GB Coal Consultation


The UK government has just begun a consultation on the closure of unabated coal-fired generation of electricity:

The closure date for responses is 1st February 2017.

At the same time the UK is approaching winter, and I have started checking the status of GB supply and demand on the gridwatch website ( ), especially at the time of peak demand, currently around 17:15. A sample screenshot, from Monday November 7th 2016 is shown below:



Peak demands in early November are this year around 49 GW, of which around 8.5 GW are currently being met by coal, with very little spare capacity, besides OCGTs and diesels on standby. Note in the figure above that imports were near maximum, and that wind power was relatively high at around 2.8 GW, i.e. there is very little spare capacity, even before winter has started.

On November 8th 2016 the contribution of coal to peak demand was 8.86 GW, probably close to its maximum output.

Can the GB grid do without 8.86 GW of dispatchable power on cold winter evenings? If (like me) you think not please make a submission to the UK government, see the documentation available from the link above for details of how to do so.

The main consultation document makes the familiar mistake of showing only statistics for total energy, which show a recent rapid falloff of coal, and a rapid rise of wind and solar, no doubt leading many to conclude that there is not a problem. But, solar makes zero contribution to peak demand (except on Christmas day, when peak demand occurs during the cooking of lunch), and wind often makes a small, uncertain and non-scaling contribution on the coldest days. By non-scaling I mean that doubling the wind capacity would not double its contribution to reserve capacity, which tends to flatten off with increasing wind capacity once cold breezy demand peaks have been reduced by wind power below cold calm ones.

The recent rapid falloff of the contribution of coal to total energy tends to shoot this consultation in the foot, in its own terms. If the average utilisation of the coal fleet is falling to low levels, what is to be gained by closing it?

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