back to article European silicon output shrinking, metal smelters closing as electricity prices quadruple, trade body warns

Soaring electricity prices have derailed manufacturing involving silicon and non-ferrous metals in Europe, politicians were warned this week. Eurometaux, a European metals association, urged action [PDF] from the EU, fearing the region could experience spikes in electricity prices for the next decade if nothing is done to …

  1. jpo234

    Reality is a bitch and should be outlawed.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Yes. There may well be good reasons to shut down coal fired power stations and now start targetting gas fired ones too, and there may well have been some irrational fears over nuclear that shut down all the German nuclear plants, but no one seems to be too concerned about bringing suitable "clean" replacements on stream before doing so.

      Admittedly, those shutdowns do seem to have visibly spurred wind and solar power development and deployment, but no where near quickly enough to match the rate of closures. It's almost as if politicians seem to think the power will magically be imported from adjoining countries. Except those adjoining countries have all done the same kneejerk reactions to the noisy, squeaky wheels without properly thinking it through.

      It almost seems as if the entire EU is going to rely on the French fleet of nuclear power stations for their base load. I'm sure that'll work well.

      1. Adam Trickett
        Mushroom

        Follow the money

        It doesn't help that Franc's nuclear fleet it getting old and hasn't been replaced. The new plants are eye-wateringly expensive and running years late, and no one wants to pay for them.... At the moment several reactors are also off line with unplanned maintenance because cracks and corrosion has been found - as I said they are getting old and no wants them to go bang even if electricity prices are through the roof here in France too.

        Stepping aside from the nuclear debate, the key problem with high capital projects (nuclear or coal or hydro) is that once you've built it you want to run it to death to get your money back and at the same no one ever wants to foot the massive capital start-up costs which can run into billions and your may not earn a penny for a decade until it's built.

        The French tax payer built a lot of nuclear plants and gave them to EDF to run at a profit, but hasn't built any in years and now EDF has gone cap in hand to the French tax payer to be given another new plant - and the tax payer isn't so keen to foot the bill anymore...

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Follow the money

          PS. Adam Trickett who do you think normally pays if it's not the tax payer.

          1. HammerOn1024

            Re: Follow the money

            Since you didn't read his comment, I'll reiterate:

            1) The French TAX PAYERS paid for the reactors.

            2) They new reactors were turned over to be run AT PROFIT so that new reactors could be built out of those profits.

            3) Instead, the entity that owns them pocketed the cash and now wants the TAX PAYERS to buy it new ones again.

        2. Slx

          Re: Follow the money

          To be fair though, the EDF is not a private company. It *is* the French Tax Payer. It’s almost 85% state owned.

      2. Geez Money

        In my experience most politicians fail to realize that something doesn't magically become so by being written into the law. Feasibility, implementation, enforcement, these things are other people's jobs and therefore 'easy' and to be taken for granted. They'll just happen. Just write it down.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        The problem with renewables is that - with the best will in the world - whilst they can slightly outproduce carbon emitting electrical sources in most areas they are hard pressed to do much more than that and electrical generation only accounts for about 1/3 of current carbon emissions

        Reducing carbon emissions requires ramping up electrical generation considerably - by a factor of 6-8 or thereabouts, and GIVING that technology to developing countries or their carbon emission increases will simply outweigh developed world carbon emission reductions

        If atmospheric CO2 levels exceed 800ppm then "Bad Things Happen" as rain becomes acidic enough due to absorbed carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) to kill vegetation and events can happen remarkably quickly. The Permian extinction event transition took less than a decade to play out once levels passed that point - in less than 10 years 93-96% of all complex animal/plant species on the planet was dead.

        The relevance of that extinction even is that the climate then was quite similar to what it is now

        People can move away from rising seas, build better shelters from storms, etc but NOBODY can escape collapsing global oxygen levels and drowning in your own lungs is a nasty way to die

  2. jmch Silver badge

    Nuclear greens

    This will remain a major problem unless environmentalists realise that the only 2 options to phase out fossil fuels are (1) renewables + nuclear, which will be expensive and painful or (2) renewables only, which will be even more expensive and "rewind 100 years in quality of life" painful

    1. Muppet Boss

      Re: Nuclear greens

      Option (1) is apparently worse than coal power stations for the greens, looking at you Germany. It's getting cold, fire up the solar panels!

      Also this:

      >>The Russian problem

      >>Moscow could increase its fuel export, but hasn't...

      In other news for the past few years: US imposes further sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline ...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "US imposes further sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline "

        Germany has an ex-chancellor who signed the agreement with Russia and now is handsomely paid by Gazprom as an executive. Conflict of interests? Nahhhhh!

        Ms Merkel started to shut down nuclear plants when a strong earthquake and tsunami hit a Japanese plant. Both events that can highly occur on German soil too....

        You wonder for whom some German chancellors actually work....

        Nord Stream 2 was designed to cut off Poland and Ukraine. Again, Germany had nothing to say. Polish are only good as a supply of cheap workers. And that while Putin showed Russia was not a reliable supplier.

        1. Muppet Boss
          Pint

          Re: "US imposes further sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline "

          You seem to suggest that the leccy price quadrupling is justified by political gains. Ok then, it is all for the people's sake and for the greater good! By any chance, do you know what else is in the master plan?

          >>Both events that can highly occur on German soil too....

          It is only from this moment that I recognized sarcasm. Well done mate!

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Re: "US imposes further sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline "

          The nuclear out in Germany has been ongoing for a couple of decades.

          The biggest problem is the storage of waste - the Gorleben scandal, for instance, where the cave used to store waste wasn't actually suitable, but somebody way-back-when didn't do the right checks and the "1,000 year" containers are leaking nuclear waste into the surrounding strata.

    2. herman Silver badge

      Crazy tax rates

      That is why I bought a tipper truckload of firewood. It is much cheaper to heat my house with wood. Electricity is so overtaxed that I could run a wood fired steam engine to produce electricity.

      1. Mast1

        Re: Crazy tax rates

        We do it in the UK, but use ship loads (carrried by dirty oil burners?) of pelletised wood from the USA and feed it into the national grid. Currently ca 3 GW of it (Drax 2).

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Binraider Silver badge

    AHH yes, 70 years of not in my back yard catch up .

    Fossil fuels from our own back yard are relatively cheap. They are also 'bad' because of a multitude of reasons.

    Getting unhooked from then means scaling up nuclear renewables and storage technology even further than has already been done.

    As coal is 'bad' in the short term the only fallback while awaiting scaling up renewables to at least 100percent of demand, is to burn gas. Enter Russia and the ability for anyone with cash - or with supply - to dictate prices and Stoke inflation.

    This is not a difficult provlem to understand. Solving it means throwing large proportions of the economic output of Europe into investment. Consider the early years of the CEGB. Large proportions of GDP for multiple years to get the supergrid formed. We need to be prepared to do the same again. Or remain beholden to dictators with hydrocarbons.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      And the owners of those back yards are unlikely to have changed their stance.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Which is worse,being beholden to dictators with hydrocarbons, or windmills?

      The focus is on gas, but the problem is elecricity cost. Building more windmills or solar can only increase that cost. 10 or 10,000 it matters not if there's no wind, or it's dark. Then gas turbines spin up because windmills can't. So all 'renewable' have done is increase demand for gas. And increase our bills of course.

      But it's lucky the UK still has large gas reserves, else we'd be in trouble. I think Ialso understand why Enron was keen on a UK gas storage field. If that had been filled a year ago, it'd be a nice earner today. Much the same if Gazprom's customers had signed 5 or 10yr contracts. So still puzzled why customers are being punished for their supplier's market failures.

      But it's lucky the UK has a regulator that works tirelessly on behalf of energy users.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Seeing the future, and ignoring it. An inconvenient truth.

        For a few years last century, for reasons which will not become clear again for some time, I became familiar with some activities of one of the UK's most energy intensive (and yet potentially most energy efficient) industries.

        Specifically, the glass industry. Some seriously good work on reducing their dependence on expensive energy was done, but I don't know where it eventually led, as the main player in this sector was, like so many others, taken over by an overseas company to feed the appetites of the City moneychangers and their stooges in the boardrooms.

        Reduce reuse recycle.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Seeing the future, and ignoring it. An inconvenient truth.

          Bear in mind that almost all recycled glass is not fit for anything more than pelletising for building road-beds etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: recycled glass

            "almost all recycled glass is not fit for anything more than pelletising for building road-beds etc."

            Citation welcome.

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: recycled glass

              And yet you didn't ask for a citation re "(and yet potentially most energy efficient)".

              Pity. If you had, you'd have discovered that actually glass recycling offers only decent but not excellent energy savings: for every 10% recycled glass feedstock, energy savings are only 2-3%. So, even at 100% recycled: max 20-30%. [2020 numbers]

              My source for what I said: a number of commodity conferences' (physical, upstream thru to downstream) presentations and roundtable participations by large recycling companies, over about 4 years. They were at the time (few years back now) also speaking very optimistically about the increasing rigour of govt-mandated retail-level pre-sorting of their own supplies, lending itself to serious benefit from high-volume auto-sorting (optical, x-ray) meaning that quality of the recycled output feedstock could lift sharply and let the industry lean harder into high-$premium applications like bottles and containers. But a repeated theme was that the public/PR thinks X re recycling but really it's Y (eg, actual total recycling rates way lower than PR's cherrypicked announcements): recycled glass at industrial scale/volumes was not anywhere near the quality it theoretically could be. And yes: roadbeds and fibreglass and so on were where the industry's Volume was going.

              Re something you can look at yourself: I just spent some time scouting about for industry information at this granularity ("application by volume/kilotonnage"). To get the current internal industry numbers AND a shareable citation would cost me between US$7,000 and US$10,000 (or $3-5k for an "unprintable PDF" -- made me laugh :). So, sorry, no can do.

              I can see the $value of bottles+containers has soared since those conferences, though, so maybe that source-presorting is having the bulk quality shift they hoped for. Hmm.

            2. juice Silver badge

              Re: recycled glass

              > Citation welcome.

              It's not too hard to find some citations...

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

              To be honest, I'd guess that using recycled glass as an aggregate is popular because it's the lowest-cost way to reuse the glass, and there isn't a need to separate out the different colours.

              There's also this interesting quote about the UK in particular:

              The waste recycling industry in the UK cannot consume all of the recycled container glass that will become available over the coming years, mainly due to the colour imbalance between that which is manufactured and that which is consumed. The UK imports much more green glass in the form of wine bottles than it uses, leading to a surplus amount for recycling.

              Equally, a lot of people don't really seem to pay much more than lip service to recycling. E.g. the communal bins at the flats where I live are basically split into three groups: glass/metal/plastic, cardboard and other.

              And while I know there's increasing amounts of automation in the recycling process, I suspect the efficiencies involved in splitting out things from a mixed lump of glass, plastic and metal is going to be low. Especially since you've also got to consider the various colours of glass, the many grades of plastic, etc, etc.

              Similarly, I was mildly bemused to see that Yazoo milk drinks come in a recyclable plastic bottle which is fully sheathed in a non-recyclable plastic label. So they expect you to cut the entire sheath off before consigning the bottle for recycling.

              I'd be genuinely surprised if more than 10% of the people drinking from those bottles even realise that they're meant to do this...

          2. herman Silver badge

            Re: Seeing the future, and ignoring it. An inconvenient truth.

            You should visit a glass factory for some enlightenment.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Seeing the future, and ignoring it. An inconvenient truth.

              Sounds like a job for a roving El Reg reporter.

              Or me. One of those fascinating materials we depend on, yet take for granted. Like turning an ingot into drums of optical fibre. Or Netflix had a competition series showing artists making interesting glass sculptures.

            2. MJI Silver badge

              Re: Seeing the future, and ignoring it. An inconvenient truth.

              Cullet recycling the stuff they chuck in bins which they can't cut from gets turned into new sheet glass again.

              Still more effective thought ot use as much as a sheet as possible before chucking the offcuts,

      2. Binraider Silver badge

        Storage is paradoxical. At times you don't need it, it's an expense and a liability. By the time you need it, it's too expensive.

        Wholesalers do not want storage because it removes their opportunities to profiteer.

        Retailers used to have storage e.g. Centricas Rough facility. Decommissioned because it was end of life and expensive to replace As with wholesalers, high prices apart from bad PR actually benefit them.

        The regulators? Dont make me laugh. Setting ofgem and beis in a room with their conflicting objectives, and you get conflicting results. Ofgems view is generally short term survival and minimising headlines relating to high bills (failed!). Beis have a more rounded economic view, but are also fairly powerless to direct activity.

        On renewables and gas prices - if we had less windmills we would be burning more gas therefore even higher prices. Or maybe burning coal because national emergencies.

        The supply shortages of the 70s are not that distant a memory and of similar consequence.

        Ultimately, money making opportunities incentivise change. To get unhooked from gas we have to pay for the alternative mix. Or be locked into paying dictators for gas at ever-inflating rates.

        As far as I am concerned this is not a choice at all. We need Nukes, storage and yet more windmills.

        Remember that heating demand and transport is also being pushed to electric for basically the same reasons.

        If there is to be a way out of this economic doom spiral affecting the whole world, Fusion research would appear to be a good investment. But to deal with today, the next 5 to 20 years? There are no other alternatives.

        Well actually there is an alternative, called 'doing without'. I'll leave the consequences of that for you to figure out.

        1. Persona Silver badge

          and yet more windmills

          Windmills are rubbish. We only pretend that they are good because in the UK and northern Europe solar is even worse. If however you have a nice sunny climate in the lower latitudes solar becomes amazingly cheap. This could mean that energy intensive industry will migrate from the rich northern Europe states to the currently poor southern ones and beyond.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            re: Windmills are rubbish.

            You sound like POTUS 45... Donald J Trump who loves to rant on about 'windmills'. All because he didn't like some being built out at sea that was just visible from his Golf Resort. That same Golf Resort that was bought with some very dodgy finance.

            The cost of energy from offshore wind has been dropping over the years and is now a lot cheaper than most other sources.

            Solar does work here in the UK. At least for me, it does. My electric bill this year (Sept 2021 to Sept 2022) will be 15% lower than in previous years even with all the price rises.

            Most energy-intensive industries are 24/7 Unless you have some mighty large batteries running solely on Solar in places like Spain will not work. It might be better to move north to places like Sweden and Norway with huge hydro schemes.

            1. Justthefacts Silver badge

              Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

              “Solar does work…..”

              As this is a techie site, please could you provide some numbers?

              15% saving of what total electricity bill, versus what initial spend on the solar?

              Average annual electricity bill is about £500. 15% would be saving £75 annually. Typical installation costs are £6k. So it would take 80 years to pay for itself, which isn’t immediately attractive….

              And of course, just wait until you get a single leaking roof tile underneath your solar panel. Suddenly the £60 job for Dave the Roofie, turns into a £800 job involving scaffolding (gotta hoik the whole panel off and on again), an electrician, a specialist solar panel guy….and Dave the Roofie replacing one tile.

              Seen it happen, I couldn’t stop laughing.

              1. ClockworkOwl
                WTF?

                Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                Nonsense, honestly you are so wrong...

                When do you get one leaking tile behind a solar panel? When you installed on the cheap, and failed to maintain your roof before fitting.

                From my direct experience, a 12 panel install produces approximately 5 units a day on average (over 10 years or more), that's actually around a 40% saving on the average daily usage.

                12 units a day is around a £1000 a year, so you're saving £400 a year, before any feed in tariff.

                In the case of this particular installation, the feed in tariff was around 50p per unit produced (yep, that high!), meaning approx. £900 yearly income...

                Paid for it's install in 6 years, and that's not including all the direct savings of power and the payments for overproduction.

                1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                  Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                  That's because the FIT was just a forced transfer subsidy from non-panel-owners to panel-owners. It was a pyramid scheme, which collapsed as soon as the number of early adopters became significant. And you did well out of it, so great for you.

                  Onto the more serious point ignoring the FIT red herring. On an ongoing basis you save £400 a year, for an initial investment of £7800. That's an apparent payback period of 19 years.

                  But here's the wider issue. Everyone knows that you should invest in solar panels "because the price of electricity always keeps on going up". Because it's driven by the price of fossil fuels, which keep on going up.

                  But if you *really believed* in the Green transition, and Graphs of Glory which show that renewables have halved in price over the past decade, and will halve in price again in the next decade, if only we continue to invest and subsidise....

                  If you *really believed* all that, then the price of electricity bought from utiliites is going to start going *down* by 2025-2030, because of how cheap solar- and wind- utility-scale electricity is going to be become. And it's going to halve again by 2040. And halve again by 2050.

                  The total future money value of the electricity generated by your panels, over even the next century, is always less than a total of a further £7800

                  That's nonsense of course. Everybody knows it's nonsense. The only way domestic solar panels make sense, is if utility-scale solar and wind is an abysmal economic failure, and never manages to compete economically with fossil fuel. Then the price of electricity continues increasing and it might make sense to have bought low if the panels last long enough.

                  You are *literally* shorting the Green Transition. You have *demonstrated* that you don't believe in it, because you made a strong bet with your own money that the price of electricity. is going to continue increasing with the price of fossil fuels indefinitely, and not decreasing with the hypothetical price of progress in renewables.

                  1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                    Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                    Strawman 1: Everyone knows that you should invest in solar panels "because the price of electricity always keeps on going up".

                    Strawman 2: But if you *really believed* in the Green transition, and Graphs of Glory which show that renewables have halved in price over the past decade, and will halve in price again in the next decade, if only we continue to invest and subsidise....

                    Strawman 3: And it's going to halve again by 2040. And halve again by 2050.

                    It's like people who oppose nuclear because it never did turn out to be too cheap to meter.

                    1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                      Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                      This is nothing at all like the nuclear “too cheap to meter” fallacy.

                      The point is that *whatever* your belief about the technical and price future of renewables in general, it’s a logical fallacy that * domestic* solar can be economically viable. Economies of scale make that nonsensical. And I’m pointing out that *nobody* really believes what they claim to, it’s just words.

                      If solar is expensive, it’s only viable when it’s subsidised.

                      But if it’s cheap, it’s strongly undercut by utility-scale solar. Pick a number for the relative cost of solar versus oil. I pick 0.2, and the budget doesn’t work. Pick 1.5, and the budget doesn’t work either.

                      You are welcome to put any assumption you like in, run your own numbers, it’s the same.

                      Personally if I had to guess, utility scale Wind will become *genuinely* cheaper than gas in about ten years (ie without being subsidised for intermittency). While utility scale Solar may become *genuinely* cheaper in the UK in about fifty years (it’s genuinely cheaper already in California of course, but not here).

                      But putting solar panels *on your house*? That’s like saying that you intend to save money by going vegan and growing all your food in the garden. Stopping meat-eating in itself might save you money. And it might also be something you want to do for other reasons. But growing it in your own garden….is something rich people do who can afford to have a large garden.

                      Just don’t lecture the rest of us. We see your hypocrisy, and we’re calling it out.

                      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                        Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                        Just a note re "So it would take 80 years to pay for itself" or with explicit subsidy of the wealthy by the poor: "19 years" (thank you, plebs! Glad you know your duty to your betters!)

                        PV Solar Panels typically only last ~10 years.

                        Power output is typically ~80% at 8yrs, then falls off a cliff.

                        (The standard retail marketing graph in Australia re panel longevity rather amusingly cuts out at 8yrs for this reason.)

                        So even with the fawning financial support of the plebs, they still need further subsidies to break-even.

                        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                          Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                          PV Solar Panels typically only last ~10 years.

                          Cobblers. 25 - 30 years is standard and 50+ years expected. It's a bit like Tesla car batteries, in that we won't know how long they will last until we have actually used them.

                          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                            Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                            25-30 years is certainly standard…. for the *panels*.

                            *The solar inverters* don’t last 25-30 years though, do they? Most domestic ones crap out after 10-15 years. Similar to other long-lived active electronics, like your car electrics. Almost as if they were made out of exactly the same components. Funny that. So that’s an extra £500-£1000 you have to budget every 10-15 years. There are longer lived ones that last 25-30 years (not 50 years). Not surprisingly, those ones cost nearly £2k. So that’s another significant cost too.

                            And the panels don’t just last 30 years perfectly and then fail. They also degrade efficiency by about 0.8% per year over lifetime. So after 30 years, their power is down by 25%. Averaged over 30years, their return on investment is down by *another* 12% compared to what you would think if you just looked over the first few years.

                            And of course, you’ve allowed for maintenance costs, right? Because unless you go up on the roof (or pay for someone else to do so) the recommended 2-4 times per year to clean the bird-crap and leaf-sap off them, as it says in the manual, the surface will slowly be attacked and become slightly opaque. Then they definitely won’t be working well in 20 years let alone 25-30. How does your patio look if you don’t clean it for 5 years? Well, same gunk is falling on the panels. So the panels look just like that. And after *30 years*?

                            The fact that you mentioned none of these things, when each of them reduce your return on investment by a further 10-20%, says that you aren’t treating this like an investment at all. I’m sure you are perfectly well aware of them. But you don’t actually believe the things you are saying, you are just saying them for effect.

                          2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                            Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                            >> PV Solar Panels typically only last ~10 years.

                            > Cobblers. 25 - 30 years is standard and 50+ years expected.

                            Cobblers yourself. We've had a fair whack of solar in Australia for quite a while, for obvious reasons, and despite the industry's upfront promises (such as you quote here), what we're seeing in real life is what I said. ~80% at 8yrs, then collapse after that.

                            2 public debacles I'm aware of, built while I was out of the country for 20yrs: my old uni and the city council. Both built high-virtue public installations with virtue-display boards proudly displaying their power generation.

                            I walked into the uni building at lunchtime in Queensland's summer/January: no clouds and walking in the sun was like being beaten with a bag of nails. Very impressive and very proud big display board explaining how virtuous the whole building was, with maps and moving diagrams of airflows, waterflows, etc, and re solar you could tap down a couple of times and see the current solar output. 2 X banks each about 40m X 10m.

                            ~730 watts. I boggled, exited & re-entered coupla times -- no change. Came back 2hrs later: 680something. Over the year I checked in occasionally: same but creeping lower. Finally they just pulled the plug on the display panel.

                            The council one likewise at lunchtimes proudly announced an awesome 300W. In summer. Saw it every other day: same. Then it went blank for a week or so, and reappeared, proudly announcing it could now boil 2 kettles at lunchtime. New panels.

                        2. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                          Perhaps things are different in Australia due to the more intense sun and heat.

                          But here in the UK, a 25 year warranty for PV is fairly standard, with 80% output still being expected at 25 years, although dropping under 80% after that point.

                        3. adam 40 Silver badge
                          Thumb Up

                          Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                          I bought some second-hand solar panels last year.

                          They are 8 years old.

                          Rated output is 230W, and they typically give 190-200W at 12 noon on a sunny day.

                          Secondly, I bought them for 23p/W

                          I also bought an inverter for £100 of eBay.

                          After cabling and putting them up myself, and even taking into account the inverter costs, I reckon my installation is just about cheaper than leccy prices BEFORE ANY INCREASES HAPPEN.

                          When leccy goes up by a factor of 2, I'm quids in.

                          This is how you do it. Cheap and cheerful.

                          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                            Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                            So, it's cheap & cheerful buying second-hand? Maybe.

                            That's the same argument that it's cheap to furnish your home: just get all your furniture off Freecycle.

                            You do realise that someone has to *manufacture* all this stuff, right? You can't base your entire economy on the theory that *somebody else* is going to hand you down cheap stuff.

                            And....why did somebody put their "goose that lays the golden eggs" inverter up on ebay? Could it be that once they had owned a system for a decade, they discovered that the incidental *operating* costs, the hidden ones that the marketers pretend don't exist, were greater than the value of the electricity?

                            That inverter? By far the most likely explanation is that the owner was trying to sell their house, it had been on the market for three months without an offer, and they asked their estate agent why. The estate agent replied "Dunno mate. *Some* people are put off by solar panels".

                            So, off the solar panels came. The estate agent might have been right, might have been wrong. We will never know. But if your house is worth £300k, you don't do *anything* that might put off a fraction of buyers, for the sake of something that "only cost a couple of grand" to start with.

                            In just the same way that you lovingly decorated your house in peach&granola Dulux because you saw it Homes&Gardens; but when it comes time to sell, out comes the Magnolia. Even though nobody likes Magnolia, nobody hates it either.

                            And that cheap & cheerful inverter you bought off ebaty? When it comes time to sell your house, you do realise your buyers are going to want to see the installation certificates? If the inverter is off eBay, they are going to require you de-install it before they take possession, because there's no way they are going to want to take financial responsibilty for it.

                            It's just business.

                            1. adam 40 Silver badge

                              Re: Payback-Period is longer than the panels' lifespan

                              So what - I'm quids in either way.

                              But also - the arguments above about solar panel lifespan issues seem to be tosh.

                      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                        Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                        The point is that *whatever* your belief about the technical and price future of renewables in general, it’s a logical fallacy that * domestic* solar can be economically viable. Economies of scale make that nonsensical.

                        (1) You are making a technical argument and dressing it up as a logical one.

                        (2) There is no reason at all why commercial scale and small scale solar should not both be economically viable. Commercial has economies of scale while domestic makes it where it's needed.

                        You don't like solar. We get it. No need to camouflage your emotional response as a technical or logical position.

                        1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

                          Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                          > (2) There is no reason at all why commercial scale and small scale solar should not both be economically viable.

                          Two offers cannot both be the cheapest.

                          (Though, commercial scale and small scale solar can be cheaper at different times.)

                          1. Crypto Monad

                            Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                            Cost of land must factor into it too somehow. Utility-scale solar requires land which must be rented or bought, and could otherwise be used for other economic activity (e.g. farming). Domestic solar gets the surface area essentially for free, since there's not much else you can do with your roof.

                            But apart from that, I'd say utility-scale solar ought to win hands-down, for the economy-of-scale reasons.

                            1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                              Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                              Domestic solar very much does *not* get its cost of land for free.

                              That’s just another cost its proponents are pretending to be unaware of.

                              If you try to get a mortgage on such a property, there are plenty of lenders who will lend on it. But there are also many lenders who just won’t. Having solar panels does decrease your choice of mortgage, whether you like it or not. If the very cheapest mortgage just happens not to be available for panelled properties…..then you are bearing the cost of having only the second cheapest mortgage.

                              The effect doesn’t have to be large to be important.

                              Say your house is worth £300k. And you have to settle for second cheapest mortgage, which is just 0.01% worse than the best…you’ll hardly notice, right? That’s *another* £750 over the 25year term. Peanuts compared to your mortgage, but about 15% of the cost of the panels.

                              And by the way, you’re probably paying about another £25 a year on your buildings insurance too, which is £625 over life.

                              Domestic solar very much does *not* get its cost of land for free.

                        2. Justthefacts Silver badge

                          Re: re: Windmills are rubbish..

                          1) Not really. I would love Solar to be the answer.

                          And a relatively little amount of research and analysis will show that domestic solar just isn’t and can’t be by an order of magnitude. While utility-scale solar could be, but isn’t yet.

                          What makes me emotional is when people are blatantly being disingenuous. Saying things that everyone knows to be untrue, but getting away with it because it is currently trendy. And yes, this pushes my buttons.

                          2) Exactly as the guy below says, two offers can’t both be the cheapest.

                          Unless your domestic solar is cheaper than utility solar, you would be better off having no solar panels and buying it all from the utility.

                          “Making it where it is needed” saves only the cost of the transmission line. Unless you are talking about going off-grid, that’s just nonsense.

                          Again, you are saying things that you know to be untrue, and I know you know they are untrue. What is your purpose in this?

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                On Solar, many installations are unmetered so it's impossible to come up with precise generation numbers. Installed capacity is somewhere of the order of 13GW. Estimates of the demand offset by solar obviously vary with time, the length of a day, and angle of incidence per installation. But in aggregate, the effect is, on average, about 8GW demand being offset at the height of the day.

                Plus/minus of course for weather.

                Solar was heavily incentivised for the very reasons you list here. Payoff, allowing for replacement of inverters too (which won't last as long as the panels) isn't that brilliant in the context of cash. In the context of that being 8GW of gas not being burned at mid-day they are effective at that.

                If you're a rich so-and-so with a field and nothing better to do with it, you could do a lot worse than put a solar array in it. Economies of scale apply and stupidity with roof tiles not a concern!

                A/C, because employed in the sector.

                1. adam 40 Silver badge

                  Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                  I would say 99% of inverters for domestic installations do meter their output.

                  Also the consumer passes those numbers on to the supplier so their FIT repayment can be calculated. So - all those numbers can be aggregated and presented in a spreadsheet.

                  My secondhand inverter not only meters itself, but it has a web page, so you can look at historic graphs.

            2. Persona Silver badge

              Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

              My electric bill this year (Sept 2021 to Sept 2022) will be 15%

              "Will be!" So you can predict the future, including the retail cost of energy, and the weather for the next 9 months and any political changes like reduction of feed in tariff that is currently paid for by other consumers. Now that is a POTUS 45 worthy prediction. Alternatively are you just intending to turn off the electricity to you house when you get to your 15% target. Yes that would work, but really?

              Solar is poor in the UK, especially on most rooftops which don't point in the ideal direction or the ideal angle to the horizon. They are also inherently small installations so can't be strung together to get the high voltages of commercial solar farms that lead to dramatically lower electronics and wiring costs. Very few people would invest in rooftop solar without the feed in tariff which other people are paying for. What's really annoying is that feed in tariff makes the owner most of the money in the long sunny days of summer when electricity demand is at its lowest.

            3. M.V. Lipvig

              Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

              "You sound like POTUS 45... Donald J Trump who loves to rant on about 'windmills'"

              If you want to involve US politics, offshore windmills were banned off the coast of Massachusettes for years because it would have spoiled democrat Ted Kennedy's view.

              https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/case-study-cape-wind-project/

              I wonder if a solar salt reactor would work in England? They use reflected sunlight to heat salt in a tower, and the heat can be used to drive a steam turbine 24x7. They can gather enough heat to work for several overcast days. Might not work year round, but should cover quite a lot of the year.

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                > I wonder if a solar salt reactor would work in England?

                The EU spent a tremendous amount of money to discover it wouldn't work even in Spain. So I doubt England could make a go of it.

                Actually, last time I looked, _no_one had ever succeeded in making a real-world-scale salt solar plant economically viable, even at subsidies high even by renewables' standards. Anyone know offhand if that's changed in the last coupla years?

                1. M.V. Lipvig
                  Facepalm

                  Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                  "Actually, last time I looked, _no_one had ever succeeded in making a real-world-scale salt solar plant economically viable, even at subsidies high even by renewables' standards. Anyone know offhand if that's changed in the last coupla years?"

                  I don't know how economocally viable it is, but there's a plant in the US southwest desert that has been making a go at it. And, the eco-nuts are protesting it because they claim that the mirror panels are interfering wih some species of turtle that likely either doesn't care or is happy for the shade. The mirrors are several feet off the ground, and the heat at the mirror likey isn't any hotter than the sand would be.

                  For further foot shooting, California, who leads the US in panel use, is moving to add a 90 dollar per month fee to anyone using solar panels in a grid tie setup. So, Californians can soon add another almost 22,000 dollars to the payback cost of their install. A typical install there costs 16,000ish, so the monthly cost for panels is about 160 dollars per month. The typical power bill there is 250 a month. Mind you, the solar costs I list here include no maintenance costs, so this would be the minimim cost provided the panels actually last the full 20 years. Oh, and that panel cost included all state and federal rebatea, meaning the solar panel buyer reached into MY pocket to help cover the cost.

                  Icon, because going from fossil to solar is what those same fools were protesting FOR just a few years ago. Nothing makes them happy.

                  1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                    Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                    > there's a plant in the US southwest desert that has been making a go at it

                    Yeah, that's the location of the only other full-scale one I was aware of. But if it IS the one I'm thinking of, then it's a financial disaster, too, like the EU's one.

              2. Lars Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                @M.V. Lipvig

                "and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,"

                1. M.V. Lipvig

                  Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                  @Lars

                  "and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,"

                  Romney's not really Republican, he just plays one on TV.

                  1. Lars Silver badge
                    Happy

                    Re: re: Windmills are rubbish.

                    "Romney's not really Republican".

                    A Republican yes, just not a Trumpist.

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          I agree on nuclear, especially when I've yet to find a 'renewables' lobbyist explain how they'll produce medical and industrial isotopes. Sure, some crystals can be forced to produce X-rays, but cobalt is probably better. Can't use sellotape either, because that's an oil-based product. Or all the oil industry will only be allowed to produce agrochemicals, because otherwise all the people who've been turned vegan will starve.

          Or something.

          But we don't really need storage, or at least not elecricity storage. Well, OK, we do, because currently or energy policy prioritise intermittent, non despatchable generation over baseload. So typical Winter weather comes along. Days with no, or light winds across the UK, or much of Europe. Solar producing a trickle because Winter. Insolation and all that. Oh, and heating, transportation and cooking all converted to electric, because it's what Greta wanted.

          OK, so there are solutions.

          So we 'need' grid-scale batteries for grid stabilisation and synchronisation, especially with increased demand. This good, battery operators get paid billions in subsidies to 'solve' the intermittency problems the 'renewables' lobby has created. Obviously increasing costs reduces prices. For everyone else, this is good because battery farms release a lot of heat when they catch fire. Also flourine, but that's someone else's problem, and the owner / operators won't be downwind.

          Or there's hydrogen. Except hydrogen is really friendly, and loves to bond. It loves threesomes, with oxygen and a pal. So H2O. Lots of that so boot out the O, and lots of H. Less than CH4, but fivesomes don't really work. And that's just dirty. So ignoring the energy need to break molecular bonds, separate H and O, compress, chill, transport and convert the UK to hydrogen, it'll be affordable.

          Or there are pre-Industrial options to pair with pre-Industrial power generation. Insulate people's homes so they're warmer. Because global warming. Straw's a good insulator. Bit flammable, but cheap. Especially because agricultural waste won't be feed to livestock, and there's a lot of waste now everyone's turned vegan. Or that waste could be fed into biogas digesters, the methane cracked to hydrogen and then to consumers.

          Or just go right back to basics. Affordable homes will be traditional and sustainable. Organic insulation, and organic heating. On the ground floor, you'll have your comfort companion. Sheep, pigs, cows. Even dogs. Upstairs, well, ladder will be your sleeping mezzanine, warmed from the floor below.

          We'll even throw in a free pair of socks

          1. Dynasoar

            Isotope production is by research reactors like the 45MW Dutch HFR. It's not from power reactors. You may remember the worries that Brexit delays would eat into the 66 hour half life of molybdenum-99.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Yup, but also childhood dreams of getting rich by exploiting the Seaborg process. Local chemists wouldn't sell me any bismuth though. Then later, Canada's plans to shut down it's CANDU reactors, and the implications for isotope availability. And finally as you say, the Brexit fuss. Or just Dutch objections to that reactor, despite the critical need for it.

              And whilst it's common to produce isotopes using solar energy, it can be a tad less practical than doing some nuclear alchemy inside a reactor. Guessing it'll also be a thing with SMRs if they're run as sealed units, and presumably there are volume restrictions on cooking stuff in small research reactors.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                On SMR fantasies of drop a container in and leave it, they will have at minimum, staffing and skill requirements comparable to the reactors being operated on our submarines. Because that's essentially what they are. I don't know the UK's submarine fuel-lifetimes, but cold-war era Russian stuff would be refuelled roughly every 10 years. (Source: Sub Brief - narrated by a retired US sub commander).

                They have additional overheads in the form of staff to operate the associated substations, and deal with the red tape that is the UK energy market.

                Nuclear Site Licensing is not straight forward and will mandate additional overheads. For example transmission routes associated with most nuclear reactors in the UK must have at least 4 independent circuits; and sources of alternate generation to allow for control in a loss of supply situation. Typically a bank of diesels for that.

                Basically, the only places SMR's will be approved are on existing or disused nuclear sites that have had them before; without extensive investment into the transmission network to comply with nuclear site licensing.

                As I am sure you can imagine, from a planning permisison perspective; if you start today and know exactly what you want to build; that is easily a 10-year process through the National Infrastructure Commission. And then people wonder why it's cheaper to build renewables in bulk!

                A/C again, because in the industry.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Ah, someone else who watches the man from the Admirality.

                  I guess SMRs future will depend on how successful people are at lobbying against them. I liked to use naval reactors as an example of their extreme danger. Like 100+ people living and working around one, all inside a tube less than 100m long. The 'renewables' industry is far more dangerous.

                  I guess the real benefits will come if/when some of the regulatory burdens are lifted, but that means overcoming decades of anti-nuclear FUD.

        3. codejunky Silver badge

          @Binraider

          "if we had less windmills we would be burning more gas therefore even higher prices."

          That doesnt follow. If we didnt have windmills we wouldnt need as much variable support on standby to make up the energy deficit. Instead we could just run something that actually works like gas/coal/etc. Windmills are the problem not the solution.

          Second the high dependence on gas was to be offset by the UK producing gas (fracking) which would have floored gas prices and made the UK energy independent for 30+ years. Instead that got banned and yet the unreliables continue to be built increasing our reliance on gas.

          1. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: @Binraider

            If demand is 20, served by 10 units of windmills plus 10 units of gas, then less windmills means burning more gas.

            Or turning off some of that demand.

            The maths is pretty simple if you ask me, and does not lie

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Binraider

              @Binraider

              "If demand is 20, served by 10 units of windmills plus 10 units of gas, then less windmills means burning more gas."

              That sounds like good maths if that was correct, but you cant say that since there is instability (by choice!). If we were using stable forms of energy generation then yes your maths work. But now lets correct for windmills-

              For every windfarm there must be sufficient gas generation available to provide the actual required energy. So we have a demand of 20 and a supply of 0-10 wind requiring 10-20 units of gas.

              That of course is inefficient for the grid and for running a gas generator increasing wear and costs.

              Instead we might run gas or we could use something else because the requirement of ramping up and down doesnt exist anymore. Even better than that we pay for 1 energy generator instead of a windfarm + energy generator + extra connection infrastructure.

              1. adam 40 Silver badge

                Re: @Binraider

                I see 2 issues with this:

                1. Gas power stations spool up quite quickly. So you can shut them down for no-wear during windy or sunny periods.

                2. Demand doesn't need to be static. So you can mandate or price it such that manufacturing only happens during windy or sunny periods, and not when we are gas-only. Yes this requires a flexible approach to manufacturing.

                On top of this we also need to develop more excess energy storage facilities, for example reversible hydro, or electrolysis at sea, and blend the H2 into the natural gas, to flatten out some of the peaks and troughs, or fill in during power station spool-up times.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @Binraider

                  @adam 40

                  "1. Gas power stations spool up quite quickly. So you can shut them down for no-wear during windy or sunny periods."

                  But ramping them up and down increases the wear than just running them as normal. And they must be on standby for the lack of wind or too much wind. Compared to just making a single gas power plant which is reliable.

                  "2. Demand doesn't need to be static. So you can mandate or price it such that manufacturing only happens during windy or sunny periods, and not when we are gas-only. Yes this requires a flexible approach to manufacturing."

                  But in the developed world where we are to be the advanced ones we have a shortage of power and have to shut the economy down? Thats just abysmal. Its understandable for something abnormal but just because the wind aint blowing and the sun aint shining to buy ridiculously expensive power sounds backwards.

                  "excess energy storage facilities"

                  That sounds reasonable but how do we pass the 'green' test with anything but batteries (which we dont have)? Hydro upsets environmentalists and electrolysis is still in the development phase. Instead of shutting down our power generation (UK coal for example) we should be letting them run to the end of their lives while researching. Cheaper energy makes everything cheaper.

                  I know the green test will be a problem for almost anything since a lot of them seem to be for mud huts

              2. Binraider Silver badge

                Re: @Binraider

                No, there doesn't need to be a 100 percent cover for every windmill. The probability of everything being off is astronomically small.

                What you do want is an energy mix, which happens to include interconnection, nukes storage and yes, gas burners. We happen to have roughly a 50/50 parity between gas and wind now. Wind uncertainty did not lead to price spikes in the wholesale gas market. For the answer to the cause that problem see Putin, C.F. annexation of Ukraine and dictator of wholesale price rises.

                Many small generators, contrary to soundbites you have heard about system stability, provided your grid code and operating practises are well thought out are actually more resilient than a few single large sources. The failure of any single node is not as damaging in a distributed system.

                ESO and many reputable universities have studied system stability, coming to the same conclusions.

                The evidence is there in the sense that the dire warnings of the coal lobbying brigade about the system collapsing every five minutes are patently not true - for the main system has ticked over just fine. With control systems of the 70s today's wind system would not be possible. But times have moved on.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @Binraider re system stability

                  There may be a difference between theoretical stability and real stability.

                  See e.g. the UK's countrywide outage of 9 August 2019 [1] and the subsequent analysis which seemed in some cases to indicate that controlling the transient behaviour of distributed/embedded generation was part of the problem not part of the solution.

                  E.g. https://www.nationalgrideso.com/information-about-great-britains-energy-system-and-electricity-system-operator-eso

                  "Synthetic inertia" might have a part to play at times like these but it's rarely written about.

                  [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Grid_(Great_Britain)#August_2019

                  The third event occurred on 9 August 2019, when around a million customers across Great Britain found themselves without power.[68] Lightning struck a transmission line at 4:52 pm, causing the loss of 500 MW embedded (mostly solar) generation. Almost immediately, Little Barford Power Station and Hornsea Wind Farm tripped within seconds of each other, removing 1.378 GW of generation, which was in excess of the 1 GW of backup power (the size of the largest single expected loss) that the operator was maintaining at the time.[69] The grid frequency fell to 48.8 Hz before automatic load-shedding disconnected 5% of the local distribution networks (1.1 million customers) for 15 to 20 minutes; this action stabilised the remaining 95% of the system and prevented a larger blackout.[70][69]

                  Although power was maintained at all times to the railway network (but not to the signalling system), the reduction in frequency caused 60 Thameslink Class 700 and 717 trains to fail. Half were restarted by the drivers but the others required a technician to come out to the train to restart it.[69] This led to substantial travel disruption for several hours on the East Coast Main Line and Thameslink services. The supply to Newcastle Airport was also disrupted and a weakness was exposed in backup power arrangements at Ipswich Hospital.[69]

                  An investigation by Ofgem concluded in January 2020. It found that Little Barford and Hornsea One had failed to remain connected to the grid following the lightning strike, and their operators – RWE and Ørsted respectively – agreed to each pay £4.5 million to Ofgem's redress fund. Additionally, Ofgem fined distribution network operator UK Power Networks £1.5M for beginning to reconnect customers before being cleared to do so, although this breach of procedure did not affect the recovery of the system.[71][72]

                  1. Binraider Silver badge

                    Re: @Binraider re system stability

                    I'm familiar with the report you cite. Stability was not a factor in the disconnection of demand. The shortfall of supply was the root cause.

                    Supply was short because a gas burner shut down (scheduled) at the same time a wind farm faulted following a lightning strike that also tripped off solar inverters (unplanned). The reserve generation in operation at the time was unable to cope with the three going off at exactly time. Nominally reserve is kept to match the single largest point of failure - the two going together then created the conditions for the problem that afternoon.

                    Had the inverters not tripped out then the damage following the offending lightning strike would have been a lot more extensive.

                    Stability in the context of the 50hz network is about harmonics and or lack of synchronisation, neither of which were factors in the cause or effects experienced afterwards.

                    1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                      Re: @Binraider re system stability

                      No, that's the wrong perspective.

                      The Wind Farm faulted, because Wind and Solar don't have to meet the availability SLA that fossil and nuclear do.

                      The National Grid faulted, because the single-point-failure doctrine shouldn't be gospel, but works because previous SLA's made the numbers work. From an engineering perspective, you can take it either way: either the Reserve was incorrectly sized given the SLA's, or SLA's need to be tightened.

                      Either way, the problem is simple: the amount of storage/spinning reserve required to cover the intermittency of the underlying resource is uneconomic with current technology. And it's *large enough* that it can't be covered within an engineering budget, and needs to go for political approval.

                      And the political Green spin is that "it isn't a real problem, Green is the solution", which means the budget available to cover the Reserve required is less than Engineering needs. Nobody wants to fess up that they can't do what is required, within the budget allocated, lest they look incompetent.

                      So the Reserve is under-allocated, and always will be until the intermittency technology catches up, which means *this is what your life is going to look like for the next twenty years*. Ten years ago it would have been fixable by adding nuclear. Now it's too late, takes too long. Get used to it

                2. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @Binraider

                  @Binraider

                  "No, there doesn't need to be a 100 percent cover for every windmill. The probability of everything being off is astronomically small."

                  That is true but significant replacement is necessary. Wind falling from 25% average of UK supply in 2020 it is down to 7%. If we believe in the MMCC co2 theory there are models expecting wind to fall as a condition of climate change.

                  Of course the less reliable the wind (or any unreliable generation) the more reliant we are on gas.

                  "What you do want is an energy mix"

                  Very true and I agree. I just believe we should be pairing away the vastly expensive forms of energy generation which will also reduce our reliance on gas. Instead we keep increasing unreliable forms of generation which increases our reliance on gas.

                  "For the answer to the cause that problem see Putin, C.F. annexation of Ukraine and dictator of wholesale price rises."

                  Thats not the UK's issue. The UK's vulnerability comes from our increasing dependence on gas (because of unreliable generation) and then rejecting fracking. We could have the cheapest gas supplies although that wouldnt fix the renewable/unreliable problem.

                  "The failure of any single node is not as damaging in a distributed system."

                  Even before the gas price increase energy prices keep increasing. 25% of UK bills are green costs. We could eliminate that in an instant and give everyone 25% off their energy bills very quickly. We are spending more on energy generation and getting much less energy generation and a more fragile energy supply. That to me is damage.

                  "With control systems of the 70s today's wind system would not be possible. But times have moved on."

                  But research has moved on and there is a calm of wind across Europe. As I call them 'monuments to a sky god' because we are building them in hope the wind blows, otherwise as I replied to adam 40, we are supposed to be the developed world yet we are shutting down industry because we cant power it.

                  1. Binraider Silver badge

                    Re: @Binraider

                    See table 2 of the following.

                    https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldeconaf/195/19506.htm

                    I do not dispute that pence per kWh, Gas (was) at the time of this report, favourable. Against backdrop of militant supply chains and prices exploding, it would not nearly be so favourable. Geopolitical advantages to not being dependent on militant supply chains has major advantages.

                    Assuming Coal, Oil and Gas are red-lines anyway because of net-zero ambition, that leaves Nuke top of the tree for what we should be doing, followed by Wind. Storage isn't listed here but increases the practicality of wind considerably by it's availability.

                    So, given the constraints of what technology can be bought today, in bulk, and in interests of building a cost effective system - I stand by my arguments for expansion of Nuke followed by Wind, backed up by storage.

                    If you want to address the naked profiteering by those in the supply chain that is a different debate. If you dig into the split of your energy bill you will see middlemen at at least 5 or 6 levels creaming off, offering absolutely no value to consumers (though pension funds love such things).

                    1. codejunky Silver badge

                      Re: @Binraider

                      @Binraider

                      "Assuming Coal, Oil and Gas are red-lines anyway because of net-zero ambition"

                      That is the problem. We want electricity but not to generate it. We destroy areas with monuments to a sky god which increases our dependence on gas which wrecks that net zero ambition of no gas.

                      "that leaves Nuke top of the tree for what we should be doing"

                      Ok but that takes time to build, is expensive (cheaper than renewables though) and upsets greenies. I am not against nukes I think its a great idea.

                      "followed by Wind"

                      Why? Lets make it cheaper and destroy less land (or sea bed) and just build the gas generator. It works, its reliable and we would need to build it anyway if we use renewables.

                      "So, given the constraints of what technology can be bought today, in bulk, and in interests of building a cost effective system"

                      That would be turning back on the coal fired, dropping the green 25% and fudges supporting unreliables and then building the nukes you mentioned.

                      "If you want to address the naked profiteering by those in the supply chain that is a different debate"

                      Quite happy to stay off that one too.

                3. Justthefacts Silver badge

                  Re: @Binraider

                  No, the probability of everything being off is *not* astronomically small.

                  Go to gridwatch.templar.co.uk

                  Over the past year, you will see that although Wind has generated *on average* around 5GW, at least 10% of the time it has been generating less than 1GW. And this isn't just a summer/winter thing. As recently as 21st December, there were two whole days when the whole of UK Wind put together was generating about 0.3-0.7GW. Just 5% of the average.

                  It really isn't true that "the wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK".

                  And, the picture doesn't get a lot better if you include UK + whole of the EU. There's still days and even weeks at a time when the total average wind across the whole region is less than 20% of the average.

                4. Justthefacts Silver badge

                  Re: @Binraider

                  I'm afraid your statement "Wind uncertainty did not lead to price spikes in the wholesale gas market." is flat wrong. Putin is a proximate reason, but systemically long-term, absolutely wind/solar *policy* is the primary reason for the price spikes.

                  The underlying reason for the price spikes, is that nobody has gas storage facilities still large enough to smooth over political and speculative pressure.

                  A gas storage facility is a large multi-billion facility, requiring an economic lifetime of at least 30-50 years to make the sums add up. But the political policy environment from every government is that we will be transitioning off gas by 2030-2040 (just ten to twenty years away), and have completely stopped by 2050. In what universe is a new multibillion gas storage facility an investable proposition?

                  So indeed, they stopped being built around 2000-2010, exactly when you would expect, given a 2050 Policy Date, and have been steadily retiring since then.

                  This is a direct consequence of the Green Transition that everybody wanted. Stop complaining about the consequences of your own actions, I don't want to hear it any more.

                  1. Binraider Silver badge

                    Re: @Binraider

                    I did argue for storage. Losing rough was bad for GB consumers.

                    The point being that Centrica don’t give a shit about consumers; price spikes favour their bottom line as small suppliers go bust.

                    Central planning would have storage on the agenda. A regulator that wasn’t in the back pockets of wholesalers creaming off the top would also be incentivising it. But it’s not. They have slowly woken up to the need for it; but in the absence of incentives the profit opportunities on storage remain on fast response provision and margin trading; so less popular than baseloaders amongst investors.

                    Replacing a CHP with 50% efficiency for one that achieves 51% would not improve the output enough in terms of gas burned or reduction in CO2 for the red line of net zero.

                    So this all, yet again, adds up to the solution being build more stuff. If one can disregard the red lines that have been built up over the last 30 years by Conservative and New Labour (Con. In disguise) governments then maybe you can come up with another solution. But you cannot blame the greens for current policy when we’ve quite literally had only a Con govt. for best part of 40+ years!

                    It is worth considering the CEGBs plans pre-Thatcher annihilation. Size well B was to be the prototype of a bunch of new nukes. Never built, they were to be backed up by, yes, you guessed it. Large windmills which they did a lot of the fundamental research on!

                    In practise we got a free for all of burning North Sea gas. This made Britain relatively wealthy in the short term. And here you are suggesting we build new gas plant to haemorrhage yet more GDP offshore to fill the fuel habit the country has.

                    No, sir, do not claim to lecture me that the greens are responsible for 40 years of rule in the interests of a few oligarchs and not for the benefit of society as a whole. The stench of Thatcherism, and associated cronyism is real and the damage plainly obvious for those that understand.

            2. Justthefacts Silver badge

              Re: @Binraider

              What more windmills *actually* means is a whole bunch of previously economic gas turbine plans get put on hold. I'm not going to invest £100m in building a gas turbine, if I still only get to charge 23p/unit electricity for the 10% of the year that the wind producers don't feel like going to work that day.

              So what we end up with is a more fragile system, crucially dominated by *older and less efficient* gas machinery.

              To get a feel for what this looks like in practice: we can all agree that coal is both environmentally appalling and inefficient. And you may well know that some coal is worse than others. But what you may *not* know, is that we could save half the total global CO2 emitted from coal power, by closing just the top five oldest and least efficient coal power stations. Old coal stations are *staggeringly* inefficient. And by the way, two of those top five are in Poland, one is in Germany, one in China, one in India. So let's not just blame China for this.

              So by bringing more Wind on-stream without solving the intermittency problem, you economically force our fossil fuel generation to be as inefficient and CO2-emitting as maximally possible.

              The intermittency problem *can* be solved. But it *hasn't yet* been. It's more complicated than that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That word with "vest" in it

      I used to hear that word quite a lot in some circles, when "investment" was seen as a good thing, and this quarter's analyst reports not quite so crucial.

      Then the beancounters and corporate wideboys and the City moneychangers took over, and now we see the consequences, and we are all told There Is No Alternative. Well obviously there is an alternative, but the monied establishment of any flavour won't tolerate it.

      "Security of supply" vs "leave it to the market". And not just in energy supply.

      Frankly I think time is almost up for much of the West. I do fear for our children's futures.

  4. Michael Hoffmann
    Facepalm

    But...

    ... Nuclear Fusion is just a few years away!

    They've been telling me this since... <looks at calendar, then looks at birth certificate> oh gods, that long?!

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: But...

      Yup. Standard running joke amongst physicists: "Fusion power is only 5 years away!" Always...

    2. PghMike

      Re: But...

      I remember as a 9 year old at the '65 New York Worlds Fair, going to the GE pavilion to see the mock up nuclear fusion reactor (a few strobes under a glass bubble). I'm more surprised by how old I am than in the progress in fusion since then.

    3. Elledan

      Re: But...

      Admittedly people were a bit too optimistic about Z-pinch nuclear fusion, the UK most of all. Britain was so certain that they had it all figured out with their fusion reactors, until they discovered to their dismay that there were unexpected instabilities in the plasma.

      Though with JET and other fusion reactors, the UK is still very much in the race. Its (relatively) healthy attitude towards nuclear means that there's at least some interest in funding fusion R&D. Quite unlike countries like Germany which beyond the Wendelstein-7X stellarator has basically killed all nuclear R&D.

      China with HL-2M, EAST, etc. is also making big leaps forward to solving the remaining issues with tokamak-based fusion, such as long-term stability, fuel breeding from lithium, and cranking up that Q factor. I'd be shocked if we didn't see something very much like a production-level fusion reactor by the early 2030s, even if it's more likely to be in China than the UK or US.

  5. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    "a coherent ... Green Deal"

    No such animal.

  6. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Gas

    Gas prices also smash a surprising number of firms/industries which rely on it as a chemical feedstock. That is, not using it to boil water for electricity, but to convert into other chemicals critical for agriculture (eg fertilizer) and manufacturing. So expect them to start going pop, too. Or for sudden inflation explosions in all sorts of weird places around the economy.

    Re Russia and gas: see HERE for some relevant notes. Esp.the bolded point re Gazprom, fixed contracts, and direct orders from the top; and also the link at the end to a selection of EU-identified instances of Russia using gas supply as a coercive weapon of control. Rather more than I was expecting.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Gas

      > chemical feedstock

      Yet another example of the faux-greens' push for "renewables" (PV solar is by far the least renewable energy on the planet: at 8% of world supply we exhaust the world's reserves of Coltan, and at 12% wipe out another 2 minerals) being based on a Disney comic-book version of reality: neat, simple, linear, and wrong.

      An amusing example: wind turbine rotor blades are made almost entirely from burnt coal.

      And the UK's schedule for switching to electric cars --JUST the UK, assuming no-one else in the world buys an electric car-- requires doubling the world's supply of copper. Which, amusingly, will also have the refined price spiralling due to higher electricity costs. And since the mining industry reckons copper supply is physically constrained, doubling is --to quote Mining Monthly-- "not going to happen". So add a further and massive price push on a simple supply-demand basis.

      So all electrical kit, from computers to network cabling to electricity supply to motors, is going to go through the roof on price.

      1. Trigun

        Re: Gas

        Yeah, I've been hearing and seeing a lot of issues with regards moving to electric everything, but cars in particular. One assumes there is a plan to get the ongoing & increasing amounts of required materials (copper, lithium, etc.). Also, the *long term stable + reliable* electrical support & supply systems...

        My feeling is that, because green is hyper popular (understandably so - no one wants a poluted world), that no one has actually thought about this far enough ahead and are hoping it'll just sort itself out. However, as we all know, hope is not a strategy.

        Of couse, I could be wrong...

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Gas

          Look on the bright side. I think copper production also tends to produce thorium. Currently an expensive waste product, but imagine if some clever folks could find a use for it?

      2. emfiliane

        Re: Gas

        Any greenie that's even remotely sane (I know, you hate them all equally, but most are) quite specifically argues that petroleum should be reserved for future chemical feedstocks, since there are so many other ways to generate cheap electricity compared to how much energy is required to create synthetic hydrocarbons. So you can put the strawman away.

        Do you have any kind of source on those Mining Monthly numbers? All I can find is https://www.miningmonthly.com/partners/partner-content/1413731/two-of-the-biggest-topics-facing-miners-are-electrification-and-automation which is pretty pro-EV, at least for the industry. It's hard to take sky is falling numbers seriously, either, when a random pundit says it can't work, but engineers in the industry are still doing a good job of sourcing materials even in Covid supply chain breakdowns.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Gas

          The insane ones scream the loudest, unfortunately.

          You know the ones. They tend to be large organisations with "Green" in the name, and push for policies that are actually "cull the human race", yet weirdly aren't volunteering.

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Gas

          I'm very strongly environmental myself, but I find that the people declaring they're Green are, as I said, operating in Disney comic-book world, and also have never ever thought about the consequences of the changes they're demanding. Virtue-display's the important thing. You say strawman. I say I have never yet met a "green"ie who's even been aware that gas/coal/oil has any effect or use other than creating the apocalypse because carbon and human greed, let alone made a considered proposal to save it for the industrial feedstock they utterly rely on.

          > Do you have any kind of source on those Mining Monthly numbers?

          I'm in the library at the moment so I've just gone and checked and it's the August 2021 issue, p48. But buggered if I can find it online. And the site itself has a Proper paywall (miners tend to be seriously IT savvy) which blocks http://12ft.io's workaround so I can't search directly on it.

          But anyway, he was just quoting the Head of Earth Sciences at (UK's) Natural History Museum, Professor Richard Herrington.

          A-aaaaand on re-seeing my notes:

          I cocked up. I joined nose-to-toes, started with the UK context but quoted the World figures. Crap. My apologies. The UK will "only" require HALF of the world's supply of Copper. I do beg your pardon. I tend to post at the far-end of the day, and in this case I was clearly too tired and muddled 2 different sets of numbers. My apologies again -- that's shit.

          I mean, it's still an absolutely ludicrous quantity and will smash the price upwards. But I quoted you the wrong numbers.

          Here are the right numbers for the UK's plans in isolation:

          There are currently 31.5 million cars on the UK roads, covering 252.5 billion miles per year.

          If we wanted to replace all these with electric vehicles today (assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation batteries), it would take the following:

          * 207,900 tonnes of cobalt - just under twice the annual global production

          * 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE) - three quarters the world's production

          * at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium - nearly the entire world production of neodymium

          * 2,362,500 tonnes of copper - more than half the world's production in 2018

          And here are various links to Dr Herrington's analysis and warning:

          Tree Hugger: https://www.treehugger.com/why-electric-cars-wont-save-us-there-are-not-enough-resources-build-them-4857798

          Natural History Museum: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2019/june/we-need-more-metals-and-elements-reach-uks-greenhouse-goals.html

          Natural History Museum again: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/press-releases/leading-scientists-set-out-resource-challenge-of-meeting-net-zer.html

          Green Car Congress: https://www.greencarcongress.com/2019/06/20190624-uk.html , which also has a nice quote from source:

          Over the next few decades, global supply of raw materials must drastically change to accommodate not just the UK’s transformation to a low carbon economy, but the whole world’s. Our role as scientists is to provide the evidence for how best to move towards a zero-carbon economy—society needs to understand that there is a raw material cost of going green and that both new research and investment is urgently needed for us to evaluate new ways to source these. This may include potentially considering sources much closer to where the metals are to be used.

          —Prof Richard Herrington

          I have one minor issue with his analysis: the kneejerk urge to pronounce his name as Dr HerringtongIddleIPo.

          1. emfiliane

            Re: Gas

            Thanks, that helps a lot. I don't take the most dire or the most utopian models at face value; severe supply scarcity would almost certainly pull more outlandish innovations from the labs, but in a short term bubbles will cause crunches. Boom and bust cycles are pretty much inevitable, and supply constraints will always exist. And environmental damage will always be necessary somewhere. (As a former Earth First member, it hurts, but I try not to spend all my time on wishful thinking and anger, like many of those I knew. I've met many equally pragmatic, even among state engineers tasked with designing roads and power plants. Perhaps we just don't speak up much, or get confused for not giving a shit about the world because we aren't totally irrational about it.)

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Reserves

        Have a technical definition - stuff we know we can dig up and how much it'd cost in terms of machinery and manpower. (Not actual cash of course as that inflates).

        There is a heck of a lot more that we know where and how much, but nobody has yet done the figures for how much it'll cost to get it.

        They haven't done those calculations because there's no reason to until the reserves fall below some level.

        You don't get an estimate for (eg) replacing the roof until you're almost ready to start the work.

      4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Gas

        And the UK's schedule for switching to electric cars --JUST the UK, assuming no-one else in the world buys an electric car-- requires doubling the world's supply of copper.

        There are about 30 million cars in the UK. Current plans see these going all-electric in about 20 years, so 1.5 million cars per year. World copper production is about 900m tonnes per annum, so assuming that the doubling all goes to UK electric cars, that's 600 tonnes of copper per car.

        So ... where exactly do you think 600 tonnes of copper per car is going to be used? Your answer should acknowledge that high voltage transmission lines are made of aluminium. Show your working.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Gas

          My cockup, sorry -- late at night, I stated UK context then World figures. Full explanation & apology & correct numbers & links to source, in this post just above.

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Gas

            And I in turn quoted copper reserves rather than copper production. Sorry.

            But production is still ~20m tonnes per year, so your requirement is 1/8 of that rather than the 1/2 you claim, and anyway that's on the absurd premise that every single IC car in Britain is replaced with electric over one year. It's not going to happen over less than 20 years (if it does happen) so that's us down to 1/160 of world production annually.

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Gas

              ("your claim" --> Prof Herrington's claim)

              Well well well. My initial reaction was "what on earth are you talking about -- someone intra-industry with his info resources plus going for a major loud public splash with the full banner of the Natural History Museum, is not going to balls up a major but simple number like that." But a quick ddg on the phone shows me several sites quoting the same ~20m/yr for the last fistful of years. His number requires ~4.5m denominator.

              This casts his entire analysis into doubt. Makes it seriously suspect, in fact.

              I'm going to have to crawl every number, verifying and validating. That's going to have to wait till I'm by a computer plus have spare time. Hopefully this afternoon.

              I'd thought that despite him being apparently an AGW Greenie, the fact that he was thinking through consequences made him an exceptional exception, and combined with his industry-insider position plus high promotion in a historically high-quality institution, that that implied quality of numbers. Prima facie, based on your discovery, it's not looking good for him.

              (All I can think of beyond cockup or incompetence, is that Prof Herrington's aware of and quoting volumes for a specialist sub-group of copper required for electronics. Similar to chip-grade silica vs total silica volume. I was under the impression the overwhelming bulk of production was ~homogeneous 99%+ copper cathodes with little practical distinction, but I've never looked into it.)

              Well spotted, anyway -- thanks. Surprising what you find when you start levering up the floorboards, isn't it? :D

            2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Gas

              OK, I have an update and finalisation.

              My digging showed 2 problems, not 1 (the others match):

              * Copper's implied volume is Under actual, by ~4.5x.

              * Lithium Carbonate's (LCE) implied volume is Over actual, by ~50%.

              So I went to the source, and just received an email from Richard.

              Copper is in fact a cockup. The 2,362,500 tonnes for the cars is correct but he made a transposition error in annual global production equivalence which wasn't noticed until it was published. So the UK-alone copper impact is "around 12%" "The mistake was mine"

              They published the corrected version (my 2nd NHM link above), and I can now see the bloody 12% right there in the first paragraph, but neither it nor the original are flagged as correction/corrected so I missed the difference originally, thought it was just a less-bulletpointed version. Poo. Here it is again: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/press-releases/leading-scientists-set-out-resource-challenge-of-meeting-net-zer.html: "Leading scientists set out resource challenge of meeting net zero emissions in the UK by 2050 | Natural History Museum"

              He spoke only to my direct question re Copper, perhaps not noticing LCE in the table, but on crosschecking for changes (none), a penny dropped. The LCE "discrepancy" was my own error in reading: his first number refers to LCE but his market equivalence is to plain lithium itself, the metal. Which would explain the different tonnages.

              Bug Status: Resolved.

              He also sent me a paper which I'm looking forward to reading tomorrow. What a nice chap.

    2. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Gas

      Yes. As almost all commercial hydrogen is produced by steam reformation of natural gas you can expect hydrogen prices to be going through the roof.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @W.S.Gossett on "Gas"

    "a surprising number of firms/industries which rely on [gas] as a chemical feedstock. That is, not using it to boil water for electricity, but to convert into other chemicals critical for agriculture (eg fertilizer) and manufacturing. So expect them to start going pop, too. Or for sudden inflation explosions in all sorts of weird places around the economy."

    It may be surprising to lots of people, but some (yourself included, and maybe even the likes of Michael Moore?) saw this possibility many years ago, e.g. prompted by the impact of Middle East oil crises (who remembers them now?).

    E.g. the whole Western agribusiness sector disappears without "affordable" fertiliser, which is an unavoidable consequence of "expensive" gas, which in turn means those weirdo "organic" farmers suddenly become a whole lot more important. And there's more, much more.

    As for what happens to the plastics industry... don't go there.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: @W.S.Gossett on "Gas"

      Quite. (Lots more key substances than just plastic, too, used by industry in all sorts of unexpected ways and places.)

      An amusing way to puncture the sanctimony of a vegan ranting about the evils of the oil/gas industry "capitalists!", is to point out that about half* of everything they eat is oil/gas.

      .

      * I forget the exact number. Can anyone remember?

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: @W.S.Gossett on "Gas"

        They also tend to wear lots of oil-derived "vegan" clothing while ranting about the evils of oil. Vegan leather is just plastic.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: @W.S.Gossett on "Gas"

          ... or plant based.

          https://www.mylo-unleather.com/

          Please do not assume all vegans are evangelical ranters, most have made very personal choices but will entertain discussion if asked. As in most arenas, the vocal minority are not representative.

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: organic

      Oh and: the organic farmers will be in the same boat. Excepting hobby farms, they all fertilise just as hard, just being careful to stay within the technical letter of the rules. So they use chemically simple, "pure" fertilizer. Which is what makes up perhaps 95% of normal fertilizer anyway...

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: @W.S.Gossett on "Gas"

      "which in turn means those weirdo "organic" farmers suddenly become a whole lot more important. "

      The same ones that rely on manue from farms for fertiliser. Thank goodness there isn't a huge drive for everyone to become veggie.

  8. Lars Silver badge
    Coat

    Some countries gave op on nuclear much too early if not all, Finland will have it's fifth up and running this year but Germany is much too dependent on gas.

    Then again if Russia doesn't provide there is no money for them. Somehow I think the French have had more sense than the rest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Finland will have it's fifth [nuclear power plant] up and running this year"

      You mean Olkiluoto 3? The one that was supposed to be up and running in 2009?

      https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/finlands-olkiluoto-3-nuclear-reactor-faces-another-delay-2021-08-23/

      [...]

      First electricity production from the reactor, which has a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts (GW), is now scheduled for February, with regular electricity production to start in June next year.

      Olkiluoto 3 was meant to be finished in 2009 but the project has been beset by a series of setbacks.

      [...]

      And then there's Flamanville (check the cost increase, as well as the new delay):

      https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Fresh-delay-to-Flamanville-blamed-on-impact-of-pan

      "The fuel loading date for the reactor has been switched from late 2022 to the second quarter of 2023, with the estimated cost at completion increased by EUR300 million (USD342 million) to EUR12.7 billion, EDF said in a progress update on Wednesday.

      It is the latest in a series of delays to the project in Normandy in northern France, which was originally expected to begin operating commercially in 2013."

      This is an industry whose record of honesty is about as good as that Johnson chap's.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: "Finland will have it's fifth [nuclear power plant] up and running this year"

        Not saying there aren't challenges in nuclear, but...

        When there are only a handful of other such plants in the world it's expected that there are construction difficulties leading to delays and budget overruns. Better late than never.

        As to the EUR 12.7 bn price tag, AFAIK these reactors are rated at 1500MWe. Even if due to maintenance it only runs on average 300 days a year, it is generating 10.8 million MWh. Even at a retail of EUR 100/ MWh, half of the current price as mentioned in the article, it's a billion Euros income a year, for probably 30-40 years.

        Even accounting for maintenance and decommissioning costs that's a nice little earner.

        More importantly even with minimal profit it's helping to reduce greenhouse emissions and dependency on foreign oil and gas.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "Finland will have it's fifth [nuclear power plant] up and running this year"

        @AC

        What a sad and silly rant, and it has nothing to do with honesty at all.

        Errors are made problems take time to solve.

        It was a "turn key" agreement (wisely from the buyers point) creating some additional meetings.

        But it's there with a 60 years of expected use.

        So why not look at the bright side, and besides the one for Britain will be similar and perhaps easier to deliver if that decision will ever be made.

        For more about it.

        Finland Is Building World’s First Third-Generation Pressurized Water Reactor

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFii8busnWA

        Finland Might Have Solved Nuclear Power’s Biggest Problem

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYpiK3W-g_0

        Inside The Tunnels That Will Store Nuclear Waste For 100,000 Years

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoy_WJ3mE50

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: "Finland will have it's fifth [nuclear power plant] up and running this year"

          When the UK floated new nuclear, it got helpful cost comparisons. Like it'd be so much more expensive than wind. Mainly because until very recently, it wasn't considered low carbon, so didn't benefit from the subsidies 'renewables' get. The UK also used a levelised cost model that ignored grid-tie costs, decommissioning, providing stand-by capacity etc.

          But it did price Hinkley as a 'FOAK' cost, even though pretty much the same design as Finland & France were building. Or had been built in China. And even with nuclear's costs inflated, it still came out cheaper than wind.

          On the bright side, it does seem like the connection between energy bill shocks, and energy policy are being made. Problem for the UK is Labour gave us the Climate Change Act, and the Lib Dems has Ed Davey, who's got his trotters deeply into the 'renewables' trough.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Finland will have it's fifth [nuclear power plant] up and running this year"

            "And even with nuclear's costs inflated, it still came out cheaper than wind."

            And what cost was included for decommissioning in 60 years, or is that someone else's problem like rising CO2?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "sad and silly rant"

          How many years late is Olkiluoto? Don't try to deflect, just honest answers only, please.

          How far over the initially agreed turkey price is Olkiluoto? Honest answers only, please.

          Who picks up the difference in cost? Honest answers only, please.

          How many people/organisations are willing to gamble on the forecast 60 year working life, how many people are willing to insure nuclear projects, how many people are going to have to pick up the cleanup costs when the time comes?

          Same questions for Flamanville.

          Anyway, don'tcha know that this week's nuclear winner is Rolls Royce/Raynesway's very own Small Modular Reactor. Or maybe not.

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: "sad and silly rant"

            Good grief. I did not realize how expensive turkeys are in Finland.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: "sad and silly rant"

            How many reactors have gone critical in say China, including EPR designs we're still trying to build in Europe? Since our energy policy became tilting at windmills, the only ones in the UK have been inside submarines. Funnily enough, from RR. So they have plenty of experience already in making SMRs.

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: "sad and silly rant"

              @Jellied Eel

              The reactor Olkiluoto 3 achieved criticality on 21 December 2021.

              There are one or two similar in China too.

              Right now about 50 reactors are being built or ordered in the world and about 20 of them in China.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: "sad and silly rant"

                Finns are practical like that. Even the ones with a hydraulic press and an explosives license. Who've also done some nice vids about the power sector over there.

                It's still depressing the way neo-luddites have hijacked energy policy across much of Europe though. Especially as kids get taught about how the Age of Sail gave way to steam. Then again, they're probably now taught that the Industrial Revolution was a disaster. Rosatom's doing rather well out of steam though.

                1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                  Re: "sad and silly rant"

                  > kids get taught about how the Age of Sail gave way to steam

                  Be interesting to keep track of the changes in the When of that, that they're being taught.

                  I've had some surreal conversations recently with younger folk who've been taught in their Climate Crisis classes(?) that the Little Ice Age peaked (nadired?) mid 1800s and the Industrial Revolution started in the late 1800s. Each has got quite agitated and superior when I suggested neither was remotely the case.

                2. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

                  Re: "sad and silly rant"

                  I thought imploding watches most interesting...

          3. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: "sad and silly rant"

            @AC

            Try the Wikipedia for your answers:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant#Unit_3

            My question to you is how much richer Finland or France and involved companies would be today if that decision to build Olkiluoto 3 had not been made in 2005 compared to the reality of today.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Germany is dependent on coal

      A very large proportion of German electricity is imported from Polish coal fired plants.

      That was the immediate consequence of their panic attack.

      1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

        Re: Germany is dependent on coal

        >>A very large proportion of German electricity is imported from Polish coal fired plants

        IIRC fired by German lignite - about the worst polluting 'coal' there is.... of course that has the handy (political) advantage of keeping the German mines open.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Germany is dependent on coal

          But the Germans do turn their exhausted open-cut coal mines into very nice lakes when they're done.

  9. PghMike

    turning off nukes

    Maybe not the best idea to shutdown nuclear power plants early? I'm looking at your Germany :-)

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: turning off nukes

      Then they replaced it by burning more coal and importing power from aboard.

      The increase in burning the coal and the pollution produced will kill more people than running the nuclear power stations ever have.

    2. KBeee Silver badge

      Re: turning off nukes

      'Sok, Germany made up it's electricity shortfall by buying energy from Polands coal-fired power plants.

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: turning off nukes

      Merkal wanted to make Germany dependent on the east and Russia in particular so they would never be in a position to stop Russia retaking the eastern block. She succeeded

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: turning off nukes

      Germany has no appetite for nuclear, even public opinion polls show they've no appetite, problem is that they have seriously huge leccy bills.

      Germany, compared to the UK, have shutdown 33 stations a piece and Germany wants the last 3 stations it has to be out of service this year.

      The UK still has 7 nuclear and 2 new ones under construction. around 35% of our leccy is made at home by nuclear but likely to drop. Thing is all our nuclear stations are owned by EDF, a French company that is serious about nuclear power. This is actually a good thing as the UK energy sector was privitised and thus quite hard to get stations built under Gov orders now, luckily EDF and the French have no issue with nuclear.

      1. KBeee Silver badge

        Re: turning off nukes

        It always amazed me that when the UK privatised its electricity industry, a lot of it was bought by the French nationalised electricity industry.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Just goes

    to show that perhaps leaving everything "to the market" is not the best way to run an economy after all.

    Especially in the case of nationally vital energy supplies that everyone needs.

    Because the market will always and ALWAYS find the cheapest option in order to maximise profits, hell some companies would cheerfully pump 10 000 tons hydro-flouric acid into a river if it saved them $0.001 per ton disposal cost.

    But we're paying for the mistakes made 20 odd years ago when we knew our nuclear/coal stations would be going end of life and built nothing but gas and a few windmills to replace them..

    Oh and for all the wind turbine fans out there going "we can replace fossil fuels with wind and not have any need of nuclear either" check out the wind speeds across southern england over the past week (and what the forecast is) and try to explain how we power 40 million people when the wind ISN'T FUCKING BLOWING!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Not quite

      The "free" market will always try to find ways to externalise their costs, even temporarily - if they get someone else to pay they make more paper profits today. Screw tomorrow.

      - Government subsidies.

      - Privatised profits, pile risk onto the taxpayer.

      - Pollution, don't bother cleaning up, leave that to the taxpayer or some future other entity.

      - Worker abuse etc

      - Skip maintenance, leave that to the taxpayer or some future entity.

      Preventing this requires regulation and enforcement.

    2. Plest Silver badge

      Re: Just goes

      The UK is one of the few that's building nuclear, only 2 to run alongside the 7 we still have unlike other hippy countries ( Germany! ) our nukes are owned by a French company that has no problems with build nuke stations.

      We're not in a great position but still better than the hippy do-gooders who think every station is a Chernobyl waiting to happen.

    3. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Just goes

      @Boris the Cockroach

      "to show that perhaps leaving everything "to the market" is not the best way to run an economy after all."

      I dont think its really the markets fault here. The market didnt push green unreliables. Every time a power plant tried to get built it was NIMBY's stopping it. The market wouldnt buy energy from solar on peoples houses if they wernt forced to.

  11. man_iii
    Mushroom

    The North African

    Wasnt there some scheme to use the Sahara desert sun and heat to produce the entirety of Europe's power demands and have excess energy to boot while giving those pesky African immigrants cheap jobs in their own backyard while wholesale shipping the power back to Europe ?? Whatever happened to that? I wonder ... It sounds like now would be a good return on investment if that had taken off.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The North African

      See DeserTec (sp?).

      Had plans to cover the Libyan desert with solar and ship power to Europe. Ran into some financial and political stability issues. Might have been unexpected costs for de-mining & clearing dud ordnance. Or just how to keep panels clean in an environment not exactly swimming in water.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The North African

      "Whatever happened to [DeserTec]?"

      Interesting analysis at

      https://newint.org/features/2015/03/01/desertec-long/

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: The North African

      Yes, unfortunately the electrical connection was too expensive. However that solar power could be used to make liquid and gas fuels from the atmosphere or seawater (fuel from air exists and is being used, fuel from seawater is proven and being researched by the US navy to fuel it's aircraft) this solution could be piped (easier than russian gas) and would allow Europe to be carbon neutral for transport without paying for millions of charge point and new cars

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The North African

      Xlink from Morocco is looking like it might be a thing. They have applied for connections. Source: ESO TEC Register.

      A/c because employed in the industry

  12. DS999 Silver badge

    Not only that

    Part of Europe has left themselves under Putin's thumb by depending on natural gas exports from Russia. I'm sure that won't present any political complication should he invade Ukraine in the middle of winter and NATO is trying to get consensus on the proper response.

    Hard to have any sympathy for this self imposed stupidity. Shutting down coal plants is good, but replacing them with natural gas plants that leave you at the mercy of an autocrat who probably only sought to sell Europe natural gas to gain leverage over them is a self-own. Shutting down nuke plants with many years of useful life left because of stupid fears over what happened at a stupidly designed plant that depended on generators vulnerable to a tsunami (instead of just making sure your plants weren't) also a self-own.

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Not only that

      The reality is that it is better under Putin’s thumb than under Biden’s.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Not only that

        You're insane, herman.

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Not only that

        The truth i it is better under no one's thumb.

      3. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Not only that

        Spoken like a true Trumper - kiss butt on the dictators because their orange idol wants to be one himself.

  13. martinusher Silver badge

    Market Control Plus Scarcity Means Huge Profits

    Although there's a profusion of retail energy providers working in a cut throat market to bring YOU, the consumer, the best price possible for energy in reality that's just an illusion. The market is really a limited bunch of large scale suppliers who retail to middlemen who actually do the billing. These suppliers are out to make as much profit as possible so they want to contract for the minimum product they think they need, relying on the short term (spot market) to purchase to cover shorffalls or offload surpluses. Its the sort of thing that works well in theory but in practice its a setup that's easily gamed and is definitely a no-lose situation for the big suppliers. In traditional setups the supplier would have to eat any losses due to their inability to forecast prices correctly so they'd use the financial markets to hedge against potential losses. In modern capitalism losses of any sort are not permitted -- someone, consumer or government (consumer, again) has to pick up the tab. The market is rigged so that there's no downside to failing to supply economically priced energy -- its always "someone else's fault" and since PR people (and politicians) are relatively cheap to buy its quite easy to blow smoke about the real reasons for the shortfall.

    Bringing Russia into this is such a smokescreen. Russia's export supplier, Gazprom, has contracts to supply gas which it has fulfilled to the letter. It is under no obligation to supply any more, especially at below market prices (and given the current "bash Russia under every opportunity" climate I don't see them falling over themselves to do us any favors). European people are really paying the price for their political leadership's gamesmanship. Meanwhile the energy wholesalers just sit back, act all innocent, and cream off even more profit.

    Personally, I was quite happy with the old Gas Board and regulated prices. Gas wasn't an interesting product but it was reliable and affordable (remember -- it was cheap enough to only need billing every three months). I moved before privatization to California where we underwent a UK-inspired market reform of our electricity supply around 1990. It was an utter disaster with supply shortfalls, spiking prices all wrapped in a blanket of "commercial confidentially" designed to keep the public from getting answers to their quite legitimate questions. It was 'fixed' by our government; not very satisfactorily IMHO because prices remained unnaturally high. Fortunately we have abundant sunshine so we can offset our power costs with rooftop solar installations (so the utilities are taking aim at these....this is set to become a saga.....)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Market Control Plus Scarcity Means Huge Profits

      Thanks for that, interesting analysis.

      As a Californian these days, do you see any parallels between today's UK situation and the Enron story?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Market Control Plus Scarcity Means Huge Profits

        None. Enron was an accounting scandal, first and foremost.

        Gas supply is plenty adequate to meet demand. The problem is the long term contracts applicable "this winter" were not adequate to deal with the relatively low-wind output that has accompanied the relatively mild winter.

        As soon as the wholesale/investment banker gravy train realised there was a supply chain shortfall they *know* they can safely dump millions into buying up wholesale gas; and then re-selling it at profit to people that cannot buy anything else. Short term supply was purchasable, at inflated prices on part of wholesalers and traders in between.

        Pretty nice one way gamble if you're a wholesaler. And pretty miserable if you are a retailer or retail customer. It is no different to the scalping of Graphics Cards or PS5's, albeit on a scale that affects everyone.

        This is laissez-faire capitalism doing what it does. If your suppliers manage the risks well, you do well. If they do not, you, the consumer pay the price.

        Unhooking supply chain dependencies is a very, very good hedge against suppliers that depend on your Euros, hence, windmills, nuke, and strategic storage are good things to have.

        Saying the "market will deliver" has been proven an extremely poor policy, for a very long time now and a modicum of central planning would seriously help manage these risks. Something that it's been amply proven that neither Ofgem, BEIS, or the incumbent government has a clue how to do. Bearing in mind the latter is generally in the back pocket of wholesalers and making a killing off bad policies applied on the ground, they are actually incentivised to do a bad job by the common person.

        A/C yet again because employed in the industry.

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: Market Control Plus Scarcity Means Huge Profits

      Even worse when the retailer and producer are owned by the same as is the case for most in the UK. The wgole thing like privatisation of social housing, trains and water was to make the rich immensely richer and the rest of us poorer

  14. fg_swe

    Idiots At The Wheel - Germany

    The Maoists ("greens") who currently run the energy show in Germany managed to shut down Uranium power and have all intentions to shut down all coal plants, too. They never bothered to organise the delivery of Methane replacement for U235. Instead, they double down on their lunacy by slow walking the approval of the second pipeline from Russia. And they complain all day about supposed Russian blackmail via Methane.

    This is actually very hard to wrap your head around: first they want to shut down any reliable German energy production, then forget to order replacement Methane and finally complain about increased dependence on Russia.

    All of this makes sense if you are a childish Romantic or if you look at it from Beijing's perspective. Or if you are a Romantic COMINTERN asset trying to please Beijing.

    In China, they have the largest fleet of coal power stations and the second largest nuclear reactor fleet. Based on this cheap energy, China has by now amassed the largest industrial capacity of any nation.

    Well done, Mao. China is proud of you.

    The opposite must be said about those who enabled the German Maoists.

    1. ST Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Idiots At The Wheel - Germany

      > They never bothered to organise the delivery of Methane replacement for U235.

      Ouch. Dude. Do you know what happens when you put together just enough of U-235? "Enough" in this particular case not being very much to begin with.

      U-235 is fissile. It goes BOOM! Bigly. It's also quite unstable. See icon top right for a visual.

      It's Low Enriched Uranium you want in an energy-producing commercial nuclear reactor. That's between 3% - 5% U-235 and the rest is U-238. That one doesn't go BOOM! as easily.

      Naval propulsion systems use High Enriched Uranium, which is between 20% - 25% U-235.

      Above 30% U-235 we're talking Weapons-Grade Uranium.

      Having said all that: someone should explain to the tree-hugging Greens Crowd that, in order to produce electricity, we need to either burn or destroy something to obtain energy. There are various degrees of dirty in this process. Oil and coal happen to be much dirtier, and much worse than nuclear reactors.

      1. fg_swe

        Uranium

        Everybody burns U235 and some a bit of Plutonium. The U235 is usually mixed with U238. The greenies and their lackeys from CDU to SPD disabled the Uranium based power generation without organizing a methane replacement.

        You point was ?

        1. ST Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Uranium

          > You point was?

          My point was that you have no clue what you're talking about, as usual.

          Stop listing random elements from the periodic table.

          1. fg_swe

            Re: Uranium

            Yeah, sure big mouth, no substance. You must be a greenie.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Uranium

              "Yeah, sure big mouth, no substance. You must be a greenie."

              Thank you for bringing so much to the debate.

  15. david 12 Silver badge

    Coal Seam fracking offshored to Russia.

    The German government has been looking for ways to spin fracking, but the German public is convinced that 'fracking' will destroy German water and nature. It's been better to buy gas from far, far away.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Coal Seam fracking offshored to Russia.

      NIMBY

      Again...

  16. ShadowSystems
    Joke

    An easy solution...

    Let's harness all the lobbiests & politicians & other assorted windbags to tiny chin-mounted wind turbines to generate power from their constant yammering. Feed the power to the grid to reduce what's normally needed from elsewhere. Once the windbag retires & is no longer producing, toss them in the incinerator so they can create a few extra joules by the release of their atomic bonds.

    Meanwhile, everyone in the world needs to start breeding children like cockroaches. Put the child in an oversized squirrel wheel, connect the wheel to a generator, & let the little munchkins burn off all those bowls of sugar frosted cocoa puffs in a useful manner. It has the added benefit that the excersize will keep them healthy, the obesetey problem will go away, & the global increase in energy production may result in being able to solve other problems.

    When the kid grows up & reaches adulthood, you let them out of the wheel so they can get married, have babies, & continue the cycle.

    Last but not least, if we build the B Ark & export a good portion of the global population, the rest of us should be fine!

    =-D

    This post brought to you by The Certifiably Insane, Dried Frog Pills, & a desire to rid the planet of politicians...

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: An easy solution...

      While a lot of your points make perfect sense and are , indeed, a good idea

      Your suggestion of building a 'B' ark is quite frankly , stupid.

      Building the ark should be done so that the people who go on this ark are the people like many of the posters here, technical, literate, and well educated.

      Then we can build utopia in orbit and watch as the rest of humanity sinks into the mud while they effectively argue over who controls the TV remote.

      And as we sail off to explore the unknown... we notice the flaw with the plan.... that theres no sure thing that our children will be as smart as us.....

  17. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Stop the stupid green crap then

    Look, even if you accept global warming is a real issue the unrestricted breeding and the continued coal use by China and others mean there is no point in destroying our industries especially when it looks increasingly like we will need them for war

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop the stupid green crap then

      "there is no point in destroying our industries especially when it looks increasingly like we will need them for war"

      Not so much to do with green crap, more to do with boardroom decisions.

      Too late, certainly for the UK and the US. Manufacturing, and to an interesting extent finance for capital projects (e.g. next nuclear power stations in the UK), is already largely dependent on China. Some people did point out the risks, but apparently in the boardroom world, $$$ this quarter outweighs the risk of disaster in the future. I mean, where on the spreadsheet are they supposed to account for the cost of risk. and the impact of outsourced pollution?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anybody with two brain cells to rub together saw this as a consequence of "green" policies started 30 years ago. It will only get worse from here until civilization collapses Roman style. All we need are some Huns.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge
      Joke

      >>All we need are some Huns.

      FTFY....

      All we need are some Han.

  19. naive

    Basic economy tells

    When the developed countries, which excludes China since that has a developing nation status, abandon Oil and gas, the prices of those goods will drop.

    European transitioning to medieval technology like windmills will not prevent Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and other oil producing countries from pumping Oil and gas, offering it for lower prices to developing countries outside Europe.

    The CO2 output won't be reduced, it will move from rich countries to countries which are becoming rich while medieval Europe is ruled by Empress van der Leyen and her lackeys consisting of the elected governments from the EU member countries.

    So in the end, CO2 output will be higher, since Europe currently does huge investments in technologies which are unable to sustain a modern 21-th century society, normal people will get poor in Europe due to the endless Greenflation of everything.

    China will rule, they don't care about C02, produce most of the stuff Europe considers to be green technology and live comfortably using Oil and gas.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windmills are rubbish, except where they're not

    Wind turbines in the UK and indeed much of Europe are no panacea, for reasons widely understood.

    However....

    If you find yourself a market (oh I hate that word in this context) which is well interconnected from a grid point of view and also geographically larger than any weather system, then (1) there truly will always be sufficient wind somewhere, and (2) the interconnectedness means that the areas with wind can supply the areas without. Yes it needs massive "overcapacity" for generation but that is perhaps the cost of continuity of supply when reliant on inherently intermittent sources.

    Grid interconnectedness is good in various other ways, as the recent cold snap(s) in parts of North America demonstrated when "almost infinitely improbable" cold weather stopped gas generation working in various places. [1]

    So then all you need is *lots* of serious wind turbines.

    There's been some serious analysis on this subject, damned if I can remember where though.

    [1] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/11/natural-gas-customers-in-texas-get-stuck-with-3-4-billion-cold-snap-surcharge/ and various others similar

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting even on thereg....

    Any talk of climate change / alternative energy sources brings out the dick heads on either side.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Interesting even on thereg....

      I highly recommend everyone who thinks they are qualified to comment on the energy debate to first go and read the late David Mackay's excellent Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.

      It's freely downloadable. He wrote the book specifically to in response to the question of how reputable economists on both sides of the debate come to completely different conclusions. The answer to that was of course politics. He then goes on to evaluate each option in turn.

      https://www.withouthotair.com/

      It's still a good read now, and one of those books I can recall most of the content from memory.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gridwatch ?

    Is everybody here aware of the fine Gridwatch website?

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    Focused primarily on the UK, and why not :)

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