REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 205

Revolt news 30/01/2006

1. According to The Times on New Year's Eve there was a "near miss" of a transmission blackout in the cold weather of Thursday 29.12.05 (see APPENDIX A). We are assured however that the NISM (notification of inadequate system margin) shows the control system is working.

2. Ian Paterson of Highlands Before Pylons announces a protest meeting at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 4 Feb against the Beauly - Denny line proposal (APPENDIX B).

3. Snips from news@all-energy issue 59 of Jan 06 are at APPENDIX C.

4. More on the Highland Councillor's call for underground cables along a railway on the Beauly -Denny line (APPENDIX D).

5. The Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee agreed 17.1.06 to recognise a Cross-Party Group on Electro-Magnetic Radiation and Health. The Group will consult stakeholders and is not expected to proceed beyond the current parliamentary session. SAGE is aware. 

6. "Wind farm industry in jeopardy due to financial demands of National Grid", says Sunday Herald 23/1/2006. (APPENDIX E). NB: "the queue for grid connections is now 10 years long" and "we are dealing with is an extra 16GW of connections, or 200-250 requests". 

7. Snips from Defra magazine Energy (etc.) Management Jan/Feb 06. (a) Tony Blair announced a new review of British energy policy just as, in Iraq, a deal was secured to hand over development of its oil reserves, the third largest in the world, to US and British companies in a 30-year binding agreement. (b) A schedule for action includes: revised Climate Change Programme (Jan); DTI microgeneration strategy (April); result of Energy Review (summer); Stern review of economics of climate change (autumn); Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) (April 2008). (c) The WWF has resigned "in despair" from the government's [ODPM's] Senior Steering Group on building design, accusing the government of backsliding on key environmental issues [and worse!]. (d) Scottish MP Mark Lazarowicz's Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Private Member's Bill has passed its second reading. [It would facilitate microgeneration trading on the grid, but also would revise transmission charges for renewable generation on the Scottish Islands.

8. The much heralded DTI Energy Review was launched (!) 23.1.06. It is to report this summer, especially on the future of nuclear generation. There is a 12 week consultation period. 

9. Another key review, Ofgem's fourth Transmission Price Control Review (TPCR4), got under way last summer and expects to conclude at December 2004, and to take effect from April 07. The second consultation paper came out in December with a 31.1.06 response deadline. I am sending a short response emphasising the need for cost-reflectiveness in charges to remote renewable generation and the environmental impact of transmission lines. There are to be 6 consultation papers in all before the end of the year. The TPCR4 web site is 

10. A new 150 million 125-turbine 375 MW wind farm proposed on Ladyland Moor in north Ayrshire, within Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, is claimed to be the world's first major windfarm capable of storing excess power as hydrogen fuel. Wind Hydrogen Ltd, an Australian firm with a UK base in Nairn, is due to lodge a planning application next month. 

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APPENDIX A Grid alert as families face cold weather power cuts, The Times 31.12.05. By Angela Jameson

Near-miss highlights fears that supplies may not be able to cope with increased demand

HUNDREDS of thousands of homes across the UK came within hours of power cuts after the National Grid issued an emergency call for electricity companies to reduce demand on one of the coldest days of the year.

The companies were preparing to cut power or dim the lights on Thursday by lowering the voltage, after the grid issued a warning of a possible problem between 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Power generators were told to make more power available on the system, while distribution companies were informed that if no more power were made available they might have to cut some customers off temporarily. The highly unusual shortage comes as fears mount over the security of Britain's energy supplies. There was also concern that there was insufficient capacity, even though most industry was still on a Christmas break.

Power cuts to households are supposed to be a last resort and the National Grid said this year that even in an extremely cold winter they could be avoided. Big energy users in industry are supposed to be cut off first in the event of a power crisis. The first warning that the grid's safety margin was depleted came early Thursday morning, but by breakfast time the warning had been increased to a high risk of demand reduction order. The order was cancelled at 6pm on Thursday when it became clear that demand would not be as high as feared.

About 40 per cent of Britain's power stations will be due for retirement in the next 15 years, as all but one of the nuclear power stations are decommissioned and older coal-fired power stations are closed because of new European Union directives on pollution. Britain has also become a net importer of gas, because North Sea supplies have been running out more quickly than expected.

Gas supplies are extremely tight this winter and will be next winter, as the new storage facilities and pipelines are built to facilitate this transition.

The amount of electricity available this week has been lower than usual after some power generators temporarily shut down their gas-fired power stations because of the high price of gas. Wholesale gas prices have been 50 per cent higher than last winter.

Last month, the Prime Minister announced an energy review, which is expected to report in June. However, industry has said that the Government's last energy White Paper, only two years ago, ignored the challenges that were already becoming clear.

The emergency warnings on Thursday occurred because the safety margin of available electricity was about a third lower than it should be. The shortfall fluctuated between 1,300 and 1,700 megawatts, between a third and a half of a typical safety cushion. The grid needs a comfort zone of between 2,000 and 4,000 megawatts available above peak demand. On Wednesday and Thursday it issued an NISM - notification of inadequate system margin - calling for 1,300 to 1,700 megawatts more, enough for up to 1.7 million homes.

"The NISM demonstrates that the system is working. This is a standard tool for us. The warnings are just the control centre doing their job," a spokesman for National Grid said. Between 8 and 10 NISMs are issued a year, but only about one a year becomes a high risk of demand reduction order. The last such order was in December last year.

Power industry sources said that they came very close to cutting about 220,000 homes off for a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon or lowering the voltage to all their customers by 3 per cent. This would dim the lights slightly, but would not generally be noticed by most homeowners.

A spokesman for Ofgem, which regulates the gas and electricity markets, denied that the warning showed that the energy network was fragile. "There was always a margin of about a gigawatt - enough for a million homes. This is a tool that National Grid uses to send a signal to the market to increase the available supply."

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APPENDIX B Message from Ian Paterson re. protest 4 Feb.

The Clan group "Na Fir Dileas" (The Loyal Men) are calling on all other clan groups, societies, communities and individuals opposed to this monstrous power line to gather in protest. It is time to make a stand and remove the threat of wild land desecration from Ullapool to Stirling and beyond. (more lines are planned to march the length of Scotland and northern England). It is time to save sites such as the Sheriffmuir battlefield, from ruination. And it is time to prevent further cases of power line induced illness and death. Alternatives exist that would prevent all this destruction. Let us not allow the commercial interests of developers to ruin our country. Bring banners, saltires and as many like minded people as possible.

Meet outside the main entrance to The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh at 1300hrs Saturday 4th February.

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APPENDIX C Snips from news@all-energy issue 59 of Jan 06.

3.4.New Beauly-Denny thought

A Highland councillor wants SSE to investigate running power cables along parts of a railway track instead of building replacement pylons 

3.5.New from Ofgem

Transmission investment for renewable generation - Scottish Power Transmission's submission to Ofgem to upgrade the Scotland/England Interconnector: Ofgem's decision and other news from Ofgem at <>.

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A Senior Highland councillor wants a power company to investigate running windfarm power cables along parts of a railway track instead of building a controversial line of replacement pylons from Beauly to Denny in Stirling-shire.

Councillor Bob Wynd will put forward the proposal at a planning meeting when Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) highlights its proposals to Highland Council at a future date.

SSE has been dogged by persistent criticism over its 320million plans, with a number of Highland communities claiming their landscape will be blighted by the huge pylons, some of which are 200 feet high.

Many people want the line to be put underground in sensitive areas, but SSE claims that option would cost at least 3.6billion.

But Mr Wynd, vice-convener of the Inverness planning committee, wants SSE to seriously consider the possibility of putting lines underground beside railway lines.

He said yesterday: "The route is already there and this seems to me to be an opportunity, but I don't know whether the power companies have considered it or discussed it with the Scottish Executive.

"It does represent best value and I am going to talk to the power company about it when it comes to the planning committee with its plans and ask it if it has thought about doing this.

"I also intend to ask if Network Rail has been approached by SSE about joint working utilising and upgrading the rail routes and if the possibility of such joint working has been raised with the Scottish Executive."

Executive ministers have already extended the consultation period from November 20 to February 28.

The pylon upgrade is expected to result in 200 fewer pylons than the current 800.

A spokesman for Highland-based Pylon Pressure said: "We welcome Councillor Wynd's idea of running new generation underground cable along railway lines in the Highlands.

"Let's hope Highland Council will be prepared to seriously explore the idea in its up-coming Renewable Energy Strategy debate."

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APPENDIX E Wind farm industry in jeopardy due to financial demands of National Grid Sunday Herald 23/1/2006 

By Matthew Magee

Wind farm developers in Scotland are having to cancel future projects because National Grid is demanding millions of pounds in guarantees for electricity grid upgrades, while capacity is so limited that the queue for grid connections is now 10 years long.

National Grid last year took control of the Scottish grid from ScottishPower and Scottish & Southern Energy and is a publicly quoted company operating under licence from regulator Ofgem.

Its connection contracts demand that wind farm owners take on final sums liability, which means providing a credit note for millions of pounds before they can even join the queue for a connection. In some cases, the demands almost equal the total cost of the wind farm project.

?We will have to decide soon if we get on the ladder at all, because the amount you have to make available rises every year and if you pull out you could lose your money,? said Michael Huntingford, owner of Farm Energy, a six-turbine developer on the Isle of Lewis.

If Huntingford does not sign up, he cannot continue the project, which has been in development for 10 years. To register, he must make 13 million available to National Grid in a bank-credit note, based on a grid connection in 2013 on a project that will cost only 15m. He said he had ?no chance at all? of raising the money.

Even relatively large developers, such as Airtricity which has spent 65m on wind farms in Scotland, are concerned. ?This is a significant business issue for us,? said Alan Baker, chief executive of Airtricity in Scotland. ?This is a cost we have to think about. It is a cost we can take on one development in the north of Scotland, but it could change how we look at future developments there. There is a cap on how much liability we could take on.?

National Grid said that it was only trying to cover the costs wind farms impose on it. ?A developer could drop out at any time, even if we have spent 50m on an upgrade, and leave us high and dry,? said Nigel Williams, National Grid?s customer agreements manager.

?Final sums liability is about asking people to put up security so that we, and the electricity consumer, are not burdened with the cost of a stranded asset, one that won?t be used,? he added.

The length of the wait for a grid connection means that developers risk losing millions of pounds if they apply for a grid slot before planning permission is granted then subsequently fail to secure authorisation. If they wait until they have planning permission before applying for a grid slot, the long queue means that the slot could be useless. Planning permission only lasts for five years, but the slots being offered are currently 10 years down the line.

?My connection in 2013 is too far away. Planning permission only lasts for five years, so it will have lapsed in 2010 on this project and I don?t think I will get planning permission for this a second time,? said Huntingford.

?This additional burden of letters of credit will become an insurmountable hurdle,? said Steve Pottinger, a director of two Caithness family projects, Bailey wind farm and Spittal wind farm. ?You have to provide a letter of credit on costs that change every six months. Every six months you need more and more security. Then if somebody else in your area drops out, the cost rises again. The cost is passed to the other people in the area. It is a completely crazy system. The figures ratchet up to numbers no small company can sustain.?

Even ScottishPower, which only has to sign a contract for the liability rather than make cash available, believes change is necessary. ?We don?t argue against the principle, but would like the system to reflect the planning status of projects, moving projects with planning permission up the queue,? said a spokesman.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it has asked National Grid to look at the problem. ?[The] approach does not take into account the relative viability of individual proposals, nor offer any certainty to developers in terms of the potential financial liabilities they may face,? said a DTI statement.

?DTI has been involved in discussions with National Grid, Ofgem and wind farm developers on ideas for resolving these issues. A number of ideas have been put to National Grid which they have taken away to consider.?

Ofgem, too, said that it has asked National Grid to examine queuing issues and that its own price-control review, due to be completed this year to cover 2007-2012, could provide a solution.

Williams said that problems were caused by the level of demand. ?We have never had anything like it before. Scotland has 10GW of capacity and we are dealing with is an extra 16GW of connections, or 200-250 requests.?

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-- Mike O'Carroll




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