UK Energy Flow Chart 2007

Every few years the UK Department of Trade and Industry, now Department of Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, publish a chart of the nation's energy flows. Here's the most recently published chart based on 2007 data:

Click for .pdf

It's a nice, high level overview of energy in the UK illustrating the flow of primary fuels from the point at which they become available from home production or imports (on the left) to their eventual final uses (on the right). Flows at the bottom represent exports, conversion losses and energy industry and non-energy use. The yellow blocks represent transformation (power stations and refineries).

The energy flow charts from 2001 and 2004 are also available from DeBERR: Energy Flow Charts.

A quick comparison between 2001 and 2007 reveals:

  • Gas production down 32% with imports providing 29%, up from just 2%.
  • Coal production down 47% with imports providing 73%, up from 54%.
  • Oil production down 34%.
  • Electricity from nuclear is down 33% however renewables have more than doubled.
  • Small increase in oil use for transport, small decrease in gas use.
  • Energy used in the iron and steel industry has fallen by a half.
The changes can be summarised in the following chart:

Source: DUKES 1.1 and 1.1.1

It is a dramatic change over a decade, even more so considering energy prices were low on the left side and high on the right. Currently the gap is met through imports. However with North Sea oil and gas production continuing to fall and with the future nuclear decommission schedule clear, it can only be matter of time until the growing gap can no longer be addressed by increasingly expensive imports.

UK domestic gas and electricity prices have increased dramatically in 2008:


4 Jan - Npower: Gas up 17.2%, electricity up 12.7%

15 Jan - EDF Energy: Gas up 12.9%, electricity up 7.9%

18 Jan - British Gas: Gas and electricity up 15%

1 Feb - Scottish Power: Gas up by 15%, electricity up 14%

7 Feb - E.On: Gas up 15%, electricity up 9.7%

19 March - Scottish & Southern: Gas up 15.8%, electricity up 14.2%

5 July - EDF Energy: Gas up 22%, electricity up 17%

30 July - British Gas: Gas up 35%, electricity up 9%

21 Aug - Eon: Gas up 26%, electricity up 16%

21 Aug - Scottish & Southern: Gas up 29.2%, electricity up 19.2%

29 Aug - Scottish Power: Gas up 34%, electricity up 9%

29 Aug - Npower: Gas up 26%, electricity up 14%

Source: BBC News

When one sees this, is there any wonder that Britain now thinks that
- long term supply contracts between Russia and continental Europe are detrimental for European energy supply
- that they have to be replaced with common European energy supply and policies system (so the Russians cannot blackmail 'us')

As Gordon Brown said in Observer on 1 September, 'Russians will not hold Britain for ransom...' He only forgot to mention that this is impossible because Britain does not import any gas from Russia.

System that has been built over 50 years and which never had any glitches now became dangerous, insecure and all that because Britain wants to get plugged into it but first wants to destroy the present system and design the one better suited to the island's political objectives.

That is how and why Russia became such a 'demon' over the past few months.

Actually, the UK is held for ransom by Statoil - with their fields, they are the biggest provider of winter swing volume and effectively control day-ahead pricing. But Norwegians are nice people, right?

"But Norwegians are nice people, right?"

Aren't they the same crowd that used to be called Viking raiders? :-)

But why is it going to take them months to fix a leak in the gas pipe? Surely they haven't just shut it down to conserve supplies?

Not at all, the UK is held to ransom by our government's lack of planning. Blaming Russia, Statoil or whoever is a bit like me blaming the credit card companies for the fact that I've bought a new car, holiday, kitchen and TV that I couldn't afford in the first place.

Britain is not alone in doing this, but any country that sets up an ongoing assumption that those essential items for life (water, food, energy) can ALWAYS be supplied from somewhere else is going to be 'held to ransom' as soon as those assumptions turns out to be wrong.

The Dutch version looks as follows:

Yellow and Orange are crude oil and oil products, blue is gas, black is coal and grey is electricity.
Conversion of PJ to MToe is division by ~ 41.9.

The comparison between UK and NL shows that NL is much more an import/export nation. Also, that the industry energy use is relatively larger in the NL as compared to transport and domestic use (huishoudens).

To be found on the site of the Energy Centre Netherlands:

And today we have yet another insufficient margin warning on the national grid.

UK Power supply tight for Thursday

LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The UK power supply cushion for Thursday evening looks too tight and another 700 megawatts of generation capacity is needed, power network operator National Grid (NG.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Thursday.

The UK power and gas network operator's supply margin warning, known as a NISM, is for 1000-1730 GMT on Thursday. (Reporting by Daniel Fineren)

2008-09-04 11:01 From : Power System Manager - National Grid Electricity Control Centre NOTIFICATION OF INADEQUATE SYSTEM MARGIN For the period: from 11:00 hrs to 20:30 hrs on Thursday 04/09/2008 There is insufficient System Margin System margin shortfall 400 MW Maximum Generation Service may be instructed. Trading Points, Control Points and Externally interconnected System Operators are requested to notify National Grid of any additional MW capacity. Suppliers please advise National Grid of any additional Demand Control available The situation will be reviewed again by National Grid at 16:00 hours and an update issued. This Notification of Issue of a GB Transmission System Warning - Inadequate System Margin Notification Issued at 12:00 hrs on 04/09/2008 Issued by Clive Coles National Grid Electricity Control Centre

2008-09-04 08:41 From : Power System Manager - National Grid Electricity Control Centre NOTIFICATION OF INADEQUATE SYSTEM MARGIN For the period: from 11:00 hrs to 18:30 hrs on Thursday 04/09/2008 There is insufficient System Margin System margin shortfall 700 MW Maximum Generation Service may be instructed. Trading Points, Control Points and Externally interconnected System Operators are requested to notify National Grid of any additional MW capacity. Suppliers please advise National Grid of any additional Demand Control available The situation will be reviewed again by National Grid at 12:00 hours and an update issued. This Notification of Issue of a GB Transmission System Warning - Inadequate System Margin Notification Issued at 09:35 hrs on 04/09/2008 Issued by Clive Coles National Grid Electricity Control Centre

Thanks, Chris - very cheery!

Any guess as to when the breaking point is reached, and rolling power cuts hit?
Maybe percent guess, like this winter, 35%, 2009-10 45%, and whatever?
I realise that it is difficult to hazard any estimate, as there are so many variables, for instance Russian exports to the rest of Europe might fall due to their problems with coal, etc.

Still, it is clear that the situation is grave, and also that it is progressively worsening, so any insight into the rate at which it is getting worse would be great.

For DaveMart
In the post 'Gore sets goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2020' back in July you asked about the cost of tidal power.
I asked Marine Current Turbines Limited and received the following information from their Technical Director Peter Fraenkel:

SeaGen at Strangford which is a single prototype probably has a generating cost in the order of 20 to 30p/kWh depending on the assumptions used. We hope the next project, a 10.5MW SeaGen array planned for installation off Anglesey in N Wales in two to three years time, will generate at a cost of around 10 to 12p/kWh. Future larger projects to follow will generate at around 6 to 8p and longer-term for larger projects or on the highest energy locations, costs can fall to around 4p/kWh.
6 to 8p would be our medium term cost project for the UK – on sites with say 3m/s mean spring peak velocity and for projects of say 20 to 30MW. Later on with much larger projects and as yet unknown improvements the hope is that we might get costs down to the 4 to 6p level in present day money. Wind electricity for example costs about 25% of what it cost in the early 1980s in real terms today – we may not be able to achieve quite such a big reduction as we are already benefiting from some of the cost reductions gained by the wind industry, but a 50% cost reduction does not seem unreasonable.

For Strangford load fator is 48%
Trust this informs

Thanks for the info.
That sounds around the same as I expected, with a probable 20 year or so path to gaining the experience to carry out cost reductions.

Those are also levelised costs, and you can get pretty much any answer you want out of those depending on the assumptions you feed in, and with new technology they always put a lot of faith in mass production to reduce costs.

That is not to knock the idea, but it is not going to solve our problems anytime soon.

"6 to 8p would be our medium term cost project for the UK"

Assuming they can bring the cost down to this level I think that it is cheaper than current rates:-)

Does anybody know the equivalent current realistic rates for on-shore wind?

They are talking levelised costs, which are always dependent on assumptions,which are rarely made explicit.
For resources like wind and nuclear power, interest rates are critical as most of the costs are up-front.

I tend to prefer installation costs, as they are less dependent on the assumptions made, but you have to allow for the fact that that is a bit unkind to renewables, as for nuclear power you have to allow for the long build times, and some fuel and maintenance costs ( maintenance has to be added to wind costs, and that can be substantial, especially for off-shore) and for coal or gas the fuel costs are the main cost.

So to answer your question, for on-shore wind the last survey which was done gave a cost of around £1million/MW of installed capacity, which does not include all connection costs or back up.
Since then material costs have risen substantially, and since most of the goods are imported the fall of sterling will have impacted costs.

This does not take account of wind's intermittency, so for on-shore you have around 22-28% of the installed capacity in actual output.

This effectively means that wind costs around £3 million/MW plus connection and backup at least to give a comparative figure to nuclear installed cost.

Off-shore is a disastrous £3 million/MW before you start allowing for intermittency.

Many of the more favourable figures quoted for wind are done after grants are added in - anything is cheap if you don't have to pay for it.

Here are the 2006 Government figures:

Hi Dave,

After reading your doomer post from the 8th Sept all I can say is that it's bad, and deteriorating fast.

I wrote you a long detailed reply but then I scared my self. Situation bad by winter 2010 is all I am willing to say.

The numbers are beginning to really scare me. It all just seams too unreal, too soon. The world goes on and as I write there is electricity, hot and cold running water and every thing is normal with the world and yet we have all seen numbers and time frames. Still it's hard to believe that a major crisis is on it's way.

I think a positive mental attitude will be a very important going forward. Also a sense of humor to stay sane and make the most of the time left.

Good luck to everyone and sorry for the rant.

Will we make 2020?
Can RE help?
Government (BERR) currently has a Renewable Energy Strategy Consultation running. Closes 26th September 2008

Last spring the UK agreed with other Member States to an EU-wide target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 – including a binding 10% target for the transport sector. The European Commission has proposed that the UK share of this target would be to achieve 15% of the UK's energy from renewables by 2020 which is equivalent to almost a ten-fold increase in renewable energy consumption from current levels. While such an increase is ambitious, and will be challenging, we are fully committed to meeting our share of the target.

Talking of Grids "Middle East to fund Scotland's £5bn power grid"

The transmission grid would stretch from Shetland and the Orkneys on the east coast of Scotland down to Norfolk. Mr O'Brien said that there was 60GW of "untapped potential" from offshore energy that could be accessed only through establishing the grid.
..... the Crown Estate is likely to approve the idea, having published a feasibility study in January, looking at a power grid on the east coast seabed. The cost of the core part of the project was estimated at around £1.7bn, but was expected to rise to £4.8bn as more phases were added up to 2020.
The Crown Estate has awarded a number of offshore wind farm contracts, including a £900m agreement in May with the US engineering and construction conglomerate Fluor to build a farm off the coast of Suffolk. The grid would provide links between these wind farms.
SDI has launched a feasibility study into a similar project on the west coast. This is being run in conjunction with the governments of the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, and is funded by the European Union.
The governments hope that the west coast scheme could ultimately be joined up with the proposed grid to the east.

Just a note that the decision of the government not to provide any additional fuel relief this winter must mean that they realise that they have no money at all for anything, as it is political suicide.

Also, the BOE has announced that they will not extend the 6 month window for exchanging the duff securities the banks give them for bonds.
UBS estimates that they may have pumped as much as £200bn into the banking system this way:

The only way the backs will have left to maintain liquidity is to stop loans of all sorts, for viable purposes as well as their ponzi schemes, and when one Central Bank stops playing AFAIK the rest can't continue or they kill their currency.

Armageddon - ah-ma-geddin sick of it!

Financial Times: Banks reel as ECB redraws funding rules

Yes, discussion of how to prepare individually, and in communities for this disaster seems more and more relevant.

Is the development/preparation of local trading schemes/currencies an important mitigation activity? or do you think they will never have sufficient support, or will be prevented by national policy because of their possible tax (and anti-inflation) implications.

Also, it seems to me that more people are using electrical heaters, than I remember, do you think this a general trend or just my experience? Could it be that people are opting for electrical heaters rather than more expensive central heating/boiler replacements in these harder times? If so, this will place even greater strain on the grid this winter.

The power grid is built for summer peak capacity, so a move towards electrical heaters would not strain the power grid, and actually relieve the gas grid (less gas consumption, which does peak in winter).

Still I doubt that this move to electrical heaters is real - electrical heating is a great deal more expensive than gas-fired central heating, so why would people do that?

Uh? Surely you are talking about usage patterns in the US when you refer to a summer peak - air conditioning is not common here.

Usage varies from a low of around 20GW, in around June, up to a maximum of around 75GW which occurs in the winter.

Yeah, I was refering to the UK situation. I thought people might choose to purchase cheap electrical heaters rather than the large expense of boiler replacement etc if they have little money.

I realise it's more expensive to do this in the long-term, but when things get financially tight people do all sorts of things which make their lives easier in the short-term, and much worse in the long-term.


With the latest price increases UK electricity is about 12.5p/kWh and gas is about 3.5p/kWh.

Even if you are just heating one room, the cost of electricity for a small heater (say 1kW), quickly exceeds the cost of gas.

Domestic heating using electricity, using conventional heaters and with the current UK generation mix represents an inexcusable waste of energy resources - with the average UK powerstation running at only about 35% efficiency and all the waste heat being dumped to atmosphere.

If you look at the figures from National Grid Co. for summer and winter gas consumption, you will see that the UK summer consumption is close to 50% of the winter consumption - presumably as a result of nearly 40% of our power generation done in gas fired powerstations.

The UK energy industry is not well prepared for changing world circumstances. I can only see turbulent times ahead, as the current energy model is drastically restructured to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As a nation we have to develop a more varied generation mix - one which is less reliant on natural gas.

At least one company in the USA is converting low grade lignite coal, to high grade natural gas.

Dakota Gasification Company

Coal gasification could be one way in which we could get better efficiency from coal fired generation using low grade fuels, provide a separate CO2 steam for capture and sequestration, and give the option to transmit energy either as electricity or as natural gas from coal, depending on the season or current demand.

We in the UK need an integrated energy policy which provides energy security, efficiency and flexibility. Our government seems reluctant to tackle this head on, instead leaving it to the global business market to sort out the mess.


...with the average UK powerstation running at only about 35% efficiency and all the waste heat being dumped to atmosphere.

The thermal efficiency of the UK CCGTs is 48.9%, coal 35.7% and nuclear 38.6%. I guess the weighted average is a little over 40%. Taken from DUKES 5.10.


Thankyou for confiming those figures.

I admit that my figure was closer to that of coal and nuclear plants, which account for about 50% of UK generation.

It should be noted that with rising gas prices, the percentage of coal fired generation has been increasing in recent years -especially in 2006 where coal usage increased by 10% - DUKES 5.4.

I note that the efficiency figures are based on gross calorific value basis, which I believe assumes that all the products of combustion are returned to their starting temperature - particularly important when burning natural gas and recuperating the latent heat in the water vapour of the flue gases.

DUKES 5.6 gives a better idea of the actual efficiency of the plants,
i.e. energy supplied to grid/fuel input

it accounts for the the fuel used in running the internal operations in the plant.

Power stations are not always run at peak efficiency - as their daily duty cycle is dictated by the demand for power and the spot price of electricity.

In a typical day, the UK demand fluctuates by as much as 20GW between minimum and maximum demand. This means that power station operators have to modulate the power output of their stations to match the demand. Varying the output of a thermal plant to meet the prevailing demand conditions has a negative effect on the efficiency of the plant.

This is analagous to driving at constant speed, compared to accelerating and braking to meet traffic conditions - the latter is alway costlier on fuel.

We should also consider the transmission and transformation losses of the National grid system, and the power consumed internally by the power station. Transmission losses, across the whole grid, from the power station to the plug, have averaged about 7% to 8% of generated output.

Agreed that power station efficiency is increasing slowly, and with higher steam temperatures and pressures, some combined cycle plants are creeping towards 50% efficiency.

Integrated coal gasification with combined cycle will also offer a means to get better thermal efficiency from coal fired plants- allowing the continued usage of low grade fuels, and an opportunity to remove the CO2 from the gas stream, allowing a possible route to CO2 capture and sequestration.

Whether these more efficient plants will be built, will be dictated by the cost of fuel compared to the added capital expenditure and complexity in these advanced coal plants. Remember we are a nation that in the 1990s built the cheapest plants that burned the cheapest fuel in the dash for gas.

That 12.5p/kWh for electricity and 3.5p/kWh for natural gas: Is that in heating equivalents? Is the electricity really almost 4 times more expensive for the same number of BTUs?

If that is the case then ground sink heat pumps would provide little to no cost benefit in Britain owing to the high cost of electricity.

That electricity cost is really high by American standards btw. Given 0.5662 dollars per pound at the time of this writing that means converted to US dollars that's 22.07 cents per kwh. Wow. The only US state where electricity costs more than that is Hawaii at 29.66 cents/kwh as compared to Wyoming at 7.58/kwh. The rest of the states are at that link. Mind you, those costs on that page are lagging costs. We are getting hit by big rate increases. But we'll still remain below Britain's electricity costs.

Of course, current exchange rates might not reflect purchasing power parity as measured by a basket of goods. So the differences between US and British electricity rates might be exaggerated by current exchange rates.

The cost difference is about right, since in the UK we tend to use highly efficient gas boilers.
For the electricity you have to burn it at the station then transport it.
Heat pumps at the moment will only pay for the 5 million or so homes which cannot connect to the gas network.

Gas shortages in the future and increased costs are likely to mean that electricity is more competitive, although not if we go for vastly expensive off-shore wind.

Prices are set somewhat retrospectively, and we have stonking rises in the pipeline, which will take out any benefit from the pound falling against the dollar.

The US has far superior energy resources to anywhere in Europe.

In the past the percentage of people's income spent on energy has been much higher. Since in the UK we have a lack of forward planning with depleting gas and old nuclear plants being retired the percentage will again increase. At some stage there will be no regular suplies of gas available, so we will have to use electricity.

Although I'm in France, I used oil central heating the first year to heat the house, the next year I used electric and the third year I used wood. So I believe people will follow a similar path, although wood is not a choice in the UK.

My belief has been that the Financial crisis will remove options for dealing with the Energy crisis. Likewise, the Energy crisis will then remove options for tackling the Climate crisis. Unbridled, the three crises will cause abject chaos which will be near impossible to navigate through.

As people in the UK rush to cheaper alternatives, the alternatives will themselves come under pressure and fail to deliver. For example, a gas crisis in the winter could easily lead people to switch to electricity as an alternative only to swamp the reduced electricity supply causing failure; which would take down the refineries and petrol stations; which would take down transport; which would leave food shelves empty; which would leave people without heat, water or food or the means to get any. Whereas this doesn't take into consideration the many points in the system where mitigation can be applied and so is unlikely to happen, it does show how sudden changes in usage could lead to larger than expected problems if unchecked.

For example, a gas crisis in the winter could easily lead people to switch to electricity as an alternative only to swamp the reduced electricity supply causing failure

Or more likely, in a gas crisis (that would be the combination of extreme cold weather + underground storage failure) the government will intervene to interrupt supplies to heavy industry in the peak hours. Something that has happened occasionally in the past.

Looking at the chart, restriciting gas to industries that can actually reduce use without going out of business will have only a small effect and can only be a VERY temporary fix.

Gas is primarily a domestic problem, like oil use is primarily a transport problem.

The problem with domestic gas use is that it is largely automatic - houses, hot water, cookers, etc are mostly thermostatically (often electrically) controlled and users have no idea how much they are using until their meters are read, maybe months later.

In a gas supply shortage unfortunately you can't cut the supply of gas to domestic pipes, so, in my opinion, we will have to have rolling ELECTRICTY cuts for gas reasons as well as nuclear (and as well as an inabilty to import all the other inputs necessary for adequate electricty.)

Expect electricity to become expensive and intermittent (not due to lack of wind!)

In a gas supply shortage unfortunately you can't cut the supply of gas to domestic pipes, so, in my opinion, we will have to have rolling ELECTRICTY cuts for gas reasons as well as nuclear (and as well as an inabilty to import all the other inputs necessary for adequate electricty.)

Yes, I think you're right to say gas in an electricity problem rather than a gas problem. However, when it's cold, pretty much all the daily gas supply is already away from power generations and allocated to domestic use. At the limit, when domestic gas demand is very high, there isn't much of an electricity margin available.

This chart is from Ofgem, or National Grid, I forget. It shows the fuel used for generation at half hour intervals through a cold day. Gas is a small proportion, much lower than its annual contribution.

Chris, I don't think I follow your reasoning here. Your chart shows that at certain peak times of day the gas enables about 10 percent or more of electricity generation. You say gas is a small proportion. But surely an unavailability of that 10 percent could be the camel that breaks a lot of electrified backs?

And the fact that the domestic demand is soaking up most of the available supply suggests that there may be a concurrent domestic gas supply crisis to add to the interestingness of the times.

Yeah, it's still a shortage. I guess my point was that while the UK gets some 40% of electricity from gas over the year, on the day when the gas is tight there isn't nearly as much electricity generated from gas as one might think. A large amount of gas is already shifted from electricity to domestic in business as usual behaviour.

Actually that chart now gets me wondering what spare headroom capacity there is above that notional cold day. That would be capacity in terms of both generator capacity and of gas supply rate.

It looks like the lowest bands (nuke etc) are already at full power anyway, and any extra would have to be supplied by the top bands. Not clear whether pumped storage or liquids aren't already at their max. Otherwise it looks like the lights staying on is dependent entirely on the marginal gas capacity (plus None of those other things having an outage). If anyone knows how to find this info, I'd be most grateful for the answer. (The council say they have a plan for outages of our tower blocks but havent exactly burst forth with the slightest details beyond the hint that they think it's ok if the lifts don't work for a few hours.)

The BERR website would be the place to start - I had a quick prowl round but did not spot the info you are asking for, you may have better luck:

I believe in general terms though that supply interruptions aside, our 12 days storage means that we should be OK if we had a cold snap for a week or so, but if there was a second one then we start hitting trouble.

In a cold, still period obviously very little power comes from wind.

In addition, the nuclear fleet is very old, and although they try to schedule maintenance for slack demand in the summer, any unexpected outage in a cold winter would be disastrous.

We should be OK in a mild or warm winter, but the grid would be likely to go down or rolling blackouts would be needed in anything worse.

We don't need a 'perfect storm' to be in severe trouble.

Thanks - it looks like there may be useful info via this page below, but I'm at this moment falling to sleep (with nightmares of creeping around in a blackout):
--update: -- not found any enlightenment therein.

Isn't Britain going to need to become dependent on Russian natural gas as North Sea gas production declines? Won't natural gas prices go higher? How can Russia increase gas production? Does it have formations like America's shales that haven't been tapped yet?

Excess demand is controllable with higher prices if the political forces allow the economic forces to operate.

Wood heating: Given the dense population of France I do not see that as a viable long term option. We've already seen a big run-up in wood prices in New England. Europe has fewer trees per person than the US. So the price run-up will be worse in France.

In general, electric heating is the poor person's choice : cheap for the landlord, expensive for the tenant. The homeowner unable to raise the capital to replace their central heating, as you point out; but even a fill of fuel oil or gas tank looks like a capital investment at current prices. Resorting to electric heating may also be the last resort of the penniless, before the electricity gets cut off.

So, in all, financial crisis will probably put extra strain on the grid...

Local currencies have a number of issues, some of which are:

They rarely have any force of law, e.g. laws are set up to only allow the government's currency (coin of the realm) to be valid for enforcement of contracts. You can't settle a tax bill or buy something that has a large tax element like petrol with local ccy so you still need to earn official money.

They have only local acceptance, but of course if in the future we are only going to be in our local community this is less of an issue.

They less secure from fraud, i.e. easier to copy, but less of a problem if you know the person giving you the money.

laws are set up to only allow the government's currency (coin of the realm) to be valid for enforcement of contracts.

You sure about this? Surely you could have a legal contract for exchanging just about anything, such as five of my gold widgets for seventy of your organically-grown brain cells or whatever.

We could contract for any sort of swap but I only have two brain cells, one of which I am curently loaning out to several people and provided they don't actualy demand it at the same time should be OK (just like banking:-). The problem would come if i failed to deliver the 70 cells to you and you wanted to enforce the contract, I would offer to settle with some useless money and you would have to settle for that in exchange for your five gold widgets.

Fiat money refers to money that is given value by government fiat (Latin for "let it be done"), enforcing legal tender laws, whereby debtors are legally relieved of the debt if they (offer to) pay it off in the government's money. By law the refusal of "legal tender" money in favour of some other form of payment is illegal, and has at times in history (Rome under Diocletian, and post-revolutionary France) invoked the death penalty.

In the US under the Legal Tender Act of 1933, all American coin and paper money in circulation is now legal tender, i.e., under the law it must be accepted at face value by creditors in payment of ANY debt, public or private.

Looking at a dollar bills they say "this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private". On Pound notes it says "i promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of (five,ten...) pounds".

Regarding the government not providing any additional fuel relief this winter it is my understanding that they will try to increase the amount of money available for improving the insulation. IMHO this is a better use of the money since it will have positive effects for many years in reducing bills, CO2 and demand. I think there is some arm wrestling going on with the energy companies being asked to help otherwise the government will be unable to resist calls for a windfall tax....

"exchanging the duff securities the banks give them for bonds."
Indeed, the banks have been working hard to package up these duff securities in order to make them eligible for transmutation. Similar story with the ECB. Even with the haircuts being applied by central banks it is clearly still very attractive for the banks to transmute their crap to government backed replacements.

Insulation is a better use of money, but then you have a postcode lottery.

Only newer cavity wall houses can be insulated well. If you have a dormer attic conversion on a solid wall end terrace house, you are royally stuffed - there is almost nowhere to insulate. Will they cough up towards double glazing??

It can be done but it is difficult, expensive and inconvenient, and would involve putting on another skin either outside, which is expensive, or inside, which restricts space.

Aero-gel insulation would be ideal, but at around $5sq ft, it is far too expensive at the moment to cover large areas.

Often simple draft prevention is the biggest step you can take.

The Government is skimming the takings from the renewables surcharge, as high gas prices mean that wind is not so much more expensive as was budgeted:

That £1bn they Government are misappropriating at £300 per house for basic insulation would enable the 3 million households in the lowest insulation band G to be improved in just a year, and another 3 years of it could substantially improve the 9 million households in band F.

If the £1bn that has just be3en frittered away on hopeless measures to sway the housing market and keep Brown in his job was also used, then in two years great improvements could be made.

Governments ought to make their wind and solar power subsidies be in the form of minimum price guarantees rather than absolute subsidy amounts paid to producers per kwh produced. The US has a tax credit that is in pennies per kwh. This becomes dumb when natural gas and coal start going up in price and the coal electric and gas electric become much more expensive.

Just a note that the decision of the government not to provide any additional fuel relief this winter must mean that they realise that they have no money at all for anything, as it is political suicide.

Political suicide maybe but I hope most of us here realise that the government are right not to give cash subsidies, masking market signals, in times of scarcity.

Presumably you are aware that:

The price of supply currently is much higher for low users than for people who use more fuel - this penalises both the poor and anyone who attempts to conserve.

If you use a key meter rather than a direct debit - ie you are poor you are charged a stonking premium.

Market signals be buggered, just let the poor and old die.

What in the world are you talking about?

For sure the system is currently 'broken' in that the poor pay more as you describe. This is true of most things people buy. This is different to the government handing out cash in the winter when the price of fuel increases. Two wrongs don't make a right. It's just as daft as taking oil major's profits and subsidising the retail price of petrol.

I would have thought that any rational plan would involve:
1} making sure no-one froze to death this winter
2) finally getting around to ensure that the system is not loaded against the low user, and that supply companies are rewarded for providing power to the system , not according to how much power they have pumped out - see California for an example of innovative charging systems.

Are you trying to justify a system which charges a higher rate to the people who use the least, so that if you install a heat pump, for instance, you will be paying more per kilowatt, or a system which means that a single mother, who pays with a key , pays far more per kilowatt than a middle-class family with a much large house, who have a substantial discount because they are heavy users and have a credit rating which allows a bank account?

Insulation is also much lower in rented accomodation - landlords have little incentive to install, the poorest pay the bills.

Are you trying to justify a system which charges a higher rate to the people who use the least...

Of course not, which is why I said "For sure the system is currently 'broken' in that the poor pay more as you describe." in the previous comment. :)

I would have thought that any rational plan would involve:
1} making sure no-one froze to death this winter
2) finally getting around to ensure that the system is not loaded against the low user,

Gee Dave, I have to admire your socialist values. But in the real world quite a lot of (to be sure, not very nice*) peoples' rational plans aim for as many as possible poor/etc people freezing to death this winter. And biasing the system against poor people would be just fine for that line of rationality.

(* I'd reckon that District Judge Ms Truman who tried to snuff out my life with 35 cheap lies, chance probability 1 in 3.4 billion, likely comes into that class of persons. She's still being paid to pervert the course of justice against other victims; so much for the uk "justice" system.)


Revealed: Brown's £1bn power windfall
Ministers urged to share hidden profits made through green energy scheme
But after the Guardian revealed details of the government's own sizable profits through energy sales last night, there were calls for the windfall sums to be used to reduce householders' energy bills. ...

It would make more sense for governments to pay for insulation than to subsidize paying of heating bills.

Does anyone know where I could find one of these for Ireland?

Indeed, yes please. Any pointers would be most useful. From my understanding Ireland is even more at the end of the supply chain than is the UK.

Thank you ! An excellent graphic. The change in just this decade is very scary. The UK is in big trouble - it has squandered the benefits of the North Sea AND the financial sector "profits" to expand the welfare state. Now remind me - what will the UK produce in the next decade, that will allow BAU ? 1997 thru 2007 has been debt-induced madness !

Hey, is there any similar graphic for the USA ?

For similar graphics for the USA look at They are getting a bit old (6 years). Also includes things like water.

I don't know what the trend is overall but local to me I am seeing more people using ground heat source pumps. This will increase winter electricity demand (admittedly reducing heating oil & gas requirements). Assuming the grid holds up it's good news.

Deceptive graph! Why show losses for electric power generation and not transportation? The heat losses from the internal combustion engine in most transport is 70-80%.

True, Engineer's post upthread with the link to the Lawrence Lab's U.S. energy flow chart shows energy losses for all sectors. The U.K. chart should be changed to show that, too.

Huh? The chart does show the losses to create the feeds of electricity, fuel oil and gas, how efficiently all of those energy streams are then used is unclear - none of them are shown.

In reality all the feeds disappearing from the right hand side end up as heat hopefully having done something useful on the way!

For example : If you are trying to create light few things are more inefficient that an incandecent lamp.

For example : If you are trying to create light few things are more inefficient that an incandecent lamp.

Yes and if you are trying to create heat there are better ways of using electricity than the incandescent lamp.

But if you are trying to do both at the same time what is better?

if you are trying to do both at the same time what is better?

Yes, I totally agree, that is why replacing all the light bulbs with 'low energy' lamps and banning incandescents in the UK is on the face of it bizarre.

On the face of it, it's a total polluting blind alley with high cost,high embedded energy, poor light output in the required directions, complexity, dangerous mercury, dangerous UV, complex electronics etc etc with no net-energy savings for some years to come.

In the Uk we need heat at the same time as the light, so the reasons for having low energy lights must be because the Government thinks we won't have enough low carbon electricity to run the current lights plus some of the heat, and looking at the data I agree with them!

So, the (deliberately?) mis-named 'low energy' lamps are not for saving overall energy. In the short run at least, it's to meet some arbitrary CO2 emissions target related to electricity? - not the reason most people think for all the expense.

Perhaps banning plastic bags will save us instead?

It depends on the boundaries of the problem. It is possible to estimate losses for electric appliances and transport and it is a crucial part of the problem. Arguably something that will have the biggest impact.

Regardless, I think you at least need to show the losses in the refining process. It is not 100% efficient.


Thanks for posting this chart.

I looked at the BERR energy figures a while ago, and what struck me most was that compared to 1970, a huge amount of primary energy now goes directly into transport.

DUKES 1.1.5

Interestingly from the spreadsheet, the increase in energy for the transport sector since 1970, (30 MTOE) represents exactly the decrease in energy used in industry.

Industry's use has decreased from 62.3MTOE in 1970 to 31.7MTOE in 2007

Transport's use has increased from 28.2 MTOE in 1970 to 59.8 MTOE in 2007

From this it could be deduced that the UK has stopped manufacturing and is now dissipating all of that energy in transporting goods and people by road, rail, air and sea.


Thank you for posting this. Regarding the Dutch version, is there a high quality PDF of this available? The graphic on the web site to which the URL points is low resolution.

Regarding Russian gas/gas liquids. These are central to the energy future of the EU, unless this union moves away (quickly) from fossil fuels.

Follow the link to the bottom right of that Dutch page.

Thank you for posting this chart.

Recently UK NG prices seems to have spiked, ref diagram below lifted from National Grid, and the same seems to be the case for 3 and 6 months future contracts.

Are these effects from maintenance or fundamentals or combinations of these?
For US readers UK NG is presently trading at approx. US$ 14-15/Mcf day ahead at NBP (Heren), compared to approximately US$ 7,50/Mcf at Henry Hub.

Norwegian gas pipe may be shut all winter
That's the first spike, temporary retreat when details were hazy, and a further rally when the extent of the damage was published. Spec money was largely short (same as US natgas), having driven down prices earlier so the result of this news was complete carnage, stops blown all over the place. Sharks, blood, etc.

This might sound really bad but most of the relatively risk-averse utilities are not too hurt by this - their storages are full by now and nearly all of their winter volume already bought earlier.

Hi Folks,

Very interesting post. Lots of interesting comments. If I may add to this, here in the UK there is a very dangerous situation with regards the governance system - from policy and decision making to implementation. As most will realise the UK was and still is THE major neo-liberal/Washington consensus de-regulation experiment in the western world. This in my view was why Sarkozy recently stated how impressed he was with the (Brown) UK economy - not that it was a good economy, but that it was still such a hands off deregulated affair - and that it was continuing to be that way in the face of collapse.

Without getting too academic or technical, the basic system of governance in the UK boils down to one of reactionary as opposed to precautionary principles. Coupled with its UK PLC philosophy, we have business ditching what would have been one of the largest wind farms - the East London Array (Shell pulled out - now bought by E.on and Dong energy: ) This has delayed build by possibly five to ten years (originally given go ahead in 2006) due to current credit collapse. Instead, in a reactionary move, King coal has reseated himself upon the UK energy throne. There are seven new stations (and open caste pits to fuel them) that we know of. Already there are massive open cast workings in Wales with others soon to start in Derby and Yorkshire. (see: and Also, a proposed open caste 'pit' at Fairburn (you couldn't make that name up!) in Yorkshire, an SSSI and SEGI (nature reserve), which will produce a mere 1.2 million tonnes of coal, but when "1 million tonnes of coal will be consumed in just 14 days by Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggborough power stations working at full capacity, producing 3.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases" (from: begs the question of just how long will this 'new' energy policy last?

Despite arguments for clean coal, (the only trial of this technology being done is in the 'precautionary' governance zone of Germany see: it is still very much an unproven and expensive technology. But some would argue that there is a coal gasification plant being built in the UK - yet it still requires the stuff to be dug up and uses as yet commercially unproven technology (see: Its at Stainfroth in Doncaster (see: Hopefully the technology will work and develop into a useable system - but that takes both money and skills both of which are short on the ground - see the needs for re-skilling in Independent article.

As for the local media's take on it:
"By supporting Kingsnorth and other cleaner-coal plants, we can balance our energy portfolio, develop a unique skills base, help gets bills down and shiver a little less when Vladimir Putin decides to rattle his sabre in the future." (From: Yorkshire Post:

The panicked response, mixed with half truths, tradition and ignorance is what has typified government in the UK for many generations. Instead of a reasoned and rational debate as to what is actually sustainable, (i.e: a much larger mix of renewables from sensible sources in sensible places - of which the UK has masses of - windiest place in EU + large coastal/tidal potential, with careful use of remaining fossil reserves) we have the typical reactionary stance of short term quick profit BAU and ransack the environment.

The Dad's Army comedy show pretty well sums it up, with one particular phrase: "We're doomed, we're all doomed!"


Your remarks on clean coal are absolutely correct.
However anyone who thinks that crowded, northerly Britain can be powered entirely by renewables is profoundly mistaken in my view:
Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air (

The UK's sums can't be made to add up anyway, however many coal stations etc we build. MacKay doesnt even tackle food in his summary. I anticipate a spectacular "demand destruction" in the next few years which will ~solve the problem~ so-to-speak. The only questions are when and how.

Robin, in my view there is exactly one way to provide the power Britain needs over the medium term.
Everything like ocean currents, geothermal, underground coal gasification etc need around 20-30 years to develop, and even combined heat and power has a similar time frame as our cities were not designed with that in mind, and we build at lower density than places like Holland.

That resource is, of course, nuclear.
Deaths from hypothermia alone are likely to greatly exceed any reasonable theoretical risk considerations.

the real problem is that there is now no way to build them in time, and our beloved leaders display little sense of urgency - they intend to go through a full, British certification process, even thoughy they will have to train up their guys and we are talking about designs which have already been passed by countries such as France, Finland and Canada!
What do they imagine that they know that the people there don't?

On the plus side, many build delays, especially as experience is gained in the new designs, are regulatory rather than technical, especially if you have the expertise of EDF or Toshiba to use. After power cuts really hit, then many regulatory obstacles are likely to be by-passed, and I would guess that the protests will loose any effective political support.
In any case, the protests were probably only effective because fossil fuels were cheap, and no-one was terribly interested in building more expensive nuclear.
Build times might drop to around 4 years, but there is no getting around that there will be a massive gap.

We can only do our best to fill it by conservation, which actually has huge potential.

Another palliative which might be tried would be to pay the French (I know, what with?) to build more power stations on the channel coast exclusively for British power - they already have a 2GW connection.

A the end of the day, we probably only need around the same number of nuclear reactors as the French built in 17 years, but of more powerful, modern design.
Combined with air source heat pumps, for space heating which uses a lot of the power draw, the output can be multiplied effectively by 2.5 - 4 times.

Complete incompetence has opened up a huge gap in our power supplies though, and it is possible we may waste still more time in some fantastic search for a renewable only future, where the figures do not work at all, and the assumptions of technical advancement are huge - there is no time to see if they pan out, and in any case they could not do the job, and the cost would be huge.

There can be some contribution from on-shore wind etc, but the whole thing is essentially a side-show.

Dave, a heroic attempt at a reply there! May I roughly summarise it as "there is just one practical solution which also isn't practical either"?

Let's accept for sake of argument your point about health risks. And about build time under social pressure. And we'll suppose there's a sufficiency of nuclear technicians magically produced.

I'm still imagining some daunting problems. Firstly, I think I recall someone estimating earlier on this site that the energy input into building nuclear stations takes some years to be cancelled out by output - so the stations would effectively be energy sinks rather than sources for some crucial years. Secondly, a similar cashflow problem arises in terms of plain old simple money.

And that's not even confronting the new question of costly/unreliable security against terrorism, not least planes being targetted at them.

In summary, we perhaps can't afford either the cash or the spare energy to invest in building the nuclears, and so we are back at the conclusion that the Wasteminster regime has no way of making the sums add up?

We have a hell of a gap opening in our energy supplies, that is for sure, whatever we do.

With a bit more humility we could realise that for training and building them we need to turn to the French, and accelerate the process to some degree.

As for the difficulties, a lot of those were looked at in the context of cheap and plentiful fossil fuel supplies.
Peak oil, global warming and no energy has the potential to kill people in the billions, so any risk from nuclear must be tiny in comparison.

As for mitigation strategies to the specific issues you mention, the energy return on building a nuclear plant is in fact rather favourable, and no worse than any of the alternatives, certainly including the very materials intensive renewables, so unless we decided not to build any, it is a cost which has to be borne.
Much of it is in any case in the form of coal to provide electricity to process materials etc, not in the much more problematic form of oil.
In that context it should be noted that any program to build off shore wind platforms would not only provide relatively limited and unreliable power at vast cost, but would commit to the use of a great deal of fuel, not only in their construction but to fuel the vessels to supply and maintain them.

The money cost is high, but compared to what? It is a fraction of the cost of renewables, which in any case can't provide power in the quantities required, we can't get natural gas reliably and coal will not only require new pits if they can be built economically and with acceptable EROI, which is by no means clear, but would contribute huge amounts of CO2 as sequestration is an entirely unproven, expensive technology.

Briefly, the issue of security against terrorism has been dealt with elsewhere, and against planes is fairly straightforward, an earth berm would do it, as you could not get the right angle otherwise.
The central building is also one of the strongest structures on earth, as against a natural gas tanker which could easily be taken out with a missile taking out a city.

It is also reassuring to note that a whole country, France, actually generates around 80% of it's electricity from nuclear energy, has had no casualties and has some of the lowest rates in Europe, in spite of all of the supposedly insuperable difficulties of nuclear power.

Actually, though, we are pretty much past the stage when all these fairly theoretical objections are going to have any weight, as the issue is becoming substantially one of building nuclear power stations or not having enough power to keep 60 million of us alive.
Of course we should have started 15 years ago, which would have saved many lives, but even though it is going to be very difficult to provide the power now we have to get on with it.

Some on-shore wind can help, and biogas from refuse tips etc at the margin, but if folks are interested in surviving then we had better build power stations as quickly as we can - any fancies that this level of population could be kept alive in this climate in some sort of green paradise are utterly unrealistic, and until fully costed proposals are available using current engineering are provided should be completely ignored, as they are in no way serious.

We won't have all the energy we need, not for many years, but just one station would provide far, far more power than all the wind turbines currently built.


It appears that a planning application has been granted permission for a 900MW ICG CCGT plant at Stainforth/Hadfield Power Park.

Planning Application 2008 (pdf)

Despite the recent controversy over the proposed new power station at Kingsnorth, the UK really needs to urgently address the impending shortfall of generating capacity, and do something to plug the gap.

A secure electricity supply is essential for all aspects of modern life, and coal gasification is one way in which we can make use of a lower grade fuel, and keep CO2 emissions under control.

Unlike oil, coal is widely available from friendly nations such as Australia, South Africa, USA, Indonesia and Poland, as well as there being opportunities to revitalise our own indigenous coal production.

Even Russia has an excess of coal to export.

Coal gasification also yields a range of useful by-products such as ammonia compounds for fertilisers and elemental sulphur for the chemical industry.

We should not write coal off as being the dirtiest fuel on the planet. It is an immensely valuable resource and with gasification technology and high efficiency IG CCGT could be given a much needed position of status in our generation mix.


Hi 2020,

I agree, sensible use of coal is not as big a problem as having no power and a starving/freezing populace. My admittedly somewhat confusing post was trying to highlight the problem of governance - or lack of. As Davids comment below on the Danish approach amply verifies, these problems are not at all insurmountable. But leaving them to a 'reactionary' market force coupled to a nee-jerk government is asking for disaster.

CHP offers a real gap filler - plants can be built quickly using 'multi-fuel' technologies, and if built in towns and cities could heat the commercial sectors (one of the least efficient - think tin sheds and open shop doors with heaters above them). This coupled with the increases in thermal efficiencies - massive insulation programs could mitigate the crisis. But again this calls for good governance - not the black jack table that currently passes for democracy on this country.

As for nuclear, my understanding is that unless one uses 'fast breeder' reactors to produce the plutonium isotope (excellent fissile material for bombs apparently and the reason d'etre of the first nuclear power plants), one has to effectively burn uranium 235, which is only available as a small percentage - 0.72 of U238 and has to be enriched up to 8% for fission to occur (see: I note that there are no figures for uranium imports in the Berr diagram. Also Uranium if I recall is on a depletion curve that makes oil look like it will last forever! (see: Brings a whole new meaning to the term depleted uranium...

Hey ho...


There is a prospective shortage of nuclear fuel providing one does not do any of the following:

Look for more - unlike for oil, where enormous amounts of money spent on exploration has found ever decreasing amounts, for uranium relatively tiny exploration budgets (no one bothered looking for years, as the fuel was so cheap) resulted in very large new resources being discovered - which is what you would expect for a resource which is nowhere near peak.

Re-process the fuel we have - in Britain alone a substantial number of reactors could be run for many years just be reprocessing waste.
Again, we did not do this as uranium was so cheap.

Burn the fuel more efficiently - many designs for both incremental and radical improvements in fuel efficiency are available, the molten salt reactor, for instance, which was prototyped in the Stated in the 60's, was killed, basically because it was useless for producing weapons grade materials and the fuel did not need expensive processes to turn it into fuel rods, which is a makor profit centre.
For many years Russia has run a fast breeder reactor prototype, and they are building a much bigger one.
Only some of the reactors would need to be of this type, and some designs could also burn most of the wastes everyone is worried about, and reduce the time for which the remainder would be dangerous from many thousands of years to a few hundred.

Move to lower grade ores - the energy density of uranium is so huge that, unlike coal, very large rates of EROI can be obtained at very low grades, and the raw uranium costs a tiny fraction of the costs of building and running a reactor, so prices could rise by a factor of 100 and it would still be a reasonable proportion of costs.
Obtain uranium form sea-water - this has been successfully prototypes, but again has not been pursued as the uranium costs too little at the moment.

Use thorium- it is 4 times as common as uranium, and can be burnt perfectly well in CANDU reactors - the Indians are building their own thorium burning design.

Uranium is in 'short' supply, in the same sense that oil was when the early surface wells where you just had to stick a pipe in the ground became less common, and they had to get a wee bit more sophisticated, in about 1880 or so.

Remaining reserves can supply energy equivalent to thousands or millions of times that which we have used so far.

In any case, in the UK with our dire energy situation just re-processing the waste we have to hand would run about 10 reactors for 60 years, so these long term theoretical concerns only serve to delay us doing something practical to keep the lights on.
We really can't afford to fool around with high-flown theories now- France runs perfectly well on nuclear electric, and we could be doing the same - a lot of people are likely to die because we have not got on with it.

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the info - very enlightening. A sensible and rational debate and research program would no doubt uncover all sorts of sustainable solutions. But the problem of lack of debate about just this sort of thing is still the real issue - with our reactionary governance system I don't hold out any hopes of the huge potential of these technologies gaining ground anywhere near quick enough. Unfortunately, too many heads are stuck in the old paradigm of digging/pumping up the black stuff and burning that instead, with the view that nukes are only for making weapons.

I've sourced some interesting articles that back up the 'sensible' nuclear power route:

Uranium: Infinite supply vs. 50 years:

The Thorium potential + drawbacks:

And all about the CANDU energy system:'ve sourced some interesting articles that back up the 'sensible' nuclear power route:

Uranium: Infinite supply vs. 50 years:

The Thorium potential + drawbacks:

And all about the CANDU energy system:

And this one:


"...Unlike oil, coal is widely available from friendly nations such as Australia, South Africa, USA, Indonesia and Poland, as well as there being opportunities to revitalise our own indigenous coal production.Even Russia has an excess of coal to export..."

I think that coal will soon be in short supply, recently Russia has moved to curb exports and China is becoming an importer. Also i would guess that our own supplies are fairly limited, after all we have been mining coal for many years and the mines were not shut down because they could produce coal cheaply but because the cost of production was high, i.e. difficult to produce. Only about one third is supplied by our own indigenous coal producers.

Best hopes for a mild winter.

Arguably the most striking points on the UK's Sankey diagram are:

* The largest single energy flow is oil directly used (after refining) for transport;
* Looking at the next two largest energy flows, the heat rejected from power stations exceeds the gas consumed to heat buildings.

In countries with a more far-sighted energy policy, such as Denmark, the heat rejected from power stations is used to heat buildings. 65% of Denmark is already connected to heat mains and the potential is thought to be 80-85%. Advantages of the UK doing likewise would include these:

* Total gas consumption falls by over 50%;
* CO2 emissions per kWh of low-grade heat fall by about 85% relative to gas heating (or by 95% relative to electric heating);
* Gas CHP plants form an interruptible load - backup fuel can be stored at the CHP plant (not an option for indvidual gas consumers);
* Heat mains can utilise any source of low-grade heat, be it geothermal wells (Southampton, also Paris), large fields of solar collectors and seasonal heat stores (Denmark), biomass CHP plant or industrial waste heat (Gothenburg).