Walport’s UK Energy Fantasy Does Not Add Up

By Paul Homewood

Sir Mark Walport (8656569975).jpg

Bishop Hill  had a post the other day, about a presentation on climate change given to the cabinet by Chief Scientist, Sir Mark Walport, seen at right.

One of the slides shown was this one on various scenarios for electricity generation in the UK in the brave new world. (Sorry for the quality, the original is no better!)

image

http://www.bishop-hill.net/storage/Walport-Cabinet%20presentation.pdf

So I thought I would have a closer look at one of the options, “Higher Renewables”, to see whether they made any sense. Let me first say that the presentation does not state when this is all targeted for, so I cannot make any comment about the likelihood of technology for CCS and marine (tidal) becoming available in time.

Total Demand For Electricity

Last year,  UK electricity supply amounted to 354 TWh. Walport is projecting forward on a total of 530 TWh, an increase of 50%. This increase reflects the greater demand as domestic heating and transport are decarbonised.

Capacity Comparison

The table below compares projected capacities with current, to give an idea of the scale of change envisaged.

Current Capacity
GW
Projected Capacity
GW
Nuclear 10 16
Wind 8 82
CCS 0 13
Solar 0 14
Marine 0 10
Gas 37 24
Coal 31
TOTAL 86 159

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/electricity-section-5-energy-trends

Notes

1) Current solar capacity works out at about 0.2GW, so to get to 14GW would be an enormous increase.

2) I have not included Hydro, as this is not in the Walport list, but currently capacity is 4GW, and unlikely to change much. Also, Bio is missing, and this currently has a capacity of 3GW.

3) Nuclear – of the current nine sites, only Sizewell B is scheduled to still be operating after 2030, and this has a capacity of 1.2GW.

My understanding is that the proposed new nuclear at Hinkley Point  will be 3.2GW, so to get to 16GW, we would need another four of that size.

4) Wind capacity would have to be increased tenfold.

5) The current capacity of gas is probably a little bit misleading, as much of it is old and mothballed. To get a better idea of the amount needed for back up capacity, gas power stations provided 27% of last year’s electricity supply. To supply this amount would require 13GW of capacity, assuming the plants were running at 85% utilisation.

Put another way, the projected gas back up capacity would be capable of supplying about half the UK’s total power, in other words quite a lot!

Power Demand

Let’s now look at the power we need to keep the grid running. Currently, power demand fluctuates between 30GW and 60GW. (See for instance here.) There have been odd occasions when hourly demand spikes at near 70GW, but let’s assume 60GW as a realistic requirement. If total demand increases by 50%, as mentioned above, we would be looking at a need for 90GW, and, with a safety margin, at least 100GW.

It is worth noting here that, while electric cars would normally be recharged overnight when demand is lower, domestic heating would normally be at its peak at the very times when electricity demand already peaks – i.e.winter mornings and evenings. This could mean that peak demand for electricity increases by more than the average of 50%.

So how does Walport’s mix of capacity stack up against this? The guaranteed capacity, excluding intermittent wind and solar, and for the sake of argument assuming hydro and marine * are continuous, would be:

GW
Nuclear 16
CCS 13
Marine 10
Bio/Hydro 10
Sub Total 49
Balance needed from back up 51
TOTAL REQUIRED 100

* The argument with tidal is that, although not continuous, it is predictable and therefore manageable

In other words, the 24GW of back up gas capacity, pencilled in by Walport, is less than half that is needed. The capacity of 51GW, that is actually required, would in fact be enough to produce about 380TWh a year, about 70% of the total UK supply!

This alone makes a nonsense of his calculations. But it gets worse!

What Happens When The Wind Blows?

Walport projects 82GW of wind power, but, as we have already seen, power demand will probably fluctuate between 45GW and 90GW. So, when the wind is blowing, wind may be able to provide most, if not all, of the power needed.

In which case, what happens to all of the other kit? Will nuclear operators be happy having their plant sat around doing nothing half the time? Of course not. Neither will any of the others.

The most likely scenario is the one we have now, whereby wind operators are paid to turn off supply. This would, of course, be horrendously expensive, but would also call into question why all this wind capacity had to be built in the first place. It would make much more sense scrapping all wind farms, and using gas to top up the other low carbon sources. I also suspect this solution would give a pretty low CO2 figure as well.

Quite simply, Walport’s numbers just don’t stack up.

How often might wind run at near capacity? Research has suggested that wind works at over 50% capacity for about 20% of the time. This figure would probably rise as more offshore wind comes on stream.

So, there will be plenty of days when wind will be able to supply most or all of the power needed.

(The same research suggests that wind runs at less than 29% capacity for half the time, and below 10% for an eighth of the time).

Other Considerations

1) Discussing tidal power, the Committee for Climate Change say, “Even at a social discount rate (e.g. 3.5% and declining over time as in HM Treasury’s Green Book), tidal range is expensive relative to wind and nuclear generation

2) Imports/Exports can provide a certain amount of flexibility, always assuming we can find someone who wants all our surplus power, or has plenty for us when we need it!

However, net imports are a relatively low figure as far as the Grid is concerned. For instance, the French ICT typically imports about 1GW.

Summary

Let us assume that it is logistically and technologically possible to build the capacity that Walport wants. Even then, on a number of counts, his numbers simply do not stack up.

I may be missing something, and maybe he has all the answers up his sleeve. But there is certainly no evidence of that in his presentation.

Which all rather raises the questions:

1) How does the government’s Chief Scientist manage to come up with such an obviously flawed piece of work? He may be no expert on electricity supply, but there again neither am I, and it did not take me long to spot the obvious flaws.

2) Was there not one Minister sat around the Cabinet table, who had the gumption to ask some of these questions? What about Ed Davey, who is supposed to be Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change?

It has often been said that we only have a Secretary of State for Climate Change now. I guess this whole charade rather proves that this is true.

68 thoughts on “Walport’s UK Energy Fantasy Does Not Add Up

  1. According to Ed Davey (Andrew Marr Show) wind turbine generators are only paid when they produce electricity so either the availability charge does not exist or Davey is not upto his brief or maybe not telling the truth (Ho, Ho).
    The tables ignore the imports at least 2GW daily from France and Netherlands.
    The Economist had an interesting article last week on the German energy crisis where renewables have totally distorted the energy market and the major utilities RWE and EON are having major financial problems.

  2. Analytic skills are lacking in many politicians and worse yet combine that with quantitative skills most politicians do not have the capacity to even follow your argument with out filling in many details and slowly and carefully connecting the dots. Example: when you argue that drew from his projected capacity numbers those that are guaranteed at all times to come up with the 51% total of projected capacity most of them will be a LONG ways away from your conclusion concerning 70% of the UK supply. They can not process that type of information without guidance.

  3. Unfortunately Ed Davey’s understanding of energy generation is simply appalling. Furthermore, prior to the last UK election, he was firmly in the anti-nuclear camp and LibDems’ anti-nuclear strategist! So is it surprising the UK is commtting energy suicide?
    Ed Miliband created the problem through the mad Climate Change Act. Chris Huhne and Ed Davey have stoked the fires of our destruction.

  4. It says there are three electricity sources which are key to meeting the UKs legislated emissions targets. The solution is to simply change the legislation, reduce the targets. These targets are not caste in stone, they are merely chosen out of the blue, they are entirely arbitrary. Change the legislation. Its as simple as that.

  5. Hear, hear: change the legislation!

    I encourage as many respondents as possible to echo klem’s call. It’s called a Gordian knot, and if you are bold like Alexander the Great then you simply cut it.

    Rich.

  6. I don’t know how far Sir Mark Walport can be trusted. Anyone with a dodgy moustache like that must be a bit… oh, wait a minute. Take back all I said, he must be a decent sort.

  7. Climate scientists lobbying for deep cuts in CO2 emissions cannot then wash their hands afterwards of responsibility to propose a solution. There is a missing chapter from AR5 and that is any sort of energy plan for the world that makes any sense.

    Sir Mark Walport is a biologist and the poor guy is way out of his depth. He relies on Julia Slingo from the Met Office for the scary slide 3 (see here) and DECC (presumably David Mackay) for the energy plan. DECC seems to be more ‘CC’ than ‘E’ and must keep FOE and Greenpeace happy – hence the totally barmy “Higher Renewables” pathway. I am assuming that David Mackay knows full well that this scenario is pure cloud cuckoo land. I also hope there are some engineers still left working at DECC.

  8. Fine expose, Mr. Homewood (and I KNOW why you used that photo, lol; seems weird (to this American) that “Sir” goes before that fellow’s name).

    It is people like you who should be in jobs like his.

  9. “… hope there are some engineers still left working at DECC.” Clive Best at 10:58.

    Hey, there are! They put them all in the cafeteria. And it shows. Unlike the “science” belched out of that place, the food is terrific.

  10. Today (in Ontario) we are currently using about 15,500 MW.
    Of that Wind is supplying about 880 MW (or ~5.6% of overall supply).
    That is actually spectacularly good – usually I observe a fraction of 1% as the wind contribution.
    The installed capacity of wind is 1,700 MW, and it came to 3% overall of the 2012 supply.
    For this we have paid many billions of dollars to (mostly South Korean) wind manufacturers.

    But here is the kicker.
    Gas is supplying 1060 MW right now, with an installed capacity of 10,000 MW.
    Guess how much we are paying for?
    That’s right – the full 10,000 MW capacity – not the actual 1060 supplied.

    This is because the only way the government could convince the gas suppliers to stick around for backup was to agree to pay as if they are always running at full capacity!

    Meanwhile Quebec (our neighbouring province) is selling a surplus of power to the US at around 6c per kWh, while our electricity bills are skyrocketing and manufacturing industry is fleeing the province.

    And it gets even worse. As we are generating an oversupply on occasion, we need to sell electricity at a loss to our neighbours (at a price of around 3c per kWh) to balance the grid. This alone costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

    The sort of analysis Walport is applying is what has led us here.
    I have seen your future and it is expensive.

    See ieso.ca for the realtime view of Ontario power generation.
    A good resource if you understand the details behind the numbers.

  11. rms says October 18, 2013 at 10:17 am:

    “Also, CCS is not a power source.”

    Correct, it is a power user.(OK, not net, but inefficient)

    As for Paul’s response here to Walport: I hope against hope that he has managed to get it in front of at least some literate members of the Cabinet. Because, if I were Walport, I would not be able to sleep at night with what he is advising our – OUR – government to do…

  12. Magic wands, if the UK invests now in this new technology we could be a leader in making wishes and casting magical spells, the UK government seems to exist in some kind of fantasy world where dreams come true and hopes are sure to be realised if they wish for them hard enough. Facts and figures are made up to order to fit policy narratives, no negative facts are allowed to spoil or detract from the policy aims, if they do they are ignored as if they dont exist. Uninterrupted power it seems has become not so much a disease but something like a frontal lobotomy as it removes our rulers ability for critical and sceptical analysis and even the ability to feel shame for telling deliberate lies. In the USSR a supreme unchallenged political class felt secure enough to lie without pause or shame until the day their rotten edifice collapsed about them, we see the dangers of allowing a political to grow such roots. The truth is that our rulers have been in power for too long, a mass clear out is the only option left before they lead us to ruin.

  13. I’m having on-going discussions with a series of engineers at my office about the lack of thinking-things-through (that this post reflects). Smart people suggesting silly things.

    One side, the generous side from my colleagues, is that few people lack the training or skills to “think-things-through”. They are short-term linear thinkers who cannot branch out, swing back, see how things interrelate or infer other things off to the side. Some of this I see in my work: a discussion of pressure increase, for example, without a consideration that, if the trend continues, the object will blow up in 23 months.

    The other, less generous side that I now, being older and more cynical, is that many people CHOOSE not to think-things-through: support for politically correct things get very awkward when the real world forces its way in. The rationale in not looking to the inevitable is

    1) that things will change before we get there anyway, or
    2) as long as some movement along these lines occurs, it is good enough, a non-stated point being that only through exaggeration does ANYTHING happen, or
    3) I don’t need trouble during my watch, or
    4) really, I don’t care.

    Without a doubt there is some inability to understand the ramifications of proposed ideas. But some is willful.

    A current example: David Suzuki, among others, propose that there be less people on the planet than now or projected to be. Yet the ramifications of following through with this – as the white, Western, Northern Hemispheric, First Worlders are in numerical decline already (or minimally growing), and China already has a 1-child per couple policy – is enforced birth control and abortion for the non-white and non-yellow people of the planet. The blacks, browns and reds – the aboriginals, the poor and desperate second and third worlders. Suzuki is smart enough and travelled enough to understand where the population increase is coming from (though, with 5 children, he is part of the problem). But many of his followers are idealistic first worlders who think not so globally as to understand that some problems are regional.

  14. High energy costs are already killing tens of thousands of poor pensioners in the UK every year.

    These idiot policies will increase that toll.

  15. If you look at this paper on the Danish wind experiment, you will see that wind power goes offline for very long periods of time (even in windy northern Europe). In fact, wind is so unreliable, that Denmark has NEVER USED ANY OF ITS WIND POWER.

    http://incoteco.com/upload/CIEN.158.2.66.pdf

    What does Denmark do? Well, it has interconnectors to Germany and Scandinavia, and when the wind blows it exports all its electricity (the Scandinavians can save hydro water, by turning off their hydro plants).

    A good export deal?? Think again – wind power is so expensive to produce that Denmark has to subsidize its electricity exports. This is why Danish electricity is the most expensive in Europe.

    http://www.energy.eu

    Face facts. Green power is economic suicide. All that happens is domestic industry is priced out of the market … your factories move to China … China builds another five coal fired plants to cope with demand … and CO2 output is ultimately doubled.

    So if you believe in the CO2 scam, the Greens are actively increasing CO2 and making the climate worse. Wind power is Green fantasy politics at its best.

  16. “… 3) I don’t need trouble during my watch… ” (Doug Proctor at 11:14am)

    Or…

    “Things as they are will last out my time.” Louis XV.

    *****************************************

    @ Stephanie Clague (11:13am) – “Magic wands… .” LOL.

  17. To be honest I feel quite frightened, I’m only grateful I live quite far (by UK standards) from large population area.

  18. @paul home wood

    Yes, agree. But the engineer in me says that they are comparing apples and oranges. Show coal and gas for the future quantities (probably increased due to inefficiency when CCS fitted) and then asterisk with not to say their expectation that xx% is by plants with CCS fitted.

    CCS is not a power source. I am acquainted with people in UK who insist it is.

  19. Talking of CCS, I am puzzled by some of the clamouring after this.

    It uses far more coal/gas to produce a given unit of electricity. Yet as finite resources, surely greenies above anyone else should be arguing for processes that use them as efficiently as possible?

  20. Jud says:
    October 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Today (in Ontario) we are currently using about 15,500 MW.
    Of that Wind is supplying about 880 MW (or ~5.6% of overall supply).
    That is actually spectacularly good – usually I observe a fraction of 1% as the wind contribution.

    As an Ontario resident, I too have kept a watch on the ieso.ca web site. I noticed that sudden jump in wind generation numbers in the 2nd week of September. That was shortly after the Ontario government announced that it would pay wind farm operators to not generate power (as we are in an electricity glut situation here in Ontario) a dollar amount equivalent to the amount of electricity that would have been generated. Bump up the numbers, and more money flows to the wind farm rent seekers.

  21. If I am reading the energy.eu tables correctly the Danes paid on average 0.29525 euros (= CDN$0.42) per kWh…wholly crap that is expensive! No wonder the Tuborg beer we import into Ontario Canada is brewed in Turkey.

    In Ontario which has the a pretty screwed up system the equivalent price is CDN$0.0845 per kWh. Note: the current cost of generation is only CDN$0.0052 per kWh which gets marked up thanks to governmental incompetence, corruption, and green policies.

  22. Only once the UK again experiences a very serious winter, which easily could happen sometime over the next few months and the blackouts begin, will we eventually see this type of nonsense stop.

    Unfortunately, it has now become a political necessity that many tens of thousands of people must die of cold because of the current insane energy policies, before common sense will eventually prevail once again.

    The father in law of David Cameron, the British prime minister, is making a fortune out of wind energy – of course, there can be no possible connection with this and the most insane national energy policy on the planet. Ed Davey, the UK’s Energy minister (Lib Dem) has the magnificent credentials for his position of:

    “Edward was educated at Nottingham High School and Jesus College, Oxford, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics. He gained an MSc in economics from Birkbeck College, London University.” So basically, he is no use to anyone.

    As for Walport? More like crackpot.

  23. The EU prices include taxes and other charges so the equivalent in Ontario is probably CDN$0.15 per kWh…still almost 1/3 what the Danes pay.

    I’d look up the exact Ontario number but my wife won’t show me the Hydro bills … what would she have to do if we lived in Denmark :-)

  24. I was curious about the UK consumption figures in this posting versus Canada (the UK total seemed a bit low) and found the interesting Public Data tool from Google…here is a search that compares per capita electricity consumption of the big 3 (Canada, US, and Australia) versus Denmark and the UK:

    https://www.google.ca/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=eg_use_elec_kh_pc&hl=en&dl=en&idim=country:CAN:USA:AUS#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=eg_use_elec_kh_pc&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:CAN:USA:AUS:DNK:GBR&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    The bottom line: I probably consume 3x the electricity so my monthly electric bill is probably the same as my Danish equivalent…bummer…I am now going to drink some Tuborgs

  25. Mike says:
    October 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    The EU prices include taxes and other charges so the equivalent in Ontario is probably CDN$0.15 per kWh…still almost 1/3 what the Danes pay.

    I’d look up the exact Ontario number but my wife won’t show me the Hydro bills … what would she have to do if we lived in Denmark :-)

    Mike – my wife is out right now so from mine…
    – Off Peak: 6.7c per kWh
    – Mid Peak: 10.4c per kWh
    – On Peak: 12.4 c per kWh

    HST (15%) is also added to that. As is:
    – Delivery: ~$111 per month for me
    – Regulatory charges: $36
    – Debt Retirement Charge $43
    …And they have the gall to add 15% tax on top of the last 3 items as well!

  26. The lack of Numeracy demonstrated by Brit politicians was highlighted for me when I began teaching in Comprehensive Schools there in 2002, and heard a Brit MP, during a discussion broadcast by the BBC, insist that all children in schools should “achieve at above average levels, at least!”. The clod, like most of his colleagues, was totally ignorant of the meaning of ‘average’.

  27. There was some discussion on TV this week of the plans to use Chinese money to build new nuclear power stations in UK. Apparently they will be guaranteed a level of payment per GWh that is about twice what electricity currently costs. Whether they will be guaranteed payment even if they don’t generate any power wasn’t mentioned, but I wouldn’t be surprised — would you build a new power station if there wasn’t a guarantee you’d be paid? It’s only fair after all, since windfarmers get it.

    This was billed as using Chinese money so that British taxpayer money could be “invested in schools and hospitals”. Whenever I hear the government talk use the word “invest” I know there’s a lie coming along just after it….

  28. catweazle666 says:
    October 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

    “Government Scientist” = Oxymoron.

    Well, you’re half right.

  29. In my opinion this is an engineering issue not a scientific one. So is there such a thing as a “government engineer”? I would be much more likely to trust these kinds of figures if they were presented by an engineer rather than a scientist, and I say that as a scientist myself.

  30. Peter Ward (1.31 pm) is spot on: why would anyone invest in new-build generation in the UK without a guarantee that they would get at least the price for their electricity that is paid for wind, wave, solar, and other intermittent and/or unreliable et ceteras?

    New nuclear with Chinese money and know-how? I’ll believe it when I see it. The Chinese aren’t building new coal-fired capacity for no reason – they know that even with nuclear to cover some of their base-load, the flexibility of coal is essential to balance a complex grid.

    Will UK get any coal/gas with CCS at all? No chance under the current rules, as imposed by Ed Miliband and retained/reinforced by Chris Huhne and Ed Davey, which say no new build coal at all without CCS on part of the capacity, even though the full cycle technology is not commercially proven and there is no CO2 collection/disposal network in place, nor though even if both these hurdles could be overcome, the added costs would make every UK consumers’ pips squeak even more painfully than they already are.

    As things stand, even if a few of the existing coal-fired stations (which contribute 50% of supplies during winter peaks) could be kept operating under the next round of EU anti-CO2 regulations on the grounds that they are essential to maintain energy security, they will soon be subject to UK government taxes openly designed to make them uneconomic by 2018. Will any operator have the guts to go to the wire and be there ready to flick the switch to stop the lights going out? Will any of them agree to keep units in good repair in order to operate for no more than two months a year (Dec/Jan? Jan/Feb? how would they choose?), and if they did, what would they charge?

    As for Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze energy prices if Labour are elected in 2015, it just demonstrates how economically illiterate he is. This is the genius who doesn’t understand that energy companies can only pay ‘green’ taxes from what they collect from their customers and have to increase their prices to cover the extra cost or risk going out of business. A large slice of the current round of UK energy price increases are down to Miliband’s policies in the first place, not least the costs of upgrading the grid to try to accommodate increasing levels of remote and highly variable renewable generation. The remainder, arising from wholesale prices, especially for gas, shows the folly of successive DECC Secretaries of State in choosing to increase UK’s reliance on imports. And all in the name of ‘decarbonisation’…

  31. And strangely there is no mention of diesel! The new fuel for generating the UK’s electricity is diesel. Numerous companies are building diesel generator farms up and down the country to provide the Short Term Operating Reserve. Linked by network, when intermittent wind plays a larger part in the generating mix and the wind stops, instant diesel power kicks in. No problems with thermal shock associated with coal or gas, push the button and electricity is generated – at anything from 8 to 300 times the market rate.

    The amount of generators already in place – it includes existing generators in hospitals, factories, military bases, all not wanting to miss out on the bonanza – means that there will be no blackouts this winter due to supply shortages. When studying National Grid’s report however, running out of gas in a long cold winter – no masses of snow, just low temps for months – looks for more likely given the lack of storage and our reliance on imports.

  32. I remember in the winter of 2010/2011 the Britons were freezing their butts off. All their “renewable energy” sources didn’t produce anything, so they had to import electricity…

    …from French nuclear power stations…

    Working as planned!

  33. Gerry is right. STOR is how they’re going to keep the lights on, albeit at huge cost. But no government scientist will ever want to talk about that because the whole rationale for the dash for “renewable” energy was to reduce CO2 emissions, and even that isn’t going to happen if the system requires back-up from hundreds of diesel generators. The only thing it will do is to force ordinary people to drastically reduce their energy consumption, which of course is exactly what the greens want.

  34. Thanks for the article. There is another side to this story, I have not seen discussed anywhere, and that is on the demand side i.e. something called “Dynamic Demand”. Domestic devices such as fridges and freezers are being made with electronics that monitor the mains frequency so that during periods of heavy load, when the mains frequency will be lower your fridge and freezer will not run thereby reducing the overall load on the system.

    http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/

  35. I take it that CCS is Climate Change Sources; like increased sunshine warmth due to cleaner air from using “Oxygenated” Fuels, like h2-O and c-O2.

  36. That level of increase in electricity use will require a matching increase in infrastructure improvement, ie. power lines. This is expensive, not only because of the cost of materials, but also to fight the lawsuits filed by the NIMBYs and (ironically) environmentalists.

  37. Great post, I wish it could have touched on high energy costs and how it’s hurting consumers and industry.

    If the UK plan is fully executed, I would like to see what the (excecuted) excess winter deaths look like.

    Nature – 10 April 2013
    For German consumers, the costs of that shift are apparent in their monthly electricity bills. The statements include a litany of ‘shared costs’ that are split by all households to fund the Energiewende — and result in some of the highest electricity prices in Europe. (Heavy industries are currently exempt from paying the surcharge.)

    The shared costs are a mechanism for promoting green forms of energy, which are more expensive to produce than electricity from coal and natural gas. Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), the legal force behind the Energiewende, allows owners of solar panels and wind turbines to sell their electricity to the grid at a fixed, elevated price. Renewable-power producers cashed in an estimated €20 billion last year for electricity that was actually worth a mere €3 billion on the wholesale electricity market. The difference came out of the pockets of consumers.

    ……………….Germany is currently building some 11 gigawatts of coal-fired plants and its existing capacity of around 55 GW will not shrink as quickly as the country had planned.

    http://www.nature.com/news/renewable-power-germany-s-energy-gamble-1.12755

  38. Alexander K says: “The lack of Numeracy demonstrated by Brit politicians was highlighted for me when I began teaching in Comprehensive Schools there in 2002, and heard a Brit MP, during a discussion broadcast by the BBC, insist that all children in schools should “achieve at above average levels, at least!”. The clod, like most of his colleagues, was totally ignorant of the meaning of ‘average’.”

    I attribute the current low intelligence of UK and EU politicians to the use of mutagenic compounds in chemical warfare by both sides during WWI–peeing in each others’ gene pool. Nothing else can come close to explaining the abysmal stupidity of recent UK/EU government policies and legislation.

  39. I have come to the conclusion that the UK’s elite carbon traders have won the battle in its Establishment and are intent on completing their master plan of raising fuel prices to kill off the old and infirm whilst profiting from the most regressive taxes in History.

    Looks to be a re-run of Nazism.

  40. I think that, even if there are many and lengthy power-cuts in the next couple of winters the politicians will escape relatively unscathed. Both they and the greens are being protected by the BBC who are blaming the supply companies for the recent huge (approaching 10%) increases in retail prices of energy. It is not that difficult for the BBC to blame those same suppliers for mis-managing to such an extent that greedy suppliers can’t actually supply energy.

    Sad that most of Alexander K’s former pupil will not be able to see through this distortion of the facts.

  41. Patrick
    Just shows how out of touch UK politicians are with reality if they think the majority of people in winter in the UK don’t wear jumpers (and often vests as well). Who do they think visit this store?

    http://www.damart.co.uk/

  42. ianraustin says:
    October 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm
    Thanks for the article. There is another side to this story, I have not seen discussed anywhere, and that is on the demand side i.e. something called “Dynamic Demand”. Domestic devices such as fridges and freezers are being made with electronics that monitor the mains frequency so that during periods of heavy load, when the mains frequency will be lower your fridge and freezer will not run thereby reducing the overall load on the system.

    Better still, the government could, for once, do something useful and require white goods manufacturers to add timers so that washing machines, dishwashers and dryers could be set to start in the early hours on an economy tariff. This would cut peak loads during the day.

    As for Groucho Walport – obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer!

  43. “Bill Church says:

    October 19, 2013 at 1:58 am”

    Fisher and Paykel do this already with appliances like dishwashers so that you can run them overnight during low demand times. It is a good idea!

  44. “SandyInLimousin says:

    October 19, 2013 at 1:56 am”

    I am fully aware these extremely wealth career politicians are so far removed from the realities of ordinary life in the UK. I recall the winter of discontent, during one of the coldest winters (Yes, during the time when the “consensus” was an ice age was coming. Look up the lyrics of “London’s Burning” by The Clash), along with power strikes. Fortunately, albeit cold in the mornings, the house I lived in then did have an open fire with a wet-back, we burnt coal when we could afford it and wood from where ever we could find or “acquire” it, no central heating but gas cooking and a gas powered fridge (Via a coin operated meter).

  45. This is scary. Are these people for real?

    For the concerned go here:-

    http://www.costco.co.uk/view/product/uk_catalog/cos_8,cos_8.1,cos_8.1.10/139808

    Portable generators will be needed by the sound of it. This one is OK for light and basic electricals, but no good if you want heat.

    I would also invest in some warm clothes , due to extreme price of gas over here in the UK.

    Luckily fire lighters are not taxed heavily (yet). So it might be time to open up the chimney again and get a real fire going. All the public information received regarding climate change should burn nicely.

  46. “John Edmondson says:

    October 19, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Luckily fire lighters are not taxed heavily (yet).”

    You will find Doritos work just fine as fire lighters too!

  47. Strong, autocratic central control of business must result in decay.

    Governments make political decisions.
    Businesses make business decisions.
    When government controls business, they make political decisions. Businesses being run on political decisions will decay.

  48. Nice article Paul. I’d have responded sooner except my ISP managed to screw up a minor service upgrade and shut our internet down for about 14 hours. Anyway, IMHO, 82 MW of wind and 14MW of solar are a travesty without something approaching 60MW (not sure I calculated that properly, but intuitively it seems about right) of backup … UNLESS THERE IS MASSIVE POWER STORAGE CAPABILITY THAT WE CURRENTLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO BUILD.

    Unlike many folks here, I have nothing whatsoever against renewable energy. But let’s get the engineering right. And right now in 2013, economics and the realities of wind and solar availability say that only relatively small amounts of wind and solar electric power make sense, If one expects the lights to come on reliably when the switch is toggled. IMO, there must be sufficient economically viable backup power for the inevitable days that the entire UK is obscured by clouds, the wind doesn’t blow, and heating demand is high. Planning based on a sunny windy day in June or even annual average sun and wind simply will not work.

    • What would an installed capacity of 82GW wind actually mean for a small island like Britain ? Energy density from wind is 2.2 W/m2 of land cover. This figure is derived in David Mackay’s book appendix B of “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air” and he is currently chief scientist at DECC. The main problem with wind is that you have to space turbines at least 5 blade diameters apart otherwise they shadow each other.

      Area needed for 82 Gw = 8.2*10^10/2.2 m2 or 37300 square kilometers.

      That is nearly twice the surface area of Wales. But the problems don’t stop there because wind farms cannot be sited in valleys or on roads or residential areas so you would need to use all exposed spots across Scotland, Wales and the the West Country. OK simple – all we need to do then is site the majority of them off-shore! But then there are other problems.

      1) They cost 3 times more to instal and maintain
      2) They can really only be located in shallow waters of depth < 10 meters avoiding shipping lanes. Of course they will also start killing migratory birds, swans and rare ducks.
      3) Their lifetime is reduced by anything up to 50% because of the harsh conditions.

      The only scenario that could hope to deliver anything sensible is the "High nuclear solution". It would also be much better for the environment. The land footprint of all the stations combined would be less than one large wind farm.

  49. Don K

    I’m with you, Don. I have no objection to renewables at all in principle.

    I simply believe that:-

    1) They should not be subsidised. They are either competitive or not.

    2) Installations need to go through the same planning system as all other industrial projects, rather than being foisted on local communities regardless.

  50. Don K says:
    October 19, 2013 at 5:36 am
    >>Unlike many folks here, I have nothing whatsoever against renewable energy.<<
    I honestly don't know of anyone who regularly comments on this blog who has "something against renewable energy". The sarcasm and derision that you detect is leveled against government policies that force citizens to subsidize renewable energy and, in many cases, blight the landscape and kill off thousands of bats and birds.

    And commenters get particularly derisive because only in rare cases will these renewable energy boondoggles actually reduce CO2, the stated goal of these policies.

    I'm all for renewables, but they have to be able to compete in the marketplace.

  51. Patrick says:
    October 19, 2013 at 2:54 am
    “Look up the lyrics of “London’s Burning” by The Clash”

    You surely mean “London Calling”.

  52. The slide that you are discussing is entirely based on the Government’s own (2011) Carbon Plan. The Carbon Plan describes a “corridor” of 2050 pathways, for the entire energy system, that the Government intends to keep on the table as available options. Every number on the slide was published in the 2011 Carbon Plan (before Sir Mark Walport became GCSA). The four pathways on the slide describe one central pathway and three extreme edges of this corridor. You might enjoy reading the Carbon Plan.

    • David Mackay

      I already have read it, and I did assume it was DECC’s plan in the first place, and not Sir Mark’s

      But perhaps you could address my specific criticisms and explain how this pathway will:

      1) Provide sufficient capacity for when there is little wind.

      2) Cope with the enormous amounts of surplus power when wind power is running at above normal rates.

      I would also be curious as to whether Sir Mark actually asked the same questions I have raised, or if he simply regurgitated the govt’s own plans.

      Surely the job of a Chief Scientist is to offer independent advice, and not just rehash what the govt tells him.

  53. Paul Homewood writes:

    It’s worse than you thought!

    You really need 10x rotor diameter spacing between wind towers to get the second tower to become efficient again. Above, the area is based on a 5x rotor diameter spacing – which will yield a very, very poor performance!

    Any closer than 10x diameters apart, and the first tower can get whatever wind is available, but the second, third or fourth gets only 55% to 80% of the first. Obviously, if you can place them all in a row on the very edge of a steep-rising hill, and can guarantee that the wind will be rushing up that cliff face every day of the year, you could place them next to each other at a closer distance than 10x diameters (closer than 5x diameters actually), but those locations are even less common than good hydroelectric dam sites on well-flowing rivers in deep canyons with a large lake area upstream!

    And it’s even worse than you thought! The usual world-wide wind efficiency factors are only 21% to 23% of rated power, averaged over the entire year. Above, 29% to 35% average effectiveness is really too high. (I note though, that this did exclude periods when no power (or nearly no power) was generated.)

    Thus, his calc’s actually show wind turbines require 4 times the area, but delivery some 15% to 20% less power over the year.

  54. AndrewZ says:
    October 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Gerry is right. STOR is how they’re going to keep the lights on, albeit at huge cost. But no government scientist will ever want to talk about that because the whole rationale for the dash for “renewable” energy was to reduce CO2 emissions, and even that isn’t going to happen if the system requires back-up from hundreds of diesel generators. The only thing it will do is to force ordinary people to drastically reduce their energy consumption, which of course is exactly what the greens want.

    Sounds really really good. However, Short Term Operating Reserve will only save you if ‘short’ is shorter than the diesel that you have. Let’s take a really bad winter with heavy snow blocked roads followed by clear still nights of hard frost. STOR kicks in to supplant the stationary windmills – and uses most of its fuel, Tankers cannot replenish due snow – then there is more snow the windmills pick up then there is another series of cold still frosty days – no wind power and STOR is now out of fuel. Add a few generation plant problems and UK will be in real trouble the STOR people will have fat wallets but that won’t save frozen old people. Has anyone looked at the resupply issues for STOR during extreme winter weather? No – thought not.

  55. A good example of how green ideology has crippled near term energy security in the UK is the case of E-ON being forced to abandon its 2008 proposal to build 2×800 efficient low emission supercritical coal-fired units at Kingsnorth. see : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8296076.stm

    Andy Atkins, executive director of environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, said the station would have “seriously undermined the UK’s credibility on climate change”.
    He added: “The government must now show real leadership and say no to all new coal plants which aren’t fitted with 100% carbon capture and storage from day one.”

    Oxfam’s campaigns director Thomas Schultz-Jagow noted it had come after “thousands of campaigners raised the alarm about this proposal”. He suggested “the plug has been pulled on this dangerous initiative”.

    Greenpeace campaigner Ben Stewart, one of the so-called Kingsnorth Six who climbed the existing power station in a protest against carbon emissions two years ago, described it as “a really big setback” for E.On and “really good news for the environment”.
    “As time goes on people get more concerned about climate change, there’s more time for renewables to get built and that squeezes out coal,” he said.

    In April this year the UK introduced a new “Carbon Floor Price” charging energy companies £16/tonne in addition to EU charges for CO2 rising to £70/tonne by 2030. As a result of this DRAX is converting 2 burners to imported US wood chips – perhaps the most ludicrous “green” initiative imaginable.

    Now these same politicians are blaming the greedy energy companies for not investing enough in new capacity. Germany meanwhile has 19 modern coal-fired stations currently under construction and Holland another 3. Britain meanwhile is very likely to face the prospect of power cuts/restrictions for the next 3 winters.

  56. a “corridor” of 2050 pathways ?

    why cant you just use good old common sense speak (this is a blog for the common man/woman to get insight into matters that affect us).
    and some wonder why they are are losing the “communication side of the debate” – sigh

  57. I found that some of the scenarios on the slide, including the high renewables one, can be reproduced from the DECC model which can be downloaded. It contains a lot more detail on the assumptions used, also the land requirements and cost estimates..

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2050-pathways-calculator-with-costs

    (You paste your choice of power sources and also energy savings in to the input column on the control sheet to change the future projections. Column Q contains the inputs used to get the high renewable scenario.)

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