Electrical Systems Technical Issues Steering Group

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 8 November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative 2:45, 8 November 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they now expect to publish the report of the joint industry/government electricity system issues steering group on grid operation with increasing wind generation.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, the Electrical Systems Technical Issues Steering Group is looking at the performance of the GB electrical network post-2010. Its interim report will be published by the end of November. A copy of the report will be placed in the Library of the House.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, why is this taking so long? It was in July 2004 that the Select Committee of this House drew the Government's attention to the fact that the intermittency of wind power makes it subject to the law of diminishing returns: the more wind power you install above a low limit, the less conventional power is displaced and the more unstable the grid becomes. Given that the problems faced in Denmark and Germany arise from precisely the phenomenon of the law of diminishing returns, is it not time for the Government to give the Select Committee a response to its warning?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, we had hoped to produce the report earlier, but it has been necessary to provide additional resources to the National Grid electricity transmission company. The interim report has now been produced and it will be sent to the Minister next week. The House will therefore be able to see the group's recommendations soon.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Spokesperson in the Lords (Energy), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Energy), Trade & Industry

My Lords, following on from the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, does the Minister agree that the National Grid standby is calculated on the largest provider of electricity, which is Sellafield, and that until wind power matches about 20 per cent of the National Grid, it is irrelevant whether it is subject to diminishing returns? Does he further agree that, given the large amount of energy that is being taken up to match Sellafield's output, the Government should consider dismantling the National Grid and turning to localised networks?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, the report does not look at diminishing returns. It looks at the stability of the system. Until one approaches the 20 per cent level, this is probably not an issue, as has been shown in other countries. That is what the report is looking at. Interestingly, it has already been shown that if we get the turbine designs right, the performance of the system could be increased rather than diminished by having more wind.

Photo of Lord Lewis of Newnham Lord Lewis of Newnham Crossbench

My Lords, what effect will the delays have on the investigated changes in the charging and contractual regime, proposed by Ofgem, to cope with the growing number of renewable generation projects? I believe that the report will be published in 2006 but there seems to be some disparity of date.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, as I pointed out, the report looks at the dynamic performance of the system after 2010. It does not look at current charging issues.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Hendon Baroness Miller of Hendon Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland - Not In Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, without anticipating the report, which is taking an inordinately long time to come to fruition, is the Minister able to say how close it is coming to previous predictions about the contribution that intermittent wind will make to our power needs by 2010?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, again, I point out that while scenarios are being produced so that we can look at the performance under different circumstances, the report specifically looks at the dynamic performance and whether unstable situations are produced if wind and gas are increased as a proportion of the system. The report suggests that if the turbine designs are right, there can be a dampening-down of systems oscillations and a riding through of transmission faults, which would improve the system.