Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Climate advocates are celebrating that Britain nowadays only switches on coal sometimes, like during severe weather. What is less funny is that someone has to pay for the upkeep of those coal plants when they are sitting idle.
UK passes 1,000 hours without coal as energy shift accelerates
Revival of last eight coal plants when ‘beast from the east’ hit Britain proved to be brief
Britain has been powered for more than a thousand hours without coal this year, in a new milestone underscoring how the polluting fuel’s decline is accelerating.
The UK’s last eight coal power plants staged a brief revival when the “beast from the east” pushed up gas prices earlier this year, causing coal plants to fire up.
However, the blip proved short-lived and immaterial, figures compiled by MyGridGB show. The country passed the threshold of 1,000 coal-free hours in the early hours of Friday.
The pace of coal power’s demise is speeding up. Throughout the whole of 2017 there were 624 coal-free hours, up from 210 hours in 2016.
Andrew Crossland, an energy expert who runs the MyGridGB site, said: “In 2018, Britain saved its coal use for when it needed it most – during the March cold snap.
“Over the rest of the year Britain’s renewable sector has provided record amounts of electricity, with more than 7.4% coming from solar over the past four weeks.”
In my view this example beautifully illustrates the madness of renewables. The UK now has coal plants sitting idle, only switching them on when the non-dispatchable sources can’t supply power, like when the solar panels are covered with snow and the wind turbines are inoperable.
But British consumers are stuck with paying twice for the same power – they have to pay to keep those coal plants operational, just in case they are needed, and they have to pay for expensive renewable installations so someone can cheer about how infrequently the idle coal plants are being used.
Nobody quite dares decommission dispatchable power systems, because you can’t rely on renewables to deliver power when you really need it – like in the middle of a “beast from the East”, freezing temperatures, howling winds and heavy snow. So the dispatchable systems sit there idle, consuming money. British consumers are stuck with paying for an entire duplicate power system; the renewable system and the real power system, always ready to be switched on when the toy renewable generation system fails everyone.
Below is the full coal tracker breakdown from MyGridDB used as the source of the Guardian article. Note if this section doesn’t load try refreshing the page.