back to article Wind and quite a bit of fog shroud Boris Johnson's energy vision for the UK

The UK government has committed to increasing offshore wind energy production from 30GW to 40GW by 2030 amid confusion over what it means for home power consumption. In a headline-grabbing speech today, pre-released to media, mop topped Prime Minister Boris Johnson boasted of the UK's ambition to build extra capacity in wind …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    The big problem however...

    Generation capacity is one thing, but the problem that nobody seems to be talking about is the necessary upgrades to the electricity supply infrastructure, including the high tension feeds and substations and the wiring from them right into every home in the land, plus the cabling and connection points to charge all the cars, including around 50% that don't have designated parking spaces.

    If I abandoned gas heating and everything in my home ran on electricity, I'd have to double the capacity of my main incomer, upgrade the distribution unit and rewire about a third of the house, and so would pretty much everyone else. It's fine to stress the reducing cost of generation, but who's going to foot the bill for the downstream upgrades. We're potentially talking billions, and masses of disruption to the lives of vast numbers of people while it's put in place. All this maybe necessary, but it must be taken into account when defining policy. Currently it seems to be ignored.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The big problem however...

      We probably also need to do a bit more to make homes energy efficient than the current programme of discounting a few cm of fibreglass in the loft

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: The big problem however...

      ...the problem that nobody seems to be talking about is the necessary upgrades to the electricity supply infrastructure, including the high tension feeds and substations and the wiring from them right into every home in the land, plus the cabling and connection points to charge all the cars, including around 50% that don't have designated parking spaces.

      I came on to make very much the same point to find that you had beaten me to it.

      The disruption will be unbelievable, with costs to match; more or less very residential road in the country dug up to remove the existing cabling to replace it with new, able to withstand a x 3 or 4 increase in load. Trenches across domestic gardens dug up; tarmaced / block paved / concrete driveways (plain or patterned) etc wrecked so that upgraded cables can be installed.

      I mentioned costs; it does not need a Nobel Prize for Economics to see where the costs will fall either. :(

      To make announcements like this is "world beatingly" stupid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The big problem however...

        Don't need to dig it up, they simply "mole" it across the garden, digging a small pit close to the house and a pit out in the street and then the "mole" digs its way underground between the 2 points. Had it done recently when Transco laid a new gasline (meter moved from inside to a box outside the front door)

        Likely same thing will be done when FTTP comes around.

        Though electric heating is crap and costs a fortune to run, Gas I find is a much more preferable heating source, more responsive for one and 30Kw of heat is easier to generate from gas than from electricity - 30,000 / 230 = a little over 130Amps, more than double my incoming service fuse and would need a 35mm2 cable to feed it alone for a similar thermal output

        So adding that onto my estimated 60amps max load your talking 191Amps, so your going to need 70mm2 incomer cables on single phase OR convert every domestic home over to 3 phase (ala many parts of Europe, which actually wouldn't be that hard given that every substation outputs 3 phase anyway and the houses it supplies are spread across the 3 phases. however it would mean replacing near every substation, the MV or HV cabling that supplies them as well as the cabling to the houses, plus new cutouts, new meters, new meter tails and new consumer units / fuse boxes - big big costs)

        Rumour is the govt wants to transition the gas network to a blended mix of hydrogen and methane to cut carbon emissions.

        Also talking about heat pumps, which won't work as most houses aren't air tight enough for them to stay warm in winter, plus air source pumps if not properly installed, make a horrendous noise (and you know they will be installed by cowboys on price work in many cases)

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          If we're digging up trenches to everyone's house, we might consider district heating. We have it at home, heating is very reasonable costs, always available hot water etc. Might make sense in built up areas, assuming we can find places to put the actual heating stations.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: The big problem however...

            I believe district heating is a required part of any new development in Germany, but unsurprisingly that's proved unpopular with the Tories, although absolutely not because they get so much funding from large property developers.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: The big problem however...

      Electricity distribution infrastructure is actually good, can cope with more power and can do even better if we even out usage. Connecting the 50% of cars that do have a designated parking space and charging them when demand would otherwise be low closes the distribution problem.

      Changing gas central heating to electricity is not a 1:1 trade. With an air sourced heat pump 1kWH of electricity replaces 3kWH of gas. If a ground source heat pump is practical for your home you can upgrade that to 3½:1.

      Replacing all the smart meters with smart meters that can communicate electricity prices to cars is a problem that will take time but if the government can delay until after the deadline and contract the work out to Serco then the project can go spectacularly over budget. At least they haven't threatened to use Nikola's unicorn fart powered hydrogen production technology or Dyson's UK government funded electric car.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: The big problem however...

        Changing gas central heating to electricity is not a 1:1 trade. With an air sourced heat pump 1kWH of electricity replaces 3kWH of gas. If a ground source heat pump is practical for your home you can upgrade that to 3½:1.

        Are heat pump systems not physically much bigger than their "conventional" counterparts? We don't have any spare space just begging for a bigger heating system to be dropped in; I doubt if many people do. As to ground source... have you seen how little garden modern homes have? And for your "air source" calculation our house would still need an additional 10 kW to match the existing gas boiler.

        Are you certain that main cables will withstand the additional load of a streetful of houses?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The big problem however...

          Are heat pump systems not physically much bigger than their "conventional" counterparts? We don't have any spare space just begging for a bigger heating system to be dropped in; I doubt if many people do. As to ground source... have you seen how little garden modern homes have? And for your "air source" calculation our house would still need an additional 10 kW to match the existing gas boiler.

          I've just finished replacing electric storage heaters and immersion heated hot water with oversized radiators and an unvented cylinder fed by an 8kW ASHP in my 4 bed detached house. The unit is big and floor standing (figure on a metre squared footprint to allow for free airflow around it) but very quiet. Mine's under a bedroom window and not noticeable from inside. The heat output to power in ratio averages about 3:1. (You get a little computer screen that keeps a log of usage and output, hourly, daily, monthly, etc.)

          The idea of running bigger radiators is to allow a lower circuit temperature which keeps the efficiency up. Sort of the opposite to gas heating. If you already had the plumbing and were replacing say oil or solid fueled heating, this is almost a no-brainer as there are grants to be had to pay for it. Replacing electric with electric, I'm banking on the cost of electricity going up a bit over the next decade.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The big problem however...

            trouble is air source work at low temperatures so aren't suited to heating your HW to 60 degrees. So people who might have a combi ie HW heated on demand would need a heat pump and a cylinder with an immersion. Straight electric boilers are utter dog shit, yes capable of heating water to a higher temperature than air source but limited to around 12Kw due to the cabeling\fuse etc in the house. You can imagine the fun of having your electric boiler on along with a electric oven and hob and your washing machine all running at the same time! Once you get up to around 18kw you're talking 3 phase. You can get electric combi's which basically use a heatslave tank which is pretty large as it can't heat water on the fly anywhere near as well as a 20-30kw Gas or oil boiler. I'll stick to my oil boiler, wood burner and 700l thermal store thanks, I filled up with 1000l or oil back in lockdown for a mere 24p/l !! Oil is currently the cheapest form of heating

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The big problem however...

              Yes I also have an immersion in my cylinder. HP is programmed to take the water to ~50°C, then the immersion takes over but only at night and only at set intervals to prevent legionnaires disease. All this combined and I still see approaching a 3:1 in/out ratio. That may drop a bit over winter of course.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The big problem however...

            heating isn't the issue domestic HW is. I have a 700l thermal store with an oil boiler and a wood burner plumbed in to it. As it supplies the heat to heat my HW, rads and ufh its set to around 65 degrees otherwise your HW would be too hot and you would have to downmix with cold water so not very efficient (can get hotter if the wood burner is going full tilt), therefore my rads run at a lower temperature, they come off the tank at a lower tapping, along with UFH, at an even lower tapping as that runs at an even lower temperature. Air source struggles to get water hotter than around 50, which is fine for oversized rads but not for your hot water I wouldn't want a shower or a bath at 50!

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The big problem however...

        Most people cant retrofit heat pumps. With 40G of wind and probably 12G or more of PV by then a sunny windy day will exceed the UKs electricity requirements with those two alone.. You can get some pretty thin storage heaters and you may even be paid to fill them up with lovely heat. It may be come apparent now why the companies are rushing to put in shit smart meters. Imagine having smart meters that were actually smart and they could let you know when to charge your electric car or hot water (sometimes it will be cheaper to use gas, other times leccy) or even to crunch some bitcoins.

        Bang in another 20G of renewables and on at the right time you could make steel at incredibly low cost.

        1. Killing Time

          Re: The big problem however...

          'Bang in another 20G of renewables and on at the right time you could make steel at incredibly low cost.'

          Correction - you can 'recycle' steel at an incredibly low cost.

          You can't make primary steel in an electric arc furnace and as a result have very little control of its quality. it will be good for tin cans, rebar and little else.

          Only a fool would use it for critical load bearing applications such as construction, rail or pipelines. there are far to many contaminants in it which can't be removed in the process, resulting in zones of weakness in the crystalline structure of the resulting steel.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The big problem however...

            Not true. Steel for aerospace (e.g. landing gear) & high grade automotive steels have been made in the electric arc furnaces at Rotherham for over 30 years. You do need to select and grade the scrap carefuly, use the correct slags for the secondary steel making, and remelt for the ultrahigh grades though. All UK stainless production comes through the electric arc furnace in Sheffield.

            Neither can you just turn on the furnaces during a trough in electricity demand; the scheduling and pacing has to be very carefully controled, to get the liquid metal to the _continous_ casters at the correct temperature and time. Most items the metal will touch at temperatures of about 1500°C need to be pre-heated first so they do not crack with thermal shock and are dry. Water + liquid steel = bad.

            1. Killing Time

              Re: The big problem however...

              Ok, I will clarify. You can't make volume primary steel in an electric arc furnace. Your analysis, grading and segregation of the scrap would soon make the process uneconomical. You really have to be totally sure of the quality and source of the feedstock, this in turn, restricts what you can recycle.

              I also think you are confusing slag with additive and alloying minerals in the secondary steel process. Slag is conventionally formed at the top of the vessel and contains the waste and impurities you want rid of.

        2. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          You can get some pretty thin storage heaters

          Um. If they are "pretty thin" (how thin, exactly?) then to my simple mind that implies a somewhat modest thermal mass, which means they ain't going to store that much.

          In addition isn't the overnight surplus of capacity going to be needed to charge up all those EVs?

          Excuse my scepticism... or should that be cynicism?

          Both probably.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The big problem however...

            Plus storage heaters are utter crap, on unexpected mild days your house is roasting so you open the windows to let out the excess heat and if you get a sudden chilly night during a warm spell the house is freezing - they also cost a fortune to run (I pay less for electricity and gas in a 2 bedroom house with reasonable insulation with gas heating and a workshop than I did for electricity in a shoebox 1 bedroom "house" with good insulation with storage heaters, something like 50 pounds a month less...)

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          Most people cant retrofit heat pumps.

          And those who do have enough space for ground-source heat pumps to make this feasible will still have to shell out around £15,000-£25,000 to make the conversion.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: The big problem however...

            We looked at ground-source heat pump install in a large complete refit (to new build standards) and this cost was about right. What I hadn't considered, and what ruled it out in the end, was the amount of electrity required to run the pumps moving the coolant. We needed an entire phase just for that, apparently. With a solar-farm out back it might have been viable.

          2. Commswonk Silver badge

            Re: The big problem however...

            And those who do have enough space for ground-source heat pumps to make this feasible will still have to shell out around £15,000-£25,000 to make the conversion.

            Out of interest how long does a ground pump heat source last? We are all used to having to replace gas boilers from time to time, and that doesn't necessarily come cheap. But how often will a GSHP need replacing? And what is the replacement cost of the GSHP itself? I can easily foresee heating systems being unaffordable when the whole - life costs are considered.

            Another concern is that of scaleability; I might be able to use a GSHP for a house, but what happens when all the surrounding properties for miles do the same? I can see permafrost becoming the norm. I was once told that this was tried in Japan and in the end they had to pump heat into the ground to unfreeze it, but I have not been able to find anything on - line about it to confirm or deny this. I also suspect that "my" heating is partially reliant on being able to draw on heat from surrounding land, not just that directly underneath the pipework. If all the neighbours are doing the same then there is less heat for me (and them) to draw on.

            Insufficiently thought through IMHO, but what else would one expect from politicians?

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The big problem however...

      Generation capacity is one thing, but the problem that nobody seems to be talking about is the necessary upgrades to the electricity supply infrastructure, including the high tension feeds and substations and the wiring from them right into every home in the land, plus the cabling and connection points to charge all the cars, including around 50% that don't have designated parking spaces.

      These are not problems, these are revenue opportunities. They're also fine virtue signalling opportunities because the government can pacify Greens by simply passing the costs of energy policy onto consumers. It's a field rich in BS, so-

      "Wind power is so cheap in the UK that there is no reason to stop at just replacing like for like," he told The Register. "We need to think of how we decarbonise the transport and how we decarbonise our homes."

      This is nice. Soon it'll be too cheap to meter! But this is one of those big lies typically generated by the 'renewables' lobby. Costs have been falling, energy bills have not. So how can this be?

      Popular perception has it that wind power is unreliable, but Jansen said offshore wind is actually quite consistent, particularly when averaged out across locations in waters surrounding the British Isles.

      Well, perception is reality. Example here-

      https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

      Last month

      Min: 0.33GW

      Max: 11.878GW

      Avg: 5.688GW

      https://gridwatch.co.uk/Demand

      Min: 18.558GW

      Max: 38.595GW

      Avg: 28.418GW

      So both supply and demand rather variable. And to make life even more interesting, seasonal-

      https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/oxburgh-on-decarbonising-heat/#more-46850

      To summarise:

      1) Even with much better insulation, maximum heating demand would amount to 200GW, four times the maximum demand for electricity

      And more with transportation being decarbonised, ie EVs. Then there's hydrogen. So there'd be a massive need to increase generating capacity to meet Winter demand, ie heating. If energy is being used for heating, then it can't be used to produce hydrogen. So perhaps the surplus capacity over summer could be used to make the hydrogen, but then it'd need to be stored ready for winter.

      Or, given gas heating and coooking will be verbotten due to decarbonisation, methane can be steam reformed to produce hydrogen, which can then be used in vehicles. Or methane is replaced with hydrogen in heating & cooking, in which case there'll still be a hydrogen deficit.

      There'll also be some regulatory gamesmanship around pricing wind-blown hydrogen. So seeing as wind power is the most expensive, the hydrogen will also be expensive. Or, the wind is indeed 'free', ie there's no other demand for it.. In which case there'd be no need to pay wind farmers constraint payments & they'd be free to use that surplus energy to make hydrogen. But then they'd need to sell it, and lose those lucrative constraint payment subsidies.

      Or we just tell the 'renewables' lobby to fsck off and build nuclear & CCGT instead.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: The big problem however...

        "This is nice. Soon it'll be too cheap to meter! But this is one of those big lies typically generated by the 'renewables' lobby. Costs have been falling, energy bills have not. So how can this be?"

        Someone wants to make money, perhaps?

    5. Killing Time

      Re: The big problem however...

      Is that this is just populist bullsh*t, just another example of BoJo’s ‘inspirational’ leadership schtick. You can file this alongside his NI - Scotland bridge fantasy.

      Neither will happen within the lifetime of his leadership so he can outline as lofty and worthy a vision as he likes, he is not going to be around to carry the can when it’s not delivered.

      The suggestion that we could be the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind power’ is a deliberate misdirect to imply that we could become as rich as the Saudis just because we have lots of wind power, they have an energy source which is exportable around the world. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that’s not possible for electricity. If it was, it would have been done before.

      At best, and over an extended timescale we may develop a high proportion of power self sufficiency as long as wind is backed up by some form of ‘dispatchable’ power generation.

      The main wind generation technology players are either European, Asian or American, as is the case for the vast majority of heavy industrial technology companies. Where are the UK companies which will develop world beating generation technology from a standing start within a decade?

      Just smoke and mirrors to appease those voters who can’t be bothered to think for themselves and an attention span which stretches only as far as the next blue sky ‘initiative’.

      1. mad_dr

        Re: The big problem however...

        Well, technically you CAN export electricity: here in Canada we send a decent chunk of our surplus down to the states each year: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/electricity-facts/20068

        Over 60 TWh was exported last year of the >650Twh produced. Of that, around 70% was produced from renewable sources and over 80% was non-greenhouse gas emitting.

        But yes, much harder to do when you're on an island.

        My question would be why we in Canada cannot drop the 8% most polluting sources of electricity-creation and just stop exporting surplus. Coal accounts for less than 8% of the electricity produced so just mothball those plants, right? I'm sure there's a good reason why this apparent no-brainer isn't possible.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          The UK is already connected to the European grid (it's had to import power from France in the past).

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: The big problem however...

            The UK regularly imports from France, also Holland and Belgium, though some of those imports pass straight through (in effect) and end up powering Ireland. There is another cable being built under the North Sea to connect us with Sweden, or is it Denmark, I can't remember.

            As always Gridwatch is a fascinating read.

            M.

            1. Killing Time

              Re: The big problem however...

              It is abundantly clear that electricity can be 'exported' in the strictest sense of the word. The moment those highly excited electrons exit the generation source they are being 'exported'. Having spent 15 years in the power industry I am fully aware that the industry convention is to use it for nothing more than to to describe the direction of power flow. Distance does not factor into the analogy.

              The explicit point being made is that these highly excited electrons cannot be 'exported' around the world in the way that a chemical energy containing fuel can.

              The subsequent point being that it doesn't matter how much we generate, it is not a resource we are going to corner the market on.

              Understanding is as much about context as the words used. It's becoming clearer how that blond numb-skull and his cohorts manage to pull the wool the way they do...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The big problem however...

        "his leadership"

        For want of a better word.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          @ Doctor Syntax: "his leadership"

          Scott Adams produced a Dilbert book called Don't Step in the Leadership.

          Seems highly appropriate, really...

      3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: The big problem however...

        Where are the UK companies which will develop world beating generation technology from a standing start within a decade?

        Possibly Derby of all places. There's been off & on proposals for SMRs (Small, Modular Reactors) and Rolls Royce knows a thing or three about those having supplied the only new reactors to go critical in probably the last decade or more. Those are allowing our Naval ninjas to do nefarious things in their new Astute submarines*.

        Problem is of course overcoming both the 'renewables' lobby and their useful idiots, the Greens, many of which are ideologically opposed to anything nuclear. Except possibly nuclear medicine. But the theory goes getting type approvals and paperwork done for SMRs means they can be banged out quickly and cheaply, without having to do as much paperwork for 'new', larger installations.

        *Kinda curious what the impact of all the noise makers currently offshore have on sonar performance, and the ability to detect potentially hostile submarines. And the noise from offshore windmills may also be having adverse impacts on sea life.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: The big problem however...

          I believe there is talk of installing modular reactors at the decommissioned Trawsfynydd power station site. When it was running this was the UK's only "inland" nuclear power station, keeping the water of the nearby lake slightly warmer than it would naturally be. Strikes me that adapting naval reactors to civilian use is a great idea. Don't the Americans already run one in the Antarctic?

          M.

          1. Robert Sneddon

            Small reactors

            The US had a reactor in operation in the Antarctic for a few years back in the late 60s and early 70s. It was at their base in McMurdo Sound near the coast, not at their permanent base at the Pole. It turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, basically.

            They did put another reactor in at another base in Greenland as part of the Iceworm engineering experiment. Again it turned out to be not worth the effort and it was removed when the Iceworm project was abandoned.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Iceworm

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Small reactors

              Things have moved on a bit since then. Russia's built some power barges containing porta-nukes. Rest is obfusticated by some natural sensitivity around naval reactor technology, ie most of it is classified. Then as I understand it, naval reactors run using highly enriched fuel to keep them compact, plus run for years without needing refueling. So there's non-proliferation issues around using that kind of fuel in civilian reactors, plus presumably they'd still need to be fueled if they're running at peak output.

              But it's one of those interesting possibilities. There's also a natural counter to some safety concerns. So a submarine operates with a crew in close proximity to it's reactor, and the crews are normal.. Well, normal for submariners. Then there's a sense for potential size, ie the reactor only takes up some fraction of the submarine's overall volume, and crew complement to operate it.

              I guess the biggest challenge (other than fear of nuclear energy) is cost, so whether it'd be more financially viable to run X modular reactors vs having standardised designs/approvals for current 1GW+ units.

    6. Elledan Silver badge

      Re: The big problem however...

      As a preview of what that kind of infrastructure upgrade that'd mean, one can look at Germany, where the Energiewende has practically fallen flat due to the need to build many thousands of kilometers of HV transmission lines, but nowhere to build them: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/dossiers/energy-transition-and-germanys-power-grid

      The problem is that the only good spots for wind in Germany are in the north, but most industry is in the south, which means that most wind power on good, windy days is thrown away because there's no way to transport it (not even to neighbouring nations).

      And Germany isn't even close to decarbonising heating or transport. Virtually all heating in Germany is done with mineral oil and gas, and EVs along with accompanying chargers are exceedingly rare. This isn't helped by the fact that just about everyone in German lives in shared rental housing.

      Looking across the border in France, I feel a lot more optimistic about just building out nuclear power in-situ, skip the massive HV transmission line build-out and the environmental destruction that'd cause, switch homes to electric heating and somehow figure out how to make EVs work with cramped rental homes.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: The big problem however...

        @Elledan

        > figure out how to make EVs work with cramped rental homes

        That's easy: follow the lead of the big Japanese motorcycle manufacturers and use interchangeable batteries. Just swap them at your nearest Petr^H^H^H^HBattery Station.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: The big problem however...

          Even easier: the next step of this Tory grand plan will be to ban people in rented homes from owning cars, since they're obviously too poor to deserve their own personal transport. On the bus, ya plebs.

          Lower congestion, cut carbon emissions, ease the strain on the grid, no need to wire a bunch of roadside EV chargers in every street.

          Simples. All the problems go away with a flick of the legislative wrist, and no cost to the government coffers. Marvellous.

          [ Icon for anyone who's suffering a sarcasm deficit ]

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Or

    They could build 12 dual reactor nuclear power stations for base load

    and then top up with pumped storage powered from the aforementioned wind turbines.

    Sadly this plan falls flat in 2 important areas

    1. mention the word 'nuclear' and you'll have every green eco-freak landing outside in protest with "CO2 better" and "I prefer being cold and in the dark" signs

    2. Pumped storage is only usually much good for 6-8 hrs at full power (see el-regs article on a tour of the UKS pumped storage station) and sometimes the wind wont blow...... or blows too hard to make electrickery......

    Oh well... I can look forward to a glorious future of being cold and bugger the lights gone out again... better start the petrol driven genny...

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Or

      Nuclear looks like its not working. Two reactors cancelled and two more being cancelled soon - and that's at 96p/KWh guaranteed and leaving the waste storage for many future generations. We cant do it ourselves and furriners aren't going to risk anything in £ for the foreseeable.

      1. Elledan Silver badge

        Re: Or

        If you're talking about the EPRs EDF is building in the UK, you're not looking far enough. While the US and French nuclear supply chains have atrophied due to not building new reactors in any quantities since the 1980s, nations like Russia (e.g. VVER), South Korea (four reactors in the UAE) and China have and keep showing how to build reactors on-time and on-budget.

        To rub it in, China licensed EDF's first-generation EPR design, built two reactors (at Taishan) and put them in operation a few years ago. They offered EDF a list of design improvements and solutions to issues they encountered while building the two currently operational reactors, which EDF used to create the second-generation EPR design.

        Russia, South Korea and China are among the world's largest exporters of nuclear power technology, with the Chinese Hualong One and its successor reactor becoming a popular choice for both Asian and African nations, with Pakistan building a few Hualong Ones. Russia's VVER reactors are common in Eastern Europe. Poland has just committed to six reactors, with the Netherlands also looking at building multiple plants, with a choice from Russian, Chinese, Canadian, US, South Korean and Japanese designs.

        Admittedly the UK letting its nuclear industry wither and die was a bit of a silly move.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Or

          Admittedly the UK letting its nuclear industry wither and die was a bit of a silly move.

          Well, blame one G.Brown for flogging most of our industry off. It's unclear how much of that decision may have been on the advice of his brother, who just happened to be working for EDF at the time.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Or

          China is also working to develop the LFTR reactor that was started in the 1960's in the US. When they get a solid design for commercial use, they'll be holding all of the key patents. Other countries will have to pay them and will likely be being the hardware from the Middle Kingdom as well. The offshoots of the LFTR might be even more valuable in the fields of medical radioactives and disposal of current nuclear waste.

          1. Robert Sneddon

            Mythical LFTR

            China isn't working on a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). They're testing a bunch of other nuclear power plant technologies, including a version of the Russian fast-spectrum sodium-cooled reactor (the fabled Waste Eater) as well as a helium-cooled high-temperature pebble bed reactor that might use thorium in some fuel mixes, but molten-salt fuel stream thorium breeder reactors, nope.

            Saying that I'm sure there are in China, like in the West, a lot of Powerpoint Cowboys with theoretical models by nucleonics PhD students on how LFTR technology is really great and has no downsides. What doesn't exist is any concrete and steel, any licences, any approved designs, any funding and construction approvals for LFTRs. Instead Chinese companies are building pressurised-water reactors, nowadays mostly home-grown designs like the 1100MWe Hualong One and the newer 1400MWe Guohe One reactors.

      2. Alfie Noakes
        Joke

        Re: Or

        But, but, but - after Fukushima, didn't Germany decide to phase out their atom-burners? Thus there must be tens of fah-sans of "nu-cu-ler" designers, engineers, constructions workers etc. all desperately in need of a job!

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Or

          Yeah Germany has done a very good job in phasing out its nuclear stations..

          So now it relies of electrickery generated in Poland by burning the most polluting coal possible, and in France by nuclear.....

          I wish I was making this up.....

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Or

            Yeah Germany has done a very good job in phasing out its nuclear stations.

            Well, it would have if it had stuck with the initial deal struck with the industry. But Mutti Merkel decided to cancel it, then sign new contracts with the industry that included compensation if it was phased out again, which it was in the next year… So, we're getting to pay more for the privelege. Just as we are with coal.

            However, France is already grateful to be able to import cheap German power in the summer when it gets too hot to cool its nuclear plants and even Poland is starting to consider the advantages of cleaner generation. I don't expect much to change overnight but reckon in ten years things will start to look a lot different.

      3. Robert Sneddon

        The price has gone up

        The current (ha ha ha) price under "Contract for Difference" rules for the power from the Hinkley EPR1600 reactors if and when they come into commercial operation is £104.50 per MWh, not the original "strike" price of £92.50 per MWh.

        That sounds really high, doesn't it? A quick look though the public data published on the web for CfD agreements shows the big Hornsea offshore wind farms -- enough electricity for a million homes! as the press reported when the first Hornsea array came on stream last year -- had an initial strike price of about £140 quid but its CfD price is now £162.47 per MWh, over 50% more expensive than the Hinkley reactors. The other two uncompleted Hornsea wind turbine arrays have the same CfD price.

        https://www.lowcarboncontracts.uk/cfds/hornsea-offshore-wind-farm-phase-1

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Or

      Dinorwig is a great technical achievement, but it's good for 1.75GW for 5.25hrs. To keep the lights on for 4 cold, windless* days in February, you'd need well over 300 Dinorwigs. Where shall we put them?

      Battery farms are even worse - the biggest in the world - Tesla's plant in S Australia - can deliver 100MW for an hour. So just 30,000 of those to solve the cold snap problem.

      Magical thinking.

      * or too windy. They're not called unreliables for nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or

        had a tour of dinorwig back in the late 80s as part of our BTEC engineerng pi$$ up tour of wales.

        1. AlbertH

          Re: Or

          I was in Dinorwig in the 60s, as it was being built. It was a spectacular achievement, and should have pointed the way to future power provision. However, successive technically illiterate governments have ensured that the UK will always be short of power and will always be a net importer of electricity until they finally tell the greens to shut up and get some nukes built - quick!

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Or

        "Battery farms are even worse - the biggest in the world - Tesla's plant in S Australia "

        The cost for that was never officially announced as far as I've seen. Elon did come pretty close to losing his bet that he could build it in 100 days.

        The reason S.Aust needed it was very bad planning in the switch from base load power to renewable.

    3. Jim84

      Re: Or

      The real way to decarbonise the transport sector, use heat from a molten salt reactor boosted to 1000 degrees to produce methanol from sea water cheaper than most gasoline. Former SpaceX engineer John Bucknell explains how:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Fi3BnwL94&t=25s

      It probably won't happen in the West, but there are plenty of energy poor asian nations that will be interested in this.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Or

        "The real way to decarbonise the transport sector" is to need less of it. Until recent events we've seen London workers commuting in from sillier and sillier distances. Now London's complaining about all the money lost from lack of footfall but they've been part of the problem, not part of the solution.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Or

          My heart goes out to all those chic London outlets selling overpriced coffee to stimulant-hungry office workers shattered by having to waste four hours a day commuting at a season ticket cost exceeded only by the cost to their sanity and family life.

          1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: Or

            It's getting better as loads of "City workers" are moving to East Anglia because the commute is much prettier and the trains are not as busy ... yet ...

            The plan is to concrete over most of the pesky farmland that has nasty, smelly amimals and hay-fever-producing cereals and live on imported Big Macs and Costa coffee instead ...

            1. Oh Matron!

              Re: Or

              A downvote because you've obviously not gotten a train from Ipswich to London in the last 20 years at commuting time. Please do so, and then revisit your comment.

              But, agree on that East Anglia is a great place to commute from, trains notwithstanding

              <reminisce>East Anglia used to have ex west coast rolling stick, with most excellent restaurant cars. Rather than pay a fortune for a 1st class seat, you'd pay £15, and get a full fry up, with toast, fruit juice, porridge and coffee, AND a 1st class seat</reminisce>

        2. Jim84

          Re: Or

          Yeah but over 50% of transport energy use is not in personal cars, it is in trucks, aeroplanes, and shipping. For all of which there are no good non liquid fuel solutions at present (according to John Bucknell in the youtube video at least).

          So insisting that everyone use electric trains/cars to commute does not solve or really dent the transportation contribution to CO2 emissions unfortunately.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Or

        It might be better to start with producing Ammonia and using that as a feed stock for synthesized liquid fuels like DiMethylEster (?). Petrol isn't the big deal, it's diesel. Modern agriculture is the use of soil to turn diesel into food. It also gets that food to market. Most people could get by with an EV, but big articulated lorries and farm machinery need diesel until the energy density in batteries is much higher.

  3. Sparkus Bronze badge

    "averaging out" across multiple geographies still means unreliable........

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      "averaging out" across multiple geographies still means unreliable........

      Nah, all it needs is some way to 'average out' demand. So those pesky 'smart' meters again with the next generation having 'demand management' functionality built in.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        @Jellied Eel

        "So those pesky 'smart' meters again with the next generation having 'demand management' functionality built in."

        I read something about a possible law adjustment to allow smart meters to be turned off remotely. Practically this issue was already raised as an unnecessary feature unless they intended to use it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Jellied Eel

          There are plans for "rolling power cuts" across the UK as the supply is exceeded by demand. For obvious (political) reasons these are being kept quiet.

          AC because I'm actually party to the plans!

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: @Jellied Eel

            "There are plans for "rolling power cuts" across the UK as the supply is exceeded by demand. For obvious (political) reasons these are being kept quiet."

            If the alternative is to have bits of the distribution system melt into slag, it's better of selectively shut off power. With smart meters, it can be possible for people to get an exemption for medical needs (they should be backed up anyway), hospitals, a designated community space people can access that has HVAC, etc. A big transformer going bang can mean hours or days of no power.

    2. ivan5

      "averaging out" across multiple geographies still means unreliable........

      Especially when you don't have the necessary long distance HV cable network to do so.

      Renewables will always be unreliable because we can't control the wind and clouds.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "averaging out" across multiple geographies still means unreliable........

      Everything is unreliable. The point is, rather, can we cope with the expected range of variation? And what are the contingency plans for events that are out of the planned-for range? What are the costs of those plans, as balanced against other uses for the resources? You know, like the way you set up flood defenses [1] and the like.

      -

      [1] Oops. Well, the theory is fine, but the humans we get to implement these things are *so* unreliable...

  4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Great opportunity

    Pay £160m for some Siemens turbines = making a £160m investment in green tech.

    Load them onto a ship in Belfast, making a £160m investment in NI and a £160m investment in repurposing old shipyards.

    Then install them in the Irish sea making a £160m investment near a former industrial area and brining the power ashore in cumbria making an investment in the rural North West.

    Delivering £160m of green power.

    So for only £160m you get £bn of green!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Great opportunity

      >So for only £160m you get £bn of green!

      Plus all those jobs, you didn't mention but are so important to politicians...

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Great opportunity

        I think that Jobs are popular with a lot more people than just politicians.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Great opportunity

          >I think that Jobs are popular with a lot more people than just politicians.

          But the politicians like to total all jobs 'created' across the life of a project to sway people - thus you can expect politicians to go on about say 200+ jobs being created. However, if you knew beforehand that the £1Bn investment would only result in 6 actual jobs after the opening ceremony, many would question the value of the investment.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Great opportunity

          @BebopWeBop

          "I think that Jobs are popular with a lot more people than just politicians."

          Unfortunately its the question of what is worth doing. We can make loads of jobs building a canal by supplying the workers with spoons. Or we get the economic growth of the canal by using modern earth movers and people go off to do something people desire.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Great opportunity

        "Plus all those jobs, you didn't mention but are so important to politicians..."

        If you watch "Thorium Redux" there is a wind bag against nuclear power because it doesn't create enough jobs at the power plant. She fails to understand that having reliable, cheap energy creates huge numbers of jobs. China is paying the price by going with highly polluting power plants, but they are also working on using those plants to bootstrap into cleaner options while taking over all of the manufacturing in the world. I've always believed that "wealth" is only created by taking a raw material and adding value to it. This includes coming up with new and more efficient ways of doing that job. Everything else that people see as building wealth is just making money by manipulating money.

    2. Oh Matron!

      Re: Great opportunity

      Cant do that. BoJo the clown and his Troll Master are building a bridge dontchaknow.....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why would I believe anything he's got to say

    given his brexit record, with the best yet to come.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: why would I believe anything he's got to say

      @AC

      "why would I believe anything he's got to say"

      I voted leave and happily agree with that statement. I am sure a lot of us leave voters have similar doubts about him.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I think we just have to file it alongside all the plans for the EU granting his every little wish for a post-Brexit trade deal.

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Wind/Gas Bag

    "I remember how some people used to sneer at wind power, twenty years ago, and say that it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding," he is expected to say.

    "They forgot the history of this country. It was offshore wind that puffed the sails of Drake and Raleigh and Nelson, and propelled this country to commercial greatness."

    But the prime minister will fail to mention that the only person known to have made this colourful claim about wind farms is himself, in 2013.

    Just seven years ago, rather than twenty, he told the LBC radio station: "Labour put in a load of wind farms that failed to pull the skin off a rice pudding. We now have the opportunity to get shale gas - let's look at it."

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-wind-power-2030-tory-party-conference-climate-change-b830479.html

    Note: The above was reported from pre-released lines from his keynote address, and that may have changed by the time he came to give the address.

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    One wonders how many households the PM could power using his own human wind turbine.

    That will be a reality once they succeed in cloning Boris (Doris the Sheep style), and each household can be provided with it's own Boris Clone.

    The problem with the current state of the research is that just like the original, a Boris Clone requires an attendant Cummings Clone to survive

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Number Crunching

    "Boris Johnson’s bold new vision for offshore wind to power every home in the UK by 2030 would require almost £50bn in investment and the equivalent of one turbine to be installed every weekday for the whole of the next decade.

    The huge investment, calculated by Aurora Energy Research, an Oxford-based consultancy, would increase the UK’s offshore wind power capacity by four times what it is today, to reach 40GW by 2030."

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/powering-all-uk-homes-via-offshore-wind-by-2030-would-cost-50bn

  10. electricmonk

    Energy into matter

    "Meanwhile, some of the electricity generated could be converted into hydrogen to create a transport fuel to decarbonise infrastructure."

    Converting electricity into hydrogen? Are you sure about that?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Energy into matter

      The new alchemy

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Energy into matter

      Why not? Just add a single proton!

      (Actually there was a piece in the Grauniad on just this t'other day. Seems hydrogen - while I still maintain it's a crap idea in a car - is somewhat better suited to grid-scale storage, which is going to be where the money is in the long term I suspect. How well it stores over 6 months, so excess solar/wind can keep the lights on in January, is another matter).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Energy into matter

      Just add water ...

  11. Wobbly World

    Geothermal Energy what’s not to like...

    With the need for clean green, base load energy, geothermal has to be a potential game changer, a no-brainier so to speak.!! As we draw down on the use of hydrocarbons the oil industry will have to look for new ways to utilise its drilling rigs, if for nothing else than, to get a return on the capital expenditure, of their redundant drilling equipment, what better way to archive this, than repurpose them for the exploitation of geothermal energy sources!!!’

    The advancements in down hole tools, and the ability of drilling rigs to work in the hostile environment, of the high temperatures, high pressures found in deep wells and the ability to enable directional drilling, means the technology is there waiting, so to speak, to change from deep drilling for hydrocarbons, to drilling for hot rocks.

    With the ability to drill to depths in excess of six kilometres can the same geothermal wells use radioactive sands, that would be locked in place, in the fracking process? The radioactive fracking sand would enhance the heat output and at the same time, be a solution to the disposal of hot radioactive waste, the process of vitrification, ie. The manufacturing of radioactive sand (glass beads) is proven. But maybe that's for the future?

    As reference and for information I refer to an article from Offshore Magazine from Mar 7th, 2018 see below, about the use of redundant north-sea oil wells, already drilled to six kilometres. So most of the work is done and the conversion to geothermal energy generation is all that is needed, but the last I heard, was they were proposing to cap and cement the wells in, what a waste!!! See:

    https://www.offshore-mag.com/pipelines/article/16762144/geothermal-power-an-alternate-role-for-redundant-north-sea-platforms

    We need a mix of energy generating capacity, all have their pros and cons, but I must ask is this the time, looking to the future, to consider geothermal energy? It is clean, green base load energy!!! Surely it’s time has come. From small local district heating systems, to large megawatt electrical generation systems!!!’

    It’s a no-brainier!!!’

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: Geothermal Energy what’s not to like...

      https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/business/economic-development/geothermal/

      The heat map is quite interesting. What's under cumbria, one wonders? And Rutland, for that matter? Is that why they keep having quakes in the east midlands?

      1. Robert Sneddon

        Re: Geothermal Energy

        Geothermal energy is usable in certain geological areas but it has limitations -- rock isn't a good conductor of heat so once a well has reduced the temperature of a volume of hot rock deep underground the efficiency and the amount of recoverable energy drops off unless more heat can be transferred quickly to the well bottom. The best sites for geothermal energy have lots of fractured rock strata and hot underground water that can be extracted while more hot water flows towards the well bottom. That sort of geology is a lot rarer than simply large volumes of hot dry basalt a couple of kilometres down.

        Iceland had a magma-powered geothermal well at one time, they were drilling a regular hot-water geothermal well and hit lava instead. Oops. After retooling they got it to work somewhat -- the lava ate the drillhead and damaged the piping, not surprisingly. It's been shut down since then, IIRC. Maintenance and operating costs were the problem, the lava pool the drill string ran into produced highly alkaline soluble salts and gases and other crud that chewed up the heat exchangers at the surface, I think.

        1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

          Re: Geothermal Energy

          It's worth noting that not all ground-source heat has to be deep geothermal.

          Relatively shallow (Circa 10's of metres) boreholes can be used for ground source heat pumps, whether open systems (that connect to the groundwater) or closed systems (where the water is circulated from a surface supply). These systems exploit the fact that groundwater and the soil itself tends to have a fairly constant temperature throughout the year, so can be used seasonally - a heat source in winter, a heat-dump in summer.

          They don't necessarily replace traditional hating/cooling systems, but can usefully supplement them, reducing overall energy demand.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Geothermal Energy

          " produced highly alkaline soluble salts and gases and other crud that chewed up the heat exchangers at the surface"

          The pressure drop would release a lot of dissolved gasses in the magma and much of that is pretty nasty when combined with water.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Geothermal Energy what’s not to like...

        The heat map is quite interesting.

        So's the marketing spin-

        The technology proposed in Cornwall appropriate for the granite is known as engineered or enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). It is also sometimes referred to as ‘hot dry rocks’. With EGS technology it is possible to increase the ability for water to circulate between wells, at depths of 4-5km, to capture the natural heat source within the rock.

        Which is basically a weaselly way to not say EGS is reliant on fraccing. And being Cornish granite, with some additional fun. Like the water, piping and heat exchangers becoming radioactive. Which is a fun challenge for Greens who think this is good, but fraccing & nuclear are the Devil's spawn. There was some interesting info about this in the Eden Project's proposal to frac for heat. The radiation risk seems pretty low, but it was high enough for elements to be considered radioactive waste, and thus need lots of paperwork and costs.

        And of course where geothermal fraccing has been done in the past, it's resulted in some pretty large (and damaging, eg Switzerland) earthquakes from the thermal shock. Plus without a renewable heat source (like Iceland on account of it's volcanic activity), eventually the rocks cool, and performance declines.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Geothermal Energy what’s not to like...

        back in the day (80s) here in sunny Cornwall there was quite a large geothermal (Hot rocks) trial at Rosemanowes Quarry down West did a visit on a college field trip in 1988'ish The current Cornish trial has been suspended as its caused a few minor earth quakes! There is also currently some test drilling going on outside the old civic centre in Plymouth (soon to be converted in to flats\offces, etc) to see if it would be possible to provide geothermal heat to the building and surrounding area

      4. Wobbly World

        Re: Geothermal Energy what’s not to like...

        Earth quakes in the East Midlands are caused by the pumping of toxic waste onto relatively shallow boreholes by the military/ministry of defence, they also pump waste into other boreholes NW of Shropshire that have caused earthquakes on a regular three/four year periods for longer than I can remember.

        The heat map that the government publishes is based on relatively shallow test boreholes. What I am proposing is deep enhanced wells which can reach into hot rock almost anywhere in the U.K. With the current advances in the ability to drill to depths in excess of ten kilometres the heat map becomes somewhat irrelevant, except that the deeper you drill, obviously the higher the cost.

        The project at Eden in Cornwall is unusual in geothermal energy in that the water, working fluid, injection is into the top of a geological fault, where it percolates down gathering thermal energy, the hot water being extracted from the bottom of the fault, into the thermal generating plant, to provide electricity and local district heating for the Eden site. The project used one of the most advanced drilling rigs in the world and was impressive to watch it work, very safe with little direct human interaction on the rig platform, a marvel to behold, modern engineering at its best.!!’

  12. Wobbly World

    Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

    To make a house habitable, the amount of insulation installed in the property, can make a huge difference over their life time of a house. Both on the environmental effect and the cost for the energy used.

    The current practice of installing 50mm at worse or 100mm of insulation, that seems to be the maximum in the walls and roof with less or none in the floor is madness!! It adds significantly to the cost of heating in winter and cooling in summer that is substantial over the life of the building!!!’

    The installation of a minimum of 100mm and 200mm or more (best practice) of expanded foam insulation all round, floor, roof and external walls, adds an extremely small cost to the build, but represents a very substantial saving in energy use over the life of the building!!’

    Type of insulation: This makes a great difference with metal foil faced expanded foam (With plaster board facing for internal walls) being the gold standard.!!!’

    The use of spun glass, often called rockwall insulation (IT SHOULD BE BANNED!! It is poor insulation, especially when it gets wet and wicks water, how do you dry it when it’s in the wall cavity?? And the fibres that it gives off when it is installed are a health hazard.!! ) I’ll say it again it should be banned.!!!’

    But no I can’t believe, it is used because it’s cheap Dh0ooo!! In the “Warm Front” home insulation scheme. It’s a bloody disaster in my opinion. Used in occupied housing it leaves the home severely contaminated with glass fibres!!!

    They result in health problems asthma and skin irritations, and are impossible to remove unless the house is void when the work is done. That never happens and furnishing, bedding and carpets remain contaminated. MADNESS!!!’

    The 50-100mm that is installed, it seems to depend on who does the work and what they can get away with, is a waste of money, as it makes little difference, partly because of the poor standards of installation, in the homes I have inspected, and particularly when compared against the expanded foam type insulation that has over twice the insulation value and none of the health hazards associated with it.!!!’

    It is also considerable easier to install and is available with plasterboard facing, that cuts installation time, as it cuts out the dry-lining part of the job. It also reduces the amount of timber framing needed, so a win, win all round. The savings in installing it means the cost difference is small, with a significant benefit to the home owner both in the higher insulation value, that results in significant energy savings and the lack of health problems from the glass fibre contamination of the home.

    The building regulations need to be changed, to increase the insulation of new buildings and STOP the use of rock wall (spun glass) insulation, both in new build and in the governments home insulation schemes.

    I can’t express my exasperation sufficiently at the use of rockwall (Spun glass) insulation!!!’ It needs to stop!!!’

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

      I inherited my parents old house 11 years ago, I was brought up there. Its an old c1820 cottage in Cornwall, christ it was COLD in the 70/80s , no central heating, no double glazing, no insulation, ice on the inside of my bedroom windows! Anyway we totally gutted it and packed it with insulation, loft, ceilings, walls, floors 50-100mm celotex. What a MASSIVE difference its made, even in the coldest of winters we have the heating on downstairs, UFH and woodburner maybe every other day it just holds the heat so well. Added to that its open plan so any heat generated from the ovens when cooking all gets added into the mix.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

        I once liven in an early 16th century farmhouse. Mud walls 3 feet thick and thick straw thatch for the roof. Small windows, low ceilings. Once you get it warm, it stays warm for days.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

      The current practice of...

      I'm afraid you are simply wrong about some points, and haven't thought through some others.

      Firstly, common practice in the UK (speaking as someone who has just built a house) is to install insulation to the equivalent of

      • 150mm foil-faced expanded foam under the floor screed
      • 75mm on the inner leaf of a cavity wall
      • 150mm either on top of the ceilings (ventilated attic) or in the plane of the roof (attic within heated envelope of house)

      It is not really possible to get away with any less and still meet building regulations, and the building regulations are due to be tightened again before too long.

      Retrofitting that amount of insulation to an existing property is very difficult, except in the case of the attic. For the walls, an existing uninsulated cavity (if there is one, many older properties do not have one) may only be 50mm in width, so even full-filling one will not add a lot of insulation, though it's better than nothing. Care needs to be taken to fill it evenly (or risk cold spots / condensation) and with a product appropriate for the damp environment.

      Without a cavity wall, or to bring a cavity wall up to modern insulation standards you would need to apply additional insulation either externally - foam boards or spray-foam rendered over - or some other form of insulation to the inside of each room, making the rooms smaller. Plasterboard with an insulation backing is one possibility, but high-tech solutions such as Aerogel are a possibility for the future. One friend of mine has installed cork insulation as a natural product not requiring a costly, Carbon-intensive manufacturing process.

      Insulating under the floor is of course quite disruptive - you usually have to dig up the floor.

      There are two common types of "wool" insulation. Rockwool (not RockWall - that is a board product) is quite literally made from rocks. More generic glass fibre insulation is what you are describing, it is similar in structure to the stuff used in fibreglass and concerningly similar to Asbestos at a microscopic level though the fracture patterns are different I believe, meaning it is an irritant but not considered a long-term health hazard once exposure stops.

      Both are fairly good insulators (though not as good as foam), cheap to buy, can be formed into rolls (e.g. for attics), batts (e.g. for stud walls) and into fibres for blowing into cavities. Both are absolutely horrid to work with (speaking here as someone who used to crawl around attics for a living) and as a result, where we have needed a wool-type product in our new house, we have used Thermafleece which is almost as good an insulator, is only slightly more expensive, smells like damp sheep when you install it (but the smell soon goes) and not at all irritating, unless you happen to have an allergy to lanolin.

      Other innovative products are available such as cellulose insulation - made from recycled paper, cotton-fibre insulation - made from recycled jeans, hemp insulation and "foamed glass", a product made from recycled glass which can be used as a combined hardcore and insulation layer under the floor slab. Try suppliers such as Ecomerchant or, in this neck of the woods, Tŷ Mawr.

      And then you raise the whole question of materials used for the walls themselves. There are good arguments for building "light" structures from wood and board, packing the gaps with insulation - they are easy to manufacture off-site in a controlled factory environment and can be brought to temperature from "ambient" very quickly, but likewise there are good arguments for traditional "heavy" structures made from concrete, block, bricks and plaster. In particular they are easier to modify on-site, easier to make airtight (if you use wet plaster), easier to live with long-term (you can't just drill a hole in a timber-frame house for the power cable for that new outdoor light as you will break the vapour barrier and threaten the life of the timber) and, most importantly from our point of view, a heavy construction has a "damping" effect on the rate of rise and fall of temperature.

      Somewhat frustratingly to the proponents of each style of manufacture, the total cost of each structure ends up being about the same and the total time from pressing "go" to having a completed envelope is about the same (timber spends more time in the factory and less on site, heavy spends pretty much all its time on site) and, of course, once complete to building regulations they are both just as efficient to keep warm. It's the dynamics of the heating that are the real differences.

      M.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

        Look on Youtube for how Aerogel is made and also see how fragile it is. Not a good choice for home building.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

      I can’t express my exasperation sufficiently at the use of rockwall (Spun glass) insulation!!!’ It needs to stop!!!

      Well, start a campaign! But get the product and the name right first.

      Rockwool is spun mineral insulation ( i.e. rock) not glass. What the hell is Rockwall?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Insulation~Not all insulation is equal...

        I believe "rockwall" is what left-pondians call the product we know as plasterboard.

        Anything less like a wall made of rock is difficult to imagine. It's horrid, flimsy, friable stuff and I've banned it from my house (except in one specific area, and I'm beginning to regret even that) in favour of an engineered product called Fermacel which, unlike plasterboard where you need an expanding, board-clamping plug and a chunky screw just to hang the latest school photograph, you can feasibly hang 20kg from a single screw driven in without a plug at all.

        We built a shelf intended to hold a small water tank. It is fixed between two walls, one of which is block, the other Fermacel. The Fermacel side is screwed on using five woodscrews, only one of which hits a stud. It comfortably holds a grown man, as proven by my mate who - before we'd built the thing - was worried that it wouldn't stand up to the 20kg or so of the operational water tank, so once we'd finished he decided to climb up and sit on it.

        M.

  13. Martin an gof Silver badge
    Facepalm

    They need to sort out the Building Regulations first

    This one has just come to bite me. We're just completing a building project and the resulting house is insulated to the hilt. I reckon it's only going to take a kW or so of additional heat input (over and above the "incidental" heat you generate from living somewhere, having computers and fridges and TVs and (low-power) lights turned on) to keep the place warm during a typical South Wales winter, that kW being fed into a thermal store from which the radiators, taps etc. are run*.

    Although we have plumbed for a boiler, we thought we'd try the first winter without and if we found that we were having to run the immersion heaters too often, or top up heat with portable heaters, we'd look at installing a boiler next year.

    We have 8m2 of solar hot water panels.

    We buy our electricity from a company that only sells "100% renewable" power.

    Every new house has to have a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) report on its energy consumption, carbon footprint etc., and - get this - by taking out the gas boiler our brand new house fails Building Regulations.

    Why? Because the calculation cannot take account of our 100% renewable electricity and instead uses figures based on the generation mix from 2012, when 30% or more of the UK's electricity was generated by coal. Today's mix includes less than 5% coal.

    So in order to get a Regs pass we have to install a boiler even though - in reality - we'll be producing more CO2 by running the boiler than we would using the immersion heaters. The one upside is that gas is still considerably cheaper than electricity so we'll be saving a bit of money on the running costs though of course it's going to cost us upwards of £1,200 to have the blasted thing installed in the first place.

    Grrr!

    M.

    *water for the taps will be several more kW of course

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: They need to sort out the Building Regulations first

      I was thinking about putting in solar hot water tubes, but the math shows installing PV is the better deal for me. Part of that is I can get ex-commercial PV panels at a really good price. I like the flexibility of having the electric power that I can do many things with over the tubes that only make hot water. It also means that the system design has me dumping excess solar into the hot water tank or home heating depending on the season before pushing the overage onto the grid.

      I have been working on thermal storage batteries that are far more efficient and have much more capacity than hot water. The little proto system I built works great, but it's not cheap. The upside is that the expensive bits don't wear out (at least in my lifetime, eventually the protons will decay).

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: They need to sort out the Building Regulations first

        I went with the tubes because we're a large family and the payback was much quicker - lower capital costs, ability to DIY (though you forfeit the right to Renewable Heat Incentive payments if you don't use a certified installer), about twice the energy output per unit area (we have a very small amount of South-facing roof) and - with tubes - extremely easy to maintain; a failed tube can be "unplugged" from the manifold without affecting anything else (no need to drain down) and replaced for about thirty quid.

        I did find a company selling off 30W PV panels for a fiver each, but proper PV costs quite a lot more than hot water, especially with the inverter, and requires professional installation.

        The figures for PV are a lot better these days than they were 15 years ago when I first looked - particularly if you have access to some cheap panels as you say - but I preferred to outsource my renewable generation - I just didn't realise the regulations hadn't caught up!

        Now then, your thermal battery. Care to explain more? I find this kind of thing fascinating :-)

        M.

  14. MachDiamond Silver badge

    System Engineering

    Anybody that is good at large scale engineering knows that you have to take a holistic approach. A grid that was designed to have a few discrete, large generation plants in known places is going to have problems with deleting those and hooking on inputs here and there. It can work, but in an edge case such as they had in South Australia, really bad things can go wrong. It can be though of like blood exchanging gasses in the lungs and branching out to all parts of the body. The body is set up for just that plan and no other. A heart/lung machine can be hooked in and suffice for a while, but it won't work to delete the lungs and keep it as a permanent thing.

    All renewables are intermittent and diffuse by their nature. This means they need some form of storage if they are to be relied on for base load power. Eventually, that might include EVs acting as a demand source of power should the grid need it, but that's not in the CCS charge spec and it requires extra hardware to have work. There would also need to be the communications necessary to implement something like that. Pumped storage is an option but need the right geography and a big up front budget for ~25% efficiency. Batteries are fantastically expensive. They can work, but alternatives have to be even more expensive to justify them.

    If you own a home, the low hanging fruit is always going to be thermal efficiency. Fortunately, some of that can be DIY if you aren't alway using your hammer to find your thumb. If you are renting, consider paying a bit more for a flat that's tight. You make the money back on lower utility bills.

    Politicians are the worst when it come to science and engineering. M. Thatcher is the only one I can recall off-hand that had a degree in science. The rest are lawyers (blood-sucking) or advertising executives. B-Ark ticket holders, the lot of them.

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