Winter of Discontent: Brits Face Power Rationing as Wind Power Output Collapses (again and again)

Brits expecting their thousands of wind turbines to deliver the goods this winter have been disappointed, yet again.

While Boris Johnson peddles his delusional plan to run the UK entirely on breezes and bluster, the typical (and wholly expected) collapse in wind power output across Britain this winter provides a taste of things to come.

Wind power acolytes run the line that their groovy ‘green’ product is free. But, Britain’s winter wind power drought, is a reminder that you only get what you pay for.

As the doldrums drove wind power output through the floor, the owners of what remains of Britain’s conventional, dispatchable power generators cashed in. Big-time! With the average wholesale price rocketing from £40 to £4,000 per MWh.

The obscene and endless subsidies siphoned off to wind power outfits – allowing them to undercut everyone else – have driven large volumes of reliable capacity out of the market, with more such capacity to be lost in the very near future, for the very same reason.

As Andrew Montford reports, this will not be Britain’s last winter of discontent.

An ill wind for hard-up electricity users
Conservative Woman
Andrew Montford
15 January 2021

LAST Wednesday the wind died, and Britain’s fleet of thousands of wind turbines mostly stopped turning. The engineers at National Grid had seen the problem coming: temperatures and wind speeds had been low all week, and were forecast to fall further. Their response was to issue a ‘margin notice’ – a warning to generators that extra capacity was going to be needed. Prices rocketed from their normal £40 per megawatt hour to over £100. Some held off taking this remarkable price, and when the grid still couldn’t balance supply and demand in the evening peak, were rewarded with even higher sums.

On Thursday, with wind speeds even lower, prices for balancing during the evening peak shot up again, reaching £1,400. By Friday’s peak, that figure had risen to a record-breaking £4,000.

Price spikes this high are a new phenomenon. They were never seen before 2016, but since then we have seen, on average, a spike to that level every couple of years. Now we have had two in a week and we came within a whisker of a third.

It is clear, as some have been warning, that the attempt to decarbonise is destabilising the UK’s electricity grid. For twenty years, governments have given renewables generous subsidies and preferential access to the grid. The economics of coal- and gas-fired power stations have been wrecked. It is hardly surprising then that these generators – the backbone of the UK’s grid – have simply left the market. We lost two gas-fired power stations just last summer.

Does this mean power cuts are inevitable? It’s possible, but it is more likely that money will talk. If the price paid is high enough, big power users can probably be persuaded to switch off for long enough to see us through any crisis. The result is likely to be a surge in electricity prices. Early adopters of ‘time of use’ contracts are already feeling the pain. With low wind again this week, customers on Octopus Energy’s ‘Agile’ tariff have seen prices per kilowatt hour rise from 14p overnight to 35p. For the rest of us, the pain will be delayed until contracts come up for renewal.

The middle classes will probably be happy enough to pay extra for power in the winter. They can cope with the hit to their cashflow for a few weeks, or even fork out £6,000 for a battery pack allowing them to take advantage of lower prices in times of surplus power. But, as always, the poor are left high and dry. For them, there is only the prospect of tightening belts still further.

And if the future looks dim now, how much worse will it be by the end of the year? During 2021, we will lose a coal-fired unit at West Burton and a nuclear one at Hunterston. The following spring, the Hinkley B nuclear unit will go as well. Imagine what it’s going to be like for Britain’s poorest on those cold, still winter nights in future, when everyone is expected to heat homes and power cars with electricity from the grid.

The BBC’s Roger Harrabin, observing the chaos last week, wailed on Twitter that ‘we need solutions’. Those of us who have been pointing out the foolishness of shifting to renewables while lacking any means of storing electricity – the people Harrabin has been trying to ignore for ten years or more – could hardly believe what we were reading.
Conservative Woman

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January 25, 2021 at 12:32AM

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