What to do when there\’s no wind

Back-up power generation capacity will be available for unwindy days, with gas or coal power filling in the gaps.

What\’s difficult to manage is the fact that it takes around three to four hours to switch on a coal station, about 90 minutes to get a gas station running full blast, and several days to crank up a nuclear power station.

The Government\’s current favoured solution is demand-side management, which involves controlling the amount of electricity used by consumers.


They\’ll turn off your lights.

Have to say, there\’s a certain elegance to the system. The solution to the unreliability of wind power is to make the entire electricity system unreliable. What a step forward, eh?

13 thoughts on “What to do when there\’s no wind”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Look on the plus side – those nice windmills will provide perfect locations to attach the hemp to in order to leave their dead corpses swinging in the wind for all to see.

  2. Currently thanks to Tony Blair’s pledges, we have some CCGT stations, the most efficient and least polluting parts of the generating system, running on idle, so that they can be switched on when the wind drops, which means that we have more polluting coal-fired stations running full-time.
    Using unreliable wind-power is not only more expensive it also makes the whole system more polluting not less.

  3. Since you can’t throttle the mains, I presume demand management is just switching you off. Or are we to get a smart monitor thing on every appliance, so they can switch off your TV and fridge but you can have a special permit to keep your computer running if you can prove a business need etc?

  4. “…but you can have a special permit to keep your computer running if you can prove a business need etc?”

    All permits to be allocated to BBC, Independent, Guardian, etc…

  5. More likely they will turn off some company’s power. This happened (or people were put on notice) a few years back in the gas market, where the Russians were squeezing us. Some company’s might have been restricted. But that was all right, because they had signed up to cheaper contracts with a I-get-cut-first clause. Probably the same is true for ‘lectric. You should like it: its all very market-y.

  6. Demand management can involve asking large consumers (Big Businesses) to use less electricity. There is still a cost involved in this.

    The National Grid website is good place to start.

    Elexon’s information is a bit more involved.

  7. William, very, very, doubtful that it could possibly stop at that, but you know that so stop trolling. Of course, cutting off the productive parts of Britain is so much a good idea, but in fact the relevant commissar has already pronounced on this and advised people to be prepared for the fact that cuts will be made to individual consumers. They will, he said (paraphrasing a little) have to get to having power when it’s available and not simply when they want or need it.

    Quite why any nation will be so supine and craven as to stand for this sort of stupidity just amazes me. But then, religious extremism produces arrant stupidity in its acolytes.

  8. “several days to crank up a nuclear power station” – you can let the nuke run at full power and just “wastegate” the electricity it generates during windy times, direct the electricity into the grid when the windmills can’t provide.

    The fuel costs of a nuke are very low, so it costs about the same to keep the nuke available whether it is generating power or not.

    Some might ask why have the windmills at all in that case – which is a good question.

  9. Ed Snack,

    Quite why any nation will be so supine and craven as to stand for this sort of stupidity just amazes me. But then, religious extremism produces arrant stupidity in its acolytes.

    Because right now the people who should be jumping up and down screaming about this (the media) aren’t.

    What’s going to be fun is when the public wake up to this. What gave Thatcher her mandate was the lights going out in the 70s.

  10. As William has pointed out, demand-side management already exists. They’ll just add a chunk of smart-metering tech alongside that if and when it becomes available. It’ll be your fridge that goes off for a half-hour or so, not your lights. And you’ll get paid for it. To be honest Tim, this sort of scaremongering is beneath you – are you angling for a job at the Telegraph?

    @johnny bonk:
    The main cost component of nukes is capital. All those estimates you see for nuke cost are based on running the plant 24/7. As soon as you start ramping up and down the costs change dramatically. See here: http://www.cessa.eu.com/sd_papers/wp/wp2/0203_Pouret_Nuttall.pdf

  11. Adam Bell just exactly who is going to pay for the whole country to buy smart appliances. You might be rich enough to replace all your white goods to allow this; I can assure most of the population aren’t.

  12. @Ian:
    Well, the Government’s going to mandate the installation of smart meters, and that’ll enable the installation of smart white goods. If you have the capability to manage your demand, you’ll be able to take a particular tariff that will reflect this capability. If you don’t, you can’t. There’ll be incentives, but no-one is going to force you to switch off your electricity if you don’t want to, in the same way no-one forces those companies with demand management agreements right now.

  13. Or alternatively, we could follow the crazy strategy of just having enough fucking generating capacity.

    I know, totally barmy. Who’d want that when you can have the State dicking around with your fridge and fiddling with the setpoint on your heating and aircon?

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