Great Britain won’t freeze this winter despite coal plant closures, unlike the fearism pushed by Breitbart.com

Breitbart.com wants us to think that Great Britain is going to freeze to death this winter because chasing after green energy sources has meant shuttering that country’s coal fired power plants.  Without the guaranteed electricity of coal, GB is going to run out of electricity, and all heck will break loose, apparently.   And, oh my gosh, that followed the billions of dollars (er.. pounds) that GB invested in wind turbines and the like.  Those windmills surely won’t be enough to power the country through the winter.

These wires bring us the power to stay warm

Turns out the story is nowhere near as bleak, and that Great Britain plans to fall back on other electricity sources should the weather be bad.  (according to Reuters)

What happened is that the National Grid Plc released a report about how they’ll keep the lights on and electricity flowing over this winter.  The primary cause for concern is that, yes, they’ve shut down several coal fired power plants.  That means the winter-time margin of excess electricity over demand is expected to fall to 4.1 percent, compared to a 5 percent excess the year before.

Yes, indeed, Great Britain expects to have an excess of electricity throughout the winter of 2014 above electricity demand.  The margin will be slightly lower than last year, but it’s still an excess of electricity.

The risk in predicting the future is what happens if it doesn’t turn out as expected.  What if the winter is colder than expected, or some of the wind turbines break, or something?  Will Great Britain face an electricity crisis?  That is what those fear-mongerers at Breitbart.com want us to believe.

According to the Reuters report, the National Grid paper discussed a wide range of fallback plans in case something unexpected happens.  Plans the Breitbart people either ignored or hyped out of proportion.

Again, the National Grid expects there to be an excess of electricity, but just in case it’s needed:-

they plan to encourage utilities to restart “idle” power plants, if needed
a demand-response plan will compensate offices and factories for voluntarily cutting back electricity demand if the grid is overstretched
three power plants are on “standby” in England and Scotland – if needed

That would raise the margin of excess power to 6.1 percent.
The plans do rely on two nuclear plants coming back on-line by December.   According to Reuters there is a non-zero chance those plants will not return to service as expected.
There are a number of other risks that threaten the electricity supply not just of Great Britain but other parts of Europe.  One of those is an issue I’ve covered a lot on LongTailPipe – the looming natural gas embargo from Russia thanks to the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.  Previous tensions between those countries led to at two previous natural gas shutdowns over the last 10 years.
Long-range forecasts suggest a mild winter in Great Britain.  The country’s natural gas storage tanks are 99% full.  That gives GB a strong position should Russia cut back supply to Europe.
Great Britain is in the midst of a long-term shift away from coal fired plants.  The Reuters report says the government and Ofgen predict tight electricity supplies over the next two years, but that the supply situation will improve by mid-decade (2016?) thanks to new “plants” ‘coming on-line.
According to official sources it’s all hunky dory, everything is within the reliability standards.  But the Breitbart people want us to believe it’s going to be bad, that it’s a man-made crisis, that Great Britain will freeze this winter thanks to green dogmatism, and that the country should suspend its unilateral green energy targets.
Is Breitbart being paid by the Coal Industry?

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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