back to article Does Cameron dare ditch poor-bashing green energy?

No 10 has a dilemma: it is committed to an unpopular renewable energy policy that punishes the poor, British industry, and will keep inflation high. But is it edging nervously away from the policy, or merely pretending to? The Telegraph has obtained a policy document, dated July, that seems to suggest that the government is …


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  1. Danny 14

    moonbase alpha

    "would increase household electricity prices by 25 per cent in 2105 " I plan on living on the moon with my longevity drugs by 2105.

    On a more serious note, did the government SERIOUSLY think that nuclear would be more expensive than wind to operate? Really?

    1. Captain Scarlet


      They probably thought wind and sun is there and its free, obviously the wind and sun is free harnessing it efficently is a huge challenge.

      1. PatientOne

        @Cap. Scarlet

        There's another point, too: Wind isn't an infinite resource. Neither is the Sun. What's more, neither is a reliable source.

        Oh, sure, the sun comes up during the day, but not every day is 'sunny'. Also, during the winter when we need the most electricity, we have the least sun and wind. So, power generation is inversely proportional to power consumption with these two renewables. Why didn't they see that? Or were they blithely ignoring it?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      'Energy will be too cheap to meter....'

      We were told at one point (when Calder Hall opened?) by some ignorant or disingenuous politician or civil servant so it is quite likely, sadly, that they did seriously think the thought and say the words. Or maybe they were in 'Sales' mode??? - Never!

      However, in this case it really is a bit of a race, IMHO. The long term real 'cost' of Nuclear may end up greater than wind - who can tell - but I'd treat most estimates with a big does of salt. Both are likely to be higher cost and more human polluting than other forms of Carbon free or low carbon such as Tidal, Wave power or Solar Furnace.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Close but no cigar

        Although the 'too cheap to meter' quote is often ascribed to Lord Marshall of the CEGB, it actually comes from Lewis Strauss of the US Atomic Energy Commission and he was talking about nuclear fusion not fission.

        The full quote is:

        "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter... It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age."

        Feel free to score it out of 10.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Close but no cigar

          A decent 7/10 Mike.

          Shame about the submarines, but he's got the important things right.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: too cheap to meter

        It should be noted that "too cheap to meter" doesn't mean "free". Appropriately enough for this forum, the relevant analogy is probably that of broadband connection where you pay a flat rate per month and get a relatively thin wire in return. It isn't economic to meter your actual consumption. The flat rate pays for the infrastructure and the thin wire limits abuse.

        With fossil fueled power stations, the fuel costs mean that this pricing model isn't applicable to the electricity industry, but in fact *most* other options have their costs so highly stacked up-front that the industry would save money by replacing meters with simple current limiters. End-users who wish to invest in batteries could even perform their own load-balancing and get away with a lower capacity (cheaper) connection.

    3. Aldous


      your going to get alot more of them for a nuke plant then for a turbine. here in the midlands you'd think the HS2 was something that was something fuelled by dead kittens for the amount of protesting because *shock* the house price might dip a little. now imagine the reaction to nuclear power kitten eating trains !

      1. Keeees

        More BY's

        The comparison however isn't "a" nuke versus "a" turbine, more like one nuke plant versus 500-1000 turbines to get to the same GW of output (even ignoring the intermittency issue of wind).

        That's an awful lot of back yards...

    4. Anonymous Coward


      You may be barking up the wrong tree. I used to think that nuclear power was cheaper, too.

      Truth is that the set-up and decommission costs are huge. The private sector does not want to stump up the money involved without the government chipping in and posting them a few truck-loads of banknotes. Add to that the uncertainty over if such plants will be allowed to operate for their full lifetime, given an increase in safety standards and a negative public opinion (cf: the situation in Germany), and you come to realise that in order to get nuke stations built, we'll be spending truly vast amounts.

      Nuclear is not the magic answer. And it's not fast to build, either.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Haven't we been here before?

    Putting aside the benefits or not of cheap/green energy, let's look at carrots instead.

    In the 80s and 90s the governments of the time were pushing home ownership for all. Stop paying rent, which is monkey down the drain - take out loans and a mortgage instead ,,,, and we've seen what the effect of that "boom" was.

    So just considering what the politicians' motivations are: to stay in power and win elections (at any cost). It does seem that they're up to the same old malarkey again. Proposing cheap fiscal "tricks" to make people appear wealthier and associate that extra money with the party in power. Using the enticement of more spending money to garner favour and win votes.

    That's fine, but what goes down - energy prices - inevitably seems to go back up again. So we get cheap power ... for a time ... we just start using more of it (or buying goods that need energy for their manufacture) until we're back to the same natural economic state again: spending up to the limit of our earnings. Then at some point in the future, after todays politicos are dead, emigrated or wearing the profile of their backsides into that seat on the board we find that it all goes pear shaped, just like the 90s credit boom did.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haven't we been here before?

      And don't forget the ode to cheap energy at the end of the piece:

      "Yet we know what the benefits of cheap energy are."

      Yes, we do. Unfortunately, energy in the form of fossil fuels is getting less and less "cheap" (there's an argument that it isn't that cheap, anyway, either in terms of military spending or in terms of the denial of liberties in various client states that you can't put a price on other than the economic damage caused by the occasional poverty-induced act of terrorist desperation) with the rise in cost obviously reflecting the increased scarcity of such "cheap" sources of energy.

      What with the puerile illustration photo of "green scientists" which I recall originates from some alternative medicine advertising scandal, implying that if you don't agree with the author, you aren't qualified in some way or other, thus more or less slinging mud at those who don't buy into the suite of beliefs sceptical of climate change (in its various forms and with its various causes), it would appear to be open season on sensible economic and social policy as well. One has to wonder whether it isn't just The Register that is paying for the author's opinion.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Haven't we been here before?

        "One has to wonder whether it isn't just The Register that is paying for the author's opinion."

        We're all in the pay of Big Oil and G... Damn, I've blown it. You have uncovered a MASSIVE CONSPIRACY.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re: Haven't we been here before?

          It would be interesting to know if you do have any connections with some of the organisations whose stuff you've been reprinting recently, over and above merely sharing some links with The Register's readership, of course. For example:

          As for "MASSIVE CONSPIRACY", I thought you'd already put forward Greenpeace and pals for having SUBVERTED GLOBAL AUTHORITIES in order to impose their WICKED AGENDA on the world's populace and bring about GREEN ARMAGEDDON. So there's probably no more room for another conspiracy just yet.

  3. thisusernamedoesnotexist

    Utter rubbish FUD here

    The holes in this editorial are so big you could fit a planet through them.

    1) Fuel poverty is happening now because of the HUGE rises in NON renewable energy cost ie Oil (and hence petrol) & Gas.

    2) When these fossil fuel based energy source double in cost over the next 10 years, and assuming the figures provided have real factual basis, then you've seen nothing yet!

    3) The cost of renewables will go DOWN in the next decade as the technology matures and efficiencies improve.

    4) The price of energy is set by the market (the real cause of fuel poverty) .. It's not going to cost more money to turn a wind turbine this decade or next - wind is wind. It's free a the point of blowing. That will never change. The costs can only go DOWN.

    Don't believe all the bad press that you read regarding renewable energy. Think it through for yourself. The markets can't trade wind, but they can oil and gas and their addicted to it so much that we see PR campaigns wrapped up it editorials such as this.

    A little disappointed in the Reg on this one.

    1. Steve Crook

      Magic thinking...

      The cost of renewables won't go down that much, as it's the cost of the infrastructure required to support their use that's the major part of the expense of installing them.

      All the concrete that has to be poured for the bases of the wind turbines, the cables that have to be laid, the re-jigging of the power distribution grid to be able to support them and the back up power stations that will have to be built for when the wind doesn't blow.

      You may not be able to trade wind directly, but you can trade the the sites for the wind farms, and the output from them. Power companies will trade any form of energy that'll make them money. If *you* read around you'll see that there are already a lot of energy companies who can see a massive feast from renewables based solely on the subsidies the gubermints are providing from our inflated energy bills.

    2. Chad H.

      @ thisusernamedoesnotexist

      The problem with wind, as el Reg explored in other articles, is that it creates peak energy at the wrong time and those that have been installed produce less when we need it than we thought they would. The net result is wind turbine operators only making money out of the "renewable certificates" that the government issues and wind turbine operators paying to put their power in the grid.

      Wind isn't ready for the emphasis that it's being given.

      1. thisusernamedoesnotexist

        Lost in the politics

        I think this demonstrate part of my thinking. Wind, and other renewables, are suffering negatively because of the systems (both administrative and infrastructure) that we chose. The problems have emerged from the system we're building or have put in place rather than true wind power. The forces that be always seem to c*ck it up and the execution of renewable energy seems like another example.

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      If the weather was as it is today (blowing nicely) 365 days a year, I'd have no objection to wind power being our primary electricity source.

      Sadly it does'nt, so an equal amount of generating capacity has to be built in order to replace wind.

      But the wind is always blowing somewhere... come the reply

      Fine.. so long as you dont mind the 700 mile transmission losses getting power from a windy scotland down here in the south

      But then...... the amount of subsidy available to wind power seems to be rising past the amount needed to subsidise nuclear

      I smell something fishy here....

      1. Keeees

        Re: But the wind is always blowing somewhere... come the reply

        Nevermind the transmission losses.

        The biggest fault in that line of thinking is that yes you can string a cable from Scotland to down south and send the power over, but Scotland will want some power for themselves as well. So you'd need enough windmills up there to power both Scotland and down south.

        And then when it's calm in Scotland people will wave their hands and just reverse the reasoning and power Scotland from the south where it'll be windy then, they hope.

        This means you'd have to have enough wind capacity to power both locations, in both locations.

        (Then what happens if it's calm in both Scotland and down south, right so let's add some in Wales to power Wales and Scotland and the south, errr um er right...)

        All this adds up to truly mindboggling amounts of turbines on top of the already rather shocking number needed to replace just one big coal or nuke plant.

        1. Ross R

          It's even worse than that

          It's not unusual for all of Europe to be without usable wind for a week.

          I rather like the look of wind turbines. My only problem with them is I don't believe they can meet our energy needs. That makes them a non-starter regardless of costs.

    4. Robinson
      Thumb Down

      Very funny.

      Given that wind energy is something like 20% of that advertised, we're going to need about 300,000 turbines to cover our increasing energy needs over the next 25 years. That's INSANE when you could build some coal-fired or nuclear power stations instead at a fraction of the cost.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you what ?

      1. Huge rises in prices is due to renewables certs. For example I can get solar panels installed free of charge by a company so it can have the certs that they will generate.

      2. Where is this comoing from ?

      3. see above.

      4. No, its down to energy companies having to buy teh bloody certs that cost a fortune.

    6. nsld

      Total bollocks

      Fuel poverty is happening as part of overall poverty levels, everything costs more and fuel is just one thing, remove all the "green" costs and fuel would be much cheaper, wholesale prices are not as bad as you think. As an example we are paying for petrol now with oil at around $112 per Barrel for Brent Crude what we paid when Oil was at $200 per barrel.

      2) thats when we start burning trees!

      3) Actually no, my late mother had a solar energy business in the 1970's and even accounting for inflation its no cheaper now than it was then and that was before the requirement for mass produced panels which drive commodity prices higher etc etc

      4) Wind isnt deliverable hence why its not controlled by the markets, what will become interesting is mass storage of the power made to allow for the lulls when the wind isnt blowing.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        @nsid - 1) is false

        Your 1) is false, energy has increased much higher than the rate of inflation.

        Go to the DECC front page, click on Fuel Poverty, and there you are:

        So your "total bollocks" is in fact "total bollocks"

        "Wind isnt deliverable hence why its not controlled by the markets, what will become interesting is mass storage of the power made to allow for the lulls when the wind isnt blowing."

        This makes no sense. Wind is a market.

        As for stored energy, I'm backing Hamsters.

    7. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Utter rubbish FUD here

      Thanks for joining The Register's comment forums. Welcome!

      "The price of energy is set by the market (the real cause of fuel poverty)"

      But if prices were left to the market, they would fall, taking people out of poverty. They are artificially high because of the government's policy to bribe (sorry, incentivise!) rent-seeking renewable energy providers. Fuel poverty has trebled.

      So your argument is pear-shaped.

      "When these fossil fuel based energy source double in cost over the next 10 years, and assuming the figures provided have real factual basis, then you've seen nothing yet!"

      Mmm. Homework time.

      1. Graham Marsden

        @Andrew Orlowski

        "if prices were left to the market, they would fall"

        Ah, yes, that's why fossil fuel energy prices rise so rapidly whenever there's a spike in the market, but then fall back equally as quickly when it dips again...

    8. Tom 13

      Hey Rip,

      I remember reading this exact same post 30 years ago. Only it was in Ranger Rick Magazine and I was young enough to believe it.

      And if you look closely at item #1 in your list, what you will find is that the only reason for the huge price jumps in non-renewable energy is the tree shaggers keep putting more and more fossil fuels on the "nobody should be able to use these because they are too dangerous" list.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    Dear Andrew,

    You seem to have an antipodean view of the argument. It's not that cleaner energy is more expensive, it undoubtedly is. It's that we've been living for so long on polluting energy, all the while and systematically destroying the planet (have a look at oil sand mining in Alberta, Canada if you think getting energy out of the ground is anything less than an affront to the environment) as well as our own health (have a look at the difference between the lungs of smokers, city dwellers, and those who live in the country, you'll notice normal non-smoking people in the city are exactly in the middle).

    Remember how cheap gas was in the sixties? Cheap energy. Now we are going to have to balance those savings. It seems we as a species are singularly unable to look more than two weeks ahead (sort of like how women have a 0.5 M visual range).

    Personally, I think this situation is not unlike the argument for biological meat. Most people think it's too expensive, but that is only because the price of processed meat has fallen so sharply. As with cheap energy, someone will have to pay the price for that (mega-farm-factories, methane > greenhouse gases, SARS, I could go on...)

    Yes, it sucks that we are the ones having to pay the price, but this planet was never meant to support the lavishness we have bestowed upon ourselves, or the numbers now living in the third world (try reading 'Planet Slum' for an eye-opener).

    It's high time for politicians and industry leaders to confess to this simple truth: that we don't need all this crap, and that we should focus on the things that define us as human beings; not buying the next iPad or iWhatever, not watching a screen for more hours than you spend sleeping, but connecting with other people and the world around you (final referral: Adam Curtis's 'Century of the Self').


    1. Anonymous Coward 101


      "It's high time for politicians and industry leaders to confess to this simple truth: that we don't need all this crap, and that we should focus on the things that define us as human beings; not buying the next iPad or iWhatever, not watching a screen for more hours than you spend sleeping, but connecting with other people and the world around you (final referral: Adam Curtis's 'Century of the Self')."

      Yes, crass materialism is wrong and silly, but I just need one or two details about how this world where people 'we should focus on the things that define us as human beings'. It sounds lovely, but I suspect it is a nice code for 'a much lower standard of living'. A world where food and basic consumer goods, as well as expensive gizmos like iPads, cost a lot more relative to incomes. If that is what you meant, so be it, but don't dress it up with nice terms.

      1. Naughtyhorse


        you some kind of communist? boy?

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Details


        Wishing more poverty on everyone seems to be really popular with some people. Perhaps they should try and see how many votes it gets?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          and at 6 - 1 (and counting)

          the vote for "wishing poverty on people" is carried!

  5. Dr. Mouse

    Ideal vs. Real World

    The problem is that, in an ideal world, we should be moving towards renewable sources of energy. They are the future, and will (when technology advances far enough) be cheaper than the alternatives. I think even the greens accept there will need to be something to augment them due to the variability of the most readily available renewable sources in this country, whether something to generate a base power requirement of an effective energy storage scheme, but I think most people accept they will be a big part of future energy production (hate that phrase, "energy conversion" is better but everyone seems to think we "make" energy...)

    In the real world, however, I think most people realise that technology still isn't there. I have had conversations with those on low incomes. Fuel bills are crippling them, and have meant they can't afford to have the heating on. Instead the entire family huddles under a blanket on the couch of an evening. Surely this is unacceptable in this day and age!

    Yes, I believe we should be partly subsidising the "renewable" industry at the moment, as we need it to advance to a commercially viable state. I do not, however, believe we should be deploying half as much as we are, nor should we be subsidising by increasing fuel costs. If the govt wants them subsidised, let them do so, from government coffers. They can increase income tax to cover it, if they must. At least then it is those who can afford to pay who caver the cost. As things stand, the poor are sufferring more than those who are better off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Idealism vs. Realism

      There has to be a consideration of what matters to the 'General Public'. If the UK wants to be competitive in terms of trade/manufacture and hence retain and create UK jobs then we cannot allow the green polices to impact as it appears to be.

      A majority of the 'Greenies' are comforably off financially and no in non-manufacturing jobs where these costs to not impact as greatly, these folk are also more likely to be able/willing to absorb the extra costs of these very expensive Renewables Policies.

      What is currently more important for the UK as a whole? We need to stabilise the economy and get the vast masses of unemployed back in to work. We need to create jobs accross all levels of education/skill. We do not need to be forcing more and more below the poverty line with crippling fuel costs.

      Should there not be some thought to renationalising the utilities? Or at least a state owned/run alternative rather than leaving in the the whole energy market in the hands of French/German companies.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Idealism vs. Realism

        "What is currently more important for the UK as a whole? We need to stabilise the economy and get the vast masses of unemployed back in to work."

        It's a shame, then, that the Britard leadership didn't think about doing this, say, two generations ago. Instead of boosting educational standards, paying teachers proper wages, spending decent money on schools and universities, offering opportunities to those in unsustainable industries, generally readying the economy for the era we live in now, funding for education stagnated or was even slashed, token gestures about new industries were made, and everything was seen as something the market could do if large enough companies could be bribed into creating a few jobs every now and again. Anything owned by the state was sold off favourably for a bit of quick cash for some tax breaks to some part of the rich elite or "middle England" in order to get a majority.

        It's lazy indeed to blame the "greenies" for Britain's problems now. But it's never too late to try and put things right, either. Don't expect anyone to try very hard doing so, though, since the pay-off won't come before the next election.

        1. PatientOne

          @AC Idealism v Ralism v reality.

          When Thatcher sold off things like the gas and electricity, it wasn't to make a quick buck, it was to get money in to get us out of massive debt. This country was on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to the actions of the previous government, unions and general idiocy. Now, she didn't sell off everything - she sold half shares in the utility companies. Half remained with the government so they still had control and gained some benefit from the profit the utility companies made, and the other shares were initially offered to the people. I know as my folks bought some and still have them. Okay, most of those government shares have since been sold... by Blair and Brown. They wanted to be popular, to spend freely from a rapidly emptying trough, and hid this by taking money from anywhere they could. Hence the pension pots vanishing and the gold reserve disappearing while they generally pretended we 'prospered' under their care.

          In the mean time, they came up with plans on how to further line their pockets, and all this renewable, green energy crap is just that. And I say crap because it isn't of benefit to the people (aka you and me) and it has nothing to do with the environment. No, it benefits those who already have money, who can pay for wind turbines and solar panels and have the space to put enough in to make them worth some certificates... which then generates more income for them.

          A normal person living in rented accommodation can't get any benefit from wind or solar: We simply have to keep paying the going rate, and that's going up all the time. Buy a house, however, and you're tied in to a mortgage that saps your funds, and so you can't afford to install turbines or panels. Queue the free installs: Someone else turning up and putting panels on your roof so *they* get the certificates, which is where the real money is, and you get a little bit of 'free' electricity to help reduce your bills. And all that does is offset the price hike in energy prices by a small fraction.

          Just thing about it: You're paying a surcharge to the electricity company to pay for the certificate they've bought from the people who put the panels in your roof. Yes: You wind up paying for those panels no matter what you do. Sucks, doesn't it?

          And the way out of this? Ditch the certificates. Make the different energy sources compete but regulate them so they have to be 'clean', suitable, reliable and sustainable. Anything else is a waste of time.

          And as for the 'Greens'? Well, they're the ones who bought the lie and helped push it forwards. How Blair and Brown and their cronies must have laughed all the way to the bank.

          There endeth the cynics view :p

          1. Naughtyhorse
            Thumb Down

            , thanks to the actions of the previous government, unions and general idiocy

            and i suppose nothing at all to do with the cost of keeping an entire generation on the dole, to be used as a stick the threaten the lucky ones with jobs to produce a lot more for less wages.

            thank god for that then

        2. Apocalypse Later

          Two generations ago?

          The roots of the present malaise does not date back so far. In fact, Thatcher's changes brought prosperity, which was then shamelessly squandered by Gordon Brown and his frontman. Look to the last decade of profligacy (not only in Britain) for the reason for current troubles.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Two generations ago?

            "The roots of the present malaise does not date back so far."

            Yes it does. You and the previous commenter are so quick to blame the previous government - it's the classic Britard Game of Blame ruse you've fallen for - that you can't see that Britain has had problems downsizing its role for *decades*, and precious little effort has been spent in actually looking after the people who vote the politicians into power in the first place.

            Ask around: everyone knows that short-termism is the order of the day in Britain. But that has been the case for years and years; it has merely been elevated to an artform now. Don't produce anything or plan for the future because that's so Soviet Union, and they lost, remember? This came straight out of some stupid idea that Britain needn't do anything itself because it can buy whatever it needs and the money will come from somewhere. Once upon a time, that was the British Empire, of course; now, some like the idea of an ever-expanding intellectual property bubble. Quite what kind of work the man in the street is supposed to have will remain a mystery to the Whitehall elite.

            Pointing at Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher, the unions, Callaghan or Heath won't give you a single whodunnit-style scapegoat, even if you can lay some blame on each of them.

  6. James 51

    Isn't atomic power highly subsidised?

    Is the figure quoted for nuclear power including unlimited liability for any accident, the full cost of security and disposing of waste in facilities which may need to be maintained and monitored for thousands of years?

    Oil and gas have widely fluctuating prices but the general trend is up. In NI local gas and electricity providers have announced price hikes of well over 20%, some near 30%. All blamed the rising wholesale price of gas and oil and washed their hands of what it would do to their customers in what is an uncompetitive market. It is only a matter of time before renewables, no matter how expensive become the practical option. Getting in on the ground floor as it were could pay off in the long run. Of course more efficient building design and advances in technology are going to be required before they see a wider roll out.

    This article also ignored the benefits of being less reliant on countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia for our energy needs.

    Isn't China the worlds biggest manufacturer and consumer of solar panels? What about the the new dams and other renewable projects as well as coal?

    I doubt the picture is just as clear cut as the author makes out.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      once you've got nuclear waste to keep secure for thousands of years, it doesn't cost you a lot more to guard ten times as much.

      PS: If they were serious about renewables, they would have poured money into getting wave power working. After all, there are waves 24 hours a day, all year round and the UK is *particularly* well supplied with them. Instead, all parties (and Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth) have studiously ignored wave technology and never criticised each other for doing so. Which is interesting.

      1. Andydaws

        you overestimate the energy in the waves.

        David Mackay reviews it in "Sustainable Energy without Hot Air".

        The designers of the Pelamis wave system think a developed version of their technology could generate about 6kw for every metre of coastline at peak power. If we lined 500km (a bit over half of the entire western coastline) that'd generate about 3GW. They've never given a capacity factor, but offshore wind averages 27% - and in reality, wavepower broadly follows wind strength, so let's make an optimistic assumption of 33%. v So, 1GW average output seems a fair bet.

        At the moment, a Pelamis system costs about £8Mn for 2.25MW nominal capacity.Even if you assume that halves, that's £5.5Bn for 1GW. About double the cost of nuclear, and still needing back-up for low output periods.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lets keep burning stuff, we can always find new stuff to burn! Hurrah!

    Oh no wait, that wont work, as we will actually run out of stuff at some point. Damn.

    We need electricity and we're going to need a lot more of it as oil/petrol prices increase. If we're dependant on other countries to supply it we're putting ourselves in a much weakened position. See the Russian gas fiasco a few years ago. Relative self sufficiency is pretty much the only answer, in which ever form it can be achieved.

    1. PatientOne


      "Lets keep burning stuff, we can always find new stuff to burn! Hurrah!

      Oh no wait, that wont work, as we will actually run out of stuff at some point. Damn."

      Yup! It's not like wood grows on trees...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        wood grows on trees

        ... aha! a biofuels enthusiast!

  8. KroSha


    Nuclear is the only way to go for long term energy stability. We can, and need to, top this up with a good amount of the green stuff as well, because even nuclear will run out one day.

    Mandate that every new build or renovation in the country *must* install a significant area of solar panels, like Australia. That should give the solar sector a good jump.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      solar panels on new builds

      fine for Oz, southern US, and other sunny areas. Not so much for UK

      1. KroSha


        Some is better than none. Even on cloudy days a solar panel will still produce, just not as much as on a sunny day.

        1. Andydaws

          German solar plant averages a stunning

          9% capacity factor. By 2008, they'd spent €35Bn to get 5,300MW of capacity - which averaged about 480MW average output.

          It works out as a capital cost of about £64Bn per GW average output. New nuclear is about £3.3Bn/GW average output, nearshore wind about £9.4Bn/Gw.

  9. A J Stiles

    There's a slight flaw in your plan

    The level of demand for energy has a general upward trend. Occasional introduction of more energy-efficient appliances means there are slight (or not-so-slight) downticks, but increasing energy efficiency is like reducing journey times: eventually you reach the shortest possible distance, or 100% of the energy supplied is doing something useful, and there is no more to be saved.

    The cost of renewable energy is going to go down to a minimum according to economies of scale; then according to diminishing returns it will remain pretty much steady, or at least only rise more slowly than the cost of non-renewable energy.

    The cost of non-renewable energy is going to go up and up and up -- until eventually, it runs out altogether. At that point, we're stuck with whatever renewable energy generating capacity we have -- and if that's less than 100% of our needs, then we're shafted.

  10. Number6

    What is green?

    The problem with pretty much any available now 'green' option except tide power is that it's intermittent and unpredictable, which is no use for a reliable system.

    The whole of the UK's wind power was generating a few tens of megawatts on some of the UK's peak demand days (cf the 500+ megawatts from a single typical power station generator set), which is not a lot of use. Solar power only works during the day and produces less output when it's cloudy. Geothermal would be nice, but do we have anywhere in the UK that would produce enough to be worthwhile? At least tidal power has regular movement of water while the moon is in orbit, and can probably be predicted for neap tides and storm surges.

    Wasting public money on subsidies to companies erecting wind turbines should be stopped, and that money used to research useful and workable alternatives.

    1. Andydaws

      don't confuse "intermittent" an "unpredictable"

      Even though tidal power is predictable, it's still intermittent.

      Barrages like the one proposed for the Severn generate only on the ebb-flow (you can make the system work on rising and ebb tides, but you lose total efficiency and complicate the system hugely). Also, the output at any time is proportional to the difference in tidal height between the upstream and downstream sides of the barrage.

      That follows the tide (unsurprisingly). Basically, you get two halves of a sine wave, every 24 hours - so, in the biggest of the Severn designs, you get output varying between about 8-9GW (ten at the very higest spring tides) and zero every 12 hours, to give an overall average of about 1.7-1.8GW. That's hugely difficult to accomodate on the rest of the system, and since the peaks vary in time throught the monthly cycle, you may, or may not get one coinciding with heavy demand. Certainly, you won't get both doing so!

      The end result is, on the last assessment of the Severn design options, the best would generate at about £180/MWh - while nuclear came in at about £60/MWh. On capital costs alone, the Severn barrage would cost about £10-12 Bn for that average 1.8GW. for contrast, and EPR, the most expensive of the current nuclear designs comes in at about £4.4.5Bn for 1.6GW.

      And the Severn is the best site in Europe. Doing the numbers for the Mersey (a longer barrage and smaller tidal range) probably adds between 50% and 100% to the Severn costs, and one on the Wash would be 5-10 times as expensive per MW.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Recent form

    Considering Cameron's recent form in ensuring that corporates get whatever they want, you must remember that most of the subsidies go straight to the big energy companies. They're not going to let their free income streams dissipate without making a suggestion or two in a suitably tory-and-smoke filled room.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    ..Just go nuclear

    Nuclear power IS the way forward and I am sure that if we buried the reactors underground, there would be less fear about them....

    Fusion still some way off

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      eight light minutes off, if I recall correctly

    2. Oldgroaner
      Thumb Down

      Fusion fiction

      And always will be - just over the horizon

  13. Barely registers

    I have an answer

    I suspect that was when someone at El Reg looked at the science and not the models, and came to a different conclusion to the consenseless.

    Maybe I was skim-reading too quickly, but doesn't this article just deal with the economics? I didn't see any claim that climate change wasn't happening.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it's nice you have an answer

      but where's the question gone?

      1. Some Beggar
        Big Brother

        We have always been at war with Eastasia.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          since some other ac's answer

          to the now no-longer extant question has also gone parrot-wards, I reproduce it here just to annoy our current AOLvermod:

          "You obviously aren't a regular reader, they've been at it for bloody ages."

  14. PJI

    Odd logic

    I love the idea that concrete for windmill bases is terrible, concrete for power stations and the infrastructure to deliver their fuel is cheap and good.

    How does one measure the cost of coal spoil heaps, long term, safe storage of nuclear byproducts, damage to fisheries and other environaments from oil extraction (and leakage, accidents ...)?

    Ask large, industrial areas of China and India about the cost of cheap coal - better still, go and live there and tell us yourself. Go to South Wales and admire the spoil from old, dead coalmines and tell us how much that land costs or earns. I can show you land that has been out of pracital use for over a century and land likely to follow that grand tradition, because nobody has to pay that cost in cash. Chat to the retired miners and ask them how their lungs and damaged bodies feel.

    I love the idea that the "poor" will not be even poorer as fossil fuels go up in price and are not affected by the pollution and land loss; perhaps only the wealthy have to live in the damaged areas.

    What wonderful optimism that the finite earth will continue to deliver fuel from somewhere in the world at somebody's expense in health and spoiation so that we, in Northern Europe, can have more cash to spend on gadgets or better food than the miners get.

    Odd that most of Europe, East and West, North and South, is rather keen on Wind Power and Solar panels. Yet they all have got the same problem as UK and in most of them, electicity is cheaper.

    Good thing your atttiude was not around when calculators cost as much as a modern netbook and even home PCs cost as much as today's low-end servers - too expensive, will only get more expensive .....

    For once, governmente have responded to their electorates and are trying to think long and medium term and use imagination. I suggest you do the same and avoid cheap and scare-mongering headlines to tendentious articles. No doubt, a few weeks ago you were bashing nuclear power (with a little more justification perhaps).

    Of course, renewable energy has drawbacks too; but do you seriuosly believe that improvements in energy storage and buffering technology, for instance, are confined to your mobile telephone and computer? That other energy sources are not subject to fluctuation? What a pessimist. Is a field of windmills really more offensive than hectares of shale pits, mining works, nuclear power sites? At least there is some green among the windmills and I doubt the noise is worse than the "traditional" alternatives.

    Oh, and find the English spelling checker and learn how to spell sCeptical.

    Come off your out-dated opposition to the new and think it through properly.

    1. Apocalypse Later

      Odd logic indeed

      "How does one measure the cost of coal spoil heaps"

      "Go to South Wales and admire the spoil from old, dead coalmines and tell us how much that land costs or earns."

      And then:

      "Chat to the retired miners and ask them how their lungs and damaged bodies feel."

      Those are the people who built those spoil heaps. And they did it just for the money. Why should they be more entitled to your sympathy than the rest of us, who merely paid them for the coal? Why are we wicked and they saints?

    2. PatientOne


      You can build a power station pretty much anywhere as you ship the fuel to it. That means you can put a power plant close to where you need the power.

      Wind farms need to be where there's sufficient wind to be worth building, so you are limited as to where they can go.

      Power plants are enclosed, so suffer less from environmental damage. Wind/Solar are exposed to the elements and so need frequent repairs.

      Yes, advances are being made, but can we afford to wait for technology to catch up with our demands? Or should we act now to make sure we're able to develop that technology?

      Oh, and...

      "Good thing your atttiude was not around" + "find the English spelling checker"

      Normally I wouldn't criticise other people's spelling as mine can be quite poor, but in your case: Please take your own advice.

    3. Andydaws

      you need to look at the relative amounts involved.....

      "I love the idea that concrete for windmill bases is terrible, concrete for power stations and the infrastructure to deliver their fuel is cheap and good."

      "....Nuclear fission energy requires small inputs of natural resources compared to most other fossil and nonfossil energy technologies [1]. The construction of existing 1970-vintage U.S. nuclear power plants required 40 metric tons (MT) of steel and 90 cubic meters (m3) of concrete per average megawatt of electricity (MW(ave)) generating capacity, when operated at a capacity factor of 0.9 MW(ave)/MW(rated) (Fig. 1). For comparison, a typical wind energy system operating with 6.5 meters per second average wind speed requires construction inputs of 460 MT of steel and 870 m3 of concrete per average MW(ave). Coal uses 98 MT of steel and 160 m3 of concrete per average MW(ave); and natural-gas combined cycle plants use 3.3 MT steel and 27 m3 concrete.....

      ....the passive Generation III+ LWRs that have been selected for new construction in the United States by Nustart—ESBWR and AP-1000—achieve substantial reductions in steel and concrete inputs. For example, analysis presented here suggests that the ESBWR uses 73% of the steel, and 50% of the concrete required to construct an ABWR."

      even for 1970s designs, it's about 1/12th of the steel, and about 1/9th the concrete needed for a unit of nuclear output versus a unit of wind.

      "Yet they all have got the same problem as UK and in most of them, electicity is cheaper"


      For a low-use customer we pay about 0.16€; the only places I can see that are cheaper are bulgaria, the Baltics, Poland, Romania, The Czech Republic and France. Germany's more than half as expensive again, and renewable friendly Denmark is double the price.

      If you want to look for a pattern, it's not renewables penetration - it's nuclear.

      Of those low cost countries, the Czechs generate more than 1/3rd of their power by nuclear, as do the Bulgarians. The Balts genrate about half. The French about 75-80%. It's only the Poles that buck the pattern, and they make almost 100% from brown coal....

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Let them eat gas

    "What isn't in contention is that energy itself will be much more expensive. DECC's argument is that we'll all start insulating our homes more – so our utility bills won't reflect the higher per-unit energy costs. No 10's energy expert thinks this is nonsense."

    Unfortunately the millionaires who are our MPs (and MSPs) think that the little people will upgrade our boilers and fit solar panels etc etc and not notice the prices going through the roof.

    Unfortunately we 'the little people' after paying for transport to work, gas, electric, food, shoe leather don't have any money left to pay for these money saving measures. So we just have to pay more don't we. Unless we pack it in and head for the benefit queue.

    I don't think 'Call me Dave' and the rest of them even consider that anyone doesn't have £30k down the back of the sofa for little emergencies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let them eat gas

      "Unfortunately the millionaires who are our MPs (and MSPs) think that the little people will upgrade our boilers and fit solar panels etc etc and not notice the prices going through the roof."

      The time to upgrade the woeful state of housing was when people were able to get and spend money, spending it on something other than yet another widescreen plasma TV or a third car or whatever "upper middle class" people were wasting their cash on back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and for those not able to enjoy the consumer spendfest quite so much, having the government spending their cash on grants and infrastructure improvements instead of tarting shit up and pimping public buildings with that annoying blue lighting.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    The shear *unreliability* of the energy company favorites is a *large* pt of the problem

    Onshore wind *expects* to run 26% of the time and offshore *targets* 30%.

    So WTF generates the power the *rest* of the time?

    And then there are wind turbines generating 5% of the time.

    WTF *authorised* this rubbish? There appears to be no *minimum* limit to stop turbines being put up *solely* to harvest the rich crop of Renewable Obligations Certificates.

    Meanwhile anaerobic digestion *could* supply 50% of the UK gas budget *before* getting on to shale gas

    Micro hydro can supply dispersed chunks of generating capacity 24/7 (and possibly 365 depending on the temperature of the water source)

    And the UK has access to a *vast* radioactive slow cooker called Scotland (where did you think all that Radon came from). Research in the mid 70's indicated "single borehole" systems using dry (or nowadays abandoned) N. Sea oilwells would be good for 500-1000Kw/Well (NS platforms typically drill 20 wells at a time).

    But the big issue is this. 20-25% of the UK electricity supply *is* nuclear and those reactors are either getting to or just past their design lives. Either electricity demand goes *down* by that amount or quite soon there will be a big hole in UK generating capacity unless people have those nukes re-inspected and effectively given a life extension.

    Britards it *might* be a good idea to put ink drops to paper and (politely) ask what your elected representative is going to do about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The shear *unreliability* of the energy company favorites is a *large* pt of the problem

      An interesting post, although it has already been claimed that shale gas is merely mutton dressed up as lamb by those who have a fondness for the wonders of natural gas and feel that we're not giving it a fair shake, as it were. That it wasn't mentioned in the article makes one wonder whether we're not due another unquestioning piece about its boundless wonders.

      As for the nuclear capacity, I recall reading that the UK's AGW plants are now running below capacity due to structural issues with their graphite moderators, leaving us all obviously completely reassured of their viability.

    2. Havin_it

      @John Smith 19

      >And the UK has access to a *vast* radioactive slow cooker called Scotland

      Not for long it doesn't, matey :P

      *You* use a *lot* of *unwarranted* *emphasis* - are you Stan Lee?

  17. Falanx

    The most potent irony...

    Is that one of those 'green scientists' is holding a flask of potassium dichromate and one of chromic acid. Not exactly best friend chemicals with the green lobbies right now....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      as pointed out in the article

      those "green scientists" have an agenda. At item 3 on the agenda is "Lets us dispose of these chemicals in a sensible and environmentally friendly way". It's just before item 4, "how can we make sure [censored] pays more tax?"

  18. JohnG

    Conflicts of interest

    Miriam González Durántez is a non-executive director of Acciona, a Spanish company involved in wind power. She also happens to be the wife of our deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

    Sir Reginald Sheffield enjoys a "modest" income (alleged to be about £350K) from a wind farm in Lincolnshire and is apparently in talks to build another one on his land. He also happens to be the father-in-law of our prime minister, David Cameron.

    However, I'm sure that our upstanding politicians would not allow energy policy to be influenced by their families' earnings from government subsidised wind farms...

  19. Anonymous Coward

    "hydroelectric fulfills most of Norway's needs"

    "Around 50 per cent of the end consumption of energy is electricity."


    "Hydropower accounts for about 98-99 per cent of the total electricity production."


    Time to get a Lewis Page lecture on electricity versus total energy, I think.

  20. 2001

    wind == gas profits

    Most people have no technical understanding of what "clean" or "renewable" means, and no appreciation of how much energy we use, even for the basics of daily life. Never mind the TV, how about that kettle? Do you really need a hot drink? You could run a fridge all day on what it takes to make a few cups of tea. Utter waste. I'm reminded of the solar powered medical clinic in Africa -- they could either run the lights or the fridge but not both -- apparently even in Africa there wasn't enough sun, but the heat meant the meds had to be kept cool. You can also forget your hot showers and baths -- anything more than once every two weeks is excessive (it isn't like you'll get ill).

    Seriously people, if we are forced to make cuts we will and life will go on -- you'd be surprised what you can get used to. But we can only do what we are technically capable of doing right now. Feel free to devoting your life to inventing something better. Wind farms are not it. (They look nice though.) Recently heard said at an energy conference, "every wind farm is a gas powered plant." Ie. gas is the only thing that can provide quick backup to the inevitable 5 hours a week of zero wind across Europe. So big energy sees a future in gas. Probably more expensive gas given that we will be 100% desperate for it because we've put our dependance on wind, rather than mixing oil and nuclear and coal to make a more competitive mix and so distribute the load more easily.

    If you want to live off grid, be my guest. Having a car to go to the supermarket doesn't count as "off grid" by the way. We live in a highly interconnected interdependent global system of material and cultural exchange. Those who feel that we don't relate enough simply aren't noticing how connected we already are. Billions of people collaborate daily without even having to know each other -- just compare that to animals who barely share even within their own blood line. By all means, take up meditation and experience oneness, but don't try to force onto the system a pseudo-idea that is hundreds of years out of date -- the modern world is already highly connected and that is what we want to help develop into more efficient, more adaptable, more sensible technologies, to do more with less -- not build thousands of wind farms and concrete plugs and then still buy gas like fools, especially when all those gear boxes wear out and become too costly to replace. That's not efficient, that is just silly.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear is the only viable Green option

    All the rest are piss and wind

    1. Anonymous Coward

      now if only

      we could get our planet to orbi aroundt some sort of humungous fusion reactor, we could harvest ithe energy produced as it simply falls out of the sky!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: now if only

        That you get downvoted just goes to show how narrow-minded people are. If aliens were to find the remains of human civilisation in a few thousand years' time and discover that us humans had mostly been burning coal, oil and gas, they'd probably be gobsmacked and spend at least half an hour alternating between staring at the sun and staring at the planet and wondering if something had been wrong with the sun all along.

  22. Anonymous Coward 101


    "But the biggest benefit of an immediate reduction in household bills would be an instant electoral dividend. There are few other measures – I can't think of one – that can make a household a thousand pounds a year better off at a stroke, and yet are fiscally neutral. There are certainly politicians opportunistic enough to make the promise."

    I can't believe nobody (from my reading of this discussion) has noticed this humdinger. A thousand pounds a year better off simply by getting rid of green subsidies? Given the average annual household gas and electricity bill is about £1,000 a year, I seriously doubt it.

  23. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Look beyond the White Cliffs of Dover

    France seems to like its nuclear energy, we like our 'Jerusalem' green fields, prefer nuclear plants to be stuck in backwaters out of the way, and much of Britain's infrastructure is owned by foreign countries anyway.

    Let France get on with it and we can simply import what we need.

    'Little Englanders' and in-bred, horse-riding villagers and everyone else can stop their knee-jerk and NIMBY protests on wind, solar, nuclear, fracking and every other option presented.

    We can place whatever's left of our military after Cameon's cuts in Kent, ready to be over there in a shot, should the French try to hold us to ransom and threaten cutting us off.

    Of course, without our own nuclear plants, we won't produce our own nasty stuff for our nuclear weapons but as we're making ourselves completely dependent on America in that respect it won't really matter.

    We import almost everything else so why not simply add leccy to the list? I believe we already import from France anyway.

    Then we can concentrate on worrying what to do when the sun goes out.

    1. Daggersedge

      @Jason Bloomberg

      OK, d'accord, let Britain import all its energy from France. Let the NIMBY types win. That will be so much easier for everyone than having to take responsibility and make hard political decisions.

      Of course, one day, some regime in France is going to say 'non' to something to which the British say 'yes'. That regime will then simply point to the switch that can turn off Britain's power. It will be winter. It will be cold. And Britain will then find itself saying 'non' with the French. End of line.

      Oh, and before anyone starts on about French-bashing, I live in France. I like France, its nuclear policy, its people, its culture and its language. I certainly like the fact that electricity is much cheaper here. I'm simply being realistic about what happens when you let someone else take over your infrastructure.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Personally I am hoping for improvements in the technology that would allow the storage of surplus electricity. If the grid in the UK includes a large enough energy storage facility it would have a large number of advantages such as:

    1) Smooth out the power from renewables such as wind.

    2) Smooth out the need for more energy in the evening and less during the night.

    3) Be a store for PV energy generated during the peak of the day.

    4) Allow many traditional generating stations to run constantly at their most efficient.

    5) Allow time for backup power stations to come on line.

    This might be achieved in a number of ways. One would be some central location but given the improvement in battery technology it may become feasible for home owners and businesses to invest in local energy storage devices that would be linked together such that the energy is released from them at the best time for the grid and that for providing this service they could be rewarded with lower electricity costs than those without.

  25. James Micallef Silver badge

    Oh god, here we go again!

    Quick summary of reality here:

    - believing in climate change or not is a red herring. We need renewable energy to secure our long-term energy supply, independently of whether we're producing too much CO2

    - even at its current price, energy is still too cheap, considering that externalities such as pollution and middle east wars are not properly priced in.

    - cheap energy gives higher living standard, but it also encourages wastefulness and inefficiency

    Quick summary of the basic choices:

    1) invest a lot in building a renewable energy infrastructure now in such a way that energy costs rise gradually from current prices to real renewable energy prices. That will mean a period of slow growth an some austerity, which will still keep the poorest Europeans with a higher standard of living than the average Chinese, Indian, Brazilian etc

    2) don't invest in renewables, keep finding ever more extreme (and expensive) ways of digging out hydrocarbons, whatever it takes to keep energy as cheap as possible. And then 50 years down the line, realise that energy supplies are running out, demand is greater than ever, costs are jumping hundredfold, and energy will just not be available. followed by 50 years or so of third-world standard of living compared to countries who have abundant renewable energy.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Oh god, here we go again!

      "We need renewable energy to secure our long-term energy supply, independently of whether we're producing too much CO2"


      "We need cheap energy to secure our long-term energy supply, independently of whether we're producing too much CO2"

      This could be synthetic hydrocarbons manufactured locally, shale gas extracted locally, or nuclear hydroelectric and geothermal all generated locally.

      As long as they're energy is cheap, it really doesn't matter whether it's renewable or not.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        In the long run it does matter whether it's renewable

        Sure, for you and me personally, it's unlikely that there will ever be a time when fossil energy is extremely scarce, so for the next 50-100 years it does not matter whether it's renewable. But that's just punting the problem down the line for future generations, when the energy HAS to be renewable. (For clarity, by renewable I mean non-fossil, I include nuclear in there since for all practical purposes we have many thousands of years of nuclear fuel )

        In the long run, the lower bound of "cheap" is the cheapest non-fossil energy. In the interim period where fossil fuels offer us cheaper energy than that future lower bound, we should be using some excess investment now to gradually bring the infrastructure to a point where we're not fossil-dependent.

        That general point aside, I agree that there are better ways to both introduce and to subsidize renewable energy, and that reliance on wind farms is not a good idea. I agree completely with local hydroelectric and geothermal where available (I live in Switzerland and most of my electricity is hydro - UK and most of Europe have much less viable hydro and geo sites).

        Synthetic hydrocarbons is a cop-out though... you still need energy to produce those, and that energy ultimately needs to come from non-fossil source.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: In the long run it does matter whether it's renewable

          "Synthetic hydrocarbons is a cop-out though... you still need energy to produce those, and that energy ultimately needs to come from non-fossil source."

          It's called the sun.

          All you need is Algae + Sunlight.

          -> Venter

      2. The Grinning Duck


        "We need *local, stable and predictable* energy sources to secure our long-term energy supply, independently of whether we're producing too much CO2"

        Which is more or less What Mr Orlowski said, but I don't think people are getting what makes the energy price move.

        It’s high time the Reg wrote an article about how the energy market in the UK actually functions, because until people understand that (and it is abundantly clear that they do not), you’re just going to get the same shit posted after every article.

        Alternatively, as I understand it, you guys have a line to Optimus Prime, so you could give him a call and ask him how to make Energon Cubes. So as to keep the “What we need is storage” types happy.

        Either, or.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lifetime costs for nuclear?

    Do the costs in that document include the cost of decommissioning the UK's nuclear power stations? The taxpayer has been repeatedly stung by ever-escalating prices for scrapping the Magnox plants (they couldn't privatise nuclear and get the private sector to take on decommissioning costs) and making the spent fuel safe. It's running at something over $2 billion a year already and will only increase as the AGRs begin to reach the ends of their lives.

    1. Andydaws

      They couldn't privatise Magnox because

      the plants didn't have enough operating life left to build up a decommissioning fund. The AGRs did have enough life, so were sold.

      Now, you night wonder what'd happened to the Magnox decom fund, from CEGB days? The Treasury grabbed it.

      Interesting story there, though. In 1963, when it was obvious that MAGNOX had reached it's limits as a design, the CEGB and SSEB recommended that we cut over to US Light Water designs - as the French did. The UKAEA (mostly physicists rather than engineers) persuaded the then Secretary of State for Energy that we could build a "uniquely british" derivative of Magnox instead - the AGR. The SS backed the AEA, and ordered Dungeness B.

      Dungeness B was 12 years late, on build scheduled to take 7. No AGR was less than 3 years late on a 7 year build.

      Now, there's a decent pool of experience building iup on dcommissioning plant. LWR decommissioning costs are around $500-1000/KW capacity. For a 1200MW plant, call it a £600 million for a fair bet. The costs for MAGNOX are likely to run about £2Bn per site (mostly because they're big, and there's lots of activated core internals - and the plants averaged about 700MW. AGRs aren't likely to come in much less.

      The name of the Secretary of State who took the decision to build the AGRs?

      A certain Anthony Wedgewood Benn. The man who also committed us to Concord.

      Pity we can't bill the bugger personally.....

  27. Anonymous Coward

    There is no free energy lunch....

    All forms of energy have their place, but betting on renewables is problematic.

    A) The wind doesn't blow and the sun doesnt shine all the time (especially in Northern Europe)

    B) The "we just need to produce more renewables and economies of scale will drive the price down" is already becoming problematic. In the U.S. we have so much solar production that noted startups are going out of business (leaving the U.S. taxpayer to make good on federal loan guarantees attached to those startups) and the price isnt coming down. Wind turbine costs are not going down, and some important wind turbine precursors like rare earth minerals are experiencing dramatic upward price increases because of the amount of turbines being built, and green advocates will tell you that we need to increase turbine production to at least 2X-3X what it is now.

    C) The working class is already taking it in the shorts because of automation and competition with low-wage nations. Increasing their utility bills and the cost of production for remaining developed world manufacturers who employ the working class is a recipe for increasing poverty and permanent political unrest.

    D) Developed world government finances are all strained. There isnt a lot of money to A) pay for more subsidies for any type of energy, renewable or otherwise or B) pay for the increase in social services in the event green energy does hurt the incomes and employment of the working class.

    E) Tidal could work, but the capital costs and the environmental costs to whatever estuary you wall off are both very high.

    I think the solution is more nukes/thorium reactors, or more shale gas. But we need to remove the subsidies of all types on all forms of energy and let them compete in an open marketplace, and see what people want and are willing to pay for.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    we need nuclear as soon as possible

    lets stop pussy fotting around and wailing. fossil fuels are going, wind/wave/tidal is inefficient and expensive. nuclear is the way to go. even a massive quake and tidal wave, lack of backup power, lack of cooling etc didnt cause an old tech power station to meltdown.

    icon, cos its inappropriate ;-)

  29. Lars Silver badge

    Storing energy

    Storing energy is still the big problem. If there was intelligent and cheap way of storing energy, or to be more exact, to store electricity then wind and solar would do well. But that is not the case, and I cannot see any hope for a breakthrough on that problem

  30. david 63

    I'm glad I've got open fires...

    ...and a bid in on a couple of hectares of chestnut and oak.

  31. briesmith

    Green Policy Means Dead (Mainly) Old People

    It's all very well having these arguments; they go on and on and get more and more arcane and detached from the "real world" as time passes. The Greenies have their religion; and in the last 10 years we’ve all been reminded what that means. Governments want to get re-elected and don't give a shit about anything else. Engineers sit quietly doing their engineering shtick and hope that, just once in a while, one of the stupid people (that's the rest of us) will pay some attention and listen to the facts.

    While this goes on fuel poverty is rising. Fuel poverty is caused by the price of fuel being greater than what (some) people can afford to pay. The rate of increase in fuel prices has, lately, been mostly determined by the on-costs deriving from the government's green policy. Because energy prices are rising fuel poverty is increasing and when fuel poverty increases, people on fixed incomes, mostly pensioners and mostly little old ladies some people call Nan, turn their heating off.

    Then they die.

    Killing our Nans I suppose, makes Greenies the World over very happy as it puts a stop to all this climate change denial that goes on and, anyway, if we can find a way to burn these extra bodies – in an entirely green fashion of course – well, there’s some extra energy for you.

    I suppose I should sign off by saying, “the World’s gone mad”, or, “you couldn’t make it up” but, really, the stupid cruelty of it all is beyond words.

  32. rossglory

    who's wishing poverty on everyone?

    'wishing poverty on everyone' is what the current economic system thrives on. we've all paid a share of the 7 trillion dollars to keep the global financial merry-go-round spinning. and the spread of beneficiaries of the past 30 years of huge growth looks just a little skewed e.g. the us gdp has doubled (that's a lot of dosh) but median salaries have dropped.

    alternatively we could ask what prosperity actually means. for most a trade off of some job security and a bit more time with the kids against the latest ipad or led tv probably sounds quite appealing, probably hard for the hard core free market technophiles to grasp but a reality all the same.

    clearly a return to bau (i.e permanent exponential growth) is not happening and in the long term cannot so why not try a different tack.

    wrt energy, fossil fuel prices (crude has quadrupled in 8 years even after the slump) will soon make even off-shore wind look cheap so let's just get on with and invest in renewables now.

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