I actually thought I’d seen it all in the climate emergency fantasy world and that nothing could shock me any more, that we rational human beings had probably witnessed Peak Stupid or something close in the faux debate about ‘climate breakdown’ and what we as a society should be doing to ‘stop’ it. But no. National Grid have pushed the boundaries yet again and jumped, not the shark, but the killer whale, and now I fully expect that others will seek out even bigger ‘fish’ in the deep blue sea of seemingly fathomless stupidity which characterises the existential crisis that was once called ‘global warming’. That’s if everything in the deep blue sea doesn’t die of oxygen starvation first of course.

So, yes, here we go anyway. Let’s delve into the murky, incoherent, risible depths of National Grid’s stunning demonstration of just how intellectually, cerebrally, and rationally challenged they have become as an organisation promoting renewables and wind energy. The headline reads:

A smart energy system in action

Naturally, one interprets the word ‘smart’ to mean, well, intelligent, technologically advanced, adaptable etc. You don’t really expect National Grid to then explain that it’s ‘smart’ because consumers are being paid (yes, actually paid) to burn energy at random and unpredictable times when the sodding wind happens to be blowing! But that’s exactly what these morons claim.

Over the weekend, consumers up and down the nation found themselves being paid to use electricity generated from renewable sources. Why?

More and more renewable sources of power are coming online so it’s important we find ways of using as much of that power as possible, to ensure it’s not wasted and help keep costs down too.

The blustery conditions meant a consistently high level of wind power over the weekend, in fact 5pm on Sunday saw the record for the amount of electricity generated by wind power in Great Britain – 16162 MW. That meant a surplus of wind energy, which is where negative pricing comes in.

Even now, when the UK has not finished adding offshore wind capacity in order to go ‘net zero carbon’ energy generation by 2025 or 2050 or whenever, even now, existing installations are starting to generate ‘too much’ energy which, if not used pretty rapidly (because it can’t be stored) willdestabilise the grid and cause catastrophic blackouts as happened recently in London and the South East (though National Grid won’t admit it). So what do they do, they pay smartmeter energy customers to basically squander that energy. If someone tells you you’ll be paid for every kWh you use, you’re gonna switch every damn electrical appliance in the house on right? Make sure every single room in the house is heated to 25C, wash all the curtains, bedding, run the immersion constantly, give the dogs two baths each etc. etc. You ain’t gonna say ‘Oh great, I might just have four slices of toast this morning, instead of my usual two’.

But NG boffins think that profligate and unplanned rapid disposal of this surplus energy which cannot be stored by their ‘smart’ grid amounts to somehow ‘saving’ energy and somehow ‘reducing one’s carbon footprint’. I feel a McEnroe moment coming on at this point: “Jesus CHRIST! You CANNOT be SERIOUS!!”

Some energy suppliers (companies who buy energy in the wholesale market and sell it on to customers) offer flexible time of use tariffs. Time of use tariffs are designed to incentivise customers to use more energy at off-peak times, in order to balance demand. These tariffs charge cheaper rates at certain times of night or day, when demand is at its lowest, and higher rates at popular times. On Saturday and Sunday night consumers on these flexible tariffs were offered energy prices that saw them paid for every unit of electricity they used.

Using this excess energy in homes and batteries across the country helps us in our role balancing the grid and avoids energy being wasted.

Then we get treated to a direct quote from NG’s Director of Operations himself:

National Grid ESO’s Director of Operations Duncan Burt explains more:

“As more renewable sources of power come online we’re looking to encourage more intelligent energy use and technology. Whilst small in scale, initiatives such as this are really exciting offering consumers and business financial incentives, helping them to reduce their carbon footprint and playing in helping the UK to transition to a low carbon energy system.”

Now that is priceless – unlike National Grid’s surplus electricity generation on windy days which they’re so desperate to get rid of incase it causes blackouts that they’re actually paying customers to burn it. But of course on days when it isn’t windy, those same customers with ‘smart’ meters installed will find that their energy costs sky-rocket and they can’t afford to even use a one bar electric fire. In fact, not too far off from now, they’ll find that their ‘smart’ toaster tells them they can’t have any toast at all because there’s no surplus energy in the grid. ‘Smart’ meters will then be fulfilling their original intended purpose – energy rationing.

Of course, something this stupid, you would expect the Graun to immediately pick up on and shout it from the rooftops. They don’t disappoint. At all.

Thousands of households were paid to use extra renewable electricity over the weekend as windfarms generated unprecedented levels of clean power.

Homes using a new type of smart-energy tariff were urged to plug in their electric vehicles overnight and set their dishwasher on a timer to take advantage of the record renewables in the early hours of the morning.

The blustery weather helped windfarms generate almost 45% of the UK’s electricity on Sunday, setting a record of more than 16GW that evening. At times there was more wind power than the UK needed.

‘Unprecedented levels of clean power’. FFS! Bonkers Boris and his shiny Green Tories intend to go full speed ahead with this madness. The UK is running at breakneck speed into a catastrophe – and it ain’t no climate catastrophe.





  1. Hoovering up negative priced power and storing it (in car batteries) or using it for energy intensive, time-insensitive tasks like laundry or dishwashing certainly does displace fossil fuel demand at other times. It isn’t squandering the energy if the energy was going to be used anyway. The concept has also been applied to the US gas market [where negative prices also exist for very different reasons] – rather than flare the gas they are setting up bitcoin factories powered by these momentary surpluses.
    I’d agree that asking people to suddenly wash dishes for no reason makes no sense, but I don’t think that’s what’s being proposed here. And at an industrial scale demand side flexibility (aluminium smelting springs to mind) would seem a decent ‘no-regrets’ means to stabilise power prices regardless of origin.


  2. Getting people to organise their lives around when it’s going to be windy and when it’s not is insane. You can’t program your dishwasher and washing machine according to the weather forecast, or decide that you’re going to create more dirty laundry or use more dishes according to the weather forecast either. What will happen is that people offered negatively priced energy will use it, no matter what, sensibly or otherwise. Also, how many people have electric cars which they charge at home? How many people can actually afford such a virtue signaling luxury? How many people will look at the forcast and think ‘Hmmm, I’ll run the batteries down on my car this week just in case the energy company offers to pay me for charging it’. You can’t organise society in such a fashion, according to the vagaries of the weather. You’re asking for chaos. Stable societies require stable energy supplies.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I have decided to instal a bicycle-powered generator at home with a big reverse gear and linked to a newly installed smart meter. When a named storm gusts over and sends those big whirligig things athreshing, I shall do my bit for the UK National Grid and pedal BACKWARDS, so soaking up as much of that surplus electrical energy as I can. Shouldn’t let any of those free elections go to use!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The idea is that smart appliances eg are set to automatically run during the cheapest hour (this technology is deployed in a variety of markets already.) The forecasting is done by the power company itself (demand modelling at an hourly resolution is a staple of wholesale energy pricing.) For recharging EVs or UPS batteries eminently sensible, even in the total absence of renewable-related supply surges (negative power pricing is nothing new as conventional thermal and nuclear plants also face ramping constraints). Not merely from the option to use but also *not* to use during ultra-peak hours when wholesale prices can go from 50 EUR/Mwh to 1000 EUR or higher.
    In this case the NG is simply copying from the USA, as the largest demand response program in the world is in PJM (Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Maryland):

    Click to access O.Khalid.pdf


  5. It takes only a little bit of thought to realize that paying people to use your product, even if you can’t use it yourself, is not a sustainable business practice. The money they give away will be recuperated by other means. Someone is going to pay for all the “free” money, most likely with a tidy premium on top to cover for errors, and that’s bad for everyone in the long run.

    Tiered charges, albeit unpredictable ones, are nothing new and not the point.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So if you have an electric car you must wait for a storm before you can charge it cheaply ? As for UPS batteries they only last 1 hour at best. Will there be a surge in storage heaters now ? They are not having my boiler !


  7. This sounds as mad as the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive whereby farmers were paid a fortune to burn wood to heat unused sheds etc. The powers that be have gone totally insane and a gullible and uneducated public believes all this green crap. That swamp needs a lot of draining.


  8. JDLV,

    This is patently not about using ‘smart’ technology to even out demand via differential pricing during peak times and off-peak (low demand) times. It is power companies under the direction of National Grid directly intervening in the energy market in an attempt to protect the grid from damaging wind power surges which create dangerously low inertia in the system which leads to generators tripping (as happened in August in London when a major offshore wind installation and a small gas turbine station tripped simultaneously). No sane, rational government implements an energy policy in a highly developed economy like the UK which deliberately builds in reliance upon intermittent, expensive, environmentally damaging and unreliable wind energy merely in order to virtue-signal its ‘planet-saving’ credentials. The UK energy sector is being run by and governed by reckless lunatics and/or criminals intent on using a mythical ‘climate crisis’ as an excuse to boost their eco-egos and/or line their pockets with filthy Green lucre at the expense of the paying public.


  9. Basically it is a hell of a lot cheaper for the National Grid to pretend to “give” free energy to consumers rather than pay extortionate fixed constraint payments to dump any excess power.

    One day the emperor will be exposed to be naked.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. And at an industrial scale demand side flexibility (aluminium smelting springs to mind) would seem a decent ‘no-regrets’ means to stabilise power prices regardless of origin.

    This is a double edged weapon. While you can use aluminium smelters to dump excess power, the economics of them necessitate that the average electricity be very cheap. That is, you can use them to fix some of the fluctuations of “renewables” but only at the cost of making power more expensive for the other consumers. The smelters won’t buy the peak cost electricity (except enough to prevent the pots solidifying) so everyone else will have to pay.

    Aluminium smelters are best run right beside a source of reliable, cheap electricity. They’re not going to stay in business merely so the National Grid can use them to solve its problems.

    All over the West aluminium smelters are going out of business as the cost of the power becomes too much.


  11. Some industries are energy intensive and can only afford to operate when those costs are minimized. Glass sands in west Norfolk are very pale when extracted from huge sand-pits, but they do have a minor iron content that must be removed to produce a colourless glass . This involves using large amounts of the cheapest available electricity – usually at night. Bet they now have a bloody great smart meter.


  12. paying people to use your product, even if you can’t use it yourself, is not a sustainable business practice.>

    Depends on the market & quantity – in the case of west Texas natural gas, it’s nowadays a waste product; producers make enough from the oil and liquids, and can’t ship or burn the gas, so they have had to pay shippers quite a bit to take it. Even conventional oil wells at times face negative pricing due to production ratchets since you can’t quickly shut one in without compromising well integrity.
    Waste power is inevitable. Nuclear and coal plants can’t stop or start on a dime and customer load is itself highly volatile. Some negative pricing is sustainable because the hour or two they pay the market to absorb excess production is covered by all the others. And it happens *all* wholesale power markets, with or without renewables not just the UK. This is the only case I can think of where retail customers have been invited to share in what is ordinarily a rare windfall for gas peakers & pumped hydro operators.
    It seems better that more flexible assets should be on hand to absorb surges in supply or demand Why shouldn’t retail or large business customers monetise their flexibility just as utilities do? The networking and load prediction technology are in place as are the idle time-shifting assets eg:
    Fossil fuels are more reliable than renewables when they’re in stock; when there’s a major asset failure the effects are longer lasting and more costly. The LNG market on which Europe has come to depend during winter relies on fewer than 1000 specialised tankers, shuttling across the straits of Hormuz & other precarious waterways. Subsea compressor failure, shipping accidents, platform fires or blowouts to say nothing of man-made risks (sabotage, embargo, war) are inherent to conventional energy production from large inflexible assets. The day ahead UK gas price went from 50p to £2.30 2 years ago (that’s for the whole day, for the whole country, indeed for much of the continent) – that economic impact dwarfs whatever NG will ever spend on the rare hour or so of negative retail pricing.
    The destabilising impact of renewables isn’t easy to spot in a long term price history. 90 day price volatility for wholesale UK power is on the low end of a 10 year time series & the largest price movements (2008, 2016) were driven by fuel volatility and nuclear outages to which a system complemented with a distributed renewables & storage would be more immune.


  13. Beth. My neighbour just had a visit from people in a big white van plastered with information about saving electricity by changing light bulbs, (offering to exchange them for free!) = change of the light brigade.


  14. Alan, if I was your neighbour I would demand a pound for every light bulb they swapped using the same logic as National Grid – I would be saving energy and reducing my carbon footprint, therefore I expect to be paid for it. Hopefully, it would also be a very windy day, which would strengthen the case for financial incentives to be offered.


  15. If anybody is in any doubt at all that smart meters will become compulsory and be employed to primarily ration energy, consider this newly released report from the government on Absolute Zero by 2050. It envisages the complete electrification of all household appliances and household heating in the next 30 years, with most power being supplied via wind and solar. This will require the current levels of domestic energy use (heating and appliances) to be reduced to 60% of the current use. This is worse than it sounds. The UK population will have increased considerably by several millions by then, meaning even less domestic energy use per capita will be required. You’re probably looking at individuals at least halving their use of energy in the home in the next 30 years. We’d better hope that winters get warmer and not colder!


  16. This is patently not about using ‘smart’ technology to even out demand via differential pricing during peak times and off-peak (low demand) times.
    Here’s the tariff they’re talking about; t it seems to involve exactly that – the hourly pricing is automatically signalling water heaters etc to run during off peak hours:
    But of course on days when it isn’t windy, those same customers with ‘smart’ meters installed will find that their energy costs sky-rocket
    You’ll find that Octopus has anticipated this risk and built a cap into the price plan, at some kind of margin which I reckon cuts deep into any ‘free money’ from all that midnight dog washing. All in I expect Octopus makes good money off this program and gets free PR from National Grid & the Guardian.
    Also, I’m not sure it’s clear here that National Grid doesn’t itself pay anyone to take the gas – a negative hourly price is paid by anyone delivering power to the system during those hours. Since wholesale power is invoiced monthly this would amount to a tiny rebate netted off with a much larger payment, as it would be for any Octopus customers. Not sure I’d wake up early and crank the heating simply to take a few quid off my power bill.


  17. JDLV – see also my comment above.

    Two points:

    1. In this particular instance, it patently was not about balancing demand and all about using a ‘smart energy tariff’ as a means to create an artificial spike in energy use in order to avoid surplus wind energy damaging the grid. Read for yourself:

    In what energy experts are calling ‘the future of energy’ in action, consumers up and down the nation found themselves being paid to use electricity generated from renewable sources over the weekend. Homes with flexibly priced Octopus Energy tariffs enabled by smart meters saw negative pricing on the mornings of 8 and 9 December as Great Britain caught the tail-end of storms.

    Negative pricing sees consumers paid to use energy and relieve pressures on the network when there is a large amount of cheap, green energy on the system.

    The fact that Octopus Agile’s primary function is to even out energy use at non-critical times is beside the point.

    2. Agile Octopus is precisely what energy companies have spent the last decade strenuously denying will happen, ie. smart meters will be integrated with smart appliances to monitor home energy use in great detail and switch appliances on and off as required. This again is part of the energy rationing regime which is being introduced, painting it as somehow being innovative and of great benefit to consumers.


  18. A spike in energy use driven by real price signals (which are inherent to power networks, with or without renewables) isn’t in any true sense artificial. Nor is a commercial signal compelling vendors to sell at a discount. The national grid is akin to a clearinghouse, matching sellers and buyers. Any power that winds up being sold at negative numbers is due to the auction mechanism which sets the price, not a midnight phone call to the utility saying sell the power or else. Network safety isn’t plausibly at risk here. Significant blackouts are not caused by wind surges but mechanical or software failure. The summer event you describe was blamed in part on a wind farm trip, not too much power.
    I don’t see the difference between what Octopus is proposing and what merchant traders with off-peak flexibility do every day. They are motivated by price signals, which are a bona fide expression of real supply and demand fundamentals, including in a trivial sense network safety which the auction economics also safeguard, in the same way that it would be unsafe to allow too much gas to enter pipeline, so it must by law be flared, stored or shipped at a loss.
    In general, a wind turbine is a more flexible asset than a nuclear or thermal plant. The latter delivers flat power 24/7 whether or not it’s needed., which is partly why it is they who should (and do) pay the trivial imbalance charge here.
    I don’t know who has been strenuously denying that “smart meters will be integrated with smart appliances to monitor home energy use.” This idea has been kicked around for decades, long before climate change was ever part of the reasoning (I believe I have a couple of old Enron-era slide packs going into some depth on the topic…)


  19. JDLV,

    “Significant blackouts are not caused by wind surges but mechanical or software failure. The summer event you describe was blamed in part on a wind farm trip, not too much power.”

    That statement makes no sense whatsoever. Please reseach grid instability and intermittent wind power. As wind power penetration into the grid approaches 50% or more, instabilities arise due to the rapid decrease in inertia, which can cause power units (like windfarms and gas turbines) to trip, resulting in blackouts. This is very likely what happened in August, though they absurdly blamed it on a lightning strike. Greenwash.

    “In general, a wind turbine is a more flexible asset than a nuclear or thermal plant. The latter delivers flat power 24/7 whether or not it’s needed., which is partly why it is they who should (and do) pay the trivial imbalance charge here.”

    You’re kidding right? More flexible? Intermittent, unreliable, unpredictable, don’t you mean? The National Grid was designed to distribute power generated by stable units such as nuclear and thermal power stations. That’s why it has worked so well for many years. It is a real technological achievement, a marvel of modern engineering. Then along came intermittent and unreliable Medieval wind power and the Grid is now having to be redesigned (not very successfully, involving compromises just like happened on the 8th and 9th of December) to absorb wind power surges. It’s the wind operators who should be paying, not the firms generating power from tried and tested nuclear and fossil fuel installations!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Jaime
    Grid inertia is irrelevant to the issue of negative pricing which happens all the time for a variety of entirely mundane reasons. It occurs in power markets with minimal wind input, indeed in many other energy products with limited storage or asset flexibility.
    A wind unit can be easily curtailed by turning the turbines sideways. Not true of a nuclear power station. True, and not terribly funny.
    The National Grid was designed to distribute power generated by stable units such as nuclear and thermal power stations
    Maybe, but no amount of clever engineering can predict load. Hence imbalances.
    The largest blackouts in history have involved failings unrelated to grid inertia. That’s a matter of record:
    “Weather is responsible for the majority of major power outages that occur as seen by those examples.”


  21. JDLV,

    “The largest blackouts in history have involved failings unrelated to grid inertia.”

    Let’s take a look at the top 3 shall we.

    1. The Miners’ Strike (Jan-Feb 1972)

    It was caused by the closure of 10 coal-fired power stations – which reduced grid inertia. In fact, rather similar to today, where coal-fired power stations are being taken off line only to be replaced by low inertia wind installations. The grid is designed to run using high inertia gas and coal-fired turbines which generate lots of kinetic energy – which gives the grid its stability.

    2. The Great Storm of 1987 (16th Oct 1987)

    Trees taking down power lines. Same would happen today if a storm of that ferocity hit southern England.

    3. The London Blackout (Aug 28th, 2003)

    An estimated 500,000 people were affected. Nearly a million people were affected by the blackout on August 9th 2019, so I guess the earlier blackout is now relegated to at least 4th place – behind the far more serious blackout caused by too much wind energy!



  22. Jaime
    There is plenty of stuff out there speculating on the effect renewables are having on grid inertia and lots of interesting answers from the engineering world (among which: https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/can-synthetic-inertia-stabilize-power-grids)
    The closure of coal plants in 1972 isn’t a plausible example of grid inertia (network frequency stability) causing an outage. This blackout was pretty clearly caused by the complete closure of the plant. Indeed weather disasters are much more obvious causes of system failure which underscores how irrelevant it is to life as we experience it. If you have evidence of network frequency issues causing a major blackout (including the August UK event) I would be very interested in seeing it.
    It’s clear that you don’t like wind generators but at the risk of repeating myself negative pricing has very little to do with wind energy as such. It’s common enough a phenomenon in other unrelated markets that real time demand side responses such as Octopus are a natural and reasonable response – pro consumer, pro-competition – and not a symptom of mental impairment. A more syndicated network of smaller production/consumption and storage assets is in my view going to be more resilient than one dominated by a few major assets vulnerable to coal strikes /hardware failure/lightning etc but you clearly feel otherwise.
    And yet a customer buyback scheme would work as well on a grid with *no wind whatsoever*where spot power prices will still go negative, as surely as death or taxes.


  23. JDLV, it seems quite likely that Little Barford tripped first, which sparked off a chain of evets leading to the Hornsea installation tripping also and causing the massive power outage. NG played down the possibiity that the loss of Little Barford might have caused the outage – which the loss of such a small power station would not normally do – due to system inertia being low at the time.

    NG denied that to be the case.

    They maintain that the two generators tripped ‘almost simultaneously’ and independently of each other and that the primary cause was a lightning strike which would not be expected to cause such events.

    Two almost simultaneous unexpected power losses at Hornsea and Little Barford occurred independently of one another -but each associated with the lightning strike. As generation would not be expected to trip off or de-load in response to a lightning strike, this appears to represent an extremely rare and unexpected event.

    Greenwash. NG earlier in the year released a report precisely detailing the challenges faced by greater penetration of low inertia wind energy into the grid.

    Traditional, large rotating power generators provide lots of inertia (the resistance of an object to any change in motion) which acts as a natural aid in maintaining frequency stability. Renewable energy technologies introduce challenges to system stability as they do not provide inertia, meaning they cannot help maintain system frequency. The increased risk of rapid changes to frequency could lead to faults on the electricity network. As a result, we’ll require a greater volume and speed of frequency response to keep the system stable.

    NGESO has found that as more renewable sources are connected to the system and larger, inertia-rich, generators such as coal-fired power stations are replaced, maintaining the frequency response at 50 Hz – a license requirement – will become more challenging.


  24. Oh, and here’s National Grid proudly retweeting about record wind penetration on the morning of 9th August. Complete coincidence I’m sure.


  25. “negative pricing has very little to do with wind energy as such”

    And we sceptics are the ones who get accused of being in denial! That’s complete nonsense. All the linked articles say that it is a result of the intermittency of wind. For example the first link

    The blustery conditions meant a consistently high level of wind power over the weekend, in fact 5pm on Sunday saw the record for the amount of electricity generated by wind power in Great Britain – 16162 MW. That meant a surplus of wind energy, which is where negative pricing comes in.

    Here’s another one:

    The disparity arises because wind and solar power are generally inconsistent. When the weather is windy or sunny, the plants generate a lot of electricity, but all that excess power is difficult to store. Battery technology is not quite advanced enough to fully moderate the supply to the grid.

    Maybe Mr Vega is employed by the wind industry.


  26. Paul
    Negative pricing *as a phenomenon in commodities* is not restricted to power, nor within power to wind intermittence. It’s relevant here but it needn’t be for the reason that demand is highly variable and supply (especially baseload thermal and nuclear supply) comparatively inflexible.

    I’m not in the wind industry but I’m also not trying very hard to defend wind. To be honest you haven’t given me much to work with on that score. On the other hand I have followed power markets since the mid 90s and have seen negative prices first hand in a professional context many times. Have you?


  27. Agile Octopus negative pricing was a direct response to oversupply of wind energy:

    Also, we need to create grid-scale storage to balance supply and demand. When there’s too much electricity in the grid, for example, wind farm operators are paid to switch off their turbines. Until we’ve got the means to store excess electricity, or we can direct consumers to shift their demand, this waste of energy and money will continue.

    Octopus has already begun helping National Grid overcome these challenges. First, through our partnership with Reactive Technologies, an innovative data management solution for grid balancing, and second, through Agile Octopus, a renewable energy tariff that incentivises customers to shift demand to cheaper times.


    In order to fulfil its 2025 zero carbon goals, National Grid ESO must embrace new technologies to keep ahead of rapid changes in the energy sector. Renewables are unable to provide system inertia to the same extent as large-scale traditional generation, with the result that transitioning to a greener energy mix inadvertently causes system stability challenges. GridMetrix® enables system operators to overcome these challenges by accurately measuring system inertia, helping to identify areas where inertia management measures are needed, thus facilitating the safe absorption of greater amounts of renewable energy into the grid.



  28. @J. De La Vega 12 Dec 19 at 2:47 pm

    from your link dated 07 Nov 2016 – https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/can-synthetic-inertia-stabilize-power-grids

    “Montréal-based Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie, which was the first grid operator to mandate this capability from wind farms, will be sharing some of its first data on how Québec’s grid is responding to disruptive events such as powerline and power plant outages. “We have had a couple of events quite recently and have been able to see how much the inertia from the wind power plants was working,” says Noël Aubut, professional engineer for transmission system planning at Hydro-Québec.

    The short answer is good, but not good enough to support massive wind power growth. Québec has about 3,300-MW of wind power today, but Canada’s wind industry is calling for 8,000-megawatts more by 2025”

    from wiki – “Wind power delivers a growing percentage of the electricity of the United Kingdom and by the end of November 2019, it consisted of 10,213 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 22 gigawatts: 13,517 megawatts of onshore capacity and 8,483 megawatts of offshore capacity”

    as usual the wiki watts for the UK are obviously wrong but still huge compared to Canada in 2016.

    just wondered how much progress has been made from 2016?


  29. Jaime,

    Once again you are confusing system instability from inertia (a phenomenon measured in seconds) with price instability on the balancing market, supposing that the latter is in some way a manifestation of the former. This is simply incorrect.

    existing installations are starting to generate ‘too much’ energy which, if not used pretty rapidly (because it can’t be stored) will destabilise the grid and cause catastrophic blackouts
    reveals a serious misconception of how power is priced and dispatched.

    Price variability is an artifact of the economic balancing mechanism – accounting – and not in any real way a safety related mechanism, no more than the decision of the airline to only sell 250 tickets on a plane with 250 seats is a safety mechanism. Both the airline and the NG have more than sufficient lead time and resources to address demand swings on that time scale.

    Asynchronous generation is conceptually distinct from short term production swing and the hourly pricing mechanisms used by NG to compensate its owners. Inertia related risks exists for an different physical reason & on a different time scale (seconds, not hours) & generally has a different physical remedy – flywheels & capacitance vs gas peakers, batteries and demand swing. The very fact that stopping a windmill can be used to balance the hourly price but is useless as a source of inertia demonstrates this.


    I am going to anticipate your cut and paste of the phrase “ to avoid overloading the grid” to say that overloading the grid is the common sense explanation why generation would need to be shut off, explained to someone who doesn’t know that it can’t be stored or used in real-time, not as proof that grid overloading is a realistic outcome. The tolerances NG embeds in its liquidity programs guarantee this.


    Before renewables, no one ever pointed to negative prices as a symptom of grid instability; they are simply a manifestation of system inflexibility of an ordinary non-critical character.

    The fact that Octopus is promoting its business partner (Reactive) with a common interest in wind energy doesn’t reveal that price instability = system instability. It simply shows that some solutions (battery technology) applies to both problems like any other engineering challenge specific to wind.

    The simplest expression of this point is that negative pricing has simply never coincided with any physical threat to the power grid *nor itself caused or presaged a blackout*. The wind data from August 9 does not reveal a stronger than usual wind speed nor was it foretold by especially volatile prices in the hourly Nordpool market. See for yourself:


    The proximate cause of the blackout was lightning followed by hardware failure of some kind. You suspect this to be related in some murky way to inertia but I haven’t seen much to validate this, and this would still seem to bear very little on the question of variable supply as applies to pricing. There was no grid-crippling surge in wind power on the day in question (per the OFGEM report/Met) nor negative prices. But any surge could have been fixed by turning down gas plants or *even wind towers themselves* as the timescale easily permits this the same way that BA’s workaday processes prevent your flight from containing 2000 passengers well in advance of a stampede at Heathrow.

    I’m not sure if your description of this event as catastrophic is tongue in cheek but a 45 minute failure in parts of the country isn’t catastrophic. That would be more like the NYC blackout of 2003 which lasted over a week and affected 50 million people, myself included. This wasn’t caused by renewables/inertia /goblins but an ordinary software glitch. so far as I am aware there was not a single blackout related casualty in all of the UK.
    Catastrophic failures in the gas system are much more frequent and often involve actual fatalities. Negative pricing are also routine and a far less important problem but the other rigidities, supply chain length, engineering constraints etc are more thorny than system inertia with demonstrably more serious outcomes. This is by no means a reason to hate and fear gas as a power feedstock, but it should highlight the absurdity of inertia (much less negative prices!) as a show stopper vis a vis wind power.


  30. JDLV,

    I’ve been blogging and commenting for a few years now and find that when people sense they are losing an argument, they do one of two things:

    1. Stop commenting
    2. Construct ever more lengthy comments consisting of largely irrelevant and digressing material which require ever increasing effort to dissect.

    I’m not suggesting you are losing the argument. I’m suggesting you lost it very early on in this conversation. You chose to refute my arguments about grid instability based on the principles of electrical engineering by switching to an alternative economic argument based on simple supply and demand and pricing variability.

    I gave you the facts, not merely my opinions, facts as given by expert electrical engineers and as stated by energy providers themselves. Excessive wind penetration into the grid at times of low demand destabilises the grid and, if not remedied fairly quickly, can lead to generators tripping followed by large scale blackouts. When supply exceeds demand, wholesale electricity prices can go negative if there is not enough flexibility in the system. That is economics. Power stations cannot be just turned off, so wind farm operators are paid to stop their blades rotating, which is costly and wasteful.

    A solution is to increase energy use at the supply end via flexible smart tariffs which pass on the benefits of negative wholesale prices directly to customers, thereby potentially increasing demand so that the excess energy can be safely absorbed. Safely absorbed, such that it does not destabilise the grid.

    So, in contrast to what you say, I am not “confusing system instability from inertia (a phenomenon measured in seconds) with price instability on the balancing market” because they are implicitly connected. That being the case your assertion that “price variability is an artifact of the economic balancing mechanism – accounting – and not in any real way a safety related mechanism” is also demonstrably false.

    I am going to anticipate your cut and paste of the phrase “ to avoid overloading the grid” to say that overloading the grid is the common sense explanation why generation would need to be shut off, explained to someone who doesn’t know that it can’t be stored or used in real-time, not as proof that grid overloading is a realistic outcome. The tolerances NG embeds in its liquidity programs guarantee this.

    Grid overloading IS a realistic outcome. Grid-scale storage does NOT exist. This is WHY wind turbine operators are PAID to stop their blades rotating. This is WHY operators are looking at artificially enhancing demand by offering to PAY customers to use energy. Or are you saying that Octopus Energy are also ignorant, as well as myself?

    Also, we need to create grid-scale storage to balance supply and demand. When there’s too much electricity in the grid, for example, wind farm operators are paid to switch off their turbines. Until we’ve got the means to store excess electricity, or we can direct consumers to shift their demand, this waste of energy and money will continue.

    Please don’t bother with any more long-winded and meandering responses because this is my final comment on the issue and I won’t reply.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Also, we need to create grid-scale storage to balance supply and demand.

    We also need to stop hunger in the poor and bring about world peace.

    Some things that are a good idea are simply not possible in the time span we would like them to be possible in.

    Batteries aren’t going to cut it other than very short term fluctuation control. They’re expensive and dangerous if too many are stored close together. There is no other suitable technology remotely close to being scaled up.

    Liked by 1 person

  32.  largely irrelevant and digressing material 

    Yes in a post about hourly pricing, grid inertia is completely irrelevant.

    Your original post attempted to tie negative prices to the concept of grid instability. But negative pricing has nothing to do with grid instability or we should have seen instances of blackouts preceded by or coincident with negative prices. Also, no blackout in history has been caused by it, and they exist in stable grids where wind isn’t present. Your engineer friends, insulated from the pricing mechanism of the power market, may not have these facts to hand. I’m not going on what my friends have told me, just what I know from trading in energy markets for 25 years, including the wholesale power market.

    It’s really simple: if you’re in a position to offer an hourly discount because the grid is paying you, the grid is operating within normal tolerances.

    A car has brakes, and it has airbags. Using the brakes from time to time doesn’t mean the car is unsafe, or that the airbags are about to go off. The inertia conversation is about the airbags. They both involve speed changes (instability) but at time scales many orders of magnitude apart.


  33. The wind energy sector and its many advocates in the main stream and online social media are in denial about (and perhaps deliberately underplaying) the risks associated with increasing reliance upon wind power. It is also certain that some people are making rather a lot of money from taxpayer funded constraint payments made to wind farm operators precisely to avoid their installations destabilising the grid.


    At the same time that it was paying Hornsea to reduce output, National Grid was instructing conventional CCGT plant in the region both to increase output and to start generating. These generators included those at Staythorpe, Keadby, South Humber Bank, which all started generating, and Salt End, and Cottam which were instructed to increase output. Thus, instructing Hornsea to reduce output does not appear to be an action intended to address a simple excess of generation in the area but suggests that National Grid may have been concerned at low inertia, and was seeking to increase inertia relative to load by reducing asynchronous generation (Hornsea offshore wind) and simultaneously increasing synchronous generation (CCGT).


  34. Dfhunter,

    I have a comment from you in my inbox which doesn’t appear to be anywhere on site. If you didn’t delete it and would like it to appear let me know and I will copy and paste.


    I see it is there now.


  35. ‘Unprecedented levels of clean power’.

    If constraint payments are being made now, then ‘unprecedented’ future levels of wind power inevitably mean more of the same i.e. unprecedented levels of said payments.


  36. Grid inertia is a complex subject that even involves what is mathematically defined as complex math — math that includes the square root of negative one, and is apparently used a lot by electrical engineers. I thought I was getting a pretty good handle on it from a post at WUWT by Rud Istvan:


    Then I got into a discussion thread with engineering type, Chris Morris, and things aren’t so clear:


    There is one thing I’m pretty sure of. If wind turbines are starting to cause negative pricing, adding more of them is going to make electricity more expensive.


  37. one way.we handle negative pricing is by having a variable demand facility …otherwise known as a bitcoin farm. grid operators and wind farm folks are lovin it


  38. The bitcoin farm is indeed an intriguing and important ‘variable demand facility’. I wonder what the central bankers like Mark Carney make of that.


  39. Isn’t bitcoin mining supposed to be using huge amounts of energy (currently enough to power a small nation), which keeps on increasing as the maths problems get ever more difficult? The currency will need its very own source of renewable power soon!


  40. Presumably if bitcoin farms are being paid to generate bitcoins, then the value of said currency will only head in one direction. Presumably also it would still be possible to make a profit while generating bitcoins that had zero or negative values.

    If a resource has negative value, it seems to be less than worthless. Too, if a resource with variable value has major excursions into the negative, that means – or feels like it means – that it will also have major excursions into rather extreme positive realms too.

    This is all rather confusing, but one thing I’m sure of is that I don’t want a “smart” meter.


  41. From my regular checking of ‘Gridwatch’ it seems that, from August 9th, an of coal-fired generation – between about 1GW and 3GW – has been permanently on-line, where before that date there were long periods of absence. Maybe to provide system inertia?

    Liked by 1 person

  42. maybe instead of bitcoin farms we could have free street lighting for all night long !!!
    so, when the lights go out in our house’s we all gather at the nearest lamp post.

    ps. the birds & nightlife will be pissed, but we must save the planet by any means.


  43. @Canman

    Grid inertia is certainly complex. Just like climate science it lends itself to distortions and ill-informed scaremongering. But I don’t see how negative prices will mandatorily raise prices for the customer. They haven’t had that effect on eg the US gas market. The same dynamics causing negative prices, flaring etc have also kept consumer prices there very low for years.

    There is in the end a market price for frequency stability but it isn’t relevant to the negative pricing as defined here. National Grid eg has just tendered for inertia providers via the recent ‘stability pathfinder’ program (following similar programs in Ireland and South Australia.)


    “We require incremental stability capability beyond that which can be currently accessed through the market or the balancing mechanism”

    Which reveals pretty clearly that inertia is beyond what can be accessed through the market or the balancing mechanism, including through any variable demand program such as described by the OP. It may be expensive, it may be cheap, but it isn’t going to be solved by Octopus-style variable demand.

    Likewise bitcoin/smart metering etc may help with the “good problem” of too much cheap energy but not with the other problem of inertia, which is why inertia specific services are being sought, notably via zero-MW, regional capacities, denominated in GW/seconds rather than GW/hours. Not because of the trip risks posed by too much wind (those haven’t happened), but to contain trips originating elsewhere (lightning eg) by maintaining system frequency.

    From my regular checking of ‘Gridwatch’ it seems that, from August 9th, an of coal-fired generation – between about 1GW and 3GW – has been permanently on-line, where before that date there were long periods of absence

    @Glyn Palmer

    The Elexon portal is the source for Gridwatch, and offers hourly historical generation data & it doesn’t show continuous coal use from August 9th – far from it. Coal generation only briefly exceeded 1GW in August on the 15th, 27th and 28th and not continuously.


    The more recent climb in coal output is explained by a climb in the UK clean dark spread (CO2 adjusted spread of baseload power to coal prices. UK day ahead baseload power has climbed from the mid 30 GBP/Mwh in August to 47 GBP with a slight decline in EUA prices and ARA coal prices across that interval.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. J De La Vega:

    Grid inertia is certainly complex. Just like climate science it lends itself to distortions and ill-informed scaremongering. But I don’t see how negative prices will mandatorily raise prices for the customer.

    I know I don’t understand this area but this is to express my gratitude to you, as someone I think does.


  45. Thanks very much Richard, and also to Jaime for initiating and hosting the exchange. The subsidy and transparency issues discussed in her REF link merit attention and bear meaningfully on the topic of social cost if not on grid safety.

    Gas not power is more my bailiwick. Its physical constraints also inspire behaviour and prices that defy common sense. But these same challenges can inspire & even subsidise mind boggling feats of engineering (shale, LNG & GTL spring to mind). Grid scale storage may not be far behind, and with it cheaper more reliable energy of entirely local origin.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. If it’s getting more challenging to safely and economically sensibly integrate existing wind power into the grid now, imagine what it will be like in 10 years time when Boris has doubled offshore wind capacity to 40GW. That’s what the Conservatives promised in the Queen’s Speech – in order to save the planet, you understand. At least the Germans are able to export surplus generation to the European grid, even if othr nations are unhappy about having German energy dumped onto their energy markets. I wonder if Boris actually realises that the UK is an island?

    Liked by 1 person

  47. The final reports into the Aug 9th blackout have been released by OfGem and BEIS. A former director of National Grid and former national grid engineer have also written an analysis. I quote:

    The significant loss of frequency was down to a fall in system “inertia” – the energy provided by conventional generators that effectively acts as a shock absorber to prevent sudden frequency changes, the analysis states. Renewable plants, such as wind and solar farms, which generate power intermittently, do not provide inertia, and wind generation alone now accounts for 17 per cent of the UK’s electricity.

    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.

    They call for limits on specific types of generation, such as wind and solar, for any given day, based on predictions of system inertia on each day.

    “For the longer term there are various actions which should be considered that will recover lost system inertia … It is necessary with immediate effect to limit the amount of new, zero inertia generation plant, such as wind and solar and even new interconnectors, that is connected to the grid. This consideration should include roof-top solar.

    They add: “Disconnection of some low or nil system inertia plant may be required in the short term to render the system adequately secure.”

    Boris plans to double the capacity of offshore wind farms.


  48. Told you.

    “Ofgem reviewing plans to give energy networks the ability to shut down domestic electricity supplies
    A new sort of smart meter would need to be installed in every home in the UK
    Would have the ability to switch off high usage devices such as electric vehicle chargers and central heating systems
    Sources close to discussions told us that government is ‘open’ to proposing legislation to support these powers

    These include giving networks the right to decide when they consider the grid to be in a state of ’emergency’ and the power to switch off high usage electrical devices such as electric vehicle chargers and central heating systems in British homes.

    Under the plans all homes would need to have a third generation smart meter installed, to include a function that allows meters in the home to receive and carry out orders made by the energy networks.

    This would dramatically alter the role of smart meters, which are currently capable only of sending data on energy use to energy networks.”



  49. Relevant to my discussion with JDLV about grid inertia above, Judith Curry has a post on the Australian Renewables ‘Transition’, which is not going too well:


    “The frequency is the timing between wave cycles in an AC system 60Hz (a Hertz is one cycle per second) and 50Hz in most of the rest of the world. The frequency has to be the same across the whole grid – it is one of the things that defines it. A stable grid frequency is critical for effective operation. Thermal plants usually provide this by using governor control, whereby the frequency drives the plant output through a negative feedback device. The grid system operators may also run real time or short period dispatch, whereby the plant operators increase or decrease load over short time periods on grid operator’s instructions.

    The inertia, provided by the rotating machinery of the generator, serves to slows the rate of change of frequency (RoCoF) . The slower the frequency changes occur, the less stress for the plant on governors. And as there is linkage, a small RoCoF in “normal” grid fluctuations will also stabilise the voltage and reactive power requirements.

    However in recent times, there have been significant and rapid swings in the Australian grid frequency between the control limits, shown in the graph below . . . . .

    Grid operation is more than just keeping the load and generating balanced and providing a stable frequency. Grid capabilities must be able to cover its fundamental operating parameters like frequency, voltage and reactive power when things go wrong. Examples would be when a lightning strike occurs, or a transmission line failure or a generation plant trip. The grid needs both inertia and fast acting reserves as backup. Protection systems take time to sense and then react to changes in frequency. Circuit breakers typically take 3-10 cycles to fully disconnect once they receive the trip signal, but these are only the last steps in the chain. The protective electronic sensors have to sense that the frequency or line impedence is outside its allowable range, and then activate the switching relays and the switches take time to break the circuit. The gap between allowable and load shedding is a fraction of a Hertz. To give time for the protection and reserves to function, the frequency (and voltage) have to decay as slowly as possible, which is where the (RoCoF) becomes important. There is a relationship between RoCoF, inertia and load lost as a fraction of total load, but even a change of 1 Hertz decline a second is considered risky.

    That is why when major events happen, inertia to slow the RoCoF is so critical. South Australia went black in 2016 because a lot of wind generators tripped off, the major interconnector got overloaded and tripped, then there was not enough inertia, and the frequency collapsed so fast that system load shedding schemes couldn’t operate and everything protectively shut down.”

    The whole post is well worth reading. From my point of view, it appears to confirm the theory that the Aug 9th blackout was triggered by a lightning strike, which normally would not be a problem, but because of the lack of inertia due to renewables penetration, when the Little Barford generator went down as a result, it caused a cascade of major renewables generators to trip also. the National Grid has STILL not resolved these problems, despite their reassurances. As the authors of the post at Climate Etc. say:

    “The above is a simplified explanation of what is needed for reliable grid operation. Proponents of renewable energy do not want to discuss concerns of this sort, particularly the costs involved. When forced to address these issues, they rely on magical thinking, advocating for technologies that either do not yet exist or have not yet been proven to work reliably on a grid. The known solutions are expensive, but the renewable sector doesn’t want to pay for them – their mantra remains that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels so the others should pay for them – hiding the expense. Add in the costs from the needed system support requirements described above, then renewables are significantly more expensive (and less reliable) than conventional generation. The extra costs of renewables support are being paid for a deteriorating quality of electricity supply. That is why there is a new industry adage –

    Cheap renewables are very expensive.”

    Liked by 2 people

  50. LOL. Synchronous converters are supposedly the ‘new technology’ which will open up grids to renewables penetration by providing reactive power and inertia – very expensively.

    “Synchronous condenser technology has been around almost as long as the electric grid itself to support transmission system reliability, says GE. As the grid became more mature and reliable over the decades, synchronous condensers eventually became regarded as obsolete, with many utilities discontinuing use of the technology. Today, however, as the grid has experienced increasing instability, the technology is undergoing a major comeback with all major synchronous condenser manufacturers reporting higher sales.”


    So, it’s back to the early 20th century then!

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Jaime J; I’ve just read your Feb 6 post quoting Ofgem’s ideas for the next generation of smart meters.
    There are some points which don’t track.
    To be able to shut down the heavy consumers in a household, the meter would have to be integrated with the switchboard in some way. The alternative would be a facility to limit the maximum draw so the unit trips if a heavy load is connected and the householder has to sort it out. Neither seems very practical: the first would be hugely expensive to implement and the second would be unacceptable to the general public.
    Aiui, the present generation of smart meters – SMETS 2 – already have the facility for remote disconnection. (Wasn’t there a bit of a scandal recently over power companies moving non-paying customers over to smart meters and then disconnecting them without going through the usual processes?)
    Lastly, all EV chargers now have to be “smart” with the facility for remote disconnection or load limiting.
    However, I have read that a new generation of meters may well be required anyway because the present ones use the old 2/3G bands which are to be re-purposed shortly.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. JJ; I was referring to your post above on this thread of Feb 6th:
    “Told you.
    “Ofgem reviewing plans to give energy networks the ability to shut down domestic electricity supplies..etc”

    Whatever the mechanics, it shows that “demand reduction” measures aka rationing are very much on the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Ah, yes, now I see. As you say, new EV chargers are already being required to be ‘smart’ enabled so they can be powered down remotely. I’m guessing they’ll do the same with new installations of heat pumps. It wouldn’t surprise me if legislation comes out requiring that all new washing machines, fridges, cookers etc. be smart grid enabled.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Not such a limited hangout after all. Good to be back among friends. I do mean that, despite our past serious disagreements.
    Damn, just had an unbelievable online chat with a British Gas representative who was giving me the hard sell on smart meters. My meter is faulty and I’ve booked a repair or replacement. Despite my repeating numerous times that I will NOT accept a smart meter replacement, he just kept on and on telling about the smart meter replacement I was going to receive! Unreal. I’ve got an email transcript of the online chat. When this engineer turns up tomorrow and he says the meter can’t be fixed and he pulls out a smart meter to replace it, there are going to be sparks flying! Good job he’ll have turned off the gas beforehand. I’m in no mood to be jerked around by these people.

    Liked by 2 people

  55. Jaime,

    So far as I am concerned, welcome back.

    Good luck with the meter man. After years of resistance I was saddled with a smart meter (which now languishes, unconnected, in a drawer). Their ability to foist one on me was buried deep in the small print relating to my chose tariff. And now they have withdrawn all tariffs save for a single variable rate. If I had hung on, I might have avoided the meter. Inf, my understanding (which might be wrong) is that where a meter has ceased working and needs to be replaced, they can insist on installing a smart one. “Smart” – there’s a misnomer, if ever there was one.


  56. Thanks Mark.

    Pleasant young man called round. The meter is definitely faulty. He says that British Gas are claiming they can’t get hold of replacement conventional meters which he indicated is BS in order to push Smart meters on customers, and I agreed of course! Anyway, they can’t force me to accept a Smart meter and so he’s going to try to arrange a special order for a conventional replacement. Then they might say we’re putting you on a new more expensive rate which I will object to because I didn’t sign any contract; I just took over the existing prepayment meter when I moved in – which ironically doesn’t cost any more than if I was to pay by direct debit.
    But this just exemplifies the hard sell of Smart meters in the UK. They’re making it very difficult for customers to refuse to have them installed, but shying away from making them compulsory.


  57. Well done Jaime – result!

    Politicians are sly. They don’t mandate unpopular policies, they implement them by the back door. Car makers have to sell increasing proportions of EVs or face fines. Energy retailers have to install a certain number of smart meters every year or face fines. Basically they introduce daft policies with no thought for their practicability, then dump the problem of implementation on business, which passes the costs on to consumers.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. Jaime; please keep us posted on your meter replacement. I am resisting smart meters and was wondering what would happen if my old ones started to misbehave.

    Mark; I guess you mean the display unit that’s languishing in a drawer – probably the best place for it! They are useless, imho, for helping folk to control their energy usage as they can only report total consumption which is easily checked by looking at the consumption figures on the web account. They are not practical for checking the consumption of individual (electric) units. I have a £10 plug-in widget from Amazon that I can use to monitor individual items, especially the electric heating in one part of the house.
    The whole smart meter programme is a disaster. Early ones stopped working if the customer switched supplier so are having to be replaced. later ones still use the 2/3G network which is going to be closed and re-allocated in a few years. Apparently it’s not practical to upgrade the meters so they will have to be changed….again! No wonder the bill is up to about £16 bn last time I checked.

    Liked by 2 people

  59. Jaime,

    >”Good to be back among friends”

    I’m glad you feel that way and long may the feeling last. I always felt we were on the same page even when I complained about the font you were using.

    Anyway, those nice people over at ATTP speak very highly of you 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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