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Thursday, June 27, 2013

When the lights go off who will be to blame the UK or EU?

Will EU policies switch off the lights?
When 100 years ago a British Foreign Secretary observed that:
"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time"
he was referring to a particularly bad phase in European politics.

100 years later EU energy and climate change policies mean Europe could soon be trying to relight those same lamps in the face of impending power cuts.

Today OFGEM the UK's energy regulator has issued its latest report on the UK's generation capacity and it makes interesting reading (by candlelight).

Firstly they predict that by the winter of 2015 (election year) there are likely to be several hours of power cuts (figure 24). This has been brought about because of the closure of coal plants and a growing reliance on wind (figure 1). The report names the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive and the fact that only 17% of wind generation can be relied upon compared to 80-90% for other generation methods. OFGEM concludes "reasonably small changes in conventional generation availability have a material impact on the risk of supply shortfalls". Worryingly wind seems to be there least when we need it most. Key graphs here:

Power cuts in election year?
Gerneration capacity in the UK will be less reliable
So why has this come about? A large part of the problem emanates from climate change policies locked in at the EU-level (it has to be said, promoted by the UK Government at the time). Open Europe has long pointed out that EU policies are riddled with contradictions and inflexible targets. Here is a recap:
  • The Emissions Trading System (ETS) - a market based system of cap and trade that in theory should produce the most cost effective emission reductions. In practice, an over allocation of permits and the economic downturn have lead to such a low price of carbon and it is not doing its job.
  • The EU's renewables target -This imposes a mandatory level of renewable electricity production from renewable energy. This flatly contradicts the first policy as renewables are not always or often the cheapest way to reduce CO2 emissions. And, even if they were, by mandating them you push the price of carbon down yet further so reducing the pressure for lower emissions in other sectors.
  • Large Combustion Plants Directive - this mandates that many coal fired plants should close on pollution grounds.
In the UK these policies have been supplemented by the Treasury's self-imposed carbon price floor which effectively funnels more cash to non fossil fuel electricity production. As renewables are already heavily subsidised this is in effect a subsidy for nuclear. And if no new nuclear plants are built it is really a pointless bung to existing plants.

So how has the UK got itself into a position of not having enough electricity generation? Well underinvestment caused by a changing regulatory environment led by unrealistic and contradictory EU climate policies that have lead to a closure of coal plants and their replacement by unreliable wind energy.


Jesper said...

It seems like Sweden might have a more deregulated electricity market than the UK. The result:

During times of high electricity need/demand the price goes up -> some flexible generators (gas & oil) are started to profit from the high price and some electricity-intensive industries actually shut down until prices go down. Power cuts are uncommon but complaints about power companies creating shortages to inflate profits have been made for the last couple of winters.

I'm not familiar with UK energy policies, might it be possible that price controls (usually good for winning elections) could be a factor?

Rik said...

The UK.
Just ask yourself the following question who is the greatest idiot, the idiot or the one knowing that still following him?

Rik said...

These (and things like the budget) makes you think that the UK would be better off outside the EU. But of course within a freetrade zone (an extended one).

Anonymous said...

Installed capacity is no longer an adequate parameter to use when judging the likelihood of cuts.

When we had fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro power to rely on, it was pretty clear that when the switch was flipped the juice would run. As so much of the claimed capacity is now on and offshore wind power, we do not know that. The systems and individuals who run the grid can no longer call up capacity on demand; they have to look out of the window and check if the wind is blowing.

And is it blowing at just the right speed: too light and no power, too strong or too cold and the generators are shut down.

It is only my natural reluctance to spend money which prevents me from buying a diesel powered generator for domestic use as I am sure I shall have to cope with power cuts in the coming years.

Because our society, commerce and security is now so much more dependent on electricity supply than in those days, a three day week as Heath brought in would be chaos compared with then. Paraffin and gas lanterns hanging in tube station corridors and workers using them for light on desks when the IT was shut down would not next time see us through.

I suspect the authorities now know this and they are casting around for a villain to blame.

Anonymous said...

The "climate change" scam and its ugly litter of "renewables" and "sustainabilities" should be drowned and buried deep underground for ever.

clinihyp said...

The pending rationing of power comes as no surprise to those of us who are regular readers of Christopher Booker's blogs since he has, for a number of years, been warning anyone who would listen, what lies in store of us as the result of the EU policies we are forced to follow and the huge and wasteful expenditure on wind farms.

Indeed, had our politicians listened and acted on Booker's recommendations, rather than being forced to obey unelected fascist commissars in Brussels, we would not be facing the pending catastrophic events which in turn will have a direct adverse affect on economic recovery!

Anonymous said...

Why do we have to agree with every thing that the EU dictates. Whether the problem is climate change or a natural long term weather cycle is open to debate. Either way our piddly little country should run its own affairs and produce our own electricity irrespective of what the EU or any one else say. This government wants to spend billions on HS2 so that people can reach London a few minutes earlier, Get real, get your priorities right.

Denis Cooper said...

Anonymous -

"Why do we have to agree with every thing that the EU dictates"

Basically because the great majority of MPs agree that we should.

Maybe one in ten of the MPs we have elected are truly committed to our national sovereignty and democracy, and they are probably outnumbered by those who take the opposing view and would actually prefer our complete subjugation in a pan-European federation, while the remainder don't care so much either way and will usually follow whatever lead is given by their party leaders in order to advance their wretched careers.

This is because for several decades we have had three main political parties controlled by eurofederalists who do their best to exclude true patriots from being selected as parliamentary candidates, especially in constituencies where they might stand a chance of winning.