back to article The true, tragic cost of British wind power

Two studies published this week calculate the astounding cost of Britain's go-it-alone obsession with using wind turbines to generate so much of the electricity the nation needs. Both studies make remarkably generous concessions that favour wind technology; the true cost, critics could argue, will be higher in each set of …


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  1. Kevin Johnston

    Self-evident wisdom

    I've spoken of this with a few people and in reality the best use of wind turbines is to pump water uphill with the windmill bit and then have the water flow back down through the turbine bit.

    Anything which is not available 24x7 has to be cached\buffered in some way and putting potential energy into water allows you to regulate the output much more effectively so changes in demand can be met almost instantly just so long as your reservoir is big enough.

    The only downside of splitting the functions is that it becomes a much less sexy project as this has been possible for years if not decades so it is hard to get a competitive edge or government funding.


    1. Jon Press

      Re: Self-evident wisdom

      If your reservoir is roughly to the west of the Pennines, you can probably do without the wind turbines too and rely on solar energy to lift water from the sea and drop it high up on the land.

      The snag is that a "big enough" reservoir is probably a lot bigger than you're imagining. And while I'd be happy to flood the entire Lake District if only to get rid of all those people in their "technical fabrics", I suspect there would be some considerable opposition from other quarters. I can't really imagine Julia Bradbury making a living from "Wainwright's Wellies".

      1. Richard Wharram

        @Jon Press

        Definately. If I remember from Without Hot Air the amount of water required to store energy from a significant wind-power base was mind-boggling. We're talking re-landscaping a large percentage of Britain.

      2. stu 4

        Re: Self-evident wisdom

        Indeed, the problem is the relative lightness of liquid water. I suggest switching to something heavier, like Mercury.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Self-evident wisdom

      "only downside of splitting the functions" - also efficiency losses in conversion.

    3. Kubla Cant

      Re: Self-evident wisdom

      The Dinorwic pumped storage system linked to the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station was a version of this.

      Nuclear power stations are slow to start up and shut down, and their high capital cost means that they cost a lot even when shut down. Pumped storage allows you to keep the reactor running when the station is offline.

      For some reason pumped storage never seems to have taken off. Perhaps we haven't got the geography for it, or that geography is too far from where the power's needed.

      1. Jimbo 6

        @ Kubla Cant

        Don’t know where you’ve got your info from but there’s a lot of factual inaccuracy there - I think you’re trying to conflate the two sites just because of their *relative* proximity (there are actually a good couple of mountain ranges between them). Dinorwig (still very much in use) is linked directly to the National Grid, it’s nothing to do with Trawsfynydd (which hasn't produced any power in 20 years).

        Dinorwig simply uses the spare overnight capacity of the NG to pump water uphill, ready to release during the advert break in Coronation Street (for example) when most of Britain decides to have a nice cup of tea. From zero, to 1800 Megawatts in 16 seconds, now that’s what I call acceleration. (The most powerful station in Europe – Drax – produces just over twice that, so Dinorwic gives us the ability to effectively add a sizable power station to the Grid at will, run it for up to 5 hours, but then switch it off again in seconds. BTW It gives about 75% efficiency – i.e it takes about 33% more crackle-magic to pump the water back uphill again, than is produced by letting the water go downhill through its turbines.)

        Not having ever decommissioned a Magnox power station myself, I can’t speak from first-hand experience, but I’m pretty sure that any electrical requirements they still have at Traws similarly comes down a cable from the rest of the Grid.

        Pumped storage wasn't expanded further because (in the early 80s) the UK cancelled a lot of its planned nukular stations; output from 'conventional' (fossil-fuel-fired) stations can be increased or damped down to allow for seasonal variations in demand, whereas a nukular plant produces about the same output for its entire operational life. So, fewer nukes means less requirement for ‘on demand’ production capacity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Kubla Cant

          @Jimbo 6

          Lovely writeup, cheers.

          See also, the website of the Dinorwic operation. There is a visitor centre ("Electric Mountain") and there are tours for the public (check if booking is advisable before travelling). Tours for professional institutions also run occasionally. Last time I was there (sadly several years ago) on an unplanned visit, the visitor centre cafe did very nice food and I didn't do the tour because there was a 3 hour wait if you'd not booked in advance! Snowdon Mountain Railway just up the road too.

          See also the recently suggested UK<->Norway HVDC link, which addresses a number of problems wrt UK plc not having enough topologically interesting land for pumped storage and not having enough electricity for UK peak demand in a year or three, whereas a suitable contract might motivate the Norwegians to make a few GW and a few GWh of theirs available to us.

          "From zero, to 1800 Megawatts in 16 seconds,"

          It's impressive isn't it. That's what I call engineering. And the civils work that was needed for this project is impressive too. Hard to see how it would get done these days.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: @ Kubla Cant

          "whereas a nukular plant produces about the same output for its entire operational life. So, fewer nukes means less requirement for ‘on demand’ production capacity."

          On the other hand, overnight demand is expected to increase as we switch more and more to electric cars, so having more nukes could be a better proposition in that case.

        3. Kubla Cant

          @Jimbo 6

          My information was based on what I was told when I worked for TNPG, the consortium that built Magnox and AGR stations. But that was in the mid-60s, so my recollection is imperfect, and I may well have misinterpreted what I was told at the time anyway. I Googled to try to verify my recollection, but this may have munged the information even more.

          I'm pretty sure that there was a Magnox station in North Wales that was linked to pumped storage, but I defer to your greater knowledge.

          1. Richard 45

            Re: @Jimbo 6

            Everyone here seems to be forgetting Maentwrog pumped storage PS. That's only a matter of a few miles north of Trawsfynydd PS, and is also run by the NDA. It's still in use producing leccy as well. It's Maentwrog that's connected to Trawsfynydd.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self-evident wisdom

        The only connection between Dinorwig and Trawsfynydd was the grid. The presence of Dinorwig has no impact or influence over the operation of Trawsfynydd.

        Nuclear is not slow to shut down. It is instant. It may, in some reactor designs, impose a loading and de-loading regime such that rapid load following is not possible. But that is irrelevant, because nuclear in the UK is for is base load, and the lowest demand is higher than the nuclear capacity -and always has been.

        Pumped storage does not allow you to keep the nuclear reactor running when the station is offline. Dinorwig was designed for one specific purpose, fast response generation to ensure system stability. This fast response being used for load pickups and loss of conventional generation or an overhead line circuit on the supergrid system.

        AC - with 30+ years experience in the electricity generation and transmission business in the UK

    4. Franklin

      Re: Self-evident wisdom

      The problem with pumped water as an energy storage medium is that you need a LOT of it. By my quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, a thousand kilograms of water pumped up a hundred meters to a storage reservoir yields a very small 0.3 KWh of stored power. If you want enough capacity to be meaningful, you're talking about a huge reservoir located somewhere very high up.

    5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Worked example

      Start with a Vestas V164 (really big) off shore wind turbine. 7MW installed capacity, 105 meter tall tower.

      Pick a load factor - I will be generous with 33.3% so P=2.331WM average power output.

      Pick a calm period - Europe usually gets five consecutive days of calm each winter. T = 5*24*60*60 = 432000 seconds.

      Required energy storage is E = PxT = 10^11 Joules

      Pick a height and depth: I will go for H=100 meters high and D=10 meters deep. The density of water is d=1000kg/m^3, and gravity (g) is a little under 10N/kg. The required area A is: A = E/Ddgh = 10000.

      Water can be sucked up 10 meters - if you try to go higher, the water rises 10 meters and you get a vacuum above it. My pumped storage V164 has to take its mechanical power to the base of the tower, then pump water up into the 40 Olympic swimming pools supported by a forest of 100 meter tall towers.

      In real life, transporting several MW of mechanical power 100 meters is not trivial, and you are better of converting it to electricity and back (75% efficient).

    6. BillG

      Re: Self-evident wisdom

      This was evident back in 1979. The only viable alternative energy solution is nuclear.

      Politicians should keep their noses out of science.

  2. Ommerson


    To say these reports are biased in favour of Wind power (despite both coming out rather negatively against) them is a huge understatement.

    Balancing capacity - as indicated in the article - is the real biggy here. The grid will need as much spare - and reliable - generating (or load shedding) capacity as it has wind generation for the days when there is no wind. This will most likely be provided be gas turbine plants.

    So in effect, we'd need just as many of these plants as we'd need NOT building wind-turbines, but they would run far below designed load most of the time, yet cost just as much to build and maintain.

    Wind energy is simply not a scalable or realistic renewable technology for bulk generation. Neither is PV Solar. Hydro and Tidal schemes on the other hand can work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Omissions

      "... cost just as much to build and maintain." - actually I'd expect it to be worse as the plants will have to ramp down and up in time with the actual wind. Gas turbines being the only plant that could do this at all but even then I imagine this is not the most efficient way of operating and probably increases wear and tear when you have rapidly changing loads and heat flows...

    2. Richard Wharram

      Re: Omissions

      I actually think it included extra gas-stations for this purpose. What they omitted was upgrades to the grid because some leccy will have to travel a lot further from remote windy spots to urban areas.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Omissions

      "Neither is PV Solar"

      I would qualify that PV solar is not realistic for the UK, but is realistic for places that get more sun (Medierranean / Saharan North Africa / California and US midwest etc). Solar PV is creeping up towards 25% efficiency and prices keep on falling so for some of these locations Solar PV is not only realistic but also could be cost-comparable to fossil fuels in a few years

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Omissions

      Why do people keep obsessing over this "reliability"? What matters is whether the turbines are net energy positive. (Unless of course you're just obsessed with the idea that cheapest is always the best, which is fine for now but is kind of crossing your fingers for the future.)

      Yes, you need to pair them with gas plants.

      Yes, the paired gas plants are less efficient than a CHP can be.

      But as long as energy captured more than offsets the efficiency loss it's a winner.

      Also, studies have indicated that as you add distributed renewable capacity you decrease variability. If so, then, on average, fewer of the inefficient peakers will be running, meaning that increasing renewable capacity makes renewable energy more efficient.

      These variable sources aren't the full solution to future energy problems, but if they're able to increase usable energy then they're buying more "easy" time now and, unless we actually come up with we'll need them as part of the energy generation in future then in the future will provide some of the energy that will be stored and used.

      The big problem with wind is not the reliability: it's building the transmission capacity so that you can distribute it effectively. That's also expensive, but tough shit. Unless somebody can tell me how you're going to keep electricity supplied for the next 1 billion years using _present_ technology (no, thorium isn't ready yet) we need wind, solar, tidal, hydro, digesters, biomass and every other capacity-limited or unreliable energy source to be developed so we can continue to do all the fun stuff until we get killed by a passing galaxy.

      Complain about the implementation, priorities and corruption, but don't complain about the limitations of the technology, because that's not the real problem.

      1. Richard Wharram


        Strange set of conditions you set. You demand that we be able to meet energy demands for a billion years and then preclude the option of using new technology in all that time, even technology which is only a max of a few decades away. That's fairly piffling compared to a billion years.

        Methinks you are trying to rig the argument so that it can only have the answer you want.

        Or just being a nob.

      2. DragonLord

        Re: Omissions

        The big problem with your argument is that it predicates on the wind always blowing somewhere within the grid that the wind turbines occupy and that that there is a turbine in the area that the wind is blowing.

        Which is fine if you're looking at the entire planet, or your turbines can produce useful electricity at < 1 mph winds and > 30 mph winds. However we are on a small island, wind turbines aren't that good yet, and we regularly get periods where either the winds across the whole nation are to low or too high for the turbines to work.

        1. Michael 31

          Re: Omissions

          Regularly? No wind anywhere for one hour every three years. Buy the energy monitor app from the app store and monitor it yourself. Right now Wind is generating 5.2 % of demand. Pretty good.

      3. Franklin

        Re: Omissions

        "The big problem with wind is not the reliability: it's building the transmission capacity so that you can distribute it effectively. That's also expensive, but tough shit."

        Actually, cost of production matters.

        First, if you manage to produce all the electricity the nation could ever need, but you're doing it for £8 per kWh, you have not solved the problem at all...because the cost of electricity would actually exceed the total size of the economy.

        Second, every £ you spend on inefficient power production that is expensive and lacks high availability is money you're not spending on developing other sources of energy which are cheaper and/or more available. Even a fully mature wind power system might never reach the cost and availability of some other form of power generation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Omissions

          "every £ you spend on [x] is money you're not spending on [y]"

          Grossly oversimplified view of modern economic thinking.

          When the banks look like they may not have enough money to pay their top staff their anti-leaving bonuses, their governments print money for them ("quantitative easing", look it up).

          Why can't our governments do the same for funding for enough energy R+D to keep the lights on for all of us? Like they used to do before the energy market was piratised, in fact?

          1. Bronek Kozicki
            Thumb Down

            Re: Omissions

            @AC 20:30GMT

            nice try, it's a real shame that the facts disagree with you.

            What happens actually is that, when the government has overspent itself on promoting such noble goals as "green electricity" (among other things) but still wants to pursue these goals thus increasing borrowing (and selling gilts), one way to keep the total cost of debt in check is to buy the gilts back with money invented by BOE. Buying own bonds (gilts in UK) with these invented money is what "quantitative easing" actually means. Of course the money goes back to creditors which includes banks, but also your insurers, pension found and your children's (if you have any) child trust fund and other financial investments you may (wittingly or not) have in the gilts.

            I take the liberty to leave the side effects (such as inflation or flow of money back to wider economy) out of the picture, since it is not much relevant in this context and also known to cause controversy.

            One thing to note is that large part of "green electricity" cost is paid directly by the consumers (indirectly included in your power bill), which perhaps explains why the government takes so little interest in the costs it creates for everyone else. Or imaginably the govenment might be actively interested in pushing these costs up, since electricity is taxed, thus customers paying higher electricity bills means more tax money for the government.

            Perhaps this explains this crazy pursue for "green electricity", the more expensive the better :'(

        2. Mark 65

          Re: Omissions

          More importantly, for every £1 you spend on relatively overpriced power that is £1 not being spent anywhere else in the economy and, for the poorer elements of society, probably most of £1 not being spent on nutrition or increasing their subsistence standard of living you just foisted upon them.

  3. Bakunin

    Global Warming, Green Power and El Reg Commenters

    Excellent. I look forward to a calm, rational, balanced and informed set of comments

  4. Armando 123

    True cost

    In 2010 I worked at an ISO (they monitor the grid, provide a neutral marketplace for buying and selling electricity, provide a place to report planned and unplanned outages, etc) here in the states. We all knew that, with government subsidies, electricity from wind cost -$.20 per kw. No one ever said what it cost without those subsidies.

    Just sayin'; they weren't sayin', and you know what that says.

  5. Anonymous IV


    It would be interesting if you contacted Ecotricity for a view!

  6. jason 7

    It's about the money not saving the planet.

    If we withdrew the hefty tax subsidies/payments from the wind farms then 95% of them would be shut down and sold for scrap within a week.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's about the money not saving the planet.

      That's as maybe, but government subsidises new technologies (or grants development funds) in order that they can develop, mature and form a market. This happened with the grid itself, coal, gas, nuclear, PV, wave etc. etc.

    2. Frank Butcher

      Re: It's about the money not saving the planet.

      If you removed the tax subsidy from aviation fuel and building new airports , then 95% of planes would be broken up and melted down for scrap. Anyway with GW, we'll all need less heating thus producing less GHG, partially solving the problem. Or is it that the weather will get so much more windy (due to GW) that the turbines will reach unheard of levels of efficiency. Halt Wind now, I cant afford it.

      1. Michael 31

        Re: It's about the money not saving the planet.

        Domestic Gas, Oil and Coal are subsidised to the tune of 3.6 BILLION pounds a year by holding VAT artificially low. Wind power subsidies are in the noise compared to this, and they will have a lasting legacy.

        1. Richard Wharram


          No they aren't. Stop repeating this lie.

          1. jason 7

            Re: @Michael31

            Yes I thought VAT on oil and gas etc. were kept low so as to stop old people freezing to death in their homes due to energy being way too expensive otherwise, because we don't have enough of it.

            No one likes piles of codgers piled up in the streets every winter. Doesn't look good.

      2. Robinson

        Re: It's about the money not saving the planet.

        Firstly, what problem? Climate is always changing and we are always adapting to it. Secondly, if the UK reduces emissions by 80% by year 2040, as set out in the Climate Change Act, it will have spent around £750,000,000,000 and achieved a global average temperature reduction of 0.08C. In other words, the reduction will completely destroy our economic competitiveness, our relative economic strength, jobs and our standard of living, for an imperceptible decrease in temperature.

        Frankly, you people are ******* idiots.

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Learning from history

    All those arts degree civil servants obviously just studied the last tory government.

    When they shut down a slightly uneconomic energy industry, which led to a year long, very expensive strike and has left half the country economically destroyed 30years later.

    The government just doesn't want to see thousands of former windmill villages destroyed and is factoring in the cost of policing and social costs of millions of unemployed former windmill workers.

  8. Tom 7

    The reason why wind power costs so much

    is because there are grants and subsidies available. This means that if you wish to put up a windmill the company selling all the bits will ensure they get all the subsidies and you will just get a pretty good return on investment.

    A nearby farm is putting up a 27m high UK built turbine that he has had to re-import from abroad to get it at a sensible price. He's looking at a four to five year payback time as a result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The reason why wind power costs so much

      i assume that includes the maintenance contract?

      how much is that setting him (her?) back?

    2. Goat Jam

      Re: The reason why wind power costs so much

      Yup, here in Aus some bright spark decided to subsidise water tanks, the catch being that they had to be installed by an "authorised installer" and connected to the same pipes that the water grid is on.

      This of course led to price gouging by the sellers of water tanks so that they now cost around the same price as they did before to the consumer after the subsidy was applied.

      The trouble was (apart from the price gouging negating the subsidy making it worthless) was that if you didn't want to hook the tank up to the water supply using an expensive plumbing contractor (because you simply wanted a tank so you could water your garden in the face of water restrictions) it had suddenly become extremely expensive to buy tanks.

      Garden watering tanks were not subsidised but the gouging still aplied.

      People ended up importing tanks from interstate where they didn't have the stupid water tank subsidy.

      Governments tend to fsck up everything they get involved with. The best thing they can do is get out of peoples lives and tax them as little as possible.

      It'll never happen of course.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carbon taxation

    Normal person:

    Rewards efficiency. Tick.

    Simple. Tick.

    Doesn't involve financial institutions taking a slice of the profits. Tick.



    Rewards efficiency. Tick.

    Simple. Tick.

    Doesn't involve financial institutions taking a slice of the profits. Cross.


    1. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Carbon taxation

      Excellent point!

      Besides that, carbon tax is coming directly from the government, so the government can be blamed for higher energy prices. In a cap'n'trade or complicated subsidy scheme, the government has a cop-out by being able to say that any energy price increase is due to "the market". As if prices set by "the market" are not affected by how governments implement the market constraints and regulations.

    2. Goat Jam

      Re: Carbon taxation

      Carbon tax? You want one?

      You can take ours.


      A disgruntled Australian.

  10. Perpetual Cyclist

    Gas - the energy of the future?

    UK natural gas production fell 20% last year. It fell 15% the year before and 12% the year before that. We now import more than half the gas we burn, a lot of it inherently expensive LNG. There is growing global competition for this gas, with Japan and China amongst others. Prices have risen relentlessly in the last few years, and Sterling has decline 20% in value in the last 3 years, so we are paying near record prices. Demand for gas has fallen, because it is cheaper to burn coal, and our CO2 emissions are rocketing as a result. (we already import 2/3 of our coal, and we also import an ever increasing percentage of our oil).

    Shale gas is also an inherently expensive technology, the UK reserves are uncertain, and the logistics limitations means we will never be able to ramp up shale production faster than North Sea production is falling.

    Importing energy into this country is already costing our country tens of billions of pounds a year, is rising exponentially, and we are already broke.

    It may be cheaper to build a gas power station than a wind farm, but if we can't afford to buy the gas, then it is no more than a giant rusting monument to our own stupidity.

    1. Josco

      Re: Gas - the energy of the future?

      So... It's nuclear then.

      Good show.

    2. Richard Wharram

      Re: Gas - the energy of the future?

      Predicted gas prices were included in the report obviously.

      I could give the same blather about demand for steel and concrete in China (not to mention Brazil or India) pushing up the prices of wind turbines but since the predicted prices for those also already take this into account it's not a relevant argument.

      You could argue that you think they've got the predictions wrong and give a detailed analysis of why based on knowledge of those markets but you aren't. You're just arguing that they've forgotten to account for these things, which they haven't.

  11. Adam Trickett

    Low CO2 electricity isn't cheap

    We need to remember that anything other than burning coal is going to be expensive. All the alternatives have problems, hidden agendas and crap.

    The cheapest thing to do is waste less, insulate more and use more efficient kit etc. Even so we will end up with an expensive mix of solutions and none of them will be a magic silver bullet.

    How we keep cars moving and aeroplanes up in the air is another problem altogether, as so far we haven't found a viable alternative to burning petroleum derivatives. But peak oil is another story altogether...

    1. Armando 123

      Re: Low CO2 electricity isn't cheap

      Actually, EVERYTHING has problems, hidden agendas, and crap. But with fossil fuels, most of the problems and crap have been worked out, and the agendae are pretty much known/we're used to.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There is nothing inherently good or bad about investing in renewable energy and green technology," writes economist Professor Gordon Hughes "

    Spoken like a true economist. And one from the World Bank too - a hotbed of poor intellectual justifications for rubbish economic policies.

    The question is whether the green technology in question works or not. In the case of wind the whole thing is badly let down by the lack of decent storage facilities. As long as wind is used as it's generated it will never really work. That's where the investment is needed.

    But to say that there's nothing inherently good about using energy that doesn't pollute is just the sort of utter crap I'd expect from a fully paid-up Plutocrat like "Professor" Hughes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The word IS "kleptocrat"

      "fully paid-up Plutocrat like "Professor" Hughes"]

      He may be a plutocrat but his paymasters are kleptocrats.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: The word IS "kleptocrat"

        Is that a polite way of saying "fucking thieves"?

    2. Dick Emery
      Thumb Down


      The lack of storage has always been an issue. The same has been true for gas storage. We simply do not have enough of them and thus when the market fluctuates we get hit in the pocket as we paid top dollar for stuff only a few months back.

      Anyhow most of this is moot as Blair and his cronies signed away most of our energy choices yeara ago by agreeing to meet ALL of the Euro's demands on emmisions and renewables. I believe our previous PM Gordon Brown was a bit done for because he had so many years of Blair's crap to try and clean up. Now we have more idiots in power who tow the same party line as Blair did but under a different banner.

      Screw windfarms and solar panels (which are just being used by companies to profiteer on anyhow instead of being reinvested into UK energy generation) . Get those nuke power and shale gas extraction plants up and running!

  13. david 63

    AC 13:18

    500k should be enough budget for a dictionary and thesaurus.

    Rebutting or refuting would be a better choice.

    And ITYM interested.

    And wipe the foaming spittle from your lips.

    And no on this basis I wouldn't commission a report from you.


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going it alone?

    I don't really know where this statement comes from, other parts of Europe generate far more of their power from Wind/Solar than we do.

    Nice to see that all factors are taken into account, such as the cost of foreign policy to ensure supplies of fossil fuels, how much did that little skirmish in Iraq cost us? Then there's the cost of all the lives lost in the process. Also talking about shale gas is a bit premature, if there's any evidence it's dangerous then it could be stopped, not just by the UK government maybe by the European court.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Going it alone?

      The grids in continental Europe are extremely highly connected so it's a lot easier for them to sell excess wind power to a neighbour when they have a lot of wind, and to buy in extra power to make up the difference when the wind isn't blowing.

      Even then, central Europe is realising that wind power is costing too much and are starting to cut down on subsidies.

      1. PyLETS

        Re: Going it alone?

        Of course the calculations which assume the UK grid not to be interconnected to neighbouring grids using DC links are nonsense. But we can't expect anti-renewable propagandists not to select the least favourable calculations. In a scenario where fortress Britain had to abandon all electricity trade with neighbours these calculation might make sense, but if that's what they're genuinely worried about they should state this. Also the variability of wind electric output is a very minor problem and carries relatively small cost with wind electricity penetration at less than 20% of the overall grid requirement than it would become if wind ever gets to more than 50%.

        As to reducing renewable subsidies, this does make sense in order to make the expansion of wind and solar as part of the overall grid supply mix to occur more sustainably. With mass production having brought costs down, a more mature renewable energy supply industry doesn't need such large subsidies. Wind, solar and nuclear would also all need less in the way of subsidies to compete against fossil fuels if the latter were not subsidised by increases in our extreme weather insurance, cost of uninsured climate losses, the need to spend massively on improved flood defences etc, all of which are subsidies to fossil fuel use which does not pay for these externalities without across the board carbon taxes. If opposition to carbon taxes are genuinely concerned about granny freezing in a cold house, then maybe fossil subsidies otherwise correctable with across the board carbon taxes could instead be more precisely targetted to vulnerable people who need help with their heating bills, allowing the energy market to compete on fair terms and prices to find more natural levels of supply from diverse sources.

        That doesn't take away the need for public policy to invest in diversification away from fossil fuels based on risk of political instability in oil supply regions and climate change, risks which markets focussed on short term supply demand balancing considerations will tend to ignore. Also the decision to invest in new nuclear plant is highly political, likely to be limited to existing nuclear plant host communities which want these jobs, given the reminder that Fukushima recently gave us about worst case scenario risks.

  15. Michael 31

    Reality Check

    1. Last year (2011) Wind Generation 5% of UK electricity. This is a pretty substantial contribution. However Coal generation between 40% and 50% - and yes this plant should be shut down and replaced with combined cycle GT. It would make a big difference quickly.

    2. Fossil fuel prices are also subsidised by a 5% rate of VAT - this costs us 3.6 BILLION pounds a year. So a hundred million or so for wind seems like a pretty small change.

    3. The Global Warming Policy Foundation are not 'independent'. They are frothing-at -the-mouth, flat-earth, climate-change deniers. Their opinions are only worth listening to if you appreciate that their basic assumption is that emitting carbon dioxide is harmless and risk free.

    4. Moving from where we are now to where we want to be will be hard. But wind power makes pretty good sense to me as a first step. Follow it up by replacing coal, a tidal barrage on the Severn and even more solar, and we could really begin to move towards sustainable electricity infrastructure. But it will be hard and costly.

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Reality Check

      I take it you get your figures from here:

      The article being a complete load of shit. VAT is 5% on all home fuels. Gas and leccy. How is that a subsidy for fossil fuels? Fossil fuels happen to provide more leccy than renewables at the moment so if you really want to look at it as a subsidy then they are getting the lions share but only in proportion to the amount of energy they supply.

      Similarly the old wailing about carbon floor not applying to nuclear material is repeated here. Again this is only a subsidy if you don't understand what a subsidy is and applies just as much to renewables and nuclear.

      Begone with your pretend subsidies.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Reality Check

      "4. Moving from where we are now to where we want to be will be hard. But wind power makes pretty good sense to me as a first step."

      Have you actually *read* this report? With wind it comes down to 2 particular problems. 1) Best wind sites are usually a *long* way from where it's needed. 2) A *good* location (onshore) may generate power as much as 26% of the time (but it's known at least 1 UK site managed 6%).

      So what would you use to generate power the *rest* of the time?

      " Follow it up by replacing coal, a tidal barrage on the Severn and even more solar, and we could really begin to move towards sustainable electricity infrastructure. "

      No we won't.

      The Severn barrage *might* make 5-7% of the UK electricity demand *while* it's working. You'll need a *lot* more infrastructure.

      "But it will be hard and costly."

      That's certainly true.

    3. Mark 65

      Re: Reality Check

      "4. Moving from where we are now to where we want to be will be hard. But wind power makes pretty good sense to me as a first step."

      Then I'm afraid sir that you lack sense.

    4. The Grinning Duck
      Thumb Down

      Re: Reality Check

      The 5% VAT rate on gas and electricity is qualified. ‘Qualified use’ is the domestic use of energy and energy used by charities for non business purposes. Everyone else pays the full-fat standard rate, and this 'everyone else' (businesses, industry, etc) make up just over 80% of total UK demand. So, only 20% of the total qualifies, and it qualifies regardless of generation method. I'm not sure where this Fossil Fuel VAT subsidy stuff is coming from, but I suspect it's someone's arse.

  16. jason 7


    ..I just wish our country would stop dicking around and pandering to focus groups and just build the 5 or so nuclear reactors we needed to have built at least 5 years ago.

    Get on with it.

    How else will all the self-styled eco-warriors charge up their iPads and warm their Starbucks lattes?

    1. jason 7

      Re: Please.....

      Just curious to those that gave my post a thumbs down.

      Just what exactly, is your alternative method of meeting the UK's power needs over the next 50 years?

      1. jason 7

        Re: Please.....

        Ahh so no response coming then?

        Always the same, the eco folks bemoan nuclear and fossil fuels but when asked "Okay then what's your alternative?" it goes very quiet.

  17. Jimbob...

    Rather than just 'unprofessional shrieking' the response of the director of strategy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to the AF Consult report was to make the following points-

    "The report's conclusions are undermined by its assumptions, which skirt over four crucially important factors:

    First, electricity demand is set to increase. All of our main scenarios for 2050 tell us that we need to plan to meet an increase in demand of between a third and two thirds, as transport and heating shift onto the electricity grid. AF Consult massively underestimates this and as a consequence risk us not having enough electricity to power the country and failing to meet our carbon targets.

    Second, diversity of energy technology is crucial. As no one can yet say for sure what the relative costs will be decades hence, the Government's approach is not to be captured by any technology lobby. Each has its place in a technology race between renewables, nuclear, and clean fossil fuels in which the lowest cost technology wins the largest market share and keeps bills down for consumers. AF Consult appear to be trying to second-guess the unknowable, and as a result put all of our eggs into just two energy technologies. The build rate using just CCS and nuclear would be unrealistic, risky and costly.

    Third, the costs of renewables are already being driven down. Our renewables target is an industrial policy aimed at accelerating reductions in the costs of renewable generation. Onshore wind has already come down in price, hence why we have proposed to cut the subsidy it gets by 10%, and the offshore wind industry is working towards reducing costs to £100/MWh by 2020. Add to that the wider economic benefits of investment and jobs in advanced green industries that will have a global market.‪

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, gas prices are uncertain and volatile. In contrast to renewables, the signs are that gas prices will be higher in future. Even with shale gas there is no certainty that supplies or prices would filter through to the UK.

    The IEA for instance foresees gas prices rising to 2030 as demand pressures outweigh supply boosts. Today's consumers are already bearing the brunt of gas price volatility. The Arab Spring and Fukushima last year contributed to driving up gas prices which pushed up the average dual fuel bill by £175, eclipsing the £20 a year current cost of subsidising renewables. While gas will still play a role in the future, home grown renewables will help insulate our economy and consumers from depending excessively on gas imports and the volatility that accompanies that.

    Consumers would not be well served by an energy strategy based on short-sighted analysis that pins all its hopes on just two energy technologies and then crosses its fingers that gas prices come good".

    1. DragonLord

      Did you read the first rebuttal to that blog post?

      Here i'll quote it for you.

      "Do you have any response to the lecture given Richard Lindzen on Wednesday 22nd Feb 2012?

      Can you comment of the IEA forecast of production rates for fossil fuels which is pure fantasy. The prediction for CO2 levels is based on a mythical rise in fossil fuel usage.

      Have you not studied British History and the key role CHEAP energy played in the UKs prosperity. And that expensive energy will reduce economic output. Funny you should mention the Arab Spring. That all started because of the RISE in energy costs and Egypt.

      Did you not notice the banking crash a few short years ago. Remember what started it. Yes expensive energy (oil). The high energy costs effectively removed a large chunk from the money supply. The shortfall caused a cascade failure in the banking system. The crash was caused by high energy costs, the result was a failure in the banking system.

      Why do you ignore cutting edge research into (hot) nuclear fusion. ITER is never going to work. DPF/Polywell (pB11) designs are accelerating past ITER with a tiny fraction of the budget. Even Iran (yes Iran) is running a fusion R&D program that is years ahead of the UK/EU.

      Why is it almost every oil producing nation is fast tracking nuclear power? when in most cases they have more sun than they know what todo with? Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar (and others) have all started civilian nuclear programs. (Clue – its not about reducing CO2 emissions)

      You make a major assumption that future transport will be electrical based. Transport could just as easily be Hydrogen based. And the most efficient method to generate H2 is the high temperature sulphur/iodine reaction (using a nuclear reactor). But what if battery/h2 technology cannot improve enough for mainstream use? Then its a radical switch to rail.

      The DECC has made sweeping assumptions about advances in technology. Its identical to betting on a horse to win a race before the horse has even been born.

      How is the military going to operate in 2050? How is the Navy going to power its ships? The air-force? The army? Every time the army sets up an FOB are they going to install a wind turbine to power the base and recharge the jeeps, bradleys, tanks overnight? Military equipment is inefficient by design (weight for armour). A Challenger tank getting 80MPG is never going to happen.

      Based on the DECC vision of the future the MoD cannot operate. Which brings up another problem, container shipping.

      Your not going to power a container ship using wind turbines and batteries. The ONLY non carbon tech for container shipping is nuclear. Fission reactors in a civilian ship is unacceptable, a Polywell/DPF fusion reactor is the only plausible technology. An ITER/NEF fusion reactor is bigger than a container ship. If container ships cannot be powered in 2050, then we might as well give up and become Amish.

      The problem is not CO2. The problem is expensive energy, or rather supply vs demand.

      The current DECC polices will cause significant harm to the UK economy.

      The solution is easy.

      1. Build gas turbines to cover any electrical shortfall.

      2. While doing (1) start building nukes.

      3. While doing (1+2) major R&D investment in Thorium/Fusion/Transport"

      By alan

      1. jsam

        Lindzen is Heartland PR

        Citing one scientist - and one of the diminishingly small set of climate scientists who don't work with the concensus - just isn't good enough. You need to be more skeptical about your sources,

        1. jsam

          Re: Lindzen is Heartland PR

          As for his most recent lecture, he may have been a bit confused, If his science is that good he really should try publishing. Peer review weans out such poor analysis before he embarasses himself (and his fervent followers).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radical Anti-Environmentalism

    I suspect Sr. Hughes – formerly of the World Bank and now at the University of Edinburgh, is still suckling at the petroleum teat. And now he's charged with indoctrinating naive freshman with 'drill baby drill 101'.

    The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a libertarian think tank in the United Kingdom who espouse skepticism of environmental and climate science, including demonstrably false statements made by Lawson about climate change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    In response to the accounts the policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change Bob Ward commented, "We can now see that the campaign conducted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which includes lobbying newspaper editors and MPs, is well-funded by money from secret donors. Its income suggests that it only has about 80 members, which means that it is a fringe group promoting the interests of a very small number of politically motivated campaigners."

  19. david 63

    I'd be interested to know why...

    ...the dissenting voice at 13:15 has been silenced.

    Every drop of rabid spittle is another nail in the coffin.

    And I spend ages on a witty response that is stuck in the moderation pile.

  20. David Pollard

    The anti-nuclear barrier

    As Sweden and France demonstrate, clear benefits accrue from using nuclear energy to generate a large proportion of electricity. The UK's subsidies for wind and PV energy will in effect create a cost penalty on the construction of new nuclear power plant.

    Even using optimistic storage technologies, such as pumped hydro and grid coupling of vehicle batteries, wind still requires nearly 100% backup; calm spells of up to three weeks are by no means unknown. The least expensive solution is to build gas generation plant. And gas plant that has in effect been paid for through wind energy subsidies will remain cheaper than new nuclear plant until its running costs become significantly higher.

    The anti-nuke camp labels the cleanup of leftovers from research in the cold war and waste from early nuclear power plant a subsidy; despite the necessity of dealing with this problem in any case. Rather than being subsidised as they claim, the nuclear industry is being penalised through the promotion of an alternative which is far from being low-carbon and is more expensive in the medium term.

    1. Andy 18

      Re: The anti-nuclear barrier

      Couldn't agree more. Build a bunch of nuclear power stations asap. In order to minimise transmission losses and allow easy export of any excess to Europe, bung them in London or the south east.

    2. Christian Berger

      Re: The anti-nuclear barrier

      Well France has the opposite problem. They need to turn off their nuclear plants when it's to hot because they cannot provide cooling. Even under normal circumstances they need to import power because they simply don't have the resources.

      100% power from nuclear wouldn't work, because it takes days to weeks to turn a nuclear plant on or off. And even with it's huge subsidiaries (free waste disposal!) it's not particularly cheap. Plus our government is incapable of selecting a place to put the waste.

      What you need is to have a mix. For example in Germany, gas powered plants pop up. Now that is considered to be a fairly expensive way to generate electricity, however this is done in a smart way. Businesses which need a lot of electricity build those themselves, and not only sell the excess electricity, but also the heat. This simple trick increases the efficiency from about 30-40% up to up to 100%, saving more than half the fuel in winter. (In summer electricity is cheaper here anyhow because of solar power)

      1. David Pollard

        Nuclear is "not particularly cheap"

        Take a look at for price comparisons.

        Consumers in France, Finland and Sweden pay about half as much for electricity as those in Denmark and Germany. Clearly this isn't only because nuclear is used in preference to wind and PV, but it's a large part of the reason.

        The shutdown of French generators during the 2003 and 2006 heat waves was not because they were nuclear but because they used river water to cool steam. Standard coal-burning and CCGT powered turbines would have been similarly affected.

  21. Jimbo 6

    PPE degrees ?

    Module 1: Hard hats, goggles, and hi-vis jackets.

  22. jabuzz

    Solar derived is the only option.

    Quick lesson in thermodynamics, the only long term viable energy generation has to come from short term solar derived sources (aka burning fossil fuel does not count through it is solar derived). Anything else will simply heat up the planet as all the generated energy becomes heat.

    1. david 63

      I only see one fail here.

      Use solar derived but not those evil solar derived, some nice solar derived.

      And where are you storing the nice solar derived energy?

      Or are you sitting in the dark waiting for the wind to blow or the sun to shine.

      Perhaps we could shift some from the antipodes at night time using some giant mirrors?

      Come back with evidence that nice solar derived energy is something other than a white elephant.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Solar derived is the only option.

      jabuzz, did you not read my reply last time you posted this nonsense? World total energy usage is a few parts per million of the solar energy falling onto the Earth's surface. There may be arguments against producing (some of) this from fossil fuels (sustainability, CO2 production), but directly raising our surface temperature is not one of them.

  23. M7S

    Nautical Terms: Becalmed

    Having taken lots of our money for these white elephants, should I then find that there is no power to charge the expensive e-car that I expect to be told I have to switch to in the future, when the island is becalmed, I probably shall not be.

  24. JohnMurray

    Nice report. Who cares ?

    I prefer the viewpoint below.

    People are fed-up with all these reports. This is just another to be fed-up about.

    Many contradict themselves anyway.

    "The GWPF are pulling their usual stunt of attempting to take "ownership" of an issue by commissioning a new report , this one "revealing" not very many details about wind power that haven't been said before … many times (and sometimes better).

    What these people do not seem to realise is that efforts to create "noise" are far more successful if you build on and extend existing work, rather than keep reinventing the wheel and claiming it all for your own. Not least, Google ranking depends not only on traffic levels but on the number and type of links. Thus, cross-referencing other work is an important way of building profile.

    Despite this, you see "top dogging" in a wide range of fields, from Open Europe and its attempt to dominate the EU agenda, to Taxpayers' Alliance and others. They all do good work, but are dragged down by their own egos, and their attempts to own the agenda in every field that they touch. Nothing exists, nothing ever came before, until they "discover" it"

  25. unreggi


    "...but only if it dumps today's inefficient hippie technology."

    Yes, because you can't apply an ad hominem against a technology unless you anthropomorphise it first.

  26. Steve Graham

    Global Warming Policy Foundation

    Now, why would a global-warming-denial organisation pay for an attack on wind turbines? (Even given the huge, secret funding it is "alleged" to have.)

    Tinfoil hats, anyone?

    1. dogged

      Re: Global Warming Policy Foundation

      Are you suggesting that wind power is, on the contrary, bloody wonderful and worth every penny?

      If so, I would like to see some evidence to support that view. I'm sure you have some and you're not just flinging religious DENIER DENIER allegations around as some kind of right-on kneejerk. I'm really sure about that.


  27. david 63

    In medicine it is called...

    ...Iatrogenic illness.

    In simple terms, the cure is worse than the illness.

    Except in this case there might not be an illness to cure.

    I'm still waiting for a diagnosis based on symptoms and repeatable tests instead of witchcraft.

  28. Short Bob

    Bargain ...

    ... compared with all the bank bail outs... and we'd have something to show for it at the end!!

  29. PlacidCasual

    Every day this week onshore wind farms in Scotland have been paid upto 5 times the cost of coal fired generation NOT to generate. This is with a tiny proportion of our capacity provided for by wind generated a long long way from the demand centres. Imagine how bad grid stabiity issues will be and the idle back up capacity necessary when we've installed the 32GW our leaders are planning?

    Wind farms like arable ones are all about carpet bagging subsidies. The John Muir trust provided a good report last year pointing out how poorly wind farms can perform during high demand periods. This February when the National Grid was predicting it's highest winter demand wind farms were producing less than 5% of their rated capacity day after freezing day.

    Get the politics out of energy and lets build some nukes and be done with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Get the politics out of energy " >

      "Get the politics out of energy and lets build some nukes and be done with it"

      If you got the politics out of energy you'd be leaving it to the market. Come to think of it, that's exactly what Thatcher (and Bliar) did, so we know what would happen.

      It's the market that has got the UK electricity supply into the mess (and worse to come) it is in at the moment.

      The markets have wasted [forever] a valuable resource, our own natural gas, purely for short term profits in the insane post-privatisation market-led dash for gas. Entirely predictably, it's what markets do (look up "tragedy of the commons").

      The market has absolutely failed to address the subject of the UK's next five years electricity supply, never mind the next decade or five.

      "The market" had the option of building more nukes, in the UK and elsewhere. "The market", with a tiny handful of massively delayed and massively overbudget exceptions (e.g. Olkiluoto) generally chose to ignore nuclear power.

      Strikes me that the best thing would be to get "the markets" out of energy and put some engineers in charge.

      Instead we'll get yet more lawyers and accountants and telephone sanitisers and general B-ark people.

      1. PlacidCasual

        Re: "Get the politics out of energy " >

        Privatisation, deregulation of the gas markets, distorting the market in favour of renewables and the forced divestment of generating assets were ALL political decisions not commercial or engineering ones. Government has spent the last 20 years with it's fingers of the scales altering the balance. There would be no wind farms without Government stealing cash from the consumer to reward one subset of the market. The break up of the generating companies has robbed them of scale and efficiency in the ridiculous chase for competition. Even now renewable obligations are persuading generators to relife 40 year old stations to biomass rather than invest in anything new.

        The market has never really been given the chance and the politicians have constantly gamed the market to score brownie points without actually settling on an outcome they'd like to see that isn't built on wishful thinking.

        As an engineer I have a good idea what structure I'd like to see for electricity generation and the sources to supply it and you can be sure wind farms are not in the picture.

  30. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    The people who go the whole hog for nonconventional electricity generation and hate nonconventional gas sources forget that they are two completely different energy systems. No number of wind turbines is going to power my central heating. And there's also the implicit madness in dumping half the country's energy transmission network (the gas main) and trying to add it's energy to the other half of the transmisisson network (the electricity main).

    1. AlfaFoxtrot

      This is true, if you don't care about CO2 emissions.

      Assuming that reducing CO2 is a good thing, then moving transport + heating to be all electric is good, as it is not only more efficient (heat pumps, electric motors) but it will all eventually come from zero emission plants (hopefully mostly nuclear).

  31. Why Not?

    £28k per household?

    £780B / 27.5m households (projections for 2033).

    So that is nearly £30k per 'household' assuming 5 - 10% live in shared / clustered households (council / housing association) it may be more. We could fit them all with Solar PV (Including local battery storage) & hot water plus air source heat/renewable heat & insulation.

    All new builds need to be near energy neutral (Passivehaus + Solar PV etc).

    Kill the feed in tariff & concentrate on converting all social housing & to Green energy. Subsidising manufacturing in the UK we could drive costs down so most house holders see it as a no brainer plus create UK jobs. Maybe reduction in Council tax rises for energy efficient houses.

    So assuming 50% grid power reduction (probably more once we all have led lights and fully insulated houses) we have a 25% reduction.

    Plus we have a new world leading Green energy industry. Few other countries have the sort of production that can convert the whole country,once we do people will want to buy from us.


    We can check the electrics on all houses as well. Saving a fortune in Electrical fires.

    average house cost now.

    Loft insulation £150

    Cavity Wall insulation £400

    Air source heat pump = £2-6k

    Solar PV = £2-7K (including batteries)

    Solar hot water = £1-3K

    Heat recovery £0.5-1K.

    Install £5-10k.

    total £20-25k.

    During the day they pump excess (not used for battery) electricity into the Grid and during the night they draw from storage (allowing power stations to wind down) / with the grid for peaks.

    I would imagine once we manufacture in quantity it would be much cheaper.

    Flats and shared terraces could cost much less. A row of PV lined roofs but one controller & battery stack etc.

    Council funded = 20 year payback at £1K per year (if prices go up then its shorter). After that its an income.

    no more whoop - whoop,sliced birds & blighted countryside.

    1. Alex G

      Re: £28k per household?

      Oh Register!

      Why copy and paste the sentiment from the "Global Warming Policy Foundation" (astroturf alert) without the same critical thinking you apply to windfarms?

      Such a one-sided argument always looks...biased.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wind power IS cheaper

    When it comes to decommissioning at least.

  33. JohnMurray


    Missing the point.

    The argument about climate science is not being won, not least because it never was about the climate or science.

    It was, and is, about politics and state control.

    The GWPF is at serious risk of winning a battle while the war continues elsewhere.

    Just because people say in surveys that climate change is not important doesn't mean they agree with the anti-AGW people.

    And it doesn't mean they distrust the politicians, just that they're getting confused and don't care.

  34. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Policy devised by "civil servants" or "special advisors"?

    The kind who've been "seconded" to a govt department for their "specialist" knowledge.

    Who turn out to have acquired their knowledge working for the companies who stand to make *huge* profits if the policy *they* are proposing goes ahead.

    Can you say "conflict of interest"?

    A study of the UK Govt's history with Private Finance Initiatives (or PPP's as Blair & Brown called them) will describe *exactly* this scenario.

    It seems UK civil servants have *never* been able to cope with a *diverse* portfolio of energy sources or systems below about 1GW in capacity.

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: Policy devised by "civil servants" or "special advisors"?

      No. But they cope very well with a portfolio of jobs to go to after they retire.

      Not so much a conflict of interest, as a corruption of disinterested.

  35. P. Lee

    I want my geothermal power plant now!


  36. Hi_tech_guy_18

    Water Power is better for the UK

    We have plenty of rain in winter time to run

    Micro Archimedes Screw Generators

    They Can Also be hidden away in protected arias

    Not to mention they can also be deployed in Both Storm Water and Foul Water Sewers

    in Towns and Citys and make use of the Sewer Tides at Peek Toilet Times (When Fav's TV Shows is over people norm put the kettle on and go to the bathroom then flush the Toilet)

    It will solve water table problems due you holing water back to allow it to soak into the ground longer / or divert surplus water to dry arias

  37. Christian Berger

    What's funny is....

    That somehow Germany seems to be this magical place where such problems either don't happen, or are overcome. We see this as a way to generate useful jobs. Someone who puts up solar panels or wind turbines certainly is more useful to the environment than a business consultant.

    As long as there's a will, there's a way. Waste hasn't been an argument in the past and will probably never be.

    I mean you could probably save a lot by banning commuting by car and building a proper public transport system, for both the economy and the environment.

  38. Drew V.
    Thumb Down

    Never ask an accountant to save the planet

    Or maybe that should be "never ask a capitalist to save the planet".

    "We could put a man on the moon in 1969!" - "No, sorry, if we wait another 50 years it will be so much more cost-effective. I think. If these calculations are correct."

    "We can be a leader in a renewable energy! - "What, and lose half a percentage of GDP growth? Are you crazy? Obviously the British economy is much more important than the fate of the planet."

    "With enough funding, we could cure cancer, but there won't be any profit in it." - "The people in accounting say: no way."

    "We could..." - "NO! NOT COST-EFFECTIVE!"

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Probably related to the same public servants who predict huge returns on investments in pensions... don't top up the pension fund now, the returns are so big we can even siphon some money off. Pay for some wind turbines maybe. It's a win-win situation!

  40. Paul Renault

    Seriously, go the website, look up the list of its members and trustees.

    [Dr.] Benny [Peiser] is a social scientist and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Buckingham. His research focuses on the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution.

    Not a physicist, not an engineer.

    As for the rest of em:


    Secretary of State for Energy and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Vice-Chairman of the BBC, Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister, (Assistant) (Deputy) Private Secretary to the Queen, Bishop of Chester, Deputy Chairman of Barclays Bank and Director of the Bank of England, Economist, MP for Devon West and Torridge, Permanent Secretary - Environment Department (Ooo! Half a hit!) and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service.

    Academic Advisory Council:

    Fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Consulting editor (science), Economic commentator for the Financial Times, Chairman of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, Research Professor (Almost a hit: palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist), Professor of geophysics (Yeah, I'll concede this one), Theoretical physicist, Leading transport policy expert and past President of the French Federation of Motor Clubs, independent scholar and member of the US delegation that established the IPCC (Actually qualified for the job!), Physicist who has specialised in the study of optics and spectroscopy, Medical biochemist, Metallurgical scientist, British development economist and Professor of International Development Studies, Professor of Meteorology (Bingo!), Canadian economist specialising in environmental economics, Professor of Economics, Professor of Economics, Professor of Mining Geology, Professor at the London School of Economics, Geologist, Professor of Medical Entomology, Science writer, Electrical engineer, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography, Research Professor responsible the research areas energy and environment, and an astrophysicist and BBC Science Correspondent.

    One, two, three....

    Pols: Six, seven?

    Economists: Ten?

    Scientists: Thirteen, minus the five who make you wonder "why?", eight.

    If you must read this report, get drunk first, this way you won't remember any of it.

  41. Clyde

    Not an unbiased report

    Not too far into the article and here's this gem "mix of gas and nuclear "

    I knew it - this is just another episode of the nuclear lobby trying to nix the alternatives.

    I remember when nuclear was being touted as the greatest invention ever - the papers were full of stories that we'd all be getting free electricity for life, even maybe getting paid for using it, when we built lots of nuclear power stations. Seriously, that was the propaganda back in the 60's.

    And that was not so long after Windscale (google it if you don't know). The governement and nuclear industry changed the name of that plant quickly, hoping the public would forget if it had a different name.

    Nuclear gets lots of subsidy that we don't talk about. And then there's the elephant in the big white globe - decommissioning, and storage of waste that could obliterate civilisation.

    Dounreay will take about as long to decommission as it was in production. A huge amount of money being spent there. There's a big hole in the ground which seems to be "bottomless" where the early days contractors just chucked their rubbish - of course it's radioactive, and has to be cleaned out and taken somewhere else. Incredibly vast quantities of waste that will still be lethal thousands of years after all of us and all of our known history have long been forgotten.

    Nuclear waste cannot be safely kept for ever. It is criminal of our generations to burden the future with the costs and responsibility of dealing with our garbage.

    1. David Pollard


      Weapons development during cold war and the cavalier attitudes towards radiation of the '50s and '60s have left a legacy of waste that needs to be dealt with properly whether or not new nuclear power plant is built.

      It seems to me to be criminal not to use nuclear power for a larger proportion of our energy needs. Recent reactor designs provide the possibility to transmute waste so that it is much less dangerous, reducing radioactive half-lives from many millenia to a few centuries. They don't add much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and oceans. Existing stocks of 'waste' can power them for a few hundred years. And, perhaps most importantly for future generations, they don't deplete precious reserves of oil and gas.

  42. nederlander

    typical economists view

    The point of renewable generation is not to make electricity cheap, it is to avoid dangerous climate change. What price do you put on dry land?

    I agree that a carbon tax would be the best way to tackle climate change. Strange that the author seems to agree, while touting how gas is so cheap. Of course gas would be prohibitively expensive, were a carbon tax in place.

    As for nuclear, its impossible to compare cost as no one knows how expensive nuclear energy is. The private companies now vying to build ten more reactors in the UK will not be expected to pay for the disposal of the spent fuel they create! The construction and hundred thousand years of maintenance of the mythical Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) will be left up to the tax payer, long after the new nukes are in operation and generating ten tonnes per day of highly radioactive spent fuel. Now I'm open to the idea of more nuclear power in the UK, but not until the operators are prepared to take on the full cost of the operation. Perhaps a carbon tax would make nuclear competitive on price to the extent that EDF could actually pay for the broom to sweep their piping hot uranium under the carpet.

  43. Clyde

    All that gas was wasted

    Then of course when the North Sea fields were first discovered, Westminster wanted to cream off as much cash as it could , as fast as it could. Oil was the cash cow. So there was the ludicrous situation of the burn off - all the gas being burned off into the atmosphere at the rigs, because the powers that were didn't want to build a gas pipeline over to the coast.

    Night turned into day all across the North Sea for such a long time.

    The Norwegians didn't do that - and see how much money they've got in the bank now, compared to this bankrupt excuse for a country.

    The money that has poured form the North Sea over the last forty years is too big to comprehend - see the McCrone Report for the projections. Part of that should have been used in the good years to build good renewables infrastructure. It's not too late, but it's certainly not in the psyche of the Westminster mob to do the sensible thing.

  44. jgb

    Perhaps one of the 'wind experts' fighting a gallant (but ultimately suicidal) rearguard action here could explain to me something about the reliability of land-based turbines.

    See These 8 units mounted on top of a building in Croydon have not turned productively (as far as I know) for at least the last several months. There WAS an admitted generic problem with bearings on this type of machine, that the manufacturer said it had fixed. But that was at least a year ago and these machines are still stationary.

    Given the high profile of these particular units, if whatever problem they have was easily fixed, it would be. Leaving them as thinly-disguised White Elephants must be a PR disaster.

    There was also the brake-failure incident in Scotland, leading to fire, explosion and total loss of a much bigger, very expensive turbine.)

    If the likely frequency of mechanical defects on turbines is combined with lack of wind, what is the actual availability of wind-power then??

  45. jsam

    Who funds the writing of this nonsense?

    The Global Warming Protection Fund is Lord Lawson's secretive denier front. Any foreword that contains the conspiracy theory phrasing of "the facts have been hidden from the consumer who will have to pay the bill for this folly" deserves very careful scrutiny. Who knows, Gordon Hughes may yet be proven correct. But it needs to shake off the heavy history of GWPF's failure first.

  46. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Only a right charlie would invest in wind farms, probably why Prince Charles is doing so to try to bring him some income from the crown estate (which includes the sea around the UK).

  47. Cupboard


    A vast amount of energy is used in the UK for heating purposes, less vast but still significant amounts for cooling.

    The technology exists and is readily available to provide both heating and cooling from hot water (one's a radiator, the other's absorption cooling) and saves converting from heat to electricity and back.

    Something that makes sense to me is to have power stations close to demand and run district heating services in.

    Ofgem are heading along the right tracks with the RHI, but there are some rather weird things missed out. For instance, you can get RHI payments for megawatt scale biomass installations but you're limited to 200kWth for biogas CHPs. And just because you have a CHP means the metering arrangements are made significantly more complicated.

    Speaks a me waiting for Ofgem to approve an RHI application and looking forward to being connected up to cheap heat in the future :)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Heat...

      "Something that makes sense to me is to have power stations close to demand and run district heating services in."

      Historically in the UK the CEGB went for economies of scale, to the extent of putting 1 power station (DRAX) *inside* the coal mine. Their *sole* mandate was electricity, electricity,electricity.

      Note that Battersea power station had some provision for CHP and district heating systems are a feature of other parts of Europe.

      Oddly the "dash for gas" with smaller GT stations popping up *could* have move the UK toward this model but the owners were either in the *electricity* business, rather than the more holistic *energy* business and were probably mostly clueless about what would be involved to get enough people into the idea to make it *economically* viable.

      There is also the *perception* that somehow local authorities cannot be trusted not to screw things up when it comes to delivering shared services (despite the fact that this is what they do).

  48. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A note on sea level rises.

    I looked up one of the links someone left to climate change research on another story.

    The report stated that the evidence showed that when *all* major ice sheets had melted *total* sea level rise was c65m

    65metres. Bad news for *all* current port cities but that still leaves a hell of a lot of land that won't be flooded. I like to be able to put a worst case limit on things where possible. It's not like a tidal wave *kilometres* high lasting forever.

    The question is of course has the *global* water supply increased since that happened (*sounds* unlikely but IDK) and that high water mark should be revised. If so by how much?

    There's a reason the flat land around rivers tends to be called "flood plain."

    1. Peter Dawe

      Re: A note on sea level rises.

      Sea level is rising because of the expansion of water as it warms.

      This has been disguised at the moment as the melting FLOATing Ice is acting like a giant ice cube in ones G&T. Once the Arctic floating ice stops shrinking, the sea rises (a lot) faster.

      As some who lives in the Cambridgeshire Fens the worry isn't the loss of the house, but 50% of UK food production (by value)!

  49. Si 1

    With any luck Chris Huhne will be off to prison for lying about his speeding ticket and the government can put someone who doesn't listen to whale music in charge of building a new generation of nuclear plants. It's a pity our nuclear skills have been allowed to atrophy to the point that we need to buy in French expertise to build the new reactors.

    Of course that assumes we won't have all the scaremongers spreading FUD about nuclear power...

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