An article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph claims that “National Grid has been quietly signing up thousands of diesel generators, linked by computers to the grid, which can be automatically switched on at a moment’s notice to cover for any power shortage”. The report continues, “And their main purpose, although National Grid tries to deny it, is to make up for the unreliability of that ever-increasing number of heavily subsidised wind farms the Government wants to see built”.
It describes payments to companies involved in creating these ‘mini-power stations” as “so lavish that, in proportion, that [sic] they make the subsidy bonanza enjoyed by wind-farm operators look like chicken feed”.
However, when we spoke to Gemma Stokes, Corporate Media Relations Manager for National Grid, she told us, “Short Term Operating Reserve is not a tool we have created to manage wind power intermittency. The key driver for the bulk of STOR is to manage our single largest potential loss on the system, which is currently up to 1,320MW (what we would lose if Sizewell nuclear power station went down). And STOR has been around long before we were managing wind generation on the network.
“It is a very important tool for us. As system operator, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality on the network. There are occasions when power stations – coal or nuclear – break down, or demand is higher than forecast, so it’s important we have generation held in reserve to manage these unforeseen circumstances.
“There have been some misleading reports about the cost of STOR and prices increasing. STOR is a £100million a year service and is procured through a competitive tender process – we do three rounds a year – which is pushing down prices. We publish detailed market information reports after each tender round. The current feedback is that costs are not forecast to increase in the near future. As to diesel, it is a small part of STOR overall.”
She also told us that National Grid would soon be publishing the findings of its STOR fuel type analysis, which, she said, would highlight that diesel makes up quite a small percentage of what National Grid buys. The report should make interesting reading when it comes out.