Imagine the UK’s emergency scheme for when the power grid fails this winter….
Well … its empty
One of the flagship schemes for keeping Britain’s lights on this winter has been cancelled at the last moment due to a lack of demand, illustrating the difficulties policymakers are having in balancing the UK’s electricity supplies.
National Grid had promised to pay organisations that were willing to turn off or turn down equipment this winter if there was a spike in demand or a drop in supply. The scheme proved vital last year when several power plants unexpectedly shut down — heavy electricity users such as businesses, hospitals and factories took 40MW of demand off the system in response.
But this year National Grid has cancelled the scheme, known as the “demand-side balancing reserve”, after too few users said they were willing to put themselves on standby. The move could cost the grid millions of pounds, which it expected to receive from the energy regulator to implement the policy.
The grid’s decision, which was announced in a letter to the few organisations who did apply, shows how difficult the company is finding it to keep supply and demand balanced with large old power stations rapidly reaching the end of their lives.
National Grid has said it expects the margin between supply and demand at peak hours during this winter to be the lowest ever.
The Aliso Canyon gas storage facility has a leak. That could mean 14 days of blackouts. (UPDATE: Affected Region Map at bottom)
And if they empty the gas, and the leak is nor fixed by the winter, things will be worse in the winter.
Several actions are underway to respond to the major natural gas leak that occurred at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility on October 23, 2015. With the leak now stopped, there is a moratorium that prohibits the operator of the facility, Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), from injecting natural gas into the underground reservoir until a comprehensive safety review of the facility is completed. This safety review requires that all 114 wells in the facility are either thoroughly tested for safe operation or removed from operation and isolated from the underground reservoir.
The implementation of these safety measures means that the Aliso Canyon facility is not operating as it normally does to provide gas for the energy demands in the Greater Los Angeles area. Only 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas remains in the Aliso Canyon underground reservoir—less than one-fifth of the capacity of the facility—for use to maintain electrical and gas service in the region if it is needed.
The Aliso Canyon facility has operated for decades as a critical part of the natural gas transmission and distribution system in the Los Angeles region. Aliso Canyon provides gas supplies to 11 million customers for home heating, hot water and cooking fuel. The facility also provides gas supplies to natural gas-fired power plants that play a central role meeting regional electrical demand. Aliso Canyon is critical to meeting peak gas usage demands in winter months and helping to meet peak electrical demands during the summer months.
The engineering analysis, which applied complex industry standard hydraulic modeling to simulate operations on the SoCalGas system suggests that without any gas supply from Aliso Canyon, there are 14 days this coming summer during which gas curtailments could be high enough to cause electricity service interruptions to millions of utility customers. Factors leading to gas curtailments, even 3 on days with only moderately high demand, include differences between gas scheduled and received into the SoCalGas system (receipts) versus actual customer demand (sendout) as small as 0.15 Bcf; gas storage and pipeline maintenance work planned for this summer, and unplanned outages.
Using the 15 billion cubic feet of gas currently stored at Aliso Canyon as directed by the CPUC and taking several other actions described below can reduce – although not eliminate – the possibility of these electric interruptions. It is also important to note that, using most or all the gas remaining in Aliso Canyon during this summer would result in greater risk of shortages next winter if normal operations of the facility are not restored in time to store new gas there for winter use.
This map shows the Aliso Canyon Delivery Area: