Feb 5, 2023
UK Grid Asks Coal Reserve to Prepare as Cold Snap Looms
(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s grid operator canceled its back-up preparations to ask consumers to dial back their use of electricity, as well the warming of two coal-fired power units, after a wider supply buffer lifted confidence during a cold spell.
Units at Electricite de France SA’s plant at West Burton and Uniper SE’s Ratcliffe plant were asked to be available to provide power on Tuesday, National Grid Plc’s Electricity System Operator said. Households and businesses were also warned they might be asked to reduce demand as cold triggered a surge in consumption just as falling wind speeds curbed power generation from turbines.
Though they were canceled as the grid operator revised down its peak demand forecast, the measures demonstrate how vulnerable Britain remains to colder weather and fluctuations in wind output. The operator set aside as much as £395 million ($474 million) to pay coal units earmarked for closure to stay active this winter as reserve capacity.
National Grid has asked reserve coal-power stations to get ready several times this winter but so far has stopped short of requiring them to generate. It has also requested demand reductions during a few evenings to help balance supply at peak times.
The chart below shows UK wind generation forecast to drop on Tuesday.
The UK will phase out coal next year as it seeks to cut emissions. But the government asked power producers using the fuel to keep units available this winter as Europe faces a shortage of natural gas. Turning to coal would trim the use of gas to produce power.
Demand is expected to peak at 43 gigawatts at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, up from 41.8 gigawatts on Monday, grid data show. Power for Tuesday rose to £171.23 a megawatt-hour, the highest since Jan. 23 on the Epex Spot SE exchange. The contract for 5-6 p.m. jumped to £249.60 a megawatt-hour.
The Electricity System Operator “as a prudent system operator has developed these tools for additional contingency to operate the network as normal,” National Grid said in an emailed statement. “This does not mean electricity supplies are at risk.”
--With assistance from Elena Mazneva.
(Updates with cancelation of demand reduction plan and coal plants.)
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