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« On capricious government | Main | Quote of the day, shameless edition »

OMG moment

This from the FT's coverage of yesterday's power shortages.

Traders watched in amazement as prices surged, with the grid paying £2,500 per MWh to one operator, Severn Power, as it bought in emergency supplies; the usual going rate is around £60.

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Reader Comments (29)

Hi from Oz. Don't worry, this is just the start of your winter. After a few of these windless windmill induced brown outs (or worse), the traders will no longer be amazed, they may be just planning which luxury car to buy with their bonuses. Poor old Blighty, I'm sooooo glad my parents emigrated to Australia in the '60s!

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBoyfromtottenham


Obviously they didn't emigrate to South Australia where the government (such as it is) is repeating all the errors in the UK. Close coal fired station, don't build gas plants, get lots of wind turbines, solar is marvellous, batteries are miraculous etc. The latest brain? wave is self driving (driverless) electric cars - although given that Sth. Australian are the worst drivers on the continent, the last might be some improvement, if only they can find the electricity to run them.

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Enron time - but didn't global warming eliminate winters in the UK?

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Green capitalists must be rubbing their hands with glee. They get the lunatic fringe to close power stations, thus creating shortages, and massive hikes in prices.

Unprecedented shortages, will create unprecedented price rises as solar and wind combined, produce nothing.

Jeremy Grantham has to pay Bob Ward and the London School of Economics with more than hot air. This is the payback for those that shared his dream of exploitation. Such a worthy cause, with so few beneficiaries to share the spoils of mass economic misery. Will Bob Ward get a Christmas bonus?

Nov 5, 2015 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"Our system suggest that Severn Power 10 just saw an offer price of £2,500/MWh at 147MW (~1/3m per hour)"

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPMT

This is how Enron stole billions from Californian consumers. Cut down capacity and charge the mugs a fortune when there is a shortage. Global warming was supposed to be the the same game


Enron officials later expressed elation at the results of the Kyoto conference. An internal memo said the Kyoto agreement, if implemented, would "do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States."

No longer on Washington Post website, republished here

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I had this letter to the Editor in The Scotsman yesterday 4 November
"I Note the universal welcome from environmental groups in The Scotsman 3 November to the consent granted by the Scottish Government to a floating wind farm outside Peterhead. I do hope that this development will generate more power on a regular basis than that produced by wind turbines already installed in the UK. To the best of my knowledge we already have more than 10 GW of so called installed capacity in UK with nearly half in Scotland. Since the publication of this article I have been looking at Gridwatch (UK National Grid Status). Monday evening at 22.15 wind provided 0.67 GW (1.87%) towards a total demand of 35.85 GW and today Tuesday at 13.30 wind provided 0.46 GW (1.13%) of demand totalling 42.39 GW.

Looking at the whole month of October, Wind has been hovering around a couple of GW apart from a spike at the beginning of the month and the last week, but never exceeding 5 GW. So we have a situation where coal/gas and nuclear have to provide the vast bulk of energy and within that, we have periods where all the wind farms might as well not exist. The shortfall is made up of nuclear energy from France and Holland. Long may it continue.

Factually wind will never provide a guaranteed supply of energy and the more we install at subsidised prices the more expensive it will be for the tax payers and energy users as the back-up provision will have to be increased as well. It does not matter how many wind turbines that are installed, there will be periods when they only provide a totally insignificant share of our energy needs and it becomes a choice between blackouts or a full backup provision. Furthermore, the increasing energy costs caused by subsidies hit the poor harder through fuel poverty.

Solar provides no answer to these problems as the energy is provided mostly when demand is lower and as the energy is not dispatchable (cannot be stored), this form of energy only creates an even greater requirement for back-up provision.

Because of the requirement for constant back-up it is doubtful if wind and solar provide any reduction in CO2 emissions. Even if there is a small reduction, it is infinitesimal compared to global emissions with China and India in particular set to build even more coal fired power stations."
I was surprised they published it.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

Complete and utter madness.

B.Liar, Millibrain, Potato Ed and the absurd Bryony Worthless have lots to answer for.

A dishonourable mention for Troffer Tim as well.

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"Children just aren't going to know what dependable power is. Uninterrupted electricity for a few weeks will be a rare and exciting event!"

Nov 5, 2015 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterterrymn

'Green capitalism': a new paradigm of sustainable production or a licence to shut down plants and print money? Basing this article on excerpts from his recent book, James Heartfield looks at the case of Enron, an influential pioneer in increasing profits by cutting output

'Of course companies that sell climate change solutions stand to benefit as greenhouse gas emissions come to bear a price tag' - – Daniel Esty Hillhouse, Professor of Environmental Law, Harvard University

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

John Peter, well done to you and The Scotsman!

The Greens will now launch a smear campaign against The Editor, if they follow the normal predictable gameplan.

If only the climate was as easy to predict.

Much like Scotlands unsuitability for dependence on wind and solar. The SNP have a great opportunity to show the rest of the EU, that they have grasped the concept of power.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The thing we all have to remember is that there are clear relationships between, first temperature and electricity demand, and second temperature and electricity generated from wind. Unfortunately in the UK those relationships go the wrong way.

The days when it is coldest are the days of greatest electricity demand. They are also the days when wind generates the least power. And this drop-off in wind power produced is not just by a few percentage points: in some cases it collapses to a tiny fraction of its typical level.

Those turbines really are very convincing chocolate teapots, that look great sitting on the shelf but not so good when really needed.

Nov 5, 2015 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK


I'm sooooo glad, your parents didn't know it all - Bruce.


Bullets zinging hither and thither, sniping from a distance is esmiff, you may have a valid point, the corporate world; its firms and green hedge funds, international law firms, insurance scam merchants and fraudsters, investment bankers, have in the past and now again stand to reap in $£€Trillions, it's true. All done, aided, facilitated, manipulated all with overt and conspiratorial government fashioning ex the; USA, UN, EU, UK, Germany, France et bloody cetera. What with, a new emissions limitations treaty - shunted up in the pipeline [or so they hope] to be wheeled out at that meeting of empty vessels - the gabfest in Paris come December or so.

So OK, Yeah, we get it but what is..................... your solution?

I go for, Britain to tell the world to Foxtrot Oscar and smartly, to go for lecky from burning coal and lots of it, gas should be set aside only, for primarily industrial usage, manufacturing, household heating and cooking appliances. Therefore, not only would the nations constituting Britain, be able to return to cheap [er] and plentiful energy supply but it would also have the added in benefit of precluding the aforementioned profiteers out of a very considerable fortune and how satisfying would that be? Finally, not least, because it would torpedo the green mania below the water line and that would be an ecstatic conclusion and closure.

Nov 6, 2015 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.
Nov 6, 2015 at 1:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

Yep John Peter's letter above is in the Scotsman today 4th letter down the page

(403 so posted via proxy server)

Nov 6, 2015 at 2:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen2

Here in Australia the max price is A$10,000 / MW-hr; this is regularly paid during summer peak periods.

Wotcha complaining about?

Nov 6, 2015 at 3:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterWally

The book. Right up Bishop Hill Boulevard !

Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance by James Heartfield

A polemic against 'Green Capitalism'. James Heartfield accuses the 'Green Capitalists' of profiteering over climate change and other environmental scares. Green capitalists like Zac Goldsmith and Al Gore are manufacturing scarcity to boost prices. The technological revolution has removed scarcity from most of our lives, but the green capitalists are trying to re-invent it.

Chapters on 1. The age of plenty, 2. The retreat from production, 3. The green capitalists, 4. Manufactured scarcity, 5. Green consumerism, 6. The economy of wasting time, 7. Green imperialism, 8. Environmental economics, 9. Green socialism?, 10. The unnatural limits to growth

Nov 6, 2015 at 4:44 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I have a problem with the concept of 10% of vehicle being 100% electric (Leafs and Teslas).

It's similar question to the one I have asked of environmentalist friends for years and has now been answered, what do you do for power when there's no wind at night at slack water? I knew the answer but it has been made clearer to them.
This is mental arithmetic so could be wrong.
There are about 35 million vehicles on Britain's roads. !0% is therefore 3.5 million of which 60% will be on charge every night, say 2 million vehicles. if each requires 100kWh of power, that's 200 TWh say for 18 hours is 10TW demand per hour, where's it coming from? Every house will need a Solar PV array and a 150kWh battery pack when they buy a 100% electric car.

Nov 6, 2015 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The privatisation of the national grid had a lot to do with it too. What a stupid idea to make a private monopoly of the energy middleman! Of course they were happy about the running down of the energy supplies. As with Enron it's the ideal position for middlemen to make money. They'll do exactly the same with gas supplies now too.

And yet another sceptic prediction comes true. Alas politicians have green cheese for brains.

Nov 6, 2015 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Ever since the ERM debacle I've noticed that the city of London - which was supposed to be a UK success story - often acts against the best interests of the UK. The traders cannot hide their huge smiles and the rest of us pay dearly to keep them smiling. The idea of selling off our energy supply industry is here:
"Still, the lights haven’t gone out. At least that’s what an MP told Dieter Helm a few years ago when he was giving evidence in Parliament. People warned there would be blackouts the previous winter, the MP said, and there weren’t. With unusual passion, Helm put him straight. If you define the problem as the lights not going out, he said, you misunderstand everything about the way the new world of electricity markets works. The ideal situation for private electricity firms is one where there is only just enough electricity to go round. Then they can charge as much as they like, and people will have to pay. ‘People think insecurity of supply means will the lights go off or not – but that is not the issue,’ he said. ‘It is what happens just before the lights go off.’"

Nobody can say that this came as a surprise. Dieter Helm told them to their faces!

There is a base load at night that is otherwise wasted because nuclear and a lot of coal plants don't operate efficiently if they are powered up and down all the time - hence their output is largely constant day or night. So up to a certain point cars can be charged for free during the dead of night. The cut-off point is open to debate but it is not coming anytime soon. The bigger problem would be the fast charging points that local councils are starting to install in town centres. Because of their randomness, they'd have to be very carefully metered to avoid big trouble.

Nov 6, 2015 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"Green Capitalism" is an oxymoron. They are not green nor are they capitalists. They are parodies of environmentalists and capitalists. And the "green capitalists" have played us for morons for allowing the great swindle to take place. The only green they care about is the money in the wallets. Their state imposed top-down financial structures are more reminiscent of the USSR than they are of real capitalism. And the financial soundness of their enterprises are no better than some failed state planned disaster on the scale of the enterprises that led to the destruction of the Aral Sea.

Nov 6, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"Traders watched in amazement as prices surged, with the grid paying £2,500 per MWh to one operator, Severn Power, as it bought in emergency supplies; the usual going rate is around £60."

By "with the grid paying..." they mean "with the taxpayer paying..."

Nov 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

I don't think that baseload covers 3.5-4 million purely electric cars. Especially in 10 years when coal have been removed from the grid. Base load is in 10s of Mega Watts range and recharging 2 million of 150kWh car batteries overnight is Terra Watts. I am assuming a modest increase in battery performance and the greater range being utilised. Rapid charging 100s of thousands of of vehicles during a cold winter's day is another potential disaster.

The same environmentalist friends who used to look at me with a "does not compute" look when I asked about the no wind no sunshine scenario have the same look when asked this question.

Nov 6, 2015 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Well electric cars won't reach that number of sales for a while yet will they? Daytime electricity is the urgent problem for now.

However, the original MacKay-inspired DECC plan was to increase electrical capacity so that transport and home heating would then be decarbonised by electric cars and heat pumps. That electric power was to come mainly from new nuclear. Of course that doesn't look too likely now because they had to rely on the big 6 to build those plants and they have no incentive to do it unless bribed. Even if we want to set up a new nuclear body to do it then we face the fact that we have no money to do it - unless a lot of other things are scrapped like HS2 and Trident - and that it is too late now anyway.

Nov 6, 2015 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Nothing that wasn't known, but conveniently ignored in 2009:

Nov 6, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Time to make the taxpayer price for green energy visible? We have an example of how to do it in Finland, where a web-site counts the subsides to be paid by the government to the wind energy companies by every second, day, month and year:
The website is only available in Finnish but you get the idea due to the visual design.

Nov 6, 2015 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPethefin

Nov 6, 2015 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I think that your calculation is erroneous. Generally, a battery is charged at about 3 to 8 amps, since high amperage damages a battery and reduces its life expectancy.

My dad had an electric car for years, and this was just plugged into the wall socket with a 13 amp plug, so it could never have received more than 13 amps ie., 3kWh.

It seems to me that the maximum nightly charge (say 8 hours) would be 24kW but it seems to me that even that figure is probably too high since the running costs of an electric car would be quite high unless one had off-peak electricity, and charging a battery at 13 amps (on regular basis) would be damaging such that I doubt that more than 15kW is used.

That said, the point that you make that this will put a great deal of additional demand on the grid, and that domestic solar cannot cope is a sound point.

Nov 6, 2015 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

I formed the view early on that a large part of the AGW agenda was to make first world economies less competitive with the newly (bank) created eastern economies

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Who says we can't pay for new nuclear?

National savings could offer an Index-linked Savings Certificate, or a batch of these. Paying a few percent above base, they are always over subscribed when they come out, usually selling in days.

A 'Nuclear build' certificate could be issued each each year maturing in 5 or 10 year.

We would have enough money to start planning and building right away.

Not enough engineers?

Just offer some of the above money to the retired engineers languishing at home who would love to be part of a 'wartime - build at any cost' effort.

New people (physics students and apprentices) can be skilled up alongside the skilled and experience people.

We have the core already.

We have Nuclear submarines, in use, being serviced and maintained. We have our civil reactors being serviced and maintained. We have our reprocessing centers, research centres and our weapon centres. We have many hundreds of nearly retired and newly retired who could be incentivised to stay on / come back.

All it would require is someone with vision (and knowledge) and commitment from the government and we will be underway...

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

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