FRANKFURT and the rest of Northwest Europe are roughly half-way through the 2022/23 heating season. In the three decades between 1981 and 2010, on average 50% of heating degree days and heating demand at Frankfurt occurred before January 15. For London and southeast England, the half-way point arrives a few days later on January 23. So far this winter has been much milder than average. Frankfurt had accumulated 860 degree days up to January 15 compared with a long-term average of 1,078:
COAL-FIRED generators typically require 2-3 hours from initial notification to reach full power from a hot start, 6-7 hours from a warm start, and 10 or more hours from a cold start. Assuming the two massive coal units at Drax are typical, if the U.K. transmission operator wants them to be available during the evening peak from 1600 to 1900 GMT, notice to light up and begin warming must be given by 0600 GMT. If the forecast reserve margin improves during the day, however, the stand-by notices can be cancelled later, as happened on December 12.
The table below shows typical timelines for coal-fired and gas-fired generators showing how it takes (1) from initial notification from the grid controller to synchronisation with the grid – at which point the generator can start providing power to the network; and (2) from synchronisation to reaching maximum power output (“Technical Assessment of the Operation of Coal & Gas Fired Plants,” Parsons-Brinckerhoff for the U.K. Department of Energy, 2014):
LONDON and southeast United Kingdom are now a quarter of the way through the typical heating season. After an exceptionally warm period from mid-October to late November, which depressed heating demand, temperatures have plunged far below normal, erasing the earlier deficit in degree days, and putting winter heating demand on an entirely different trajectory:
LONDON’s temperatures have been higher than the long-term seasonal average consistently since the middle of October, reducing heating demand and gas consumption. The number of heating degree days so far this winter has reached just 117 compared with a long-term average of 153. But the city-region is only 10% of the way through the expected heating season. The half-way point doesn’t normally arrive until January 23 as a result of seasonal lag:
EUROPE’s maturing benchmark gas futures contract for November is falling rapidly as storage becomes full and the weather is forecast to remain mild. Prices for November delivery slipped to €99 per megawatt-hour (MWh) on October 24 down from €200 a month earlier. Mid-winter prices for January have remained higher at €143 compared with €200 a month ago. The extreme contango is symptomatic of storage becoming nearly full and the need to encourage more consumption by power generators and consumers in the short term, while concerns persist about availability in the middle and later stages of winter: