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Auditor general: 'You're having us on'

The Auditor General for Scotland has issued a report on the country's progress towards achieving its renewable energy targets. As ever with this kind of report, one has to read between the lines a little, but your humble host exists to help readers understand what is really going on.

Progress towards the 2020 targets has been, the report insists, 'steady', but actually meeting them will be 'challenging'. Translated from Sirhumphreyan (mandarin?) into English, I think this means 'fat chance'.

Similarly, the report notes the figures for job creation that are bandied about in Holyrood and declares that it is 'difficult' to identify the number of people actually employed in renewables businesses, for which readers might understand that they can't actually find any. Meanwhile, projections of future employment in the sector are described as 'optimistic', for which I think reasonable people would read 'concocted'.

The report is here.

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Reader Comments (23)

One can write and talk much when it's based on a digital illusion?
Still it sounds a lot like nonsense or bulldust?

Sep 12, 2013 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

The BBC story on this: "Renewable electricity pace 'needs to quicken', Audit Scotland say".

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

Scotland is the lead area investing in the 15 GW STOR programme, using diesel generator sets hidden in quarries and as standby plant in hospitals etc. to cure the intermittency problem of wind power.

Siemens appears to be promoting this like mad to keep up windmill sales yet it is easy to show that it dramatically increases fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions compared with no windmills.

To make that power by 55% thermodynamically efficient CCGTs uses fuel proportional to 15 GW/55%. 15 GW wind at 18% capacity factor, therefore 82% from 25% thermodynamically efficient diesel, uses fuel proportional to 82%/25%. [The 18% CF is the effect of the need to disconnect ~11% of the time to save the grid], an NGC prediction for 2020.]

So, the windmill + STOR plan uses 82%x55%/25% = 180% times the fossil fuel, an increase of 80%, and as the C:H ratio of diesel is 4/2.2 times that of methane, ~150% more CO2 is made.

This is an economic disaster pushed by people for whom the windmills are a symbol of totalitarian control.

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

"Minister, this project to convert Scotland to renewable energy is controversial - some would say, courageous."

"Well, Humphrey? That shows the impact of my strong government."

"Indeed, Minister. 'Controversial' will merely lose you votes; while 'Courageous' will lose you the election..."

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Delighted to see you are learning the language, Andrew!

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


OT. Do you have any references or reliable information on how the effciency of CCGTs changes with output, right down to spinning reserve?

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@ Philip Bratby.CCGTs are particularly bad for standby use because thermodynamic efficiency is very sensitive to power output. This was found out first in Ontario. It's because the steam cycle can't be used below 60% load.

At 90% load, efficiency is 60%. Drop load to 60% and efficiency falls to 50%, a fall of 17% compared with the start level. Below that you can use methane to heat the boiler but this is inefficient; as an OCGT, efficiency is 38%, 33% in cycling, an efficiency fall of 45%.

DECC was reportedly told in May 2012 by its Chief Scientist that they had to use different standby plant, fast acting. There are three choices; pump storage, OCGT and Diesel, the cheapest and can be hidden away so people don't know about it. Davey allegedly refused to accept that only pump storage would save any CO2 and apparently agreed to the windmill manufacturers' false STOR claims.

Therefore, my interpretation is that STOR is a face-saving gesture designed to con the rest of government and the Public. It is necessary to be brutally efficient in presenting the real data and apportioning blame on those who failed to do their most basic task, to act in the Public Good; it is possible there may be massive kickbacks to be discovered. Just look at whose relatives work for whom.

Sep 12, 2013 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Thanks Alec. I understand what you are saying, but is there any hard reference to the data? I can find no data published by any of the manufacturers.

Sep 12, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

You have to go to the few engineering studies in the internet and accept they may be biased or plain wrong. Also, the manufacturers of CCGTs expertly divert attention from the basics. Thus you have two shaft sets with or without a clutch and methane heating to aid fast spin-up as a way of maintaining sales against the windmill makers and their STOR solution.

However, that is empty rhetoric when the subsidies encourage the most expensive [to the consumer] STOR solution to keep the lights on, thereby forcing central generators to mothball CCGTs.

This policy is EU and CCA 2008 driven, panicky civil servants and, at the very least, stupid politicians like Davey and Salmond.

Sep 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

This report seems to confirm that things are better now than they were before
they were as bad as they are now; I think.

Sep 12, 2013 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Do we know how STOR output will be monitored?
It would be good to see it tracked on the Gridwatch "Control Panel", maybe replacing "Bio" so it appears in the same plots as wind. Anyone have any contacts with whoever generates Gridwatch?

Sep 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Registered Commentermikeh

Imagine a sales manager telling the general manager or managing director that sales have been "steady" and meeting the sales target for the year will be "challenging." The response would be something between a shouted, "Well, you better get your a** in gear" and "You're Fired!"

Then there would be adjustments in staffing (down) and immediate creation of a recovery plan or exit from the business. Such are the disciplines of stockholders and a bottom line.

Sep 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

Interesting figures AlecM. It would be great to have some refs for these so they can't just be dismissed as conjecture.

Allow me to rephrase your calcs to make sure I understand them:

So, to generate a constant 15GW, on average, the windmill + STOR system uses 18% wind + 82% diesel back up.
The diesel is only 25% fuel efficient so the 'fuel power' required is 15GW x 0.82 / 0.25 = 49.2GW

By contrast, a 55% efficient CCGT turbine can generate 15GW continuously using only 15GW / 0.55 = 27.3GW input fuel power.

So the wind + STOR requires 180% (=49.2 / 27.3) times the fuel of the CCGT only option.

Furthermore, diesel generates 1.8 times as much CO2 per KWH as methane - so we end up with 3.2x as much CO2 compared to a CCGT-only system.


Putting my sceptic's hat on:

Is it fair to assume that 100% of the 15GW shortfall will be provided by diesel STOR?

Perhaps a fairer target would be to assume STOR was only used to maintain the average output of the wind at say 25% of 15GW.

With some proportion of the 'backup' provided by easing off other generators (some pumped, some OCGT etc)

Then the calculation becomes more complex because you need to study the wind output to see exactly how much STOR is called upon or better still - get some figures from NETA to actually determine how much power STOR is generating on average.

Seems to me that one of our priorities as anti-windfarm campaigners should be to get hold of those STOR figures.

Sep 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

Mikey: re Gridwatch. I was reading comments in Booker on the DT the other day and a commenter called Itsman (sp?) Claimed to be the programming genius behind it. His avatar is a large dog.

Sep 12, 2013 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commentersnotrocket

I saw (but didn't dare read the feature for fear of heart failure) a headline in the 'Scotland' section of the BBC News website, that by 2050 car emissions (in Scotland) would be 'zero'...
Hmmm... yes - I like the word 'challenging'...

Sep 12, 2013 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

@Chilli: you've got it! I was surprised when I worked this out but it is correct because the STOR programme is aimed at giving constant output for the windmill sector so makes up the difference between real output and 15 GW. The alternative would be to have power cuts and that was what the NGC warned of last year - no guaranteed domestic power by 2020.

So, the aim of stopping power cuts is achieved by increasing fossil fuel use and CO2 output. This is designed for two purposes. One is to keep windmill sales beyond the ~10% average penetration that steam turbines can back up. The second is to save face or some other part of the anatomy of the dim politicos like Davey.

In short, it was a very productive 15 minutes yesterday when i worked it out because there is now zero credibility for DECC and it can be changed to DE with a remit to maximise energy production efficiency and use, and to cease to be a pusher of the windmills, the visible proof of totalitarian EU corporatist fascist control; the new Swastika.

Sep 12, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

PS there is no independent publication of this, probably because suspicious iconoclasts like me who thrive on putting simple, obvious arguments to destroy pomposity of all kind are pretty thin on the ground!

Sep 12, 2013 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

The National Grid site includes a report on the current status of STOR tendering and acceptances. It is full of jargon but there is a graphic on P4 seems to suggest that the max capacity which is theoretically available is a bit less than 6 GW. However that seems to be the total of all systems which could apply and assumes 100% acceptable bids.
Reality appears to be the "Average available" line which indicates about 2.3 GW so far this year (Year 7 on the chart).
Interesting to see from the map on P8 that none of the accepted reserve plant is located in Scotland......
Maybe someone with a better understanding can shed more light?
Here's the site:

Sep 12, 2013 at 5:20 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Entropic man says:

If you are interested in sea ice volume data look at PIOMASS here

"PIOMAS is a numerical model with components for sea ice and ocean and the capacity for assimilating some kinds of observations. For the ice volume simulations shown here, sea ice concentration information from the NSIDC near-real time product are assimilated into the model to improve ice thickness estimates and SST data from the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis are assimilated in the ice-free areas. NCEP/NCAR reanalysis SST data are based on the global daily high-resolution Reynolds SST analyses using satellite and in situ observations (Reynolds and Marsico, 1993; Reynolds et al., 2007). Atmospheric information to drive the model, specifically wind, surface air temperature, and cloud cover to compute solar and long wave radiation are specified from the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. The pan-Arctic ocean model is forced with input from a global ocean model at its open boundaries located at 45 degrees North."

Or in other words, it's models all the way down!

Sep 12, 2013 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Alex et all,
Very interesting stuff and yet another manifestation of the troughers
For your interest visit and search out Mr. North s great write up.
Search his archives for 'Energy: the back up bonanza' dated 8/7/13.

It tells a sad tale of the on going corruption of those in power.

Sep 13, 2013 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterpatrick healy

Do the providers of these back-up generators etc get counted as "renewable energy jobs"? Given that most of these companies also provide generators to the oil and gas business, do their employees get counted twice? When do they stop counting? The truck drivers who bring the diesel for the back-up generators?

What about hydro-electric? Do they count that and include people who were already employed before "green jobs" were ever heard of?

Sep 13, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

@ mikeH. Thanks for the interesting link. Although that document is more about the backup bids and contracts. More interesting is what they actually spend on backup.

This page has monthly financial summaries of all back-up costs - from April 2004 to July 2013:

Might be interesting to go thru and see how the totals have changed over time. I think it would be fair to say any cost increases over that period are directly attributable to the increase in wind connected to the grid over the same period - all other things being equal.

Sep 13, 2013 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

"Creating" green jobs.

This is one of the most idiotic economic falllacies.

Let' say I normally shop at Tesco. Then I drop them and switch to Sainsbury's,
By doing this did I create jobs and Sainsbury's? Yes.
But that's not the end of the story. What's missing is that I also killed off jobs at Tesco.

Similarlly with "green" jobs. They come at the expense of others. There is no reason to expect the total has increased or decreased.

Sep 17, 2013 at 7:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterKatisha

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