The British Energy Horror Story

Spread the love

By Paul Homewood

This is really an excellent summary of the looming energy horror story, coming our way soon:

Looking for a light read? Perhaps a fairy tale to settle the kids before bed?

If so, I highly recommend the publications page of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). You will find endless exciting tales about the near future. Stories of a high-tech world, in which humanity has “Built Back Greener” and enjoys prosperous existence in equilibrium with a revitalised natural world.

But perhaps fantasy is not your thing. Maybe you’d prefer something scary — a horror story to make your hair stand on end. Never fear — BEIS has you covered. As a fellow spookophile, I encourage you to scroll past the utopian titles, right to the bottom. Here we find the department’s “generation capacity” estimates.

Generation capacity is the amount of electricity our country can generate or import if supplied with sufficient fuel.

As with most horror stories, the setting will initially appear rosy. Aided by the world’s biggest offshore wind market, the amount of clean electricity the UK can generate is expected to soar ever upwards —  hinting at a carbonless world just around the corner. Indeed, journals spanning from the Guardian to the Spectator have run glossy graphics to this effect. 

But things are not as they seem. Look at the estimates of National Grid’s Energy Systems Operator (ESO) and you’ll begin to feel goosebumps. These projections “de-rate” energy generators based on how reliable they are (generators rarely run at 100 per cent efficiency). Applying this method nearly halves generation capacity — from 115 gigawatts to 62. At this level, supply is barely keeping level with demand.

Full story here.

I have of course been writing about this for years, but I had not come across the BEIS projections, which are mentioned above. BEIS describe these “baseline projections”:

And here are those projections:

The tables run from 2019 to 2040, but I have only shown the 2030 to 2035 period for clarity.

The tables specifically note that these capacities are not de-rated. Although “renewables” includes a small amount of biomass, maybe 5 GW, the vast bulk will be wind and solar.

In reality then, by 2030 we will only have about 45 GW of dispatchable capacity. This also needs to be de-rated, as it is not reasonable to have all of that capacity online 100% of the time. Traditionally, a figure of 85% has been used, so as to provide a safety margin. That of course means we can only count on 38 GW.

Quite why the BEIS thinks that we can guarantee to have 17 GW available from imports is a mystery, not least given Europe’s own energy crisis.

By 2035 demand will have risen considerably from current levels, if cars and heat are decarbonised as planned, likely peaking at near to 80 GW.

As the article explains, this kind of make-believe has been self generating within official circles, with the green blob in BEIS fudging the figures, using accounting tricks and even making stuff up, and ministers justifying their policies by reference to the Committee on Climate Change.

Reality may well be worse than even the BEIS projections allow. All of that gas generation will need to be with carbon capture, in order to meet the carbon targets. Most of our existing CCGT capacity will therefore have to be scrapped. BEIS therefore are projecting 22 GW of new build gas generation by 2035, but since 2012 only 4.4 GW has been added.

It is not clear why any investor would spend billions building gas plants, if they are all going to be banned long before 2050.

I’ll leave the summing up to The Critic:

There is no silver bullet to kill this monster, but disaster may be avoided if we’re prepared to acknowledge it exists. Blackouts remain unlikely if electricity demand is constrained, which means the government must abandon its plans for the grid to go green by 2035, along with the aim to switch to electric cars and heat pumps. Coal stations will need to keep burning, and mothballed generators may require re-recommissioning. Whilst it is too late to build the necessary plants in the next few years, the government can save future pain by loosening restrictions on new gas-fired power plants. It should also be prepared to finance new projects directly (60% of the bill for Hinkley C is borrowing costs, due to the government’s refusal to provide direct funding).

Above all, the Government must tackle the perverse incentives which lead it to walk blindly into this mess. The CCC must be abolished, or at least matched by another quango responsible for scrutinizing climate policy’s impact on energy security. CCC members who might have misled the public should be investigated. Legal requirements to meet impossible climate targets must also go — if the department can meet targets, that’s good, but its priority has to be to keep the lights on. Finally, civil servant pay caps must be removed to promote continuity in departments.

This tale speaks to a deep dysfunctionality at the heart of the system. Keeping the lights on is a basic function of modern government, and we are close to critical failure. The next PM’s first task must be to exorcise vested interests and create clear lines of accountability. If the eco-blob cannot be tamed, the future of the country looks dark. 


AUGUST 28, 2022

The British Energy Horror Story | NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT (