The Western Link: A new failure highlights the overbuild of Scottish Wind and raises new questions

Posted: January 29, 2020 by oldbrew in Big Green, Critique, Energy, Politics, Subsidies, wind
Tags: , ,

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In short, Scottish wind power often produces too much for the electricity system to handle, yet more is planned. Meanwhile the super-expensive Western Link is failing miserably to draw off the excess power. Matt Ridley is trying to blow the whistle on this fiasco in the House of Lords, with some success.

Last weekend the Italian cable manufacturing company, Prysmian, released a statement announcing to the markets that the Western Link High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnector between Hunterston and Deeside had failed again, on the 10th of January, says the Renewable Energy Foundation.

This grid link, which is a joint venture between Scottish Power Transmission (SPT) and National Grid (NG), employs cables manufactured by Prysmian.

This £1 billion project has a peak transit capacity of 2.25 GW and was designed solely to facilitate the export of Scottish wind power to the English and Welsh markets.

In doing so it was expected to reduce constraint payments to wind power, payments which amount to £630m since 2010, with a record £130 million in 2019 alone.

The project was expected to come online at the end of 2015 but in fact did not become fully operational until late 2018 and has been plagued with faults ever since.

The interconnector may have reduced the rate at which constraint payments are increasing but it has not reduced the total payments. Hopes that this situation might improve in 2020, with the interconnector now in full operation, have been dashed by this latest failure.

Unsurprisingly, there has been an increase in constraint payments after the most recent fault, though they were already high when the failure occurred. Payments this month so far amount to £21 million, a record for January, and the sixth highest monthly total on record.

Furthermore, and in spite of the presence of the interconnector, the prices paid to constrain wind off the network have not fallen, and remain greatly in excess of the income lost, undermining the claim that they are fair compensation.

A reasonable person observing that the prices asked for by wind farm owners vary between 20% and 80% in excess of lost income will conclude that this is an indication of profit taking and an exercise of market power, and will think it remarkable that the regulator has not intervened.

This story has been covered in the Scottish press (Times, Daily Mail, Daily Record) and on STV television news. But it is now becoming a national story, with growing concern that decisions taken by the Scottish government are causing highly significant increases in consumer costs to households and businesses in England and Wales.

The Sunday Telegraph has this weekend (19.01.20) published a detailed account: ‘Wind farms paid up to £3 million per day to switch off turbines’.

The Telegraph story also reports that Lord Ridley has submitted three written Parliamentary Questions (PQs) to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Her Majesty’s Government is required to answer within a reasonable period of time.

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Further on in the article:
    Secondly, the regulator, Ofgem, should investigate the potential conflict of interest affecting two of the largest wind farm developers and recipients of constraint payments, Scottish Power and SSE. These two companies also divide ownership of the Scottish grid network between them, with each being a monopoly within its respective area. There is consequently a clear potential conflict of interest since these companies probably understand the network weaknesses better than any other party, and siting new wind farms in areas already subject to grid constraints would send out the wrong signals.
    – – –
    the wrong signals – that’s one way of putting it :/
    = = =

  2. cognog2 says:

    There appears to have been an extraordinarily high level of incompetence at government level in the way these market interferences have been set up. The consumer interest seems to have been totally ignored.

  3. pochas94 says:

    As technology increases the consequences of government by the ignorant will only get worse.

  4. pochas94 says:

    I still favor Democracy because once an ignoratus gains political power he inevitably pushes everyone else down.

  5. Phoenix44 says:

    Wow, bureaucrats fixing the price of something get it horribly wrong. Who’d thought?

    Why do governments refuse to learn that they cannot do it, literally cannot as Hayek showed conclusively? All these elites laugh at us plebs for saying we don’t trust experts, but the experts get it wrong time after time, whilst ignoring a Nobel prize-winning economist who has been proven right time after time.

  6. JB says:

    “Democracy: the opportunity to be everyone’s slave.”–Karl Kraus
    In other forms of guv, where there is a single controlling person, remediation is comparatively “simple.” But in a system where everybody is oppressing everybody else with their own specific agenda, where does the common citizen go for remediation? Join the mass-movement bandwagon? Countervail corporate interests?

    Under the Anglo-Saxon/Norman system, plunder and inefficiency is inherent, and only moves in one direction–bad to worse. It was MEANT to be run by business.

  7. pochas94 says:

    Yes, JB, a beneficent monarch is the best form of government. Trouble is, they don’t succeed themselves.

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    In view of the DC Solar ‘collapse’ in California and the guilty pleas, has anyone checked that all these wind turbines actually exist?
    Being paid to NOT supply electricity from a wind turbine that isn’t there would be very profitable (and no complaints about noise or dead birds).

  9. pochas94 says:

    I just traveled through the northern part of Texas. Believe me, windmills exist. It is pretty windy there.

  10. ivan says:

    The whole system of how the grid buys power from the generators should be completely overhauled. Generators should quote for a fixed amount of power they can supply on a month by month basis with penalties if they do or don’t supply the bought amount per month. Unfortunately, so sad, that would put the unreliable ‘green’ suppliers out of business.

    Doing that should bring the cost of power to the public down to a sensible level and save people paying for over generation. It would also ensure security of supply up to and past 2050.