Britain Braces For Blackouts And Pricey Power Due To Green Energy

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Electricity market data published Monday shows that Great Britain could be facing blackouts and extremely expensive electricity this winter because of the country’s reliance on green energy.

The data shows that the U.K. had an extremely hard time keeping the lights on compared to last winter, and was even forced to take emergency measures. A report published Monday by The Financial Times estimates that the price of electricity could be more than a dozen times higher than usual, which would have serious consequences.

During certain times, the report predicts that wholesale electricity prices will rise from a going rate of $85.28 per megawatt-hour to $3,553.37 per megawatt-hour. Official government analysis suggests there could be insufficient electricity on a windless or cloudy days to power the country and that brownouts and blackouts have already impacted the U.K.

“The looming power shortages in Britain highlight some of the unintended consequences of renewable energy,” Travis Fisher, an economist at the Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Flooding the grid with subsidized energy from politically popular but unreliable sources like wind and solar power not only makes it more difficult to balance supply and demand in real time — it also ruins the economics of reliable generators over the long run. But keeping the lights on is a necessity, so Britain is now subsidizing reliable power plants and developing a new transmission line to bring reliable nuclear power from France. Even if Britain avoids blackouts this year, it is important to remember that all of this tinkering comes at great cost to consumers.”

The U.K. will be more vulnerable to blackouts than it has ever been for at least the next four years, the former CEO of one of Britain’s largest electricity companies, told The Times in March. Britain’s energy difficulties are due to the country’s plans to shut down 1.5 gigawatts of conventional electrical capacity and replace it with unreliable wind or solar power.

To make matters worse, U.K.’s government announced it would close the country’s remaining coal power plants. Britain’s ruling Conservative party has repeatedly said it wants to phase out existing coal power over the next 10 to 15 years. Closing the country’s remaining 15 coal plants will take a whopping 24,830 MW of generational capacity off the grid, meaning somewhere between 20.2 percent to 34.6 percent of Britain’s electricity will have to be replaced.

Solar and wind power systems require conventional backups to provide power, because they do not generate electricity at times when it is most needed. Since the output of solar and wind plants cannot be predicted with high accuracy, grid operators have to keep excess reserves running just in case.

“Intermittent power sources [such as wind and solar] put huge strains on the grid that become harder and harder to handle as the number of windmills or solar panels increases,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDCNF. “Wind and solar require backup sources that can come online and go offline quickly, which increases costs significantly as well as undermining reliability. Britain and several other EU countries are held up as examples; they are indeed examples — of what we should not be doing.”

In order for the power grid to function, demand for energy must exactly match supply. Power demand is relatively predictable and conventional power plans, like nuclear plants and natural gas, can adjust output accordingly. Solar and wind power, however, cannot easily adjust output. Peak power demand also occurs in the evenings, when solar power is going offline. Adding green power, which only provide power at intermittent and unpredictable times, makes the power grid more fragile.

Britain’s attempts to use wind or solar power have also been immensely costly. U.K. residents paid a whopping 54 percent more for electricity than Americans in 2014, while energy taxes cost residents roughly $6.6 billion every year. Green energy subsidies in the U.K. regularly exceed spending caps and account for roughly 7 percent of British energy bills, according to government study released last July.

The unreliability of green energy sources isn’t limited to Britain, as wind and solar run the risk of producing too much or to little electricity, which can overload and ultimately fry the power grid. These surges in wind or solar are why electrical companies will occasionally pay consumers to take electricity.

Other European countries, like Germany, have been minimizing the damage by paying consumers to take excess power and asking wind and solar producers to switch off when they’re not needed. Germany paid wind farms $548 million last year to switch off in order to prevent damage to the country’s electric grid.

Due to the damaging effects green energy has had on Germany’s grid, the government plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to a report published last month by the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung. By 2019, Germany will get rid of  6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity.

Polling indicates that 38 percent of British households are cutting back essential purchases, like food, to pay for high energy bills. Another 59 percent of homes are worried about how they are going to pay energy bills. Companies are getting hit by pricey British electricity as well, and some are even leaving the country because of it, threatening up to 40,000 jobs. The U.K. government estimates that green energy taxes attached to peoples’s electricity bills, costs residents and businesses $6.1 billion annually.

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