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Dead calm

Yesterday it seems that National Grid had to invoke its emergency procedures as outages at coal-fired power stations and an almost complete lack of a contribution from the wind fleet led to generation margins falling to dangerously low levels.

Given that the weather is very mild at the moment, this is worrying to say the least.

Wind remains very low this morning, although it looks as though it will pick up later in the day.

Interesting times.

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Reader Comments (48)

Not even cold yet, a fortnight of sub zero, with a blocking high will really bring some chickens home to roost.

Nov 5, 2015 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Between 4 and 6 last night, as they tried to bring on the reserve to cater for the clapped out broken stations, we experienced at least 3 brownouts in the East of England. It's fine for the lights, but complex electronic devices like routers and TVs all reset and go on standby, which is a pig. I told the family that this sort of thing will become common over the next few years.

Nov 5, 2015 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Interesting times indeed, though - erm I'd have to say - [just been discussing the same (above) with my ma'] these are very worrying times for her, Bish'.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

6,500 large turbines...890 MW at 0901am Thank you Miliband, Clegg and Cameron.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward


....we experienced at least 3 brownouts in the East of England...

I wonder if there's a site which is presenting outages and other problems with the UK electricity supply?

It would be nice to record this, otherwise it will just be ignored and forgotten...

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

In the middle of the critical time period wind was only generating 249MW

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Wind still at 890Mw. Only managing to supply nearly 3% because demand is below 30Gw.
Lop a couple of degrees off the temperature and the UK could be in trouble.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

These messages are very timely.
We will immediately blow harder.
Thank you for the message.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

Wind 2.9% right now. Was sitting at 1% for the last couple of days.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Audley

As far as I can tell, Gridwatch has not been updating properly since about midnight, so today's figures may not be accurate (or is it just my version).

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJim Ross

The Guardian report on this is tucked away in UK news and includes the revelation :

Severn Trent sold power to the National Grid at £2,500 per megawatt hour during the afternoon, industry sources confirmed, compared with the typical price at that time of about £60.

........I can't see my electricty bill getting cheaper anytime soon !!

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin

"Interesting times" is the understatement of the year.

It's a good job our 8GW of solar capacity (approx) works well in the dark. When it reaches 20GW by 2020, with advances in technology it will no doubt work even better in the dark. And by then, no doubt, wind turbines will work in calm conditions.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:48 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

If I had a conspiracy theorist sort of mindset, I might think that someone at the National Grid triggered this event in order to draw attention to the situation before it is too late to do something about it.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

By the way which INDEPENDENT outside body did the BBC webnews choose to turn to for reassurance on the blackouts ?
"many experts have dismissed these concerns.
There has been one generation-related electricity outage in the past 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit."
..that'll be Top Alarmist and ex BBC guy Richard Black's outfit.

The BBC thinks that Green-Dream is the UK state religion and forbids any criticism of it
..that is how we ended up in this mess

-Meanwhile on The Climate Alarm and Green policy side the True Believers record seems to be about
** managing spend the most money to the least effect **'ll be the same in Paris

There's a good comment on NotaLotOfPeopleKnowthat warning not to get carried away with panic about diesel back up cos it's not that dirty or inefficient anymore ..though obvios large shale gas powered power stations would be better.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The only way the mass-market public will really understand the true degree of government negligence regarding national energy policy will be when multiple or extended blackouts occur in freezing cold conditions, with consequences felt across the land. It won't be pretty.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

Apparently solar capacity will exceed 9GW by the end of this week.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:20 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Autumn watch last evening showed Robin Rigg offshore array as the BBC and the RSPB attempted to exonerate wind turbines and vaguely blame shooting for bird deaths on the migratory flight paths of the Solway Firth.
No mention was made of the shifting sands upon which Robin Rigg was built, nor of the collapsing towers that are being frantically addressed by the massive floating cranes presently on site.
In biblical times people were advised that sand would prove to be a very poor foundation, advice it seems that has been ignored by green graduates.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterroger

Mad Greens are probably thinking : "Last nights problem wouldn't have happened if we'd already closed down Scunthorpe and the last of the UK steel industry"

(Actually Redcar steelworks powerstation is still operating and probably feeding energy into the grid)

@Roger Yesterdays Malaysian newspaper waxed lyrical about Scotland's forthcoming MAGIC floating windfarms

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Robin Rigg is interesting. Turbine installation was only completed on 31 August 2009 and already 2 turbines are being decommissioned. 20 year life? Really? Source:

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

This was all so predictable, and was predicted on this site and others, and by journalists such as Christopher Booker.

The list of Collaborators in this life threatening farce is long, including almost all politicians, the BBC, Guardian etc.They have all tried to shut down debate and demonize people with common sense.

In the run-up to Paris, who are they going to blame?

In the carbon-free fall-out , post Paris, who are the public going to blame? The French can luxuriate in a nuclear powered winter. Britains will freeze in a nuclear free winter.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Despite all the headlines I suspect this is closer to the reality of what is likely to happen in the future. We may get brown outs and may be blackouts if a key generator fails (can happen as yesterday demonstrates) but there is reserve. It will get interesting if due to a failure the reserve has to morph into a primary generator for an extended time.

The STOR does not get mentioned directly nor the reliance on diesel generators. Rumour has it they are ok from an emissions perspective and they have developed software to verify that using computer engineers recently laid off from the German auto industry.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

"Dead Calm" was an excellent film. When the power goes out I should have enough power in my laptop battery to watch it again after I light the coal fire because my central heating will be unusable.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

By coincidence, yesterday I downloaded wind generation data from Gridwatch for the past 12 months. Fell below 1 GW for total of 29 hours, below 500 MW for 10.6 hrs, below 200 MW for 1.5 hrs, and below 100 MW for 9 minutes.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterSensorman

Of course it couldn't have happened without the Thatcherite privatisation of the industry and the consequent end of the CEGB's plan for a new PWR every year - or indeed of any energy plan whatsoever. Those chickens came home too. Blind dogma from whichever direction is plain dumb!

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

At the Gridwatch site the Monthly Nuclear/Coal/CCGT/Wind and Monthly Demand charts look interesting to me. This week has seen a markedly higher electricity demand than previous weeks but weather forecasts have consistently said the start of November has been uncommonly warm. What would cause this increased demand? The only thing I can think of so far is the end of half-term holidays? Lights will be on a lot more perhaps, and maybe after 3 days of increased demand the system ran out of puff.

Further to that if you look at the chart for monthly interconnector figures you can see we've had some large and sudden reductions through the French interconnector which presumably didn't trigger this kind of warning in those instances.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Got my numbers wrong in post above: the Gridwatch data is in 5 minute blocks, not 5 second. So it was 1761 hours under 1 GW, 639 hours under 500 MW, 94 hours under 200 MW and 9 hours under 100 MW.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterSensorman

At least this issue is getting some attention in the press. That will help awareness with Joe Public as to the madness of the present energy scheme (which is not the legacy of Thatcher unlike the above commenter suggests, although I share his concerns as to whether nationalisation of an essential utility was the right thing when it is impossible to create a genuine free market in its place).

See for example:

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

As I said in the Lords on Tuesday, interconnectors "are not much use in in managing the variability of large renewable fleets because, as John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation pointed out to us, wind speeds are well correlated across Europe: a calm day here is usually a calm day in Germany. At 3 pm today, for instance, I looked up how much electricity was coming from wind in this country and in Germany: 1.4% in this country and less than 1% in Germany."

Nov 5, 2015 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt Ridley

It won't be pretty.

It never is. That applies to all Green/Left policies. They have to run their disastrous course until the general disgust and discomfort rises to such a level that these infantile narcissists are eventually unhorsed and skewered. Then we have to count the damage.

What happens with climate policies in the UK, also happens with refugee policies across the EU, and everyone here can think of dozens more examples.

TS Eliot put it thus:

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

But of course global warming means an end to cold winters ;)

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

What happened to the mighty STOR? Have the diesels all been recalled..?

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

They've been talking about capacity and reserve and comparing it to the past but aren't they now counting the renewables as main capacity? Whereas in the past we only needed a small reserve for the unexpected, aren't we now much more likely to call on the reserve beause renewables regularly go out of service?

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Well - I'm really puzzled - because in an e-mail exchange with a DECC officer a few months ago, he assured me that: 'The wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK...'

So - that's alright then...

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:37 AM davidchappell

Thank you for the link.

There is an piece from 9 October on that website giving the background to the decommissioning:

It seems that in tying to cure a problem with the grouting of the foundations, the bedrock has been damaged "beyond possible remedial works."

A construction problem that finished up in court.

If they are careful dismantling the windmill, it is possible that they could re-plant them nearby in the same farm, or take them somewhere else to keep troughing.

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

I had a power cut from about 3:45pm until about 5pm yesterday (4th Nov), in North Wilts. Got to be related hasn't it?

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

The US has solved the dead calm problem by adding gas and diesel powered motors to its windmills, which keeps them spinning even with no wind. This also avoids the problem of flat spots developing in turbine bearings when they are sitting idle. Of course, the added cost and machinery means that the fossil-fuel energy required to build, maintain, run and dismantle a turbine exceeds the energy it produces over its lifetime. But hey, that's a small price to pay for green energy jobs and high crony payouts to well-connected windmill owners.

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeW

Increased demand probably due to the clocks changing, lights and heating needed earlier in the evening.

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

One wonders how much gaming of the system there will be in the future. Whenever margins are tight there will be the temptation to have an "unexpected outage" of a generator or two, and then when NG calls for more power at astronomical price, the units will suddenly be available again.

Nov 5, 2015 at 1:54 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Re 'gaming system' this is exactly what happened under Enron in California - that worked out well.

Plus, afaik Servern Power is a common garden CCGT 700mw plant - with new owners... There's a reserve of OCGTs that should be used in emergency...

I think we're (all) getting game'd here!!!

Nov 5, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterGaznotprom

@Jamesp: They are probably made by VW!!!!

Nov 5, 2015 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Someone asked who would be blamed? Apparently JamesG has the answer: "Of course it couldn't have happened without the Thatcherite privatisation of the industry ...."

Ohhh, ha ha ha he he ha ha ohhh .........

Thatcher and privatisation in one fell swoop!!!

And here's me thinking that it is because of: damaged science; the demonisation of CO2; the artificial fear of CAGW peddled by the IPCC; extreme green activism; and (current) politicians jumping on the bandwagon.

The reality of course is that with legislation like the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive, and Labour's 2008 Climate Change Act, and massive subsidies directed to "Renewables" UK governments in the last 15 years (so Labour Conservative and LibDem) have grossly and one-sidedly interfered with the market.

Left to their own devices the UK power industry would have opted for new Gas, the cleanest, least polluting, most reliable option, and one of the cheapest, whilst running down Coal and Nuclear. Instead, electricity generation in the UK is centrally controlled by EU and UK government politicians - there is no free market. Our current predicament has nothing to do with either Thatcher, or privatisation.

Nov 5, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

I wonder whether National Grid , DECC etc have taken into account the condition of the remaining coal fired power stations when assessing generation capacity. The owners are not investing in long term maintenance when they are facing imminent closure or an uncertain and limited future market. This will result in more unscheduled downtime, some of it terminal.

Sadly the king has no clothes and he about to really feel the cold and his subjects will be rather upset.

Nov 5, 2015 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpen

Matt Ridley 12.43, the problem with the French nuclear electric connection, is that if France has a shortage, they will stop exporting immediately.

French authorities have a track record of not intervening to reduce the misery of others, if it puts French livelihoods at risk. There will be Gallic shrugs of indifference towards their EU partners, irrespective of contractual obligations.

Under the artificial shortages created by Green FrackTwits in the UK, there is no reason for the French to feel sorry for the British.

Nov 5, 2015 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

At the moment the UK has a very scary mix of free market competition and random government interventions, giving us the worst of both worlds, high prices and a looming shortage of supply. For gawd sake, if the country needs another CCGT then bill payers should just stump up the cost of construction, a bit more central planning please, a bit less enticing of those precious investors.

Nov 5, 2015 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

"If I had a conspiracy theorist sort of mindset, I might think that someone at the National Grid triggered this event..."

Is it not more likely to be someone in one of the conventional power stations?

It completely enforces how much we rely on them and how little we can rely on ruinables.

Nov 6, 2015 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Mikky, It is central planning that has got us into this mess in the first place. The government (EU and UK) has fallen for the CAGW scare big time, so has specifically directed, from the centre, the plc generators to abandon reliable generation for "Renewables" by using legislation, taxes and incentives. Moreover a large chunk of your electricity bill and mine supports the green blob in the style to which it has become accustomed - essentially this is theft protected by the big stick of central government.

Nov 6, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

All that and.....Thatcherite privatisation.......which ended the CEGB plan to build new nuclear like the French and stupidly made a monopoly of the national grid who are now the new Enron.

Left to their own devices the CEGB would have opted for gas AND new nuclear. No amount of false chortling can change that absolute fact.

And lets not forget that Thatcher had a big hand in the CO2 scare by establishing the Hadley Centre, presumably in order to demonise CO2 as yet another excuse to get rid of the miners. Wihout Hadleys alarmism the IPCC would have withered on the vine.

Nov 8, 2015 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

JamesG, The CEGB could only have done what you claim without the existence of the climate change laws instructing it otherwise. You have in fact made my point. And of course all the climate change legislation was enacted by administrations (inc Labour for 13 years and the EU) well after Thatcher lost power quarter of a century ago. So whether the businesses are technically owned by the government or by plcs, it's the politicians who say jump, and the businesses who say 'how high'. As ever.

Nov 8, 2015 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

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