Understand that a nil operating margin for electricity generation in a developed economy is an Existential National Emergency.
Understand that a coming Ice Age, to whatever degree, is the climate catastrophe that really is worthy of concern for the future. The reversion to Little Ice Age conditions is predicted for the near future, (within decades), and a Real Ice Age is overdue and could well return this century, next century or this millennium.
In spite of the vast establishment that has been created to support Green policies and the resulting huge and probably unnecessary expenditures and the increased existential National economic risks, realise that:
- Man-made Global Warming / Climate Change is most likely a non-problem.
- Understand that there is no Catastrophic risk from Anthropogenic Global Warming.
- And even if it were a problem, it could not be effectively addressed by exclusively damaging the economies of the Developed World in attempting to control their emissions of CO2.
- The major error is the conflation of Man-made atmospheric CO2 with other truly toxic pollutants.
- Atmospheric CO2 natural or Man-made is the essential photosynthetic plant food: the very stuff of life.
- Understand that the real reason for Green thinking is to bring Energy and thus Economic catastrophe to the Western world. Russia, China and India are just laughing at the way Western governments have been induced to promote their Green policies of abject self-harm, Western self-destruction.
Pursuing the Energy Policies outlined here without fear and ignoring criticism will:
- possibly avoid the risk of further catastrophic failure of the UK electricity grid.
- note that the first UK failure that was anticipated in the 2017 version of this post occurred on a breezy summer afternoon on Friday 9/8/2019.
- derail the vast expenditures for a Green Climate Change agenda that are already locked into the system. This expenditure is estimated to be more than £300 billion, £300,000,000,000 by 2030. That expenditure has no popular mandate in the UK.
- thus make the UK economy very significantly richer and bring very significant benefit to all UK Energy users.
- as the world has been cooling comparatively rapidly over the last 3 Millenia, since ~1000BC, spending any effort, without true cost benefit analysis and full engineering due diligence, let alone at GDP scale costs, trying to stop the UK’s 1.1% of something that has not been happening for 3 millennia has to be monumentally ill-advised.
- Electricity generation operating margin
- Ice Ages are the real climate catastrophes
- UK CO2 emissions in a Global Context
- There is no Catastrophic risk from Anthropogenic Global Warming
- Comparing Renewables performance and costs
- Fossil fuels and Pollution
- Outline Policy actions
- Policies for Fossil fuels
- Policies for Weather Dependent Renewables: Wind power and Solar
- Policies for Biofuels
- Policies for Nuclear Energy
- Policies for Transport
- Some policy conclusions
Electricity generation operating margin
The UK has fallen well below a safe electricity generation operating margin on several occasions with the intermittent and unreliable output failures of Weather Dependent Renewable Energy technologies.
Load shedding, (power cuts), have mostly been avoided so far, but only by extraordinary grid management measures. But as the elimination of base load power generation continues, so failure will inevitably occur sooner or later. The first of the many failures anticipated in the earlier post of 2017 occurred on the breezy summer afternoon of Friday 9/8/2019.
Nations with embedded Green policy commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables, particularly the UK and Germany, already face Existential National Emergencies in that their electricity generating margins particularly for winter loads may often be non-existent:
- Catastrophic Global Warming / Climate Change Alarm are embedded in UK and other Western Energy policies.
- The immediate existential danger posed by Green thinking will not be appreciated until a real and catastrophic electrical grid failure occurs: those failures have now started.
- So it is a race to the bottom, which grid will fail first, the UK or Germany?
- Then the failures will be a truly Self-inflicted National Emergencies.
As the generating resources, (Gas-firing, Coal-burning or Nuclear), providing the reliable generation then needed to recover from grid failure will have been lost, it will not necessarily be possible to rectify the situation quickly from a “black start”.
Reliable generating resources have been eliminated by the Green policies, originating from the European Union and particularly re-enforced in the UK by the 2008 Climate Change Act.
These irrational and ineffective CO2 reduction decisions will have been taken ostensibly “to save the planet”. But the actions of those participating Nations were taken unilaterally at their own costs and to their own commercial and National self-harm, without reference to the actions throughout the rest of the world leading to the continuing escalation of global CO2 emissions.
The scale of the real catastrophe that will arise with failure of the electricity generating system in UK or anywhere in Europe is not yet fully understood.
- The chaos and vast damage that will arise from a UK power outage for just a day or so will be hugely destructive to lives, livelihoods and investor / business confidence.
- If an outage continues for more than a day, absolute anarchy will result, much like the UK riots of 2011, but much much worse.
- The UK has already lost its ability for true self-sufficiency in consistent electricity generation. Overall ~6% of UK power is already imported from France, usually at times of peak need: this is a major Existential National risk in itself.
- Overseas power sources should be urgently replaced by reliable in-country power generation simply on grounds of National Security.
- If the French are experiencing shortages themselves at winter peak times they will certainly not be exporting their power in support of the UK.
This risky situation was worsened recently firstly by the then current outage for maintenance of about 30% of the French nuclear capability and secondly by storm damage to the French-UK inter-connector, reducing its capacity by half.
Furthermore recent French announcements indicate that they intend to reduce their commitment to Nuclear power from ~80% to ~50%. Therefore they will reduce their ability to sell their excess nuclear power overseas.
Ice Ages are the real climate catastrophes
To continually support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming thesis, climate scientists and alarmists are examining the temperature record at altogether too fine a scale climate event by climate event, month by month or year by year.
Viewing the present Holocene interglacial at a broader scale is more fruitful, on a century by century and even with a millennial perspective.
The major points shown in the diagram above are:
- The last millennium 1000AD – 2000AD has been the coldest millennium of the entire current Holocene interglacial.
- Each of the notable high points in the Holocene temperature record, (Holocene Climate Optimum – Minoan – Roman – Medieval – Modern), have been progressively colder than the previous high point.
- For its first 7-8000 years the early Holocene, including its high point known as the “climate optimum”, have had virtually flat temperatures, an average drop of only ~0.007 °C per millennium.
- But the more recent Holocene, since a “tipping point” at around 1000BC, 3000 years ago, has seen temperature fall at about 20 times faster, at about 0.14 °C per millennium, Holocene progress.
- The Holocene interglacial is already 10,000 – 11,000 years old and judging from the length of previous interglacial periods, the Holocene epoch should be drawing to its close: in this century, the next century or this millennium.
- But the slight beneficial warming at the end of the 20th century to the Modern high point has been transmuted by Climate Alarmists into the “Great Man-made Global Warming Scare”.
The recent warming since the end of the Little Ice Age has been wholly beneficial when compared to the devastating impacts arising from the relatively minor cooling of the previous Little Ice Age, which include:
- Decolonisation of Greenland
- Black death
- French revolution
- The failures of the Inca and Angkor Wat civilisations
Warmer times are times of success and prosperity both for man-kind and the biosphere.
One should think of the Holocene interglacial epoch as a whole with its progressively cooler and cooler warm episodes:
- The Holocene Climate Optimum
- The Minoan warming
- The Roman warming
- The Medieval warm period
- Recent modern warming, 1975 – 2000.
According to the Ice Core records, each of these successive Holocene warm periods have been cooler than the one previously, since the tipping point towards accelerated global cooling occurred at about 1000BC.
For example during Roman times the climate was warmer and wetter so that grapes were grown in Northern England and the Northern Sahara was the breadbasket of the Roman empire, Greening Sahel.
The coming end of the present Holocene interglacial will in due course again result in a mile high ice sheet over much of the Northern hemisphere. As the Holocene epoch is already about 11,000 years old, the reversion to a true ice age is now overdue and that would be the real climate catastrophe. The length of the last glaciation, (some 106,000 years), since the Eemian warm period can be seen at the millennial scale in the diagram below. The average temperature of that glacial period was only ~5°C colder than at present.
As global temperatures have already been showing stagnation or cooling over the last twenty years or more. The temperature record can be brought up to date with local UK temperature information .
The UK’s own long established temperature record is the UK Meteorological Office Central England Temperature record, Met Office CET. Since the year 2000 it shows a cooling trend at -0.0193°C/year or a decline of about ~ -0.3°C in the last 16 years with colder temperatures both in spring and in summer.
Alarmists consider that their view of a warming trend will continue indefinitely. However, were this UK Met office trend to continue to 2100, the result would be a cooling of almost -2.0°C by the end of the century.
But in the same period since the year 2000, according to data released by BP, an additional ~2/3 of the cumulative CO2 Man-made emissions since 1965 have been released.
When rescaled to exclude the seasonal temperature excursions, the recent annual UK declining trend becomes more obvious.
The question must be asked,
“is this what the beginning of a reversion to a Little Ice Age looks like?”
Especially with the present reducing Solar activity, significantly reduced temperatures, at least to the level of another Little Ice Age are already predicted quite soon this century, Russian prediction of cooling.
Whether the present impending cooling will lead to a coming true glacial ice age or not is an open question.
UK CO2 emissions in a Global Context
The UK is a small, diminishing and irrelevant player, when compared to global CO2 emissions. The summary of global man-made CO2 emissions in 2018 from BP data is shown below, BP data source. In 2018, the EU(28) was only responsible for ~10.21% of world CO2 emissions and in 2018 the UK itself was only responsible for ~1.16% of world CO2 emissions, comment on CO2 emissions.
It is essential to progressively enhance the lives in the under-developed world by bringing reliable electricity throughout the third world and India, ~54% of the world population. This will mean bringing their CO2 emissions/head/year from their current level of ~1.8 tonnes/head/year up to the current global average ~4.5 tonnes/head/year and that increase would inevitably generate further CO2 emissions of some 11,000 million tonnes or an increase of ~32% overall. To bring the CO2 emissions/head level and thus development level of China would involve an increase of ~60% or ~20,000 million tonnes.
Total UK CO2 emissions amount to only ~4% of the added emissions needed to bring the underdeveloped world up to the current global average of 4.5 tonnes/head/year. This trivial sum shows how truly insignificant the UK CO2 emissions are in a global context.
The UK Climate Change Act was enacted in October 2008 to have an impact on the UK’s now trivial level of CO2 emissions.
As such the act was a gesture of massive economic and pointless self-harm. This point has even been emphasised by Theresa May’s joint chief of staff, Nick Timothy when he called the Act,
“A monstrous act of national self-harm”, folly of our age.
The massive self-harm from the Climate Change Act is purely symbolic. Its impact on global temperature could only ever be absolutely marginal. Thus any UK action under the 2008 Climate Change Act is irrelevant.
Nonetheless if the act is not repealed it has the ability to vastly damage the UK economy:
- Not only from its excessive costs for the poorest consumers, as impositions under the act create, are in effect, massively regressive Green taxes.
- The UK’s general tax payers from the subsidies imposed.
- In the UK’s lost international industrial competitiveness.
The following diagram shows how effective the CO2 reduction achievements in the West have been:
- About 25% since 2000 in the USA from the use of Fracked gas for electricity generation
- 58% reduction in France largely from the use of Nuclear energy for electricity generation
- The reductions in UK CO2 emissions have been as a result of its own “dash for gas” policies in the 1990s.
The recent uptick of emissions in Germany is due to the replacement of Nuclear energy by Coal fired generation.
There is no Catastrophic risk from Man-made Global Warming.
It is the propaganda of Catastrophic Global Warming / Climate Change alarmists that has illogically conflated Carbon Dioxide, the beneficial trace gas that sustains all life on earth and which may cause some minor warming, with real and dangerous pollutants to emphasise the “Great Global Warming / Climate Change Scare / Climate Alarm”.
To establish realistic policy the following points about man-made CO2 emissions need to be recognised:
- The Greenhouse effect is essential to all life on earth, without that warming effect of ~+33°C the planet would be a very cold and inhospitable place indeed.
- Most of the greenhouse effect , (more than ~90% – 95%) arises from water vapour and clouds in the atmosphere.
- Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide CO2 is not pollutant. In stead Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is the very stuff of life.
- The world needs its atmospheric CO2 for the survival and fertilisation of plant life, thus atmospheric CO2 is essential to support all life on earth.
At about half the current atmospheric concentration of CO2, plant photosynthesis falters and the world soon dies. In comparison with the Geological past the World is now in a period of CO2 starvation, because most of the CO2, once abundant in the atmosphere at the time when plants evolved, has since been sequestered in the oceans as limestone.
CO2 concentration came close to that fatally low level during the last ice age, 120,000BC – 11,000BC. The dangerously low level of atmospheric CO2 could well be exceeded in any coming Ice Age. Colder oceans absorb more CO2 and ocean life sequesters it as limestone. This is the way our world will eventually die of atmospheric CO2 starvation in a future glacial period.
Increased CO2 concentration promotes plant growth throughout the planet and reduces the water needs of plants. According to NASA, ~15% extra green growth across the planet is already attributed to the relatively recent increase in CO2 concentration.
Man-kind as a whole contributes only a small amount of the CO2 in the Carbon cycle, (~3% per annum), and any extra atmospheric CO2 is rapidly absorbed by the oceans and the biosphere, (with a half-life of ~5 years).
If any extra CO2 were to have some minor warming effect, it would be all to the good. Atmospheric CO2, whether Man-made or mostly naturally occurring, cannot therefore be considered as a pollutant, importance of CO2.
The effectiveness of CO2 as a warming Greenhouse gas is known to rapidly diminish logarithmically with increasing concentration.
A concentration of atmospheric CO2 < 200 ppmv equivalent to ~77% of CO2’s Greenhouse effectiveness is absolutely essential to maintain plant life and thus life on earth. Plant life is extinguished at ~150ppmv. And at the current level of ~400 ppmv, 87% of the effectiveness of CO2 as a Greenhouse gas is exhausted.
So little of the effectiveness of CO2 as a greenhouse gas now remains that there is no possibility of ever reaching the “much feared” +2°C temperature rise or more predicted by alarmists, that might be caused by future Man-made CO2 emissions.
Alarmists consider that level of +2°C to be catastrophic and sadly they have convinced many of the Western world’s politicians. Economically this is not so, and any increase up-to +2°C would be beneficial, Warming a benefit.
Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere can only lead to very limited further warming and certainly not to any catastrophic and any dangerous temperature increase. The assumptions behind that statement are set out in the two alternate calculations set out below.
Assuming simple proportionality:
- Water as vapour in the atmosphere or as clouds accounts for 90 – 95% of the Greenhouse effect.
- Other Greenhouse gases are marginal and not taken into account
- The total warming effect of non aqueous Greenhouse Gases, mainly CO2 is thus between 3.30 – 1.65°C
- Assume that the whole of the 100ppmv rise in CO2 from 300ppmv – 400ppmv is Man-made
- But the IPCC only assess it to be ~50% Man-made
- Thus the recent Man-made rise 300 – 400 ppmv is between 0.41°C – 0.21°C
Assuming that logarithmic diminution operates:
- 77% of the CO2 greenhouse effect 0 – 200 ppmv is essential to maintain life on earth.
- Assumes all increase is Man-made from 300ppmv – 400ppmv giving 4.2% of the Greenhouse effect gave a rise of between 0.14°C – 0.07°C
- The possible future rise from 400ppmv – 500ppmv thus would give a rise of between 0.11°C – 0.05°C
- The later rise of CO2 from 500ppmv – 1000ppmv can only give a rise of between 0.33°C – 0.17°C
- This ignores the only 50% Man-made statement by the IPCC, which would reduce these figures further.
- This also ignores the assumption in Climate models that there is massive positive feedback from further increasing CO2 emissions: even if that was accepted the continuing warming from CO2 emissions would still remain marginal.
So it is now likely that the impact of rising CO2 concentrations on global temperature, even at its greatest assessed effectiveness, is marginally insignificant but in fact beneficial.
Mankind’s attempts to control global temperature by the limitation of CO2 emissions from combustion of fossil fuels can only ever have marginal or immeasurable further effects, negligible impact.
Therefore, all de-carbonisation efforts by Mankind in Western Nations must be misguided, irrelevant and monumentally ill-advised.
An aside for policy makers on Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS)
Considering the removal of man-made CO2 from “smokestacks”, the idea of Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), is promoted by Green thinking. It is however technically difficult, costly and energy wasteful. The exercise has effectively been abandoned in the UK.
If achievable at all, it would require about double the electricity generation to be effected. So, Carbon Capture and Storage would achieve nothing except the waste of a great deal of energy to enable the throwing away of relatively small quantities of otherwise useful plant food, (CO2).
Therefore Policy makers should regard Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), as an entirely futile idea.
Comparing Renewables performance and costs
The following diagram combines the electrical generation technologies of six Nations, (Germany – United Kingdom – France – USA – China – India) all ostensibly involved in a Green energy transition, in terms of energy effectiveness, capital costs and longterm costs.
This diagram in terms of actual generation shows the scale of problem facing any policy for Global decarbonisation. But in response to Climate Change Alarm, the UK and Germany are the two Nations with the most advanced commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables.
This chart shows a comparison between the percentage power contributions of Renewables and Biomass generation and then gives estimates of the probable long-term costs in percentage terms, comparing current levels of commitment in the two major European Renewable Energy adherents, the UK and Germany, (data derived from EurObservER and US EIA comparative costings).
This diagram shows roughly both the generating output performance and the level of future financial commitments that already existed by 2018 in both the UK and Germany to the long term support of electricity generation with Weather Dependent Renewables.
Unless there is a complete policy volte face these levels of expenditures are likely to be already built-in. These will inevitably be Nationally wasteful, but which when considered in detail can never have any significant influence on future climates.
This diagram indicates that:
- The proportion of electricity generation provided by conventional reliable technologies.
- The probable future displacement of the conventional long-term generation costs, shown in red, in favour of Weather Dependent Renewables.
- The resulting allocation to reliable conventional power generation, just with the current levels of Weather Dependent Renewables generation installations, is already less than 50% in the UK and less than 40% in Germany.
- Existing commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables are therefore already expected to reduce and displace expenditure on reliable and dispatchable generation sources if the National commitments to Renewables continue as intended and certainly to an even greater extent as those commitments are expanded.
- The excessive unrevised probable long-term cost of Solar energy in Germany, is more than 35% of probable overall future generation costs.
- Solar power contribution to the grid is consistently small in spite of the massive investments made both in Germany and the threefold increase in the UK, 2013 – 2015.
- The long term costs of wind power in the UK are particularly high because of the major UK commitment to offshore generation, which is expensive to install and difficult to maintain long-term.
- The operational life-times of Solar Power and particularly Off-shore Wind Power are significantly limited in comparison with conventional generation technologies.
These estimates are developed in more detail using comparative generation costing data net of subsidies from the US Energy Information Administration, (EIA). The EIA values are quoted in US$bn/GW. The proportions of financial commitment to different generation technologies are shown as percentages as of 2018.
The straightforward model for six key National generation profiles giving the standardised comparative diagrams of generation performance are available here, compare generation.
These national profiles show how excessive the commitments to Renewables already are in Europe. The full cost of Renewable Energy subsidies across Europe can be seen here, green subsidies and in the Council of European Energy Regulators, (CEER), 2017 report.
The following diagrams show a comparison between current (2018) UK and German electricity generation technologies in illustrating the percentage scale of present and future commitments:
- Percentage of actual electrical output by each technology in
- Percentage of nameplate capacity in installed Gigawatts.
- Percentage of installed capital costs in $bn for each technology
- Percentage estimates of likely 60 year running costs in $bn for each technology at the levels currently installed.
The graphic profiles for the UK and Germany as in 2018 are shown below.
It can be seen that in the UK, Weather Dependent Renewables technologies account in total for only less than 15% of the electricity contributed to the grid. Of this 15% contribution from Renewables, only ~2.4% is derived from Solar power in the UK. This is despite of the fact that the installation of Solar power in the UK was trebled in the period from 2013 – 2015. The rate of installation of Solar power in the UK may now be reducing under changing government policy. But Weather Dependent Renewables, (shown hatched), are unreliable, being randomly intermittent and non-dispatchable, (they cannot respond with power to meet demand).
Unsurprisingly, at a capacity factor of ~9%, in spite of its massive promotional publicity, Solar Power in the UK is the least performant in Europe, simply because at the UK’s latitude and maritime climate it has adverse cloudy weather.
The continuing massive commitment to Coal-fired generation in Germany, (~47% of electricity production) is in direct contradiction of “die Energiewende”, the much vaunted German energy generation transition. Coal firing in Germany is increasing to compensate for the German decision to withdraw from Nuclear generation immediately after the Fukushima incident.
In contrasting other National generation profiles other proportional / percentagewise several other points arise:
- The vast preponderance of the use of Coal for electrical generation in China and India as well as in Germany, in spite of “die Energiewende”.
- This pattern of using coal is bound to be repeated throughout the developing world still with ~53% of global population without access to reliable electricity.
- The use of either gas-firing in the USA or nuclear power in France both achieved substantial reductions in CO2 emissions.
- When compared to the excessive commitments to Weather Dependent Renewables already made in the UK and Germany there is comparatively minor penetration of Weather Dependent Renewables in China and India as well as in France and the USA.
Fossil fuels and Pollution
Policy makers should realise that:
- The burning of fossil fuels in the free market context has led to all the beneficial, positive technical and social advances of man-kind’s developed civilisations over the last 250 years.
- These benefits, including the reliable access to electricity should be spread worldwide by the use of fossil fuels to advance the development of the remaining ~53% of the world’s population still with low living standards and poor access to reliable electricity, China backing coal.
- The burning of fossil fuels does indeed return some of the sequestered CO2 from some 350 million years ago back into the atmosphere. That release of CO2 is entirely beneficial to the biosphere and man-made CO2 can in no way be considered pollutant.
- The Man-made contribution to CO2 emissions is only ~3% of the global Carbon cycle that maintains all life on Earth. The biosphere and oceans reabsorb about 50% of any extra CO2 virtually immediately, a half-life of less than 5 years.
- As the effectiveness of CO2 as a greenhouse gas diminishes logarithmically the influence of Man-made CO2 in the atmosphere becomes ever more marginal.
- Real and avoidable man-made atmospheric pollutants, (SO2, NOx particulate matter, etc.), have been and are still produced from burning Coal, from industry and from transport.
- Understand that the health damage caused even by nominally high levels of NO2 and particulate pollution may be as limited as the curtailment of life amounting to as little 2 – 22 days of infirm people.
- Any UK anti-pollution efforts from diesel vehicles should be judged on this basis, Diesel questioned.
The release of other truly toxic pollutants still cause the appalling damage throughout the third world. Effective technologies exist to eradicate such pollutants both from Coal-fired electricity generation and from vehicles.
The benefits of non-polluting Coal combustion for electricity generation can be achieved at comparatively low cost and should be fully supported.
They should be applied widely for the developing world to enhance life chances in the developing world by providing reliable electricity generation.
On the other hand, burning natural gas relatively is clean, producing only CO2 and water. Also burning Natural Gas releases only half the amount of CO2 per unit of energy produced compared to the burning of Coal.
Nonetheless throughout the developing world truly toxic, health threatening pollution is endemic:
- From domestic wood burning
- From under-regulated activities widespread from extractive, industrial processes and electricity generation.
- Thus much of the developed world’s really toxic pollution has been exported by effective globalisation.
Outline Policy actions
In order to respond rationally to the points listed above the following policies should be promoted and pursued:
- Policies for Fossil fuels
- Policies for Weather Dependent Renewables: Wind power and Solar
- Policies for Biofuels
- Policies for Nuclear Energy
- Policies for Transport
Policies for Fossil fuels
These are primarily Coal and Gas for electricity generation and oil derivatives for transport:
- Keep on burning fossil fuels in the UK and the Western world and feel no guilt.
- Immediately override all objections to the development of Fracking in the UK and promote Fracking on grounds of National Emergency and the benefit to the National Economy.
- The use of Fracked gas for electricity generation has already contributed to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the USA by 25% since 2000 and in addition it has benefitted the USA with the cheapest electrical power in the Western world.
- Ignore and set aside all EU / CCA, (Climate Change Act), Green-imposed directives for further closure of operating Coal-fired plants. Those closures to date have already substantially heightened the risk of UK grid failure.
A prime example of this policy is the premature closure of the Coal-fired Longannet power station near Edinburgh in March 2016. This plant was consistently supplying about 3.6 Gigawatt, about half the base load power requirement in Scotland. As a result power outages are inevitable in Scotland with its growing reliance on Weather Dependent Renewables.
- Note that such closures do not seem to apply to Coal Fired generation in Germany or in China and India even under the UN Paris Climate accord, where further Coal-fired installations are being built at pace.
- Redirect all the funds that are used by government to support Biomass and Weather Dependent Renewables to urgently build gas-fired power stations in the National Interest: they are relatively cheap and quick to build, (~2-4 years).
- Thus urgently rebuild the UK electricity dispatchable operating margin more than +20% and at the same time emulate the CO2 reduction success achieved in the USA, were it desirable. The UK electricity peak load operating margin has fallen from a safe ~+20% to virtually nil at present, resulting in the UK grid operating margin on occasions now being miniscule.
The Grid has been brought to this parlous state of National Emergency by the imposition of Green policies imposed by the European Union and in particular embodied and re-enforced by the UK 2008 Climate Change Act by:
- Promoting Weather Dependent Renewables.
- Making the building of Gas-fired power stations uneconomic and commercially non-viable, because as a result of the “Renewables Obligation”, which insists the Wind or Solar power is used in preference to Gas-firing. Unlike Renewables Gas-firing is not compensated for unproductive down time that is thereby imposed.
- Thus Gas-fired power stations are forced to operate only intermittently rather than continuously and thus profitably at full efficiency.
- Subsidising UK Solar installations, the trebling those installations in the 3 years, 2013 – 2014 – 2015, resulting in energy output amounting to 2.4% of electrical energy produced: that electricity production is out of sync with demand, intermittent and non-dispatchable. Solar power is never available at peak times, particularly for example on winter evenings.
- That irrational Solar investment, (made apparently against the internal professional advice of DECC, the erstwhile department of Energy and Climate Change).
- The estimated capital costs of the 9GW of solar power installed in the UK between 2012 and 2016 running at ~10% capacity would have been sufficient to install about 18GW of Gas-fired power running at 90% capacity, consistently providing more than half of national power demand. Remember that the UK “dash for gas” policy in 1990’s contributed substantially to the UK’s reduction in CO2 emissions.
The signs of continuing grid failure are already here, major grid failures have already been seen recently both in Scotland and South Australia. The first of many future grid failures has now occurred in the UK on a breezy summer afternoon 9/8/2019. These failures presage an uncertain grid reliability future for all countries committed to the large-scale use of Weather Dependent Renewables: particularly affected in Europe are both the UK and Germany.
Throughout Europe continue to support the development of Coal fired electrical generating plants, as is currently proceeding in Germany: the effect of Germany’s Coal policy can be see above in the recent uptick of CO2 emissions from Germany.
In reality Coal, Oil and Gas are all abundant and will remain cost effective sources of power worldwide for the foreseeable future. The use of “non-polluting” Coal burning technologies should be encouraged particularly in underdeveloped countries.
The ideas of “peak” fossil fuels and unlimited fossil fuel price rises are now irrelevant for the foreseeable future. Fracking has exposed the myth of peak oil and gas. For the coming 200+ years, the game has changed with Fracking and extraction of tight oil.
So far Fracking technologies have only been applied in very limited areas of the world: there will be many other places to extract gas and oil by Fracking for the coming 200 years.As and when current fossil resources become progressively more expensive to extract that price increase will open up yet further fields for exploration: that process will go on for generations as the costs involved will increase only marginally.
The developing world will have no scruples in advancing their own development with the use of any available fossil fuels, mainly Coal at present. Thos Nations will be unconcerned about their increasing CO2 emissions. This will be in spite of the worthless undertakings they may have made under the Paris Climate accord of 2016.
If Fracking and fossil fuel use are restricted by the policy of Western governments responding to great Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming alarmism, this will be to their own economic detriment.
It is clear that Gasprom in Russia is already benefitting from the anti-Fracking propaganda movement by Green NGOs in the UK and Europe and Russia has done much to support those organisations, which undermine the energy economies of the Western world, its commercial interests.
Policies for Weather Dependent Renewables: Wind power and Solar
Understand that Weather Dependent Renewables are inherently trying to access very diffuse power sources. When compared to conventional fossil fuel or nuclear generation installations they take up large land areas for relatively small return in terms of power. Because they are Weather Dependent, their poor capacity factors mean that they can never produce power at anything like their full rated capacity, whenever needed.
Take full note of the late Professor David Mackay, he said that powering a developed nation with Weather Dependent Renewable Energy is
“an appalling delusion”, min 13+, Prof Mackay.
Accordingly rescind on grounds of National Emergency all support mechanisms, feed-in tariffs, preferential grid access, etc., that have been used by the Government to erroneously promote and impose Weather Dependent Renewable Energy technologies as if they were an effective replacement for conventional and reliable power generation.
When competing without subsidies and regulatory support, Wind and Solar energy in the UK will be shown to be unreliable, expensive and unprofitable. The Weather Dependent Renewables industry will then immediately wither on the vine.
Truly comparative competition would make sure that “Weather Dependent Renewables” worked on a level playing field with other electricity generation technologies accounting fully for:
- their inherent unreliability with their intermittency and their non-dispatchability
- the costs of back-up resources essential whenever Weather Dependent Renewables are non-productive
- their scale and environmental damage to the landscape and animal life
- note that, if the back-up capability is in place to produce sufficient power throughout the winter there is no point in having the more costly, more unreliable Weather Dependent Renewables imposed on the grid at all: see the late Professor David Mackay min 13+.
- according to the US EIA data, it is clear that Gas-fired generation is much cheaper in capital and long-term costs than Weather Dependent Renewables, when counting their full real costs including essential back-up, maintenance, replacement, servicing access, grid connections and eventual demolition.
- When the actual achieved capacity are accounted for the comparative costs of Weather Dependent Renewables escalate even further.
When viewed from cradle to grave, Wind and Solar Weather Dependent Renewables have done very little to reduce CO2 emissions overall, Renewable economics and thus their imposition by Government mandate can have had very little real effect on global temperatures but their imposition has substantially escalated the cost of electricity throughout Europe.
So all that the imposition and preferential support of Weather Dependent Renewables in Western Nations has achieved is to greatly increase energy costs and damage the reliability of their electrical grids to virtually no CO2 reduction advantage.
Policies for Biofuels
Like Weather Dependent Renewables, Biofuels are equally very diffuse sources of energy:
- For a clear example, the late Professor David MacKay’s calculations show that in order to provide biofuel for the traffic on a road, the biofuel plantation on the verge of the road would have to be some 8 kilometres wide, reality check.
- That is the sort of trivial “back of the envelope” calculation that should always have been done to check the viability of Green induced policies.
- By substituting for food crops, the attempt to transition to Biofuels has increased food prices globally particularly to the detriment of the poor in many underdeveloped nations.
- Biofuels also cause huge destruction of natural resources such as Indonesian and Brazilian rain forest, native forest on the Eastern seaboard of the USA and many other wildlife habitats.
- Even so, Biofuels do not necessarily reduce CO2 emissions when their agricultural needs are fully taken into account particularly for their cultivation, their use of fossil fuel based fertilisers and their need for water resources.
- Therefore terminate all government support for Biofuels, particularly wood chips, biodiesel and ethanol.
Of course Biomass is the only Green approved generation technology that provides dispatchable electrical power.
All cultivation for Biofuels should progressively be eliminated. The only exception that should ever be made for burning Biomass is when it is available from real agricultural, forest or municipal waste.
Policies for Nuclear Energy
Realise that whatever the adverse alarmist propaganda may say, Nuclear energy is probably the safest, most compact, reliable, consistent energy sources available, alongside the use of fossil fuel for electricity generation and transport, thinking the unthinkable.
Nuclear power has also proven to be the most effective way of reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation. France at 4.5 tonnes/head/year is the only developed Nation that now has lower CO2 emissions/head than the global average.
Continue the installation of nuclear energy and prolong the life of existing plants
Note that it is not essential to take a big bang approach as envisaged at the 3.2 Gigawatts Hinckley point, accordingly:
- Promote and develop the dispersed use of factory built smaller nuclear modules, probably based on existing maritime technologies for submarines and icebreakers.
- At the size of up to ~0.5 Gigawatt these smaller modular local power units can be up to about half the productive size of a conventional 1.0 Gigawatt power station.
Invest significantly in research into Thorium reactors, as is already in progress in China and India. Apparently Thorium reactors are capable of reusing and even extracting much more energy from nuclear waste produced by conventional fission reactors and finally rendering the waste comparatively weakly radioactive.
The US development of Thorium was stopped in the 1950s because Thorium reactors could not produce the plutonium needed for use in the nuclear weapons.
Continue to pursue fusion power but do not expect viable energy producing results much before the end of this century. Hopefully this view is too pessimistic.
Policies for Transport
Fossil fuels, especially oil and gas have long since had huge advantages of being very compact and convenient sources of energy and any alternate will have to be just as effective in order to be deployed realistically.
Continue to use fossil fuels for road transport, they are compact economic energy sources and have a very effective support infrastructure.
Promote, but do not subsidise, the use of electric vehicles and note their limitations:
- Limited range.
- The expense of battery replacement and disposal.
- When the energy – weight ratio is contrasted and compared, it becomes clear that battery technology and electric vehicles are inherently at a substantial technical disadvantage
- Diesel / Fuel oil 13,333
- Jet fuel (Kerosene) 12,777
- Gasoline (petrol) 12,889
- Lithium-ion battery 170
- Alkaline battery 139
- Nickel-metal hydride battery 80
- Lead-acid battery 47
- For large scale take up of electric vehicles a very significant increase of consistent and reliable electricity generation with wide availability will be required to recharge electric vehicles.
- Note that batteries do not make electricity, they can only store it and inevitably there are substantial energy losses involved in every energy transfer, for battery charge and discharge.
- Peak Lithium and peak cobalt. The main rare materials used for batteries may be a limited and self-limiting resource for electric vehicles and all large scale battery installations.
- Progressively insist that Adblue, (NOx elimination), technology and particulate matter suppression is used on all diesel vehicles.
- Do not heed and legislate upon the hysterical premature death announcements about the dangers of NOx pollutants from diesel vehicles, NOx.
- Research and improve all transport exhaust emissions standards from the point of view of real pollutants, i.e. not CO2.
- Encourage the use of gas-fuelled fleets for public transport, local deliveries etc.
Some policy conclusions
Some of the logical outcomes from the information set out above are as follows:
- A nil operating margin for electricity generation in a developed economy is an Existential National Emergency.
- A coming Ice Age, to whatever degree, is the climate catastrophe that really is worthy of concern for future generations. The reversion to a Little Ice Age is predicted for the near future, (within decades), and a Real Ice Age could well return this century, next century or this millennium.
- In spite of the vast establishment that has been created to support Green policies in order to resist Global Warming and the resulting huge and probably unnecessary expenditures and the increased existential risks to the National economy, realise that:
- Man-made Global Warming / Climate Change from Man-made CO2 emissions is more than likely a minor or non-existent problem.
- Understand that there is no Catastrophic risk from Anthropogenic Global Warming
- Even if it were a problem, it could not be addressed by damaging the economies of the Developed World in attempting to control their emissions of CO2.
- Understand that a marginally warming world is of benefit to the biosphere and man-kind.
- All atmospheric CO2 is after all plant food, the very stuff of life.
Set as the target, to have at least 20% indigenous and consistent reliable electricity generation reserve on grounds of National Emergency. Total reliance on imported power from France should not be considered reasonable, if as is expected France is cutting back its nuclear generation, it will not have spare capacity for export especially at crucial times.
Promote Fracking for Gas as strenuously as possible on grounds of Existential National Emergency and override all spurious Green objections.
Cease all disincentives for the building of Gas-fired Power Stations and give them a level playing field for profitable Electricity generation on grounds of National Emergency.
Withdraw all electricity generation market distorting regulations, subsidies and grants supporting non-dispatchable Weather Dependent Renewable Energy on grounds of National Emergency:
- this will progressively reduce private and industrial consumer’s electricity costs.
- that action alone would have much more immediate effect on energy costs, than any price caps or other government price manipulation or distortion in the market.
Insist that all Weather Dependent Renewable Energy providers:
- have the obligation to provide consistent power supply.
- cannot compensated for the inherent unreliability of their technologies.
Ensure that the people making the policy decisions in the area of electricity generation, are numerate, with a full understanding of mathematics, engineering and physics. These disciplines alone are essential to ensure the consistent reliable electricity generation for a developed nation. Knowing about the maths of proportionality and scale is essential to judgements about energy generation, because trivial arithmetic easily trumps the Green thinking and its associated virtue signalling and noble cause corruption.
Ensure that all Energy policy is made on the basis of fully quantified analysis and engineering due diligence. It should not be tainted by Green attitudes, to the exclusion of all else, as has been the case in the UK since 2008, or before.
It is most important that policy makers should remember and heed their elementary biology, which should have taught them about Photosynthesis and an understanding that without Photosynthesis fertilised by beneficial atmospheric CO2 the world dies.
Understand that the UK itself is a small, (1.16% in 2018: BP data), diminishing and irrelevant player, when compared in the context of growing global CO2 emissions, that are bound to escalate further as the Developing Nations and India pursue the advancement of their economies. Therefore any Climate Change action, however damaging, taken in the UK is just pointless virtue signalling.
Understand that any self-harm imposed in the name of Climate Change on the UK and European economies will have negligible impact on Global Climate.
Pursuing the Energy Policies outlined above without fear could well:
- possibly avoid the risk of catastrophic failure of the UK electricity grid.
- derail the vast expenditures for a Green Climate Change agenda that are already locked into the system. This expenditure, (estimated to be more than £300 billion, (£300,000,000,000 by 2030), has no popular mandate in the UK
- make the UK economy very significantly richer.
- bring significant benefit to all UK Energy users.
About the author
Ed Hoskins had an educational grounding in science subjects. He qualified both as a Dentist at Guys in London in 1962 and as an Architect in Cambridge in 1969, on both occasions with distinction.
Having worked within a research group at the Architecture school, involved with the quantifiable aspects of Building and Planning, Ed was responsible for setting up and running the spin-off company stemming from that group, Applied Research of Cambridge Ltd. In 1969 it was one of the earliest spin-off companies of the “Cambridge Phenomenon”.
The company produced Computer Aided Design software products for Architecture and Engineering and for Geographic Information Systems. The markets for its software were world-wide.
Since retirement Ed has taken an interest in the Global Warming / Climate Change question and has published several notes quantifying various aspects of the questions raised and remedies being pursued. He uses his abilities in business planning and presentation to make contributions that are hopefully useful and accessible at a layman’s / politicians’ level, Ed.
This note makes use of illustrations and references much of Ed’s earlier analyses and may make a useful contribution to thinking about future policies.
Ed’s views are not politically correct.
Even so they raise questions which should be fully addressed when making government policy towards UK Energy and Climate Change by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.