The UK blackout of 9 August 2019 is unlikely to be the last one

Posted: January 5, 2020 by oldbrew in Analysis, Critique, Energy, Uncertainty
Tags: , , , ,

This GWPF report paints an uncomfortable picture of increasing instability in the UK electricity supply system, as ever more renewables are injected into it while older but more predictable thermal power plants are retired. The author says bluntly that until recently customers ‘could rely on the system. That is not the case today.’ Come the power cut, you’re on your own.

It has been widely claimed that Distributed (or embedded) Generation, such as solar and wind connected to the low voltage distribution network, reinforces electricity system stability.

The final reports into the widespread blackout of the 9th of August last year by the UK electricity regulator, Ofgem, and the British government’s Energy Emergency Executive Committee, E3C show that this is not the case.

Distributed Generation is now under the spotlight as a leading cause of the severity of the 9 August blackout, and as a hazard increasing future risks to security of supply.

Both the UK electricity market regulator, Ofgem, and the Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have now (3 January) released their final reports into the blackout on the 9thof August 2019, a blackout that disconnected over 1 million for nearly an hour with knock-on impacts that persisted for days in many cases and in case, an oil refinery, for several weeks:

Ofgem, Investigation into 9 August 2019 power outage

E3C, Great Britain power system disruption review
. . .
The GWPF report concludes:

It will be interesting to see what comes of the E3C requirement that National Grid review the crucial Security and Quality of Supply Standard (SQSS) with the aim of understanding the “explicit impacts of distributed generation on the required level of security” (p. 15).) If the consumer interest is respected this could be very interesting.

Taken together these studies of the 9th August blackout report systemic fragility problems in the UK electricity supply industry, but not only within the production side of the industry.

National Grid, the generators, the DNOs, none emerge smelling of roses, but the E3C also observes that the consumer sector itself is poorly prepared (p.18ff). As a matter of fact, they are encouraging consumers of all kinds to develop “strong business continuity plans” covering “a range of credible power disruption scenarios”. This is MBA Jargon, but is not too hard to put into everyday French: Sauve qui peut.

It seems probable that consumer side weakness is the outcome of a long period of robust electricity supply, under the CEGB and its inheritors, meaning that consumers never had to test, adapt or even go to the difficulty and expense of developing measures that ensure their lives and businesses are robust in the context of a fragile electricity system. They could rely on the system. That is not the case today.

The costs of a largely decentralised generation portfolio, much of it composed of low inertia generators such as wind and solar, are not limited to the technical athletics of the System Operator, but also involve the need for a forewarned and forearmed consumption market.

Thanks to energy and climate policies, British consumers from households to hospitals must now ensure that they are able to handle not only the more extreme grid management measures required by a “smart”, “clean” system but also the consequences emerging when those measures prove inadequate.

Taking up the slack, which is what “strong business continuity plans” means, will not be cost free.

Full report here.
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See alsoDelingpole: Welcome to Boris’s Blackout Britain… (4 Jan 2020)

  1. Gamecock says:

    This train wreck has been coming down the tracks for years.

    With a ‘Energy Emergencies Executive Committee (E3C) of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS),’ how could you ever have a problem?

  2. oldbrew says:

    Jaime Jessop highlights the report’s comments on the system inertia problem here:

    “To avoid an immediate repeat of this incident, which could be much worse (the event on Friday the 9th was close to nationwide black system), it will be necessary to manage system inertia,” Mr Gibson and Dr Aris state. [bold added]
    – – –
    Black start:
    – – –
    National Grid ‘had three blackout near-misses in three months’
    Exclusive: Industry sources say system operator aware of growing potential of blackouts ‘for years’
    Mon 12 Aug 2019

    Steve Shine, chairman of Anesco, a battery company, said: “It would be easy for National Grid to write this incident off as a fluke event, but they have actually been aware of this potential issue for many years.”
    – – –
    A Friday afternoon in mid summer – hardly the peak time of national electricity demand.

  3. I’ve did a quick analysis late last year as January-February is usually a period of high demand and low wind

  4. cognog2 says:

    Presumably the Climate Change Act (2008) precludes government consideration of these factors as being merely technical matters for the industry to solve.

  5. Joe Public says:

    Close your eyes, and imagine the greenies get their way. They close all the dispatchables, replaced by wind & solar. And then there’s a blackout. Unless Dinorwig can kick-start the grid, a million turbines and 10 million solar panels sure as hell won’t.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Black start options are discussed here, including use of interconnectors…
    – – –
    See also: Getting the power back on

    [Click on image to enlarge]

  7. hunterson7 says:

    The idea that power from low quality, intermittent and unreliable high prices sources can help a grid is just more magical claptrap from the climate hypesters.

  8. ivan says:

    There is only one way to get back the stability of the grid – remove all the unreliable renewables from it and build a few more reliable HELE coal power stations.

    To do that the government would have to repeal the Climate Change Act (2008) and all things associated with it. Unfortunately the government are in thrall to the UN Church of Climatology with Boris being lead by his **** by his latest girl friend so there is no hope that they will turn the tide.

    That being said the outlook for the UK is very dark indeed especially in the cities, those living in the out in the country should be a little better off because they can buy a genset and use it when the power goes off.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Germans who live near wind turbines should be paid compensation, says government minister