back to article Eco investors demand (even) more sweeteners for low carbon energy

When Nye Bevan created Britain's National Health Service in 1948 he faced resistance from private consultants – and famously had to "stuff their mouths with gold" to win them over. But at least there was a universal-payer health care system at the end of it. Renewable energy today is a commercial basket case*, and potential …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ok, so:

    " It's a reminder that the stench from expensive, Gaia-friendly eco energy leads right back to the perpetuators."

    Burnt fossils have a stench too. And its a real, measurable, physical one, as opposed to the more abstract metaphorical "stench" emanating from those who prefer a different energy trade-off than you.

    1. Fibbles

      re: ok, so:

      Buy your own sodding turbine then rather than have everyone else subsidize it. Unlike the thorium fast breeders which I would like to see our government building, a wind turbine is something anyone can install on their own property. Only most people don't because they're expensive and fecking useless.

  2. g e

    Why is exactly why no-one believes ecotards any more

    It's the same old politically correct claptrap wrapped around a cash grab.

    Fuck off and get a business model you greedy self-centered hypocrites

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The public backlash against renewables today is directed against wind and solar, which produce energy far above market prices, leaving the public to pay the difference."

    The only energy-related "public backlash" I've noticed is against profiteering energy companies who are quick to raise the prices of combustible fossils, and slow to reduce them after the market price drops.

    If you want to get all exercised about unfair energy pricing, wouldn't that be a better target? Anyone got any numbers comparing the size of "green energy" subsidies against that of energy-pricing ripoffs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      12% of your electricity bill goes to this eco crap.

    2. Curly4

      Avoid all of this discussion by

      A lot of the climate change could be avoided or at least slowed down if all the hot wind emanating from the climate change discussion.

      Maybe England needs a Nye Bevan for the energy industry. If the government got into the energy research and development and production the industry would have to follow along. It would help even if the government was the sole energy importer, producer and supplier. That way the energy cost could be kept low and the government could make up the difference. It could also push the non-carbon energy as much as it wanted. Now I would assume that the taxpayer would be the one to ultimately pay the cost if it did not pay for its self, just like the national health. Maybe you would not have the long lines at the pumps or the plugin though.

      1. Grumpy Old Fart

        ...going back to the 70's

        Yeah we tried nationalised energy monopolies back then, and that sucked too.

        It wasn't cheaper, was massively inefficient, and because it was run by politicians not businessmen it caved in to union pressures and led to the country having a 2-day work week because of strikes at the power plants.

        Government monopolies really don't work for this sort of thing.

  4. Michael 31

    Economics 101


    It would be great if the price we paid for something reflected its true cost. Then we could make rational decisions easily. But the price of extracting fossil fuels does not reflect the cost of using them. To the best of our knowledge, fossil fuels are storing up real problems for our collective futures. Subsidising genuinely renewable electricity generation makes sense if the subsidies are well targeted. Subsidies are never perfect, but they are justifiable in some circumstances. Your tirade and refusal to accept that anything other current market costs is strange in someone as smart as you appear to (otherwise) be.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      His point is...

      ...a lot of subsidy (cost) goes in, but little reliable power generation (value) comes out. And make no mistake, wind is not going to produce reliable power unless there is a breakthrough in power storage technology.

      His tale about the NHS was to make clear he thinks subsidy is useful if the value created is greater than the cost.

  5. itzman
    Thumb Up

    Elementary my Dear Watson.

    The problem for the eco-profiteers, is that whatever set of social costs and real costs they use to derive overall cost benefits of 'renewable' energy, the numbers still come out wrong.

    Only by demonizing nuclear power and fossil power at an emotional level, can they retain any semblance of moral high ground.

    But they have to lie to do that.

    By the way geothermal is no more renewable than photovoltaic or wind. Its just a rather bigger source of stored energy we are raiding and in fact it has its limits too..the rate of conduction from the earth's core is not great, and if you raid it too much, it will fall locally.

    Neither is hydro 'good' renewable from the eco point of view. Yes it solves the intermittency by introducing storage - natural storage - but that storage itself has a widespread environmental impact in terms of land areas submerged.

    The lowest environmental impact of anything is nuclear energy. If the costs of carbon are taken into account, its also the cheapest form. This threatens the fossil AND the eco-renewable industry, who are both united in spreading the FUD around.

    The correct view is that what we need is not 'wilful' energy (intermittent renewables) but 'willing' energy - stored energy we can tap as and when we want it and need it.

    The highest energy density we know of in terms of extractable energy is given by E=mC^2. Mass destruction releases energy. Nuclear power works. Its compact, reliable, and more flexible than is generally recognised, and its waste products are minuscule by comparison with any other technology. It also uses less scarce materials than most competing technologies. And fuel can be stockpiled for years if necessary at relatively low cost.

    In short it ticks every box bar one. The very word introduces electoral fever in the Green consciousness.

    Ultimately, however, its easier to change consciousness than the laws of Nature. And a detailed analysis of renewable energy of the intermittent kind shows that it never has, and never will (and never CAN) provide a satisfactory solution in more than a few niche cases.

    As to why we are pursuing this impossible dream, I can only surmise that in a continent ruled by PPE's we have to lay the blame on post modern relativism, which decrees that reality is indeed a social construct, (probably reasonably accurate) but makes the alarming leap of faith in thereby positing the hypothesis that it can be changed (up to and including fundamental laws of physics) simply be believing that it can.And, of course, spending suitable large sums of someone else's money as ritual votive offerings, to the new Green Priesthood of Gaia.

    If only we had a few technocrats in charge, who had spent frustrating hours debugging network, does not help. Nor indeed does spending large sums of money. What is required is the courage and conviction to speak out, and make the point that a biodegradable piece of wet string, or a carrier pigeon, is no substitute for a properly engineered (but less biodegradable) piece of glass fibre....Even if it is dull, teckie, and needs some careful installation procedures to make it work.

  6. Britt Johnston

    Ehem - nuclear is also eco-friendly....

    A agree with the economic side of your analysis - There also currently appears to be an undignified rush to get the UK nuclear cake cut before the reasoning behind Germany and others getting out of Nuclear power becomes well-understood..

    1. Fibbles

      Reasoning behind Germany getting out of nuclear power?

      The reasons are pretty simple; public ignorance and a governing party (already non too keen on anything nuclear) wanting to do the popular thing to improve their re-election chances.

      There have only ever been 4 serious nuclear accidents in Germany:

      - 7 Dec 1975, Greifswald (East Germany), An electrical fire (started by an incompetent electrician) destroys control lines and coolant pumps in this first gen Soviet reactor almost inducing meltdown. However everyone follows protocol, the fire service responds quickly and the pumps are repaired. No nuclear material is released and nobody dies.

      - 4 May 1986, Hamm-Uentrop, A fuel pebble became lodged in a pipe at the experimental THTR-300 reactor. Gas flow was increased to dislodge the pebble which also led to the mobilization of radioactive dust (usually present in the cores of pebble-bed reactors). Due to human error a valve was left open and this dust was released into the surrounding environment. This caused a small amount of radioactive contamination (0.1 Gbq) in a 4 km2 area around the plant. Nobody died.

      - 17 Dec 1987, Hesse, Workers overlooked a valve that had not been closed. Radioactive cooling agent was discharged into the annular space. The surrounding area is unaffected and nobody dies.

      - 24 Nov 1989, Greifswald (East Germany), Three of six cooling pumps are switched off as a test at the first gen Soviet reactor. A fourth pump fails and control of the reactor is temporarily lost causing damage to ten fuel rods. No nuclear material is released and nobody died.

      Nobody has ever died in a nuclear accident in Germany, and all it's 'major' accidents were caused by human error. Despite this the government has decided to decommission all of it's nuclear facilities. Why? Well, because after watching a group of reactors in Japan withstand two natural disasters of a degree they were never designed for, and that Germany will never face, they've declared that nuclear is unsafe.

      You couldn't make this shit up.

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      The German retreat from nuclear is pure politics

      Right at the moment German voters are being asked to put up with their taxes being used to bail out free-loading Greeks who've borrowed way too much and can't pay it back. Needless to say this is politically mindbogglingly unpopular, and the political climate is turning Euroskeptic in Germany. The ruling coalition is losing support as their policies of hurling money at the Eurozone become less and less popular. To hang onto power, they made a Faustian pact with the Greens: support the coalition, and we'll pay whatever price you ask.

      The Greens asked for nuclear power to be abandoned as the price of cooperation (they ain't smart, aren't Greens), hence the announcements. Basically the Greens wanted power now via a back-room deal, rather than power later when they come up with a sensible set of policies. The downside for them is political oblivion when the deal becomes public, about when rolling power brown-outs start happening as well.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is understood...

    Germany and others are getting out because of hysterical ecotards.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it really that much?

    A subsidy of 15-20% of typical household energy bills (GBP1000/yr, say) * 26M households = about GBP4billion... per year, every year!

    I have no axe to grind... but can that right? (If it is I'll be seriously pissed of with the government...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes it is.

      As of March 2nd 2011, based on a consumption of 3300kWh per year, 12% of your bill was for this.

      This means that it has increased your bill by 14%

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      The answer is with the lack of transparency of a UK energy bill you just don't know.

      Just because an onshore wind turbine generates power < 6% of the time (at least one does this) the system still has to satisfy that need for electricity from somewhere.

      The *target* for onshore wind availability is (IIRC) 26%. So a power station that's *not* wind reliant able to pick up at *least* 74% of the generating hours has to be standing behind that to deliver full service.

      It will need >74% of the equivalent fuel duel due to frequent start up transients.

      Factor in construction costs of *both* systems £4Bn could be on the *low* side.

      1. Jim Bob

        I wonder...

        Having watched a couple of wind turbines, with one running continuously while the other stopped and started, I wonder how these generators are actually being used?

        Maybe, low utlisation is caused not by a lack of wind but a preference to use wind turbines for load tracking. They have a pretty quick on/off response time compared to most generatig techs, particularly compared to the glacial response time of a nuclear reactor. There is also no fuel penalty for transient operation...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Anti-nuclear is full of win

    With everyone else rapidly dumping nuclear as an option, we'll have the entire world supply of uranium to ourselves and it may well last 1,000 years. Us and the French, anyway. Meanwhile, the Germans will only be able to build BMWs if it's sunny or windy. I can't see a downside here.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      And the Croats

      Who are rapidly building nuclear power plants so they can sell the electricity to the Germans at a fun premium.

      The only real question is when the Germans will change their minds.

  10. Jim Bob

    Seems you can make this shit up...

    "Well, because after watching a group of reactors in Japan withstand two natural disasters of a degree they were never designed for, and that Germany will never face, they've declared that nuclear is unsafe.

    You couldn't make this shit up."

    If you choose to over-simplify the situation then of course it sounds like utter bullshit. However:-

    1. The Japanese reactors were 'supposed' to be designed to withstand the seismic activity that was expected in that region and the actual seismic event was not beyond reasonable expectations. The fact that the final design parameters were found lacking (they failed to withstand the event) is caused by the fundamental issue that a commercial reactor owner must be financially as well as (in preference to?) safety motivated.

    2. It is true that reactors built in Europe are very unlikely to experience anything similar to what happened in Japan. But directly because of this, European reactors are not hardened in the same way that Japanese reactors are. The question is how have these reactors been designed to cope with the risks that a European reactor could actually face or have they been similarly 'under-designed'?

    3. Another reality is that LWRs require constant cooling, at all times, so can be (correctly imo) referred to as 'open-loop' unsafe. The accident at TMI was caused by a cooling failure that was the result of operating procedures that contradicted licensing requirements, Chernobyl was caused by not even having standard operating procedures. Neither was caused by a massive natural event. Also worth looking at is the incident at the Davis-Besse reactor, the most serious accident that never happened - just.

    4. All nuclear accidents are caused by human error, either in the design or operating procedures. If you wish to perform the normalisation of deviance then it would appear that there is no problem - even though reactor designs are not meeting the safety performance that those licensing and building these things infer. Statistically, a major nuclear incident/accident is expected every 15-20 years but that is not the position the nuclear lobby portrays.

    Returning to the heart of the article, just how much public money has been funnelled in to the nuclear industry? Through state R&D effectively given away, waste management costs deferred, liability insurance provided by governments, etc. Shouldn't these costs to the public purse be considered subsidies - on a mammoth scale?

    And, of course, it is only fair to identify that fossil fuel users have been allowed to externalise their waste disposal costs by 'dumping' it directly in to the environment for centuries.

    While renewables could not exist without subsidies, this is actually not particularly different to any other form of energy production. In all cases, public money is funding private gain.

  11. Britt Johnston

    Wow, strong winds from nuclear fans!

    I don't intend to change any mind made up, more to point out that the UK government spendthrift plan-of-the-week is for eight new nuclear plants, when their bottom line is about reducing debt.

    The German government will end up spending plenty of their taxpayers money to close nuclear plants. This commentard is suggesting to save UK some money by not rushing to build more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well thought out...

      You're suggesting we save money by having rolling blackouts in a few years?

      1. Britt Johnston

        re: well thought out

        Actually, I'd expect the government plan to answer this question.

        But yes, one solution could be to use energy more efficiently, and build less or no plants.

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