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UK Electricity System Under Increasing Stress

Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has just published its Mid-term Adequacy Forecast (MAF) for 2016. It is required reading for anyone interested in the security of European electricity systems.

The scope of the study is broad:

“The Mid-term Adequacy Forecast (MAF) is a Pan-European assessment of the risks to security of supply and the need for flexibility over the next decade. The methodology used by ENTSO-E takes into account transformation of the power system with increasing variable generation from renewable energy sources.”

While the researchers employ data from the various nationally relevant Transmission System Operators (National Grid in the case of the UK), the approach is different, and, most importantly to a greater degree objective. This is a colder look than we are likely to receive from any domestic organisation, and the results for Great Britain are indeed chilling:

The simulations show average Loss Of Load Expectation and Energy Non-Served values of ~7–8 hours and ~15 GWh, respectively. Great Britain has a reliability standard of 3 hours/year LOLE, which the Mid-term Adequacy Forecast 2016 results exceed.” (p. 16)

This is a very significant finding, with both the Loss of Load hours and Energy Non-Served being the highest of any of the European networks studied.

ENTSO-E reach this striking conclusion by making much less optimistic assumptions than are currently being presented in the UK about the availability of new electricity interconnectors across the continent. This is an important reminder that merely constructing new links from the UK to Europe will not necessarily deliver electricity unless there are also reinforcements and new connections elsewhere in the European network.

However, ENTSO-E is at pains to stress that there is, in spite of their analysis, no actual risk to security of supply, even if the many required interconnectors are not built, since they believe that the UK’s Capacity Mechanism will ensure that sufficient generation is provided.

This is politics, but a clear message looms through the fog of tact: If the interconnectors do not materialise, and that is a real possibility, then the UK will be reliant on the expensive emergency measure of the Capacity Mechanism.

The lights may not go out, but much of the UK will not be able to afford to turn them on in the first place.