UK Returns to Coal Power After Solar Panels Fail in Hot Weather

The United Kingdom has resorted to restarting a coal-fired power plant to meet demand for air conditioning after the nation was hit by a major heatwave. Temperatures in Britain hit 86 degrees Fahrenheit two weekends ago for the first time this year, pushing up demand for power as households and businesses faced unusually brutal heat. The U.K.’s National Weather Service put out both heat and storm warnings for most of the country last week after thunderstorms swept across the country in the wake of the heatwave, disrupting both domestic and international travel. This was the first time that the U.K. had started burning coal to generate electricity in a month and a half after solar panels failed due to overheating. Coal Makes a Brief Comeback as Solar Power Fails in Britain Early on June 12, the U.K.’s National Grid asked a coal-fired power station in the east Midlands to reactivate for extra electricity due to high demand for air conditioning. A unit at Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power plant in Nottinghamshire started producing electricity for the first time in 46 days after it was shut down to make Net-Zero emissions targets. Meanwhile, another coal-powered unit was restarted in case it was needed by the early afternoon that day. Operations at Ratcliffe’s fourth unit were extended for two years beyond its planned shutdown in 2022. The 46 days without coal power were short of the nearly 68-day record set in the summer of 2020 and was the longest single period since 1882 that the power grid did not burn coal to produce electricity. The last time that the National Grid used coal was for a 22.5-hour period, which ended at 12:30 p.m. GMT on April 27. However, all power units at the facility are still due to be closed by September 2024 as the United Kingdom phases out burning coal for power generation. Output from solar power was almost a third lower than a week before the heatwave, as energy was sucked out by a surge in air conditioner use. Solar panels are tested at a benchmark of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and for every rise in temperature above this level, efficiency is reduced by 0.5 percentage points. The temperature level refers to the temperature of solar cells rather than the air temperature. In direct sunlight, the cells can easily reach up to 140 or 160 degrees. Power supplies were also lower due to depressed wind speeds, which lowered wind turbine output, while some gas power plants were shut down for maintenance. In early June, the 1,400-megawatt North Sea Link interconnector that carried power between Norway and the U.K. faced technical problems. Electricity supplies from that source will be cut in half until the issues on the Norwegian side are repaired. UK Authorities Look to Find Power-Saving Solutions Meteorologists also forecast that the probability that Britain will experience a hot summer this year is 45 percent, 2.3 times more than normal, reported The Guardian. Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told The Guardian, “It is clear that the U.K. is dangerously unprepared for the growing intensity and frequency of heatwaves, which are damaging lives and livelihoods across the country.” “The government is due to publish imminently a new plan for adapting the country to the impacts of climate change. It absolutely must include a national heat risk strategy that focuses on preventing overheating in buildings rather than just dealing with the health consequences of homes that become deathtraps in hot weather.” Octopus Energy, which runs the smart power meters in the U.K., called on the National Grid to introduce a permanent scheme to reward customers for using less energy at peak hours to reduce dependence on coal. Nearly 700,000 Octopus users received $6.8 million under its Savings Session trial last winter by paying them to use less power than they normally would during the period to heat their homes. The company said that its pilot program saved a total of 1.86 GWH in energy use, which it said was the equivalent of two million washing machine runs. Octopus argued that deploying the system across Britain would reduce the costs of coal use by about three quarters, from $434-504 million last winter to just $135 million.

UK Returns to Coal Power After Solar Panels Fail in Hot Weather

The United Kingdom has resorted to restarting a coal-fired power plant to meet demand for air conditioning after the nation was hit by a major heatwave.

Temperatures in Britain hit 86 degrees Fahrenheit two weekends ago for the first time this year, pushing up demand for power as households and businesses faced unusually brutal heat.

The U.K.’s National Weather Service put out both heat and storm warnings for most of the country last week after thunderstorms swept across the country in the wake of the heatwave, disrupting both domestic and international travel.

This was the first time that the U.K. had started burning coal to generate electricity in a month and a half after solar panels failed due to overheating.

Coal Makes a Brief Comeback as Solar Power Fails in Britain

Early on June 12, the U.K.’s National Grid asked a coal-fired power station in the east Midlands to reactivate for extra electricity due to high demand for air conditioning.

A unit at Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power plant in Nottinghamshire started producing electricity for the first time in 46 days after it was shut down to make Net-Zero emissions targets.

Meanwhile, another coal-powered unit was restarted in case it was needed by the early afternoon that day.

Operations at Ratcliffe’s fourth unit were extended for two years beyond its planned shutdown in 2022.

The 46 days without coal power were short of the nearly 68-day record set in the summer of 2020 and was the longest single period since 1882 that the power grid did not burn coal to produce electricity.

The last time that the National Grid used coal was for a 22.5-hour period, which ended at 12:30 p.m. GMT on April 27.

However, all power units at the facility are still due to be closed by September 2024 as the United Kingdom phases out burning coal for power generation.

Output from solar power was almost a third lower than a week before the heatwave, as energy was sucked out by a surge in air conditioner use.

Solar panels are tested at a benchmark of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and for every rise in temperature above this level, efficiency is reduced by 0.5 percentage points.

The temperature level refers to the temperature of solar cells rather than the air temperature.

In direct sunlight, the cells can easily reach up to 140 or 160 degrees.

Power supplies were also lower due to depressed wind speeds, which lowered wind turbine output, while some gas power plants were shut down for maintenance.

In early June, the 1,400-megawatt North Sea Link interconnector that carried power between Norway and the U.K. faced technical problems.

Electricity supplies from that source will be cut in half until the issues on the Norwegian side are repaired.

UK Authorities Look to Find Power-Saving Solutions

Meteorologists also forecast that the probability that Britain will experience a hot summer this year is 45 percent, 2.3 times more than normal, reported The Guardian.

Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told The Guardian, “It is clear that the U.K. is dangerously unprepared for the growing intensity and frequency of heatwaves, which are damaging lives and livelihoods across the country.”

“The government is due to publish imminently a new plan for adapting the country to the impacts of climate change. It absolutely must include a national heat risk strategy that focuses on preventing overheating in buildings rather than just dealing with the health consequences of homes that become deathtraps in hot weather.”

Octopus Energy, which runs the smart power meters in the U.K., called on the National Grid to introduce a permanent scheme to reward customers for using less energy at peak hours to reduce dependence on coal.

Nearly 700,000 Octopus users received $6.8 million under its Savings Session trial last winter by paying them to use less power than they normally would during the period to heat their homes.

The company said that its pilot program saved a total of 1.86 GWH in energy use, which it said was the equivalent of two million washing machine runs.

Octopus argued that deploying the system across Britain would reduce the costs of coal use by about three quarters, from $434-504 million last winter to just $135 million.