Is the European Commission Waking up to Electricity Consumer Pain?

From The GWPF

  • Date: 25/08/17
  • Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

Specialists have long known that the system management cost of even medium and certainly higher levels of non-despatchable renewable electricity, such as wind and solar, was no less important in magnitude than the income support subsidies required to motivate capital investment in the generating equipment. General awareness of this fact is now rising, and the wisdom of socializing those costs is under question (See for example, Jonathan Ford, “The Hidden Costs of Renewable Power” Financial Times (21.08.17)). When a problem of this nature is socialized it becomes nobody’s problem, and no one will address it, with all parties quite rationally preferring to sit on their hands and allow the consumer to bear the cost.

A very good example of this problem is found in the “constraint payments” to wind power in the United Kingdom, a subject that has been simmering away in the press since 2011, and has even stimulated the GMB, the energy workers’ union to issue a statement calling for reform (‘Renewables Should Be Funded Through Taxation’).

In fact such payments to wind are only the tip of the iceberg. – Payments to conventional power sources to start generating south of a constraint when wind is told top, general balancing costs, and grid expansion costs are all relevant. Uncontrollable generators introduce a substantial random element, an additional stochastic factor, into the grid balancing equation, and balancing costs are absolutely certain to rise as a consequence.

In fairness to renewable generators it is probably true to say that because of policies such balancing costs are much higher than they need to be. However, the renewables industry is in large part to blame for this fact, since they have done nothing to encourage regulatory changes that produce a market environment likely reduce those costs. Indeed the industry has resisted such changes.

That was a tactical error. Pressure is now growing to force these changes through, with even the European Commission recognizing that something has to change. A recent communication from the EC to the European Parliament, “Clean Energy for All Europeans” (30.11.2016, COM(2016) 860) suggests, obliquely as is ever the case the EU, that renewable generators will no longer be treated with kid gloves, and must expect increasingly to operate by the same rules that bind other generators. The statements require interpretation. When the Commission writes that “market rules will be adapted to allow renewable producers to fully participate and earn revenue in all market segments, including system services markets” (p. 8) they mean renewables can no longer expect to be shielded from the rough and tumble of the market place. When they write that “Priority dispatch will remain in place for existing installations, small-scale renewable installations, demonstration projects” (p. 8) they mean that new installations will not have priority dispatch, and must bid like any other generator. And when the Commission writes that “curtailment of renewables should be kept to a strict minimum” this remark must be seen in the context of the previous observations, and so interpreted as meaning that compensated curtailments within the market must be minimized and renewable generators must be increasingly responsible for their own presence in the market.

All this is very sensible, in so far as it goes, but whether any of it will be carried through into practice remains to be seen. One has to assume that the industries concerned are, lobbying strongly in Brussels to ensure that these reforms are introduced as slowly as possible and in as weak a form as may be. They will almost certainly have some degree of success.

Rapid progress is, unfortunately, not be expected, but there will be progress because there must. The European Commission’s own press release was entitled “Commission proposes new rules for consumer centred clean energy transition” []. The Commissions idea of a “consumer centred” energy market is probably not quite Milton Friedman’s, but it would be obtuse and ungrateful not to acknowledge that even the modest degree of rebalancing probably implied here is a step in the right direction. Producer interests have simply had it too easy for far too long.

Read the full article here:

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Javert Chip
August 27, 2017 6:08 pm

So…the cost of wind is increasing to internalize the cost of grid instability?

Michael Bentley
August 27, 2017 6:15 pm

Well, as someone said “The answer my friend is blown in the wind, the answer is blown in the wind.”

Reply to  Michael Bentley
August 27, 2017 10:17 pm

blowing in the wind – not “blown” (iirc)

Brett Keane
Reply to  ptolemy2
August 27, 2017 10:34 pm

Oh, it is blown all right, well and truly. Not before time.

Martin A
Reply to  ptolemy2
August 28, 2017 5:31 am


August 27, 2017 6:54 pm

It does appear that politicians and bureaucrats have little appreciation for the details of operating an electric grid, and apply moral judgements on sources to dominate both cost and grid stability. It is difficult to tell if the politicos have bought into green propaganda as to how practical “renewables” are and do not know any better, or know better and just do not care.

M Seward
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 28, 2017 3:48 am

These clowns appoint ‘experts’ to advise them what to do, preferably along the lines of some feel good ‘policy framework’ they have already indicated would be nice to get the credit for. The real problem though is that they do not even have the common sense to vet the ‘experts’ in the first place let alone the skills to actually do so. If you require an ‘expert’ you have a two fold problem. First, you are ignorant in the pareticular field which is why you need an ‘expert’. Second you do not really know precisely what ‘expertise’ is required and are not even able to choose an appropriate expert let alone a really good one who will give you well thought out, well articulated and sensible advice.
Methinks they are sniffing the wind, getting a whiff of a coming shit storm and are starting to use ‘grease words’ (i.e. weasel words with lubricant) in their public record.
This is just another sympton of the cult of managerialism.

Leo Smith
August 27, 2017 7:06 pm

The article is needlessly wordy.
A précis is as follows:
“Is The European Commission Waking Up?”

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 28, 2017 7:49 am

Not only that, but it is missing words. Much of the sentence construction is broken, with missing verbs and unclear subject. I have to assume that this was written by a non-native English speaker, or functional illiterate.

Reply to  Philip
August 28, 2017 12:51 pm

Wow, you’re a harsh critic. Having read far less cogent internet content, this doesn’t descend to anywhere near “functional illiterate” level.

Reply to  Philip
August 28, 2017 9:04 pm

It may be harsh, but I’m still trying to figure out what this says:
“In fact such payments to wind are only the tip of the iceberg. – Payments to conventional power sources to start generating south of a constraint when wind is told top, general balancing costs, and grid expansion costs are all relevant. ”
Now Mum was a Brit and Dad from Iowa, so I’m pretty good with both English and American… Grew up with Mexicsns, have Texan relatives, and the paricular German Influenced speech of the Amish, well, that was Grandma. The point? I’ve dealt with all sorts of strange English, just over dinner, and can decode most cultural shifts… Things like “The moggy is on the car bonnet” don’t throw me.
But I can only guess it is something like “payments to keep conventional on hot standby while wind is paid a premium” and some other stuff – all matter (to someone, somewhere, maybe, but for what?)
So while most of the article is readable to me, I suspect some regional dialect is leaking through…
An editor would help making it a more global English style.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 28, 2017 2:17 pm

Spot on.
The European Commission will probably not wake up until its members meet M. Guillotin’s most famous invention. [I assume he had others, but I do not know].
We in Britain will be well out – if necessary on a no-deal WTC-only job.
But I do not fancy being a Eurocrat – never mind a Euro-pol – when the solids impact the air-conditioning.

August 27, 2017 7:23 pm

The EU, a progeny of and like the UN, is inept. When it comes to renewable energy there are nothing but kings without clothes guiding countries into failure. The failures are too redundant to be accidental. The facts are being ignored for ideological correctness. Call me a conspiracy theorist.

Leo Smith
Reply to  markl
August 28, 2017 4:34 am

I don’t think the facts are exactly being ignored for political correctness. I think it’s more subtle and even more scary than that.
My conclusions is that the political elites don’t actually care what the truth is, just what narrative has traction with the Great Unwashed. The corporates don’t care what the truth is, just what narrative has traction with the Great Unwashed. The educated middle classes who might have been a problem, have been isolated by a Marxist like process of purging all except the politically correct from positions of power and influence in what are increasingly public sector jobs – education and academia, public sector broadcasting and a zillion QUANGOs that are there essentially to produce evidence for whatever policies the government decides are in it’s interests. And ‘rebel’ organisation like Greenpeace is rapidly infiltrated and then given government grants to stay ‘on message’.
And in our schools, there is no excellence, and no competition.
As some wag put it recently:
“Everyone gets full Marx these days.”
Why? Because they are scared. Scared of populations that are uncontrolled.
I wouldn’t be so concerned except that the extreme competence they show in controlling the popular mindset and political agenda, is only exceeded by the utter incompetence they show in managing basic security, crime, and the maintenance of vital infrastructure.
They seem to believe that because they can manipulate the public consciousness almost totally, they can manipulate physical reality by getting people to believe.
Sadly belief in renewable energy doesn’t generate any reliable terawatts..
Emperors without clothes, indeed…

August 27, 2017 7:25 pm

The Great Automobile Crisis of Europe 2020 through 2035.
UN, EU and local Green Policies merged into the greatest municipal and political catastrophe of the modern era. With the outlaw of combustion engines both diesel and gasoline Europe entered into a “Dark Age” of no auto-transportation. City Buses and Trains and Airplanes were quickly determined Evil and Prohibited by Law and Fines and Prison Sentences for the “guilty”. The “Government Preferred” means of public transportation became …. i.e. reverted to … walking. Bicycles were prohibited due to “Carbon Emissions” of the peddlers and vigorously enforces by police killings.
Although city and local police and national militias killed 10s of thousands, famine and disease escalated the death tole into the 100s of thousands per year. Even the ounce mighty Germany could not render enough soldiers to defend its boarders and was exterminated by Islamic forces in 2031. The British were delighted by the way.
Ha ha

Reply to  JBom
August 28, 2017 2:27 pm

A little extreme, some way suggest.
But the watermelons seem to seek a reduction in global population to below 750 million [and, it seems, in some cases, below 500 million].
The upper guess is (slightly) below 10% of current global population.
So. 90% must not be alive [“must die”] by their deadlne.
If 2300 – no immediate affect on those alive.
But if 2060, say, most of those over 40 will die – or be killed.
Many of those remaining – if not part of the elite [that the warmunists criticise (I use ‘polite’ terminology), but will themselves seek to be included within] – the non-elites, will be slaves or concubines.
Not a warm, feely outlook.
Remind anyone of Stalin?

August 27, 2017 7:29 pm

Wow, I’ve been reading some out of discipline papers on orbital mechanics in Russia that were easier to grok then that.

Reply to  Jeanparisot
August 27, 2017 8:15 pm

“To go faster, slow down. Anyone who understands orbital mechanics knows that.”

Reply to  Bartleby
August 27, 2017 9:54 pm

Do we have a Larry Niven reader on our hands?

Matt Bergin
Reply to  Bartleby
August 28, 2017 2:45 am

Hivemind I am definitely Larry Niven reader particularly if he is working with Jerry Pournelle

August 27, 2017 8:01 pm

Most politicians and bureaucrats have poor knowledge the struggles of low-income families in coping with increasing prices aimed at reducing the World Temperature by about .01 of a degree C. They also have little idea about operating an electricity grid, and apply fanciful and vacuous judgements on power sources and grid stability. The politicians have drunk of the Kool Aid and think that “renewables” like solar and wind are going to be large scale sources of power at increasingly lower cost, operating both day and night, calm and hurricane, with cheap power storage, located on tiny land areas.

Reply to  ntesdorf
August 28, 2017 2:38 am

Far too many politicians have faith that their magic powers that they were bequeathed by the voters will enable whichever laws they may write to over-ride and amend/nullify whichever laws of nature that need to be amended/nullified in order that they can then have public policies that have the use of perpetual motion if and when it is needed to be able to “sustain” operations. Hey, do the laws of physics need to be changed? Well, here we go…….

Leo Smith
Reply to  ntesdorf
August 28, 2017 4:36 am

Politicians have not drink the koolaid. They were responsible for its preparation.

August 27, 2017 8:22 pm

Thanks Charles. It seems like a step in the right direction anyway.

August 27, 2017 8:23 pm

As with most retrofits on a fundamentally flawed system, any changes, if they do happen, will miss the mark, whether intentionally to support the industry, or unintentionally due to ineptness.

Gary Pearse
August 27, 2017 8:53 pm

Once you have to have an analyst to translate what Government policies mean, you can see that the governed have no say on who governs. In the EC, voters vote in a national government but are governed by a central bureaucracy that answers to no one. The long drift of right toward the left, took away choice. The same destructive policies are crafted by all parties. It was politically engineered by marxbrothers who patiently climbed to the top in theUN and its off spring the EC.
It also quietly took over boards and management of world institutions including universities. It’s why scientific societies promulgated strong CAGW/CO2 /renewable stances that were not widely supported by members.
The all consuming objective of the unabashed anti-American UN was to break down the politico-economic establishment in the USA. Democrats admired the European new world and were ripe for becoming useful idiots, and swamp dweller Republicans over time shifted leftward to join them. Don’t forget, it’s the worldly well ‘educated’ effete (the ones who call everybody else Deplorables) from which the useful idiot is drawn.

Roger Graves
Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 28, 2017 2:23 am

The one ray of hope I see in Europe is Brexit. The EU is essentially moribund. It is an organization controlled by a non-elected bureaucracy that is completely out of touch with the people it governs. As a result, the EU is on a downward death spiral and will eventually break up, probably rather messily. By getting out now, Britain has the possibility of recreating itself and redefining its place in the world.
There is a similar situation in the US. The latter has been governed for the last twenty years by an ingrown clique who listened only to a politically correct echo chamber and ignored the growing pain of much of the electorate. Donald trump is the United States’ equivalent of Brexit. He is attempting to pull the US out of the quagmire of complacency in which its previous Administrations left it. I wish him luck.

Jaakko Kateenkorva
Reply to  Roger Graves
August 29, 2017 1:19 am

The one ray of hope I see in Europe is Brexit. The EU is essentially moribund. It is an organization controlled by a non-elected bureaucracy that is completely out of touch with the people it governs.

Brexit a ray of hope in Europe? Yes, I see: a non-elected house of Lords and Malthusian Monarchs, ‘climate scientists’ from MetOffice and the BBC will influence only a few of the islands, instead of the whole Europe.
EU moribund? Hopefully not, more like clogged under decades of Malthusian sedimentation. Perhaps a former prime minister in good graces of the EU parliament, like Juncker, can make sense of it in the EU. But draining chemist Thatcher’s cAGW legacy swamp at the UN is a herculean task, even if the UK islanders party fought only one war at the time.

August 27, 2017 8:58 pm

Cheap, reliable abundant, DISPATCHABLE energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple.
Any grid-connected intermittent system like wind or solar power that requires almost 100% conventional backup is grossly uneconomic, and also tends to destabilize the grid.
When politicians fools with energy systems, real people suffer and die. That is the tragic legacy of false global warming alarmism.
We have known these facts for decades.
Allan M.R. MacRae, P.Eng.
PEGG, reprinted in edited form at their request by several other professional journals , The Globe and Mail and La Presse in translation, by Baliunas, Patterson and MacRae 2002.

August 27, 2017 10:04 pm

Personally, I think the author is being an optimist. If you need an advanced degree in reading between the lines, maybe there really is nothing written there.

Jerry Howard
Reply to  Hivemind
August 28, 2017 8:19 am

Experimentation with Molten Salt Reactors using Thorium as fuel began right after WWII, but were largely shelved in the US – probably because they do not produce, as a by-product, fuel for nuclear weapons.
With current concern over both energy production and environmental safety, is Thorium Reactor technology a legitimate goal or wishful thinking. I would like to hear opinion of more knowledgable WWUT readers.
Article this morning:

August 27, 2017 10:24 pm

No no nooo – this is all wrong! Electrabel is already too cheap to meter here in Europe. Because of all the super-cheap wind and solar.
(But we did have two power cuts in Brussels yesterday.)

Reply to  ptolemy2
August 27, 2017 10:27 pm

Electricity, not “Electrabel” (sinister corporate spell-checking.)

Patrick MJD
Reply to  ptolemy2
August 27, 2017 10:38 pm

Obviously trying to flush out rouge chokky, waffle and friets and mayo (I miss Belgiam fries and mayo) shops. Lets not worry too much about IS terroism so much.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Patrick MJD
August 28, 2017 4:07 am

But don’t you dare taking the piss out of Manneken Piss!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
August 28, 2017 11:46 am

Friets and mayonnaise – 15 years in Belgium and I still cant get used to that.
So I pin my anglosaxon colours to the mast and go on ordering ketchup.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
August 28, 2017 9:14 pm

Proper fries are sauced with vinegar and salt, naught else… (side of fried fish optional 😉

Robert from oz
August 27, 2017 10:25 pm

On the subject of cost is this jem I just came across , solar thermal almost just as good as coal for producing 24/7 baseload power .

Mike McMillan
August 27, 2017 11:32 pm

Still raining in Houston. Tree frogs are singin’ in the rain.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
August 28, 2017 6:20 am

Looks like the bulk of the rain is moving away from Houston, for now.
But even without more rain, they are going to have to open up some of the overflowing dams and that will increase the flooding in Houston.
What a mess! You have to feel for all the people losing everything they own. Texans are tough though, they will come back bigger and better than ever. I guarantee it.

Nigel S
August 28, 2017 1:05 am

Junker (a.k.a. Drunker) is more likely to be waking up with a headache. At least UK won’t be paying to fill the drinks cabinet in a year or so.

Reply to  Nigel S
August 29, 2017 1:33 am

Juncker presumably is a.k.a Junker. Respects to EU Commissioner Jonathan Hill for drawing the right conclusions and resigning already well over a year ago. But looks like security will be required to escort the rest from the EU cabinets to the exit. Even Nigel Farage, long missed at home.

August 28, 2017 3:00 am

Well, I think this is because of a backlash from poorer eastern bloc countries. They need the gas and electric to stay alive in winter more than most and the idea of paying 100% (or more) more for it, based on flimsy correlation to global temperatures and CO2, is not really a winner on the domestic scene.
This is a phased in approach by the EU and they will be assuming that renewables are going to be able to hold their own. The tricky situation is what happens when they realise it can’t compete on an equal footing.

August 28, 2017 3:47 am

Betteridge’s law of headlines

August 28, 2017 3:53 am

Politicians speak a language of vision and hope. It is purposely vague and designed to preserve deniability. Electric systems operate upon the language of mathematics bound by the immutable laws of physics. In short, we are mixing oil and water in the arena of public policy.
For me, I would prefer that the renewables folly continue (in Europe) so we can experience a crisis. For without the hard consequence of failure the Utopians will continue unabated.

Bruce Cobb
August 28, 2017 4:01 am

The EC cares only about the EC.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
August 29, 2017 2:19 am

What do you mean? European Commission or the European Council? The former is supervised by the European Parliament, directly elected by the citizens, and the latter is represented by the heads of the national governments.
If you mean the EU, then yes, it cannot be the social security for the whole world. Therefore, not only the British, but the Commonwealth nations will have some choices too.

August 28, 2017 6:24 am

The EU should do what my State has done and stop paying subsidies to windmill farms. My State’s legislators are also considering taxing windmill farms just like they do any other business.
Let the free market decide if windmills are viable or not.
Of course, the alarmists can’t do that because they have no fall-back position. It’s wind and solar or nothing for them. They have lost touch with reality.

August 28, 2017 7:46 am

Sure, right after it wakes up to the public health effects of its diesel (soot)-loving policies of the past.

August 28, 2017 8:01 am

So what I get from this; the rules says blah-blah-blah, and the wonks have to translate them for us; but then it is probably one if many possible translations, none of which are really in human-speak.

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