Why Wind Power Output Collapses Are Causing Europe’s Power Prices to Rocket

Rocketing power prices were inevitable once Europe decided to put all its energy eggs in the wind power basket. Europe has squandered billions on subsidies to construct tens of thousands of turbines both onshore and off – the Germans managed to spear more than 30,000 across their homeland and are paying a hefty price.

By giving grid preference to the erratic and occasional delivery of wind and solar, the owners of reliable on-demand generators are pushed to the back of the queue, rendering many operators uneconomic, which is all part of the plan.

The Germans, however, went further by effectively banning nuclear power generation (the plan is to shut down all of their nuclear plants) and sought to shut down their coal-fired power plants too, only to restart them in a dreadful hurry when wind power output collapsed for weeks last winter.

But it’s the chaos in the power market caused whenever wind power output collapses totally, and for weeks on end, that is the subject of Andrew Stuttaford’s analysis below.

Another Low Blow — Wind Energy Falters (Again)
National Review
Andrew Stuttaford
17 January 2022

One of mankind’s great achievements has been the way that, across an ever-increasing part of the planet, we have reached a level of technological sophistication that has meant that we can go about our business without, extreme events aside, having to worry too much about what the weather is doing.

One of the countless ironies running through current climate policies is that that progress may be about to go into reverse, not because of climate change, but because of policies designed to combat it, and, more specifically, what looks more and more like a premature dash into wind energy. One of the triggers of the prolonged energy-price squeeze in the U.K. was the failure of winds over the North Sea to do what was expected of them in the late summer/early fall. I wrote a bit about this in mid September, and here’s Joe Wallace in the Wall Street Journal, on September 13:

Natural gas and electricity markets were already surging in Europe when a fresh catalyst emerged: The wind in the stormy North Sea stopped blowing.

The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind.

Natural-gas prices, already boosted by the pandemic recovery and a lack of fuel in storage caverns and tanks, hit all-time highs. Thermal coal, long shunned for its carbon emissions, has emerged from a long price slump as utilities are forced to turn on backup power sources.

The episode underscored the precarious state the region’s energy markets face heading into the long European winter. The electricity price shock was most acute in the U.K., which has leaned on wind farms to eradicate net carbon emissions by 2050. Prices for carbon credits, which electricity producers need to burn fossil fuels, are at records, too.

Perhaps “leaning on wind farms” to the extent that the U.K.’s ruling establishment (this is more than a matter of Tory incompetence, although the Conservative Party deserves a great deal of the blame) has decided to do was not the wisest course of action, particularly when combined with — and even more of the blame rests with the Tories for this — moving to a more or less just-in-time supply arrangement for gas.

But that failure by the wind to do what it should was a rarity, a one-off, right?

Right?

Now may be a moment to be start thinking of that Anakin/Padme meme.

The Daily Telegraph today (scroll down a bit):

Power prices have surged to their highest level in a month as an extreme lull in wind threatens to hit supply.

Prices for Monday evening jumped to £1,161 a megawatt-hour – the highest since December 16. At the same time, wind output is set to slide below 1.5 gigawatts, compared to a 10-day average of 6.3 gigawatts.

The surge in prices highlights the pressure on the UK power market as ageing nuclear reactors are shut down and aren’t immediately replaced.

Oh.

Nasdaq (also today):

PARIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) – The German spot price jumped on Monday as wind supply was predicted to fall sharply on Tuesday.

Broker Marex said in a short-term comment that power supply would be lower than expected this week.

Wind supply is significantly reduced day on day and residual load is seen up throughout the region, Refinitiv analyst said, adding that residual load is down compared to last week.

The German Tuesday baseload TRDEBD1 stood at 232 euros ($265.01) per megawatt hour (MWh) at 0956 GMT, 58.6% above the price paid last Friday for Monday delivery.

Oh.

Spot prices can fluctuate wildly (that’s the nature of the beast), but even so, given the importance of Russian gas supplies to Germany and the situation with regard to Ukraine, the timing is . . . not ideal.
National Review

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Christopher Denton says:

    When the word ‘intermittent ‘ is used to characterize the reliability of Wind and Solar, we actually obscure a much better characterization of the problem. If the movement of air (Wind) and the receipt of the sun’s rays (Solar) are the fuel that drives the generators, then shouldn’t we characterize the problem more accurately as an unreliable ‘fuel supply’. Such a definition debunks the inference of perpetuity and sustainability of both Wind and Solar. They are neither perpetual not sustainable, because the supply cannot be controlled, accumulated, stored, or apportioned.
    Nuclear on the other hand can be all of those things and more.

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