may not be advocating them but there are far too many folks out there in the world, who should know better, who are.

We have perfectly serviceable, (comparatively) well developed, 24/7, ecologically appropriate, renewable energy systems, in the form of wave and tidal power and solar furnaces that, if connected to energy storage systems like gas compressors or electrolysis systems, can deliver 'clean' energy at comparable prices to nuclear and yet we persist with completely bonkers 'nuclear power '.

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Really?

"We have perfectly serviceable, (comparatively) well developed, 24/7, ecologically appropriate, renewable energy systems, in the form of wave and tidal power and solar furnaces..."

none of those systems are able to provide more than a fraction of the power necessary to for the grid and certainly aren't up to scratch if you consider the price/kwh.

"Thorium based reactors are far less advanced in development terms."

Well maybe if they pumped as much into researching thorium reactors as they did into ridiculously expensive windmills we'd all have nearly infinte free 'leccy by now

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Sure. Renewables are a panacea

except when the sun goes down or when the wind stops -- or, as we've learned from Mr. Page today, when the wind goes too fast! If you want Goldilocks power for your space heater when it's cold outside, that's fine I guess, but don't expect everyone else to be just as foolish.

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Hydrogen storage

When we dont need the 'leccy direct from the twirly whirly things why not use it to crack water to produce Oxygen and Hydrogen?

Dump the O to the atmosphere and store the H.

Doesn't matter if its 'efficient', as storing anything is more efficient than nothing. Storage tanks could be inefficient and bulky, who cares, it can sit inside the tower.

Either burn it on site in mini generators to provide power to the grid, or take a tanker round once a week to move it to a big generator.

You can refit Ford Focus engines to burn Hydrogen, nice little compact generator for when the wind isn't blowing.

Mines the patent.

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Mushroom

hmm

Can't see if as inefficent as it would be using energy that would otherwise be lost, but you'd need a big wind farm and the hydrogen equipment would need to be capable of running with variable voltage and able to shut down where there is no leccy.

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Facepalm

Patents already taken

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind-Hydrogen_Hybrid_Power_Systems

http://www.nalcor.org/assets/nalcorenergyrameareport_january2010.pdf

Wow, 3 wind turbines with attached hydrogen-storage infrastructure (backed up by diesel generators) can probably power 34 homes! Now just sit back and wait for the royalty cheques to flow in. Just don't forget to watch out for invisible hydrogen gas fires.

Too bad it makes paying producers to dump the excess power look cheap in comparison.

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Mushroom

Re: Hydrogen storage

How big would the tank need to be for any useful amount of storage and how much of an exclusion zone would you need around it in case it ever exploded?

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Hydrogen tank size

Wakipedia has the numbers for energy storage densities:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density#Energy_densities_ignoring_external_components

Liquid hydrogen: 10.1MJ/L

Compressed to 700 bar: 5.6MJ/L

Atmospheric pressure: 10.79kJ/L

http://www.withouthotair.com/ has the capacity of real pumped storage facilities like Dinorwig: 9.1GWh

To store the same energy as Dinorwig, you could fill a cube 14.8m wide with liquid hydrogen (Imagine 7 floor tower blocks built side by side into a cube). Compressed hydrogen would require an 18m cube. At one atmosphere, the cube would need to be 144.8m wide.

This is the energy as 2 tons of TNT. Lewis is the explosives expert. You will have to ask him what you can blow up with that much TNT.

Remember Dinorwig provides the extra capacity to boil kettles during the adverts. It does not power the country for 5 cold calm days in a row, or store the proposed surplus energy from windfarms on a windy day.

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@Flocke Kroes

Thanks for that - maybe I should have spent a few moments calculating that myself, it is a lot smaller than I had imagined.

As for the 2 tons of TNT, youtube has plenty if videos of 2000lb bombs, equivalent to 500kg of TNT approximately for an idea of what that would do. So, big hole, but not that big.

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Hydrogen -> Methane

And why not then convert from hydrogen to methane.

Sure it is even less efficient use of the energy, but we have this massive distribution network already in place and power stations that can use it when required.

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Don't confuse

the readers with forward thinking.

Most El Reg readers seem to believe that the only possible energy solutions are the ones from the 20th century.

If you start mentioning clever new stuff, they get frightened. And then they downrate you.

There are some entirely practical physical storage options for renewables which make a damn sight more sense than relying on gas from our Russian BFFs, or radioactive ash-spewing coal from somewhere outside the UK that is going to gouge prices whenever there's a cold snap.

But everyone here knows these options are UnPossible, so there's no point trying to talk about them - if only because it gives the Reg an excuse to post yet another misinformed and splenetic Lewis rant.

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Stop

Batteries, not hydrogen

Because its three times less efficient than just using car batteries.

Dump the "excess" electricity from wind into car batteries (electric cars). They've sitting there idle most of the time(*). Voila. Storage and non-wasted electricity. I wonder why no ones thought of that? oh, thats because Its the Whole Plan.

Generator to drive train, losses in power lines, batteries mean 69% of the power from a generator ends up in usable power in electric vehicles. If you use Hydrogen storage instead, that drops to 25%.

El Reg keeps going on and ignoring the rest of the re-invention of the grid: storage, "smart grid", electric vehicles .. how come?

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*Sigh*

Flow batteries. Such as Vanadium redox battery. Go look it up. I think development on this is based on European Technology grants.

A lot of big infrastructure development work depends on Government grants so to complain about the tax payer subsidising research is a bit .. well I normally like Mr Page's articles but .. a bit ignorant.

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Stop

"in case it ever exploded"

Chemist much? What are you talking about? Hydrogen has no more tendency to "explode" than any other fuel. They all "explode" when you mix them with oxygen and ignite, no sooner.

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Simple Question.

Why are you people doing this?

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Trollface

Well

I assume its the "in thing", personally if people want to say about being more green they should live in a log cabin and live off the land. I hate always being told I should drive a greener car, but when they drive their prius at 90MPH on the motorway I don't take them seriously.

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Domestic or commercial first?

Rather than fitting expensive new smart-meters to every house, and fitting every fridge and television with a remote off/on switch, wouldn't it be better to target commercial users first? In most shops and offices, we'd barely notice if the air-con went up by 2°C for a short period. Whether that's sufficient to make a difference, I don't know.

How predictable is the wind? At present the grid is able to forecast demand spikes (e.g. when everyone switches on their kettles after Corrie); couldn't it also forecast supply shortfalls, and prepare the backup power? Seems easier than reaching into everyone's home and fiddling with their ovens. But yes, the whole thing is a ridiculous expensive charade.

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah that will work....

Commercial use of power by shops running air con isn't that much. Beside which if the temperature in the shop goes outside of certain boundaries (depending up the shop) then the shop could be in breach of regulations covering the working environment. If the lighting is switched off then the customers have to leave (health and safety and liability issues). If the tills go off then they cant sell anything.

Its industry that is the big user of power and they need a stable supply. A ten minute power outage for a production line can result in hours of work to get it going again. Of course companies in this situation have back up generators that run on diesel so cutting power to these to save on CO2 emissions will result in even more emissions

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Wind

"How predictable is the wind?"

Around Westminster? Very.

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Wind loading

depends how big and smart your grid is. If your grid is tiny and stupid, wind is a bad idea. As the size expands and load balancing becomes more intelligent, drop outs become less and less of a problem.

An integrated renewables policy might even use other sources, including hydro, hot solar and tidal.

But perish the thought that the UK might actually build a grid that could almost totally independent and self-sustaining. It makes so much more sense to rely on the good will of friendly foreign powers like Russia, Iran and the Saudis for our energy needs.

So let's just ignore the fact that it becomes physically impossible to buy gas and coal during a cold snap, and that the UK has nearly no strategic storage capacity for either, and pays some of the highest spot prices in Europe as a result.

Let's ignore the fact that the deregulated energy companies are profiteering pirates who are only interested in shafting their customers and only do investment when forced to.

Let's also ignore the fact that the UK's nukes have been underperforming for years now.

See e.g.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/power-cuts-feared-in-uk-nuclear-plants-crisis-951810.html

No, wind is the only technology that doesn't work as advertised - because it's designed and promoted by hippies, tofu knitters and girly men.

Every other energy technology used by the UK runs at 150% efficiency, never taking a break, outperforming all rational capacity estimates, cuddling seals and kittens in its spare time, and practicing for its star turn on Britain's Got Talent.

Right. And good luck getting dealing with reality if you really believe that - because when the usual sources fuck up and you're left in the dark, you're going to need it.

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Anonymous Coward

Quote mining

Lewis, on your first page you wrote,

"During periods of minimum demand, renewable generation output is likely to reflect prevailing weather conditions rather than price signals ... it will become increasingly necessary to restrict the output from wind generation onto the system to ensure sufficient thermal capacity is synchronised to meet the technical requirements of operating reserve ..."

The original said (emphasis mine on the missing parts),

During periods of minimum demand, renewable generation output is likely to reflect prevailing weather conditions rather than price signals. WHILST THE COINCIDENCE OF HIGH WIND OUTPUT DURING MINIMUM DEMAND PERIODS WILL BE INFREQUENT, it will become increasingly necessary to restrict the output from wind generation onto the system to ensure sufficient thermal capacity is synchronised to meet the technical requirements of operating reserve. Under this scenario it is estimated that it may be necessary to curtail wind output on about 38 days per year by 2020, ALTHOUGH THE COINCIDENCE OF HIGH WIND DAYS WITH LOW DEMAND PERIODS MAY ONLY BE 3 TIMES PER YEAR.

Any reason for missing that part out, other than it not saying what you wanted it to say?

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No - Just getting to the point

Try reading it again carefully: It's saying, for operational reasons, they estimate they'll need to curtail wind output on 38 out of 365 days. So for 10% of the time we'll be paying the wind subsidy farmers compensation for NOT taking their output - during which periods we'll be paying the backup conventional suppliers top dollar for their output - so we'll be paying twice.

And this is only the high-wind case - at low wind periods we'll again have to pay top dollar for the conventional back-up suppliers - who will also expect compensation the times they're NOT generating due to wind availability.

And all this is supposed to prevent bad weather right? What a complete farce.

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Mushroom

Great.

Thank you, green windy hippie-types, for instigating this horrendously expensive farce. I hope your horseshit-powered eco-homes stay toasty warm in the winter while the rest of us can't afford our electricity bills.

Never though I'd want more nuclear plants....

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Mushroom

@Bilgepipe: Want more nuclear plants?

I hear the Germans and Italians will be holding a fire-sale of theirs soon....

Pity they don't relocate ...

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Pirate

RE: @Bilgepipe: Want more nuclear plants?

"I hear the Germans and Italians will be holding a fire-sale of theirs soon.... " Perfect reason to build those cables to the Continent and lots of nuke stations, then we can make money out of selling electricity to meet the shortfall involved with those expensive green principles. Otherwise the Fwench will become the new electricity Saudis of Europe

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Quote Mining

@AC14:02

Thank you for some clear comment. From the style of article it seemed clear that Lewis is making a bid to be a Fox-style commentator, and your clarification confirmed it.

While it is true that wind power brings its own problems, the alternatives are not too good.

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@Quote Mining and followups

Thank you, saved me some typing.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: I don't know who Lewis thinks he's helping with this kind of "reporting", but he's not: it's just too easy for people with open eyes and open minds to pick holes in.

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Gimp

Missing something...

Like the decades worth of pissing about by the Government and the utilities companies on this issue. Forget the leccy side of things, our bills were going to go up because no one has been investing properly in electricity so we are going to need to build everything at once at huge cost. All that past privatisation of the electricty supply into a series of local monopolies stinks and we are now paying the price for under-investment and the profit motive shown by those greedy co-oporations.

Wind power can be used, it is just not really what the grid wants which is a lot of nice, stable and consistent power. Using wind for commercial use is probably viable as large industrial estates could use nearby wind farms to subsidise their electricity costs during the day and just tap into the grid when they need to rather than all the time. In the event of over-supply, such as outside of working hours, they could sell that to the grid. This works as it allows companies to reduce costs, thus selling stuff to consumers/business cheaper. That leccy can then be shoved into the grid during consumer peak hours when people are heading home after work.

The consumer market is basically an in-competitive market. Consumers need leccy to suit their lifestyles. Taxing them just for having to use leccy when they get home doesn't give them any choice of when to use the leccy. Working hours are what they are and consumers can do sweet sod all to change that. Higher prices for peak demand just means more profit for the utilitiy companies. This market just needs a stable, always on supply that peaks in the evening unlike commercial which peaks during the morning/day. Wind/Storage will not address these issues at all.

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Abject fail there - you might want to read up on what National Grid actually does.

The National Grid is not some amorphous blob that you can throw stuff onto and pull things off whenever you like.

They work *extremely* hard to balance everything out.

Right now, they have a very smooth 'base load' that's basically all of industry and office working - most industry and almost all offices have a pretty stable use pattern.

Then you have domestic use, which is a very large number of very small users who spike up and down continually - however, all these spikes are very short duration, and it only becomes noticeable when a very large number of these users spike together (kettle after Corrie is the usual example).

The biggest *possible* single domestic 'upspike' is 23kW (zero use to 'about to blow your 100A supply fuse'). The biggest likely would be taking a shower or turning on the oven - 5kW or so.

Now, even a small industrial user is in the MW range, and places like steelworks and car plants are in the multi-gigawatt.

Consider what would happen if many small or mid-sized industrial users often (and only semi-predictably) bounced on and off grid at pretty much the same time as their wind power plants took over, then dropped the load (due to under or over wind-speed)?

As their publication says - The Grid can cope with a few of them. It can't cope with a lot of them.

And that's before you start to consider that the Grid will have to pay these wind power suppliers to *stay turned off* fairly often due to the idiocy of the contracts the Government have put in place.

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Seems to me...

the problem lies not with wind farms (which are a fine technology when properly applied), but with the Renewables Obligation Certificates system. You're basically making it expensive to use a technology that should be dirt cheap to run with that system.

As for renewable energy, it's been pretty well proven that it can work on a large scale. Freiburg, Germany is all the proof I need to know that renewables are viable. The first step to actually making them worth while is to shut the scaremongers up. We're running out of non-renewables quickly. By 2020 we'll really be feeling the strain globally if we don't embrace renewables.

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You don't sit on the fence do you...?

That's quite a worthy rant you published there, right up there with J. Sweeney's scientology rant (ahem, maybe not, Sweeney may have had a point).

So, renewables are costing more and conventional powerplants are being disadvantaged to make way for renewables. That's been the bloody policy from day one. Make conventional power more expensive to give renewables more of an impetus to see investment directed its way.

And yes it does work. Solar panels have reduced in costs to the point that they match peak-hours prices in the US. And they've not even started.

Storage, surges, disconnections of turbines? Under present conditions yes. But turbines with an average lifespan of 40+ years could be operating in a wholly different world. As soon as Electric cars become more widespread, expect to see them participating actively in load balancing of the network. The potential of EV's to act as balancers is tremendous. Better reliability, lower costs, better resilience.

I'm not a tree-hugger by any stretch of the imagination and I too think the plan is a little ahead of its time. But hey, we must look into adapt for the future. And the future is EV's in most cases.

As for oil-fired plants, tell me that you believe in your heart of hearts that we don't have better uses for oil other than setting fire to it.

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