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« Another 1% off grid margin | Main | Quote of the day, joined up policy edition »

Another parliamentary whitewash?

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is taking a look at whether the UK's lights are going to go out in the next few years and has just published the written evidence. I don't hold out much hope for an inquiry headed by an advisor to Richard Black's ECIU, namely the Earl of Selborne, and the presence of Lord Willis of Climategate notoriety and Lord Rees of, erm, Climategate notoriety too, is hardly encouraging. Matt Ridley is the only member who might be expected to ask awkward questions.

I have skimmed the evidence and there are some quite interesting submissions, not least that of the Scientific Alliance, which got some headlines last week after they predicted huge increases in energy bills. I was also interested in comments (p. 26) by the City of London Corporation:

The City Corporation is concerned that a possible “black start” - where supply is suddenly unavailable across the whole of a network and needs to be restored - would severely affect the Square Mile and its ability to continue to operate as a business centre. We are also gravely concerned about the effect that such an event would have on London’s reputation.

There is too much for me to go through in detail. Do post anything interesting in the comments.


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Reader Comments (34)

Keeping the Lights On

Bish, if you were there on Wed evening, you should have come to say hello!

Oct 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Registered CommenterEuan Mearns

Drowning in oil again

This might also be of interest - see how shale operators fare with $50 / bbl. Goes without saying that N Sea would prefer $150 / bbl than $50.

Oct 17, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Registered CommenterEuan Mearns

@ Euan 11:42

Perhaps Andrew was looking for a Putin doppelgänger?

Oct 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Whitewash? Probably, though it is getting rather tight, if we run into trouble in the next few years, the ink will still be wet and even the MSM might notice?

Resilience of electricity infrastructure

" ........Energy policy in the UK focusses (sic) on balancing three interconnected demands: energy security, affordability and decarbonisation. This is known as the energy trilemma. Within this framework, this inquiry looks specifically at the current and future contribution of science and technology to ensuring the resilience of the UK’s electricity infrastructure......


Public hearings will be held in the autumn, and possibly into early 2015. The Committee aims to report to the House, with recommendations, before the end of the Parliament......"

Monday 30 March 2015 - Dissolution

I wonder if the Select Committee's timeline will be adhered to? Can't see how it could be delayed, unless of course bad weather had an effect?:-)

Oct 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

@ Joe - Paterson took a swipe at Putin. I'm not sure I understand the anti-Russian sentiment. Russia has been a rock solid supplier of energy to Europe for many decades. The only problems have arisen because of W Ukraine - our new best friend.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Registered CommenterEuan Mearns

Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) – Written evidence
pg 19

They are so pie in the sky future talk that they reference the CCS projects in the USA. Crap on a Cracker, I listened to the US Senate CCS testimony and my eyes rolled.

CCSA seems to have nothing but plans of promises and futures.

BTW: From memory - On the US Senate hearings I listened, the one project which I think CCSA is referring to in their written evidence had an estimated 1st phase cost of $100 per ton for capture and I think $40 per ton to pipe to the site to be sequestered. I do not recall if the costs of actually jamming it into the ground were mentioned. Needless to CCS is imaginary.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Their forecasts hardly matter now - they have committed themselves to their plans. The reality of what happens will destroy them; rolling blackouts, "fuel poverty", forests of broken down windmills still to be paid for etc. The voters will then have THEIR say.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

There is good news on the job market. LOL

Government - Written Evidence
Electricity Market Reform (pg 116)

4.2 This amounts to a significant investment challenge, with an estimated £100 billion of
further investment needed in the sector through to 2020. This investment has the
potential to support up to 250,000 jobs in low carbon electricity over the same period.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Paul Homewood has a new post Gummer’s Renewable Dream Land OCTOBER 17, 2014
(yes I double posted this as the topic moves across the new threads)

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Who are the "Scientific Alliance" when they are at home?

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

The smart grid is way down the road...

Government - Written Evidence
Electricity Market Reform (pg 116)

9.12 Many so-called ‘smart grid’ technologies exist today but their cost and complexity
mean that they are only used for niche applications, for example in situations where
very high value is placed on avoiding supply interruptions, or in isolated grids (e.g.
Scottish Islands) where the use of new technologies can defer or remove the need to
spend large sums of money on conventional technical solutions. Other potential
advantages can include speeding up and lower in the cost of new connections.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden


According to Wiki

I do notice (at least) twice the 'D' word is used. Legacy of a certain editor, perhaps.

A better report at

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

@ green sand

re the energy trilemma: I would like to offer the opinion that the trilemma needs one of its lemmas lopped off. In terms of the next election, I'd be happy to cast my vote for a party who promised to concentrate solely on cheapness and reliability re energy supply and dropped the decarbonisation element entirely.

The energy trilemma is as absurd as a shipbuilding trilemma where boats must be a) water-tight, b) stable in high seas and c) built of paper.

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

Ewan M.
To be anti-Putin is not to be anti-Russian. Our problems are not due to Ukraine, who have a right to object to being invaded (and also to deal with the EU), but with Putin - the bellicose invador. Russias home problems also stem directly from Putin - the anti-democratic, murderous despot. With a proper democratic leadership in place and all the psychotic, anti-west media run out of town then all would be resolved and Russia would be a much-valued ally again. Get it now?

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

From a brief scan it appears to be a list of funding pitches from organisations with vested interests.

Two interesting paragraphs one illustrating the immediate priority, basically sod CO2 keep the lights on! And I doubt there is a politician in the land who will dare to differ!:-

" The Electricity Storage Network - pg 70

6. Last year, the industry regulator Ofgem warned that spare generating capacity in the UK could fall to 2% by 2015. In order to address capacity issues new markets and services have been introduced, but are likely to be high carbon in nature. ."


The other showing the enormity of future issues:-

" Energy Networks Association - pg 80

8. Low Carbon Technologies

Greater take up of low carbon technologies like electric vehicles will see the increased electrification of our society and a doubling of the load on our electricity network..."


Agreed, UK society is based on a cost effective and secure energy supply. Overcrowded UK inner cities without energy is not a prospect I care to consider.

Oct 17, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Since when did a parliamentary enquiry get to the bottom of anything? - start with the Denning Report - I was 12 at the time, and it's the earliest I can remember.

Oct 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBritInMontreal

If the whole grid goes down and requires a black start (which they have plans for but have never actually had to implement) the problems faced by the City of London will be minor compared with what the grid engineers will have to surmount. There are only a few stations capable of a black-start - afaik Cruachan is the only one north of the border - these have to simultaneously spinning at 50Hz in exact sync with each other until another station can be connected. How they balance demand with suddenly increasing supply during this process I am not so sure.

Oct 17, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

The gist is that everyone advocates that spends money on different things. Alas there isn't much in the pot so I expect we are on our own! Interesting submissions about molten salt reactors: Alas the science advisor advised against MSR research in the UK because........well unbelievably because it needed research.

Oct 17, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

The Demand Centre* p.49 Written Evidence Submission.

No real evidence submitted.
One sensible sounding point:

"We should not assume that future demand will look like current demand."

However, they give the impression that they are subscribers to the cause, believing that consumers are there to have their demand directed by others, after it's been modelled a bit. They appear to be a slightly international crew of sociologists and geographers in cahoots with some EdF analysts.

Overall, the submission appears to be an advert for themselves via 'more modelling needed'.

The entertainment from their website is the Doctoral student whose

"PhD focuses on the energy use of live musical performances and how that energy use has been shaped by technological advances, societal expectation and people’s mobility."

Full marks for invention of a PhD thesis that probably requires the student to go to Glastonbury every year.

*Funded by the ESRC/EPSRC with support from ECLEER (EDF R&D), Transport for London and the International Energy Agency

Oct 17, 2014 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Oct 17, 2014 at 12:58 PM | stewgreen

£410 the TOTAL, not per annum rise - else the agrarian economy beloved of the Greens would be what we'd have. Nobody would be able to afford energy at all.

Oct 17, 2014 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

"Nobody would be able to afford energy at all."

In a nutshell, that's the plan.

Oct 17, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Some predictions of the effects of climate change in the submissions:

Energy Networks Association:

Higher temperatures
Higher rainfall in winter
Less rainfall in summer
Sea level rise
More storm surges

BUT no increase in wind or ice storms

Institution of Engineering and Technology:

Temperature extremes

Resilient Electricity Networks for Great Britain (RESNET) project:

Higher frequency of damaging wind speeds, maybe

De-rating overhead lines

UK Energy Research Centre:

Increased air conditioning load (p.302)

De-rating of overhead cables
Reduced efficiency of gas turbines
More flooded substations
More icing of overhead lines
More lightning outages
More wind and mechanical failure of overhead lines
Colder winters leading to more demand


I note that according to the UK Energy Research Centre we should expect it to get hotter in summer and colder in winter. Also of debate is whether de-rating of overhead lines is possible given that they will be mostly powered by windmills.

Oct 17, 2014 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

Euan Mearns
To be fair to the Bish, he was the first to arrive in the tea-room downstairs, along with David and Mrs Holland, Martin Brumby, Mick Lennard (In praise of CO2) and myself.
I was under the impression that you were there too, a bit later.
Certainly you and I had a drink together at the pub afterwards, with the Breitbart "boys".
The problem with these functions is that half of those present are only known by their pen-names and even then we don't know what they look like.
The situation at Bristol was made easier by the fact that those who attended the "the dinner" had their picture taken and were subsequently identifiable.
It's time we had a great and glorious function where we can all get to know each other and air our (slight ?) differences !

Oct 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

@ Paul in Sweden 1229; my back of the envelope tells me that is at least 4 million pounds per job assuming the maximum number of jobs created. Cost effective? Value for money? Perhaps not.

Oct 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

"This investment has the potential to support up to 250,000 jobs in low carbon electricity over the same period." but since the capital required per job for the windmill jobs per unit electricity produced is small, this is like saying that knitting all our clothes by hand is a dandy jobs program. We have gotten rich in the West by being more productive per person and even per dollar invested. This goes the wrong way.

Oct 17, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle


"my back of the envelope tells me that is at least 4 million pounds per job assuming the maximum number of jobs created. Cost effective? Value for money? Perhaps not."

I got 400,000 pounds per job, but my decimals might be off. Spread out over five years (just as a simplifying assumption), that would be about 80,000 pounds per job per year. for those of us who are are less familiar with pounds, that would be about $128,000 per job per year. Where do I sign up?

Oct 17, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

It is frightening how this situation seems to be quietly accepted by everyone - boiling frog syndrome in action.

Let's be clear about this, we are talking about the UK electricity network being physically unable to meet demand and the consequent prospect of widespread supply failure as a result. Not only that but along the way the prospect of catastrophic failures due to overload has been slipped in. At any time in the last 50 years at least this would have been inconceivable.

Without ever being elected or even electable the greens have reduced the UK to a failing third world country which is characterised by unreliable and intermittent electricity supplies.

More than 20 years ago I noticed that there appeared to be no replacement generating capacity being planned which should have been happening given the lead time and the stated lifespans of the existing plant. I did wonder what would happen but never dreamed it would just be allowed to happen, much less accelerated by decommissioning serviceable plant.

Ironically, any decent size commercial building these days seems to have a large diesel genset out back, so somebody has certainly noticed. If London does get a blackout of any length, all the effect on emissions of their LEZ, congestion charge, Boris bike etc. nonsense is going to be wiped out when all the backup sets start up.

Oct 17, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

J.O.E. "...forests of broken down windmills still to be paid for etc..." Who or what is "killing" these windmills? I understand that the bearings of most generators are sub-standard. Are the owners required to remove them after their useful life?

Oct 17, 2014 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterCC Reader

Has anyone looked at the impact on climates that the removal of all this energy from the dynamic system of the atmosphere by these windfarms is doing?

Oct 18, 2014 at 7:39 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent, I have asked greenies why the precautionary principle which apparently has to be applied to all sorts of things which might by some poorly understood incredibly convoluted mechanism have an effect on the climate, should not be applied to windfarms directly extracting energy from weather systems.

Apparently they "just know" that the effect must be too small to be significant, so isn't worth considering.

Convenient that, no?

Oct 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Very convenient, NW. There are some very good photos around that show that the windmills can have significant visual impacts on the weather downwind (whatever wind there is left to be down of) of the windmills. Perhaps they should be taken as an indication that they could be having some effect, and possibly the effect is detrimental (simple precautions, don'cha know...?). Perhaps funding for a study should be raised, and such a study launched (requiring, naturally, extensive global travel, to look at all the windfarms); how do we go about applying for the grant?

Oct 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR, I believe that one of the prerequisites for getting on the climate gravy train is to have the right letters after your name, don't know about you but I and that system parted company some years ago.

Besides, you are going about it the wrong way. Look at the Climategate boys who are the experts at this game. You don't go yourself and get involved with the grubby manual business of data collection, you gather up other people's vaguely relevant data collected for other purposes, lose bits of it, "process" it using dubious statistical methods then use it to prove your gut feelings were right.

The global travel doesn't involve going to places where things actually happen, they have an unfortunate tendency to be dangerous and unpleasant shitholes. No, you travel to the nicer parts of the world to attend "conferences" where all you have to do is tear yourself away from the poolside for an hour or two to talk about your wonderful project.

The conclusion of your studies is of course that this is a very serious problem, but more "research" is required. Ka ching!

Oct 18, 2014 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

Yes, your idea is better; don’t want to go anywhere too dangerous and/or hot and smelly. I’m sure we could purchase some letters from a suitably dodgy establishment. It might be a good idea to make sure we are in an appropriate minority group, too, so we can claim some -ism or other that is suppressing our rights, should are requests for funding be refused.

Oct 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

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