Thursday, 22 April 2010

Scotland v the National Grid

There was a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday afternoon about the charges Scotland pays to connect to the National Grid.

Many of my non-Scotland domiciled readers may not know that electricity produced not far from me here can cost me far more per kilowatt than it can someone who lives in the south-east of England.

Scottish electricity industry leaders are demanding an end to the 'unfair' practice and say the costs may cause some renewable electricity generation projects to be delayed or abandoned.

Transmission charges on electricity generators pay for the cost of the national electricity grid. They vary according to how far a power source is located from the main centre of demand, which is London.

In the north of Scotland, generators are charged £20.08p per kilowatt but in Central London a power source receives a subsidy of £6.41p per kilowatt. Subsidies are payable across most of southern England.

The National Grid argues that the differentials encourage companies to locate power plants close to demand centres, cutting the costs of the national transmission network and reducing consumers' bills. They also argue that stronger winds in northern Scotland meant that wind farms there generated more power than their southern counterparts and so could afford to pay the higher transmission changes. It said that of 20,000 megawatts of planned British renewable generating capacity, 9,000 megawatts was in Scotland.

Let me get this right. Because we generate excess power here in Scotland and decide to send it south to England we should be penalised. That is what the NG is saying surely. That is grossly unfair.

A couple of years ago the SNP were reported to be drawing up plans to build the world's longest electricity connector to Norway. Surely if we can get this project off the ground then we will be able to negotiate a better deal for Scottish consumers.


Dubbieside said...


I have copied and pasted a reply I put on Blether with Brian on this subject this morning.

john re your 100

"They are basically admitting that producers in Scotland are subsidising producers in the south of England. That is a shocking admission"

Its not only the producers that are being subsadised, it is also the consumers. If the producers are being subsadised they can then pass that subsidy on to their consumers.

I have said before that someone in SNP headquarters should work out the total subsidy paid by Scottish consumers and arrive at the annual figure added to each Scottish electricity bill to pay for this subsidy.

That would be an easy sell on the doorsteps "do you realise that you are paying £X more a year so electricity consumers in London can get theirs cheaper"

Another union dividend.

William said...

Why would we want to be dependent upon Norway for electricity?

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

For the National Grid to use such a stupid argument of the proximity of producers to demand centres as a basis for supply rates is utterly daft and made doubly so in the case of renewables.

While the proximity of generators to centres of demand may have some logic in the case of transmission it has to be weighed against the cost of transporting and handling the raw fuel to feed the generation.

The coalfields of Kent may have a tad coal left in them, but I doubt if it would keep the Sodom screens of the City flickering for long.

But to apply the same maxim to renewables is putting the cart before the horse, allocating more value to the cart than the horse then claiming the cart is pulling the horse.

The emergence of truly renewable energy throws any legitimacy to these practices completely out the window.

There are losses and leaks on transmissions and the longer the distance the greater these are likely to be. But that is the Grids problem, not the producers; other wise it allows the Grid to function without any audit or accountability for the efficiency of its system.

In effect Scotland should control its own grid with a price being set at the border. Whether that power ends up in Carlisle, Cornwall or brews the MEP's coffee in Brussels is neither controlled or of interest to Scotland , as long as it gets its price.

If only life was that simple and sensible.

subrosa said...

Thanks Dubbie. I wrote this late last night and didn't realise Brian had also been onto the subject.

I can't understand why we don't use that either. I mean, a difference of over £26 a kw between here and the south east?

Why won't the SNP use this as an election issue? Is it too sensitive for some?

subrosa said...

William, we sell electricity to England. If they won't come to some sensible, fair agreement with Scotland, then perhaps Norway will. That was my point.

How you think I'm suggesting we should stop producing power and just buy it from Norway has taken hold in my mind, I don't know.

Must be my poor argument.

subrosa said...

I wasn't too impressed with Jim Mather's argument about this yesterday RA. Rather thought he was too easy on OFCOM.

That would be the sensible solution but it was never voiced.

JRB said...

At last!

The people of Scotland are beginning to see the light.

For far too long this iniquitous situation has been allowed, now, thankfully, it is beginning to be questioned.

This situation is also one of the reasons why the new ‘giant pylon’ line from the Highlands to the south is so unpopular. Not only do we in Scotland have to pay to build it, purely for the benefit of the south. But, we also have to pay to use it, and, again, the only people to benefit are those in the south. Madness.

A similar disgrace is the price of petrol in Scotland.
… a fuel tanker can leave Grangemouth, travel 150miles north to Inverness where the retail price is 130p
… a fuel tanker can leave Grangemouth, travel 150miles south to Newcastle where the retail price is 121p.

subrosa said...

Afternoon John. An excellent point about petrol prices.

Hopefully we are waking up. This needs to be a strong issue in this election and next year.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

JRB - only one minor point.

Quote - "But, we also have to pay to use it"? Shouldn't that be, we also have to pay for them to use it?

Anonymous said...

"Many of my non-Scotland domiciled readers may not know that electricity produced not far from me here can cost me far more per kilowatt than it can someone who lives in the south-east of England."

Like I said Subs, it's wrong, theres no need to shout.

I've noticed something on your reply to me on a previous post on this subject,though...

"Due to Westminster.. " AIRC, etc



Self inflicted wound?

Joe Public said...

As with everything SR, some things are more complicated than they first seem.

"....20,000 megawatts of planned British renewable generating capacity, 9,000 megawatts was in Scotland."

This 'renewables' mullarky is fine until you actually want to use that power.

This 'leccy stuff can't be stored. It has to be generated/created when it is needed. Not before, not after.

So although there may be oodles of political Brownie Points to be scored from having wind farms in windy places, those wind farms cannot deliver the goods on cold, windless days. [As realists knew, and this winter has proven.]

So, expensive fossil fuel or nuclear plant has to be built, maintained and kept on standby for when the Soaps finish, & 10,000,000 people simultaneously switch on their 3kW kettles.

subrosa said...

Ah Rightwinggit, you've never read me in shouting mode. I find repetition is far more effective than shouting. It gets the message through.

I'm sorry Rightwinggit, I don't accept your analysis.

The labour people you refer to belong to a UK party, not a purely Scottish party.

subrosa said...

Power can be stored Joe, but not in such large amounts as would be recognised as a 'supply box'.

That's the reason I suggested the Norwegian project went ahead because the Norwegians don't produce as much as we do and neither does the whole of Scandanavia (although I admit I haven't details for Finland).

Joe Public said...

SR the only remotely feasible way to 'store' the electicity we generate, is at slack times to use it to pump water up the inside of a Welsh mountain. Then in time of need, let it tumble down via a turbine generator.

subrosa said...

Joe, does that mean electricity in Scotland, of which we have a surplus, should be allowed to drift into the ether?

Some Scottish nationalists would perhaps prefer that especially when they hear the constant moanings that England maintains us.

Joe Public said...

Certainly not, but you have to question what is meant by 'surplus'.

Electricity (unlike gas, oil or coal) is a commodity that cannot be hoarded until prices rise.

However, if that instantaneous demand doesn't exist, then it has to 'drift into the ether' whether it's generated from a Scottish wind farm, a gas-fired power station in Wales, an English nuclear reactor or 'contract-purchased' from a French reactor.

If however Scotland discovered a loch or or created a reservoir at the top of Ben Whatever......

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Joes is right in terms of peak demands. But it has to be remembered that whether a station is powered by coal, gas or nuclear it's steam to set that actually generates the electricity.

This means that planned maintenance or breakdown apart the boiler is fired to produce steam and if steams produced it may as well produce electricity. Hence the reason for the offpeak marketing that was tried and failed because they got greedy on the standing charges.

Llanberis is only viable because it primes when demand is low but it could have 100 times the capacity, or have 100 Llanberis's and still use excess electricity from the conventional generators going to waste.

As in most utilities the dominant equation is maximising the seeming demand in order to maximise profits rather than balancing the demand to maximise efficiency, minimise waste and costs.

subrosa said...

Joe and RA. I'm a little confused here. I did think we were able to store power to some extent and didn't realise was produced on a supply and demand basis.

Must read more about it before I can comment further.

Dark Lochnagar said...

No Rosie, as we are self sufficient we sell our excess to the continent rather than to England if they make it more financially attractive. Now it was a long time ago I got my physics higher but is there not a 'thing' that stores electricity?

subrosa said...

A much longer time since I sat mine DL and I too thought there was some way to store electricity. Seems like I need to do some revision. :)

banned said...

The price argument is self-evidently back to front, they mightalmost be taking the mickey.

The National Grid is not some much loved public institution btw, it is a privately owned company with over half of its operations in north eastern USA.

Joe Public said...

SR, the other 'complication' about electricity generation and use is that its transmission is not very efficient.

There are relatively high transmission losses between point of generation & point of use. This also rules out DL's suggestion of trying to flog it to continental Europe (and of course the comment in your post about sourcing it from Norway.)

The other problem with DL's suggestion, is that a Scots power-line to the largest market would pass thro' England. And we could do a 'Ukraine' and throw the switch!

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