Another capacity crunch in 2018/19?
Oct 6, 2014
Bishop Hill in Energy: coal, Energy: grid, Energy: nuclear

The last 48 hours has brought news of yet more pressure on the electricity grid. The good news is that the year that is currently looking most likely to bring power cuts - the winter of 2015/16 - is unaffected. The bad news is that a second capacity crunch may well be looming in 2018/19.

The first piece of bad news came when the operators of the massive Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife suggested that they will not be bidding to supply electricity in 2018/19:

Scottish Power has decided not to enter the contest to supply energy generating capacity in 2018/19, arguing financial changes are needed to avert the threat of closure.

The National Grid said it had been working closely with the industry and Ofgem to review the charging regime.

Scottish Power point in particular to the cost of connecting to the grid, but in essence the case must surely be that their economic model has been cut to pieces by almost every aspect of energy policy. This is a bit of problem. Having been expensively fitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment, Longannet was expected to keep operating for some time to come, so this appears to be a direct hit on the UK's future generation capacity.

Then this morning came the news that safety checks have found cracks in graphite fuel bricks at the Hunterston A nuclear reactor. Such cracks are not a terminal problem, but once the level of cracking reaches a certain point, then the reactor will have to close. The station will reopen, with a licence to supply power for three more years. However, plans to extend its life further are now looking as though they may be "subject to future revision".

Together, the two stations can generate more than 3.5GW of power, which is something like 5-6% of peak demand. According to the Ofgem grid capacity estimates (quoted here), the margin in 2018/19, when they may have both been taken offline, is of the order of 4% of peak capacity.

Not good.


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