Monday, 29 January 2018

BEIS Capacity Projections - are they Serious about how Little Firm Supply we Need?

Oh dear, even worse than a graph - a table!
What does it tell us?
BEIS, the Government department in UK responsible for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, projects how much electricity capacity they think we will need over the next 20 years.
Where do we start to dissect this and make sense of it?
First, there is a 30% increase over the period in total capacity, from 110 to 142GW.
But this includes renewables, which are almost all intermittent, and can not be relied upon to produce electricity at peak times.
So the peak firm supply capacity, without allowing for any downtime for power station maintenance or breakdown during the winter months,, is much less.
In fact , it goes from 70GW at the moment to 74GW in 2035.
42% (31GW) of this firm capacity is storage and interconnectors, i.e. electricity from abroad, arriving by undersea cables.
So we will have only 43GW of firm generation capacity in this country, considerably less than our current peak demand of around 50GW.
Fine you may say, we are getting more efficient in our use of electricity, and we are - at least some of the readers of this blog! - shifting when we use electricity away from peak times.
But we also have an intention to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040- and each new electric car requires about 3kW of additional capacity - that's 90 GW for 30 million vehicles.
Should electric vehicles be allowed to charge at all outside trough demand times, say midnight to 6am?
 They are at the moment...

Thursday, 25 January 2018

December UK Electricity Production by Fuel Type including renewables

December's UK electricity production graph makes interesting reading:

  • Peak demand was 50.6 GW, reflecting the gradual decline in peak demand over the last ten years or so
  • Wind (green) made a useful albeit sporadic contribution
  • Solar PV (yellow) was negligible, and nonexistent at peak times.
  • There were several high-peak-demand days with almost no contribution from wind
  • Gas (light brown) is now taking virtually all of the strain of meeting fluctuating demand as coal is phased out
  • Average demand at 36.5 GW is 14GW below peak demand giving an opportunity cost of not having domestic demand response of  £110 billion at present non-carbon firm supply capacity cost (i.e. nuclear). That's £70 million a week that could go towards the NHS for 30 years.
So - if you don't want carbon and you don't want nuclear, you had better start getting a few of your friends to flatten their demand!
The good new is that 10% of consumers are already aware of this as an issue, including PV owners, those on economy 7, and a few hundred thousand geeks like you and me. So we are well and truly on the adoption curve - but with a long way to go -so get time-shifting.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Would you Pay your Supplier for Greater Reliability?

Centrica, who own and operate gas-fired power stations in UK, are now offering a "resilience" service at addional cost.
The implication of this is a two-class service; a less reliable one that you get from just paying your normal bill, and a more reliable one that you get by paying their "resilience" fee.
There are many possible causes for power failure, and not all of them are under the control of the generating companies or the suppliers (Centrica is in both of these categories).
Is there a subtext or hidden mesage here? Centrica have been warning for some time that the strain on existing gas-fired power stations is growing, as they are required to cope with ever larger swings in demand.
Unless we as consumers are aware of this and take appropriate demand response action, we will be faced increasingly with costs of this sort.
So keep spreading the word - chop the peak , fill the trough!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Into the Forest!

Last night I watched "Into the Forest", a Canadian film set in the near future, which hypothesises a lengthy (over a year) power outage covering much or possibly all of North America.
Such an event is not as far-fetched as it might at first appear. Major outages covering large areas are well known if not frequent events. They are however extremely rare so far in UK. Planned outages in the three day week of 1974 is the nearest most of us have come to experiencing life with no electricity.
The two heroines in the film end up burning their house down to create the impression that they have died in the fire, to avoid unwelcome attention from roving predatory gangs or individuals. They go to live in a hollow tree with their new-born baby.
Such a situation is undesirable to put it mildly.
Hiow do we avoid it?
One way is to reduce the strain on our electricity supply system, by reducing peak demand.

So keep shifting your big loads into the trough!

Happy New Year.