Climate Win: UK Now Only Needs Coal Sometimes

UK Coal Hours. Source mygriddb

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.”

Read more:

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.

Yeah, climate.

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.


241 thoughts on “Climate Win: UK Now Only Needs Coal Sometimes

  1. So, 11.8% of the year is coal free. And? I reckon I am actually in my car for a lot less than that fraction of my life but I still have one and have to pay for it.

    That said I think it is great that all those coal fired power station workers get more time off over summer.

    • I doubt they get any time off, or if they do, they are on call.
      When the coal plant is needed, they need a full staff right away.
      Beyond that, I would think it takes almost as many people to keep a plant idling as it does to run it at full power.

        • ” someone has to pay for the upkeep of those coal plants when they are sitting idle.”

          Drax, UK’s largest coal driven power station was converted to burning wood. This wood is allegedly “carbon free” despite needing huge amounts of energy the dry, chop and transport across the ocean the native white oak that is being massacred on an industrial scale in USA.

          This is how “ecologic logic” works. Also large protected forests are being harvested in Germany and Southern France. Greens are not too happy but that is what happens when you pervert the importance of something to support your agenda.

          If “carbon” is the argument which trumps every other consideration , some pretty stupid things are going to start to happen because “carbon”.

    • I drive for about 10 minutes per day to and from work and the store so for 1430 minutes per day I use no Gasoline

    • Komrade, you are right. Why didn’t the article mention that rher are about 9,000 hours in a year?!

      • That would dilute the propaganda effect, comrade. Why would the comrade authors allow such inconvenient details get a free ride?

  2. Yes, but we need biomass all the time (higher emissions than coal and 100% subsidies) and import electricity via interconnectors all the time. Alice in Wonderland economics.

    • One of the many things that will come with a ‘no deal’ hard Brexit is the end of the interconnectors as the UK will no longer be party to the grid. Thats up to nearly 18GW gone.

      • So those rarely used coal fired plants will be used more. Sounds sensible to me, while conserving overseas funds which will no longer be needed to pay for imported electricity. Another reason for a Hard Brexit!

        • Your conclusions would be correct if the post you responded to had any truth in it whatsoever.

          We are not ‘dong without’ coal. Coal has been legislated out of existence by the UKs honest implementation of the Large Combustion Plant directive, which fundamentally said

          – Existing coal plant must clean up or shut up. If they cleaned up they could run till they died. The cost of fitting de sulphurisation and de whatever to these old plants was simply not worth it for the expected life of the plant .

          – So de facto they could enter a ‘limited running hours’ regime so that te total emissions from te plant would be limited. I think this was either10,000 or 20,000 hours only. Naturall;y such planmt as is left only fires up to use the precious hours when the electricity price is highest. I,e they tend to cover peak winter demand.

          – In the UK, unlike Germany, which is the biggest CO2 emitter in Europe, by nation total, pet capita, and per MWh electricity, we also implemented a nasty little rule that said that new coal plant which met emissions directives could not run at more than 50% capacity factor. This effectively made all new coal completely uneconomic.

          Green legislation drove out coal. It didn’t matter because we have no cheap coal left in Britain, and we burn gas mostly. Peak UK coal was around 1945…

          • No cheap coal? The coal industry was deliberately destroyed by virtue-signalling politicians. George Osborne’s escalating ‘carbon floor price’ tax (on top of all the other greenie EU & UK taxes – and massive subsidies for Ruinables) was just the coup de grace.

            The coal power stations? Either converted to biomass at enormous cost and a fraction of capacity (and MORE CO2) or in line for demolition. (Demolition of Ironbridge the next to go).

            And don’t forget that it had been decreed that no major upgrading of aging coal power plant would be allowed without CCS technology. Technology that still does not operate anywhere in the world on an appropriate scale and proved enormously expensive when it has been tried.
            But the point of CCS wasn’t in ‘capturing and storing carbon dioxide. The fundemental idea was to make coal unaffordable – and close down the cheap and reliable coal industry.

      • Things are a heck of a lot worse than that. The death of the most vibrant culture in the world must easily dwarf loss of 18GW of unreliable energy to keep everyone marginally miserable! Trump has given you guys a window to grab it back before the curtain drops and you’re all out protesting on cue.

        • “And you’re all out protesting on cue”

          No, we are not ALL out protesting! But lots of us are absolutely furious at the organised rabble who are…

      • If the UK receives up to 18GW from it’s EU interconnect then it is still using some energy derived from coal when not using it’s own coal.

        • Well the UK does not receive 18GW from Europe. I have no idea where that lie originated.

          There is a 2GW link to France and a 1GW link to Holland. 3GW
          Plus a half GW link to the Irish Republic.

          None of these will be affected by Brexit. They are commercial operations.

          These lies and disinformation are as prevalent among pro EU trolls as they are among climate change alarmists

          • The EU prohibits the sale of electricity to third countries via an interconnector. At 11pm on 29 March 2019 the UK becomes a third country – please explain why the EU rules will not apply.

          • That isn’t true. The EU trades extensively with Norway, and even Russia. As I write, Finland is importing 575MW from Russia, while Estonia and Latvia are importing 220MW.

        • The UK only has 2GW of connection to France, 1GW to the Netherlands, and 500MW to Eire (plus about 300MW between Northern Ireland and Eire, with a 1.5GW project just approved). The 18GW figure is the total of planned connections, some of which are under construction, and include Viking Link (to Norway – not in the EU) and a further 6.8GW to France, etc.

          If some or most of these projects get cancelled it will avoid the nastiness that would come when there is a continent wide power shortage, because of over investment in renewables and inadeqate alternative capacity.

          The link to the Netherlands is directly to coal/woodchip ifred power stations. From France, the supply is essentially nuclear. From Eire, it is surplus wind – the UK acts as dumping ground for that for now, and supplies Eire when the wind doesn’t blow – i.e. the UK balances their grid: without that service, they will risk blackouts, as they themselves admit.

      • It would take 5 nuclear power plants with 4 – 1100MW reactors each to replace the intertie power provided by the EU

        • Why are you lying?

          One nuclear plant will do it

          It would take another one in France to replace the power supplied by the UK to keep France going in hard winter.

          • They need to replace 18GW of generation. Nuclear generators average around 1100MW per unit and up to around 1400MW. It would require around 17 – 1100MW units to replace the 18GW needed. Most nuclear facilities do not have more than 4 units on site (and you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket) so giving 4 units per facility would need 5 facilities with 4 – 1100MW units each to replace the 18GW and allow for refueling outages without loss of needed capacity
            17 units x 1100MW per = 18,700GW…
            Adding 20 units (5 facilities x 4 units) allows for multiple unit refueling outages

          • where does this 18Gw come from?

            It is nonsense.

            Where is this EU rule that says they cant export electricity outside the EU

            It is nonsense

          • Looking around at the Imports, I see only 1.8GW imported instead of 18 which makes replacing it with a single Nuclear Generating Plant even easier

      • 1/. First off that is a lie. Interconnectors will not ‘come to an end’. Any more than gas supplies to the EU cannot take place because Russia is not in the EU.

        The EU may choose to stop all gas from Russia or indeed the USA these days because Russia/USA is not in the EU of course., Or stop all trade with the UK because the UK has legft its kind and generous oversight, but to do so would be in breach of UN and WTOI ruiles, and would simply make the EU more of a pariah state than they are already

        2/. Secondly, taht is a lie, the total interconnect capacity currently available is 4GW and one of those is to Ireland.

        3/. Thirdly that is a lie. The UK is not ‘part of THE grid’ anyway. There are three grids that are not synchronised. Eirgrid that runs both N an S Ireland across a national divide. The UK grid that is entirely independent (but could be split at te scottish border quite easily), and the continental grid which is synchronised but is in fact controlled from many places and can be split if necessary.

        Please do not make politics a technological and technical driver, any more than it is already.

        The import and export of goods of which electricity is one, takes place irrespective of government posturing. They may interfere, but the loss to e.g. France of a large chunk of its third largest export – nuclear electricity – would not please the French voters.

        I don’t know whether you are a paid troll or not, but please leave ‘project Fear’ out of Anthony’s site.

        • Norway is a member of Efta and EEA and so is part of the Common Regulatory Area. The UK will be a third country on leaving the EU so not party to anything any longer. The ultra Brexit morons are incapable of understanding what that actually means and how it will effect the UK next March. They are so stupid they believe the Notices to Stakeholders are an EU negotiating position as opposed to being a statement of fact.

      • pure BS they would still be connected but I’m sure the rates would be higher for a non-EU customer …

  3. For perspective, to this day in 2018 we’ve had 195 complete days, which is 4680 hours. So the thousand hours of avoiding coal use amounts to 21% of the time (that may well be different from the electricity used). For more than three-quarters of the time, coal keeps them out of trouble.

    • What they won’t tell you is that the coal plants are still running and burning coal at the same rate as normal (same CO2 emitions as well if that sort of thing bothers you) because you can’t stop and start them by simply pushing a button don’t worry though there’re still producing power it’s being sent to France to prop up their grid due to the reduction in their nuclear output.
      Ain’t climate policy grand?

      James Bull

      • Again, that is incorrect.

        That may be the case in winter, but in summer they are shut down and they are cold. Summer electricity prices are so low its is not worth using up any precious running time hours.

        • I do not know for certain, but I understand that in winter they do run 24/7, thereby producing CO2 on a 24/7 basis, because unlike gas they cannot easily be ramped up.

          The advantage of gas is that it can be ramped up/ramped down easily, but this is not efficient because of the need to overcome inertia, and in relative terms uses a lot of energy, and hence CO2 emissions, when compared to using gas in steady state mode.

          It is rather akin to a car’s petrol consumption when driving in urban conditions, compared to its consumption driving at a steady speed in motorway/freeway conditions.

          There is no doubt that there is much smoke and mirrors in the proper accounting of real world CO2 emissions. It is a game.

      • Nonsense. Many coal power stations already demolished. Ironbridge the next to go.

        Drive past Eggborough or Ferrybridge and more often than not they aren’t even on standby. They are both scheduled for demolition. Who could afford to keep them operational (with their expert workforce) whilst paying all the EU & UK greenie taxes?

  4. The usual problem is how to charge for the backup. Considering the nature of renewables, the cost of conventional backup should be charged to the renewables, not using a free ride off the conventional power sources.

  5. “What is less funny is that someone has to pay for the upkeep of those coal plants when they are sitting idle.”
    But think of all the imported coal that someone doesn’t have to pay to burn.

      • Isn’t importing coal a political decision?

        I thought Britain’s most efficient fossil fuel plant, Drax, was built next to a source of coal.
        Through logic unique to Greens, the plant was converted to biomass (wood pellets) which is then imported from the Carolinas and shipped across the Atlantic.

        Despite the propaganda, these are standing trees cut down for the purpose; not “leavings” from timber operations.

        • “Isn’t importing coal a political decision?

          I would hope the importation of any commodity would be based upon rational economics, rather than irrational politics (if the politics was indeed irrational, that is).

          Sadly this is sometimes not the case.

          • Energy is the most ubiquitous and vital component of post industrial civilisation. Without energy, the world as we know it stops. Without politicians, nothing much changes, and the world gets a little better.

            Which is why politicians are desperate to find reasons – any reasons – to control energy.


            What is it all about if not to gain a commercial advantage for one technology over another, and to bring all technologies under central governmental control?

            Every commercial company wants to be a monopoly as that means no competition. If you can buy a political movement for 5% of your profits and legalise the competition out of existence and double your profits, why would you NOT do it?

            Green politics was FAR to important to be left to Greens.

        • Correct. Drax is next to a coal mine whose output has declined and whose costs have risen to the point where its economic to import coal from the USA to run it.
          Drax is an independent commercial company. In discussions with the government it was indicated that by converting to wood, they would receive extremely high subsidies.

          They did so for two out of the four boilers, and the government reneged, and offered less subsidy. What could they do? new coal was legislated out, and their old coal plant would have to be closed. They are now converting to all wood.

          Here is a fun live image of UK power generation

          Mmm. That image doesn’t seem to load

          • Gas is winning. Why are there any subsidies anywhere? I am sick of subsidies. They screw up everything in the economic equation.

          • When I was a boy, the plight of coal miners was one of the biggest political stories for at least a decade. Unions and left wing politicians demanded more rights for miners until it got so expensive the mines were shut down.

          • Have you ever been down a coal mine?

            I have. In the 1960s

            My response? if I were a coal miner I’d want top salary to do that job.

            Followed by: This is why we need nuclear power or gas…

            UK deep coal mines were deep, extremely dangerous and unhealthy and horrendously filthy places to work.

            To make them anywhere like safe to work by modern standards prices the coal out of the market.

            The myth is that politics closed them. The reality is that politics kept them open long past their sell-by date.

          • It isn’t just the direct subsidies, of course.

            It is the fact that they are guaranteed to be able to sell their electricity (and thus be able to maintain their plant and workforce)

        • That is true. But make no mistake, Drax was the biggest coal power station in the UK and in Europe. (4GW)
          So far only part has been converted to biomass. They still burn a lot of coal. (Imported and inferior slurries).
          In fact some of my spies suggest that they have to co-fire coal with the biomass at times to keep the thing going.

    • S’Truth, Nick, dont be a deck chair rearranger on the Titanic. This idiocy is a symptom of the free fall of the most remarkable civilization the world has ever known.

    • Nick

      I find myself in a difficult spot, here. I don’t have your qualifications as a research scientist. I am not qualified to call you out on your work. You have a degree of respect from many here.

      I am having a hard time with your statement. It makes no sense. You will gladly pay the higher price for electricity. And you gladly support the poor doing so too. And manufacturing. And public support systems.
      Driving up cost to all.

      Have you not seen the projections? CO2 is heading up, regardless.

      Support the rights of those who do not share your take on CO2, to see the cost of electricity drop.

      I dragged out my electric bill, this weekend. Including all fees and taxes, I pay $.08 per kilowatt hour. My restaurant uses 568 of those each day. My home, 33 a day. I can’t imagine paying double or triple. Although, I can afford it, my customers can’t. Nor those I employ.

      It’s good to live in Texas. We actually give folks, like yourself, a choice. If you want to pay more, just sign your bill, giving a few dollars extra to your neighbors. Many can use it. Heck, you can even choose to buy your electricity from a solar or wind company. At a higher cost. But we give folks that choice.

      I don’t want folks to live like me. And not like you, either. Let us all have complete control over our hard earned money.

      I wish you no ill. I do wish you would have to live a life in their shoes for a decade or two. You would gain some perspective. I am positive your position would change.

      • The 33 kwh your house uses each day is the energy equivalent of 1 us gallon of gasoline.

        Imagine you were trying to charge a car as well.

        • It’s called ‘living in a sane country’. I believe that’s about what we pay for electricity here (I haven’t looked at the bill in a while), but Trudeau is doing his best to force the price up.

        • ” after its political goal of shutting down ALL coal fired powe”

          You have this way of citing reasonable articles which you claim back up a contrary argument. That article explicitly refutes the notion that high costs are due to a “political goal”. They say

          Are the prices ‘the consequence’ of Weatherill’s renewable energy policy?
          No. Even if wholesale prices become the main driver of retail prices, it’s not accurate to place the blame squarely on renewables.”

    • “But think of all the imported coal that someone doesn’t have to pay to burn.”
      The coal plants have to be kept fired and venting steam so that they can pick up load quickly when the renewables crap out. Cold boilers cannot pick up quickly.

      • In the UK we do not use coal in that way anymore.

        Look at my website. The data is all there

        Coal is run up in winter, and by and large it is throttled back – but not put back to ‘hot standby;- at night. At the weekends plant will be shut down completely or at least to ‘warm standby’

        What we use for peak demand following is a little hyrdo, which responds in seconds, and above all combined cycle gas, which is both very efficient as baseload and very fast – typically less than an hour – to come up from cold to full power, although it burns a lot of fuel doing it. You can throw $10,000 of CO2 emitting natural gas at a big gas turbine just to get it warmed up… a fact that greens ignore.

        All that heat then gets wasted as it cools down again when tomorrows solar plant starts to work..

        • Natural gas is winning Love it. The world has lots of it and more and more found everyday. It even provides CO2 which is good. We need more CO2 in the atmosphere NOT less.

        • agree with most of your comments but

          Solar peak occurs around the peak demand. So tends to reduce the requirements for additional gas to be fired.
          Add together both solar and gas variations and you get a peak to peak similar to what demand changes. So yes, sometimes this will require powering down some stations which would not have if wind and solar were not present

          • I see you did not bother to check my site.

            Solar power actually does NOT occur at peak demand

            Solar power peaks at midday.Northern latitude demand peaks at dusk as people travel home on electric railways, turn on the lights and the TV and cook their evening meal.

            solar power makes this peak WORSE. Just as demand is peaking solar power has collapsed

    • You can’t switch on a coal plant when you want, takes many hours to get going. So during your coal free hours you are still burning coal.

  6. So this can be a misleading statistic. How many ‘coal-free’ days have there been? That is, entire 24 hour periods with no coal-fires assets in use.

    For example, 11am to 2pm each day would be over 1000 hours a year, but not particularly meaningful…

  7. the stats of the consumption(or not) is the equivalent of a drinker bragging about the hours ,he had not been drinking

  8. UKIP was the only real alternative party to vote for. The rest are as one in these zany renewable, post modern times. Even history is renewable and future history is presently today’s fake news. Renewable common sense is in very short supply, though as is real diversity of thought. We have cookie cutter diversity and this is to hit the excluded class, ie Шнуте меи over the head with for inventing the Age of Enlightenment and other things. I ve tried to explain that I personally had nothing to do with that Age thingy, or the Industrial Rev or the other tech revolutions, but to no avail.

    Its like Kafka’s novel, “The Trial” where the protagonist never learns why he is on trial. I do know Im in the minority in thinking the whole world has gone bonkers. Perhaps that explains my indictment.

    I guess the marxbrothers in Europe have achieved a tipping point in entitlement such that there is a voting block large enough to keep a free miserable life going for most. I cant hear myself think through the clamour of hoorahs for going a 1000hrs – 40 days without coal power!

    • I agree with you. We are all living in a land of Oz and Nick is the Wizard of Oz. If only he would see the light on CO2. And after that he might not be so big on renewables.

      • Nick we will keep the light on for you. However we need backup for that lightbulb at night time when the wind doesnt blow.

    • Here’s what I found at

      The reason for this low emission rate is that 83 per cent of electricity production in Sweden comes from nuclear and hydroelectric power. Cogeneration from combined heat and power (CHP) plants accounts for 10 per cent of the electricity output in Sweden, and these are mainly powered by biofuels. About 7 per cent of the electricity comes from wind power.

      • Yeah, let’s count hydro and nuclear as “renewable” and see how the sources break down in the US. When I fully retire to Northern Idaho, the sensible “red” state in the Pacific Northwest, I will have abundant cheap hydroelectric power at my disposal. (The cheapest electricity in the US is in Washington State, and that’s the grid supplying N. ID.)

      • A certain amount of that “biofuel” is actually waste plastic. We burn humungous amounts of garbage, much of it imported. The imported garbage has more plastic (= greater energy density), and is preferred for that reason.

        • How do they count burning plastic as “renewable”? You don’t happen to import waste plastic to burn from the US, do you? I would really get a kick out of telling my wife that all that HDPE we “recycle” is going to produce “renewable” energy in Sweden!

      • Anyone interested in actual Swedish power production (which probably does not include Really Skeptical) can find the current data here:

        Kärnkraft = Nuclear
        Värmekraft = Thermal (= Biofuel + Garbage)
        Ospecificerat = Unspecified/Other (includes solar, which is too small to separate)
        Vindkraft = Wind
        Vattenkraft = Hydro

        • I see you can pick data for any day, but I don’t see a way to get data summed over a longer interval (winter vs. summer for example).

    • Mostly hydro electric dams.
      Try to find a suitable location for a hydro electric dam in England.
      Then try to get permission to build a hydro electric dam in England.
      Good luck.

    • “Half of Sweden’s energy comes from renewables'”

      Very largely hydropower. Which is easily ramped up and down, which is the reason wind power does less damage here than elsewhere. Even so it is estimated that the grid will become unstable with more than 20% wind (a bit more than 10% now).

      And once the Greenies manage to legislate away nuclear (=the other half) things will quickly fall apart.

      And yes, we also use lots and lots of biomass (Sweden is 50% forest). Together with very extensive burning of garbage (partly imported) it provides as much as 9 % of electricity.

      At the moment water levels are low, it is hot and little wind so the current numbers are:

      Nuclear: 66 %
      Hydro: 22 %
      Wind 4 %
      Biomass: 3 %
      Other: 5 %

    • Nonsense. It’s 28.6% oil, 1.3% natural gas, 3.5% coal, 27.3% nuclear, 26.9% hydro, and 12.4% renewables.

      • That’s 54.2% so-called “clean” baseload (nuclear + hydro). If you count nuclear and hydro as “renewable” (I do) they are at 66.6% renewable.

  9. Idle machinery has to be exercised or it might not start up in a timely manner.

    At uni the air conditioners would fail every spring after being off for 6 months. After they failed the computer system would go down.

  10. I think we are seeing a lot of “smoke and mirrors” here. So let me ask this pointed question… “How long does it take to startup a coal power plant?”

      • That depends. If its been mothballed, yes. If it ran on Friday and today is Monday, probably about 4-6 hours. Think of a steam locomotive. You have to light it, and heat the firebox and fire roaring. That takes at least an hour. Then you have a boiler full of water to get up to pressure, That happens alongside the firebox, but it’s probably fair to say to get the whole loco up to temperature is well over an hour.

        Modern coal has IIRC pulverised coal and forced air combustion, so its a bit faster to get ‘roaring’ but the boilers are far bigger than a locomotive

        CCGT is much faster. A modern load following CCGT can be producing useful power in open cycle in under ten minutes – it is after all just a jet engine running off natural gas with a steam plant strapped on the back. It’s woefully inefficient at that point – a real ‘ gas guzzler’ (sic!) , and the steam plant generally takes the best part of 20 minutes to an hour to fully come on stream and up to temperature.

        So given that all kit is ion good condition and no pre-start checks have to be done the UK power plant has these sorts of response times to load changes

        – rotational inertia of spinning turbines. Instantaneous. Thjs is of interest and concern because wind turbines and solar panels that feed the grid electronically do NOT have this. With a bit of storage on site and some software they COULD have an equivalent response, at additional cost, but they don’t right now.,

        – stored energy as hot steam in steam boilers. You can rob your boilers of steam over a short period and then make it up with added fuel; . Coal plant with large boilers or nuclear is able to do this. IF it has the generating capacity, but as often as not you are running the generators as hard as they will go anyway for baseload. Gas plant with smaller boilers less so. In theory if we ran coal or nuclear somewhat below peak capacity they could be turned up in the short term. In practice this is commercially inefficient. Best efficiency of most power stations is at peak rated power output.

        – water up a hill. This is a stored energy resource that can be tapped in seconds. And its efficiency is not that variable with power output. That means that hydro power – pumped and native – is THE goto solution to respond to a massive change in grid demand,as in say when a power station trips. In practice hydro operators keep their precious water until the price is high – sudden unplanned spikes in demand – and only sell into the baseload market when they simply have too much water that would otherwise be wasted down the spillways.

        – open cycle gas turbines and diesel generators. These are are so inefficient in use of fuel that they are only profitable as emergency peak power, but they can be run up in under ten minutes. They are classed as STOR – Short term operating reserves. Ironically, as predicted in the Hughes report, adding renewable energy has made these massive emitters the only logical choice. Because they are cheap to build but expensive to run, they can sit there idle and only sell into emergency peak markets, They are now subsidised as well.

        – combined cycle gas turbines. These are the backbone of Britain’s power generation. The demise of cheap coal put pay to new coal 40 years ago, and high interest rates put pay to new nuclear, whereas the discovery of cheap gas under the North sea meant that the twofold goals of providing cheap electricity and destroying an over politicised industry – coal mining – were too attractive to miss, plus Britain made jet engines… so CCGT is THE biggest source of energy on the UK energy market. They can be fully up in under an hour – peak following modern designs less than 20 minutes if in good shape.

        – Coal/wood plant. As stated cold or warm to power is a couple of hours typically. And commercially they are ruin with no real upwards margins, though they can of course be throttled back. But it makes more economic sense to have plant as ‘spinning reserve’ than as ‘half power’ and adjustable either way.

        – nuclear plant. This typically takes a bit longer than coal plant does, and its not unusual to see a plant come up to power over a period of at least a day. The reasons for this are something I do not understand, but I think that there are downsides to simply rushing the thing up to power in terms of the nuclear reactions and production of unwanted fission by products. Nuclear power can be and is throttled back at the weekends in France – see but economics dictate that the harder you run the station the less the electricity costs. Nuclear power has huge fixed costs – cost of capital to build it, cost of staff to run it and service the safety regulations, whereas cost of fuel is almost insignificant. So nuclear runs at baseload by and large.

        What you will see is that intermittent renewable energy plays no part in adapting to demand changes. All you can do with a wind turbine or solar panel is to shut it down and lose income. Why would you? Adding batteries to give it some dispatchibility makes it massively more expensive than it already is.

        • The fastest gas aeroderivative turbines now startup within 10 minutes. Conventional industrial gas turbines used to take 8 hours, improving to 3 hours to reduce damage done by rapid thermal transients to large thick welds.

          • the heat rate(efficiency) however is not there till at least 20 minutes. A gas turbine as anyone who has flown knows van be producing takeoff power in less than 10 minutes but the steam plant strapped on the back of CCGT takes longer

        • You can’t heat the firebox too fast, otherwise you risk cracking it from thermal stress.
          The bigger the fire box, the more slowly you increase the temperature.

      • I got to think that switching a power plant from cold to hot to cold puts lots of heat stress on everything. Furthermore, there is the problem of logistics. A plant out in the US State of Georgia gets its coal from Wyoming, nearly a dozen trains, each a mile long picked up by one rail carrier and then delivered by another. How does one schedule, and keep economical the irregular ordering of coal? Do the coal workers sit around waiting for an order? How about the expensive mining equipment that needs to be consistently active to produce the ROI for the investors? What happens to the unused gondola cars during the off-time? Rusting away in a switchyard? Dispersed to other regions to haul gravel? As a manager at any of these suppliers, I would be dramatically raising my prices while also looking for a different customer. At what point is it no longer economically sustainable to keep the support going for an occasional coal power plant?

        • At least coal can be stored. A manager can make an estimate of how much coal his plant will burn in a year, then divide that by 12 and have that much delivered each month. So long as the amount in the bin is sufficient to last till the next delivery.

    • How long is a piece of string..?

      Umm.. Depends on how hard shivering greenies want to pedal to avoid total blackout.

      I know, hardly a useful reply. I just couldn’t resist.. 🙂

    • “I think we are seeing a lot of “smoke and mirrors” here. So let me ask this pointed question… “How long does it take to startup a coal power plant?”

      I agree with ScienceABC123 about the “smoke and mirrors”. At best the article makes a case for plausibility but doesn’t “show me the numbers”. If the shoe was on the other foot skeptics would be asking for numerical analysis.

      To talk with greens and, yes, luke-warmers one wants answers to even more pointed questions.

      Granted. Thermal steam plants can’t just be switched on and off from cold starts. Not like some gas ‘peaker’ plants. But what is the actual cost in carbon emissions from keeping a plant in idle readiness? It’s good to know the monetary cost too but reduced emissions matter more to greens.

      Measured in equivalent MW hrs of generation from a hot boiler — how many MW hrs of energy does it take to bring a cold boiler up to a generation ready state?

      Can some of this energy be recovered if the plant’s production is gradually ramped down?
      (Recognizing that a planned ramping down may result in brown outs if renewables can’t meet the planned ramp up rate.)

      Similar question but for keeping a plant idle but with boiler warm and ready for generation per hour?

      Or bottom line: In a mixed renewable / coal dispatchable system what is the real reduction in carbon and air pollution emissions over a coal only system?

      The naive assumption would be that in a good day where renewables supplanted %50 of the coal generation the total emissions would be reduced by 1/2.

  11. I guess if people aren’t using electricity because they can’t afford it, it doesn’t take much in the first place. Some people can’t afford it even when they need it to survive. I don’t see much to celebrate.

    Fuel poverty crisis: 3,000 Britons dying each year because they can’t heat their homes, study shows

    • This is a point the infamous Griff used to make, except he took it as a positive that poor people could no longer afford energy.

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong but you don’t “shut down” a coal fired generator and “start it up” on cue. The fact that this is not being addressed only means they don’t want you to know. Backup costs for “renewables” may EXCEED their operating costs and the people are led to believe they are paying more. Fake news.

    • Well yes you can and do stop and start coal generators on cue.

      In the UK they used to be shut down for the (low demand) weekends.

      Backup costs for renewables I calculated for the UK using gas, as around 20% additional on top of the renewable raw cost (which is double coal or gas raw costs already) Adding in inefficient use of the national grid to transport occasional flows from remote Scottish windfarms to populated England, probably adds another 20%. So whereas wholesale price of gas or coal electricity is around 4p/KWh wind and solar actually cost around 9p/Kwh raw and with additional grid and balancing costs that becomes 12.6p/Kwh.

      Roughly three times as much overall.

      Which is why in Germany they pay a massive amount for their electricity post Energiewende.

      It is interesting to note what carbon emissions reductions this all buys. In the case of Germany, the BP energy review reveals that despite a massive installed base of wind turbines and solar panels, and more nuclear and hydroelectric power than Great Britain has, overall total emissions, emissions per capita and emissions per MWh are all higher than anywhere else in Europe!

      In short, without sufficient hydro to balance it, intermittent renewable energy when balanced – as Germany does – largely by nasty dirty ‘braunkohle’ (lignite) power stations does nothing whatsoever to reduce emissions at all.

      It is, in fact, in terms of its stated intentions, a complete waste of money.

      Mandated by the EU.

  13. Hmmm, assume linear:
    210 Hours without coal in 2016
    624 Hours without coal in 2017
    1031 Hours without coal in 2018
    1400 Hours without coal in 2019
    1800 Hours without coal in 2020
    2200 Hours without coal in 2021
    2600 Hours without coal in 2022
    3000 Hours without coal in 2023
    3400 Hours without coal in 2024
    3800 Hours without coal in 2025
    4200 Hours without coal in 2026
    4600 Hours without coal in 2027
    5000 Hours without coal in 2028
    5400 Hours without coal in 2029
    5800 Hours without coal in 2030
    6200 Hours without coal in 2031
    6600 Hours without coal in 2032
    7000 Hours without coal in 2033
    7400 Hours without coal in 2034
    7800 Hours without coal in 2035
    8200 Hours without coal in 2036
    8600 Hours without coal in 2037
    100% renewable in 2038!
    So 20 years. Impressive.

    • Hours not needing the coal, but the coal had to be ready, on standby, the whole time! It’s essentially just as expensive to have the standby availability (baseload) 24/7, as it is to use the generated power that whole time. Do you struggle with reading comprehension?

      • “Do you struggle with reading comprehension?”

        No. But you seem to struggle with the idea of inevitability.

        • Now you’re just being coy, and juvenile. What’s inevitable is that we simply cannot and will not stop relying on fossil fuels, not in this century, certainly not in your lifetime. Not unless you want to revert to a pre-industrial existence, and witness mass starvation. If you buy into the Sierra Club’s manifesto that humankind needs to go extinct, to “save the planet” (for what, the nematodes?) then forcing renewables on society is a winning strategy.


          Coal power projects with Chinese financing, construction or ownership: see map above.
          With 100% renewables for electricity you still will have the natural gas back up plants in the developed world, since everyone in the developed world (excluding China) hates coal so much. However Africa will have added 5% of existing coal generation within the next 10 years and probably another 5% until 2038. Meanwhile coal is still supplying 62% of China’s energy needs and coal consumption actually increased in 2017 in China by 0.4%. Add to that, China is building/financing over 200 coal plants all over the world in 31 countries.

          • The comment that coal is supplying 62% of China’s energy needs(Institute for Energy Research) was for 2016. However the BP website gave a 60.4% figure for coal for 2017.

          • There are days when I miss Griff. Such as his constant claims that since China had reduced the number of coal plants it planned on building over the next 10 years from 640 all the way down to 610, this proved that China had abandoned coal.

      • PS, in case you think burning wood pellets rather than coal reduces CO2 emissions (and not even factoring the idiocy of transporting pellets from N. America to UK!):

        “Because combustion and processing efficiencies for wood are less than coal, the immediate impact of substituting wood for coal is an increase in atmospheric CO2 relative to coal.”

        Read it and weep:

        • The effect depends on how chipping wood affects forest growth. As long as the growth gets faster, then it is no problem. Sadly this is where there is little agreement and lots of lies.

          I do agree there’s an upper limit how much forest builds new wood. There’s also lower limit under which the emissions/usable energy ratio goes quickly up.

          Greens want to both keep the whole mythical forest and chip it. And tax. The truth is out there. There are so many ways to count beans.

          • As long as you cut down old-growth forest and re-plant with fast-growing trees it may show a plus, however once you start cutting down the plantation trees the gain will be zero or negative.
            And if the old-growth forest was growing on peaty soil, or if you drain the ground before re-planting, the increased oxidation of soil organics will wipe out any gain.

        • Wood chips come from the carbon in the atmosphere. Coal adds new carbon to the atmosphere. There is no comparison.

          • So, you didn’t read the study paper? The “carbon debt payback time” is 44 – 104 years before wood starts reducing CO2 vs coal. The authors are AGW true believers like yourself, you really ought to read it.

            I’ve got an idea. Let’s not burn anything to make electricity. Let’s allow abundant radioactive material to heat water, make steam, and turn those turbines.

      • UK coal is what we used to supply France with power when France simply ran short in cold weather, and when their nuclear fleet was crippled by politics last year.

        We had a problem, ourselves. UK gas storage is about a tenth of what it used to be, and we simply damned near ran out of gas – which is THE primary way most homes are heated in this country. The decision was made to max the coal out and use as little gas as possible

        Naturally at that time of year there was no solar energy to speak of, and we were extraordinarily lucky that a heavy and bitterly cold east wind did at least make a bit of wind power available.

        Without that we would have been extremely hard pressed to not load shed.

        With more coal plant closing this year,and nothing replacing it, if we get another hard winter and one with no wind, we are in serious trouble.

        ‘No coal’ is not something to be happy about.

    • From three years of data, you make a 20 year projection.
      I”d call you stupid, but you aren’t that smart.

      • Well, I thought is was a little funny. But the point remains that small consistent changes over time make a big difference.

  14. Let me see if I can help. UK has had large-scale coal mining for over 200 years. As you mine coal, you dig deeper and deeper into the earth. Costs rise steadily. When Thatcher closed most of the mines in the 1980s, British coal cost $200/ton. Germany closed its last coal mines when it quit subsidizing its mines at $180/ton. US mines produce for $50/ton. UK buys from US or Columbia. There are still billions of tons of coal under UK, but no reason to dig it up if the US can supply it at far cheaper prices.

    When you convert to heat units (MBTU=one million BTUs), US coal costs $2.50/MBTU. This is about comparable to gas $3.00/MBTU, but far below oil $14.00/MBTU. Per kilowatt-hour, coal or gas cost far less than photovoltaic or wind.

  15. I guess they fail to mention that the thousand hours are not consecutive….gee how convenient

  16. “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.”

    It really comes down to whether you agree or disagree with the following 1) global warming is occurring and 2) that man-made CO2 emissions are a major factor and 3) that global warming, overall, has more adverse then positive benefits.

    • 1) Yes, slowly, naturally, in our current end of glacial period. 2) Debatable, and as yet unprovable, 3) Debatable, but warming is obviously far better than cooling. (BTW climate is never “stable”.)

      • You don’t accept the proof of 2, that’s your perogative. I do. Regarding 3, it’s a matter of rate of change, as you well know. The global temperature changing by 1.5C/century is a whole lot different than changing by .1 or .2C/century. Details matter.

        • There is no proof for 2, models are not proof.
          You seem to take it as self evident that warming a bit faster is a bad thing.

        • Yes, details matter. Hence #2 is the stumbling block, there’s that whole pesky “null hypothesis” which true scientists must overcome to prove anything. I wish Richard Feynman were alive to explain it to you. My training is in math and computer science, so I do know the limits of computer models, but I am not a theoretical scientist.

      • Let us put it this way. CO2 levels have been over 2000 ppm when dinosaurs were roaming around. Unless all the dinosaurs drowned in the great flood caused by Greenland and Antarctica melting (maybe that is what happened in the days of Noah), an increase of 1/2% per year of CO2 isnt worrying me very much. On 2nd thought man wasn’t around during the dinosaur days and Antarctica 1st developed its ice ~15-20 million years ago. In any case the dinosaurs disappeared around 65.5 million years ago but no geologist has ever suggested that it was because of CO2. The world has changed to a bunch of worryworts. No wonder that Lord Monckton of Brenchley has called them bedwetters.

        • And land temps were in the mid to high 30s Celsius (close to 100F) – gee, is that the climate you want? And oceans 5-10C warmer?

          • “And land temps were in the mid to high 30s”

            You mean like they are in the Tropics and Subtropics today?

          • The point is the climate got that warm without humans contributing anything. And later we had glacial conditions. We’re only riding the waves, not making the waves.

    • No, it boils down to energy politics going haywire under conflicting requirements and unsustainable subsidies.

    • You forgot to add
      4) that if just added ad hoc, intermittent renewable energy actually reduces carbon emissions at all.

      In the case of Germany, its clear that it does not!

      • Leo Smith makes the bold claim:

        that if just added ad hoc, [can we assume that] intermittent renewable energy actually reduces carbon emissions at all.

        But do you have numerical estimates to support the claim that ad hoc renewables do little to nothing to reduce carbon emission back up that up? It makes sense that especially when backed up by the coal the actual emission reductions of renewables are significantly reduced. But by how much? If you do then I think you have a much better article!

        • I don’t have numerical estimates. I have hard data.

          Simply read the BP energy review for 2018 and look at the facts and compare Germany (coal nuclear and renewables) with say France (nuclear and hydro) or switzerland (nuclear and hydro) or Sweden (nuclear and hydro).

          The facts are that the lowest emitters are nuclear especially if they can balance demand with hydro.

          Britain, which balances with gas and has less nuclear and far less renewable that Germany actually generates LESS CO2 per Mwh.

          There are all facts in the public domain but no one is shouting them out.

          In Ireland they (Eirgrid) actually analysed the data to come up with ‘about 50% of renewable energy carbon savings are wasted in stop start cycles on the gas turbines’.

    • 1) Yes
      2) Demonstrably false
      3) Demonstrably false, there are many, many positive benefits, and to date, no negative ones.

  17. Correct me if I am wrong but how can these coal fired plants be idling. They need to go from zero to power in about one second. That has to be one fast idle using lots of coal and producing lots of CO2. Combine that with the CO2 in building and maintaining renewables and coal and nuclear start to look pretty good.

    • You are wrong. They do not need to go from zero to power in one second. 4 hours is fine

      Where you are not wrong is that it takes a lot of energy to get a big thermal plant up to power, Energy that is lost when you shut it down and it cools down.

      The thermal losses extend either side of the actual power generation, so the shorter cycle a thermal plant does the more fuel is burnt just warming it up and letting it cool. e.g.a coal plant that is up for four hours and takes 4 hours to warm and 4 hours to cool probably uses twice as much coal per MWh as a plant that is running 24×7.

      Greens stick their fingers in their ears at this point…

      The fact remains that coal is not good for balancing renewables with for that reason, which is of course exactly why Germany, doyen of technological excellence does exactly that, when not cheating on their car emissions tests.
      Germany proves that renewables plus coal simply do not work,. In fact there is evidence that Germany’s emissions per MWh may actually have increased with Energiewnde.

      How convenient the the EU regulations are couched as ‘renewable obligations’ not as ’emission reductions’….

      We are slightly better off in the UK because we use gas not coal. And gas startup times are 45 minutes to full efficiency. Hug Sharman who consults for gas turbine manufacturers was engaged in an exercise with Eirgrid, the Irish grid, to test and assess how much gas was used up in starting and stopping CCGT sets to account for wind and solar fluctuations.

      In the case of their older CCGT sets, the answer was that half the carbon gains of renewables were lost in additional gas burnt to balance them as compared with simply running the gas turbines as baseload with no renewables.

      Only hydro represents a decent way to balance renewables., If you don’t have hydro you cant go all renewable, except if you want to deploy batteries or some other storage, or have such a massive oversupply of renewable energy that you simply switch it off most of the time.

      My calculations for the UK were that if we covered the country with a wind turbine every 500 meters, we could go all renewable. At a cost of $16.00 per KWh

      Even Tesla batteries would be cheaper than that.

      The point is that coal gas and nuclear and hydro represent energy STORES that can be stockpiled and tapped at will. Wind solar tidal wave – these are not stores that can be tapped at will. When the waves stop, the tide is half in, the wind ain’t blowing and its midnight there simply IS NO POWER to be had.

      Which is why an ‘all renewable’ future is cockwomble.

      The cost of achieving it with e.g. batteries or indeed any other form of store is WAY in excess of using et 10,000 years of fissionable and fertile nuclear materials left over from the supernova that created the Earth’s elements.

      To put it bluntly, if China deploys nuclear and coal at the rate its doing now, while the West attempts to go ‘all renewable’ China will be running the world in three decades and the West will be bankrupt. And owned by Arabs and Chinese.

      Renewable energy isn’t dead, but its beginning to smell that way.

      For the UK at least the rational mix would be new coal as baseload with nuclear if the regulations can be rewritten to remove massive unnecessary build costs and delays from it, with nuclear replacing coal as it became cheaper.

      What hydro we have could be a little enhanced, though we do not have many mountains.

      Peak following would be done by modern fast start combined cycle gas turbines.

      Renewables would be put in a museum, where they belong. They have no place in a 21st century rational energy grid.

      • Even hydro loses in efficiency and wastes water when balancing wind. And if you want to go “All Renewable” you will need a lot of hydropower. Iceland and Norway might just be able to, but now the Germans want Norwegian hydropower to balance their wind.

      • They can go from 0 to 100 percent in 4 hours. But not too many times before you have to replace them.

        • Before gas an nuclear Britain matched fluctuating demand entirely with coal power.

          Before that, steam locomotives were cold every night.

          They all lasted = maintenance is high on a coal loco, and on coal plant, but they still last.

  18. Coal plants aren’t designed to be turned on and off. Using them this way will end up resulting in a lot more coal-free hours. Likely, some of these hours will be unintentionally coal-free as the damage from using them this way will prevent them from being able to run.

  19. Um…Wasn’t it putting less CO2 in the air that was the objective? One can completely replace coal as an energy source and still increase CO2 output. Why this obsession with coal? Are they excited about reduction of actual pollution (like heavy metals) or just CO2?

    Add up all the CO2 required to produce the wind generators and solar cells, the CO2 in maintaining them, the CO2 in tearing them down, the CO2 in maintaining and running all the traditional fossil fuel energy plants that back them up, in moving the less viable fuels about (like biomass from North America), and then figure out if any CO2 reduction actually occurred. NOT THAT IT MATTERS, because CO2 is not the problem.

    Meanwhile, you have loss the security of producing your own required fuel source and now are vulnerable to blockades (or just pricing), lost jobs, and decreased your energy grid stability, and raised costs of basic energy (therefore impoverishing your own people) for a gain of…? What exactly? You decreased the hypothetical (but ridiculous) world average temperature by 0.0001 over 100 years or some such incredibly low imaginary amount?

  20. Another way this could be stated…8766 hours per year
    2016 = 8556 hours with coal
    2017 = 8142 hours with coal
    2018 = 7735 hours with coal

  21. “British consumers are stuck with paying for an entire duplicate power system”. I warned about this situation over 10 years ago when I first got involved in opposing wind farms. However it is now much worse as we are increasingly paying for a triplicate power system – conventional dispatchables, wind turbines and solar panels. Only one of these systems is needed and works all the time.

  22. Coal (and other thermal) stations cannot just be switched off and on, the boilers need to on and the turbines hot and running to be availabe at any time they are needed. It takes days from a cold start to get up to generation temperatures and pressures. Even now (Low summer grid demand) I have noticed that coal from time to time is contributing to the grid, in that case the claim of coal free days is not really true as coal is being burnt even if the staion is off grid. Less coal but not no coal.
    A point form the article stated that solat provided x amount of power recently. He failed to mention that wind output has been low for weeks. It often is the case that if wind is strong, solar is weak and vice versa. Not 100% of the time but a large proportion of it.

  23. There is a fundamental problem with these numbers, namely, the rules which govern the market. If power from solar and wind are available, the electricity companies have to buy it on a priority basis.

    This means that when you hear that over a given period wind supplied a certain amount, what is really happening is that both were available, but the legislation required purchase of the renewable. Its not independence from coal at all.

    Not sure if this is clear, but imagine the case of lettuce and a supermarket. Supplier A delivers regularly through the year at given levels three times a week. But there is a clause in his contract saying that at one day’s notice, the market can suspend acceptance with no penalty.

    Supplier B delivers irregularly as produce is available, regardless of demand or sales. So sometimes he will deliver a month’s worth of demand on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then nothing for a week. His contract says that the market is obliged to buy whatever he delivers, whether it can sell it or not.

    An economist in the pay of Supplier B and with a grudge against A now looks at the record over a year or two. He counts up all the lettuce B has delivered and been paid for, whether the Supermarket sold it or not, and he looks at how much A has been paid for.

    He plots the ratio and sees that A’s share of payments from the Supermarket is rising. He then concludes that the Supermarket is getting less dependent on A.

    This is really fake analysis. What is really happening is that because of the contractual situation the Supermarket is being obliged to pay for stuff it doesn’t need, raising its costs. And Supplier A is being obliged to waste its production for the same reason. It tells us nothing about the value of the two suppliers offerings, and it raises total costs to suppliers and store, which will be passed on to consumers.

    Notice that its exactly the same fallacy that is used when comparing the costs of generation under the ‘levelized cost of energy’ algorithm. In the levelized costs argument, you take total production over the life of the installation, regardless of when it occurs, how irregularly, or whether in sync with demand. You get the NPV of the total installation and maintenance costs over time, and then divide to get a ‘levelized cost’ per unit of power. If wind comes out at the same cost as coal or gas on this basis, you proclaim that at last we have cost parity.

    This effectively assumes that intermittency has no operational or financial implications or costs. In effect it assumes that supply is supply regardless of whether it meets the needs of the grid. It does not matter when its supplied or how irregularly.

    Its totally absurd. So what is the solution?

    To remove all regulation of supply and purchase from the electricity market. Leave it up to the electricity companies to buy from the generators they choose on the basis of contracts they negotiate freely. Remove the priority of supply currently given to wind and solar and all the other complicated indirect subsidies renewables enjoy in the UK.

    The wind and solar industry will go broke in a couple of months.

    Meanwhile, as a first step, stop the obfuscation and fake analysis that this argument is an example of. If people cannot see what is really going on, they are never going to call it for what it is and stop the madness.

    • “If power from solar and wind are available, the electricity companies have to buy it on a priority basis.”
      Where do they have such rules? Not, AFAIK, in Australia. It is true that wind and solar when available will generally underbid any source that has fuel costs. But they don’t need a rule to require it.

      • Being as disingenuous as ever Nick. You know how it works. It all amounts to the same thing in all nationality markets. Wind/solar are paid over the odds, have preferential access, get paid if the energy they produce is not required, etc. etc. Economic insanity. Don’t nitpick on semantics or actual rule/regulatory details. You just look like you’re playing the a dirty game.

        • The specific system in the EU is called ‘priority dispatch’. Being phased out for new installs after 2020.

        • In fact, your Guardian link says:
          priority dispatch is supposed to be mandatory under current EU rules, although the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands are among countries that do not comply.”

          But from what I read priority dispatch does not require electricity companies to buy the electricity, at least at a prescribed (non-negative) price. It just guarantees that they won’t be “deregulated”, ie cut off.

          • You’re right, which is really surprising. I had a quite different impression and recollection. Also it goes on to say:

            ” Priority dispatch is supposed to be mandatory under current EU rules, although the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands are among countries that do not comply.

            The study says that “the biggest impacts on generation [from ending priority dispatch] would be observed in Denmark, Great Britain and Finland, where biomass holds a large share of generation capacity”.

            And that makes no sense if what the first sentence says is true.

          • I think the Guardian is wrong, and that the UK is doing priority dispatch. That is the only way to make sense of the para immediately after the one you quoted.

            If the renewables are asked to turn down their supply last, in a case of oversupply, that is exactly the situation I described.

            Curtailment is the other side of this. When we pay the wind and solar operators not to generate electricity.

            I have read that a Chinese delegation were visiting the EU, I think it was Germany.

            The minister became furious with his interpreter who translated what was being said as meaning that the companies were paid not to produce. He knew immediately that his interpreter if reporting this to have been said must have misunderstood.

            Alas, the interpreter was right. Just like the great EU wine lake, and the great EU butter mountain, and the practice of paid set-aside, ie paying farmers not to grow crops, we do indeed have a vast power flood and we pay generators not to produce electricity.

            I recall that in Holland back in the days of the butter mountain, the population was buying margarine, because butter was so expensive, because of the taxes which were used to fund the butter mountain to keep prices up for the producers. So one of the world’s leading dairy countries was exporting its butter to the butter mountain and having its citizens reduced to eating margarine.

            In the same way, the UK is paying the wind farms not to produce, and raising the price of electricity to levels which lead to fuel poverty for its own people.

            Is it insane? Yes. But more important, it is also wicked.

            Call this by its name on any of the alarmist web sites, and you’ll be denounced as a ‘concern troll’. Even if you spend time in your area visiting people who are shivering in winter and not making tea with their electric kettles, so you know what the hell you are talking about. No, some of us are busy saving the planet, don’t try and distract us with your concern trolling about some people you saw last week. Let them, I don’t know, go to a public library if they want to keep warm.

      • From The Wiki:
        The Utilities Act 2000 gives the Secretary of State the power to require electricity suppliers to supply a certain proportion of their total sales in the United Kingdom from electricity generated from renewable sources.

        Its done via the system of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs)
        Renewable energy (RE) generators get these by producing and electricity retailers have to supply a certain proportion of their electricity from renewables.

        A ROC currently costs about £45 – you get 1 per MWh of onshore wind, 2 per MWh for off-shore wind and solar is somewhere in between.
        The price of a ROC is ramped up annually according to the Retail Price Index (RPI) =inflation rate.
        With interest rates at all time lows, the return on investment is handsome and guaranteed for 20 years.
        They are calculated to currently cost the UK consumer 1.89 pence per kWh and that obviously rises.

        From what I’ve put here, it’s obvious that an offshore turbine can and will sell its electricity for £0.00 and still receive more than our Texan correspondent here is paying retail for elektrickery.

        And we all see the neat little positive feedback in there, how the price of a ROC is tied to the RPI – because electricity goes into creating/producing/moving/selling/using almost everything in this modern world.
        Just like ramping up the price of petrol/diesel, it lifts the cost of everything. so driving the RPI and hence driving the ROC price.

        You now ‘get’ the reason for the push for electric cars, increasing the gain of the positive feedback loop. Even before you get into the surveillance & control aspects of same. See where China is going now with that.
        Expect Happy Endings – there is precedent aplenty in history books.

        • Yes, this is correct. Though in NI there is actual priority dispatch referred to in legislation.

          I was sure it was happening but did not recall the mechanism.

  24. One thing that this article doesn’t mention, which is very important is that
    WIND & SOLAR are NOT replacing the Coal.
    Gas is.
    Just look at the national Grid for the last month, wind power has been below 5GW for about 60% of the month.

    • Yes mainly. Usually when a ‘coal free’ day is claimed it is moderate weather, a weekend or BH, generally low demand, and total demand could have been met from gas/nuclear etc. so the wind/solar is actually as ‘unnecessary’ as coal. At times of normal/high demand coal IS almost always required regardless of how productive wind/solar are. And remember the wood pellet coal conversions which are just as ‘bad’ as coal are churning away too.

      Madness. Expensive madness.

  25. What are the costs of running a power-station? Build – operation (all factors, including and excluding fuel) – decommission. I would be interested in knowing the cost of having the coal and gas plants standing by versus having them in operation.

    • O&M ex of fuel is usually around 5-7% of capital costs.

      So when building plant that inly covers short term peaks, it pays to build cheap gas guzzling OCGT.

      That is the reality of renewable energy. It drives expensive low emitting plant out, because that needs to operate at high capacity factors to justify the initial cost, and favours low capital cost high emitting plant, which is cheaper to build and maintain.

  26. The intermittency problem of wind has been known since ~forever. Storage of electricity is not a practical solution and may never be economic or sensible. We’ve known these facts long before the beginning of global warming mania, yet trillions of dollars in scarce global resources have been squandered by politicians on intermittent, non-dispatchable wind power, which has served only to reduce the reliability of the grid, drive up power prices and increase winter mortality among the elderly and the poor.

    This post is from 2009:


    SEE E.On Netz excellent Wind Report 2005 at

    FIGURE 5 shows the annual curve of wind
    power feed-in in the E.ON control area for 2004,
    from which it is possible to derive the wind power
    feed-in during the past year:
    1. The highest wind power feed-in in the E.ON grid
    was just above 6,000MW for a brief period, or
    put another way the feed-in was around 85% of
    the installed wind power capacity at the time.
    2. The average feed-in over the year was 1,295MW,
    around one fifth of the average installed wind
    power capacity over the year.
    3. Over half of the year, the wind power feed-in
    was less than 14% of the average installed wind
    power capacity over the year.

    The feed-in capacity can change frequently
    within a few hours. This is shown in FIGURE 6,
    which reproduces the course of wind power feedin
    during the Christmas week from 20 to 26
    December 2004.

    Whilst wind power feed-in at 9.15am on
    Christmas Eve reached its maximum for the year
    at 6,024MW, it fell to below 2,000MW within only
    10 hours, a difference of over 4,000MW. This corresponds
    to the capacity of 8 x 500MW coal fired
    power station blocks. On Boxing Day, wind power
    feed-in in the E.ON grid fell to below 40MW.
    Handling such significant differences in feed-in
    levels poses a major challenge to grid operators.

    In order to also guarantee reliable electricity
    supplies when wind farms produce little or no
    power, e.g. during periods of calm or storm-related
    shutdowns, traditional power station capacities
    must be available as a reserve. This means that
    wind farms can only replace traditional power
    station capacities to a limited degree.
    An objective measure of the extent to which
    wind farms are able to replace traditional power
    stations, is the contribution towards guaranteed
    capacity which they make within an existing
    power station portfolio. Approximately this capacity
    may be dispensed within a traditional power
    station portfolio, without thereby prejudicing the
    level of supply reliability.

    In 2004 two major German studies investigated
    the size of contribution that wind farms make
    towards guaranteed capacity. Both studies
    separately came to virtually identical conclusions,
    that wind energy currently contributes to the
    secure production capacity of the system, by
    providing 8% of its installed capacity.
    As wind power capacity rises, the lower availability
    of the wind farms determines the reliability
    of the system as a whole to an ever increasing
    extent. Consequently the greater reliability of
    traditional power stations becomes increasingly

    As a result, the relative contribution of wind
    power to the guaranteed capacity of our supply
    system up to the year 2020 will fall continuously
    to around 4% (FIGURE 7).

    In concrete terms, this means that in 2020,
    with a forecast wind power capacity of over
    48,000MW (Source: dena grid study), 2,000MW of
    traditional power production can be replaced by
    these wind farms.






    • Correction:

      But it really makes no difference – the answer is if you put significant wind power into the grid, you need to include ~100% conventional spinning reserve, so IN FACT you should NEVER INSTALL THE WIND POWER AND SIMPLY OPERATE THE SPINNING RESERVE ALL THE TIME – THE MONEY YOU SPEND ON THE EXTRA GAS OR COAL WILL BE OFFSET BY THE SAVINGS IN CAPITAL COST, GREATER GRID RELIABILITY, MUCH LESS RISK OF TOTAL GRID FAILURE, ETC, ETC.


  27. This June there was a ten day period when the wind was on holiday and demand was high because of the warmth. Renewables contributed less than 4%. The coal-fired Fiddlers Ferry powerplant next door was doing overtime. If it were decommisioned the obvious and inevitable result, a child could see it coming, will be power outings. Followed by riots in the streets and perhaps green politicians hanging from lampposts.

    • “green politicians hanging from lampposts”

      I doubt it. More likely the BBC will declare that the power outages are the result of incompetent management of the power system and that the only solution will be the nationalization of the power system, followed shortly by the nationalization of all major users of electricity.

      And the myrmidons will lap it up, then go check the mail to see if their government check has arrived.

  28. In matters religious, cost means nothing except when economics pose an insurmountable barrier between reality and utopia.

  29. No mention of Nuclear or CCGT that between them provide around 60% of the UK’s total demand.

  30. Record power prices achieved!
    South Australia’s maximum supply from interconnects to neighboring States is 25%.
    Renewables have been providing 50% of generation!
    So what happens when renewables drop to < 5% for days on end like in Germany in December AND you have insufficient dispatchable power?
    Statewide BLACKOUT!
    Then shut down ALL dispatchable coal fired power.
    Consequence – record electricity prices of 39 c/kWh.
    See details in
    South Australia’s blackouts: It’s not black or white

    • The world needs South Austrailia: To show us just how impractical and expensive it is to try and run an economy using windmills.

      South Australia’s example will be cited many times.

      • I heard a report on tv this morning that said Germany has paid $288 billion to date in subsidies for “renewable” windmills and solar.

        How many nuclear powerplants could one build for $288 billion?

          • The only reason why costs are that high is because that’s what the politicians want.
            I could go over again what the real problems were at Fukushima, but since you have had this lecture several times already, it’s obvious you aren’t interested in the fact.

          • “…. what the real problems were are…..” Fixed that error you made. You see as of July 2018 radiation levels remain too high for humans to work inside one of the reactor buildings.

          • “You see as of July 2018 radiation levels remain too high for humans to work inside one of the reactor buildings.”

            Which is irrelevant, because the reactors are never going to operate again, so humans aren’t going to need to work in there.

          • Excellent idea MarkG, just let the radioactive stuff sit there. I’m sure that when rain leaches out the soluble radioactive materials, it won’t enter ground water at all.

          • I think you will find there is a fairly substantial concrete roof over it, and in fact Fukushima is next to the sea, so any rain will just wash the stuff into the sea, which has 4 billion tonnes of radioactive uranium in it already.

          • so what?

            That not a problem. Its contained. No one is dying. Its not even costing anything much. Just wait and radiation will subside

            Te real problem is that politicians and scare mongers have decreed that te whole area around mus be cleaned up to a level o radioactivity that is less than the background of natural radiation in 90% of the inhabited world.

            That is in(s)ane

          • Dave Burton: “The mess from the two nuclear power plants at Fukishima will cost $180 billion, not counting construction costs.”

            So if Germany learned nothing from Fukishima …
            And their nukes were similarly vulnerable …
            And a tidal wave ever hit their nuke plant …
            Then the clean up would still cost $100 billion less than German renewable subsidies. Did I miss something here?

    • “See details in…”
      That is a good article that you have linked to. And it doesn’t say at all what you say it says. It gives a balanced account of what were then four recent blackout events. It’s over a year ago, and there has been much less trouble since. It deals rationally with the network consequences of renewables; it doesn’t say they are responsible for high costs.

  31. Yet but a few days later, we’re using coal, IN SUMMER! Why? Because a High Pressure area has descended upon the UK, wind’s fell to a gentle breeze if that & at night, it’s dark. At 4.30am on July 13th, we had zero GW from solar & a paltry 0.07GW from our installed wind.

  32. Just in case some do not understand the complexity of bring up a steam boiler from cold to hot, I found this link, which is the least complex on I could find:

    Some useful excerpts include:

    “As the boiler heats up the metal surfaces expand:
    a. A 5 metre long boiler will be 11mm longer at 10 bar working pressure that it is at room temperature!
    b. As the steel accepts heat more readily than water, putting too much heat into the boiler while cold will cause uneven expansion of the various parts.
    c. This in turn creates large amounts of stress where the hot, expanding bits and cold static bits meet (e.g. at the furnace where it meets the front tube plate), leading to cracks in the welds and eventual failure.

    If its heated up incorrectly, inducing lots of thermal stress on the steel. If a boiler is put through repeated heating cycles from cold to hot this will increase the risk of stress fractures and ultimately a failure will be created. “

    “Where very large and old boilers are still in use (say 30 – 40 years old converted boilers) it could take several days to bring them up to pressure.”

    The full pdf has more detail.

    This is just the boiler, we now have to warm through the steam turbine. Large lumps of metal have to be warmed very slowly.

    So we rotate the turbine using an electric motor, bleeding in steam from the super heater, warming the turbine until it is up to temperature.

    Now we can disconnect the electric motor and put full pressure steam into the turbine.

    We get the turbine running at the correct speed and decide if we want to connect to the grid when synchronised.

    All in all, large steam generators are very good at what they do – large scale electrical supply.

    They can be stopped and started, but they need to be treated with kid gloves if you and your multi million investment to last 50 years or more.

    I don’t know, but would assume, that if you wanted your large coal fired plant to stay hot and ready on standby (with the turbine being rotated by its small electric motor) you would not feed with low volume of coal, you would probably use gas or oil while on standby.

  33. Hard to see why they are celebrating – coal has been a minor electric generation fuel for several years – in 2016 it only accounted for 9% and in 2017 for 7%. Natural gas accounts for over 40%
    and nuclear for 21%. They import 6% from abroad. Roughly 40% is from biomass, solar, wind and hydro. Britain is building nuclear plants on the coast in several locations – just one ,Hinkley Point C with 2 reactors will provide 7% of Britain’s power and there are plans for 9 reactors and Britain is also funding the development of small modular reactors, one by Rolls Royce.

  34. This article very clearly illustrates why no matter how cheap solar and wind become they can never compete with base load. That is because you need base load to back up renewables and if one is calculating the cost of renewables you have to include the back up base load power as part of the cost of renewables. Logic then indicates that the cost of renewables plus back up base load can never be as cheap as base load alone. No government would ever plan an energy system based on renewables if the only considerations are cost plus the need for 24/7 power. So if back up power can supply the power without renewables why would you add these to your system. Renewables are superfluous

    • “Logic then indicates that the cost of renewables plus back up base load can never be as cheap as base load alone.”

      Logic indicates that one should ‘run the numbers’ and see. Which this article didn’t do. At best the article indicates why your conclusion can’t be ruled out.

      For this skeptic the missing calculations leaves a huge hole in reasoning and logic.

  35. The low coal usage in UK recently is more a testament to the extremely unusual long sunny period than the wonderful green power sources. The UK has had over 6 weeks of almost continuous sunshine and has at the same time been blessed by a cooling breeze – lots of solar power sustained overnight by steady wind power, coupled with low demand for power because the UK has a low penetration of air conditioning. I would not like to brag that renewable power is replacing coal as the UK climate is capricious and what we are seeing is unusual weather not climate change.
    It is nice to be able to supplement regular power generation with renewable, but renewals will only ever be supplementary power sources until we are able to be able to store enough of the stuff to be able to cope with a beast from the east.

  36. Do the British have a steel industry, or do they import all their steel, especially stainless? Running smelters “Requires” ample and absolutely reliable power over long periods of time.

  37. This is of course fake news. Start by looking at the flows on the BritNed (Dutch) interconnector – you can find them on the right hand side of this page:

    You will note that most of the time, the interconnector is supplying the UK with close to 1GW.

    Any time there is power flowing to the UK, you can guarantee that the BritNed HVDC inverters at Maasvlakte are being fed from the Maasvlakte coal and biomass fired power stations. There’s MPP3, owned by E.On at 1.1GW and another 800MW run by Engie. There are a couple of 1,080MW units adjacent to MPP3 that were finally mothballed at the end of 2017, if reports are accurate. There is no way for power from any other source to flow into the BritNed connector unless these power stations are all offline. If they are offline, then it is more likely that power flows in the opposite direction.

    Maasvlakte is at the mouth of Rotterdam harbour, and is also Europe’s biggest coal port, able to take the largest Capesize vessels.

  38. I wonder how short-lived and immaterial a blip of a couple of days without any electricity at -10deg will be taken by the public when conventional power is finally decommissioned after this success story.

  39. Doesn’t the UK now get a lot of power by destroying forests over here to make wood pellets which then are shipped over there? (here being USA and Canada)

    I’d love to see a full article analyzing that silliness. I guess since the trees can be regrown wood pellets count as renewables.

  40. Demand this morning 10.54am 34.98GW Wind 0.36GW. The UK’s £400 billion green wind investment has struggled to get beyond 1GW/hour for 3 months with rare hours here and there when it rises to 2GW’s plus. In 2017 wind behaved like this for 7 months. In 2017 Greg Clark said we should rejoice because in 2016 renewables generated 14% of our electricity so I asked him how much CAGW had been averted by mitigating a thimble full of Co2. Clark did not reply but BEIS did tersely “we will not communicate with you further on this topic”.

    No petrol or diesel beyond 2040 but BEIS is not saying where the electricity for EV’s will come from with all coal targeted to be shut down by 2025 with no nuclear coming on line until decades after than date.

    BP data says the UK only emits 1.2% of global Co2 which China will eclipse in one day and no one from PM down will tell me why we are subjecting ourselves to this sack clothe and ashes pit of misery because whatever the UK does saving the planet is Frankenstein delusion. But just to show we are really good guys the UK is contribution £10 billion to the Green Climate Fund most of which is paying for solar lanterns to give the most poverty stricken on the planet a ray of hope. This Oliver Twist colonialist mentality which strives to pauper the poor with meaningless hand outs drives me nuts.

  41. In some ways, building alternative energy systems is like buying an electric car that only meets half your driving needs. You might save on gas, but you still need to keep your old car. So now you have two cars. It might be more expensive, or it might be less expensive, but when doing the cost saving analysis for the electric car, you can’t look at what it costs to run each car for each mile. You need to compare the total cost of a one-car approach to the total cost of a two-car approach. That is, if you need a backup then part of the cost is the cost of the backup.

    Likewise, when you hear someone say “windmill power costs $x per kwh” compared to coal at $z per kwh, you have to be careful on how you use those metrics. The cost per useful kwh from windmills increases as the share of power generation from windmills increases.

  42. You just can’t turn on a switch, there is start up time before coal plants are able to go on line. Or do you keep the boilers fired up all year, burning that nasty coal.

Comments are closed.