From Tallbloke’s Talkshop
March 1, 2023 by oldbrew
Not a new story, but problems are getting worse thanks to net zero obsessions. Why authorise new capacity in areas where transmission lines are known to be inadequate?
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UK consumers are paying hundreds of millions of pounds to turn wind turbines off because the grid cannot deal with how much electricity they make on the windiest days, says Sky News.
The energy regulator Ofgem has told Sky News it is because the grid is “not yet fit for purpose” as the country transitions to a clean power system by 2035.
The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), which is responsible for keeping the lights on, has forecast that these “constraint costs”, as they are known, may rise to as much as £2.5bn per year by the middle of this decade before the necessary upgrades are made.
The problem has arisen as more and more wind capacity is built in Scotland and in the North Sea but much of the demand for electricity continues to come from more densely populated areas in the south of the country.
In order to match supply and demand, the National Grid has to move electricity from where it is being made to where it is needed.
But at the moment there aren’t enough cables between Scotland and England to do that.
There is one major undersea cable off the west coast of the UK, and two main junctions between the Scottish and English transmission networks on land.
This bottleneck means that when it is very windy there is actually too much electricity for these cables to handle without risking damage.
And because we can’t store excess renewable energy at the necessary scale yet, the National Grid Electricity System Operator has no option but to ask wind generators to turn off their turbines.
According to analysis by energy technology company Axle Energy, using publicly available data from the electricity system’s balancing market platform Elexon, in 2022 the National Grid spent £215m paying wind generators to turn off, reducing the total amount generated by 6%, and a further £717m turning on gas turbines located closer to the source of demand, in order to fill the gap.
These costs are eventually passed to UK consumers as part of the network costs section on energy bills.
Constraint costs are not just restricted to clean, cheap [sic] wind power.
In order to balance the system, the National Grid pays fossil fuel generators to ramp production up and down when necessary too.
But there is a particular focus on the impact of increasing levels of variable renewable generation and how that can be best managed.
‘A huge risk – and a waste’
Director of policy for the renewable industry group RenewableUK, Ana Musat, told Sky News her members have been calling for upgrades to the grid for years.
She is now concerned the lack of transmission capacity may jeopardise the government’s promise to decarbonise power generation by 2035 and get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
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The energy department and Ofgem recognise the problem.
They recently set out joint plans to “overhaul” underwater and onshore transmission networks to connect up to 50GW of offshore wind to the grid by 2030, including two new undersea cables between Scotland and England that have already been approved.
But in a statement to Sky News an Ofgem spokesperson admitted the grid was not yet “fit for purpose”.
Full article here.