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« Cartoons by Josh Calendar 2013 | Main | The BBC and the consensus »
Thursday
Nov222012

Close DECC

The Department of Energy and CLimate Change really needs to be closed down before it does any more damage to the country's prospects. Just look at this:

Under the government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme, which aims to make renewable energies competitive with fossil fuels, the size of a turbine is measured not by height but by power output. If a turbine pumps out more than 500kW, its owners receive 9.5p per kilowatt hour. But a ‘smaller’ sub-500kW one receives a subsidy of 17.5p per kilowatt hour, supposedly to compensate for its lower efficiency. The idea is to lure smaller wind-power producers into the market.

Problem is, while smaller turbines are more popular with the public, those designs don’t produce anything like the 500kW needed to take full advantage of the subsidy. So instead, investors are buying big, powerful turbines and downgrading them, tweaking their components to churn out no more than the magic 500kW. It’s simply far more lucrative to hobble bigger turbines — machines that ought to be capable of producing almost twice as much electricity.

Read the whole story.

And will Ed Davey be fired? Don't hold your breath.

(H/T Roger)

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Reader Comments (57)

If the basic scheme is a scam, then why be surprised if the scamsters are greedy?

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Testing.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I'm confused. Dos this actually count as fraud? It's certainly immoral, corrupt, greedy and perverting the supposed intentions of FITs. But I wonder if there's any lawyers out there who know.

I would report it to the police if I knew it could legally be shown to be fraud.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

It is not fraud, it is capitalism coming up against a Government created/managed market and capitalism winning. Best just to remove the Government bit, and let the market sort itself out.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

A de-rated big turbine should have quite a good capacity factor shouldn't it? In comparison to a similar rated small turbine. If so then the subsidy (which I would rather didn't exist) could be paid on the basis of that - high capacity factor = lower subsidy. But then the big turbines would get re-rated to their proper output and the capacity factor would drop in order to attract a higher subsidy.

You'd think the subsidy regime, if it wanted to promote economical and reliable wind energy, would be set to encourage firms to install turbines with high capacity factors.

I wonder if the de-rating will bring some maintenance benefits if the important complex bits are being run at a reduced level.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

So what happens to all the excess energy when the wind is blowing hard enough to get the output over 500kW? It must go somewhere!

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Humans are naturally inclined to find every loophole to their advantage, this is normal. So blame the near-sighted policy makers who are creating all these half-baked boondoggles which resourceful people are taking advantage of. In any case, these are small fish compared to the massive scams and billions of pounds getting siphoned off by those in power. Just like in WWII when the nazis hid their loot in Swiss Banks and offshore accounts, if we took a look in there now we would see 80% of the world's wealth being stashed there.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterangryinsussex

Its following the law. The Law of Unintended Consequences.

It similar to farming rats in Viet Nam, to get the bounty. Or farming cobras in New Delhi, to get a bounty.

The latter actually increased the cobra population in the city, as when the British governors discovered the scam, they abrubtly stopped the bounty. The "farmers" released the snakes they had farmed. By one account, the amount of cobras in the city, increased by several orders of magnitude.

Subsidies will always be gamed. Always.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

It seems anomalous to me that government should use subsidy to encourage a mode of behaviour and then be surprised when that is what happens. Subsidy attracts rent-seekers like that brown stuff attracts flies. My rule of thumb is that subsidy is always wrong. And open-ended subsidy limited neither by time or volume is always always always wrong.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

As Davey and the other decision-makers in DECC (and Holyrood) are convinced that these renewables are actually saving the planet, they probably think that the bigger the windmills are the better, regardless of their average electrical output. Meanwhile, the windmill manufacturers, subsidy junkies and landowners are laughing all the way to the bank.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:26 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

What bothers me, is, how is this capacity measured ?
How long must a turbine sustain 500 or 800kW to be considered running at its peak capacity ?
24 Hours ? 1 Hour ? 1 second ? Or is it an average taken over a time period.
How strong does the wind have to be to attain this peak ?

As to regulating the capacity (jamesp), you can do this mechanically ( brakes) or simply disconnect from the net. You are then given a subsidy for NOT producing electricity and preventing grid overload.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

Off-topic but ever-so-relevant...
Here in the East (of England, not the World, silly) our local tv news ran a feature yesterday about the necessary Public Consultation (yawn) regarding the proposal to build Sizewell 'C' nuclear power station.
This station ALONE, would/will provide enough electricity for ONE FIFTH of the households in the country.
One nuclear power station. One (existing) site. Existing feeds to the grid. Zero emissions. Close to 100% of the time.
Is this a no-brainer, or what..?

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

All subsidy paid to bird mincer fraudsters is dead money - there can be no justification for these things on any grounds, including moral justification - which the greens constantly fall back on.

As to the theme, the DECC must drop the CC bit and Ed Davey - all we need is, a department of Energy.

Furthermore, give some experienced engineers the top jobs - charge these men with a remit to make secure the British energy sector, to exploit British resources first and foremost based on cost and availability and efficiency. Shove some money saved by reining in the green mania - at Thorium reactors development.

Nov 22, 2012 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I've tried to explain this at the link. I've told my MP this is fraud and he has passed it on, but DECC don't want to know - it is not their problem. A turbine's capacity is its peak (rated output). That is what should be used to determine the FiT rate the turbine should get. OFGEM are responsible for registering the FiT rate. A turbine rated at 800kW (eg the Enercon E-48) should get the FiT rate corresponding to >500kW to 1,000kW. However the turbine can be down-rated to a maximum output of 500kW so that it would get the higher FiT corresponding to >100kW to 500kW. However it is illegal to claim this higher rate, because, according to OFGEM, it is the rated capacity, not the down-rated value, that should be used to set the FiT rate. I have a letter from the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate saying that he has alerted all Inspectors to check whether appellants at appeals are actually being honest about the rated capacity of the proposed turbine.

Many LPAs have been conned by unscrupulative developers into believing that the proposed turbine is not down-rated. What it means is that the developer gets more income for producing less electricity and yet the same damage is being done to the environment. EWT now produce a 500kW turbine, which is identical in size (tower height and blade diameter) to the 900kW turbine, specifically to get the higher FiT rate in the UK. It's a huge scam.

Producing less electricity and getting more income is, in my opinion, defrauding the British electricity consumer; and yet the wind industry condones this behaviour.

Nov 22, 2012 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

jamesp: The wind turbine doesn't extract the energy from the wind - it just spills the wind.

Nov 22, 2012 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Re: Philip Bratby

You can report fraud here: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Terry,

It's not easy. I'm waiting to see a case wrongly registered with OFGEM. I've used the word "Fraud" when objecting to planning applications involving misleading information about a turbine's capacity. The words det redacted when my objection is posted on the application website.

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm no maths expert, but off the top of my head even a 2MW turbine governed to a maximum of 500KW would still be a good proposition under this scam. As the typical load factor is only 25-28%, 500KW would be the average output anyway. Getting paid nearly double per unit would still show a profit compared to an uncapped installation, until the latter turbine was actually generating more than 1GW, which we all know is not very often. Since the blades are controlled in pitch to keep the machine safe, all it needs is for the maximum pitch to be artificially limited in stronger winds. This would give extra benefits in terms of reduced loading of the bearings & gearbox, which have already been shown to be the Achilles Heel of large turbines.

And don't think I'm in favour of this disgraceful situation - I'm just looking at it from a money making perspective...

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

David

On nuclear; yes there are zero emissions but CO2 is not relevant as we all know? Nuclear power stations of recent design have 2 big differences from using gas or coal. First if certain things go wrong then the consequences would with total certainy cause death and destruction on a large scale. Second the waste products are toxic for hundreds of thousands of years as are some of the effects of the first problem. We are very close to being able to build Thorium reactors which can not suffer meltdown and which produce waste which is safe within a few hundred years.
Use coal and gas until we can get Thorium going ^.^

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I wonder if there is potential for having "farm average" output. Maybe a couple of biggies actually producing in amongst a field of dummies with empty nacelles...

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Ed Davey. He who, on the 1pm R4 news the other day, stated that he could do nothing to reduce the cost of natural gas.

I have emailed my local MP to ask him to tell the Minister about Shale gas.

We truly are beyond repair, I fear. Who will rid us of these idiots?

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:19 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

Dung, I'm with you on CO2 & Thorium.

Nov 22, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterilma

Dung:

I hate to disagree with you again. Coal, gas (and wind) cause far more deaths than nuclear. There is no certainty about nuclear accidents causing deaths - Three Mile Island and Fukushima show that even severe accidents with core meltdown cause no deaths (forget Chernobyl, we aren't talking Soviet bomb factories). As for waste products lasting hundreds of thousands of years, well at least that is a finite time. Toxic waste products like mercury in "modern" CFL bulbs stay in the environment for ever. You have been conditioned by green alarmism to fear radiation above all other toxic wastes.

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip

Your knowledge of these issues is far greater than mine and so you will be the final arbiter (damn it hehe) however I did say "if certain things go wrong". I am not talking about what has actually happened I am talking worst case scenarios, ie ultimate risk. I have believed that the worst case scenario with current (Uranium) nuclear power stations is a nuclear explosion, can you clarify that for me?

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:26 PM | Registered CommenterDung

A little bit of information I got from my last electricity bill is that generating 1Mw/h makes 0.009 grams of radioactive waste! A lot less than some eco fascists claim

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave38

...But a ‘smaller’ sub-500kW one receives a subsidy of 17.5p per kilowatt hour, supposedly to compensate for its lower efficiency. The idea is to lure smaller wind-power producers into the market....

Remind me again why we're actively trying to encourage smaller, lower efficiency generators into the market. I can't have been listening when the reason for prizing LOWER efficiency was explained. Is it something to do with Gaia?

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

If you look at the wind speed/output profiles there thankfully is not much advantage in installing a larger derated turbine, 2 250Kw turbines will produce more electricity that 1 500kw turbine at the typical UK site because of the average speed of the wind, it only makes sense to do this fiddle if you have one of the few very windy sites.

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:46 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Thanks Bish, keep up the great work...

Nov 22, 2012 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRogerT

On topic

I think the point made on the Spectator site that turbine manufacturers are actually advertising their ability to "fix" the rated output of their products in order to help people gain the best feed in tarrifs says that this is indeed about money and not about saving the planet.

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Registered CommenterDung

@Phillip Bratby

..."As for waste products lasting hundreds of thousands of years, well at least that is a finite time."..

There is a little green misdirection which goes on here.

All objects are radioactive to some extent, that that activity gradually declines. This happens asymptotically, so it's hard to fix a point at which it ends. That's why half-lives are used.

Objects which emit little radioactivity decay slowly, so they have a long half-life - in some cases many thousands of years. But they are not very dangerous, because they don't emit much.

Objects which emit a lot of radioactivity decay quickly and have a short half-life. They can be highly dangerous for a matter of a few hundred years - a long time, but hardly too long for humans to store them, if that's the way we want to dispose of them. In practice, developments mean that such material will probably end up acting as fuel in a reactor developed in the future.

Stories indicating that deadly radioactive fuel needs to be stored for so long that cultural change will make maintaining the site difficult are simply science fiction. It is true that this material will remain 'radioactive' for millions of years - as does all material - but it will not be dangerous for the vast majority of that time. The greens, of course, pick the maximum time emissions endure for, and imply that the maximum radiation emissions occur for all this time...

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Entirely coincidentally, this is also the topic of my own latest post: http://tpdrsl.org/

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterdak

OT but I need to share my pain. Just renewing an electricity contract. Wholesale rates have increased 13.5% in the last 12 months pushing cost for next 12 months up by about £11k. This is the reality of what these mofos are doing to this country. Third world here we come.

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Of course, re-labeling to a lower rating means that the statistics will look much better.
If the currently deliver 10% of the rated capacity, cut the rated capacity by 50% and suddenly we are now delivering 20% of rated capacity, AND getting paid more for it. Where is the downside?

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPJP

Dung: We don't do worst case scenarios; we do risk assessments. If we did worst case scenarios, then everything would be a problem. Nuclear power stations aren't nuclear bombs. It takes a lot of work to design and make a nuclear weapon, with highly enriched uranium/plutonium.

Dodgy G: Exactly right.

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Dolphinhead: your pain is heard, loud and clear. We are here to do something about it.

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Because Con Artists, Schemers and Grifters are always smarter than Government Rubes and will always run the con to their maximum benefit.

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred

PJP :-)

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

@dung

I have believed that the worst case scenario with current (Uranium) nuclear power stations is a nuclear explosion, can you clarify that for me?

It is not possible for a nuclear power station to undergo a nuclear explosion. If anyone thinks they have found a way, then Iran would probably be very interested in knowing about it - it would save them a lot of money...

The 'worst thing' that can happen to a nuclear power station rather depends on when it was designed. Early designs could conceivably have the reactive material get out of control and melt through the bottom of the pressure vessel, thus contaminating the local area badly. Later designs avoid this problem, but still may blow the top off the pressure vessel if a whole series of things go wrong in a specific order, including all power to the system failing. This would contaminate the local area. The latest designs should not have any of these vulnerabilities, so any issues would remain inside the pressure vessel.

Unfortunately, activists have stopped the development of nuclear power and any new builds, so the stations running at the moment employ older designs which still have some vulnerabilities.

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Damian Carrington at the Grauniad is delighted to tell us that - 'Ed Miliband has intensified the pressure on the coalition and its troubled energy plans by committing Labour to a virtually carbon free electrical system by 2030'.
'Dave' has only himself to blame, by appointing Paterson and Hayes without giving them the authority to do the job, he has left himself open to a combined assault by Labour and the disgruntled LibDems.
He has also pleased Tim 'Trougher' Yeo, who said that 'Miliband's commitment was important'.
Ed Miliband has also chosen this moment to put the boot in over Europe.
Time to show us where you stand Mr Cameron !

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

The wonderful opportunities that false markets present!

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:09 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Google "nuclear SMR" and realise that all the anxieties about nuclear meltdown are about to disappear.

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered Commentersimon abingdon

I have believed that the worst case scenario with current (Uranium) nuclear power stations is a nuclear explosion, can you clarify that for me?
Nov 22, 2012 at 4:26 PM Dung

I think that the worst thing that could happen (with a Sizewell B type pressurised water reactor) would be a sudden failure of the pressure vessel.

The result would be a colossal steam explosion which would presumably scatter the entire reactor content. Even hundreds of miles downwind would not be a place you would want to live.

I've never been convinced that the safety levels necessary are achievable ie probabilities in the << 10^ -6 range.

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/politics/sizewell_inspectors_in_safety_call_at_nuclear_plant_1_1509377

http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/sizewell_watchdog_satisfied_with_n_plant_despite_flaws_found_in_belgian_reactors_1_1694211

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A: I worked on the Sizewell B design and safety case, starting in 1978. Sudden failures of pressure vessels do not occur. There are many faults which could lead to a severe accident. Failure of the pressure vessel (by melt-through for example) would not scatter debris hundreds of miles, which is one of the reasons the reactor is inside the containment (reactor) building. The vessel is extremely unlikely to fail due to overpressure because of the diversity and redundancy of pressure relief and other safety systems. But again, if it did fail, the debris would be retained within the containment building. In reality, the probabilities are orders of magnitude lower than the 10^-6 you quote.

It's amazing how much garbage is spouted by people who have no concept of the design, operation and safety aspects of nuclear plants. I wouldn't rely on East Anglian and Ipswich newspapers as a source of reliable information on nuclear issues, just as I wouldn't rely on them to tell me anything sensible about wind power either.

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Martin A: I worked on the Sizewell B design and safety case, starting in 1978. Sudden failures of pressure vessels do not occur. There are many faults which could lead to a severe accident. Failure of the pressure vessel (by melt-through for example) would not scatter debris hundreds of miles, which is one of the reasons the reactor is inside the containment (reactor) building. The vessel is extremely unlikely to fail due to overpressure because of the diversity and redundancy of pressure relief and other safety systems. But again, if it did fail, the debris would be retained within the containment building. In reality, the probabilities are orders of magnitude lower than the 10^-6 you quote.

It's amazing how much garbage is spouted by people who have no concept of the design, operation and safety aspects of nuclear plants. I wouldn't rely on East Anglian and Ipswich newspapers as a source of reliable information on nuclear issues, just as I wouldn't rely on them to tell me anything sensible about wind power either.

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip Bratby

Bad Phillip did not fully answer my questions ^.^

The fact that engineers do not do worst case scenarios is of no interest to me, I wanted to know the worst.
OK I have been reading hehe, well we can not all be nuclear physicists!
I am now 99% convinced that a nuclear explosion at a nuclear power plant is virtually (but not totally) impossible.

Safety at nuclear power plants depends upon certain things not happening:

Technical failure....nothing that man has created is ever 100% reliable.
Natural disasters
Terrorist activity

Failure at a nuclear power station can cause disasterous consequences and could lay waste to rarge areas of the UK for a very long time.

Nuclear waste is not safe, everything I have read on the internet talks about the stuff needing to be stored safely and so far there is no safe storage.
Robert Zubrin (Merchants of Despair) echoed your views on the safety record of nuclear power stations but he did not say that nuclear waste was safe, far from it. Zubrin has a high end doctorate in Nuclear Physics and he talked about the stupidity of trying to bury nuclear waste, not because it is not dangerous but because he had a better solution. Zubrin believed that waste should be "glassified" coated in stainless steel and dropped into the deepest parts of the oceans. Sounds like he would not like it in his back yard to me.

Why take a risk?

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:46 PM | Registered CommenterDung

According to a presentation at a Heartland Institute International Conference on Climate Change, extracting the neodynium for a 300MW wind farm creates 300,000 lbs of radioactive waste.

Here is a link on the environmental effects of windfarms: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html.

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

In reality, the probabilities are orders of magnitude lower than the 10^-6 you quote.

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:20 PM Phillip Bratby

Phillip - I did say " I've never been convinced that the safety levels necessary are achievable ie probabilities in the ___<<__ 10^ -6 range." [ie "very much less than 1 in 10^-6"]

I'll try to root out what I read years back about the Sizewell B pressure vessel qualification that disquieted me at the time. My recollection was that they decided that getting figures for the calcs was too hard so it finished up with things being specified qualitatively.

Nov 22, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The alarm over half-lives, if I may awkwardly put it, is full silliness. Steep slopes, stairs and cliffs will be dangerous FOR EVER. Seas, bodies of water, sharp edges, fast moving vehicles, other humans, will never cease to be dangerous. Poisonous elements remain poisons evermore. Radioactive materials have the decency to give up their harmful ways long before unreasoning scares and alarums, of some kind or other, will ever cease to plague humanity.

Nov 22, 2012 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

Bob Layson

Radioactive materials have the decency to give up their harmful ways long before unreasoning scares and alarms, of some kind or other, will ever cease to plague humanity.

Interesting thought provoking comment! Thanks!

Nov 22, 2012 at 11:27 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

One thing I love about you Brits and your use of language:

[i]"Under the government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme..."[/i]

In common usage in the US, the word 'scheme' is used only when one wants to impy nefarious motives and/or an air of improbability, and you folks just come right out and label all political plans with the word.

I love it!

Nov 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonasM

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