Interesting insight into the Grid economics

see here, it is the cost of wind to us all.

  • Looks to me that the largest increase in balancing costs was actually for gas.

    It's an odd market where the highest cost sets the price for all suppliers. Some industry insiders have been strongy suggesting that some gas plants are also still pocketing record sums of cash by manipulating their availability, to the extent that National Grid has recently announced an investigation

       - Andy.

  • Well, as always it is more complex than the folk at wattsupwiththat like to make out.

    The fact is that because of wind there is less gas used for generation in total,  and if the gas prices had stayed level, there would have been noticeably  less spent on it. but yes, the balancing , and related, reactive compensation to keep voltage and frequency in bounds are becoming more problematic. This is a feature of having to do the infill  between windy periods using gas so the gas rigs are being brought in and out of service where in the past they would have run more or less  non-stop, and the fact that inverter generation has no inertial mass and does not exhibit a falling frequency with overload unless programmed to do so.

    Synchronous condensers, which are really motors run on the border between motor/generator modes, often with an external vacuum flywheel, and not condensers at all in the normal sense,  will probably help the frequency and waveform quality in future, when in the past this ability to use inertia for stabilistion came for free with a conventional generator.

    . It is indeed pricey to spin things up and down to start and stop generation, , but not as pricey as long term burn if not needed, and neither pricing mechanism of half hour charge units, nor the signalling infrastructure are really suited to the more nimble operation now equired.

    Operators of gas power stations like to have some income if they are firing or not, and having kit not turning but wages to pay etc is not free. Recently also the gas prices have affected their viability, so some of the 'overcharge' is more of a matter of staying in the black,  It may be that the rule book and formulae for the balancing process need to be revised.


  • Whilst there is truth in all that MIke, the problem is much larger than that described. The problem is that subsidies have distorted the economics to the extent that the system is in great danger of failure. Last week there was very little wind on most days when the large high was stationary over the UK. All the conventional sources were running at nearly full capacity to generate the 40GW or so required, including all the coal stations still operational. It should be the wind suppliers who paid for the extra conventional, not the other way around. When the wind is just right they make huge profits, but at other times they get away scot-free, because the wind is not a suitable source for grid-scale reliability, and never can be. Germany has discovered this big time, and yet still is shutting all nuclear plants, which is simply crazy. I find it hard to believe that the politicians (particularly in the Treasury) cannot understand some very simple economics of supply and demand, and consider how to deal with the reliability issue. They managed to remove our gas backup storage, whose purpose was to smooth demand across a year and wonder why prices rocket in the winter. We have lots of gas but cannot use it because certain groups cannot understand the process of getting it. The USA has had very few problems and exports lots of gas. The number one point of the Electricity supply is that it is totally reliable to almost all consumers all the time. This has been completely lost, and then they want to increase electricity use. Totally mad!

    Watts up with that produces few articles, most are from other sources in a review manner.

  • I don't know why people might think Germany is having poor experience with wind energy. We are not. We are having a good experience, rather better in fact than anticipated when the decision was made many moons ago to proceed with the Energiewende, as it is called. 

    A good place to start to inform oneself about the German renewable energy stats is although this is from 2017. This says the contribution from wind turbines (in 2017) was 18.6% of total. It has gone up since 2017.

    The short report on "renewables" for 2020   (in German) says that the contribution from renewables was 41.8% in 2019 and 45.3% in 2020, this rise largely due to favourable wind conditions. Of course, if conditions can be "favourable", they can also be "unfavourable". 

    Anyone who is concerned on a regular basis with the development of renewable energy in Germany, and can read German, can read the monthly government reports on it available from which are full of detailed graphical comparisons. 

    One major difference with the UK, as I have pointed out before, is the entirely different economic structure under which this public good is supplied. For a critical look at the UK situation under a shortage of gas supply, see 

    German consumers pay quite a lot for electricity in comparison with neighbours, it is true. The flip side to that is that heating does not supervene on electricity supply to any great extent. People don't use electric-power space heaters. (I do; I have a Dyson hot+cool for when spot heat is necessary.) Buildings are generally heated by hot water from a central boiler and have been for well over a century (my heating structure; exposed pipes and radiators, is 115 years old). Most forms of heating, of course, do depend nowadays do depend on some electricity to run the control systems.

    And now for the spoiler. Yes, grid balancing and control for turbines does come at some cost in supply. But of course it can be done in the wind farms themselves. If you are a wind farm, it seems to be cheaper at the moment to have other plant do it for you. But if that gets to be a system-wide problem, you just put in the kit to do it yourself. 

  • Watts up with that produces few articles, most are from other sources in a review manner.

    The blog works similar to this one, with some very knowledgeable persons contributing.

    Notably, Willis Eschenbach.

    Most of what he has to say is worth reading.