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I agree that it is intermediate plants which are suffering the most - when renewables are producing, there is simply no time window at all when prices are high enough for these plants to operate.

But baseload plants are suffering as well - they get lower prices, on average, than they used to. This is counter-balanced by the increase in gas prices, which means that the base load prices (ie night time) are higher than they used to be, but that helps nukes and coal plants, not the gas-fired plants that actually need to buy that more expensive gas... So gas baseload plants are becoming marginal - or increasing their price.

Some of the utilities are thus moving to convert some of their plants. see this:


UK's SSE idles gas-fired plants on low spark spreads

London, 31 January (Argus) -- UK utility Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) will take its two oldest combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) out of service in late March for extended maintenance and expects both plants to be off line for at least a year.

(...)

SSE's move to mothball gas-fired capacity amid low spark spreads comes after rival UK utility Centrica said in October that it planned to idle its 245MW Barry CCGT and its 340MW Kings Lynn CCGT -- neither of which are among its oldest gas-fired plants -- during the second quarter of 2012.



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 31st, 2012 at 10:47:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This looks like the classic tragedy of the commons. There is a common public good, the reliability of the power supply. The various producers are rewarded only for momentary conditions. The public service they provide or do not provide in case of intermittent sources is not rewarded or punished for.

As long as we have one grid, regulations must make sure that those who provide intermittent supply must subsidize backup capacity.

by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 07:42:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All power plants provide intermittent supply.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 08:02:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is due to economics, not technological constraints. And they provide it on demand. Wind turbines deliver when the wind blows.
by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 08:34:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, they don't provide it on demand. There are technical glitches, and these happen unpredictably. Wind, on the other hand, is very predictable.
by Katrin on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 09:15:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is better than unpredictable, but the demand must be met. Any power plant may fail, although failure rates are different. Nevertheless wind can't do it at all.
by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 11:45:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't do what at all?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 11:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wind cannot provide controllable output. If the wind does not blow, there is no electricity.

From an economic viewpoint wind is baseload, as the fuel is free. But its reliability is many orders of magnitude lower than in conventional sources.
So essentially the more capacity based on wind you have in the system the more intermediate and peak capacity you need.
But the utilisation of the capacity will go down.

by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since some of us have looked at europe-wide super-grid studies for just wind alone, perhaps you could provide us with the studies on which you base the above arguments.

not that anyone in their right mind expect wind to be alone in a sustainable grid.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:53:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, he should define "reliability". The common understanding of the word would be the difference between expected production and actual production. For wind and solar, that would be the difference of the two graphs at the EEX tracking page. However, oliver seems to have mixed up intermittency with that.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 03:48:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Physics mixes it up. If more is consumed than produced, power fails. A fully predictable shortfall is still not acceptable.

It is easier to find countermeasures, but that needs more reserves.

by oliver on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But there is plenty of peak capacity. Plenty of plant that currently runs more or less in baseload mode burning fossil fuels. Increased intermittent capacity, whether wind or solar, obviously has to take priority because, as you note, the fuel is free.

All that is required is to lower the average load factor of the fossil fuel plants, i.e. burn less fossil fuels in order to burn more solar and wind. Financial compensations are no doubt needed to those plants, to cover the sunk capital costs.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Physics mixes it up. If more is consumed than produced, power fails.

That's not a mix-up and not physics, but the separate issue of providing balancing capacity to meet the difference of demand and total baseload production. And how does that not apply to conventional baseload? Baseload never meets demand anywhere near 100% of the time, and the difference can be rather big on occasion (be it a cold spell in a region with lots of electric heating boosting demand like in France in February this year, or a total shutdown of 52 nuclear plants following a natural disaster and subsequent safety concerns like in Japan earlier this year).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
whoever asked wind to do it all?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:22:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Theoretically wind could probably "do it all", if the area of your grid is large enough. Nobody intends that though, so why this strawman?
by Katrin on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, planned shutdowns due to refueling or maintenance are technological constraints, and so are hutdowns due to accidents. And it is a stretch to talk about provision "on demand" in thwe case of baseload plants: baseload plants are good for providing constant power, but demand isn't constant.

So, back to the point, all plants are intermittent, and at least those normally run at the maximum power possible (nuclear, "brown coal", wind, solar, tide, wave) require balancing capacity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 03:42:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh well. If you insist.

Very well, so conventional plants are intermittent. Yes, but their failures are randomly and independently distributed. This is not true for the main cause of intermittent operations of wind plants. The strength of the wind is quite correlated in large areas.

To counter this very large networks can be used to some degree. However, even under the current conditions, capacities are strained and construction of massive new grid capacities is already meeting stiff resistance.

by oliver on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:29:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the 90th time, wind is not meant to be sole generation, rather a part of a mix of generation and demand-side technologies. Please stop discussing wind as stand-alone generation.

No matter the cause of the stiff resistance to grid upgrades, they would have to be done anyway. Not merely to increase security, but for economic and technical reasons as well. Plus the populace needs to finance a spare parts store, so when a sunstorm or other failure occurs, it can be repaired in weeks rather than many months.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:14:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Either it is a significant contributor or it is not. If it is not, we need not bother with subsidies. If it is, the increased variability will have to be compensated for.

As for the necessity of major upgrades I have to note that the current grid with the current generation capability does work very well.

by oliver on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 05:42:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Either it is a significant contributor or it is not.

Nope, it's not that simple, but we are repeating ourselves on this, too. If there is some correlation with other significant non-load-following contributors (and there is: with solar), then it makes no sense to consider its variability isolated.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:00:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As for the necessity of major upgrades I have to note that the current grid with the current generation capability does work very well.

Fun fact about networks like currency unions and power grids: If you cheap out of maintenance, routine upgrades and proper design, they will work very well right up until they don't work at all.

Which of course makes it open season for quacks and charlatans. Such as the people who are feeding you your talking points.

The German grid in particular has built up quite a deferred maintenance log since the experiments with open access and unbundling began. Funny how that works, because the rail and telecommunication sectors had precisely the same experience with unbundling.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 07:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The German grid in particular has built up quite a deferred maintenance log since the experiments with open access and unbundling began. Funny how that works, because the rail and telecommunication sectors had precisely the same experience with unbundling.

You can certainly argue that these are natural monopolies. And keeping it in the hands of the suppliers doesn't work.

So either only those who own the infrastructure may use it, or it has to be split up fully.

by oliver on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:38:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And keeping it in the hands of the suppliers doesn't work.

Why not?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:53:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where I note that my own preferences differ for the three named systems:
  • In the electricity sector, I'd like to see a state-oned grid, at least partially state-owned peaker plants and either state-owned legacy plants or a law making closure without compensation for "lost profit" a possibility (thus the state would be the supplier keeping the infrastructure in its hands),
  • In the rail sector, I'd like to see integrated railways, that's more important than whether they are public or private (but I still prefer public) and how large an area they cover (close cooperation can realise the same benefits as a total monopoly).
  • In the telecoms sector, I have no solid opinion, other than seeing the need for strong regulation.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 04:31:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In telecommunications, the historical experience seems to indicate that it is sufficient to have strictly enforced interoperability requirements at all levels (between networks and between phones and networks - none of the American crap where the phone is hardwired to one network). Plus a few ad hoc regulations like number portability and a hard cap on roaming charges.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 01:41:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is designed to create a conflict of interest. The owners are given an incentive to neglect infrastructure, which is partially used to benefit competitors.
by oliver on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 09:46:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Competitors?

EDF and Gazprom have worked fine for decades with no competitors.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 10:37:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The German grid in particular has built up quite a deferred maintenance log since the experiments with open access and unbundling began.

Do you have good sources on this? I only read into the backlog in new construction, and the connected finger pointing. In the case of the 20-year-delayed project I mentioned downthread, grid operators and approving authorities are pointing fingers at each other for slow and sloppy work with documents; and the line originally projected to enhance east-west connections, with a Hamburg-area nuclear power plant at one end, is now called Windsammelschiene (wind bus bar) to give the false impression that it only became necessary due to the spread of wind power.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:51:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, only people I trust to be well informed making disparaging comments at the TV whenever the German grid is mentioned.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 04:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trouble is all I can find is of the same level, too. In some pro-unbundling pieces, there are claims that the grid is underfuded and in a bad shape, with the only specific detail I saw was that the maintenance budget is dwarfed by grid use tariff income, but there is no source or context.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 04:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but their failures are randomly and independently distributed. This is not true for the main cause of intermittent operations of wind plants. The strength of the wind is quite correlated in large areas.

So what? Conventional baseload plants also have the trait of being much bigger, thus a single failure or maintenance shutdown is a significant grid event. You could talk about the relative distribution functions, or about the difference in the pattern and spectrum of fluctuations.

However, even under the current conditions, capacities are strained

Yes, but not as much as claimed by certain circles; see my Enron diary.

and construction of massive new grid capacities is already meeting stiff resistance.

This argument is overblown to the extent that it sounds like an excuse. (And now a tool; with Rösler seizing on the opportunity to call for the easing of environmental restrictions.) There are 20-year-delayed power line projects in Germany with no significant counter-protests. There is also the issue of excessive coal plant production assumptions in the forecasts of the grid operators.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 05:55:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way are commons involved?
by Katrin on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 09:17:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is one grid. You cannot pay extra to get your power with extra reliability. The stability and reliability of the grid is a common good.

For power that is sold on a spot market there is also no incentive to provide reliability.

by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The real analysis of "the commons" shows that electricity is no longer a luxury, but a necessity second in importance to food and water. Somepeople keep medicines refrigerated, as one example.

Also in "the commons," even with very expensive scrubbers, which often are grandfathered away, are stack effluents which kill people, lakes, and forests.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:26:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Commons is not the same as common good, and "the tragedy of the commons" (a disputed concept anyway) refers to the commons, not the common good. Do you perhaps mix the two up, or am I just not getting something?
by Katrin on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:32:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, intermittent (wind) plant should be penalised for its intermittency.

What about the intermittent gas plants mentioned by Jérôme? Their intermittency is discretionary : they turn on the juice when they can maximise their profit. They certainly don't provide power "on demand". In your opinion, how should they be penalised for their intermittency?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 09:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If an operator does not agree to provide power at a certain price in advance with an agreed relability he should be penalized.
by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not with a smart grid built to accommodate generation intermittency. Not to even begin to discuss the demand side of a smarkt grid.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If an operator does not agree to provide power at a certain price in advance with an agreed relability he should be penalized.

And in fact they are. Renewables are penalized for intermittency by receiving a lower than the average clearing price per MWh, while new coal and nuke plants are penalized by not being built.

The free-riders under the current system are the fully amortized brown coal plants, who - because they face low marginal costs and do not face the threat of liquidation due to momentary cashflow shortfalls - can sell baseload at the average clearing price rather than a lower feed-in rate.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 07:34:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The various producers are rewarded only for momentary conditions. The public service they provide or do not provide in case of intermittent sources is not rewarded or punished for.

False.

Required reading for anyone who wants to opine on pricing systems and market structure for electricity production.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 11:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your reply is quite generic.

Anyway what mechanism exists to make power companies build gas plants for the worst case?

by oliver on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 12:00:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your reply is quite generic.

That blue text in the comments? That's links. They typically provide details, references, related material, or, as in this case, relevant background knowledge for the discussion you are engaged in.

If you can't make a good-faith effort to read a minimum of relevant background material, why should I believe that creating an original text for your benefit will yield results commensurate with the effort it would require?

Anyway what mechanism exists to make power companies build gas plants for the worst case?

Under the current market structure, they get paid a much higher price per MWh than baseload plants, because they can exploit low capital and idling costs to only produce at peak price.

It would also be possible to pay explicitly for "capacity available at N minutes' notice." Some grids do that, and it is not obvious that they are overpaying for or undersupplied with capacity relative to the European grid.

But in fact insufficient gas-fired capacity is not a problem in the contemporary European grid. The problem, rather, is that there is too much gas capacity, such that some gas turbines are being run as baseload. Nor is gas being underbuilt: Roughly half of all new capacity constructed is gas-fired (gas delivers substantially less than half of all MWh from new plants, but that is in the nature of peaker plants).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 at 07:51:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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