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Britain Prepares Last Resort Measures To Keep The Lights On

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Coalition govts, stagflation, sterling crises, a three day working week... the next five years is going to be very interesting. :)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10888078/Britain-readies-last-resort-measures-to-keep-the-lights-on.html


Britain readies 'last resort' measures to keep the lights on

National Grid to begin recruiting businesses who will be paid to switch off if needed to protect consumer supplies as a "last resort"

Britain may be forced to use “last resort” measures to avert blackouts in coming winters, Ed Davey, the energy secretary, will say on Tuesday.


Factories will be paid to switch off at times of peak demand in order to keep households’ lights on, if Britain’s dwindling power plants are unable to provide enough electricity, under the backstop measures from National Grid.


The Grid is expected to announce that it will begin recruiting businesses that will be paid tens of thousands of pounds each simply to agree to take part in its scheme. They will receive further payments if they are called upon to stop drawing power from the grid.


It is also expected to press ahead with plans to pay mothballed gas power plants to ready themselves to be fired up when needed.


“Both the new demand and supply balancing services will be used only as a last resort – and are a safety net to protect households in difficult circumstances, such as a hard winter or very high surges in demand,” Mr Davey will say.

Critics have suggested the measures, which were first mooted last summer, would represent a return to 1970s-style power rationing.

But Mr Davey will refute this, saying: “It is entirely voluntary. Nobody will get cut off. No economic activity will be curtailed.”

Mr Davey is on Tuesday also expected to publish a new gas “risk assessment” in response to the Ukraine crisis. He said this would show Britain could “comfortably” withstand extreme cold weather or the loss of key supplies.

Energy regulator Ofgem warned last summer that Britain’s spare power capacity margin – the difference between peak demand and supply – could fall as low as 2pc in winter 2015-16 as old power plants close and new ones are not yet built.

The risk of blackouts could be as high as one in four unless consumers cut demand, it said.

power-cut_1472336c.jpg

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Private Eye have been reporting that the National Grid have been signing up anyone with any kind of diesel generator failsafe system/ CHP setup to stand by to supply the grid at silly rates like 30p/KWh. So we're unlikely to see any black/brownouts, but we'll be paying through the nose. Personally I'd rather we'd just kept the likes of Didcot and Kingsnorth online.

Edit: I can buy a 3KW solar setup with batteries and inverter for under £6k on ebay but can't stick them on my roof in a 'Conservation Area'.

Edited by Rave

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So I guess that means us poor renters will have to eat our dry pot noodles by candle light, as only those who rent from the bank can put a solex-converter on the roof...

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I've done pretty well out of my utility shares over the past few years, I even topped them up when they dipped on the back of Labour's promise to freeze prices, confident that they'd come back when everyone woke up to the magnitude of the power crunch ahead.

Guess they're still looking good for the next few years too.

But it's odd, utility shares should be a "widows and orphans" investment, not a vehicle for capital gains.

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I've done pretty well out of my utility shares over the past few years, I even topped them up when they dipped on the back of Labour's promise to freeze prices, confident that they'd come back when everyone woke up to the magnitude of the power crunch ahead.

Guess they're still looking good for the next few years too.

But it's odd, utility shares should be a "widows and orphans" investment, not a vehicle for capital gains.

Providing electricity (even zero-carbon electricity), water, basic housing, public transport.. for a first world country in the 21st century, these things should be cheap, simple and boring.

Really. We managed it 50 years ago.

Somehow, 35 years of deregulation, privatization and regulation (because you can't privatize utilities without a lot of regulation) has managed to make these things expensive, complicated and hard.

It's as if we had a 'breakthrough' in maths that meant that it now took a week on a supercomputer to compute 2+2.

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It's just media shit-stirring. Demand management makes perfect economic sense. Why pay for extra generating capacity that will hardly ever be used, when it would be cheaper to pay large consumers to cut back their consumption at times of peak demand?

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It's just media shit-stirring. Demand management makes perfect economic sense. Why pay for extra generating capacity that will hardly ever be used, when it would be cheaper to pay large consumers to cut back their consumption at times of peak demand?

The trick is this: As a large consumer, reduce your bills by signing an 'interruptable' contract for precisely this scenario. THEN, place lots of scare stories in the media about an imminent set of blackouts, forcing the government into paying sky-high subsidies to the operators to build new electric plants - which them means that your 'interruptable' clause never gets invoked. Trebles all round!

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So they're being paid to be unproductive.

Why not, they do it for individuals, why not businesses.

Clearly we have traitors in charge who want the nation to fail. Directing money to housing bubbles rather than renewing infrastructure.

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It's just media shit-stirring. Demand management makes perfect economic sense. Why pay for extra generating capacity that will hardly ever be used, when it would be cheaper to pay large consumers to cut back their consumption at times of peak demand?

You're not one of these 'green' types who dreams up ways of taxing idle cars or spare rooms because of the 'inefficiency' or "non-optimal space usage" they represent, are you?! <_<

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Better to tax waste than to tax productivity, profit and income which is the current modus operandi of governments.

Anyway, this Telegraph piece is tosh. Or, rather, it's accurate but not all news. These sort of contracts have been available for years (probably for ever).

More interesting to hear about the diesel generator thing upthread. Ties in with something I came across recently; bloke setting up a diesel farm plugged into the grid "for emergencies". IRRC (and it is hazy), he receives a stipend for it just being there - and there may even be some planning dodge that meant he didn't have to go through all the usual hoops.

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Better to tax waste than to tax productivity, profit and income which is the current modus operandi of governments.

Anyway, this Telegraph piece is tosh. Or, rather, it's accurate but not all news. These sort of contracts have been available for years (probably for ever).

More interesting to hear about the diesel generator thing upthread. Ties in with something I came across recently; bloke setting up a diesel farm plugged into the grid "for emergencies". IRRC (and it is hazy), he receives a stipend for it just being there - and there may even be some planning dodge that meant he didn't have to go through all the usual hoops.

I've found out what this is all about. It's in case England gets to the finals in the footy. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jun/10/no-world-cup-blackouts-england-national-grid

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So the little people see their energy bills rise to pay for handouts to corporations for not using energy?

Shocking, yes, but that's the current thinking from our government bright sparks. Neither high octane or down to earth, I'm afraid.

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So the little people see their energy bills rise to pay for handouts to corporations for not using energy?

I suspect this is the cheapest way of doing it. Yes, for the "little people" as well.

If they want to keep the lights on during peaks, they can do a deal that means that big users can be turned off. Sure, it costs a bit to do this in the form of cheaper rates for the big user. And that cost is met all users (and shareholders, in truth) - big and little people.

Alternatively, they could forgo this type of contract and, with no ability to turn anyone off, they'd need to build more powerstations - just to sit there until needed occasionally. Again, the cost of this will be met by all users - big and little people.

I can't think of any reason why they'd chose the more expensive option so I imagine it's cheaper, for the little people, to do this contractual thing rather than build new power stations to sit idle.

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I suspect this is the cheapest way of doing it. Yes, for the "little people" as well.

If they want to keep the lights on during peaks, they can do a deal that means that big users can be turned off. Sure, it costs a bit to do this in the form of cheaper rates for the big user. And that cost is met all users (and shareholders, in truth) - big and little people.

Alternatively, they could forgo this type of contract and, with no ability to turn anyone off, they'd need to build more powerstations - just to sit there until needed occasionally. Again, the cost of this will be met by all users - big and little people.

I can't think of any reason why they'd chose the more expensive option so I imagine it's cheaper, for the little people, to do this contractual thing rather than build new power stations to sit idle.

Well at least we have "trickle down" in the UK? So despite executive pay going off the top of the scale, everybody feels the benefits?

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You're not one of these 'green' types who dreams up ways of taxing idle cars or spare rooms because of the 'inefficiency' or "non-optimal space usage" they represent, are you?! <_<

No, I'm one of those green types who thinks that limited resources, such as land, and environmentally destructive activities, such as burning fossil fuels, should be taxed in order to encourage their sensible use, and that the money raised should be used to reduce or abolish other taxes. The government should not be involved in micromanagement through subsidies or tax breaks; it should simply tax the external negatives and leave the rest to the market.

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Truly, the sheer incompetence of the state boggles the mind. Everything it touches goes to hell.

In what way has electricity generation "gone to hell". Are you without power?

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In what way has electricity generation "gone to hell". Are you without power?

Britain may be forced to use “last resort” measures to avert blackouts in coming winters, Ed Davey, the energy secretary, will say on Tuesday.

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Britain may be forced to use “last resort” measures to avert blackouts in coming winters, Ed Davey, the energy secretary, will say on Tuesday.

Have you actually read the article?

It's just the Telegraph putting a negative spin on what is, on the face of it, a perfectly rational way of cutting electricity costs by reducing the need for new power generating capacity. As far as domestic consumers are concerned, it simply means that electricity should be a little bit cheaper than it would otherwise be.

Edited by snowflux

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I wonder how much of this is down to increasing reliance on wind power.

Approx 12% of capacity now comes from onshore and offshore wind, which needs possibly 80% - 90% backup that, because of wind's preferential access to the market, is going to be idle for a lot of the time. Is the problem therefore that it just isn't economic to have further capacity to backup the backup.

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I wonder how much of this is down to increasing reliance on wind power.

Approx 12% of capacity now comes from onshore and offshore wind, which needs possibly 80% - 90% backup that, because of wind's preferential access to the market, is going to be idle for a lot of the time. Is the problem therefore that it just isn't economic to have further capacity to backup the backup.

It's always been a problem, given that total electricity demand ranges between a minimum of about 20GW on a warm Sunday morning in the summer and as much as 60GW on a cold January afternoon. Even without input from renewable sources, you still need to have a lot of capacity lying idle just to cover those occasional winter peaks. As energy costs rise and the technological means become available, it makes more and more sense to use demand management to flatten the peaks.

Increasing input from wind and solar power will require more conventional plant to be idled, and the market will have to be organised to cope with that, but we're not yet at the level where it makes a significant difference.

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I wonder how much of this is down to increasing reliance on wind power.

Maybe a little. But peak load management contracts have been around since long before wind became a player - simply because peaks are a product of demand not the type of supply.

One day, maybe, we'll get to the point where it is supply troughs (windless, cloudy days) that create the supply/demand mismatch but we're a long way from that just now.

The solution will be broadly the same, though. Some reserve capacity and, probably more, variable pricing to spread load. Despite the turbine and tumbledrier middleman, it'll still make sense to dry your clothes on a sunny windy day!

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[quoteSomehow, 35 years of deregulation, privatization and regulation (because you can't privatize utilities without a lot of regulation) has managed to make these things expensive, complicated and hard.

Got rather more to do with us being told to turn off perfectly good power stations than any utility privatisation issue. These contracts have indeed been around for yonks, they are only rarely invoked.

On the +side, I may be able to make a killing out of my 25 kW 3 phase generator. It doesn't get used enough as I only need it for the plasma cutter and big compressor. Get a 100 gallons of red and sell leccy to the grid. Like it....

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