MACASKILL EXPOSES THE “GREAT ENERGY SWITCH OFF”

For immediate release: Sunday 2 October 2022

MACASKILL EXPOSES THE “GREAT ENERGY SWITCH OFF”

AS WIND FARM COSTS APPROACH £1 BILLION

ALBA Depute Leader and MP for East Lothian Kenny MacAskill MP has today (Sunday) published figures which show that the curtailment costs paid by National Grid ESO to wind farms for switching off turbines when the energy produced can’t be used or exported were £229 million in 2020-1

Alone with the total costs over five years approaching £1 billion at £838 million for the years 2017-18 to 2021-22.

The figures which were obtained from the House of Commons Library show that the costs to switch off wind farms were: £107 million in 2017-18; £162 million in 2018-19; £174 million in 2019-20; £229 million in 2020-21 and £166 million in 2021-22.

Branding this the “Great Energy Switch Off” Mr MacAskill is calling on the UK and Scottish Government to end the “absurdity” of tax payers paying wind farms astronomical sums to switch off energy in the midst of an energy crisis, when Scots families are struggling to pay their bills, and the “perversity” of wind farms being paid even more during the winter months.

In a statement Mr MacAskill said:

“At a time when Scots are struggling to pay their energy bills, renewable energy in Scotland is being switched off. Perversely, energy suppliers are paid more for that than for producing energy.  As offshore wind comes on stream, the great energy switch off will only increase.  The cost to the public purse will soon become billions. 

“There’s an added perversity compounding the absurdity in that payments to curtail are highest in winter, the time when people require energy most.

“Scotland has 25% of Europe’s offshore renewable resources and 60% of the UK’s onshore wind.

“We must end the absurdity of switching off energy at massive cost to the taxpayer and replace that with the storage of energy and the provision of hydrogen as an alternative energy source.  Other sites in Scotland, such as Cockenzie and Torness, are ideally placed to take advantage of these opportunities and should be prioritised.

“There are a range of schemes including in East Lothian that are good to go, for example, proposals to develop longer duration energy storage that require government investment so that we can develop prototype technology and then scale up from that. 

“The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has failed to support such schemes.  The modest sums required to develop this technology are dwarfed by the costs of curtailment

“It is time for both the UK and Scottish Governments to end this absurdity and for them to step up and to provide the action and the investment that is needed to make Scotland Europe’s renewable energy powerhouse.  Only then will we be able to provide the valuable work, green jobs and new energy sources that Scotland needs. ”

ENDS

                   The Great Energy Switch Off Absurdity

The Absurdity

At a time when Scots are struggling to meet their energy bills, renewable energy in Scotland’s being switched off. Perversely, energy suppliers are even paid more for that than for producing energy. As offshore wind comes on stream, the great energy switch off will only increase. The cost to the public purse already over £200 million will soon become billions. 

In 2019, 149 windfarms were curtailed (requested to reduce their electricity generation). 29 of them in Scotland accounted for 80% of this curtailment. Scotland’s onshore wind could have generated an extra 17.6% electricity, had they not been curtailed. Yet 2020 was not exceptional and as offshore and onshore generating capacity increases that will only increase significantly. The map below highlights the 29 windfarms which were most heavily curtailed.

Constraint Payments to Wind Power in 2020 and 2021 (ref.org.uk)

The Cost of the Absurdity

Energy producers are told to curtail production or just switch off. The information below from House of Commons Library shows payments for both onshore and offshore wind. In 2020 these constraint payments amounted to £243 million in Scotland. Some of these windfarms could have generated 20 to 57% more than they actually generated that year.  The amount constrained in offshore was negligible given limited output, the overwhelming majority was paid to onshore suppliers.

Offshore Wind Subsidies per MWh Generated Continue to Rise (ref.org.uk)

Scotland understandably as it produces more and faces the difficulties of transmission has the highest payments as disclosed in the below table.

Source: House of Commons Library

Country Rated power Onshore (MW) Generated Onshore (GWh) Curtailment Onshore (GWh) Curtailment Onshore (%) 
Wales 1315 3613 22.6 0.6 
England 3094 8320 0.0 0.0 
Scotland 8468 19687 3459.6 17.6 
N Ireland 1276 2630 461 17.5 

Source: BEIS Energy Trends, Table 6.1, March 31st 2021, www.ref.org.uk Source (N.Ireland): Eirgrid Annual Renewable Constraint and Curtailment Report 2020

There’s an added perversity compounding the absurdity in that payments to curtail are highest in winter, the time when people require energy most. That’s disclosed in the below information. 

Offshore Wind Subsidies per MWh Generated Continue to Rise (ref.org.uk)

BM Constraint Payments (ref.org.uk)

The Reason

Scotland has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind capacity and 60% of the UKs onshore capacity. Scotland produces more energy than she requires for domestic use.

In 2020 renewables met 97% of Scotland’s needs. 

That means that energy is and needs to be exported. However, constraints on the national grid mean that often there’s too much energy being produced, and it cannot be transferred south or elsewhere. It’s then that energy producers are paid to curtail their production or more often just switch off. The map below shows the excess capacity in Scotland between all energies produced and peak requirements.

Constraint Payments to Wind Power in 2020 and 2021 (ref.org.uk)

Location, location, location: Reforming wholesale electricity markets to meet Net Zero – Energy Systems Catapult

The Solution

Onshore Wind energy capacity is increasing in Scotland, and offshore wind is now coming ashore, with its capacity even greater. Constraint issues will therefore continue and indeed worsen unless action is taken. Steps are being made to cable energy from Scottish waters directly south. That is another issue and the answer there should be payment to Scotland for the resource being taken.

In any event improvement to the grid or cabling projects are only commencing and will take years to conclude. Not only in the interim but even then that is unlikely to be sufficient given the capacity that’s going to be produced, especially through new offshore wind developments.

However, there are steps which would avoid the constraint issues with the National Grid. The absurdity of switching off energy when people require it and compounded by paying energy suppliers more for doing so would be ended. It would also provide opportunities in local communities where the energy is produced or comes ashore. Employment could be created, and businesses generated.

The solution is to store the energy not to switch it off. To do that batteries should be installed which can store the excess energy for 4 or more hours, allowing energy to be stored when the electricity grid is constrained and be put back into the grid as and when needed. The technical term is Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES).

Anyone investing in solar panels will be aware of the benefit of acquiring a battery not simply putting the energy onto the grid. The energy saved in the battery can be utilised when grid costs are highest maximising the benefit of the renewable energy.

Utilising far larger batteries and on industrial not just household scale would offer such opportunities. Such batteries are being developed as indeed are other such battery innovations whether for transport or other uses. These batteries are the size of a shipping container.

The storage of such energy would also allow for the production of green hydrogen which could then be used locally and sold far wider. The availability of energy and access to water has seen proposals for such a plant in East Lothian and indeed others elsewhere in the country.

So far BEIS has failed to support such schemes. Yet the modest sums required to develop this technology are dwarfed by the costs of curtailment. The costs of renewable energy especially wind are significantly cheaper than gas. The Scottish Government have failed to push for such schemes and action not just words are needed.

Benefits of long-duration electricity storage (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Summary  

It’s absurd to turn off energy and pay producers more when there’s a way to store it and use it. It’s time for LDES, so that we stop paying windfarms to turn off the electricity generation. Significant funds have been found to promote nuclear energy in England and the costs of upgrading the UK grid are massive.

It’s cheaper to invest in storage and the opportunities it offers are even greater. Let’s end the absurdity of curtailment and invest in the opportunity for work, jobs and new energy sources here in Scotland.UK Parliament Disclaimer: this e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail. This e-mail address is not secure, is not encrypted and should not be used for sensitive data.

MY COMMENTS

This is simply excellent work from Kenny MacAskill.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland

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20 thoughts on “MACASKILL EXPOSES THE “GREAT ENERGY SWITCH OFF”

  1. This situation is totally absurd, and longer term in-grid storage is an essential balancing item in the context of the UK grid. What I have not seen from either politicians or power generation/transmission engineers is a model of how a Scottish National Grid would work post-independence.

    So quite apart from satisfying the demand from Scottish consumers and removing the grid carriage penalties incurred for generation a long distance away from customers, we need to consider export deals to England which benefit both the English grid and the Scottish generators. (security of supply on their part, and security of demand on ours). In addition to this – because we will probably still have a generation surplus – we need to model what permanent export infrastructure needs to be installed – direct interconnecters to Ireland, Netherlands/Belgium etc..

    Unless we do this we will be faced with over-production and only 1 export customer – ie England – (a monopsony as I recall from my economics studies of half a century ago) and that means that the customer controls the price level.

    Has anyone modelled this, and if not lets get it done.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. What we must not fall for is Labour’s National Power Company. Scottish RENEWABLES are much more efficient that it’s English counterpart, many of which are located in estuaries and lack wind ad are not as productive as ours.

      Liked by 10 people

  2. If it looks like a con…..

    When will people realise that the Tories will use any product, market, disease, global crisis etc to find a way to make money for their mates. The Nuclear myth and the failure to correctly develop the Renewable Energy scope is short term greed driven.

    It reminds me of the butter and wine mountains. Dumping good product to maintain a unit price.

    If we have excess generation then we have failed to build sufficient storage. We have failed to integrate our energy market. Buy hundreds of Tesla battery banks instead of building nuclear plants. Build Hydro-Electic storage capacity like Cruachan. Have an export route to sell it. Have some kind of long term solution.

    Is no one looking at Generation, Storage and Transmission as an integrated project we are just wasting money.

    We flared one third of the gas in the North Sea because we pushed Oil Production ahead of Gas Pipeline installation to get a short term fix to the UK economy. Looks like the same madness again.

    Liked by 13 people

  3. So this ‘excess’ energy is a ‘cost’ to us. The injustices keep piling up don’t they? Before we talk about battery storage and new technology etc, there is another vital use for this ever increasing excess, and that’s year-round food production. This is something done at a huge scale in countries like the Netherlands. Iceland also uses it’s ample excess energy to grow food indoors under artificial light, thereby substituting food that would otherwise be imported

    Much more of our food could be produced this way rather than having to import it, and we don’t have to wait for the technology. In a world of increasing instability and climate shocks, food security is becoming vital. Our children needn’t starve. Ever.

    Had starmer really been a proponent of nationalisation, he’d have been taken down by the media – just like his predecessor. He’s a reliable neoliberal and knight of the realm.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Nothing needs to be grown artificially and we must not fall into this trap. Chemical engineering food and GMOs like they have been promoting quite heavily. Food security could be secured in giving the local waste spaces for communities to grow food like we have seen in some places in Scotland. There’s a seed bank in Glasgow that you can go to borrow seeds with the promise to return them from the crops grown.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. There’s no reason that every single council across Scotland should not be working with the people to enable this to happen instead of just some as well as having seed banks based upon the principle of returning for other people and to enable the stock not to be depleted. We must ban harmful chemicals and pesticides that have shown to pollute water, damage soil and cause illness.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. Artificially? Who said anything about artificially? I’m talking about growing Organically in soil (which is being destroyed at breakneck pace across the globe). I’m talking ‘year round’. Much of the ‘fresh’ produce you will buy in the supermarkets will be grown in tunnels. I am aware of the see library, yet there isn’t one seed producing company in Scotland that I know of. All the seeds we have were purchased from the south of England,

        Liked by 4 people

      3. Feels there is something that YES can spearhead here (and lets note that the “Greens” in the SG have no interest in this or the very valid points that Kenny has raised). Local growing – community gardens – would really help folk right now and putting a YES badge on this would be a very good opportunity.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Can you believe that they treated the hogweed with pesticides that trickled into or near rivers when they could have used the electrical devices that have been invented to deal with them that wouldn’t cause harm to human nor nature. If British government knew that the food supplies were going to be interfered with then why were growing gardens across each town and city not set up involving the people to grow their own and ready to feed people in the community without the humiliation of facing starvation and food banks?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Meanwhile, at the weekend, at the height of the worst crisis in living memory, the A.U.O.B. march garners a sub 10k turnout in Edinburgh whilst the same day a coalition of anti-poverty / anti-energy and cost of living groups led by trade unionists and labour allied leaders assemble in Glasgow. The A.U.O.B. allow a mealy-mouthed castle dweller from the SNP hierarchy to address their meeting spouting more platitudes of more of the same…nothing.
    The other demo has red tory speeches aimed at drawing the old labour faithful back into the fold under the false pretences, as ever, of Keir Stammer and English Labour rescuing us from the Fascists in Westminster.

    A perfect storm for Scotland indeed: suspended in amber or more realistically. something nastier and pungent.
    Between a weak accounting unit ‘government’ of collaborating colonial maladministrators, silent apart from whining about ‘Englandbad’ and a bunch of dishonest bandwagon jumping ‘labourites’ exploiting ordinary folks’ terror over state sponsored attacks via cost-of-living exponential rises. Meanwhile, all the while, the absurd pantomime being enacted by Bain Q,C, at the Supreme Court fizzles out like the intended damp squib as intended. A recipe for even more division and confusion for the poor folk of our nation. The Murrells will be sitting laughing up their sumptuously attired sleeves at how well all the forces of the crown are actively working in concert to prevent our road to freedom. Is there no way out?

    Liked by 8 people

    1. That’s why I said that we should have had people along at the enough is enough rally. When I saw these protests being on the same day along with strikes it had me thinking about the bigger picture and the media had shown this rally in Scotland but not the Scottish independence march.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Lochside, I agree with your comments. Must say – though only able to watch thanks to Independence Live – the first speaker, by his presence, removed much of the excitement generated by the massive AUOB March.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was actually saying out loud get him AFF whilst watching it Jan. 😁 Thing is though all voices need to be heard in a true democracy even if we disagree with what they are saying. Freedom of speech. The cost of living movement and high energy costs low wage protests in Scotland are missing one ingredient if they are not telling the folk who attend about this all coming down to not being independent and of of course our fab Kenny, Neale and others are exposing here because naebody else we elected is or the media. We need to think like the devious folk who try hijack people to keep the union going and so whip up a frenzy and the folk believe in what they are doing is just.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. @Scot on artificial food and agriculture etc, reason I mentioned it as you brought up food security. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation gave money to Edinburgh University and Penny Mordaunt went along with Bill to speak about us being involved in ‘global food security’ Vandana Shiva speaks a lot in regards to this subject and worthwhile listening to. The Guardian newspaper also ran an article in 2020 questioning the Monsanto connections.

    Like

  7. I believe the Danes are storing excess power as heat in heat batteries. That can be something ‘as simple as a large body of water. Water having excellent thermal mass properties can then be used in district heating applications. .

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Have I misunderstood the content of this article, or is a fact that renewable energy suppliers are guaranteed an income by government decree, whether supplying power or not?

    So the “market forces” mantra doesn’t apply?

    I accept the need to ensure arable farms are guaranteed an income due to the uncertainties of weather etc., but wind farms selling power to a reasonably predictable market?

    The initiative chasm between politicians, the technically knowledgeable population, and the general public needs fixing. I have no idea of the views, policies of my MP and MSP. I do know they endorsed a few silly projects without consultation – unless you buy the local news paper – to scan for a wee inset piece about their “plan”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It seems a cable from Norway is going to be used for Scotland to trade energy with Norway. However! why do we as a nation have to pay more for energy when quite frankly, we have excess supplies of renewable energy? utterly disgusting! NS needs to be removed, NO CONFIDENCE VOTE BY THE PUBLIC. IN MY EYES SHE IS COMMITING TREASON.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Not trying to burst his bubble, well I am but I’ll try to let him down gently.
    Like most politicians he’s swallowed the whole net zero fiasco hook line and stinker.
    Weather generated energy has to be subsidised as no-one would build them if they only got paid when their energy was required, and it could contribute (like the grid we used to have).
    That’s why they get paid no matter what.
    Countries/ states etc, Germany and California are leading the way back to the stone age.
    Storage of electrical energy with batteries is not feasible using current technology and it may be a long time till it is.
    Flooding vast areas of the highlands or the lake district would be the only way to do it and most people (greens included) would be against that.
    Hydrogen is an expensive red herring. You’ll only get something like 5% of your energy back that it cost you to create it, and then youve got all the expensive issues dealing with it.
    Back to the drawing board!

    Liked by 1 person

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