Power markets in crisis
ALARM bells have been ringing in European and UK power markets this month as electricity prices surge to record levels. Here ‘day-ahead’ prices are triple those of a year ago and European markets are seeing the same, a sign of serious instability in European grids.
The immediate trigger has been low wind speeds across much of Europe in the last few weeks, meaning reduced outputs of wind power. This has led to a shortage of power on the grid, and a consequent spiking of prices. This sort of thing occasionally happens in winter when demand is high, but is unheard of in summer months, indicating that something is going badly wrong.
This problem is not a one-off. It is much more deep-seated, and has been building up for years. UK wholesale electricity prices have doubled since this time last year. There are many factors, including rising demand for natural gas from Asian countries as they rebuild their economies, which has also pushed gas prices to record levels. Normally this would incentivise higher production of gas, but this has been discouraged in Europe in recent years, and seemingly now also in the US.
Most of the problems in power markets have been self-inflicted. Arguably the biggest factor this year has been the doubling of EU carbon prices, deliberately engineered by the EU to force fossil fuels out of the mix, in favour of renewable energy. UK carbon prices have followed suit. It is estimated that this rise is responsible for a fifth of the increase in electricity prices.
Coal has the highest carbon footprint, and this has encouraged the switch of generation from coal to gas power, which otherwise would be dearer, thus increasing demand for natural gas already in short supply. Both coal and gas generators have to pay this carbon price, forcing up their costs and consequently prices yet further.
On top of that comes the £12billion-a-year cost of renewable subsidies added to all our electricity bills, equivalent to £440 per household.
Meanwhile huge tranches of reliable, dispatchable generation have been shut down both here and in Europe. In the UK, for instance, coal and oil generating capacity has dropped from 29GW to just 6GW in the last decade. To put this into perspective, UK demand peaks at around 50GW, so we have lost half of this, leaving our reserves perilously low. The remaining 5 GW of coal power will also be gone in three years’ time.
The plan of successive governments was that new gas power plants would be built to take up the slack, but this has not happened. Gas power capacity is no higher today than it was in 2010. Because of the obscene subsidies paid to renewable generators, as well as rising carbon prices, new gas power plants are simply not economically viable. We still have 35GW of gas capacity, but much of this is old plant due to close in the next decade, and there is little sign that it will be replaced.
The situation in Europe is similar, and will be exacerbated further by the enforced closure of all nuclear power in Germany next year, where it accounts for a tenth of electricity. France is also planning to phase out much of its nuclear power in coming years.
All this at a time when demand for electricity will soar because of the switch to electric cars and heat pumps.
There are the inevitable calls to solve this problem with yet more intermittent renewable energy, but this can only make the power system even more unstable, while increasing energy bills still further.
And how is Britain planning to cope with this crisis? Rely on interconnectors to import electricity from Europe!
The National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios are based around up to 25GW of interconnector capacity, which amounts to playing Russian roulette with our energy security. As we have seen this month, when we are short of wind power the rest of Northern Europe tends to be as well.
What guarantees are there that France, say, will allow its power to be exported when they themselves might be short of it? Indeed, last week Ireland shut down the Moyle interconnector to Britain, built to export surplus Irish wind power, because unsurprisingly they too were short of electricity.
To cap it all, a fire has just taken out the 2GW interconnector between Britain and France, and it won’t be fully back in action till next March.
Russian roulette with a fully loaded pistol might be a better description!
BBC’s hurricane propaganda
It’s Atlantic hurricane season again, meaning that the BBC wheels out its annual claim that global warming is making the storms worse.
Every month for the last year, the BBC has broadcast a ‘Climate Check’ video, usually presented by weatherman Ben Rich. Far from being fact checks, these are little more than exercises in propaganda, attempting to blame every bit of bad weather on climate change, regardless of what the data says.
Earlier in the year, for instance, Rich presented a piece on a tornado in the US, labelled as an example of our ‘changing climate’. Although he admitted that climate scientists don’t know if there is any connection between global warming and tornadoes, the emphasis of the film was that destructive tornadoes are becoming more common. For some reason, Rich forgot to tell viewers that there has actually been a marked decline in the frequency of violent tornadoes in the US since the 1970s.
True to form following Hurricane Ida, in this month’s Climate Check he calmly makes the claim that ‘Climate scientists believe that global warming is making [hurricanes] stronger.’ Before making such claims, maybe Mr Rich should have checked the data, which shows no evidence whatsoever to back up his assertion.
National Hurricane Center
Even the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, accepts that there have been ‘no robust trends in tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic’.
But the BBC is not interested in facts, only propaganda.
Arctic ice refuses to go
For years, so-called experts have assured us that all the Arctic summer sea ice would be long gone by now. the world’s leading climate expert, Al Gore himself, told us back in 2009 that it would all have melted within four years.
But when it comes to climate clowns, surely top prize must go to Peter Wadhams, who unaccountably is still Professor of Ocean Physics and head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University. His predictions included these gems:
• In 2012, he predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2015/16;
• In 2014, he thought it might last till 2020;
• In 2016, he confidently predicted the Arctic would be ice-free that summer (though curiously he now defined ‘ice-free’ as less than 1million square kilometres).
In the real world, however, this summer’s sea ice extent bottomed out last week at 4.7million sq km, which is the fourth highest total since 2007, and the most for seven years.
Since 2007, the sea ice has been remarkably stable.
National Snow & Ice Data Center
Its extent did decline between 1980 and 2007, but it had increased in the two decades prior to that, which was a period temperatures when fell sharply in the region. It was a time known as the ‘Sea Ice Years’ in Iceland, a disastrous era of failed harvests and fish migrating to warmer waters.
In the same regions where temperatures fell in these years, they had also increased rapidly beforehand, to levels similar to today in the early 20th century. Scientists know this as ‘The Warming in the North’, one of the most notable climate events of the century. Just as in recent years, much of the sea ice melted away as temperatures rose.
Climate scientists of the past, such as the renowned H H Lamb, knew that these changes were all part of natural cycles.
Now they blame your SUV!