back to article The fast-growing energy source set to replace oil: Yes, it's coal

The emergence of renewable power has had essentially no effect on the amount of carbon emissions involved in energy generation, according to a new report. The new analysis is from the International Energy Agency. According to the IEA: The Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII) shows how much carbon dioxide is emitted, …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Renewable Energy

    I'll admit I'm a green person, in the local elections I vote green why? Because I agree with a lot of their policies (and they're backed by one of the non-extreme greenists)

    But the greenfreaks don't seem to understand what they're doing. A lot of them hear "Lower CO2" and assume it's the way to go.

    It's like a company hearing "New processor architecture which COULD potentially surpass x86 in a few years, but for now costs twice the amount" and then replacing every PC in their office knowing a more power efficient, faster and cheaper model is due in 10 years.

    The UK is one of the few countries that could POTENTIALLY become self sufficient on energy, not purely on renewable sources but in certain areas. The sad part is it would cost a lot to do, and rather than laying out a large cost to get a big benefit, we're paying out a large cost for a smaller benefit because the greenies are shooting themselves in the foot.

    Tidal and Hydro are the two which could generate most power, and they're in a fairly 'complete' state.

    Wind farms are unreliable and expensive, we'd be better off putting them out to sea (possibly in the same places as the tidal power could be generated, which could be further improved with artificial reefs)

    Solar panels have potential, but right now they're highly inefficient. When we have a few more years and they become more efficient (and hopefully cheaper) it'd be nice to see them on all new builds, but right now solar is fairly pointless in comparison.

    The only remaining thing is giving a small discount on energy efficient goods. You want to buy that plamsa? That's nice, it's a good TV, cheap, but it draws power like a drain. Why not get this nice LED screen instead? Uses only a quarter of the power.

    On that note I decided a while ago when I finally get my own place (only a matter of time going by my savings account0 I'd be buying things based on energy efficiency. An extra £50 here and there on the initial purchase sure, but that's pay for itself over the years in energy bills. Especially at current rates.

    1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Renewable Energy

      ...An extra £50 here and there on the initial purchase sure, but that's pay for itself over the years in energy bills. Especially at current rates....

      You should note that you are in a circular argument here. Energy prices are high purely because of taxes. They are not expensive because of any market shortage. The 'Peak Oil' assertion has now been shown to be a lie, and nuclear energy is practically unlimited, and could be provided for free if we so wished. The prices are being kept artificially high to justify expensive energy-saving technology.

      Green activists like to make energy prices high because they view minimal energy use as good in itself. But it is not. We already use far more energy per head than our parents, and our children will use even more - and that is not a bad thing. It is part of the way human societies better themselves. Read Julian Simon.

      The Greens have now been defeated in this latest fight. But they will come back again over some other technology. They are anxious to achieve zero growth and stop all human development. Being on their side is not something I would be proud of...

      1. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Renewable Energy

        @Dodgy Geezer: While your points have some grounding, I do have some issues.

        "We already use far more energy per head than our parents, and our children will use even more - and that is not a bad thing. It is part of the way human societies better themselves."

        Not exactly. DOING more is how we better ourselves. This normally uses more energy. However, it does not always have to. More efficient technologies come along allowing us to do more with the same energy or less. So with no increase in energy use we can still have advancement.

        "The Greens have now been defeated in this latest fight. But they will come back again over some other technology. They are anxious to achieve zero growth and stop all human development. Being on their side is not something I would be proud of..."

        This is the hard-line, extremist green view. I consider myself a moderate green. I want the world to move forward, but that does not mean we have to "destroy the planet" in the process. We can generate electricity from clean sources. The current generation of renewables is not up to the job (specifically wind and solar), but we can use cleaner gas-fired stations and, in particular, nuclear as a stop gap, as well as the more advanced renewables like hydro. We can use more efficient appliances to reduce our energy needs without lowering our quality of life. We can continue to research additional clean energy sources. All of these would be for the ultimate advancement of mankind, while also being green.

        1. Nuke
          Holmes

          @ Dr Mouse - Re: Renewable Energy

          Wrote :- "Not exactly. DOING more is how we better ourselves. This normally uses more energy."

          Not exactly. I use more energy than my father in that he drove 5 miles to work and I drive 30 miles. I do not see that I am "better off" than my father in this respect.

          Such differences are quite common. He considered it a long way to go to work at the time, but today I work with guys who travel 50-60 miles, thanks to ever-changing company ownerships and locations (and thanks for that in turn to Mrs T. Norman Tebbitt's dad's bike just would not cut the mustard for these journeys).

      2. HMB

        Re: Renewable Energy

        Dodgy Geezer...

        I like a lot of what you said, but despite myself being a huge fan of nuclear power and believing it to be something that could still change our world enormously for the better, bringing people out of poverty, it could by no means be free.

        Nuclear fuel isn't a significant cost in nuclear power. Complex highly regulated buildings and designs, millions of man hours of professional work and planning followed by millions more man hours running reactor designs that are small evolutionary changes over reactor technology that has been around for decades, that makes current gen nuclear expensive, not as expensive as wind perhaps (unless they really do crack mass energy storage), but certainly more so than a normal coal plant.

        Nuclear is the one energy source that can solve our problems for thousands of years and it's also the one we're least excited about benefiting from.

        1. h3

          Re: Renewable Energy

          Depends how you want to do it you could make it free to the user. Whichever country has the Aswan Dam does / did that.

          Nothing is world class in this country now.

          (The new train line isn't even a bullet train).

          If we built astronomically large amounts of nuclear we could sell the energy really cheap (Or datacentres) to enable manufacturing to be profitable here. (If wanted we could make residential paid for by commercial users.)

          Once it was up and running it would set us up for a long time.

          Subsidising the private sector is never a good idea.

          Look at America's problems with brownouts we don't have that because it was done with public money properly. (Probably it cost more initially but it was done right.)

          Cannot see how paying BT £500 million all the time is better than it would have been just not selling off BT.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: America's problems with brownouts

            America didn't have problems with brownouts from private electric companies until after the greens but the kabosh on building coal fired electric plants and stopped all nuclear plant construction.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: America's problems with brownouts

              Oh, Enron and unregulated energy markets had nothing to do with brownouts to maximise profits at all costs then ?

          2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: Renewable Energy

            @h3 If we built astronomically large amounts of nuclear we could sell the energy really cheap

            This is the second post here that makes the mistake of assuming nuclear energy is cheap because the direct unit cost is low. Nuclear power is capital-intensive. Most of the unit cost of output is a share of the cost of building and decommissioning the power station.

      3. NomNomNom

        Re: Renewable Energy

        "The 'Peak Oil' assertion has now been shown to be a lie"

        Has it? Don't believe you. Oil is finite and proven reserves are dwindling. It's more than likely we'll reach a maximum extraction rate - the peak - soon.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Renewable Energy

          @Nom

          "Has it? Don't believe you. Oil is finite and proven reserves are dwindling. It's more than likely we'll reach a maximum extraction rate - the peak - soon."

          This is an awesome broken record. It it going to happen at some point but that point has yet to be found. Every time we reach the end, more is found. Obviously this isnt going to go on forever but as a problem it is slow to occur. Once it happens we will find solutions around the problem (as always).

          Soon means little without a rough time scale to work from. So far soon has proven to be a long time. Relative to life spans.

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: Renewable Energy

            "This is an awesome broken record. It it going to happen at some point but that point has yet to be found. Every time we reach the end, more is found."

            There's currently only about 40 years of proven reserves left at the current rate of use and there have been insufficient major discoveries to stop the figure falling. The peak will occur long before proven reserves run out, because the peak is the point where extraction rate peaks. To make matters worse with what little oil is left, there is a huge surge in demand, all those people who want cars in China and India. The global peak may have already been reached already given that the expected effect of it will be a steady and unstoppable rise in the price of oil.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Renewable Energy

              @Nom

              "There's currently only about 40 years of proven reserves left at the current rate of use and there have been insufficient major discoveries to stop the figure falling."

              So? Thats 40 years minimum (conservative figures) proven. Added to by continued exploration.

              "The global peak may have already been reached already given that the expected effect of it will be a steady and unstoppable rise in the price of oil."

              Again so? We have plenty of time to work out alternatives which due to market forces will become more relevant as the price of oil surpasses them. What is the worry?

              1. NomNomNom

                Re: Renewable Energy

                "So? Thats 40 years minimum (conservative figures) proven. Added to by continued exploration."

                No that's 40 years at current use levels. But demand is rising. Plus continued exploration just isn't finding enough to replace what is being used, let alone to satisfy the rising demand.

                "We have plenty of time to work out alternatives"

                Don't think so.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Renewable Energy

                  @Nom

                  "No that's 40 years at current use levels. But demand is rising. Plus continued exploration just isn't finding enough to replace what is being used, let alone to satisfy the rising demand."

                  Again I dont see anything to worry about. We use oil because its cheaper than the alternatives. When that changes we change our usage. Its not a problem.

                  You may not think we have time to work out alternatives but that is your opinion based on your worries. We already have alternatives to some of the oil uses but they are more expensive than oil is right now. Oil is cheaper and easier for the moment.

              2. James Micallef Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Renewable Energy

                "What is the worry?"

                The worry is that

                1) "40 years of proven reserves" does not mean that we are sorted for the next 40 years. It means that if we burn it all at current and future expected rates, it would last 40 years BUT since it becomes more and more difficult to extract as it reaches the bottom, it's unlikely that we can extract it all within the next 40 years. It's not like it will be uiness as usual for 40 years and then suddenly we go from full production to zero *. More likly what will happen is that starting in the next 20 years we will need to get a larger and larger percentage of energy from non-oil sources

                2) To have energy solutions that will start picking up the shortfall of oil in 20 (or 30, or 40) years' time, we need to start now. Wind and solar will never fill the gap, but even if we want to utilise them to the maximum potential we need a 50% increase every year f0r 20 years to make a real dent. And, more importantly, we need nuclear for baseload, and those plants take a LONG time to design, test, approve, build, regulate etc etc (not to mention that in 10-20 years time the current nuclear plants will start to be deactivated). So, again, we need to start planning and building these things now.

                * this is actually a good thing

            2. Tom 13

              Re: only about 40 years of proven reserves left at the current rate of use

              We've had "only about 40 years of proven reserves left at the current rate of use" since 1970. It isn't a function of how much is out there that can be harvested, it's a function of companies barely plan beyond 10 years so 40 years proven reserves = infinite for their purposes.

            3. Tim Worstal

              Re: Renewable Energy

              Grrr.

              "There's currently only about 40 years of proven reserves left"

              A useful definition of proven reserves is the stuff that we've prepared to use in the next few decades. That we're going to use in the next few decades what we're prepared for our use in the next few decades isn't really all that exciting a notion.

              This also explains why reserves have been 40 years worth for a century. Because every year some people take some of the *resources* and convert the into *reserves* by preparing them for our use.

              Please note that the conversion of resources into reserves does not require finding new lakes of the stuff. Finding new lakes is an increase in resources.

            4. Dave 15 Silver badge

              Re: Renewable Energy

              It doesn't matter if oil does run out. The Germans proved it was possible to make oil, rubber and petrol without having oil. Indeed recently petrol has been made in America without oil (the last one I saw was in the desert and used solar power to make the petrol - from air and water - leading to it being carbon neutral - the carbon produced during the burning being the carbon absorbed during the making).

              We already know how to make gas from coal - thats what we used to use before 'natural gas' came around in the '70's.

              Frankly it has been shown beyond any intelligent doubt that 'green' and 'global warming' along with 'climate change' and 'peak oil' is a fiction leaped on by various western governments so they can hike taxes to pay for the unaffordable welfare and pension costs. It is also the one reason why we are ALL falling behind China and set to become 5th world countries - companies can no longer afford to manufacture here in the UK (land prices, capital costs and energy being the reasons - not as politicians bullshit the cost of man power), Worse is that offices will follow manufacturing - it is inevitable. The more tax denudes the country of work the more tax is needed to cover the cost, the reduction in welfare though small at the moment is going to have to also play a part.

        2. Wilco 1

          Re: Renewable Energy

          If we aren't already past peak oil, we certainly will be soon. Even shale oil will be a short fad, as each well only lasts a few years. But the real issue people always ignore is the cost of extraction, which is rising fast. Just because we've got large reserves of dirty tar sands in Canada for example doesn't mean it doesn't take huge amounts of gas and electricity to actually extract it (and refine it if you want low-sulfur petrol). So not only does it take a lot more effort to extract it, but in the process of extracting it, we actually waste a significant proportion of it as well. The end result is we get an ever smaller amount of actual useful oil for every barrel of oil extracted. That's typically not shown in the production figures...

        3. Omgwtfbbqtime
          Facepalm

          Re: Renewable Energy

          "Proven reserves are dwindling"

          You don't actually know what proven means in respect of oil exploration do you?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves#Proven_reserves

          I know it's wiki but it looks fairly correct.

          Unproven reserves can become proven if economic conditions change - such as the oil price rises.

      4. James Micallef Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Renewable Energy

        @Dodgy Geezer

        "Energy prices are high purely because of taxes" - wrong, energy prices are high partly because it's becoming more expensive to extract and partly because there's more demand.

        "The 'Peak Oil' assertion has now been shown to be a lie" - I have no idea what you're talking about. Cheap oil has certainly long peaked and is in decline. For other more expensive oil, there's still more in the ground to dig up, so the peak gets pushed back into the future as prices rise and it's more viable. But in general we are using more gas and coal because there is less oil available (at a competitive price).

        And, irrespective of whether we already passed the peak, are passing it now, or if it is 20 or 50 years in the future, their clearly and obviously will be a peak, then a decline, then finally "That's All, folks", only without a goofy carrot-chewing rabbit.

        "Green activists like to make energy prices high because they view minimal energy use as good in itself. But it is not. We already use far more energy per head than our parents, and our children will use even more - and that is not a bad thing."

        I think what's important isn't the gross use but how much useful work we can get done from it, i.e. efficiency. The 50s and 60s generations vastly improved lifestyle by vastly improving consumption, and when oil was cheap, they could 'afford' to be wasteful. Our children will learn how to have a better lifestyle than ours while using less energy, becaus energy WILL be more expensive (due to natural less-supply-more-deman, nothng to do with green taxes).

      5. red death

        Re: Renewable Energy

        >They are not expensive because of any market shortage. The 'Peak Oil' assertion has now been shown to be a lie,

        More than a little disingenuous - the main point at the moment is not whether peak oil has been reached, but the extraction cost which in many new developments is higher than historical fields (as we have extracted many of the "easy wins").

        >and nuclear energy is practically unlimited, and could be provided for free if we so wished.

        In the same way that anything else could be provided for "free" if someone else is prepared to subsidise it! Strangely enough building a nuclear plant ain't cheap and how much do you need for decommissioning and waste management?

        I'm a supporter of nuclear, but it does no one any favours to trivialise the costs/difficulties of nuclear.

        >The prices are being kept artificially high to justify expensive energy-saving technology.

        No they aren't. They are taxed as a useful source of revenue for Govts and the likes of OPEC tries to keep prices high for fairly obvious reasons.

        >They are anxious to achieve zero growth and stop all human development

        Sweeping generalisation alert! Not all greens think like that...though easier perhaps to pigeonhole people.

        1. brainbone

          Re: Renewable Energy

          >Strangely enough building a nuclear plant ain't cheap and how much do you need for decommissioning and waste management?

          Look at my post above. Nuclear doesn't not need to be expensive and waste generating. If half the amount invested in solar and wind was invested in developing MSRs or any of the other "new" nuclear technologies, we would be in a much better place right now.

          Just because our current LWRs are wasteful and expensive, doesn't mean all nuclear is. Nuclear is a very large field.

      6. RoboJ1M
        Stop

        Re: Renewable Energy

        Mostly agree.

        They take my money and spend it on glossy advertising programmes telling me to use less energy.

        Get lost, I now use all the energy I want to pay for without being overtly wasteful.

        It's up to the privatised energy industry to spend my money on getting more energy but not at the cost of future generations.

        They shouldn't be allowed to take more money because they backed the wrong horse.

        They should all be going out of business and being replaced by younger, hungrier companies that know how to undercut the opposition by using fancy new tech.

        What I don't get it why we aren't all building solar concentrating towers in north africa and piping it all back here for pennies.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Renewable Energy

      Because I agree with a lot of their policies...

      Hmm, every time I've looked at their policies I've found them to be conventional rabid Marxism with some anti-nuclear and CO2 bothering rhetoric tacked on the front.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Renewable Energy

        @TeeCee as noted, the local green party is headed by one of the non-extreme greens. One of the few who actually campaigned for nuclear energy as a cleaner source.

        The arguement was along the lines of nuclear isn't completely clean, but it's feasable, and cheap when compared to wind and solar which are expensive, take up excess land, and are far from efficient.

        The guy was strangely well grounded.

    3. itzman
      FAIL

      Re: Renewable Energy

      A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Examination of energy density and renewable intermittency shows why there is no hope whatsoever of the UK ever becoming 100% renewable and why in the end its a chimaera.

      http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

    4. Piro

      Re: Renewable Energy

      Every time I think "eh, greens can't be so bad, probably better than the others"..

      Then I'm reminded they don't like Nuclear power. I would not be able to vote for a party that is against Nuclear power.

      If we stopped all this scaremongering, we could have had newly built nukes, with a good design by now, and cut our air pollution by a huge amount.

      1. Wilco 1
        Boffin

        Re: Renewable Energy

        It's not just the anti-nuclear parties or the NIMBY's, EDF wants twice the market rate for electricity for 40 years for the new nuclear power station Hinkley C. That's a price where even the current government is saying that's a pretty huge subsidy to a private company (especially given wind subsidies last for just 15 years).

    5. brainbone

      Re: Renewable Energy

      * Ahem *

      Why, so often, do us "greens" avoid talking about modern nuclear technologies, or if we do, immediately start demonizing them without understanding the technology?

      Please take a look at the Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) as just one example of an energy source that us greens should be embracing, without delay:

      http://transatomicpower.com/company.php

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  3. Rampant Spaniel

    How much of this 'trend' is due to China building coal stations? Wouldn't it be more accurate to state that any reduction that renewables bring is negated by some countries building coal stations with no attempt to mitigate co2 emissions?

    Irrespective of my thoughts on renewables, this stinks of bias.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      @Rampant Spaniel

      "How much of this 'trend' is due to China building coal stations?"

      A big part, But Europe is doing its bit. Germany's phasing out nuclear (along with Belgium, Italy & Switzerland), and as their green lobby will block fracking, and the alternative is Russian gas, the Germans propose to build new lignite (brown coal) plants. Lignite is a rubbish fuel source, amounting to coal dust mixed with earth, so the thermal efficiency is rotten. Whilst I don't buy the CO2 bogeyman, the Germans do, so its a pity that lignite is just about the worst fuel in the world for carbon intensity. Hugely expensive, not good for the Germany economy or environment, and supporting the German mining industry, itself state subsidy supported in exactly the way that the EU tell us we can't subsidies things.

      Meanwhile the UK's plans to shut down 12 GW of coal plant under LCPD mean that the operators are caning the existing plant to get the maximum permitted run time before closure, so our coal use is much higher than in previous years. UK coal use wil go down in future years, and the ccretins at DECC will undoubtedly claim this as proof their nonsense renewables policy is working, when in fact it will simply make us dependant upon imported power from France.

      Icon because collectively and singly, energy "policy" across Europe is a joke.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: @Rampant Spaniel

        ... make us dependant upon imported power from France.

        Which achieves the desired result. Most of that's from nuclear capacity, so we get the low-carbon nuclear goodness without having to sell the concept of building nuke plants to the NIMBY luddite proles.

        1. itzman

          Re: @Rampant Spaniel

          Hollande also wants to close Frances nuclear industry.

          France and Switzerland are the two 'cleanest' electricity generators in western Europe, both massively nuclear.

          Ego they must be stopped and moved onto renewables and gas at a huge increase in emissions. Why?

          the only explanation that makes sense is that someone who has the ear of Brussels is making a lot of money out of renewables.

          The day a continent is run on covert commercial interest and plausible deniability instead of actual fact based policy is the day it starts to collapse economically..

          1. James Micallef Silver badge

            Re: @Rampant Spaniel

            Hollande is an idiot!

            In the case of Switzerland, a LOT less dependent on nuclear than France, most Swiss clean energy comes from hydro. Of course because of the Swiss geography that's a unique situation, so your point about Europe generally still holds.

      2. Tom 13

        @Ledswinger: Look on the bright side

        At least you have an Energy policy to joke about. I'm told all the time that our problem here in the US is we don't have an Energy policy.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Holmes

      "Wouldn't it be more accurate to state that any reduction that renewables bring is negated by some countries building coal stations with no attempt to mitigate co2 emissions?

      erm, that's what teh article DOES say:

      "Acting against these mitigating factors has been the massive world upsurge in coal burning, particularly in China - though lately, Europe has also turned to coal in a bid to wean itself off insecure and pricey Russian gas. Coal is a very carbon-intensive way to generate energy, so all this has effectively wiped out the carbon reductions achieved by gas, hydro and nuclear (and the tiny additional ones from wind, solar etc)."

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        @James

        I am aware of what the article says later, read the first line, that is what I was refering to :-)

  4. jake Silver badge

    In other news ...

    ... one wonders how many of the "anti atmospheric carbon" set have stopped popping the tops on fizzy drinks ;-)

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: In other news ...

      The CO2 in fizzy drinks comes directly from the atmosphere in the first place, so it's actually carbon-neutral (except for the energy required to make the drink in the first place).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fact check (Re: In other news ...)

        "The CO2 in fizzy drinks comes directly from the atmosphere in the first place"

        2/10 - see me.

        According to Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit) it's mainly made "as a side product of the industrial production of ammonia and hydrogen". You can also buy a CO2 production plant from Buze Gastek, for use in the beverage industry, that uses combustion of gas or oil.

        Fractional condensation from air to extract a 0.04% trace component would probably be a bit expensive for something of quite low value (especially as the EU "Carbon" price has now tanked, tee hee).

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Fact check (In other news ...)

          Not to mention all that CO2 given off by brewing beer.....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Lunatics running the asylum

    At least in Europe they are, with it's madcap attempts to destroy its own economy with hugely expensive and unproductive renewables, all funded by subsdies, then further "capacity payments" (more subsidies) to fossil fuel generators to keep their plant open during the long winter periods when renewables generate nothing. The clowns running Germany have written off billions of pounds worth of fully functional nuclear plant, which will require them to burn more coal and gas (although this does appear to have the support of the German plebs). And there's worse still for Britain. Not only is one eighth of our generating plant being switched off under the EU "large combustion plant directive (the biggest impact anywhere in Europe), but our government's idiotically conceived "carbon floor price" further increases the costs of UK fossil generation. But because the EU emissions trading scheme is pan European, any reduction in UK emissions will simply depress ETS carbon credit prices elsewhere. So British electricity customers and industry are paying higher power prices in order that Germany industry can enjoy lower prices due to the ETS prices coming down, even whilst German gears up to use more fossil fuels to replace the retired nuclear fleet.

    Well done Ed Davey! A man so stupid he can't even see how his own department and its EU overlords are busy destroying the British economy, whilst they suckle enthusiastically on the warm public sector teat of "climate change".

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Lunatics running the asylum

      Get off your hobbyhorse and get a clue.

      All EU policy was sanctioned by democratically elected national governments. As you obviously disapprove of what the "plebs" have chosen, you might as well dust off your blackshirt and photo of your-dictator-of-choice.

      For the record: Germany yesterday produced the equivalent of 26 nuclear power stations from wind and solar power. Such peak production causes problems all of its own but is still an impressive feat on the road to energy independence. Nothing has been written off from the power stations - the courts will rightly award the power companies the profits guaranteed to them by contract. Yes, that will be expensive and I'm not looking forward to paying my share of it but it is the law.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lunatics running the asylum@Charlie Clark

        "All EU policy was sanctioned by democratically elected national governments"

        Sadly, that doesn't mean that the policies have the support of the voters, or that even where they do, that the policies make sense.

        Regarding "dust off your blackshirt", another straight call on Godwin. If you can't see the vast hole that Europe is digging for itself, then more fool you. And as for Germany's "achievement" in renewables, I'd just remind you that by 2016 subsidies under the German Renewable Energy Act will be running at €24 billion a year. That is on top of the nuclear phase out compensation, EU carbon credit purchases, and the cost of all the thermal standby (which the German government is going to have to come up with capacity payments to support).

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

    Guess what.

    It is.

    While I don't know if an Indian or Chinese coal fired power station built in 2010 incorporates all that Flue Gas Desulpherisation tech developed to combat acid rain I do expect it to burn a lot less coal for the same leccy that such a station built in say the 1970's would have.

    Bottom line without cooperation from the US, China and India on CO2 emissions it will remain at that level or rise.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

      " I do expect it to burn a lot less coal for the same leccy that such a station built in say the 1970's would have."

      Why?

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

        Why? Improvements in the efficiency of generation, that's why. You think generation technolog has been static since the 70s? It hadn't reached an efficiency peak back then so it's safe to assume that there have been improvements in the meantime.

        That's why.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: REminds me of a report...@Graham Dawson

          "it's safe to assume that there have been improvements in the meantime."

          I think you assume the improvement will be greater than they are. Take our own Drax, which is a 1970's build, and is about 40% thermally efficient. Now take Datteln Unit 4, in Germany, which is an absolute state of the art hard coal plant (not yet commissioned even) and will be about 45% thermally efficient. That's hardly a breathtaking improvement for forty years, you'd agree?

          Moreover, I doubt that India has the money or inclination to build coal plant to the latest EU & German standards, in which case there probably has been next to no improvement in the efficiency of Indian coal fired power plant.

          If you want to improve the thermal efficiency of coal plant, then things like fluidised bed grates and higher pressure steam circuits only help so far, the real easy, easy win is to recover the heat for district heating (something we won't do in the UK, but could nearly double the thermal efficiency of any coal power station near an urban area). In India obviously there's little or no demand for heating, so they will always be stuck with at absolute best 45% efficiency.

          Logically coal burning should be discouraged in tropical and sub tropical climates (encourage them to use gas), and at higher latitudes we should use coal with heat recovery for winter power, and gas for summer, and forget about window dressing like solar PV and wind.

          1. Sammy Smalls
            Mushroom

            Re: REminds me of a report...@Ledswinger

            'something we won't do in the UK' - Is there a reason for this? Has this been debated and rejected? A genuine question, as it sounds like a good idea.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Unhappy

              Re: REminds me of a report...@Sammy Smalls & PlacidCasual

              "'something we won't do in the UK' - Is there a reason for this? Has this been debated and rejected? A genuine question, as it sounds like a good idea."

              It has been debated a bit, but has no enthusiastic supporters and very low profile. The electricity industry is deeply conservative, but more importantly there's no support and ecounragement, with DECC continuing their mad policies of pushing "renewables" at any cost. The economics of retrofit district heating are marginal on raw commercial terms, but compared to the economics of renewables they are excellent, and a far better and cheaper way of reducing CO2 emissions. As a rough guide, a 2GWe coal fired station wastes 2-3GW thermal through its cooling towers, and that's about the heat demand of a city of a million people. Obviously you'd need to fluff some up the cooling towers if running in summer, but summer demand is less anyway, so you could downrate the coal plant over the summer (coal plant is problematic to completely mothball, although it can be done).

              PlacidCasual's comment about housing stock not being suitable seems logical, but isn't entirely correct. In southern Sweden I know that the district heating system is being built out as a retrofit to urban areas already supplied by gas, so it can be done and is done, in similar climate zones to the UK. Admittedly you're displacing relatively clean gas, but that's still unnecessary gas. Part of the lack of enthusiasm is for power stations really in the middle of nowhere (although the Danes have got some 20km+ district heating transmission lines, proving it can be done), and because of the sh!theaded EU plans to close so much UK thermal plant down. You'd be a nutter to develop district heating for something you're going to be forced to shut in a couple of years.

              Notwithstanding that, there's no reason that the plants continuing to operate post 2015 shouldn't be encouraged to develop CHP, although DECC's idiot policy of a carbon floor price is intended to put these stations out of business by the early 2020s. And DECC are also busy developing yet another subsidy for us all to pay through our 'leccy bills, the Renewable Heat Incentive; You can be sure that will exclude CHP from large coal plant. It's part of their "any idea as long as it isn't sensible, low cost, and practical" scheme.

              The pity is that modernised coal plant with CHP could potentially run at 75% thermal efficiency, even for 1970's plant, and that's a lot better than even state of the art combined cycle gas turbines.

          2. Richard Wharram

            @Ledswinger

            When I was a student they had tomato-growing-greenhouses next to Drax that used the excess heat. Bloody warm in there it was :)

            Also, congrats again Ledswinger for being the most consistently sensible poster on energy on The Reg.

          3. Dave 15 Silver badge

            Re: REminds me of a report...@Graham Dawson

            Didcot power station was built to provide waste heat to Didcot town... unfortunately they didn't actually provide it - probably to do with losing out on the ability to charge tax on it all - so instead the waste heat goes up the cooling towers without even being used with a stirling engine to get a little extra energy... but hey ho, still rather see us using that power station than trying to rely on the wind blowing at the right time.

            In the end all the government here and the EU are doing is nailing the coffin lid down on all our industry, office and other jobs, hiking the costs for the ever dwindling number of workers and making sure they return the whole continent (literally) to the dark ages while China and India just do what the hell they like.

            If CO2 were a real problem we'd do something about stopping imports from there... but it isn't so we won't.

          4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Holmes

            Re: REminds me of a report...@Graham Dawson

            "Now take Datteln Unit 4, in Germany, which is an absolute state of the art hard coal plant (not yet commissioned even) and will be about 45% thermally efficient. That's hardly a breathtaking improvement for forty years, you'd agree?"

            An increase by 1/8 I'd suggest is pretty good. It might not be on a par with the potential MPG of modern cars but that's because the CEGB had some incentive to build efficient power stations in the first place. Were Drax built today that 5% rise would have it put out an extra 496 MW of power. That's the size of a couple of gas stations on its own.

            "Moreover, I doubt that India has the money or inclination to build coal plant to the latest EU & German standards, in which case there probably has been next to no improvement in the efficiency of Indian coal fired power plant.to begin with."

            Latest in terms of pollution control, perhaps not. But why not build for maximum efficiency? The technology baseline moves over time. How many people would still insulate the boilers with Asbestos anywhere in the world?

            "If you want to improve the thermal efficiency of coal plant, then things like fluidised bed grates and higher pressure steam circuits only help so far, the real easy, easy win is to recover the heat for district heating"

            True. It's surprising at least a few UK gas stations have not even looked at supplying district heating. IIRC they have tended to be much closer to their customers than the huge old CEGB stations.

            For India and other countries where this makes no sense I could see that process heat would be an option. I think restrictions on citing a chemical works or an oil refinery nearby are not that great (although they'd probably run the station on oil to begin with).

            "and at higher latitudes we should use coal with heat recovery for winter power, and gas for summer,"

            That's not really a choice. Note gas is popular in the UK because the market more or less forces it to go that way. This is not an intrinsic> feature it is a feature of the UK market.

            "and forget about window dressing like solar PV and wind."

            They are exceptionally bad for the UK, but there are much better renewable and carbon neutral sources, some nearly unique to the UK (such as down hole heat exchangers providing a minimum of 500Kw from every borehole, productive or dry, in the North Sea, of which there are around 4100 at last count).

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Go

            Re: REminds me of a report...@Graham Dawson

            However, in India you could recover the waste heat from a thermal power plant to provide district CHILLING using evaporative chillers and cold-water pumping. Not sure how additionally efficient it would be, but you would be using waste heat and it would certainly be a service that India could use.

        2. Tom 13

          @Graham Dawson: I think the why

          isn't 'why assume the technology exists?' it is 'why assume the Chinese have built it?'

          Usually the increased efficiency comes at the cost of higher price. So China gets to ramp up more quickly if they build dirtier plants. Given what we've heard about their air quality, I would bet they are opting for the faster ramp up. Whether that's because they figure they can re-invest in cleaner plants later using their increased industrial capacity, or they just don't care if the kill of a few hundred thousand people from their couple billion population is left as an exercise for the reader.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

        " I do expect it to burn a lot less coal for the same leccy that such a station built in say the 1970's would have."

        Why?

        Well, it's not just for the sake of being efficient. The Chinese need a lot of power (to cover all our off-shoring), and their production of coal can't really keep up.

        The last presentation I saw said that they were heating the water to ~600°C at ~600 bar to increase the efficiency of the plant. They then flash convert to steam at the point they generate the electricity. And this presentation was a fair time ago, comparing generation technologies before the final site of ITAR was chosen. The suggestion was that Chinese projects were leading the world in efficiency (out of necessity), and that some of that tech was going to come back to Europe later (A number of Euro companies were involved in the projects).

        1. PlacidCasual

          Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

          I don't think anyone is looking at 600 bar steam cycles yet, I'd be very surprised if they were. 700°C and 250bar is the current acheiveable envelope with current materials. Even then you're only looking to push the 50% efficiency envelope.

          Earlier comments about district heating are not really applicable in the UK. Our housing stock is too old and disordered. In the Soviet Union it was a common solution but they had large apartment blocks relatively near the heat sources. The capital cost of district heating really demands high denisty housing near the source. This might be achievable with a distributed co-gen strategy but you would have to re-ordeer society to achieve it.

          Whilst I'm no fan of nationalisation I really think the only way to achieve a rational energy policy is for generation and gas supply to be regulated absolute monopolies at the very least. The planning and investment decisions can then be taken without the great uncertainty of market trends and political intereference.

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."

      Why do you think a modern Indian station burns less coal per Mwh than a '70's station? My 'super efficient' modern car burns just as much petrol a mile as my '80's petrol guzzling sports car. EXACTLY the same. And a good deal MORE than my old Morris Minor.

  7. LarsG
    Meh

    If this is the case, why is the Government consistently shoving renewables down out throats and charging us for the privilege under the guise that it will make for a cleaner world.

    If anything this just goes to prove that we are being taken along for the ride. We must be mugs to put up with it.

    1. Paul Westerman
      Unhappy

      A fart in a hurricane

      It seems rather pointless us spending years agonizing over a single windmill or hydro project when China are knocking out a new power station every week. I speak as a former 'green' who frankly can see no point and has given up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: A fart in a hurricane

        "It seems rather pointless us spending years agonizing over a single windmill "

        But we're not. The UK has spent or committed something of the order of £20bn on crappy windmills, for stuff all output. There may be isolated examples of windpower being held up (usually onshore developments which should anyway be banned for their low load factor), but broadly speaking the programme is the one your former greeny mates have advocated, of building wind turbines pell mell, regardless of cost of consequence, and the ridiculous subsidy supported roll out of solar PV largely to middle class tossers.

        As for hydro, what hydro? All the good sites in the Uk are already in use, pumped storage is a waste of money (expensive and inefficient, still no good locations).

        I don't follow why any greens are downhearted. They've got exactly the energy policy they want - huge build out of renewables, all paid for by vast subsidies unwilling taken from electricity bill payers. They've got Kyoto, they've got the EU ETS, they've got a UK carbon floor price, and soon they'll have a post industrial Europe with a completely ruined economy.

        Cheer up, this is what you wanted.

        1. Paul Westerman

          Re: A fart in a hurricane

          Thanks! And I agree completely. I'd rather see those vast subsidies going into some of the interesting new reactor technologies I read about on The Reg.

        2. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: A fart in a hurricane

          Stupidly not all the decent hydro sites are in use. Mildenhall used to have a mill generating leccy for the town and nearby village. The machinery is actually still in the mill building - and the river etc etc are all still there. However the mill has been converted to flats and the machinery painted pretty and decommissioned.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Meh

            Re: A fart in a hurricane@Dave 15

            "Stupidly not all the decent hydro sites are in use. Mildenhall used to have a mill generating leccy for the town and nearby village."

            Mildenhall? In flat as a pancake Suffolk? The problem you have there is that low head hydro generates utterly pathetic amounts of power. Hydro power is flow times head in metres, and in most scenarios like Mildehall you'll have both low flows and low head. That's why hydro dams are tall, or use aqueducts to have turbines at much lower levels. You certainly could generate some power from a mill race, but in the grand scheme such little power that it really won't make any difference. As usual the EU have already tried to throw money at this one, I forget the name of it, but it was an attempt to subsidise power generation from low head hydro and within drinking water distribution back in the mid 1990s. It didn't result in any useful outcome.

            For a couple of houses or as a green hobby project it could be quite nice, but unfortunately it simply won't make much difference even if you stuck a hydro unit in every former mill race, and made as many again.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge
        Facepalm

        Re: A fart in a hurricane

        I thought the best illustration of the problem I've seen was as follows:

        If Europe were to remove every single fossil-fuelled vehicle from its roads overnight, it would take Chinese growth somewhere around two weeks to make up the difference in CO2 emissions.

        So yes. Everything we're doing in Europe has all the impact of a wet fart in a hurricane.

        My view is we'd be far better off spending the cash on infrastructure to mitigate the effects of a warmer climate in the future than we are pissing it up the wall in a grandiose "King Cnut" exercise, ensuring we'll be truly fucked when it bites.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A fart in a hurricane

          However, if we in Europe develop electric cars and other technology for reducing CO2 emissions then China might adopt some of that technology in due course, so there are other, indirect benefits from doing the right thing in Europe, even if we can't stop the rest of the world from wrecking the climate so we should prepare ourselves for rising sea levels, tropical diseases sweeping across Europe and killing everyone who hasn't drowned, etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A fart in a hurricane

            "However, if we in Europe develop electric cars and other technology for reducing CO2 emissions ..."

            Except that we aren't. Turbines on every suitable windfarm site plus solar PV across all suitable areas of Europe won't provide anywhere near our existing electricity demand (sunny, breezy summer weekends excepted), and electric vehicles have the potential to double electricity demand. The only way that EV's would reduce emissions would be if you had a mass nuclear build out, replacing all winter baseload with nuclear, and (because of the enhanced demand for EV charging) doubling that. In wax crayon numbers, winter baseload is 40GW in the UK, your EV charging demand would be about the same, so that's 80GW of new nuclear. Assuming £2bn per GW that's £160bn of spend on 25-40 odd new nuclear power stations, which would take thirty years to do (supply & skills constraints more of a problem than the money).

            The lights are at risk of going out in Europe, and the only medium term solution is gas - cheap to build, cheap to run, relatively quick to build (albeit not as quick as government believe), and capable of running off imported Russian gas, Middle Eastern LNG, or Europe's vast shale gas reserves, if the will existed.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "If this is the case, why is the Government consistently shoving renewables down out throats and charging us for the privilege under the guise that it will make for a cleaner world."

      The legally binding commitment Tony Blair signed up to make 30% of all UK energy come from renewable energy resources by something like 2030 despite knowing that while that might be possible for electricity it would be bloody near impossible quite challenging for all energy usage.

      Or as I like to think of it

      "here's-a-little-going-away-present-to-you-Mad-Eye-now-get-out-of-that-you-c**t"

      (signed) Tony.

  8. Esskay

    "Despite their high profile and burdensome expense, however, newer renewable technologies (wind, solar and biofuel) are still not making any significant impact as they don't produce very much energy."

    I don't really see how this is a surprise - newer technologies are usually more expensive than mature ones, until they themselves mature.

    And undoubtedly China, being both massive and developing, have the biggest bearing on CO2 production of any individual country - particularly since they still burn copious amounts of coal.

    What would be interesting to see is how much CO2 China produces today compared to 1990....

    1. NomNomNom

      http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/prc.html

    2. itzman
      FAIL

      @esskay

      sadly renewable technology prices are rising just as fastas teh price of the oil and coal and gas used to make, install and service it, is.

      Which is utterly consistent with the fact that certainly windmills are massively MATURE technology. Having been around (and discarded) hundreds of years ago.

      Solar PV is not exactly brand new either.

      And none of the storage technologies that are being considered to act in conjunction are new, either. The innovation one finds is in the minds of those creating a glossy picture of spanking new technology, rather than in the actual technology itself.

      1. Wilco 1

        Re: @esskay

        Renewable technology has become far far cheaper in the last few decades due to increased volume and efficiencies. For example solar PV panels are now just £1/W in the UK! That's becoming cheap enough that they pay for themselves through reduced electricity bills even without any subsidies. And it appears the relentless downward curve has no sign of stopping any soon. Efficiencies are constantly increasing and new discoveries (even thinner films) are being made regularly .

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @esskay

          @Wilco 1

          So remove all the subsidies and market manipulation which isnt just bringing down the cost/W for solar but also increasing all our energy bills insanely to bring you that low low price (of more expensive). Would it still pay for itself? Would it have any hope of competing with the grid?

          Do the same with wind and again we have cheap energy. Replace the wind/solar with power generating sources (ones that work) and we have cheap plentiful energy!

          However such sense will not happen. So we face an energy shortage. Increased bills. Expensive infrastructure to carry the little power to the grid. Market manipulation pushing people into fuel poverty. And then some little greenies who are happy to see the heavily subsidised and barely working technology save the world. Someone please save it from the greenies.

          1. Wilco 1
            Facepalm

            Re: @esskay

            Yes, without any subsidies solar PV would become competitive eventually, but it would take much longer that way. If you dislike renewable subsidies, do you also dislike all the oil, gas, coal and nuclear subsidies? The tax payer will be paying countless billions just for the cleanup of the current nuclear generation...

            What source of energy can generate cheap and plentiful energy? Certainly not nuclear (not cheap, and we never got the promised "too cheap to meter"). What else? Fusion is still at least 50 years off...

            We're going to face increased bills no matter what. Coal, gas, oil are all becoming scarcer and more expensive. You can't blame increased bills on renewable energy when Russia decides to charge twice as much on the gas we use.

  9. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    FAIL

    Keep the fight going...

    ...The emergence of renewable power has had essentially no effect on the amount of carbon emissions involved in energy generation...

    It does seem important to point out that we shouldn't be caring about the amount of CO2 being emitted. CO2 emissions are NOT a problem - they don't cause any environmental damage, in fact they help plants.

    There has now been a 17-year pause in global temperature rise (It's actually gone slightly down), while at the same time we have been continuing to pour CO2 out. All the models which said we would be in danger have been comprehensively proven wrong. But I am sure that the government will still try to tax us on CO2 emissions on the grounds that they might be harmful, but we haven't quite found out how just yet...

    1. quarky
      Facepalm

      Re: Keep the fight going...

      Has someone been reading the Daily Mail again?

      1. itzman
        FAIL

        Re: Keep the fight going...

        No, looking at the actual DATA I would imagine. When Global temperatures are below EVERY SINGLE MODEL that considers CO2 multiplied by feedback to be a significant driver of climate, it is time for people who are prepared to let facts refute a model, rather than adjust the model constantly to fit the facts to reconsider the whole proposition.

        When the argument swings from 'this or that weather event proves global warming' to 'this or that event is ONLY WEATHER and WEATHER is NOT CLIMATE', uttered by the exact same group of people, even the thickest non scientist starts to smell a decaying rodent.

        1. Wilco 1
          Facepalm

          Re: Keep the fight going...

          Look at the actual DATA then, can you seriously claim it has been cooling? All the key climate indicators point to unabated warming at an accelerating speed (and that includes temperature):

          http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators/

        2. Tom 13

          @itzman

          Don't worry, all they have to do to correct the model is add another epicycle right over there...

    2. Wilco 1
      Thumb Down

      Re: Keep the fight going...

      There has not been any pause in warming. All the measurements show the temperature increase is accelerating in the last 3 decades. Temperatures haven't gone down either - every decade has been consistently warmer than the previous decade. And all other climate indicators show steady loss of land and sea ice, retreating glaciers, increasing sea levels and lower pH levels. See for example: http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators/

  10. PyLETS
    Flame

    Old news and naked lobbyists

    The fact that the limit on coal is based on how much of it you can afford to burn as opposed to how much is in the ground has been known well enough for a couple of decades now. The cost of different energy sources of course includes externalities - e.g. your and my increased insurance bill to cover losses resulting from weird weather and losses of those who can't afford insurance, (unless you're still in denial over the weird weather).

    Yes there are externalities from other energy sources for example Mr Trump claiming the views from his newly acquired Scottish golf course will be spoiled by turbines several miles away, or the risk of living in the valley below a badly constructed hydro dam built in an earthquake zone, or the lifecycle management cost of nuclear waste.

    Bring on a level playing field, but I doubt we all agree what that means, and I for one don't want all my energy eggs in one basket. I'm also sure Mr Trump can pay for more effective lobbyists to have the the wool pulled over our eyes than can a Chinese farmer living under the shadow of a new coal-fired power station to prevent us comparing like for like.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old news and naked lobbyists

      "unless you're still in denial over the weird weather"

      ROFL

      That is all ;-)

      1. Tom 13

        @AC re:ROFL

        Yep. It's always amusing when the tree huggers confuse weather with climate after accusing "denialists" of making the same mistake.

  11. Shasta McNasty
    WTF?

    False Prophet

    Renewable energy (wind, solar etc) is heralded as the solution to all our future energy needs as its both "cheap" and "available".

    Sadly, its neither of these. Renewable energy based power-stations are too bloody expensive to build and don't produce anywhere near as much energy as an coal/oil/nuclear power station of a similar size. Your typical householder is having to foot additional costs to their existing high energy bills to supplement renewable development, which means they're being properly shafted.

    China, India & the US will not agree to reducing their use of fossil fuels, so anything we do is just like pissing in the wind.

    If we had a government with any balls, they'd admit that we need more power stations that actually produce the energy required not more windmills producing 0.000001% of it. We need more nuclear power stations and given we now have a design that is safer, relatively cheap to build and runs on the waste we have already produced and buried, what the hell are we waiting for?

    1. itzman

      Re: False Prophet

      Exactly.

      http://ukip.org/media/policies/energy.pdf

      For the ONLY sensible energy policy around. The Liberal Democrats (now in charge at DECC) don't even HAVE an energy policy.

    2. Wilco 1
      Boffin

      Re: False Prophet

      Actually nuclear is more expensive than wind power. The £14B new nuclear power station Hinkley C to be built in the UK will produce power that is twice as expensive as the market price, more expensive than on-shore wind power and similar priced as off-shore. Yes, modern, efficient off-shore windfarms like Greater Gabbard (40% capacity factor) are cost competitive with nuclear power. That's the hard reality.

      Note wind turbines have been producing over 10% of total UK electricity over the last week: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: False Prophet

        @Wilco 1

        However the nuclear plant will be reliable, consistent and produce more power. The cost may be comparable to wind but the service far exceeds wind. Nuclear has the advantage of reliability. We know the power will be there as we need it. It doesnt require a power plant backing it up incase the wind doesnt blow.

        1. Wilco 1
          Boffin

          Re: False Prophet

          Nuclear plants have their downtime as well. It can take many months to refuel for example and during that time you must have a backup.The exact same argument applies to all power generation, all have downtime for expected maintenance and unexpected failures, so you always have to have some kind of backup.

          As one adds more windpower to the grid and more interconnects, it becomes more reliable - it is typically always windy somewhere!

          1. Richard Wharram

            Re: False Prophet

            Utter tossflesh.

            Nuclear power plants are orders of magnitude more reliable at generation than wind plants. Planned downtime is scheduled to not clash with planned downtime in other plants months in advance. Hence you need to provide backup generation only for about 10% of your total. For wind you need 100%.

            It is not always windy somewhere in the UK or even Europe. Do the costs you are giving include huge interconnects from Kazakhstan or New Zealand?

            1. Wilco 1

              Re: False Prophet

              You're wrong there, wind power is very reliable (it's unlikely wind is suddenly going to disappear forever is, it?), and quite predictable days and weeks in advance. Yes you cannot 100% guarantee it is windy all the time, but a recent study showed that just placing wind farms all around the UK reduced intermittency significantly.

              Interconnects will play an increasing role in the future, and they don't need to be very far either. Connecting to Iceland would open up a large amount of geothermal power, Sweden/Norway/Finland gives you hydro and pumped storage.

      2. Shasta McNasty

        Re: False Prophet

        How much does it produce when there isn't much wind and how much is stored when production exceeds consumption?

        Plus there are about 40 times as many UK wind farms as UK Nuclear plants (which produced 22% of last week's energy).

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        2. Wilco 1

          Re: False Prophet

          When there isn't much wind obviously production is low. At the moment every GWh produced is consumed immediately, basically no storage is required unless capacity is larger than consumption (and we're a long way off reaching that). For storage solar thermal looks like a better option, but it's not really feasible in the UK climate.

          In what way is the number of wind farms vs other plants relevant? Wind farms are typically smaller, even the largest is currently 0.5GW.

          1. Shasta McNasty

            Re: False Prophet

            "In what way is the number of wind farms vs other plants relevant? Wind farms are typically smaller, even the largest is currently 0.5GW."

            In the way that you have to have far more wind farms than nuclear power plants to produce anywhere near the same amount of energy...

            1. Wilco 1
              Facepalm

              Re: False Prophet

              Again, in what way does it matter? Building a nuclear power plant costs far more as well. In the end what matters is the cost of the electricity produced. And nuclear costs more than on-shore and is similar with off shore.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: False Prophet

        "Actually nuclear is more expensive than wind power"

        Only in the wild imaginings of the wind power weenies. Not only is wind cash-subsidised through multiple mechanisms, it also has a bizarre "must run" status. The merit curve that normally ensures our most efficient plant runs first to meet demand is thus turned on its head, and we run our most expensive plant at the random convenience of the wind (and if there's no demand, we still pay the operators anyway).

        Nobody has put a figure on this absurdity, but as we'd rarely run wind turbines at all if the merit curve were properly applied, you can infer that the value of the subsidy is about £140/MWh multiplied by total output, divided by the output wind would generate if run on merit. At a guess we're talking about wind's effective subsidy being one or two orders of magnitude greater than the nominal £140 MWh.

        1. Wilco 1
          Boffin

          Re: False Prophet

          No, it's a fact. Wind power costs are coming down, nuclear costs seem to only go up. As I already mentioned, the electricity price EDF wants for nuclear power is twice that of the market rate - higher than on-shore wind power. And if you are going to mention subsidies, what about all the nuclear subsidies, cleanup and storage costs? Nuclear subsidies are an order of magnitude higher and have been going on for many decades.

          Wind power and nuclear power are actually fairly similar in the way they work. Both are expensive to build but have low "fuel" costs compared to gas and coal. As a result, both want to sell as much electricity as they can generate. That's logical, if you think it is bizarre for wind power, do you also believe it is bizarre for nuclear?

          The fact is that with modern generation, your "merit curve" no longer applies. It only works for fuel based generation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            Re: False Prophet @ Wilco1

            "No, it's a fact. Wind power costs are coming down, nuclear costs seem to only go up"

            Well, if you build enough of anything you get the unit costs down, and that applies to nuclear as much as wind. But as noted, wind is NOT competitive on the grid without subsidy, and even with vast subsidies it still doesn't make it onto the grid unless forced. Unlike nice dependable nuclear, wind of course requires thermal assets in hot reserve to cover its unpredictability, a cost which (like so many others) it doesn't have to pay.

            As for your ignorant, ill informed comments on the merit curve, of course it bloody works, with any power source, to give the optimal outcome for the bill payers. Just because the eco-twerps have knobbled it to try and justify their useless toys doesn't make it "no longer apply". Your reasoning is akin to claiming that if a car is driven up hill, the laws of gravity no longer apply.

            But, don't worry. Notwithstanding the fact that you clearly speak from the commanding heights of ignorance, and that I merely work for one of the world's largest power companies, that my company operate a vast renewables fleet (farming the subsidies), that we are a major nuclear operator, that we have a large CCGT fleet, a significant coal fleet, interests in CHP, hydro and the rest, no, we''ll come and listen to you when the lights start going out.

            Or maybe not.

            1. Wilco 1
              Thumb Down

              Re: False Prophet @ Wilco1

              Ledswinger, it's very simple really - wind, solar and nuclear always want to sell all electricity they can produce irrespectively of the market price. If you disagree with that, you simply don't have a clue despite trying to claim to know better. And no, I don't care who you work for. But can you show us some of your publications? Now that would show you know your stuff.

              Nuclear is NOT competitive on the grid without subsidy. EDF tries to get a subsidy for 40 years at TWICE the current market rate for Hinkley C. That just says it all.

      4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: False Prophet

        "Yes, modern, efficient off-shore windfarms like Greater Gabbard (40% capacity factor) are cost competitive with nuclear power. "

        And the other 60% of the time?

        Do you just do without?

        "That's the hard reality."

        With wind indeed it is.

        1. Wilco 1
          Boffin

          Re: False Prophet

          There is no "other 60%". Capacity factor means you get on average 40% of the max capacity throughout a year. On average. Ie. it's not 100% for 40% of the days and 0% for 60% of the days but far more averaged. Obviously there are low-wind days across the UK, but in those cases you simply turn CCGT stations a bit higher. These are required anyway in order to follow the daily demand (nuclear and coal can't do this). Wind power simply reduces the amount of CCGT required (and to a lesser extent coal).

          You can clearly see this happening in the last few days: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

          See how the monthly nuclear/coal/ccgt graph shows much lower CCGT/Coal is from April 13 onwards? Next check out what wind power did in those days. Also remember the recent El-Reg scare story how we almost ran out of gas? Now you know why we didn't...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: False Prophet...Oi! Wilco 1

            It is patently obvious that you are emotionally attached to generating power by wind. You deny the operational shortcomings ("ooh, we'll just turn up a CCGT that happens to be lying around"), you deny the vast subsidies, you refute the merit curve as though listing plant in order of efficiency were some kind of witchcraft, you claim that the wind "sort of averages out so its always blowing a bit somewhere", which ignores the meteorological and seasonal reality.

            But you're wrong. £20 billion quid has been pissed up the wall on UK wind power, and we get a miserable handful of our power delivered, unreliably, and we've still got all the same operational, asset life and emissions problems of the conventional generating assets that keep the lights on in winter. For that sort of money we could either replaced the ENTIRE UK coal fleet with around 30 GW of new high efficiency CCGT plus sufficient gas storage to keep the system reliable, or we could have had four to six new nuclear reactors, delivering power continuously, so giving us about four times as much power as your wanky wind turbines (and with an asset life about three times as long as the wind turbines are likely to last).

            Renewables are an economic disaster that is going to wipe out Europe's economy, partly through pressuring manufacturers to offshore, partly through the crippling costs of subsidies and all the fixes to force the system to almost work, and partly because putting money into unproductive assets misallocates capital (this last one on its own destroyed the USSR's economy, albeit through weapons spending, but Europe failed to understand).

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: False Prophet

      "If we had a government with any balls, they'd admit that we need more power stations that actually produce the energy required not more windmills producing 0.000001% of it. We need more nuclear power stations and given we now have a design that is safer, relatively cheap to build and runs on the waste we have already produced and buried, what the hell are we waiting for?"

      Admirable.

      Now, given that the UK govt owns no power stations how do plan to get the operators to do this?

  12. Adam 1

    a bit more to it

    Bill Gates did an interesting talk on TED about it. His basic premise was that

    CO2 = population x services each person enjoys x units of energy per service x CO2 output for each unit of energy.

    Basically we have an substantially increased population over the past 50 years and with places like China and India modernising the average services per person has gone through the roof.

    Energy per service has reduced slightly as has CO2 per unit of energy but not enough to offset the first two points.

  13. Arachnoid
    FAIL

    Dishwashers v Washing by hand

    As long as power consumers rely on technology to compensate for manual tasks they could easily do by hand then power demands will increase year upon year as Buzz Light Year stated "into infinity and beyond" then the tax will not reduce anything but will just be another milestone for politicians to grind at election time.These living taxes are a joke having little or no effect on the problem and merely sliding into the back pockets of those who control the wheels of industry.

    There is no magic red or blue pill to get you back to reality [or not] and all sensibility has gone out of the window, its a mad world out there and the Captain has lost control of the ship.

    1. Justicesays
      Facepalm

      Re: Dishwashers v Washing by hand

      Great choice of comparison:

      http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html

      I guess it costs energy to make that dish washer, but to be honest, what is holding us back is not the energy use, but the complete lack of a coherent energy policy is most countries worldwide.

      The whole scene is dominated by (financially) vested interests, wilfully ignorant "Greens" and bumbling, popularity seeking politicians far too willing to court both of them.

      And it wouldn't surprise me if the latter two categories also turned out to be financially vested in many cases.

      The only coherent response I can see is a drastic creep in police and surveillance powers , probably so the governments can work to repress the inevitable riots when we can no longer eat, drive, stay up after dusk, wash in hot water or get our garbage removed.

  14. Crisp
    Flame

    Coal Picture

    I could swear that looks like wood or charcoal burning.

  15. momus_98

    One word:

    Thorium.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Biofuel CO2 emissions

    I may have the wrong end of the stick here but I had thought the idea of biofuels was not to reduce CO2 emissions per energy unit, but rather that because the carbon emissions have to be re-absorbed by the next crop of biofuels (from atmospheric CO2), then the net increase in CO2 over multiple crops is close to zero. This makes the biofuel simply an intermediate vector for solar energy. I'd thought that the issue with biofuels was adapting them to grow on soils to poor to secure food crops so that they don't displace local food production?

  17. Big_Boomer Silver badge
    Mushroom

    TOO MANY ******* PEOPLE

    I keep repeating this and for some of you it may get through one day. The problem isn't one of which energy source to use, or which is "cleanest". The problem is that the average person (WORLD average) uses 7.5Kwh every day and there are over 7 BILLION of us on the planet. The ONLY way we will ever get global warming under control is by reducing our population. Even if we manage to get around the CO2 issue, what about the HEAT generated by 25 Billion people and their 7.5Kwh/day. Where is all that heat going to go? Earth is surrounded by vacuum and vacuum is one of THE best insulators there is. So, how do we get rid of that heat? Magic? Or do we just cook in our own sweat?

    1. jungle_jim
      Joke

      Re: TOO MANY ******* PEOPLE

      Or we could use humans as batteries!

    2. Tom 13

      Re: TOO MANY ******* PEOPLE

      Finally, a greenie who admits his real prejudices: he hates human beings and wants to kill off more than 50% of them.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. Big_Boomer Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: TOO MANY ******* PEOPLE

        Hmmm, now there's an idea. <LOL>

        Seriously though, it's far easier to just get people to stop having so many babies. No, I don't hate anyone but there are few people out there for whom I would hesitate before p***ing on them to put out the fire. As for being a greenie, I suppose I am. My 21Mpg car produces FAR less greenhouse gases than your kids do.

      3. Nuke
        Holmes

        @ Tom 13 - Re: TOO MANY ******* PEOPLE

        Wrote :- "greenie who admits his real prejudices: he hates human beings and wants to kill off "

        Bit of crossed wires there. The greenies sensibly started some years ago with population reduction on the agenda, but have long since dropped it " in case it was interpreted the wrong way". That was when they came out as just another left-wing group - they don't really give a toss about nature and just want to take shots at industry.

        It is time politicians and others dropped the medieval lord-of-the-manor's notion that people are an asset, like land and minerals. That was only true when peasants produced more than they consumed (and the lord-of-the-manor got the rest) and could be conscripted into a private army against the neighbouring lord. In the modern world, once economies of scale are achieved (a point that has long been passed in most nations) further numbers are a liability.

        Forget about trading our "services" such as insurance and "management consultancy" for food and minerals - when the latter run short their price will be unreachable, and those who have them will harbour and stockpile it. I can see, within the next generation of two, nations even desperately pushing some of their people at gunpoint across borders into neighbouring countries to offload the burden.

        Nowadays, people consume more than they produce, so the Earth's reserves are rapidly depleting, but even if they were not, an increasing population stretches them further. Fuel, copper and decent timber are the first that have become really noticable.

        We are talking about birth control, not gas chambers.

  18. Don Jefe
    Happy

    Old & Largely Irrelevant Data

    Much of the data in the study is too old to be valid, the market shifted since then. Global coal growth stalled in mid 2012 and overall use is expected to decline up to 16% globally by the start of 2015 as coal plants complete their conversions to natural gas.

    That doesn't take away from the current inefficiencies of renewables, it is just a really bad idea to use outdated data to push an agenda, it just makes you look desperate...

  19. Perpetual Cyclist
    Boffin

    Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.

    I'd just like to point out that yesterday at mid day, Germany was generating over 60% of its electricity demand from renewable energy.

    Enough to meet the entire UK demand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.

      Can you clarify that Germany was generating the power or was it simply being generated /FOR/ Germany? And I mean by a plant/station/resource entirely within Germany, not: located in France but owned by ABC GmBH.

    2. PlacidCasual

      Re: Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.

      So during the day when they didn't need many lights on and it was quite windy they managed a decent amount of renewables. How does that plan fare in mid winter low pressure system when there is no wiind or sun? The back up plant just becomes less cost efficient as more and more highly variable, high uncertainty counter cyclical generation is added to the grid.

      On Monday eight Scottish windafarms were paid not to generate because there was too much wind generation in the wrong place on the grid. On Tuesday a Scottish coal fired power station was paid not to generate because the wind generation had to take priority in that region of the grid. The grid company has increased our bills by £50 a year over the last few years to pay for the capital costs of linking remote small generators to the grid and to strengthen the grid connections to accomodate badly placed generation.

    3. Wilco 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.

      Yes Germany and Denmark are ahead of the UK. But we're not doing that bad either: wind power generated 10% of the UK demand almost continuously since last Saturday: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.

      Told ya.

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    Say what?

    "The ESCII stood at 2.39 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent (tCO2/toe)[*] in 1990, and had barely moved by 2010, holding at 2.37 tCO2/toe."

    Yet more capacity has come on line every year.

    And this proves.... renewables had no impact?

    Is El Reg hopelessly anti-renewable?

  21. Dropper

    Renewable Energy

    The idea behind renewable energy sources isn't simply to cut down on emissions, it's that bit about renewable that matters.. Governments developing these energy sources aren't really doing so because it'll save the planet from polution, that's just the spin. Most are very aware that finite resources are .. erm.. finite. If we hadn't started building wind farms a few decades ago, the more efficient, slightly cheaper wind farms we have now wouldn't exist. Every few years the number of turbines required for the same energy is reduced, the amount of energy produced creeps up. Same with solar. Gradually over the new 8 or so decades the cost of using oil and gas to produce energy will rise as it becomes harder to find and extract, the cost of renewables will decrease a little and eventually the two will meet. It's still going to cost more to power a home or a business than today, a lot more, but at least we'll still have something to power Google server farms and the PCs used to view the porn Google finds for us.

  22. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    CO2 is not a pollutant

    AGW (man made global warming) has been proven to be a hoax, and it's time for the politicans-masquerading-as-scientists to step down.

    That having been said, it's worth pursuing a goal of sustainability from an available-supply perspective. In that case the obvious course is nuclear, nuclear, nuclear. We should be aggressively building nuclear plants until there is so much supply that we have a glut of cheap energy.

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re: CO2 is not a pollutant

      If you'd care to do just one iota of research before you put your foot in your mouth it would serve you well.

      CO2 is terribly destructive, it is in the top five sources of degradation of concrete (roads) and brick structures (buildings) and way up there as a source of degradation for protective coatings (paint) of metal structures, leading to rust. There are many, many reasons that excess CO2 is bad beyond AGW.

      1. caradoc

        Re: CO2 is not a pollutant

        But we haven't got excess CO2......

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: CO2 is not a pollutant

        I saw one idiot comment that we would start choking on CO@ next year. Was that you?

    2. red death

      Re: CO2 is not a pollutant

      CO2 as a pollutant? Or AGW? Which are you going after?

      On the first part - CO2 as a pollutant? Are you denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas? Or that Greenhouse gases cause temp to rise? Because all of that is fairly important for life (as we know it) to exist on earth!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Key requirements for participating in comments on Lewis Page AGW article....

    1) Cat

    2) Pigeons

    3) Bowl of popcorn (extra butter)

    4) flame-retardent underpants

  24. Dogsauce

    Load balancing is coming, based on 30-yr old proven tech (compressed air storage) used in Germany and the states, the more refined versions of which can manage 70% efficiency. It's all a work in progress. Load balancing and greater efficiency at the consumer end will help too, with a little education (stick that washer on at night). Eventually, night time balance will be picked up by charging of electric cars or hydrogen generation. Intermittancy of supply isn't really an argument anymore, it's solveable and well on the way to being solved.

    Plenty more generating technologies on the way, including burning undersea coal in the ground by pumping in pure oxygen causing spontaneous combustion. Keep an eye on those geologists, they're smart guys.

  25. caradoc

    Peak coal

    The obvious question has to be, if emissions haven't fallen and annual CO2 returns from Mauna Loa continue to rise, why haven't temperatures risen? It has to be that the AGW theory is disproven. Please don't tell me that CO2 has caused colder weather, that is desperation in the face of a collpsed paradigm.

    Taking the issue at hand, that of coal, in the 18th and 19th centuries there was genuine concern about Peak Coal, see here: The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal-Mines Author: William Stanley Jevons, First Published: 1865, http://www.eoearth.org/article/The_Coal_Question:_Opinions_of_Previous_Writers

    "ONE of the earliest writers who conceived it was possible to exhaust our coal mines was John Williams, a mineral surveyor. In his "Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom," first published in 1789, he gave a chapter to the consideration of "The Limited Quantity of Coal of Britain."

    There were also comments about wind power:

    The first great requisite of motive power is, that it shall be wholly at our command, to be exerted when and where and in what degree we desire. The wind, for instance, as a direct motive power, is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear. Before the era of steam-engines; windmills were tried for draining mines; "but though they were powerful machines, they were very irregular, so that in a long tract of calm weather the mines were drowned, and all the workmen thrown idle.

    The Peak Oil myth has been around since 1970 and earlier, yet there are new discoveries every year. With the addition of vast reserves of shale gas, there is no shortage of hydrocarbons. They will be used.

    1. Wilco 1
      Boffin

      Re: Peak coal

      Talking about recent cooling: check

      AGW must be false because of the recent cold weather: check

      Conflating weather and climate: check

      From http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators/

      CO2 increasing: check

      Land ice melting: check

      Sea ice melting: check

      Sea level rising: check

      Temperature rising: check

      Checkmate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Peak coal

        IPCC has been spiking his Cool-Aid again!

  26. Jim O'Reilly
    Headmaster

    Adherence to CO2 greening uses rubber lips

    We are beyond the usual lip service to "religious" standards like CO2 emissions. This is blatantly ignoring the whole philosophy while paying public lip service.

    Let's face the reality. "Alternative" energy is a financial boondoggle that really brings no benefit, but costs billions that go to firms with deep lobbying pockets (read bribes in 17 languages, including British)

    Get a real alternative to pollution from coal. Soot may cool the planet and cause an Ice Age, but we could see smogs again! It looks like we need nuclear. Roll on the thorium cycle. 100 percent fuel usage, 3500 years of reserves, short life nucleotides and no possibility of a meltdown. Sounds like a good answer.

    Oh, and a bonus. We can burn all the waste from those crappy Uranium reactors in these units.

  27. Zmodem

    or just put a motor on a wind turbine, and not use the great force of a 20mph bit of wind

  28. IGnatius T Foobar

    Mike Godwin told me...

    Mike Godwin told me that it's ok to compare AGW alarmists to the Nazis. Al Gore is Hitler.

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