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PS to my post below.

Re Mr Smith's suggestion that additional gas plant might not be needed at all and my question about what would then happen if we were relying on wind for 15% of our needs and one day (as now) there was no wind. That would be bad enough. But how about the potential for Murphy's Law applying and a conventional plant failing at the same time - as he says is a possibility? Is the UK sleepwalking to disaster?

Apr 7, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Thanks, Brownedoff. And I thought I'd add a comment to my earlier post.

Overall, it seems to me that, despite Richard Smith saying it's important not to be complacent, his comments display lamentable complacency. He talks of how we handled "similar pressures" in 2000 and 2002. But surely the situation then was not remotely similar to that faced today: a substantial proportion of our conventional plant being taken out of service and replaced by unreliable wind power? Then there's that "mothballed" CCGT plant: it seems 4.2GW of potential power generation is unavailable "for a variety of reasons" and "some" "may" become available. That doesn't sound at all convincing: what were the reasons for it being taken out of service and how much much is really likely to become available? Surely modern plant is the only safe bet? And, in any case, some fraction of 4.2GW cannot be enough to meet our predicted needs in 2015/17. He even suggested there may not be a need for additional gas plant at all. Was he serious? If one day quite soon (when wind is providing say an average of 15% to our power requirement) there's no wind, what's to happen without backup? And this morning's experience (see Phillip's post at 8:19 AM), demonstrates the hollowness of his claim about the "phenomenally good" wind forecasting system. (Not that a good forecasting system would be of much help if there was nothing to fill the gap when the wind didn't blow.)

Yet Mr Smith is NG's head of energy strategy and is presumably giving advice to government. No wonder we've got problems. Or maybe he's right and we've completely misunderstood.

Apr 7, 2013 at 11:29 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Apr 7, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Robin Guenier

Re: Richard Smith - Head of Energy Strategy at the National Grid

The other day on NLP I suggested that, when the margin approaches 4%, windmills will be permanently disconnected so that what little power is available can be supplied to the peasants on a rolling "lights on for a short time" basis.

However, I now think that assesment was wrong, because it seems that Richard Smith will disconnect the peasants first and often in order to give priority to keeping the windmills connected so that Dave's father-in-law and other subsidy farming troughers will have uninterrupted supplies of cash.

Trebles all round.

Apr 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff
Tactics used in lobbying

Apr 7, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

Apr 7, 2013 at 9:09 AM | stanj

Perhaps our resident expert Brownedoff has an explanation.

I deny being an expert - I spent many years f*rting about in power stations so I know what most of the specialised words really mean, but when they are tortured in order to support some insane "solution" to save the planet, particularly by the perissodactyl mammal holes which infest the Met Office and more recently National Grid, I come forward with an alternative view.

The other day when wind was doing 5GW for a "long" time, it was noticeable the CCGT was down by about 5GW for the same period. Coincidence or constraint?

Coal capacity is down from about 27GW on 30 December 2012 to about 22GW today, a substantial drop in a very short space of time. It is likely that the operators were maximising their revenue over the final few weeks of operation - it will be interesting to watch coal-fired production over the coming months.

I am aware of the urban definition - expert: "a has-been squirt under extreme pressure". I will accept being called a has-been (I am a pensioner), but squirt is more of a dribble and there is absolutely no pressure on me at all.

Apr 7, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

But ... but, Phillip, surely you've got this wrong? After all, as Richard Smith - Head of Energy Strategy at the National Grid - put it in a recent interview: “We've managed these things in the past, and managed them quite well.” In particular, he points out that the accuracy of the NG's new wind forecasting system is "phenomenally good" and, anyway, he says, "wind is more predictable in some senses than conventional power sources like coal or gas. A traditional power station like a nuclear plant could "trip and fall off in a matter of milliseconds".

Apart from all this, he notes that we probably don't need to build new CCGT plant either as the large number of gas plants currently mothballed could be brought back into service. (See this report: paras 191 and 192 on page 52.)

So that's OK then - nothing to worry about. As commentator Thurston says:

High time that more public authorities like Richard Smith, Slingo, the Met Office and the National Grid raised their profile, gave more public interviews such as Smith's to Carbon Brief, and countered the tsunami of cack & lies served up by right-wing papers on the topic of climate change & energy.

Have you got that, Phillip - "cack & lies"?

Anyway, wind's contribution has increased - to 88MW.

Apr 7, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Philip, I was looking at the same figures and was having similar thoughts; tomorrow could be the first day that we see low wind output coupled with the newly-reduced coal output. Last week coal seemed to peak around 17.5GW when before you'd see 20+.

I was also looking at the annual coal/gas/nuclear output chart on gridwatch and was struck by how erratic gas usage has been since early December - very spiky;supply issues maybe? Perhaps our resident expert Brownedoff has an explanation.

Apr 7, 2013 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterstanj

The ability to forecast how much wind power there will be is once again on display. For example, for the 30min period starting at 7.30am, the initial forecast value was 406MW, the latest forecast value was 216MW and the outturn was 87MW. What more can one say?

Apr 7, 2013 at 8:19 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Yet again, on another cold morning, all those thousands of wind turbines are producing a measly 0.3% of our electricity. Coal is again producing over 50%. It's a good job it's a Sunday so that demand is low. What happens when that 50% from coal is not available? I'm sure Mr Potato has a cunning plan.

Apr 7, 2013 at 8:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Andy Revkin of Dot Earth/NY Times blog is inviting questions to be submitted to the authors of Marcott et al. (2013). Since Revkin is one of the only journalists who might have a chance of getting the study authors to be responsive, this is a good opportunity.

Specifically, he's asked for someone to prepare one list of questions which are "perceived as unanswered."

Folks could start a list here at BH to post at Dot Earth, or simply post questions/points at Dot Earth until we have a good list.

submit questions on Marcott study to Dot Earth/NY Times blog

Andy Revkin Dot Earth blogger

I'd like to recruit someone to assemble the list of questions that are perceived as unanswered.

April 6, 2013 at 4:43 p.m

Apr 7, 2013 at 4:35 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

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