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« Look, it's renewable, ok? Josh 227 | Main | Public understanding of climate - the evidence »

The future of UK energy - diesel

This story comes from the BBC:

Two diesel power stations planned in Plymouth will compensate for fluctuations in supplies from green energy, say developers.

Green Frog Power got planning permission last year and Fulcrum Power has made an application for a similar power station.

The Devon-based Regen centre for green energy questioned the use of diesel generators.

Both firms said their power stations supported renewable energy.

I'm speechless. Again.

(H/T Keith)

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Reader Comments (62)

Inevitable and once wind energy rsises above 10% of instantaneous demand, there is no fossil fuel saving in our grid.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

The logical fallacies and wishful thinking of these things are material for an article. What's happening here is that we know the Green answer, its to put up wind turbines. Therefore everything we do or have to do in support of that must also be Green. So the concrete, the roads into the wilderness, the backup diesel or gas plants, it all must be Green.

It reminds one strongly of Reagan as recounted by David Stockman. He knew he was a conservative, he knew the cold war had to be run, he knew that whatever he did as a conservative would not lead to deficit spending, and as a conservative he believed in lower taxes.

So when Stockman tried to explain to him that if you spent huge amounts on defence and lowered taxes, the result would be huge deficits.... he knew that could not be right. It would not be conservative.

Similarly for the Greens. They know wind turbines are Green and Right. So it cannot be that they lead to destroying the environment, negligible power generation, and the use of polluting technology side by side with them. No, that cannot be right. They would not be Green in that case.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commentermichel

This story does have a Stalinist resemblance in that it reminds me of the Soviet approach to agrarian reform in the twenties and thirties. Never mind the outcomes, look at the symbolism...

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterLiT

Isn't this precisely why Denmark's CO2 per capita is so high? Wind, backed up by diesel generators. I mean, what else are you going to do? You need something that can be switched on very quickly.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeide de Klein

Did the applications/advertising state or imply that they would use bio-diesel? I expect that would have deceived many as to its "green" credentials, even though the back-pedalling has been quite vigorous on this subject.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Perhaps these two are early pigs at the new trough of guaranteed prices for small producers announced today by OFWATT.
The poor schmucks who will pay will be the millions of domestic consumers as usual.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

So - why go to all the bother of building wind farms, with all the destruction that entails, and the uncertainty of power output, when you might just as well keep the diesels running 24/7..?
I mean - they're just in a little tin box - and not strung out over acres of attractive Devon countryside...
(I know - I know - it doesn't fit the script..!)

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

In the future, for those that didn't live through this green madness, all of this will be totally unintelligible.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Two points:

1. Diesel's CO2 emissions aren't much below those of coal; and
2. Compared to emissions from a coal plant with emission controls (which all modern countries require), diesel emissions are likely worse for health.

For those who didn't see it, there was a report a few weeks back which said that a leading UK person in government said privately that in the coldest part of March, the UK came within 6 hours-- HOURS -- of running out of natural gas.

Is the UK a modern country any more? Does it have the ability to take the kinds of decisions that are rational for leaders of a modern country?

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

If the powercuts start and its a freezing cold day in the hills, where are the windmills going to get their power to perform the maintenance functions that are essentual. Could it be that some of the big windfarms aware that they are at the end of the line and therefore the last to get reconnected to the grid, will have contingencies of backup generators of some description.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn Lyon

I believe in Spain the night-time inputs from solar panels were eventually traced to diesel generators. Why should subsidies be foregone just because the sun don't shine or the wind don't blow?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Dear Lord I think we must be getting close to needing some lamp posts and a few lengths of rope.....

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Ozanne


Is the UK a modern country any more? Does it have the ability to take the kinds of decisions that are rational for leaders of a modern country?
Nope! If I thought it did I wouldn't be living in France.
And considering how backward France is (wrongly) reputed to be as compared with the UK and how dirigiste it can be when it wants to be, you can draw your own conclusions.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:15 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If supporting windmills is green, can I have a subsidy for my diesel generator..?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

A real kick in the teeth for wind power. These will be using biodiesel which is a criminal crop depriving the poor of food by driving food prices up. Using shale gas is another matter and must go ahead.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Can't they use the waste oil from all the chip shops in the West Country?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I refer you the posts I've made earlier in connection with Joule Unlimited, whose bio-engineered microbes mixed with waste water and waste industrial CO2 use photosynthesis to literally excrete ethanol, diesel or petrol in a one step continuous process with yields as high as 25,000 litres per acre of non arable ground per year at costs as low as $0.17 per litre. Fuel that immediately slots into the existing infrastructure for transport and energy generation.

Burn the resulting fuel and the only the CO2 that was used in production is returned to the atmosphere, a truly carbon neutral process that does not use bio-mass or arable land or clean water and requires no tax payer subsidy.

Joule promo video on Youtube

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

This reminds me of the story of a Czech(?) power plant and coal mine (possibly apocryphal).

A town in the old communist era had two industries; a coal mine and a power plant, with the latter supplied by the mine. It turns out that the mine had only one customer, the power plant. The power plant had only two clients; the mine and the town.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

Quite a bit of nonsense and emotion being spilt here so we need to get your facts straight I think. Number one it doesn't matter how much CO2 is emitted as CO2 has no short term effect on climate; unless I’m mistaken as to why this blog exists.

Today’s modern diesel engine is the cleanest form of internal combustion engine we current have, and also the most efficient bar running the same engines on Natural gas which is something that the Cummins people have developed for the large engines they produce down in Daventry. Imagine that being able to substitute gas for diesel on the fly and back again. Unfortunately today’s technology gets very little publicity but is something commentators here ought to become familiar with.

From an emissions perspective today’s High speed diesel are almost zero emission engines. The exhaust contains only water and CO2. Today’s engines have various devices such particulate traps and catalytic converters that remove all particulates and convert virtually all NOx and CO to N2 O2 and CO2. There are no un-burnt hydrocarbons so no smell.

Power shaving where large organisations run their standby diesel generators for peak periods and feed the power into the grid are a process that has been used in many countries. It beats the idiotic process in this country when the generators are run once a year and all the energy dumped to ground. It allows companies to get some return on the not inconsiderable investment, and has the benefit of wearing out some of the old clanger diesels form the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s to be replaced with modern clean and efficient machinery. How many times have we heard of the standby generator failing when used in anger for the first time??

So is this a good idea to have diesel generators just to peak for renewable. Of course not, because we don’t need more. We already have thousands of these engines around the country that could be used. But the real point is we shouldn’t use wind and nor should we use hydrocarbons. The only way is nuclear.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeterMG

>I'm speechless. Again.


Sorry to shout, but it's been obvious from day one.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Shadow Environment minister resigns.

Mentions everything except thermogeddon... Which is interesting.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Isn't this precisely why Denmark's CO2 per capita is so high? Wind, backed up by diesel generators. I mean, what else are you going to do? You need something that can be switched on very quickly.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Heide de Klein

Would you please happen to have a link or cite for the "Denmark's CO2 per capita is so high" statement? I would LOVE to throw that piece of info in the face of some of my windmill loving friends!

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

John Shade says-

"I believe in Spain the night-time inputs from solar panels were eventually traced to diesel generators."

I thought they were running diesel generators at night to power floodlights that illuminated the solar panels. With Spain's former FIT's and tax breaks, it may have still made money!

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

HM Tax might be interested in 'red' diesel sales in the area ;-)

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused


“unless I’m mistaken as to why this blog exists”

We don’t believe it, either, but it’s fun to consider green reactions and the fine messes they get themselves into when they fail to think things through. We wouldn’t mind quite so much if they didn’t keep thrusting their daft ideas on everyone else.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

No, no you've got it all wrong. Diesel generation will be "green" as it will be run on recycled chip-fat oil.
It is a sustainable resource as demonstrated by the tidal wave of obesity in this Country.

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

@ Diogenes

"Can't they use the waste oil from all the chip shops in the West Country?"

Yes, but what do they do for the next five hours?

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Potter

There is nothing in the Green agenda that cannot be made to be its precise opposite – or its precise parallel – or anything in between – or perhaps something oddly marginal – or perhaps something identical –or something entirely different. In short, anything at all it is asserted to be by the Green high command.

We have seen it all before. Hot, cold, wet, dry, there is nothing this magical point of view cannot explain.

This is a comforting moral superiority I, one for one, would love to share.

It's just a shame it has b•••••-all to do with the real world.

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

David Cameron is getting "cold feet" over subsidies to on shore wind farms and solar panels as the subsidy cost ends up on consumer bills.
Winds of change? Are the CAGW doubts even creeping into the World's greenest government or is DC imagining losing the next election on escalating energy bills being held against him? Maybe Osborne is gaining some traction?

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

I am no expert, but something tells me that when the country is covered with windmills the variability in demand will take more than a couple of Diesel generators in Plymouth to cover the shortfall.

If this not the case then why not put a couple more in Portsmouth and remove the need for any windmills at all?

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

There is hope:


Jun 12, 2013 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

graphicconception "If this not the case then why not put a couple more in Portsmouth and remove the need for any windmills at all?"

The first rule of the golden egg is you don't kill the goose.

IMO This has nil to do with electricity provision or environmental benefit. This is a subsidy harvesting scheme. Diesel generators burning biodiesel will get RECs. As they are STOR power they will be able to charge the premium £/MWh rates that attracts. The windmills can take a turn every now and then to get their ROCs too. I don't have time to bottom it out now but a quick skim of the planning application appendix 3 did NOT reveal any emissions information. Bear in mind as stationary sources these diesels will have lower emissions controls than HGVs.

Completely and utterly back to front way to provide power. But an excellent and effective way to harvest subsidies.

Second rule of the golden egg - get another goose.

Third rule is similar.



Happy to be proved wrong if someone knows the details.
These diesel generator set models are not compliant with EU Stage II Emission Legislation

Standby Rating
These ratings are applicable for supplying continuous electrical power (at
variable load) in the event of a utility power failure.

The EU does not regulate stationary prime or emergency standby installations

Jun 12, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Presumably will use heavy fuel oil as does large marine. Tends to be err,, a bit high on sulphur but we need that upwind of agricultural land. Nah, will remove and throw away.

Anyone actually know or exactly what kind of machinery?

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Channon

Julian Flood

think I might get me one of them there Trent 60's. Sounds like the dog's reproductive kit.

And encapsulates the reason why windmills died the death first time man played with them.

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins

"Anyone actually know or exactly what kind of machinery?"

Free P&P

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Welcome to the future:

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Wind turbines are erected to prove how green a government is and diesel generators to prove that wind turbines work.

But the reality is that many British homes will have to purchase a 3 kVA diesel generator for stand-by duty for when Yeo's Green dream turns into a plebian nightmare.

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered Commenteralex


But the reality is that many British homes will have to purchase a 3 kVA diesel generator for stand-by duty for when Yeo's Green dream turns into a plebian nightmare.
Just so long as we don't have to purchase them from one of Yeo's companies

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterGras Albert

I believe in Spain the night-time inputs from solar panels were eventually traced to diesel generators. Why should subsidies be foregone just because the sun don't shine or the wind don't blow?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

John I believe they were using the diesel generators to power floodlights which were trained on to the panels. Cunning these humans :)

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

PeterMG raises an interesting point about the number of diesel gensets dotted around the country. I used to do quite a bit of work with the water industry; there were big (relatively) emergency units on many sites. I believe all of our nukes will have some big back-up units, not sure about conventional plant.
Maybe the owners could make a bob or two providing a smidgen of back-up power to the grid and it would help keep their kit in running order?

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

The National Grid requirements for STOR (Short Term Operating Reserve) are for a minimum of 3MW for 2Hrs.

Those diesel sets are around 300kW so about 10 sets per minimum. While I can see that it makes for a very flexible and cheap build, how efficient is that likely to be relative to a larger gas unit?

Also, the Green Frog website claims "Every megawatt of power we install provides cover for 10MW of wind power failure risk". How does that work?

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

"Green Frog" power?

I suppose that the marketing consultant thought that this was a brilliant idea, evoking deep care about The Environment and all. Perhaps it worked in pushing the buttons of the relevant bureaucrats.

Me, I'd prefer something like "Red Bull", "Brown Ale", "Black Label" or "White Stallion" power. The thought of a frog being in charge (!) of my power supply does not inspire confidence.

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:49 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

So where are people living in small flats, or in houses without a garage or shed going to put their generators? The neighbours will love it the noise, I'm sure. Or do those people just do without?

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

@John 2:51pm
A third point: Liquid fuels, biodiesel included, should naturally be used for transportation and emergency electrical generation.

Price points ought to be policy enough. A "renewable" subsidies responsible for this misallocation of resources?

Jun 13, 2013 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Rasey

@ Gras Albert

You are having a Turkish, right?

25,000 litres of diesel per acre? That's about 21 tonnes. The yield from arable is about half a tonne. You're saying this process is 40x more efficient?

It will certainly be the case that whatever solves the problem of our dependence on kleptocracies for fuel, it will be something Greens either oppose or are unaware of.

Jun 13, 2013 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

All major hospitals have emergency generators, assuming the cables haven't been stolen by 'metal thieves'. (Llandough DGH about 2 yrs ago)
The vast majority of nursing homes, however, do not have this luxury and patients will no doubt suffer as the energy madness bites.
Paul Homewood has a nice piece on his blog about our future electricity supply. (notalotofpeopleknowthat)

Jun 13, 2013 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

But diesel is renewable -- on a somewhat longer timescale 'tis true....

Jun 13, 2013 at 1:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillR

This from the BBC article
"Merlin Hyman, of Regen SW, said: "There is going to be a need for back-up generation, whether it's for nuclear power, coal power or renewables."

The backup required for nuclear is hardly the same as for so called renewables, the classic comparison of comparing oranges with apples and leaving the impression in the minds of those that don't know any better that wind and nuclear are about the same. The BBC lets this distortion of the truth go by unchallenged.

Jun 13, 2013 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

or the diesel stolen by fuel thieves or both.

Jun 13, 2013 at 7:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I'm sure it's an excellent plan. Although ending every other sentence in the feasibility study with the word “wibble” possibly detracts from the overall intent.

Maybe they should lay off the dried green frog powder?

Jun 13, 2013 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterKonrad

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