Monday, 8 June 2020

Nuclear Power switches off wind power in Scotland

A report published today by a newly formed pressure group, 100percentrenewableuk, says that that nuclear power is instrumental in forcing the National Grid to turn off large amounts of wind power in Scotland. Nuclear power is also heavily responsible for the large payments paid by the National Grid to windfarms to turn off (be ‘constrained’) when there is too much electricity on the network. These so-called compensation payments (paid for by electricity consumers in general) have focussed on the Scottish part of the British electricity system. This means that nuclear power is a poor means of balancing wind power.

The newly formed initiative 100percentrenewableuk commissioned a leading energy consultancy, Cornwall Insight, to estimate how much of this practice of turning off wind farms could potentially have been avoided if nuclear power plants were shut down. This allows us to estimate what might happen to windfarm compensation payments if nuclear power plant were able to operate as flexibly as wind farms, that is in being able to turn off production when required by the grid. Two years were selected; 2019 as the most recent completed calendar year, and 2017 the most recent year when both nuclear plants in Scotland (Hunterston B and Torness) were fully operational.

It was found that, in 2017, 94 per cent of the windpower that was turned off could have been generated had nuclear power plant not been operating. In 2019, 77 per cent of windfarm output which was turned off (constrained) could have been generated had the nuclear power plant not been operating. These results indicate a direct relationship between nuclear power and the payments made to windfarms to turn off. Essentially, wind power receives the blame because it would cost a lot more to induce the nuclear power stations to reduce their generation.

Windfarm compensation payments in 2017 were close to £100 million, and around £130 million in 2019. The operation of nuclear power is associated with about £100 million each year paid in compensation to windfarm operators – ie the large bulk of windfarm compensation payments. In 2017, when most nuclear power was being generated, almost all of the constrained wind generation could have been avoided if nuclear power plant had operated flexibly, or shut down.

Dr David Toke, author of the report said: ‘It is wrong for wind power to be ”blamed” by the media for these compensation payments. Inflexible operation of nuclear power plants is switching off wind turbines. Essentially, cheaper electricity production from windfarms is being turned off in order to protect production from nuclear power plant whose production is much more expensive to manage. These nuclear plants either cannot or will not help to balance the grid in these circumstances. This undermines renewable energy and increases the costs to the consumer of operating windfarms’.

This pattern of the failure of nuclear power in the UK to participate effectively in grid balancing has been entrenched in the system of contracts awarded by Government to new nuclear and renewable energy generators, that is Hinkley Point C and offshore windfarms in 2017 and 2019.

These contracts further insulate the inflexible balancing position of new nuclear power. Nuclear power will be guaranteed compensation if they are constrained whilst windfarms will be forced off the grid without being paid for electricity production or compensation for constraints. This will pass the hidden costs of nuclear inflexibility onto wind and solar farms.

In addition, as the proportion of fluctuating renewable energy on the grid increases there will be an increasing number of occasions when wholsesale power prices are negative. But production from Hincley C will always be paid at the premium price even when power prices are negative. On the other hand in future wind and solar generators will lose money irf they generate during periods of negative power prices.

The new group behind the report, 100percentrenewableuk, calls for the idea of providing so-called ‘baseload’ through large centralised generators including nuclear power and fossil fuel power plant to be scrapped in favour of a 100 per cent renewable energy system. Under this system renewable energy should not be constrained but instead stored using various techniques to provide power through both short and long term storage purposes.

Buy the new report giving you the full details on how nuclear power undermines wind power and how we can organise a fully 100 per cent renewable energy system. Just £12 - see 100percentrenewableuk


  1. You are clearly crazy! This is as lunatic a piece of reasoning that it is ever possible to imagine.

    Go and lie down in a darkened room, with a cold, damp cloth on your forehead and revisit the contorted reasoning behind writing such a load of upside down, Alice in Wonderland tripe.

    1. surely not as lunatic as Germany invading Poland?

    2. WTF does that have to do with you piece of lunacy here?

  2. The idiotic partof this crtique is the failure to recognise that compared with reliable nuclear, the wind is rubbish. The sooner nuclear shuts ALL the wind whirlygigs down, and the government tells them "you can go to Hell for your compensation payments", the healthier the greener parts of Scotland will be.

  3. Has Mr Toke has wondered why we should bother coupling intermittents with enough nuclear power to accommodate their 100% failure, and, what the cost of the duel system is compared to nuclear power alone?

  4. Given that you have missed my argument that we don't need any nuclear to couple with renewables and you obviously haven't understood or, I suspect, even read the argument on the 100percentrenewableuk website, your question does not apply. Hence my response. If you are going to pour scorn on somebody and their argument, you should at least make some passing impression that you even know what that argument is.

  5. Your argument is about getting fast-ramping backup. What options do you propose that are non-emitting and have been proven reliable, cost effective and generally applicable? Until you have an answer for this all you've done is built too much wind power to be entirely consumed.

  6. Please read the section in 100percentrenewableuk regarding storage and balancing for a response to your question. See - There are various plausible options which need to be market tested to find the best mixtures - although this will evolve over periods of time. The point is to give these technologies markets to supply long term storage - storage is already being given some markets in some plaes to fulfill shorter term storage requirements. But legislators and regylators are yet to set up such markets, which they need to do as the proportion of power supplied by fluctuating renewable energy sources builds up.