Reality Checkpoint

Frequently one has the impression that energy policy is determined by people who have no understanding of our energy needs or reserves.

But every so often, little snippets of news arrive which show which way the wind is really blowing.

I'm putting some of these below.


Energy companies have abandoned plans for a Welsh offshire wind farm.

EOn and the Danish group DONG energy decided that the proposal to build 30 turbines off the south Wales coast near Porthcawl was not commercially viable.

4 Dec 09

The chief executive of Rolls Royce has criticised Britain's energy and industrialm policy, at a talk at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

"Our response to energy efficiency and energy security weill define the country's future", he said. "And what do we do? Debate endlessly about consumer behaviour and climate change. There is much less debate about the benefits that may follow from industrial development in this area."

He had things to say about the UK wind industry and the way it is run. "Britain has ambitions to be a leader in wind power, but do we mean we want the UK to be the biggest manufacturer of wind turbines, or the biggest importer or subsidiser of them?"

"What we need is a clear education, industrial and energy strategy" - which will make Britain an exporter of goods rather than an importer. A balanced economy should include advanced manufacturing of goods such as pharmaceuticals and nuclear power systems.

He made the point that China and India are already investing in high-value energy, infrastructure and defence projects.

12 Nov 09

The Government's own projections now mention the prospect of widespread power cuts for the first time since the 1970s. Demand for electricity will exceed supply within eight years, official figures suggest.

This throws fresh doubt on the Government's assertion that renewable energy can make up for the reduction in our nuclear and coal generating capacity.

The Labour Party has presided over the decline of Britain's generating capacity since coming to power over a decade ago. It has accelerated the burning of natural gas to produce electricity whilst knowing that reserves are smaller than those of either oil or coal.

It avoided a decision on nuclear for a decade. It has at last committed to a new generation of nuclear stations. However, it is up to private companies to build the plants, and no new nuclear stations have yet been put forward for approval.

This site has been predicting energy shortfalls for a long time. To those in the industry the prospect of power cuts comes as no surprise.

1 Sep 09

The Health and Safety Executive is undertaking a general design assessment of the two proposed designs for new nuclear power stations which the Government wants built. Completing these assessments by June 2011 is seen as vital if the new stations are to be ready by 2017. One design is by Areva (French); the other is by the Japanese-owned Westinghouse.

The Executive expressed concerns about the Areva design's control and instrumentation systems in April. They are now finding things wrong with the Westinghouse design.

Westinghouse and Areva have manufactured nuclear hardware for years. The members of the Safety Executive, so far as I am aware, have never built a nuclear power station. One wonders how they are competent to assess the design of nuclear systems.

If they suggest modifications, history suggests that by causing delays, postponements, and obfuscation, they will double or triple the price without improving any aspect of safety.

Aug 2009

A new report on the energy policy we need, by consultants McKinsey, has been commissioned by the CBI.

Its conclusions are as follows:

The Government's current energy plans do not go far enough in ensuring energy security or avoiding price volatility.

The nuclear spend needs increasing by 15bn and carbon capture by 7bn.

Spending on gas projects needs reducing by 11bn and wind by 12bn.

The Government's spending on renewables ought to be offset by nuclear, which will produce low-carbon electricity for lower investment cost.

The CBI's recommended policy changes include tighter efficiency standards and incentives (e.g. more smart meters), less renewables and more investment in the energy grid.

The report comes as the Government prepares to say that 100bn must be spent on wind, solar and 'other alternatives'. Notice that there is still no overt mention of nuclear, the only affordable low-carbon energy source for baseload electricity, in its soundbites.

(Jul 12, 2009)

Manufacturers of domestic wind turbines claim that their technology can provide thirty percent of a household's electricity needs in optimum conditions.

A study by the consultant engineers Encraft, based on the output of 26 turbines on homes from Cornwall to north-east Scotland, has found that the average turbine generates 0.214 kilowatt hours per day. This is equivalent to a continuous output of 8.9 watts. Repeat: 8.9 watts. Not enough to power a light bulb.

The "rated output" of these machines is typically 300 to 600 watts.

This speaks for itself.

British Gas says in its latest advert in the National Press "We're investing billions to make your world's energy supplies a little more secure". It then continues by saying "we've started building the world's largest offshore wind development, here in the UK".

In December 2008, the British Wind Energy Association was forced by the Advertising Standards Authority to reduce by half its claims of how much carbon emissions might be reduced by wind energy. In other words wind farms are generating only half the energy they originally stated.

Energy policy needs to be based on facts, not sales materials or wishful thinking. The prospect of power cuts gets ever nearer ...

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