What happens to wind power when there is no wind? Why it makes perfect sense that old, polluting and inefficient coal fired power stations should be retained and receive a capacity payment

This note argues that environmentalists will have to recognise that part (and a small price) of the price we pay for creating significant additional capacity of intermittent / variable renewables is the continued existence of coal fired plant, operating at a very low capacity factor.

(And of course it will make us less vulnerable to Vladimir Putin. The fact that we get little gas from Russia does not reduce his ability to screw up our supply. Part of the deal would be that the coal stations should keep significant coal stocks on hand.

Arguably it would be perfectly acceptable to keep this old and polluting coal maintained and ready to run for the few weeks per year of anticyclone (when clearly there would not be enough wind in a very high wind generation scenarios.

Thus there is no need  to de commission these old stations.

It matters not a jot that they are polluting for a few weeks per year, because clearly by having a massive wind component of generation, in the extreme case, you would have reduced the annual output of filth by these stations by a factor of say 3 weeks / 41 weeks (say) ie 1/13th in this  high wind scenario.

Hence, the cost of back up to a very large penetration of wind is going to be very low – since you are relying on plant that would otherwise have been closed.

No one in the Claverton group, has  as yet come up with any evidence or calculations to refute this line of argument.

People who used to run power stations agree with this point of view, and have pointed out that investment decisions will be taken by the owners soon as to whether or not to let them go to rack and ruin – ie do no or little maintenance so that when they are forced to close they are  economic write offs.

Thus it is argued, the situations  needs a clear signal from the government that these old plant will be rewarded with some form of capacity payment otherwise we will lose perfectly usable plant.

If we build enough wind, which we can do if we have some central planning and targets we can meet our carbon targets and have security of supply.

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