How many mothballed gas plants are there in the UK?

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The UK is facing a capacity crunch in its electricity market. In essence within a few years, around 2016, the available supply of electricity in winter, when demand peaks, may be dangerously close to demand. Blackouts may result. The situation is reasonably summed up by this graph from Ofgem. Basically we are going from about 13% to 5% excess capacity in the next three years. (The base case is the one to look at. Juice normally comes down the line from France, but if it’s very cold in France then they need to power their electric heaters, so some times there won’t be much, if any, power coming from France)

capacity

Exactly how tight this crunch will be is open to debate, and I am not going to going to discuss that here. However let’s consider an option that has been put forward: re-opening mothballed gas plants. This apparently is being considered by the government. Naturally media reports on this don’t care to mention just how much mothballed capacity is available. These figures aren’t easily available, however a report by Credit-Suisse from mid-2012 indicates that there are 4 plants mothballed, with a total capacity at just over 4.1 GW, that is roughly 7% of the total UK capacity.

mothballplant

Let’s say we restart all of this stuff right now, how does the capacity situation change? To see this consider another graph from Ofgem that shows how they project capacity to change in the next few years, and its relationship with the capacity margin. (Note: the large drop in coal power is mostly due to an EU directive, and these losses are pretty much guaranteed.)

basecase

So, restarting these plants could push the capacity margin from about 5% to above 10%. What are the prospects of re-opening these plants?

Keadby, Medway at 1.4 GW appears to be likely to be re-opened if the incentives are high enough. However SSE is currently reluctant to re-open it due to the weak financial situation for gas plants.

The position of Teeside (1.8 GW) is unclear. However the bosses of the plant claim to be keeping the option of un-mothballing it open in case of improved conditions. The situation for the other two power plants appears to be similar. So if the government is willing to toss these power plants enough money, quite possibly in the form of capacity payments, the UK’s capacity crunch may be a lot less tight.

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4 thoughts on “How many mothballed gas plants are there in the UK?

    Proteos said:
    April 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    The governement can also wait. This is compatible with the mothball approach: mothballing is a bet that situation will improve in the future for the mothballed plant. As coal plant closures are guaranteed, the price of electricity will increase and this will improve the business case of mothballed plants.

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    MikeH said:
    June 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    As far as I can see the list does not include the almost-new gas plant at Peterhead. Although it is an 1800MW plant, it is running at only about 400MW due to restrictions on grid access (lack of transmission capacity and priority given to wind output, when it runs).

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      Robert Wilson said:
      July 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

      Thanks Mike

      I think that was announced after I wrote the post. And I presume this was not part of Ofgem’s 2012 calculations, but may have been in their recent ones.

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    stewgreen said:
    March 30, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    My take . Wind has many priorities, so people owning gas plants can’t make full profit. So they started to mothball plants saying to gov “pay us capacity payments and we’ll re-open some”
    – But instead the gov said there will be a “capacity market” with firms bidding 4 years in Avance for the next 10 year block.
    – So November 2014 will be first auction for supply starting in 2018. but corps argue that date is too late *
    more http://www.timera-energy.com/uk-power/the-uk-capacity-market-will-become-a-reality-in-2014/
    – Scunthorpe Telegraph story on Keadby one of our 2 local proper power plants, says it had just be renovated before being shut. http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/Hopes-mothballed-Keadby-Power-Station-long-term/story-18563800-detail/story.html
    * http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-14/sse-urges-u-k-to-hasten-power-plant-payments-to-keep-lights-on.html
    – It seems you can’t run subsidised windpower, without subsising the gas power providers to be around when the wind is not blowing.

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