Blog: How wind power helped beat the beast

The Beast from the East has hit hard in Scotland - but how’s the energy system coping? Hannah Smith from Scottish Renewables explains.

As the Beast from the East makes Glasgow look more like Narnia, team Scottish Renewables are bunkering down and working from home.

As my kettle boils for my seventh cup of coffee in so many hours, and my boiler makes noises that I don’t want to think about, I couldn’t help but wonder how our energy system has been coping with #RedAlert.

Here’s what we’ve been seeing:

First of all, the gas network has been significantly squeezed.

Power stations are struggling under the freezing conditions, exacerbating existing supply disruption, while people like me across the country are increasing demand. It’s currently sitting at over 45 GW, within winter scenarios, but cutting it fine.

As a result, National Grid issued a Gas Deficit Warning, for the first time in years – essentially meaning that unless they take action (bringing generation online or punting industrial usage off) our supplies could run out.

This has understandably caused a bit of concern but advice is, of course, to keep warm and let the experts at National Grid work their magic.

Another consequence is of course on pricing. Wholesale electricity prices have skyrocketed to around £600/MWh (at the time of writing) – and it’s a moving feast. Earlier today Deeside gas power station accepted an offer to generate for £995/Mwh. These figures are at least ten year highs, and there’s already been reports of those prices being passed immediately onto customers.

While it’s been a difficult few days for gas, our wind fleet has shown it can deliver even in the most challenging conditions.

An average of around 10GW on the system yesterday offset around 10% of gas demand (according to Twitter expertise).

As I write this, while coal is strong on the system, wind is providing our biggest share of electricity (nearly 14GW at the moment according to live data). Perhaps that’s in part down to innovative O&M solutions, like drone maintenance!

So the current GB system is in an interesting place, and on the back of this, there will no doubt be some interesting areas to watch:

Will the debate for gas storage re-surface? What will that mean for hydrogen? And will pro-shale lobbyists use this to bolster their case?

With dramatic price fluctuations, will Time of Use tariffs need safeguards for extreme conditions, and to protect the most vulnerable?

As renewables have been shown to perform well, will grid recognise their importance in balancing services as that landscape changes?

Plenty to think about… I better put the kettle on again.

  • Hannah Smith is senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables
  • This blog was originally published here.

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