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« 'Vermin Supreme', honest, that's his name - Josh 168 | Main | Science communicator, heal thyself »
Friday
May252012

Murdo Fraser breaks ranks

Murdo Fraser is the deputy leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland. He seems to have a somewhat off-message view of energy policy. Here's what he thinks we should do.

Instead of the Government directing energy policy from the centre, let the people choose.

This would involve the scrapping of ALL subsidies for power generation, direct or indirect.  So all ROCs, FiTs, payments for nuclear decommissioning, tax breaks for gas extraction, and so on, would go.  The real whole-life cost of each technology would be apparent.  Each consumer could then choose the source, or mix of sources, for their electricity, in much the same was as at present one can choose energy supplier, or even a ‘green’ tariff, and pay accordingly.

Ordinary people deciding for themselves? Whatever next?

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  • Response
    Instead of the Government directing energy policy from the centre, let the people choose. This would involve the scrapping of ALL subsidies for power generation, direct or indirect. So all ROCs, FiTs, payments for nuclear decommissioning, tax breaks for gas extraction, and so on, would go. The real whole-life cost of ...

Reader Comments (28)

What firms would pay the costs of building a nuclear power station or a Severn Barrage without a guaranteed market for their energy?

May 25, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

While in principle sympathetic to an open market consumer-based approach, there are a few real issues which complicate the matter.

One, energy security - to what extent should we subsidise energy to lessen dependence on imports. This is essentially military spending.

Two, people's feelings about desecrating the countryside.

Three, the fact the costs are to a degree dependent on risk assessment. Nuclear would be much cheaper if the risk assessment were less onerous. Shale may be priced out of the market by risk assessment - it already has been in Germany.

Four, the requirement to reduce CO2 emissions, which despite whatever opinions you or I may have on the matter, is now a legal obligation at UK and EU level. We may hope this artificial construct will eventually disappear, but it's not going to any time soon.

My view is that you start from a free market position and move away as little as you can according to the four points above. But you cannot argue them out of existence.

SH

May 25, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSH

Don't you know? The "peepil" need to be guided.

May 25, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Virtually all climate science we have says that if we cut CO2 emissions to zero right now, all the bad stuff they predict is still going to happen anyway, due to the momentum already in the climate system.

By their own argument, adaptation is the only thing we have left, and to adapt, we need lots of money and cheap energy. So we need to make it a little bit worse in order to survive at all.

Hoist by your own alarmist petard, young fellow me lad.

May 25, 2012 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I found this on the Internets. Would ZBD care to comment? Is there any truth in this?

"This will not mean much to many people but it relates to an eco fascist troll that comes out of the woodwork whenever the great con climate change/global warming is featured on online discussion boards (mainly Mail Online).
Anyone who disagrees with Zeds warped science are insulted without any action from the moderators.
Doing a bit of research I found the quote below which I posted on the Mail Online article about Wind Turbines.Not 10 minutes later I get informed that my post has been removed because it has caused so many complaints.
Eco fascists or just fascists?

"For those of you who haven’t seen this character before, ZedsDeadBed is not actually a real person, it’s the log-in of an eco-pressure group, who try and undermine the common sense that DM readers have in disbeleiving AGW. The Zeds log-in will say absolutely anything to try and promote the warmist dogma, zealotry and lies."

May 25, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

How can you choose a source or mix of sources?
The whole idea of a grid is that the electricity is one big soup ( an electric soup !) The little electrons don't differentiate where they come from, they just go where there is demand. The reason my kettle glow blue is because it has a LED in it, not because the current comes from Dungeness.

ROI - that's the ultimate arbiter. Companies need to see 20 yrs into the future and to do that they need a few bungs to tide them over.

May 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

An aspect which could substantially increase energy efficiency is 'delivery efficiency' as explained in this short video of a talk given by Tom Casten:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl7LwBgMnso

Tom Casten explains how in the US, of 100 units of fuel put into a conventional power station 65% of the energy available from the fuel is thrown away in the form of heat, mostly from the cooling towers. The electricity generated is then run through a long series of power cables and another 2% of the energy is wasted. Therefore only 33% of the energy available from the original 100 units reaches consumers as electricity.

He explains that if the wasted heat from power stations were to be recycled, energy delivery efficiency would increase to 66% of the energy available (from the original 100 units of fuel) reaching consumers.

Energy companies would need to use far less fuel to achieve current levels of electricity provision. For customers, the price of electricity would dramatically fall. This is the kind of technology the UK government should be looking at, not trying to pump carbon dioxide deep underground, which would substantially reduce energy delivery efficiency.

May 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered Commentermfo

mfo,
If it made economic sense to increase the efficiency of power plants, it could already have been done.

Power companies look at the cost of plant and fuel and choose the cheapest combination. Options that increase efficiency tend to be costly, so they are not used at today's cost of fuel. If you want more efficiency, make the cost of fuel go up. Then the plants will become more efficient & electric prices will rise less than they would from the increase in fuel price.

The best thing you can do for efficiency is to shut down an old power plant and build a modern, high efficiency one. Of course ratepayers will have to pay for that new plant that replaced the one that was paid off years ago!

The reality is that increased efficiency costs money.
The reality is that plant operators minimize costs and increase efficiency as economically beneficial.
Therefore any increase in efficiency will be associated with increased electricity costs.

Do you want to see energy prices go up?

thanks
JK

May 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJim Karlock

Murdo is one of my MSPs and genuinely anti-wind - he has spoken against at a few local public inquiries into subsidy farms.

I asked him directly a couple of years ago when he and his collegues were going to see the light over the AGW scam, he didn't answer directly but mentioned he had read Lomberg's book so he was not as uninformed on the issue as most of his fellow MSPs. At the very least he knows that adaption is much preferable to mitigation. I get the feeling that Murdo will be one of the first MSPs to publicly abandon the AGW ship. I hope so anyway.

May 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

That is not Zed. Perhaps Zed''s log-in genuinely has been overtaken (willingly?) by an Eco-PR outfit.

Shame

May 25, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Baiting the troll is fun, but it just makes mre work for the mods to remove.

May 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

If it made economic sense to increase the efficiency of power plants, it could already have been done.

Power companies look at the cost of plant and fuel and choose the cheapest combination. Options that increase efficiency tend to be costly, so they are not used at today's cost of fuel. If you want more efficiency, make the cost of fuel go up. Then the plants will become more efficient & electric prices will rise less than they would from the increase in fuel price.

The best thing you can do for efficiency is to shut down an old power plant and build a modern, high efficiency one. Of course ratepayers will have to pay for that new plant that replaced the one that was paid off years ago!

The reality is that increased efficiency costs money.
The reality is that plant operators minimize costs and increase efficiency as economically beneficial.
Therefore any increase in efficiency will be associated with increased electricity costs.

Do you want to see energy prices go up?

thanks
JK
May 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJim Karlock
-------------------------------------------------------------
Jim, your post typifies the lack of understanding of basic economics that bedevils energy policy discussions.

Can you not see the contradiction in saying that efficiency will increase costs? If that were true, we would still be weaving our own clothes.

It is true that small efficiency gains may not justify large capital costs - and nor should they. But, it is not coal fired plants that are inefficient - it is wind and solar. You are conflating social policy objectives with economics.

So, if society does not want wind factories or vast solar arrays destroying the countryside, that is not a matter for energy policy, but for planning policy. If society wants to limit particulate emissions, that is an argument to be had in the field of public health policy.

But, energy policy should quite simply be based on the premise that cheap, reliable energy is a public good which underpins almost every other public good. To the extent that tradeoffs have to be made, the objective is to generate the maximum amount of energy at the lowest cost for the benefit of all. If windmills or solar panels were the way to do that, the discussion would be worth having.

But they aren't.

It is worth having discussions about particulate emissions, safety in nuclear plants etc, because they offer substantial and concrete returns for the overall health and wealth of society. These are proper subjects for discussion about tradeoffs.

How you can claim that better gas, coal or nuclear plants make energy production more expensive in the medium term (as opposed to so-called renewables) is a mystery. It is like saying we should all still be chopping our own wood and making our own candles.

May 25, 2012 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

It's quite simple.

"Imminent Storm Threatens Village"

;-)


(from the movie trailer for "The Shipping News" 1:03 to 1:19)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8x1z8IK-L0U

May 25, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

DECC is serving two masters, neither well. The current (imposed?) dichotomy of energy and climate prevents sensible decision making. Let Energy argue their case and Environment theirs. Climate is a moveable feast - just like weather - give it to the Met Office.

May 25, 2012 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

simpleseekeraftertruth on May 25, 2012 at 5:06 PM
"DECC is serving two masters, neither well. The current (imposed?) dichotomy of energy and climate prevents sensible decision making. Let Energy argue their case and Environment theirs."

I expect they do, but it is only an internal matter, so we we needn't be troubled with the details.
Why should we be? Everything has already been decided. At the European level, all decisions are irreversible. Though we wait and see. :)

May 25, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Thanks Johanna

Jim,
this article in Chief Executive Magazine from Feb 2010 explains some of the benefits of recycling heat, not just for power stations but for factories etc and why utility companies are reluctant to recycle energy from heat loss.

http://www.recycled-energy.com/newsroom/news-item/cogeneration_producing_heat_light_profits/

"If recycling energy is such a good idea, why hasn’t it been done more widely? In a word, regulation. Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness at Duke University analysts Marcy Lowe and Gary Gereffi assert, “The web of U.S. regulatory policies favors inefficient centralized power production and penalizes or blocks decentralized alternatives.”

The following is the newsroom of RED providing information on recycled energy and cogeneration:
http://www.recycled-energy.com/newsroom/

One exampe:

"A new hospital is being built near Princeton, N.J., that won't depend on the local electricity grid, won't pump out the normal amount of greenhouse gases and won't pay peak prices for electricity.

"The University Medical Center of Princeton will have its own power plant that will use natural gas to make electricity; the heat generated as a byproduct will create steam to heat the building, sterilize equipment and provide cooling.

"Princeton HealthCare System President and CEO Barry Rabner said the company estimates that the power plant will save the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

"Its value to the hospital is enormous from both a fiscal and operational point of view. It is twice as efficient as traditional power systems with a payback estimated to be less than five years, when used with a digital computer control system," he said."

I don't believe in CAGW and wind turbines, but I think developing and implementing technology to make fuel more energy efficient should be encouraged.

May 25, 2012 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commentermfo

mfo, co-generation natural gas power systems are wonderfully efficient and they should be used more often. But not everybody can use all that hot water. Hospitals can since they need to do a lot of laundry.

May 25, 2012 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

"How can you choose a source or mix of sources?
The whole idea of a grid is that the electricity is one big soup ( an electric soup !) The little electrons don't differentiate where they come from, they just go where there is demand. The reason my kettle glow blue is because it has a LED in it, not because the current comes from Dungeness.

ROI - that's the ultimate arbiter. Companies need to see 20 yrs into the future and to do that they need a few bungs to tide them over.
May 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered Commenter John Barrett"

One can easily choose from a mix of sources - you don't have to "differentiate," it's not relevant. It doesn't matter that it's all mixed together - you could still choose to purchase a given amount of energy from one company or another, then draw your share from the grid.

It's like several banks sharing one ATM. It doesn't matter which physical notes are taken out; all that matters is that the appropriate account of the appropriate bank is debited each time a withdrawal is made. Get it?

May 25, 2012 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid, UK

Free markets, now that would be a novel idea. Mr Hayek, Mr von Mises, have you considered this as a subject for investigation?

May 25, 2012 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

"If it made economic sense to increase the efficiency of power plants, it could already have been done."

It has been done but not here.

In the UK we took the decision to make our electricity in the mosty efficient way possible. In Scandinavia they decided to concentrate less on efficiency. This produced even more heat than our process. However, they just sold the heat as well!

You need to be careful when defining efficiency. I have heard of energy efficiencies far greater than 100%. A large food processing company might take heat from the refigerators and pass it on to the ovens. The energy input therefore only has to move the heat and not generate it all.

May 25, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

^^^ Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Sigh.

May 25, 2012 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

@HP - lol!

@GC - check out the laws of thermodynamics.

Good intro here:

http://physics.about.com/od/thermodynamics/a/lawthermo.htm

May 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM | Registered Commenterwoodentop

Graphic - I think you are confusing efficiency with coefficient of performance:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_performance

May 25, 2012 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

When a source uses emotive phrases like "pump out the normal amount of greenhouse gases" I always suspect a certain bias at work...

May 26, 2012 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterNW

http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/news/home-news/trump-faces-backlash-for-opposition-to-wind-farms.16841925?_=2d97d80f5af467caf6a638d16c539634e7b1b7a1

Not just ordinary people but a very rich one

May 26, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3_Fx8x21kE

Our new homeboy Donald

May 26, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7976782.stm

Scotland the country shouldnt go independant but maybe the Tory Party in Scotland should
Tory Party in Scotland is still a toxic brand after all these years
Maybe they can redeem themself from the English sins of the past and get some power back
David Cameron ,Clegg Milliband are English But Blair, Brown and John Smith are were Scottish

May 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

"For those of you who haven’t seen this character before, ZedsDeadBed is not actually a real person, it’s the log-in of an eco-pressure group, who try and undermine the common sense that DM readers have in disbeleiving AGW. The Zeds log-in will say absolutely anything to try and promote the warmist dogma, zealotry and lies."

May 25, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Jack Savage>>>>>

Many DM contributors have also complained that, whilst everyone else is only allowed 10 posts per 24 hours, the Zed troll gets as many as it wants and posts arguing against the Zed troll are regularly deleted.

And the DM PRETENDS to take a sceptical stance!

May 27, 2012 at 4:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

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