James Delingpole : Worsely Wronger

I wonder to myself – how wrong can James Delingpole get ? He, and Christopher Booker and Richard North, have recently attempted to describe something very, very simple in the National Grid’s plans to keep the lights on. And have failed, in my view. Utterly. In my humble opinion, it’s a crying shame that they appear to influence others.

“Dellingpole” (sic) in the Daily Mail, claims that the STOR – the Short Term Operating Reserve (not “Operational” as “Dellingpole” writes) is “secret”, for “that significant period when the wind turbines are not working”, and that “benefits of the supposedly ‘clean’ energy produced by wind turbines are likely to be more than offset by the dirty and inefficient energy produced by their essential diesel back-up”, all of which are outrageously deliberate misinterpretations of the facts :-

“The dirty secret of Britain’s power madness: Polluting diesel generators built in secret by foreign companies to kick in when there’s no wind for turbines – and other insane but true eco-scandals : By James Dellingpole : PUBLISHED: 00:27, 14 July 2013”

If “Dellingpole” and his compadre in what appear to be slurs, Richard North, were to ever do any proper research into the workings of the National Grid, they would easily uncover that the STOR is a very much transparent, publicly-declared utility :-


STOR is not news. Neither is the need for it to be beefed up. The National Grid will lose a number of electricity generation facilities over the next few years, and because of the general state of the economy (and resistance to wind power and solar power from unhelpful folk like “Dellingpole”) investment in true renewables will not entirely cover this shortfall.

Renewable energy is intermittent and variable. If an anticyclone high pressure weather system sits over Britain, there could be little wind. And if the sky is cloudy, there could be much less sun than normal. More renewable power feeding the grid means more opportunities when these breaks in service amount to something serious.

Plus, the age of other electricity generation plants means that the risk of “unplanned outage”, from a nuclear reactor, say, is getting higher. There is a higher probability of sudden step changes in power available from any generator.

The gap between maximum power demand and guaranteed maximum power generation is narrowing. In addition, the threat of sudden changes in output supply is increasing.

With more generation being directly dependent on weather conditions and the time of day, and with fears about the reliability of ageing infrastructure, there is a need for more very short term immediate generation backup to take up the slack. This is where STOR comes in.

Why does STOR need to exist ? The answer’s in the name – for short term balancing issues in the grid. Diesel generation is certainly not intended for use for long periods. Because of air quality issues. Because of climate change issues. Because of cost.

If the Meteorological Office were to forecast a period of low wind and low incident solar radiation, or a nuclear reactor started to dip in power output, then the National Grid could take an old gas plant (or even an old coal plant) out of mothballs, pull off the dust sheets and crank it into action for a couple of days. That wouldn’t happen very often, and there would be time to notify and react.

But if a windfarm suddenly went into the doldrums, or a nuclear reactor had to do an emergency shutdown, there would be few power stations on standby that could respond immediately, because it takes a lot of money to keep a power plant “spinning”, ready to use at a moment’s notice.

So, Delingpole, there’s no conspiracy. There’s engagement with generators to set up a “first responder” network of extra generation capacity for the grid. This is an entirely public process. It’s intended for short bursts of immediately-required power because you can’t seem to turn your air conditioner off. The cost and emissions will be kept to a minimum. You’re wrong. You’re just full of a lot of hot air.

4 thoughts on “James Delingpole : Worsely Wronger”

  1. From: Dave Andrews, Finning Power Systems
    To: Claverton Energy Research Group
    Date: 15 July 2013

    you might mention that they only have to google STOR , national grid and they can read all about it, and observe that it has been on wikipedia for about 10 years, haha.

    David Andrews


    From: Andrew Smith, London Analytics
    To: Claverton Energy Research Group
    Date: 15 July 2013

    Leave him, he’s not worth it.

    And, more pertinently, he’s really not open to reason on the subject: he earns his living by being a shouty pundit: reason and fact would only get in the way of that (see also: Mark Lynas)

    (all IMO)


  2. “The answer’s in the name – for short term balancing issues in the grid. Diesel generation is certainly not intended for use for long periods. Because of air quality issues. Because of climate change issues. Because of cost.”

    OK, so you concede that STOR will be dirty, CO2 polluting and expensive. And you’re comfortable with that? So, since you know all about it, just how carcinogenic with the diesel emissions be? How much CO2 will be released? How much extra will STOR add to consumers’ power costs?

  3. STOR ….

    “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…”

    (remove the animals and insert 80% Carbon reduction commitment , Renewable Energy, ROC’s, RAKS, RICKS ‘n’ MUCKS … Hidden Diesel and so on until you finaly eat the Horse)

  4. The problem with Delingpole and his cohorts is that they’ll construct fantasy scenario’s where in theory yes a renewables heavy grid might experience problems (of course I would argue that a more distributed grid, particularly one with more CHP units and more energy storage wouldn’t be subject to these issues).

    However, they fail to pause and consider what would happen if, say, the grid were designed as they see it, often with for example lots of nuclear plants and the removal of pesky government “regulations” that force companies to derate at times of peak demand and stop the utilities manipulating energy prices as ENRON did in California.

    Of course what would happen is the lights would even be more likely to go out! Casing point if the frequency of the grid fails out of certain limits, the nuclear power plants are legally required to disconnect from the grid and go into shutdown mode to protect their hardware from damage.

    While by contrast wind farms and solar plants are more fault tolerant (given that they were originally designed to support off-grid power generation) and can support low voltage ride-thro.

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