The coming UK energy meltdown

This is a guest post by Hugh Sharman, an Engineer by trade and editor of the UK focussed energy blog DimWatt. The post appeared earlier on the highly informative web site European Energy Review.

The UK desperately needs a new energy strategy based on a realistic assessment of its assets, its needs and the options available to it. Unfortunately, its freedom for technical and financial manoevre is deeply restricted by its self-imposed Climate Change Act and its commitment to the EU's 20-20-20 targets. Its technically illiterate, if financially canny politicians and civil service do not appear to understand that the world’s financiers are not likely to place the required £200 billion of long-term investment into their vision of a "low carbon" infrastructure while this concept remains so woolly and badly defined. If the UK government continues on this course, it will lead the country toward certain energy failure.

After hundreds of years of imperial and industrial power, the UK has suddenly become more or less powerless as a world player. With its North Sea resources fast depleting just when the world’s upstream energy producers of oil, coal and gas are struggling to meet rising global demand, saddled with a public debt of £ 1 trillion, and a massive trade deficit, its leading role as an innovative, world-class centre of scientific and manufacturing know-how being ceded to Germany, Japan and now China, it is ill prepared to become a net energy importer. Yet energy import dependence is what the country is rapidly headed for.

Figure 1

As the dramatic chart of Oil Drum editor Euan Mearns illustrates, the UK has run through most of its hydrocarbon inheritance within the lifetime of anyone over fifty years old today. This means that the country will be faced with an entirely new situation. In one way or another, Britain has been energy self-sufficient for most of the last five hundred years. The destruction of its forests for ship building and fuel, prior to the industrial revolution, came to an end with the invention of the steam engine and the exploitation of coal, which energized the industrial revolution. The empire-builders of the 19th century ensured secure commodity supplies, including hydrocarbons, by planting the Union Jack on an unprecedented fraction of the World’s land surface. Two of the world’s top oil companies are still domiciled in the UK (Shell partly).

Britain’s luck held out even as its Empire was dismembered during the period from 1947 to 1970. By then, the technology of finding and producing oil and gas in stormy, exposed seas enabled the country to replace oil and gas imports from its colonies and protectorates, with supplies from reservoirs under the North Sea. Very briefly, around the turn of the last century at a period of unprecedented low energy prices, Britain once more became a net energy exporter.

Hundreds of years of energy independence and trading experience appear to have instilled much unrealistic optimism among policymakers over the sharply changed circumstances in which the UK now finds itself. The country’s energy and economic policy relies on assumptions that are completely unrealistic in today’s multi-polar world.

The “central” fossil energy price projections for 2010 prepared by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are summarized below.

Figure 2

For readers who prefer to think in traditional market trading units, the conversion factors for these are shown below.


To convert from $/GJ
Oil to Dollars per barrel multiply by 5.7
Gas NBP to pence per therm, multiply by 6.7
Coal ARA to $ per tonne, multiply by 25.0 


The central planning scenario with which the new Coalition Government started out in May 2010, was for oil to rise from $70 to $85 per barrel by 2025. It assumed that the price of gas would rise from 58 to 71 p per therm in 2025. And that coal would actually get cheaper over the next 15 years, falling to $80/t.

Just one year later, a snapshot of the present (June 2011) shows Brent oil comfortably over $100/b, gas pushing 70 p/therm this coming winter and coal already 50% more expensive than the government’s assumption for 2025!

Similar, unrealistic assumptions are used by the Bank of England, the newly formed Office for Budget Responsibility and the UK Treasury, as key inputs for their economic models, forecasting inflation and economic growth. Even the “high, high” assumption for the oil price in 2010 is just $103 per barrel. Can it be any wonder that the Bank of England seems unable to forecast, let alone affect, inflation by playing around with interest rates?

No one can claim that the current high energy prices could not have been foreseen. A small, vociferous if disunited group of energy experts all over the world, generally and often patronizingly disparaged as “peak oilers”, have for years been warning, from irrefutable data, that growing demand could not endlessly and affordably be met by supply. But a little common sense would have led to the same conclusion.

Despite continuously rising oil prices since 2001 and huge global investments in upstream hydrocarbon extractive capacity, global liquid extraction rates have remained more or less the same since 2004. Briefly, during the summer of 2008, just prior to the financial melt-down, total hydrocarbon liquid demand could not be met by supply at 88 million barrels of oil per day and the price of crude soared above $140/b. At this unaffordable and ruinous level, some demand destruction was inevitable. The global economy today has still not recovered from the toxic consequences of high commodity prices and banker-fueled indebtedness from this period.

Serially wrong

The UK’s ostrich-like reluctance to see the world as it is, rather than how it wishes the world to be, is shared by many of today’s energy-importing members of the OECD, gathered under the auspices of the International Energy Agency. The IEA was set up by the OECD in the wake of the 1973 oil supply crisis. Its primary duty has been to advise its client governments about oil supply and to coordinate oil stocks in the event of supply disruptions. However, the IEA’s own record of energy demand, supply and price forecasting has been dismal, especially in recent years.

It has been consistently optimistic - and serially wrong - both as regards the availability and price of crude oil (as well as gas and coal). The following is a table from its flagship annual energy report, the World Energy Outlook (WEO), of 2000.

Figure 3

Four years later, in its WEO 2004, the IEA confidently forecasted that by 2030 global demand for hydrocarbon liquids would be 123 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) and that this would be delivered in 2030 at an expected price of $55 per barrel (in 2004 dollars).

In a welcome break from this record, WEO 2009 was based on a fundamental reassessment of its data base. Instead of accepting third-party, for example OPEC, assertions at face value, it examined the real data of over 800 of the world’s largest oil fields during 2009. In the light of this, it saw fit to sharply reduce estimates for demand in 2030 to what it saw might possibly be supplied, namely just 106 million bpd.

Just one year later, this estimate was further reduced to less than 100 million bpd. The following presentation slide comes from the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010), published in November 2010.

Figure 4

The graphic shows how rapidly depletion is eroding today’s crude oil extractive capacity and how the IEA foresees such depleting capacity being replaced. In order to maintain liquids extraction into the future, at flow rates that will satisfy estimated demand growth, new oil fields must be found, developed and commissioned at the rate of about 2 million barrels of oil per day, per year until 2030 This is equivalent to discovering, developing and commissioning a new “North Sea” every year. Or in other words, simply to raise the rate of hydrocarbon extraction during the next nine years, the global upstream industry must develop the new productive capacity equivalent of two “Saudi Arabia’s”, more or less from scratch.

This is unlikely at best and probably impossible. It painfully demonstrates the extreme weakness of the assumptions on which OECD (and UK) energy policy is constructed.

The same optimism applies to the availability and price of coal. Until 2008, China, the world’s largest coal miner and consumer, burning around 3 billion tons per year (42% of world demand), was a net exporter of coal. In 2010, for the first time in history, it imported 130 million tons of coal from the global ship-borne market. In 2010, this amounted to approximately 700 million tons. China’s annual consumption of coal has been increasing at the rate of between 150 and 200 million tons.

A question that should be obsessing the minds of all coal importers right now is how much longer China (and India) can supply their incremental growth from this relatively small global pool of exported coal without causing an international coal-supply crisis? No wonder that the price of coal has recovered from 2009 lows of $60/t and has increased during the last ten years from roughly $30 per ton to $130 today FOB Newcastle (the one in Australia, of course!).

Figure 5

One “solution” for dealing with high priced coal is simply to restrict generation. Rolling blackouts on the east coast of China are already happening in the name of “controlling inflation”.

At this moment everyone who can invest in increasing global coal extractive capacity is piling into the market. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the world can develop new mining capacity fast enough to meet China’s foreseen demand, let alone the demand of traditional coal importers such as India, the UK and much of the rest of the EU.

Yet, the “central” price assumption of the UK for 2025 (no less) is just $80 per ton.

"Happy talk" about gas

All over the world, there is much “happy talk” about the wonders of shale gas and how the link between oil and gas prices will (finally) be broken by the abundance and low price of this new “wonder” fuel. The following chart maps the oil/gas price ratio from 1984 until 2009. The gas prices used in the calculation are the annual average of LNG CIF Japan and CIF gas into the EU.

Figure 6

Unfortunately, such “happy talk” is not justified by the facts. Firstly, many pure (dry) shale gas plays in the US are losing money at the low prices that cause such a high level of consumer optimism in the US. Because of this, shale gas drilling in the US has more or less halved since 2008 and new drilling this year is focused on areas where the gas comes up with lots of much more profitable, associated hydrocarbon liquids.

Given the looming energy shortages, it is of course important to look for and where feasible extract shale gas. This would be worth doing at almost any cost so as to reduce Europe’s increasing and potentially crippling reliance on large and near-monopolistic gas exporters like Russia, Qatar and Algeria. These suppliers have no rational interest in reducing the price of their gas and every reason to pursue and maintain their target of price parity with oil.

But Europe must remain clear-eyed. The shale gas technology is not cheap when all its external (in particular, environmental) costs are fully taken into account. So the future of shale gas as a world and UK source of primary energy must, for planning purposes, be regarded as marginal at best, until its full costs of extraction and use are better understood.

Any idea of a gas surplus is premature, to say the least. Note that the US remains a net importer of natural gas and is likely to be for many years to come. Also noteworthy, in the chart below, is how fast its truly cheap, conventional natural gas resource is depleting.

Figure 7

World-class basin

Over-optimism over the future availability and price of fossil fuels has characterized UK energy policy since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas. Optimism reached a peak under the Thatcher Government in the early 1980s which set the UK on the path of deregulating almost all activities concerned with energy production and use. An excellent paper by Oxford energy economist, Dieter Helm can be recommended for those interested in the history of “light touch” UK energy regulation during the years since.

Nevertheless, Thatcher’s government, made wary by the risk of further coal-mine strikes during the 1980s, at least did pursue the construction of another nuclear power plant at Sizewell on the south-east English coast that was commissioned in 1993. This was the last major power plant built in the UK that does not rely, more or less entirely, on burning natural gas.

The composition of the fuels used by the UK’s fleet of power plants has been revolutionized during the past 40 years, particularly by the arrival of “cheap” North Sea gas and its use in power generation from the early 1990s, as illustrated in the following chart.

Figure 8

Beside the massive reduction in coal use, note how rapidly the contribution from nuclear power has been diminishing of late.

The direct consequence of the UK’s hydrocarbon extraction policy, sometimes but inaccurately spun by politicians of all stripes as a positive contribution by the UK to CO2 reduction, is the loss of almost an entire, world-class hydrocarbon basin within the lifetime of a normal adult. The UK was never obliged to do this. Both the Netherlands and Norway have regulated the rate at which their oil and gas fields have been emptied more rigorously - and so will remain in the extraction business considerably longer, and will most likely obtain a higher extraction rate from their reservoirs than the UK.

Figure 9

Net hydrocarbon exports peaked at over 60 million tons per year in 2000, ironically at the bottom of the market. Since 2005, the UK has become a net hydrocarbon importer. Import dependency has grown by an average of 10 million tones of oil equivalent (toe) per year over the past decade, so by 2015, net imports are likely to be roughly the same as they were in 1970, around 100 million toe per year.

If the price of gas once more converges with the price of oil, the addition to the trade deficit, with oil at $750/t ($100/b) will be an additional $75 billion per year. If the oil price rises further, it is hard to see how the cost of the hydrocarbon trade deficit can possibly be covered by increased exports in goods and services.

The UK has become one of the largest gas consumers in the world. Only the US, Russia, Iran, China and Japan consume more gas. Most city-dwellers use gas for heating and the country’s electricity infrastructure has seen a huge increase in gas-fired power plants since 1990, now totaling 29 GW.

This is bad enough. Worse is to follow.

Doomed plants

By or before the 1st January, 2016, under a treaty with its EU partners, the UK will lose 8 GW (Gigawatt) of ancient, polluting and inefficient, if well-functioning coal capacity and 3 GW of 1980s era oil capacity that is routinely used to cover peak demand. These power stations must close because in 2008 their owners chose not to add flue gas desulfurization equipment that is demanded of all EU power plants that burn coal or sulfur-containing oil.

In addition, by 2018, the roughly 10 GW of nuclear power capacity that was available in 2010 will shrink through obsolescence to 3.6 GW with further closures taking place in 2023.

The financial crisis of 2007 – 2009 resulted in a relatively small overall reduction in energy use, much of it in manufacturing. By 2010, with a weak financial recovery taking hold, energy demand picked up more or less to normal while peak electricity demand during the third cold December in a row, returned to levels last seen during the boom years prior to 2007.

Figure 10 UK electricity supply in MW for the 6th and 7th December 2010. Peak demand is around 6 pm daily.

It can be seen from the foregoing chart and from many similar instances all over North Western Europe, that winter peak power often coincides with very large, slow-moving anti-cyclones that bring extreme cold weather and almost no wind, and therefore little or no wind power output.

Further south, similar events in summer coincide with peak air-conditioning loads.

The chart shows that all the “doomed” nuclear, oil and coal-fired plants played a major role in keeping the lights on during the winter of 2010 – 2011. Total “firm” generating capacity stands today at around 72 GW. Clearly, no matter how much wind power is built, if the wind does not blow during periods of peak power demand, its capacity is worth more or less nothing.

The loss of 11 GW of reliable capacity during the next four years, along with 3.4 GW nuclear, almost 15 GW in all, risks precipitating a real capacity (keeping the lights on) crisis by the middle of this decade.

In a “free market”, with such obvious signs of coming, extreme stress in the system, one would expect generators to be lining up to deliver the obviously needed new capacity. There are, indeed, an impressive number of planned power stations, nearly all of them gas-fired. The major generators claim to be ready to build new nuclear power and “clean coal” power plants to replace obsolete capacity. A bright new future beckons during which the figure of £200 billion is regularly cited as the amount of money that “must” be spent to make the UK’s tatty energy infrastructure fit for the 21st century. In reality, however, we see that very few new power stations are actually being built. To understand why this is so, we have to look at the recent history of UK energy policies.

Complicated subsidy

The idea behind the liberalisation of the UK energy market started under Margaret Thatcher was to have a free market in generation and sales and a government-regulated transmission and distribution system. Then Energy Minister, later Chancellor (Economics Minister) Nigel Lawson famously said at the time that “energy (should be) a traded good like any other commodity and its supply was to be settled in the market place”.

This has more or less come to pass. We have a regulated (privately owned) transmission company, National Grid, that owns the country’s high voltage transmission system (as well as the high-pressure gas transmission system). Almost all the major thermal power stations, fossil-fueled and nuclear, are now owned by six large energy corporations, EdF, Centrica, Eon, RWE, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE). Consumers are free to switch energy supplier and energy switching rates in Britain are among the highest in the world. Energy prices are not (yet) particularly high compared to the rest of the EU.

Yet all this is irrelevant if in the long term not enough investment is made in power generation while the UK at the same time is becoming dependent on outside suppliers. This will lead to an energy crisis no matter how “the market” is organised. And this is the reality we are headed for. Why is this so?

It should be noted that, rather than leaving the energy market “free”, the UK government has embarked on a hugely ambitious climate change program that has far-reaching impacts on the power generation market. In 2008 the UK Parliament voted through the Climate Change Bill and thus made CO2 emission reduction a legal requirement for the Nation, and not just for its own remaining tenure but all the way through to 2050. During the same year the UK Government agreed to implement the EU’s 20-20-20 targets, which require that the country will deliver 20% of its energy demand from renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, just eight years from now.

In addition, the Labour Government introduced an expensive subsidy, called the Renewable Energy Obligation. This obliges electricity companies to purchase an ever increasing fraction of their power from OFGEM-approved renewable energy resources. A Renewable Obligation Certificate (or ROC) rewards the wind turbine or biofuel generator with an agreed number of ROCs (between 0.5 and 2) per MWh, over a pre-agreed number of years, depending on which renewable resource the Government wishes to incentivize. The cost is met by the consumer to whose electricity account all of this is charged. The typical value of an ROC to any renewable energy generator since it was launched has been between £30 and £50; it is the subsidy the generator receives on top of the market price. So far, this subsidy has cost consumers £5 billion, with £1 billion in 2010 alone.

This is set to rise to £7 billion per year by 2020, representing an accumulated transfer from consumers to (mostly) wind developers of roughly £40 billion – enough money to pay for a respectably sized nuclear capacity.

So far this incentive is delivering only 6.5% of the UK’s electricity whereas the target for 2010 was 10%. The transparent failure of this incentivization programme to achieve its targets should have given the in-coming Government some warning. Instead, it ploughs on regardless, introducing continental–style feed-in tariff (FITs) for roof top PV (annual capacity factor about 6%) costing consumers anything up to 40p/kWh. This is a great way to further transfer funds from poor consumers to rich house owners. None of these renewable energy sources will deliver any firm capacity.

Public consultations

In 2009, OFGEM belatedly realized that the “energy-only” electricity trading system that it set up in 2002, was no longer fit for purpose. This trading arrangement, called NETA, replaced the “energy + capacity” trading system put into place at privatization. Under NETA, generators have no incentive to invest in spare capacity. Now OFGEM and the Government have become aware that a completely new tariff structure will be needed to fund a properly diversified mix of privately owned, dispatchable generating capacity needed to meet the ambitious targets of the Climate Change Bill and the 20-20-20 targets, while also delivering energy security. Far too late, they are realizing that dispatchable “low carbon” capacity does not come cheap. In fact, according to a recent news report, generators are now discussing with the government massive subsidies (to the tune of £10 billion) to build back-up gas-fired power plants that will stand idle for most of the time.

In all, it is estimated that between £100 and £200 billion of investments in offshore wind, transmission lines and back-up capacity are needed to realize the green dreams of the UK government. At this moment, the new Coalition government is studying a proposed Electricity Market Reform (ERM) that will determine the new tariff structure. This is merely the latest round in an endless series of “public consultations” and energy and global-warming related “white papers” that have been produced by the government in the last 14 years since liberalisation. (This included an announcement in 2003 that no new nuclear build was needed to achieve the UK’s climate targets followed by one in 2006 that said that nuclear energy is vital.)

The effect of all these U-turns and consultations has been to make the market extremely wary of committing money into the generation sector. The “money men” have not forgotten the introduction of the NETA energy trading system when many billions were lost by private generators who had invested in the UK generating sector under the old rules. The nuclear industry was bankrupted and had to be nationalized. Europe’s largest generator, Drax Power, was only saved by its bankers taking a longer view but at a huge cost to its then owner, AES.

The new trading rules that the Coalition is preparing come at a sensitive time, when the media are full of horror stories about price rises while millions per month are being spent by National Grid for compensating wind turbine owners whose output is being curtailed because of network congestion. OFGEM has said the investment required to ensure UK energy security and to decarbonise the power industry to 2020 could see consumer bills increase by anything between 23 and 52 per cent - equivalent to adding between £250 and £600 to today's average annual bill. There is a real risk that consumers “can’t pay and won’t pay”. Under these circumstances, the chances of separating £200 billion of private capital from its owners to be invested in the UK’s long-term “low carbon” vision must be slim indeed.

Tipping point

The challenges described in this paper cannot be fixed as long as they remain unrecognized by the people that we elect to write and abolish legislation. Elaborate roadmaps to 2050 and lofty-sounding calls for emission targets in the mid-2020s will be as pointless and useless to future generations as any such “road map” for the nation would have been if written in (say) 1910 or 1934.

Among the chief dangers that the UK faces in 2011 is the critical obsolescence of its electricity infrastructure, its essential bankruptcy and the absolutely unrealistic aspirations of almost its entire political class, although not its population, for a new, low-carbon, high-growth, job-creating, tax-paying economy.

The imminent closure of 16 GW of coal, oil and nuclear power plants and the realization that these simply cannot be replaced by the equivalent - or even much greater - wind power capacity, (even if it could be built, which is doubtful) is widely recognized in most senior echelons of the UK’s financial, manufacturing and engineering companies. Speaking at the recent Economist Energy Summit in London, Sam Laidlaw, CEO of Centrica, said: "We are rapidly approaching a tipping point in the energy story of this country and there is a risk that society is not being realistic about the path ahead. (…) Over this next decade three forces are coming together - our growing dependence on increasingly volatile world energy markets; our commitment to make serious cuts in carbon emissions; and our obligation as a society to ensure that energy remains affordable at a time of huge pressure on household incomes."

The problem is not unique to the UK. Major energy and concomitant trade deficits and even national bankruptcy are facing countries all over Europe. Europe cannot afford much more of the same.

It is probably pointless to try and get this message through to the EU’s present energy establishment, fixated as it is on perpetuating Kyoto and writing endless “2050 road-maps”. But given the extreme fragility of the UK’s economy, and the imminence of an electricity supply failure, it may still be possible to bring to the attention of the UK’s financially embattled Coalition, the extreme danger of its chosen policies, before the financial plug is pulled and its emission-related targets are exceeded by industrial ruin.

There can be no doubt that the UK must evolve an energy strategy that will liberate the economy from hydrocarbons as fast as possible. But its resources and financial circumstances are increasingly modest. The energy aspirations of its politicians are incoherent and technically illiterate. All this is about to come to a head with the transparent reluctance of international financiers to invest in the “green” economy. A huge U-turn lies ahead when it will have to plead with its EU partners for a derogation on the closure of the coal capacity and with EdF to keep the old nuclear fleet on the road, while developing a more realistic energy plan. This must almost certainly require the electrification of almost everything and the speeding up of nuclear capacity build, wherever possible innovating technically and reducing the costs by depending more on South Korea and China than our partners across the Channel in France.

Hugh Sharman is editor and co-founder of the Energy Blog DimWatt, a ‘campaigning web site dedicated to keeping the lights on affordably, maintaining mobility and the UK’s position as a manufacturing power in a fast-changing world’. DimWatt aims to bring together utility management personnel, academics, politicians, civil servants, professionals and concerned citizens ‘who are committed to rational discussion and debate on the challenges facing UK's energy infrastructure today’.

Sharman is also owner and managing director of the Denmark-based technical energy consultancy Incoteco, which he founded in 1986. He has over thirty years’ experience of expertise in providing consultancy services to industries and governments in the fields of energy and the environment. Recently he was the main author for the report “Wind Energy – The Case of Denmark”, published by the Danish think tank CEPOS. His current commercial focus is on the use of stationary electricity storage for integrating intermittent energy sources into grid systems. Most of his work in this area is on behalf of PD Energy which is developing the vanadium redox battery. He can be reached at

Is this from a blog called DimWit? Do you also get the impression, as I do, that the author regards emissions abatement as orders of magnitude less important than reliable energy supply? I suggest he may have got his priorities wrong.

Rationally planning future energy supply is rather important to keep that crowded island somewhat livable.

Once they get their first rolling blackout I think there will be a radical policy retraction.

Clearly a plug for the coal and nuclear lobbies - we are shown one chart for a two day period and then are told;

"It can be seen from the foregoing chart and from many similar instances all over North Western Europe, that winter peak power often coincides with very large, slow-moving anti-cyclones that bring extreme cold weather and almost no wind, and therefore little or no wind power output."

No rational energy planner takes such a tiny dataset and then attempts to extrapolate it to make an all encompassing point. There is no mention of other possibilities, such as geothermal power;

or the North Africa Solar project;

Given the shrill nature of many of the opinions strewn throughout, this is clearly a advocacy/attack piece with less than fig-leaf statistics to back up its assertions about wind power.

I'll back up his statements about wind generators providing "significantly less power than claimed, and most of that when its not wanted" based on the multi-year hourly raw data on all of Ontario, Canada's 1,334 MW wind generation. 34,882 MW total generation installed. Common the have less than 2% of wind gen available during summer peaks. Most wind generation happens at night in winters, when all it effectively does is push large efficient baseload generation out of the dispatch order.

The ISEO used to put all data on their website, here,

but I don't see it now. I think I recall some "advocacy groups" complaining about it.

Following is a relevant graphic showing the output of 4 major German utilities record of wind generation. Month of January, 2009:

Whoops, when the wind blows, it's blowing all over Germany, and when it's not, it's not all over Germany. The NG and wood pellet business has a promising future in Germany.

All the more reason to have a strong regional interconnection network, to balance wind and geothermal energy from all over the region, preferably augmented by Desertec. Any gaps can be filled by NG generation.

re: Any gaps can be filled by NG generation.

You need to have 100% NG backup for the wind generators to allow for periods when the wind is not blowing anywhere, and substantial NG storage capacity to allow for periods when there is below-average wind for long periods of time. This is expensive to build and expensive to operate, and requires you to have a reliable source of NG.

Hydro is ideal because you can store water for long periods of time, and you can use oversized generation capacity to handle peaks. However, you have to have developeable hydroelectric sites, which most countries promoting wind power don't have, especially not the UK.

Even if a significant amount of hydro power is available it is likely already being used at peak periods. That's certainly the case here in Ontario. Nuclear is our prime source of baseline power. Many of our hydro dams only generate power during the peak 9am to 5pm time period on weekdays. This means that we depend primarily on NG power to backup our wind generators.

Not to mention you degrade output of a wind farm by a significant amount in attempts to store it using a pumped hydro scheme. Pumped hydro as a panacea for the intermittency issue is grossly overplayed.

That's an assertion without support. Or do you have something substantive to back that claim up?

Virginia has pumped hydro facilities that predominantly store excess overnight nuclear energy - does that degrade nuclear energy?

"does that degrade nuclear energy?"

Of course. It takes electricity to power a water pump. You don't use 800 MWh of energy to pump water, then later get that same 800 MWh of energy back.

Apparently pumped hydroelectric energy storage is 70-80% efficient, so it's pretty good, actually.

The pumps are over 90% efficient. There is additional loss in the power lines, water evaporation and the hydroelectric generators. The overall efficiency is 70% to 85% which is very good.

Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity

RMG sayeth;

re: Any gaps can be filled by NG generation.

You need to have 100% NG backup for the wind generators to allow for periods when the wind is not blowing anywhere, and substantial NG storage capacity to allow for periods when there is below-average wind for long periods of time. This is expensive to build and expensive to operate, and requires you to have a reliable source of NG.

100% NG backup would not necessarily be a requirement with a smart grid. It depends on the combined wind profiles of the locations, as the more spread out the network of wind farms, the lower the chance of an low aggregate output scenario.

NG turbines are cheap, not sure why you think they are expensive. Storage depends on a number of factors, including time of year, usage patterns for other NG customer sets, size of the pipeline network, etc.

Not to mention that the Wind Farms are also backing up the Gas and other generation systems.

The meme that keeps saying 'wind needs backup' is conveniently overlooking why we need renewables in the first place. Gas supplies, Oil Supplies, etc.. are going to show us their brands of 'intermittency', and their inability to continue Baseload Electricity is why there is a push to diversify this portfolio.

Beyond that, the Burning Fuels need a 'clean backup' as well.. in as much as they have provided baseload pollution for far too long.

Maybe wind won't give us all the power we think we need.. but it's a source we'd be fools to disregard.

You need to have some sort of backup for wind power because of its intermittent nature, and "smart grid" solutions won't be adequate. Looking at it from the UK perspective, NG peaking units are the obvious solution since Britain is a rather small, not very mountainous island with limited hydroelectric potential. Unfortunately, UK gas production is declining so the NG must be imported, and this is going to be more expensive and less reliable than the UK government would like to believe.

When I say NG power is expensive, I mean relative to wind, coal, hydroelectric power or even nuclear power - at least if you have to import the NG from some other country which is intent on selling it at whatever price the market will bear.

Note that I'm looking at this as an outsider. I'm in the Canadian province of Alberta, which unbeknownst to most people has about 7,000 MW of wind power in the planning stages. It's probably one of the best places on Earth for wind farms, but even at that the wind is not very reliable, so the wind generators are in fact going to be backed up by 7,000 MW of hydro and NG capacity. Fortunately Alberta has massive reserves of cheap NG, and just about every old gas plant that I used to work at seems to have a brand new NG power plant sitting next to it. The biggest problem is building the billions of dollars of transmission lines to tie the systems together.

For the UK, wind power is going to have bigger problems which don't seem to have been addressed by the planners. If UK politicians think the voters will be happy with the lights going out every time the wind doesn't blow, which is likely to happen, I would say they are going to have a very unpleasant time ahead of them.

On the opening of the 1000MW BritNed interconnector to Holland this year:

"Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:'This is good news for our energy security, for UK renewables and for consumers. It plugs the UK directly into a wider European electricity market, allowing us to import our peak needs cheaply rather than hold expensive plant in readiness. Renewables win as it means surplus wind power can be easily shared. Consumers win as a single European market puts pressure on prices. And more new cables are planned so by 2020 we could have over 10GW of additional electricity flowing under the North Sea.'"

The UK is going to be importing electricity from the Netherlands, which has some of the highest electricity prices in Europe? Prices in the Netherlands are nearly double what they are in the UK.

I don't think this is going to go over well with British electricity consumers when they get their electricity bills, despite the line the British government is trying to feed them.

Electricity prices (from Wikipedia, US cents/kWh)

Denmark 42.9
Netherlands   37.7
U.K. 18.6
U.S. 11.2
Canada 6.2

Here in Canada, wind power costs between 6.5 and 10 cents/kWh to generate, which makes it attractive for provinces which do not have large scale hydroelectric resources, but I doubt that it would be produced anywhere near that cheaply in Western Europe given its general lack of unpopulated, windswept prairies to place the turbines.

Europe (except for Russia) also does not have Canada's vast domestic natural gas resources to provide backup power when the wind does not blow. Gas turbine peaking units are cheap to build but expensive to operate, which makes them good for backup power.

Best info are from Denmark wind power output1. You can check the wind power output based on market spot price and see that wind power is always sold at a lesser price then conventionnal power, namely 10% less. Wind power can even be higher than the actual demand, no wonders why the prices fall alot. When wind is not here, well, prices goes up and that why wind power is worth 10% less then conventionnal power sources. All that with hydroelectric storage from Sweden and Norway.


I'll back up his statements about wind generators providing "significantly less power than claimed, and most of that when its not wanted" based on the multi-year hourly raw data on all of Ontario, Canada's 1,334 MW wind generation.

But you didn't have any data to share, so let us know when you find support for your statement.

The trouble with Ontario's 1,334 MW of wind power is things like the following:

Weather system keeps wind turbines from turning

Tuesday Jul. 19, 2011 5:53 PM ET

While Ontario swelters under mid-summer heat, no wind means mainly nuclear and fossil-fuel-fired electricity plants are keeping the province's air conditioners humming.

Wind-generated electricity only provided 10 watts of power for Ontario as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) website indicated.

CTV Toronto weather anchor Anwar Knight said a stable, high-pressure dome of hot air covers North America from Las Vegas to Quebec. Wind is created when high and low-pressure systems collide, he said.

As a result, there isn't much wind in Ontario today, Knight said.

Here is the output by fuel type:

nuclear - 10,129 MW
hydro - 5,365 MW
gas - 5,085 MW
coal - 3,252 MW

So, to replace their nuclear and coal power, they needed to generate 13,381 MW of wind power, and they actually generated 10 watts. Almost enough for one CF light bulb, but not an A/C.

Note: I'm not actually against wind power, it has its place. I just want to point out its limitations. When a big high-pressure system sets in, the wind doesn't blow, and it doesn't blow over vast areas, e.g. most of North America. You need to have 100% backup for those times.

Ok, for this particular weather event, at a point in time, there was little wind output in Ontario. How you go and expand that to "most of North America" is not at all clear, especially if you are talking about a general rule of thumb. Do you have any reliable statistics to support this?

How you go and expand that to "most of North America" is not at all clear, especially if you are talking about a general rule of thumb.

Why its very clear - you just look at the data.

Here are the two generation curves for the wind farms in Ontario, and Oregon/Washington state (Bonneville Power Administration), in August last year.

So, for three whole days, during the peak summer demand period, the output of these wind farms was minimal. No only that, even though they are separated by over 2000 miles and three time zones, they both produced nothing at the same time.

I don;t have data for Minnesota or Texas in that week, but I'll wager they weren't producing much either.

At full production, the BPA wind turbines can supply half the BPa system load - how did they do for that week?

So, if you don't have some backup, or the ability to bring power from somewhere else (another kind of backup), then you would have a serious problem.

Wind power is probably the most scalable renewable energy option we have, but you can't simply hand wave away its intermittency. If we want to have a stable electrical grid, it needs 100% backup - period. Otherwise, if the proportion of wind is to exceed the margin of system capacity over system demand, then there is no other choice but load shedding/curtailment.

The first step to dealing with the intermittency problem is to acknowledge that it exists. This is something that those who have never been in the electricity industry seem to have trouble understanding.

Again, one can't show 2 or 3 days of data and then say "Wind isn't useful 'cause sometimes it doesn't blow". Already mentioned above several times was the acknowledgement that it is an intermittent supply and that backup is normally warranted. It all depends upon how much HVDC interconnection there is with other wind areas, e.g. Great Plains, Great Lakes, the mountains (east and west), and the oceans.

Looking at one wind area by itself is always going to show greater intermittency than looking a wind farms spread throughout and across regions.

In Ontario we have wind farms 900km apart (East end of Lake Superior and Wolfe Island near Kingston) and yet almost everytime I check the current power generation at the site, the contribution from wind is negligible. In theory we could have wind farms in NW Ontario, roughly 1900km from Eastern Ontario. There is currently no transmission line from NW Ontario to the highly populated southern portion of the province. Given the rugged terrain in Northern Ontario construction of such a transmission line would be wickedly expensive and the power losses on such a long line would be substantial. Even with such a wide separation there will statistically be substantial periods where there is no signficant wind anywhere.

Instead of massively overbuilding wind capacity, building expensive long distance transmission lines and crossing our fingers and hoping that it is always windy somewhere, why not just build the number of nuclear reactors needed to produce the amount of power you need? Well over half our power in Ontario is nuclear generated. There were technical problems with the first reactors built in Ontario -- hardly a surprise for a new technology. The newest reactors at Darlington have performed flawlessly since coming online in 1990-93. Kind of boring actually, but sometimes boring is good.

The attempts by the government of Ontario to promote wind and solar power have only succeeded in making us dependent on natural gas generation. The cost of power has been climbing well beyond the inflation rate in recent years, despite the low price for natural gas at the moment. If gas prices rise significantly we will see a large spike in power costs.

Canada's situation is actually worse than you describe; the pols have essentially killed AECL, spinning it off to a company with no nuclear expertise which is certain to liquidate it.

Yes, and I'm not too pleased about it. It's one of the reasons why I didn't vote for the Conservatives in the last election.

All of what you say uses vague adjectives "wickedly", "substantial", "neglible", and so on. And for data trend analysis, all you provide us with is "almost everytime I check the current power generation at the site", which provides us with no basis for giving consideration to your opinion on the topic.

It all depends upon how much HVDC interconnection there is with other wind areas, e.g. Great Plains, Great Lakes, the mountains (east and west), and the oceans.

Looking at one wind area by itself is always going to show greater intermittency than looking a wind farms spread throughout and across regions.

Perhaps you didn't notice where I said this is wind power from Ontario and the Pacific Northwest. That is two wind regions that are about as far apart as you are going to get on this continent, and they both zeroed out at the same time. It wouldn't matter how much HVDC you had, if there is nothing to transmit.
For the other wind areas on that hot summer day, e.g. Iowa, Texas, what are the chances that they have excess power to export?

Yes, wind needs backup. If you have that, the HVDC is optional - it will help move energy around, but it doesnt really help much with these peak periods, as it is peak demand, and low wind, everywhere.

Again, these are cherry picked data points, not an substantive analysis, so even if you had data from two locations, it does not even begin to confirm your rather shocking claim of; is peak demand, and low wind, everywhere

You have multiple orders of magnitude more data in both time and geographical coverage to provide to even begin to support this kind of claim.


I analyzed the output from both locations: they were statistically independent. That means that any time one of them has output below average there is a roughly 50% chance that the other one is also below average.

So, the frequency of low output events is reduced but not eliminated.

Now, as the frequency of low output events is reduced they become less important: very cheap backup can be provided.

Interestingly for residential purposes I've always viewed wind as a source for the winter, and PV for the Summer at least in Pennsylvania north of Harrisburg.

Did they ever adjust their estimations on footprint needed for X amount of solar to reflect reality? You know, to reflect the fact that it's not laid out as a continuous sheet of mirror or PV panels? They require space between them for maintenance, and additional space for associated infrastructure and facilities.

I've tried to find the data as to how they factored for the footprints in their infographics, and have been unsuccessful. Maybe since you're a proponent, you have a link???

It works as about the cosine of your latitude with an effective coverage after that of about 95% depending on the technology.

I don't think you got what I'm commenting about. I don't think their little boxes meant to show that solar schemes wouldn't cover that much area don't factor for space between panels. Their little boxes would be more than twice the size if they properly factored for that.

Well, take Gafsa in Tunisia. Latitude 34N. Add 23 deg lat for optimisation in northern winters, when sun is 23 deg. south of equator. 34 + 23 = 57. Cos 57 = 0.5446 So formula for effective area required to achieve a given area normal to winter sun in Gafsa, with 5% of area used by generation and roads is 1 x 1/.5446 x 1/.95 = 1.933 or approximately 2 x normal surface area.

"with 5% of area"

Before we go on, let me make sure I'm interpreting your comment properly.

Are you really thinking only 5% footprint of a large solar electricity generation installation is access road and other infrastructure?

The area between panels or mirror for access is actually wider.,-117.558686&spn...

You realize I'm suggesting that the infographics frequently cited are idealizations, and don't account for that, right? I'm saying they grossly under estimate the actual footprint.

Your satellite graphic is taken looking downward. The surface of the collectors is not directly viewed, thus the fraction of coverage is not visually observable. And, in any event, the Barstow system is a thermal system with north-south orientation, which is tracking the sun as it moves across the sky. In that case, the optimal spacing might be 3x the mirror aperture. For PV, which can not function when shadowed, a N-S tracking setup might require even more space. The calculation above appears to address the spacing for fixed orientation PV laid out in the E-W direction...

E. Swanson

"Your satellite graphic is taken looking downward. The surface of the collectors is not directly viewed, thus the fraction of coverage is not visually observable."

You raised the bar, and I'll clear it.

I live among these installations, so I know what they look like up close and personal.

"The calculation above appears to address the spacing for fixed orientation PV laid out in the E-W direction..."

Is that your wild guess, or a conclusion based on a careful review? If you reviewed it, I'd love to see where you found the data used to make these widely circulated and accepted graphics.

One can solve the problem using trigonometry and astronomy for rows that extend in the east-west direction. The worst case condition for latitudes away from the equator is the first day of winter.

Inclination of the Earth's rotational axis to its orbital plane: 23.5 degrees.
φ = latitude
Elevation of Sun at the winter solstice at noon: θ = 90 deg. - φ - 23.5 degrees.

length of shadow cast by a vertical object (with length A) onto a horizontal surface (length B): tan (θ) = (A/B)

B = A / tan (θ)

If φ = 34 degrees, then θ = 32.5 deg. and B = 1.6 A. This is the minimum spacing at noon on the first day of winter to prevent the shadow of the southerly panel from casting onto the panel to its north.

Now we need to check the angle of the shadow between the rows when Sun rises (or symmetrically when it sets). We need to know the azimuth of Sun when it rises and decide how long after sunrise we want the shadow to stop shading the northerly panels. The azimuth of the rising sun (Ar is:

δ = declination of Sun at winter solstice = -23.5 degrees.

Ar = cos-1 (sin(δ) / cos(φ))

Ar = cos-1 (sin(-23.5 deg.) / cos(34 deg)) = 118.8 deg azimuth or 61.2 degrees east of south in azimuth.

The day is about 9 hours 43 minutes long. After 2 hours and 25 minutes, Sun will appear to move half way toward the zenith making its altitude about 32.5 * cos(45 deg.) = 23 deg. and azimuth about 61.2 deg. * cos(45 deg.) = 43.3 deg. east of south. The length of the shadow is B = A / tan(23 deg.) = 2.36 A. The azimuth angle allows the shadow to be 1 / cos(43.3 deg.) = 1.4 times longer before it casts onto the northerly panel. 1.4 * 1.6A = 2.24 A < 2.36 A so the shadow is still casting onto the northerly panel. This calculation allows less than 4 hours and 50 minutes of unobstructed sunlight. Since 6 hours of unobstructed sunlight in the winter is probably the minimum desirable, the distance between the rows needs to be a little greater than 1.6 A.

Note that a row spacing of 1.6 A (A is the width of the panel) causes the panels to occupy 1 / (1 + 1.6) = 38% of the land area which is what is observed in the satellite photo. This calculation is checked against my experience because I have a PV panel mounted in front of another. The northerly panels are partly shaded in the morning and evening from November through February.

The total footprint of these large solar installations is much larger than the area of panels by necessity. The 150MW Moree Solar Farm will have just over 1,000,000 Sqm of panel coverage in an area of ~12,000,000 sqm. This Environmental Assessment Report (warning 121 page pdf) gives some very interesting details.

As they are using trackers, each set of 10 panels will be on a grid 11 metres X 12 metres apart.

An interesting aside is that the Solar Farm will require 6 megalitres of clean water each year, assuming the panels are cleaned twice a year. That alone could make desert applications of large PV farms problematic to more expensive. This solar farm is costing $923m with $432m coming from govt subsidies. It is located near existing transmission lines, water and road infrastructure that help to reduce the cost.

It is located on former cropping and cotton growing land. (taken out of production) God help us all.

As cotton is a very large user of water, is there a net decrease or increase of water use for this 1sqM?

The large desert installations near me clean once or twice every two weeks during the warm season. It takes much less water to merely spray off a surface than to give a crop a soaking. They use purified water so it won't leave deposits.

BTW, a large percentage of cotton in even the US is dry farmed. No irrigation, they rely on rainfall.

Water is not an issue for the Moree site, as you noted they did grow cotton there, irrigated. It was just my observation that putting large solar farms in deserts the water issue is another problem to overcome.

Personally I think that taking out cropping land for a solar farm is the height of stupidity. They should go on much less valuable land. Obviously the location of infrastructure was considered more important than the use of the land.

Good farmland is easy to build on - and often near infrastructure (eg so many California cities built on beautiful farmland)

looking at your photo, it appears that the spacing between the troughs is a bit less than twice the width of the troughs. As for roads, the open space would provide sufficient access to the troughs with no additional N-S roadways needed. Thus, the total land area requirement appears to be less than 3x the area of the troughs, which I threw out as a WAG. Do you agree???

E. Swanson

It's not even something we need to do on paper alone. We have existing solar plants of all kinds - troughs, dishes, power towers, and PV. We can extrapolate from that to get not just an idea of the spacing between the equipment that directly collects the solar energy, but the associated equipment and facilities.

If you trace this thread back, you'll see that I was only interested in seeing if the widely circulated Desertec infographics accurately represent to scale based on real world scenarios, or whether it's solely based on an estimation of the area needed for the collectors, whatever those may be.

The fraction of sunlight being collected can be calculated by measuring the area of the shadows on the ground. In the satellite photo the shadows are 5 mm wide and the sunny space is 8 mm wide. Therefore about 38% of the sunlight was being collected at the time of the photo.

The panels in that satellite photo are about 5 m wide. If they are spaced to cover 50% of the land ares, then there is a 5 m gap between the panels which is plenty of space for access roads. He probably means that an additional 5% of the area is used for access roads that are perpendicular to the rows of panels.

Still waiting for a cite that any space at all was factored in for the creation of that infographic.

Because the graphic in Will Stewart's post dated July 19, 2011, 11:32am, is labeled, "CSP collector areas for electricity," the squares do not include the land area used for spacing the panels. When the information is contained in the graphic, why do you need a citation?

A CSP system would likely employ a single axis tracker. At a latitude of 25 degrees N, the collectors, if installed to track in altitude, would occupy about 45% of the area ( 1 /(1 + (1 / tan(90-25-23.5))) + some space for buildings and roads). If they were arranged to track in azimuth, the coverage would probably decrease to 35% to 40%. If the collectors are parabolic dished, then the coverage might be 1/7 to 1/9 of the land area. I am not sure about the land coverage of an heliostat.


Do you really think it is sensible policy for the UK government to plan on getting energy from geothermal resources which are mainly on the other side of Europe, or from a grandiose plan for Desertec, that would require unprecedented co-operation between Europe and North Africa, which, currently is the most unstable region in the world?

It makes europe even more dependent upon african/middle east energy than it is already.

If my life/economy/country depended on it, I'd rather ship coal from Australia.

I cannot for the life of me see why you would risk the security of the nation on extremely long haul coal ships, especially with piracy on the rise and the attitude of the nation against coal.

And the geothermal resources are spread throughout Europe - getting paranoid about every other country turning against the UK? There's already a geothermal generation plant in Cornwall, so update your UK energy outlook;

"Estimations done by EGS Energy have indicated that the resource of the Cornwall area has the potential for supplying 10% of the UK’s electricity for 200 years."

Ship coal from Australia? Blarney!

And in 100 years - will the coal still be coming in?

Was engineered geothermal suddenly proved viable? I was away for a week...

Your question does not make sense - what are you really asking?

All the existing large scale geothermal plants tap existing heated ground waters, a relatively uncommon feature on the planet. Engineered geothermal only exists as small scale experiments.

All geothermal systems are 'engineered' - are you referring to Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)?

You must be new to the subject, then, because the term is commonly used. It refers to the fact that the reservoir has to be engineered, as opposed to tapping a naturally existing reservoir of heated ground waters.

You must be new to the subject, then, because the term is commonly used.

The term 'engineered' is being replaced by 'enhanced';

In the meantime, read the MIT report on geothermal power;

And then read about one of the first operational EGS plants, that is on track to expand to 500MW with the potential to go to 1.2GW;

All of your links, which I've already read, use the same term.

And they show the term 'engineered' being replaced by 'enhanced'.

Given that climate change seems to be making central Spain increasingly dry, and Spain has large debts and very high unemployment, it seems logical to cut out the link under the Mediterranean and build Desertec on European ground. The little you lose from reduced insolance will be made up in reduced capital costs, transmission losses and political instability.

Rationality and politics, whatever next! We in the UK have not been good at long term planning and we have put off infrastructure investment for long before any Climate Change Act.

Whilst the article refers to the UK, the predicament may be a particularly English one, looking at the population density figures derived from Wikipedia.

England: 391 persons per sq. km
Scotland: 63 persons per sq. km
Wales: 107 persons per sq. km
Northern Ireland: 125 persons per sq. km

Scotland, with the lowest population density, is (with regard to renewable energy) blessed with a miserable climate, wet, windy and battered by storms. You can see how Scotland could prosper provided it can get its renewable energy infrastructure in place.

UK's coal consumption was about 60m tonnes in 2010, less than one half of China's current annual *increase* in consumption.

We (the UK) could shut down completely without making a jot of difference to world CO2 output.

I suggest our priority for the time being is to secure our electricity supplies, regardless of emissions targets.

So you're not in favor of unilateral economic suicide?

There's been EU level talks of changing trade treaties to favor nations who take part in an international emissions reduction treaty. Other nations would have to follow suit or lose major market share.

Talk,talk and talk.How about walk the talk?We will talk till we all fry.

My dear fellow, as I look around me and observe roads choked with large cars, and poorly insulated single-glazed houses, some 70% of which will still be with us in 2050, I wonder how serious UK Gov is about CO2.

As Hugh Sharman states, it expects the world to conform to its unrealistic aspirations, imposing high costs on consumers and offering high subsidies to inefficient micro-generators of electricity, and yet at the same time tries to maximise fossil fuels output both from our own reserves, and from everyone else. The UK abhors cartels such as OPEC, and disdains countries such as Norway and the Netherlands rationing their production, seemingly failing to realise that supply side constraints do more for limiting CO2 than any amount of green initiative.

As peak FF energy bites one should celebrate the natural world applying a brake that may, if we're lucky, inhibit disastrous climate change. That same brake will, with some certainty, cause economic upheaval. I envisage a saw-tooth graph of future world GDP, with each seizure taking us down to lower average productivity, and a corresponding fall in normalised FF prices. There seems to be a 12-18 month lag before the effects of high oil price feed through to the economy, reflecting the passage of goods through the supply chain, that will exacerbate the oscillation.

Unilateral suicide? It wouldn't surprise me, but others will follow. I trust you will continue your crusade against DECC, Euan, as I would regret wearing a hair shirt in our freezing winters with a young family. Perhaps Mr Rossi's e-cat will ride to the rescue...

My dear Blenheim, I hope you are not con-fused. We have several hundred emails here on Rossi - I asked Prof Ugo to go write a post, which is hopefully in the pipeline.

If its too good to be true - it is. Insulate your home if you can, buy a fuel efficient car if you can. And if you have access to wood, install a wood burner - I love hacking up and burning wood and watching it burn.

I hacked up wood the other day, and then watched it burn. I also hacked upmy finger, and watched it bleed. Two fun items in one deal!

We (the UK) could shut down completely without making a jot of difference to world CO2 output.

I hear variations of this argument made almost daily here in Australia, mired as we are in an argument about the carbon tax. The Libs (conservatives) talk arrant nonsense when it comes to climate change. The proposal itself is so timid it is almost worthless. Its only virtue is that it is a start; and that as such it provides the framework for more action later. Nevertheless, Australia, an even smaller country than the UK, also will "make no difference" to global CO2 emissions. I heard President Bush say the same thing about the US "unless the rest of the world acts too". China has also said it, as no doubt have many other countries. We as a species simply do not have the intelligence to act. More coal was burnt and more CO2 was emitted than ever before in 2010. Not only that, but the trend is actually accelerating! Like yeast we are destined to consume all the available resources and most of us will die in our own detritus.

Any entity, that's not full size can say we won't matter, and so should leave it for others to do all the lifting. Even China, if you take it province by province. Nowhere will it be easy, nowhere will the time be right. So you just gotta suck it up, and do it anyway, because the alternative to not doing yourpart is noone else will.

I believe the only meaningful action that Australia can take to tackle emissions is to declare that all remaining coal, oil and natural gas reserves will remain in the ground. Chance of that happening is near zero. All the rest is just window dressing and Green washing to curry favor with environmentalists. Even unilateral deployment of CCS will make no meaningful difference to emissions.

If the worst case scenarios for CC are accurate (I personally don't believe they are) then the planet will be toasted when we get going on shale gas and CBM in a big way.

"Chance of that happening is near zero."

Well put.

Unfortunately, the only kinds of hope left are mostly dependent on such near zero probabilities.

Near zero? You can safely say zero. Nothing short of a nuclear war will stop that

Euan, with respect to you and your beliefs, one must realize that science isn't based on belief in the sense of a religious belief. Science is based on data and we know for a fact that there are hard limits beyond which live becomes very difficult for humans. The human body can not survive for long when the dew point temperature approaches the normal human body temperature. While that situation would be unlikely to occur in Britain, it is not out of the realm of possibility in other locations, such as the US Midwest. HERE's a commentary about our present US weather, to give you some perspective from this side of "the pond".

As for politics, here in the US we have seen more than 20 years of anti-environmental propaganda, which has convinced many sheeple that AGW isn't a problem. I've spend considerable effort these past 20 years attempting to counter the disinformation, only to see the same old lies repeated to this day. Then too, the economic situation is likely to push concerns about the environment onto the bottom of the to-do list, as most people will worry more about paying the rent/mortgage and putting food on the table than attempting to keep the Earth's life support system functioning 50 or 100 years into the future.

Perhaps humanity is toast, as you suggest...

E. Swanson

All science is based on data, but is it the right data? Are the causal links actually correct? I fear when you make such sweeping statements I'm back at the altar
of ex-cathedra. I had a meeting at CERN two weeks ago, and met with the director of the "big bang" experiment. Fascinating discussion, recreating the first
pico-seconds of the universe and all that. Except he had to admit that their experiment was being done with space-time already extant (in existence today),
and that was not the case (at least admitted by him) as it was at the big bang. I like to think of physics as the Queen of the Sciences, it is fairly old, and it has lots
and lots of empirical experiments wrapped around it (I used to do them) and lots of reproducibility. The other sciences, with the youngest being psychology
have much less time and reproducibility. I'd also suggest you read a bit of Kuhn, having been in a Science Department and published, there are certain
aspects of "fashion" in all of this. Cheers.

I actually don't think the environmental issues will goto the bottom of the list, because good people like you will continue to raise the issues appropriately.
What will goto the bottom of the list are the poor of the world.

All science is based on data ...

Oh yes? Then why all this constant repetition of the incantation AGW?

If you want some contrary data, take a look here

Earth's climate has been hotter in the past.

Basic climate change science links the amount of GHG in the atmosphere with temperature trends. Before the asteroid(s) hit the Earth 65 million years ago, the GHG levels were much higher than there were now. The event resulted in not only dinosaurs going extinct, but massive dieoffs of vegetation and ocean plankton, which trapped carbon into sedimentary layers, which cooled the climate. Of course, these deposits eventually turned into coal, oil, and natural gas deposits. Now we are emitting that carbon back out into the atmosphere, causing the rise in global temperature trends. (pages 3 and 11 especially)

FWIW, the Sun's output increases by about 1% per 100 million years.  GHG concentrations in the past had to be higher to compensate for a cooler star.  Weathering of rocks to form carbonates is believed to be the factor which closes the feedback loop; if the planet gets too cold, ice and snow prevent weathering and CO2 builds up.

In about 500 million years, the Sun will be so hot that even zero CO2 will not keep the planet cool enough.  At that point, Earth goes into a runaway greenhouse and life is no longer possible.

Actually Alfred. I was quoting the other poster, I should have made that more clear I guess.

The site you link to is a prime denialist site. Look at their list of references, which includes THIS LINK. I am rather familiar with the first two papers on this list. The first was so bad that I was able to find numerous errors and passed this information on to Real Climate, which resulted in THIS POST. The second was published supposedly to correct those errors, but was in fact a new analysis. Neither was peer reviewed.

The third paper is a reply to a letter to the editor of E&E which I submitted to point out errors in the second piece. Notice that there is no mention of my comments and the third paper is not freely available, even though the first two are available thru links to PDFs. The three papers were published in a (supposedly) copyrighted publication and posting them freely on the web is a violation of copyright laws, yet Roy Spencer and SEPP get away with doing so. If you want to read the third, you must give E&E some money, as you would also be required to do to read my commentary, which appeared in the same issue of E&E.

The list and the Friends of Science site is clearly a disinformation effort and lots of folks who don't know the science are hoodwinked into believing these slick looking presentations. The list includes many papers by authors who have publicly stated that they do not agree that their work refutes AGW and have requested that their papers be removed from the list, yet these papers are still included. You've been had, so to speak...

E. Swanson

EDIT: Added link to post on RealClimate, etc.

the economic situation is likely to push concerns about the environment onto the bottom of the to-do list

When one considers the report from Europe where 70% of the money spent on a Carbon reduction project does not actually go to the Carbon reduction but instead goes to taxes, "overhead" and the shocking for every unit spent a unit goes to the Goldman Sachs of the world "for putting the deal together" - the unproductive money class acting as parasitical loads will doom the host.

What are the worst case scenario for CC you are talking about? If you refere to the IPCC worst case then I can inform you that it is going to be worse than that. So far reality has been some 50% above IPCC worst case. They are notoriosly shooting below.

But if you refere to the Venus Syndrome as the worst case I don't think so either. But the 6:Th great mass extinction is already in the pipe, given the amount of GHGs already in the air.

Euan stated;

"I believe the only meaningful action that Australia can take to tackle emissions is to declare that all remaining coal, oil and natural gas reserves will remain in the ground. Chance of that happening is near zero."

This is simply an extreme position held up as a strawman to beat on. There are any number of meaningful actions Australia can take, such as;

- Shift a significant portion of income taxes to carbon taxes
- Raise fuel efficiency requirements
- Improve rail and other mass transit infrastructure
- Stop chaotic sprawl development and implement Smart Growth
- Tiered rate structures for residential electricity (lowest usage = lowest rates, highest usage = highest rates, with at least 3 levels)
- Spot pricing of electricity (to enable deeper penetration of renewables)

etc, etc.

I beg to differ. The pace at which carbon is emitted does not matter so much because carbon emissions remain in the atmosphere for hundreds if not thousands of years. To the climate it doesn't matter much if you mine a ton of coal now or in 5 years from now, or 10 years, or...

Improving fuel efficiency, raising carbon tax, spot pricing, whatever, does next to nothing for the climate if the coal is mined anyway and the carbon is allowed to accumulate in the biosphere, now or in a few years time. So Euan is right that we need to leave the coal in the ground if we want to stop the rise in atmospheric carbon levels.

The nation can make a steady and complete transition away from coal (entirely), in essence leaving 80-90% of the coal in the ground, and that would make a tremendous difference, especially if executed in concert with the main polluting nations. So help me to understand how you are having trouble with this concept.

The nation can make a steady and complete transition away from coal (entirely), in essence leaving 80-90% of the coal in the ground, and that would make a tremendous difference ...

Just how exactly does Australia do that, and not suffer severe economic downturn? Enquiring minds would like to know.

By transitioning to wind, solar, geothermal, gas, hydro, and related renewable energy technologies. There is a severe economic downturn coming from peak oil, if you hadn't already guessed by the main thrust of this website, so please don't conflate the two...

Ok, maybe I misunderstood you, but I wanted to make very clear that transitioning to wind, wave, hydro, solar etc. means squat to the climate if we don't leave the coal in the ground. Indefinitely. So the focus point in preventing climate change isn't any of the ways/methods you mentioned in your two posts above but keeping the coal in the ground. If we don't do that everything else is for show only.

Carbon taxes will result in coal being left in the ground.

Maybe, but only if
- the tax is high enough to move away from coal completely. Like I said earlier, if you only reduce demand and the coal is still being mined in the end you have gained nothing.
- If e.g. Australia gets a good Carbon Tax but China doesn't then the Australian coal will be mined and there will be no benefit to the climate.

There is only one earth for us all and the climate doesn't stop at our national borders. It doesn't matter if a few countries implement a Carbon Tax when the coal is mined and burned anyway even if it means it's only mined and burned 10 years later by another country.

You don't have to stop mining coal completely.  Just slowing down the rate to 10% of today's rate (along with everything else) would cause atmospheric CO2 concentrations to start going down again.

Australia is caught between AGW on the one hand, and an economy which needs exports on the other.  Australia's coal exports are a money-maker, and an important one.  Australia might be able to substitute non-carbon energy exports such as uranium... but that would require reversing the no-nukes stance, and one of the hardest things to do is to admit that you were wrong.

Just slowing down the rate to 10% of today's rate (along with everything else) would cause atmospheric CO2 concentrations to start going down again.

E-P, do you have a source for that? That would be nice to nail down.

This popped up in a quick search.  It isn't a source I've seen before, and the claims are higher than anything I've heard, but there is certainly a large amount of anthropogenic CO2 going into other stores.


This is consistent with my understanding that a large percentage of human CO2 emissions are being absorbed by the oceans. OTOH, this article suggests that if human CO2 emissions declined that ocean absorption would also decline proportionately. IOW, the oceans seems to absorb a % of the excess, not pull any CO2 out of the atmosphere even if human emissions were very low.

- the tax is high enough to move away from coal completely.

Yes, but this is a gradual thing. A tax that is not high enough to do that instantly will buy time with lower emissions, and also, by way of the invisible hand, increase investments in alternatives. Then I guess we can gradually increase the tax and introduce cheaper alternatives. Eventually, coal will not be economical.

- If e.g. Australia gets a good Carbon Tax but China doesn't then the Australian coal will be mined and there will be no benefit to the climate.

National taxes with a globally agreed upon floor would be preferable. (Much smarter than the current attempts to get global emission reductions.) Alternatively, if i.e. Australia taxes the carbon it exports (perhaps only for destination countries that refuse to implement their own carbon taxes), demand for Australia's coal will be lower just as if all countries had the tax.

In theory, and economically, this is easy. Politically, it seems to be hard, and the establishment seems to have got stuck on trying to agree on a bad, non-neutral solution.

Well, if YOU don't burn the coal under YOUR speck of land, THOSE carbon atoms stays in the ground. 50 years into the future the remaining human poulation will have installed lethal punishment for the consumption of fossil fuels, so you only need to hide you share for so long.

The author states UK legislation requires the country to "reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, just eight years from now." It should be pointed out that the requirement referred to is from a 1990 baseline and in fact already pretty much achieved today. The Climate Change Act has subsequently been amended to require a reduction of -34% by 2020.

It's also worth mentioning that the feed in tariff isn't just about rooftop PV. It covers also covers wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion and domestic scale microCHP. The rates vary between technology and scale such that the consumer sees a similar economic rate of return. More information here: Feed In Tariff. It's also soon to be joined by the Renewable Heat Incentive, a similar scheme for heat generation.

I think the article should also introduce the UK Government's main demand-side response to many of the issues highlighted. The Green Deal is a huge energy efficiency programme targeting UK domestic properties. It's governed by a 'golden rule': "The expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached
to the energy bill"
. This polity directly addresses the country's growing dependence on imported energy, especially gas. The housing stock is to be made more energy efficient, paid for by mitigating gas import costs. There's a report here: Green Deal Summary [pdf].

Thank you for providing access to these updates.
Reduction in demand for energy within the home and workplace looks to be key for survival of any social contract in the UK, and I dare say will also matter for our 'competitiveness'.
The Greendeal seems to offer better living conditions (keeping warm is the issue in this country) for low-income and vulnerable who do badly in our existing inefficient houses.
I am personally encouraged. Savings on the demand side could be more effective than money and resources spent on the supply side. Improving efficiency of our housing stock looks at last it might be possible.

Absolutely. No reason to throw perfectly good energy into leaky, poorly insulated buildings ad infinitum just because "that's how we've always done it". Demand will be a very large piece of this puzzle.

The Green Deal - I live in a fairly good property but it is very tricky to improve the insulation - walls are granite with lath and plaster interior walls with air circulation gap in between. I got an offer to improve insulation in roof / loft space, but what was offered was crudely rolled out insulation on our loft floor which is used for storage. The deal did not extend to actually doing this properly. Pretty typical fro the UK. There was also a deal to supply discounted condensing boilers that sold out in the first day - just woefully underfunded.

But the government is on the right track with targeting efficiency - just that they are doing it for the wrong reasons, as you and I know this will lead ultimately to greater emissions whilst reducing our dependency on imported gas.

You should look into EIF (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems). The product is also called synthetic stucco, and refers to a multi-layered exterior finish that's been used in European construction since shortly after World War II, when contractors found it to be a good repair choice for buildings damaged during the war. The majority of repairs to European buildings were to structures constructed of stone, concrete, brick, or other similar, durable materials. The product and process have been steadily improving, with EIFS becoming the exterior of choice in many US homes over the last decade.

The granite in your walls will help to moderate temperature swings in the house in a much more improved manner with exterior insulation to dramatically slow down the diurnal heat gain/loss (i.e., it will increase the house's Thermal Time Constant [TTC]). You would see a jump in internal thermal mass, which is highly desirable.

Improperly applied synthethic stucco is the root cause of much mold/water damage in homes in the US Southeast and Northwest, especially. My last liability policy on my general contractors licence (WA State) prohibited me from installing synthetic stucco as part of my building practices. Old houses with natural finishes tend to breath; moisture, water vapor, moves through the walls. Stop the breathing with exterior insulation and synthetic finishes and you probably have to install vapor barriers and mechanical ventilation systems. The issue of moisture in highly insulated housed is not to be taken lightly.

The issue of moisture in highly insulated housed is not to be taken lightly.

I fear you are right. You got to know what you are doing.

I'm sure you're on the right track, though. I doubt there's no such thing as insulation upgrade schemes for existing rock or masonry walls that don't involve issues with mold.

Most humidity is created in the kitchen and in the bathrooms. Both of those places must have vents with fans installed to avoid mold and mildew as it is. When people say special requirements, they sound as if the present building codes are not addressing moisture in these areas.

Someone enlighten me here.

Like me, you must not live in an area like the deep south, where it's so humid, mold grows on everything. It's a huge problem in the south, and why they have greater need for refrigerated A/C than a dry desert. In addition to obviously lowering temperature, refrigeration coils have the added benefit of condensing out moisture to help dry the air out.

you must not live in an area like the deep south, where it's so humid, mold grows on everything.

The building code exists to prevent problems. Not venting moisture will cause the problem in almost any location.

Somehow one needs 6 air exchanges an hour for a building (my memory is 6). That is going to need energy. Saving energy via good insulation is not a 100% one way 'transaction'.

Improperly applied synthethic stucco is the root cause of much mold/water damage in homes in the US Southeast and Northwest, especially.

Obviously, those who install it need to do it right. Improperly applied anything is going to cause problems.

Stop the breathing with exterior insulation and synthetic finishes and you probably have to install vapor barriers and mechanical ventilation systems.

There are a number of interior paints that act as vapor barriers for that very reason, for example;

Behr Premium Plus Exterior/Interior Primer/Sealer

As a vapor barrier, this product has a Perm Rating of less than (1.0).

Whole House Ventilation Systems on 24 hour timers are mandated by code in new residential construction in WA State.

I wasn't dissing the technolgy (synthetic stucco with exterior insulation) per se, just pointing out some of the problems I've seen and researched. It's not a panacea. My underwriter showed me enough evidence to justify their exclusion of it from my liability coverage.

I've used it successfuly with no problems or call-backs. But if I can't be covered for liability, then it's not worth the risk.

Some "improperly applied anythings" cause more problems than others. Some things are easier to "improperly apply".

If you are going to super-insulate a house, you need to put a vapor barrier on one side, and one side only, of the insulation - preferably the warm-in-winter side. If you put a vapor barrier on both sides of the insulation, it will trap moisture inside the wall and rot the wood framing out of the wall rather rapidly.

The house I am in has 6 inches (150 mm) of fibreglass insulation in the walls and 12 inches (300 mm) in the ceilings, with 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier on the inside, and Tyvec house wrap between the outside wall and the siding. The Tyvec is like Gore-Tex fabric - it blocks air and water infiltration into the house but lets the moisture escape from the walls to the outside.

There is also a 3 inch (75 mm) air gap between the 12 inches of ceiling insulation and the roof sheathing, with soffit vents and a continuous ridge vent the length of the roof to allow air circulation and prevent rotting out the roof framing. If you don't leave that air gap, the roof won't last very long.

This is pretty standard in Canada, where we understand insulation better than most places. Someone more obsessive about insulation might double the thickness over what I have, but I have cheap natural gas and a 95% efficient furnace, plus a wood fireplace and free wood.


I did my bit last year and renewed my roof. I switched to a reflective foil insulation called Airflex (by KbD), applying two layers with a 45 mm air gap; the air in the air gap is static. The insulation is applied to the roof pitch and is termed a warm roof. Not Cheap. The insulation and installation added £20k to the price of the job on a roof of 250 square metres. In the next year I saved about 20% on my gas consumption which is not bad but it amounted to <£200( all of that saving has gone with recent price rises). So the payback is about 100 years. On a more serious note installation at new build would have been much cheaper on labour but no saving on materials. True madness prevailed in that because it was a private job VAT was levied at 15% (now 20%). An addtional benefit is that the warm roof is now much cooler in the summer.

The unforeseen downside is now that the house is so tight that I am in the process of installing a whole house heat recovery ventilation sytem to reduce the humidity in winter; another £3k.
I would recommend a condensing boiler only on a relatively new heating system as they are pressurised and will find leaks. They can be fitted by a competent DIYer. I have done 6 boilers. 3 gas and 3 oil without difficulty. If a UK plumber can fit one, then so can I.

What do you mean,

"( all of that saving has gone with recent price rises) "

Maybe your direct Pounds expense was ultimately as much as the year before, but didn't your 'averted expenditure' in fact pay you back even better? As fuel prices rise your payback will surely improve..?

As I tell people who complain about expensive solutions. "I know you can't afford to do it. But how well can you afford NOT to?"

It sounds like you took a pretty expensive route. I do believe there are cheaper ways (to some degree) to do this.. I heard an interview with a Thatcher whose Thatch roofs are rated around R-100.. but maybe that's counting all the squirrel and mouse fur that gets up in there..

Perhaps my comment was not the best- "all of that saving has gone with recent price rises". Of course I am saving money butI am still paying the same as last year so I cannot feel it. But I agree with you. We are approaching a situation where not insulating will not be an option.

My warm roof approach was fairly competitive vs other routes. You get what you pay for. I do not like rock or glass fibres and this route may be the low cost method but you end up with a health hazard on a grand scale and you have 25+ cm of fibre which renders your roof useless. It also becomes a haven for rodents.

The warm roof approach can be done with a variety of materials. The most popular is the Kingspan slab approach (10 cms thick) but the cost is astronomic. There are reflective foil/quilt combinations but these are not so easy to install. The foil approach I used was expensive but relatively easier to install, totally inert and was still very competitive with the other methods. None are cheap. You get what you pay for. ALL the warm roof solutions require some form of static air gap for maximum U value.

I anticipated the rise in humidity and had planned for the ventitlation system should it be required; and it is required. The house is now so airtight that there is little natural ventilation via air leakage. I solved one problema and now have the other humidity problem to solve.

Overall though this is part of my long term plan to severely reduce my energy imports, because as the post says we are doomed in the UK. The next step is a large PV on a tracker system, rather than roof mounted. Note for the UK. The FIT applies to maximum of 16amps 4kW for the maximum FIT rebate. My system should pay back in about 7-8 years.

I begun to insulate the pitch roof with roles of insulation in plastic held in place with nails and criss cross fishing line leaving an air gap between insulation and outer roof - wooden sarking with slates on top. I was told this could cause problems with condensation between warm inner and cold outer - not sure I believe it but I stopped. I imagine the condensation issue will be very site / location specific. I don't think I have much humidity in our house.

condensation between warm inner and cold outer - not sure I believe it but I stopped

Local building codes have a layer of water-resistant felt right under the shingles for such a purpose.

Unless you have a non-code idea that others have done in some other location and there are engineering documents supporting the idea - best not to be an experimenter.

25 years a go I bought a beautiful old derelict Edwardian house for very little money. This had a staircase into the roof space with a floor area of over 100 sq. meters. The floor needed a lot of attention. My solution was to rip out the floor and as the depth between joists were exceptionally deep. My solution to the problem was too line the joists with aluminium cooking foil and fill them in with rockwool off cut from which I got for virtually nothing and re-flooring the attic with second-hand floorboards. I also enclosed the stairwell with a super insulated frame to a depth of 16" same as between the joists and a well insulated door, seeing as the roof pitch of my house was 45 degrees going the way you have gone Euan it would have meant a increase of 41% in materials used because of the increased surface area and therefore a 41% greater heat loss even if I could have insulated it to the same depth of insulation. Isulating pitched roofs seems to me the wrong way to go unless you need the attic for living space or re-roofing the house then you can incorporate the insulation at the same time using insulated structural panels instead of the normal roof joists.


Yorkshire Miner.

"...leaving an air gap between insulation and outer roof..."

This is called a "cold roof". In WA state this air space must be a minimum of 1 inch. There needs to be venting in the eaves and in the ridge to allow a continuous air flow (hot air rises, and all that).

"...not sure I believe it.."

One of the most difficult things I have had to do is convince clients that their roof is not "leaking" (water coming from the outside), but "raining" (water vapor condensing on a cooler surface inside). I've seen it. I believe it. I mitigate against it.

Air infiltration is also a big cause of indoor humidity. Almost need to do a blower door test to find out how "tight" the house is.

Like most other things, houses need to be thought of as whole systems.

domestic scale microCHP.

And while the UK was one of the 1st places to place stirling microCHPs in homes at a discount - they are still not a commonplace thing.

What magical microCHPs are gonna be used?

As we saw in California back in 2001 when the lights start going out the public shows up at the legislators meetings with pitchforks. California government had not allowed any of the electric utilities build a single power plant in the state for twenty years, however within two weeks of the rolling blackouts the state legislature approved 14 new power plants, all gas units as they could be brought on line within 18 months. As a result we now pay up to $ 0.53 a kWh for household electricity.
It sounds like the legislators in Great Britain are about to go the same route.

I thoroughly understand the necessity of pollution abatement, but the Brits are making a fatal mistake in closing thier existing coal fired plants if they are scrapped, as seems most likely, rather than mothballed.

It will prove to be a hell of a lot faster to up grade an existing plant than to build a new one when the brewing crisis boils over.

There is always a "Larger envelope" when any problem comes up for discussion, with the one possible exception of the long term preservation of this planet as our only home.

However, a lot of us who understand this fact seem to be blind to the nature of the behavior of people and societies.

Overly ambitious environmental policies and goals set with the very best of intentions are apt to result in a severe backlash against the environmental movement in general when the energy crisis boils over and the lights start going out.

If the reader doesn't get my drift, I suggest he or she try really hard to understand where the tea party crowd is "coming from" in several senses.

I would also suggest, incidentally, that better results might be obtained in negotiating with them if the folks doing the negotiating would come to thier senses and accept the obvious fact that MOST of them(rank and file and leadership) are QUITE SINCERE in thier beliefs, rather than simply accusing them of various and sundry ethical failings.

The also obvious fact that most of the people on the right wing do not understand the energy and environment issues is no refutation of my comment.

Quite a few of them, however mistaken they may be , are very well educated and have many and internally consistent reasons to believe as they do-the worlds best thinkers have often been proven wrong by those who come later and are thus sometimes better informed.

mac - Nice balanced statement as usual. The only real question is who will burn you at the stake first: the environmentlists or the T-partiers? Not classicly trained I don't recall the name of some long dead greek who suffered the same fate. I suspect you know who I'm talking about.

So Crates...

Where do ecological concerns fall on Maslow's Hierarchy of needs? How about home heating?

Climate is undeniably important, but rarely if ever urgent. The UK, and the world in general, will have frittered away the good times when ecological concerns, efficiency, and alternative investments could have been handled as affordable investments. As times tighten, these topics will be seen as luxuries that can be ill afforded. Once it becomes evident that they were necessities after all, the experience will be painful indeed.

Those areas that crash first will have an advantage. Maybe UK will lead the way?

When the climate makes it impossible to grow food, or to survive without artificial cooling, one might find it 'urgent.'

Mac - I don't like the sound of a brewing crisis as well as an energy crisis:-(

With power bills set to soar in the UK I think a backlash against the Greenthinkers is in the pipeline.

With power bills set to soar in the UK I think a backlash against the Greenthinkers is in the pipeline.

Euan, I have predicted here on TOD and other places, in the future few people will "belive in climate change". They will not do so, because their ability to keep their job relies on them not. Lots of people will be very surpriced when the weather mess up properly, and wonder why scienteists don't know why this happens.

"Disbelief" in CC can come from the paycheck issue you mention.

More often it is the result of the largest disinformation campaign in history, of which the main post seems to be a part.

The premise seems to be that CC is a silly non-issue.

If this is the kind of dreck we are now likely to see regularly at TOD, it is a sad state of affairs indeed.

Hi Dohboi,

I do not doubt that there is a disinformation campaign as you say, but I do have my doubts as to whether it is the largest in history , or even in the top ten perhaps.

It seeems to me that just about every econonic interest/pressure group is running a disinformation campaign-some of which boggle the mind.
I doubt very seriously if the ff industry has more media clout than the banking, law, medicine, education, or insurance industries.

I have great respect for you personally , and your passion for looking after the environment, but it seems to me that perhaps your passion borders on the religious-not a bad thing in principle, but potentially disastrous in practice, if those in charge of policy were to believe the same way.

Not many people ever adopt a new world view-they find a comfortable intellectual place and more or less reside there forever-I on the other hand have moved from one end of the political spectrum to the other, a couple of times, as well as adapting my opinions of technical issues to such new information as I become aware of.(I make every effort to stay well informed.)

I am no longer a true believer in liberalism, or conservatism, or classical economics, or the free market, or any other ism, excepting possibly Darwinism-but please don't confuse me with a "social Darwinist".I do believe in the social philosophy of Jesus Christ as He himself taught it,as a matter of my personal ethics, but I'm still a Darwinist thru and thru.

My friends of the left/environmentalist persausion and my friends of the right/bau persausion are mutually convinced that the opposite camp is ignorant, concieted, condescending, motivated solely by money, desire for power, and so forth.

Now it is a fact that the left /environmentalist faction happens to have the raw science and basic facts on thier side.

However, this does NOT MEAN simply the right /bau camp has been hoodwinked by the ff lobby.

I myself hold a technical degree from a respectable university and was taught the bau /right wing philosophy as gospel as an undergraduate-as just about every practicing economist, banker, engineer lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc, was taught this same philosophy.

These people have every reason to view the environmentalist camp with the gravest of suspicions- for starters they after all are well acquainted with information and disinformation campaigns thenmselves.Unless one is qualified to judge the facts for himself, and motivated to spend the time to do so, environmentalism smells sorta suspicious to such a person from a considerable distrance away.

Most of them simply lack the technical/ scientific background to comprehend the issues, so they are being asked , in effect , to accept the message that the sky is falling as a matter of faith rather than reason.Nobody , from the pov of a right /bau person in his "right mind" would take the pronouncements of any establishment seriously, including the scientific establishment, as "everybody is for sale",or at least looking after his own interests first, to put the point as briefly as possible.

I believe we are in the opening stages of an economic meltdown the likes of which will make the Great Depression look like a picnic-if I am right, then we can expect that any large scale , long term, slow payback energy programs will be axed fast, and those associated with them will be voted out of office in favor of those pushing short term solutions.

We might be better off if we face up to the raw facts of our current situation, as they apply in the real 3d geopolitical world today-data trumps theory every time.

The Chinese and the Indians aren't going to stop burning coal for any reason whatsoever, no matter what the British do,or we do.

War and competition for resources by means of war are undeniable facts.

We aren't going to bring our troops home from sand country, no matter who is in office.

We would collapse economically and politically and militarily immediately without that oil.

Short term survival ultimately trumps all other concerns-which after all are not even of academic interest to the dead and or vanquished.

We aren't going to switch over to renewables and break our ff addiction within any meaningful time frame because the capital, the will, and the engineering and manufacturing expertise necessary to do so don't exist.The crisis is too close and approaching too fast, barring miraculous luck.

We here in the USA are actually in a pretty good position to weather the coming storm, relative to Europe,at least. We can when absolutely forced to do so by the scourge of necessity, get by with our domestic resources, albeit at the price of a far lower standard of living.

But the public is going to be looking for scapegoats-those who push the hardest NOW for the change we need the most are going to pay the price of political banishment THEN.

I guess what I'm saying is that ts is itf and it's too late to solve our problems anyway, but we continue to fool ourselves otherwise..

Much of what you say is true but this may be the most damaging and cynical disinformation campaign in history if not the biggest.

However, dismissing CC as a non issue in a post on TOD rightly invites the response given by Dohboi. Bringing up the issue in the post and then telling Dohboi his posts will be deleted if he further discusses it is outrageous. Arguably, it may be plausible to assert that UK should not sacrifice its needs to concerns about climate change. Given the fact that is has a relatively small impact, it might be too much to ask its citizens to meet goals which will jeopardize their well being. However, the assertion brings forth counter arguments which should be respected. Respect was not given and the counter argument was just belittled.

These people have every reason to view the environmentalist camp with the gravest of suspicions- for starters they after all are well acquainted with information and disinformation campaigns themselves.

The problems come from the hard core activist types. The right is familar with them showing up, and spreading FUD about most of the time about pure nonsense. So then they paint anything envoronmental with the same broad brush. The logic becomes dominated by the strawmen, rather than the reasoned experts.

I agree, that pushing for the right policies, does carry political risk. You and your kind might be successfully scapecoated. But then they will try drill-drill-drill. And soon it will become apparent that that won't work. So, there is the chance of political rehabilitation (think of how many times major players in the Chinese Commie party have been ruined, then later rehabilitated). In our case it may just help to be reasonable in the first place. I never say to drill-drill-drill types, that they should be absolutely prohibited. I just point out, it will be highly ineffectual. That whatever contributions to supply they make, may help on the margins -provided it doesn't steal urgency from the needed conservation efforts. Given the contemporary disrespect for truthfullness in the US, I doubt that is enough. But, what would you suggest?

"I am no longer a true believer in liberalism, or conservatism, or classical economics, or the free market, or any other ism, excepting possibly Darwinism"

Well, we can certainly agree on that.

And I fully expect that those concerned about the future viability of the earth will be scapegoated--we are already.

Exxon, the most profitable company since the invention of money, can certainly put on a propaganda campaign that puts most others to shame. But you are probably right that if you consider the promotion of growth-oriented economics to be a propaganda campaign, it probably has been and is an even larger and more effective one.

Those who are completely entrapped in the delusory ideology of endless economic growth certainly do have 'every reason to view the environmentalist camp with suspicion'--true environmentalists (or better, ecologists, or just people who have not been brainwashed by fantastic ideologies) see that eternal growth in a limited world is not possible and not desirable, and that is a fundamental threat to the basis of their world view.

I, for one, am willing to go on speaking obvious if uncomfortable truths even if it gets me eventually scapegoated, persecuted...even deleted from supposedly open-minded discussions on topics related to carbon-based energy sources.

How about you?

I'm with you dohboi...keep up the fight. But it's easier for me: being a geologist for 36 years I've gotten comfortable with rejection decades ago. LOL. BTW: ExxonMobil is far from the most "profitable" company. They may have the largest income but that's not profit. Ive worked on a few XOM projects in my career...don't confuse size with competance.

Like Rockman, I'm with you Dohboi, in principle and in my heart.

I'm just afraid what is being proposed in terms of cc amelioration is too little and too late, and the expenditures made in this effort in places such as the US and the UK will be mostly futile.

Better that we spend our money on conservation and efficiency for the forseeable future-depletion and rising prices are going to take care of the pollution problem before too long-probably before any carbon emissions reduction schemes can have any truly significant effect.

We are going to learn to live a low energy lifestyle like it or not, and soon.

I just got my first comfortably warm free hot water solar heated shower a few minutes ago.Well not totally free-there is a small pump motor that will have to run three or four hours a day to meet all our needs for bathing, laundry, kitchen, and occasional outside use such as washing equipment down.

In nasty winter weather an auxiliary collecter pipe loop will heat the reservior with heat scavenged from the wood stove.

I'm hoping to buy some pv panels in the not too distant future.

mac - very good point. What's the old sayin: There's are those situations that can be changed and those that can't...hope I'm smart enough to know the difference. Neither depletion nor conservation will make any difference in my remaining years. I can just coast along until the MS eats up what's left of my brain (which there wasn't enough to begin with. LOL). But my 12 yo daughter is a different matter. By adulthood she will probably be getting hit right between the eyes with PO. Fortunately she's gotten a good start by living in the country with my ex: knows how to run an effective garden, raise stock (planning on going to vet school eventually), hunt and cook wild game, etc. Like her peers she'll have no impact on global energy trade. But she knows how to save money, feed herself and not be dependent upon anyone including the govt to live her life. How well that works remains to be seen. Of course, busting my butt these days so maybe I can leave her with a good nest egg that could help buffer PO somewhat.

Your shower story brought me back to my childhood when I took a bath in a #3 washtub with water often heated with cardboard, old newspaper or scrap wood. And I grew up the in French Quarter in New Orleans. When the day comes and my daughter's solar isn't adquate she'll still have scrap mesquite to resource in S Texas they'll never deplete.

Don't worry about how your daughter will get hot water for hygien. Her problem will be how to get cold water.

JW - More likely a problem getting cold air (AC) then cold water. A tad hot in S Texas during the summer. LOL.

Hey OFM, I have made such intelectual journeys to. Was "born" a young erath creationist, but now frame myself as a theistic evolutionist. Wich means I am of the opinion God simply programmed the Universe with this specific set of laws and watched life evolve. Good stuff here is I can say to CC deniers "I used to be a YEC and I call you a science denialist". I think it gotta hurt, pulled that one on RMG once.

I used to be a capitalist, but now see it as part of the problem and not of the solution.

I would like to form a collective once, putting the "the social philosophy of Jesus Christ as He himself taught it" in practical action. And use that arrangement as a platform for social action in the neighborhood. The way into the future is to band together and help each other out, placing value in relations insted of stuff. As you I am convinced there will be an economic downturn like no one before. I am working and saving money on top of the inheritance from my rich unknown uncle (true story) for the purpose of buying a house. One with a large garden. For that specific purpose.

I am absolutely certain that Earth's climate is changing and will begin to panic the day that it stops changing since it has always changed since the beginning of time.

Note that the post is not on climate change and off topic comments will be deleted.

"the post is not on climate change"

Ummmm, I'm not sure how carefully you read the main post, but if you got as far as the second sentence without nodding off, you might have noticed the words "Climate Change" there.

Climate change is apparently off topic for those who disagree with the author. Anyway, if we could just ignore climate change, life would be so much simpler.

Another "the climate has always changed" post. Well, yes it has (except for the 600 years leading up to the industrial revolution) but NEVER THIS FAST. This is the fastest climate change by large margin ever in the ice core records.

As a comparsion it has been warmer than now. 36 million yers ago CO2 concentrtion was a few hundred notches (in PPMs) higher than now. The indian sub-continent was colliding with Asia, and hughe amounts of carbonates was forced into vulcanoes and emitted into the atmosphere as CO2. We are not anywhere near those concentrations (yet). But; the CO2 concentration climbed 0.0001 PPM/year, compared with 2 PPM/year now. That is fully 20 000 times faster CO2 increase now compared to then. It is the speed that will get us this round.

You failed to note that ts is attributing the CA problems to the wrong cause. Are you really unaware that ENRON was behind the whole fiasco?

And there are no "overly ambitious environmental policies." There are barely and ambitious policies, and the repubs are doing all they can to get rid of any environmental policies at all.

We are boiling the planet.

What is an appropriate response to that fact?

How about getting rid of the crazy over-regulation (and outright prohibition) of nuclear energy?

Had the USA continued its LWR construction pace of the 1970's (just building out the units in the pipeline, replacing coal), both energy scarcity and GHG issues would be much less pressing.  Had the IFR not been cancelled in 1994, the reprocessing of spent LWR fuel to start IFRs would have eliminated Yucca Mountain as a political issue (and also eliminated questions about the uranium supply).

A substantial part of the coming UK electricity crunch is due to retirement of nuclear plants without any non-fossil replacement.  This ultimately came from a failure to face facts.

How about getting rid of the Price-Anderson Act first?

And, be sure to institute a totalitarian government, as any determined terrorist group could stop a shipment of spent fuel and turn it into a dirty bomb, once fuel recycling is begun...

E. Swanson

On the whole, government regulation is holding back nuclear power, not the other way around.

A dirty bomb going off once in a while is much less harmful than for instance coal pollution, climate catastrophies or a society being out of energy.

How about getting rid of the Price-Anderson Act first?

You mean, NOT put the entire nuclear industry on the hook for a problem with a single plant (which has never been invoked, BTW) and limit liability to the value of the corporation (which would probably be restructured as one-plant-per-corp)?  In other words, treating nuclear power like chemical plants and railroads and everything else?

Where do I sign up?

any determined terrorist group could stop a shipment of spent fuel and turn it into a dirty bomb, once fuel recycling is begun...

You're saying that a terrorist group could get sealed, shielded (and very heavy) containers of spent fuel off their railcars or heavy trucks, and so much as get them away from the armed escort?  I'd like to see someone try that (it has EPIC FAIL written all over it).  If you want to war-game such an attempt, I'll be happy to place a bet on the outcome.

The spent fuel for a LWR is a few truckloads a year.  The encapsulated fission products from an Integral Fast Reactor or LFTR amounts to a few truckloads for the life of the reactor.  Terrorists could shut down quite a bit of electrical generation by dynamiting the rail bridges which carry coal to plants, or wreak havoc by wrecking the containment levees around wet coal-ash dumps.  Nuclear power is nigh invulnerable by contrast.

better results might be obtained in negotiating with them if the folks doing the negotiating would come to thier senses and accept the obvious fact that MOST of them(rank and file and leadership) are QUITE SINCERE in thier beliefs

Obviously, but that doesn't make them any more correct. And, as we can see from present US budget "negotiations", most often the ultra-right's idea of "negotiation" is "My way is the only way". If whats-her-name (Palin) were in charge of the US senate now, would the nation default on its notes and loose its credit rating? I'm thinking yes. How is "First of all, tax increases on the wealthy are OFF THE TABLE!!" a negotiating position?

The crisis won't happen like that in the UK. We will keep building new gas CCGTs, actually over 10GW have either been commissioned in the last 2 years or are in construction now, far more are in the pipeline. The lights won’t go out, our problem will come when gas prices re-connect with oil and our economy will simply be left uncompetitive with other advanced economies.

But where will all this gas come from? If the Japanese need it to replace most/all of their nukes, and the germans as well, and the pakistani 12/24 grid needs it will there be enough, and will you be able
to afford it? How many more nation-wide disruptions through bad policy, natural disaster, or poor engineering/operation does it take to precipitate a large shortgage?

I think it will remain an open market with demand set by price. There's a good scenario and a bad scenario.

In the good scenario prices increase slowly and gradually, and in a fairly linear fashion, over time and as they do so countries that are gas reliant gradually reduce demand and transition to other technologies including nuclear, wind and biomass.

In the bad scenario something goes wrong (e.g. Iran invades Qatar) and the price suddenly goes through the roof creating highly distressed demand reduction.

The first one would cause a manageable reduction in living standards over time but probably not to the point of genuine hardship for most people; the second one would lead to very considerable hardship for most people.

I pray that you are correct.


As a result we now pay up to $ 0.53 a kWh for household electricity

I'm not aware of any rate in California that is higher than 18¢/kwh.

Moreover, the lights went out in California (and it wasn't even during peak season) because of an ill conceived deregulation scheme coupled with market manipulators who illegally shut down pipelines. California was forced to borrow billions and much of our electricity rate covers the bond debt.

All in all, the Enron scam has at least made California a leader in conservation and efficiency.

Thanks Debbie. I tried to say the same thing. The whole Enron scandal is so easily forgotten by those that like to hurl insults at California for no other purpose. LOL

You are talking about average rates. Marginal rates for higher tiers of electricity usage are much higher. I lived in Northern California last year and am well aware of the higher rates. Marginal rates have come down but are still high. Below are rates for residential usage for PG&E.

Total Energy Rates ($ per kWh)
Baseline Usage $0.12233 ( )
101% - 130% of Baseline $0.13907 ( )
131% - 200% of Baseline $0.30180 (I)
201% - 300% of Baseline $0.34180 (R)
Over 300% of Baseline $0.34180

PG&E residential tiers. The lowest is bit undetr $.12/KWhr, but the next tiers are 130%, 200%, and 300%. So 300% is already roughly $.36. I'm not sure what it does after 300%. I think commercial customers are all tier1. This has been a boon for residential PV, wealthy people who want to continue there energyhog ways have learned PV is a cost effective way to reduce their costs.

Debbie, I was using what I recalled as my “last” kWh rate. Going back to my PG&E electric bill from May/June 2011, (see below), I find that the actual last kWh rate is $0.57995. The minimum rate possible is about $0.106 if we used 297 kWh per month, and only at night. Our average cost for power as we use it is about $0.26 per kWh. Note: there are two households on this meter.

If there are two households, you might want to get a second meter. The tiered rate is for one household. The vast majority of customers are in the bottom three tiers. If I remember correctly less than 1% of customers are in the 5th tier and less than 10% are in the 4th tier in CA (it may have changed but that's my recollection).

Along the same lines, roughly 50% are in the bottom two tiers. "Baseline" varies substantially geographically. Your baseline is about half of what someone in the San Gabriel Valley would have, or about 1/4 of what someone in Palm Springs would have. It's still more than my parents use in Phoenix.

Tomswift, you must not be able to read your electric bill. No one pays $0.53 as their base rate. Also your recollection of history is oddly tainted. Remember who was running the CA power grid back in the old days of DEREGULATION. The name of the company if you recall, which you likely do not, was ENRON. They actually have recorded phone calls of Enron's so called "energy traders" telling peaker NG plants that they needed to shut down. It was a cozy arrangement. Meanwhile the "deathstar" "ping-pong" and a variety of other Enron trading moves (schemes) were employed to exploit a major downed set of power lines due to forest fire and the unfortunate off-line power plants and other trading schemes, which were all manufactured problems.

At the end of the day, the folks at Enron I believe went to jail. Deregulation was stopped and the CA problem with electricity as far as I can tell is mostly in your head.

If you are a glutton, which you may be, then you pay the top-most rate in CA but I only pay a few kW-Hr a month in the 25 cent bracket. Maybe you just need to keep your home at 78 F in the summer instead of 70 F.

No one pays $0.53 as their base rate

Last I checked, Colville Lake paid $2.30

Those folks are using diesel to produce electricity. They are precisely tied to high oil prices. The hydro folks are looking good though on that site. See that is market incentive to add PV when possible when the base power is diesel. Not sure how easy that is but it would save money.

Not only did the folks in charge go to jail, but one of the five largest accounting firms in the world was completely destroyed for its complicity in the fraud.

We are now left with The Big Four international audit firms after they gobbled up the pieces of Arthur Andersen.

Oct, you may have misread my statement. I said, “up to $ 0.53 a kWh”, not my “base rate”. See my bill above.

“Maybe you just need to keep your home at 78 F in the summer instead of 70 F.”

We always keep our thermostat at 70 F in the summer, however as we have no air conditioning it doesn’t help much :).

Its 83 F as I write this:(

Your average rate is about $0.25 cents / kW-Hr. Seems like your place would be amenable to PV at that average rate. Sucks to be paying that top rate at peak -- but I guess that is the new way to try to curb peak demand. I thought you would need an AC to get to the top tier. What have you tried to do to reduce? My electric usage is lower since I have gas heat and gas water heater and stove, but of course I pay for the NG all the same. I guess that is the difference.

"83 F" I'm sure you know that in itself is a poor measure of comfort level. If humidity is low, a fan will provide you with comfort in those temperatures.

If it's 83 F with high humidity and no refrigerated A/C, you may consider suicide.

Or a dehumidifier.


A dehumidifier IS a refrigeration unit, although unlike with refrigerated space cooling, it's not dumping the heat it removes outside.

I have no idea what NAOM stands for. That's why I myself don't often use abbreviations or acronyms unless it's a common part of English vernacular.

On the one hand I agree with you but is optimised for removing moisture rather than lowering the room temperature. The ones I have seen here have considerably lower power ratings than A/C units and, when dehumidifying, don't need to be used the whole time. Once humidity is down then the unit may be turned off and may stay off for some time if the house does not have a lot of air exchange. I tend to use my A/C on humidity setting for a short while then turn it off.


Oh, as to the other question, seek and ye shall find ;)

Yes a fan helps, the relative humidity here is about 50% today

Gotta toss in a holier than thou remark here. Unlike old farmer, I have had lots and lots of plenty hot free water from a single roll of swimming pool heater rolled out on the ground and covered with bubble wrap. Cheap! In parallel with that I have a little wood/trash burner for when the sun is too lazy. And in the winter, the wood sstove does the same job in spades.

The weather here happens to be terrible hot and humid, I am not. No AC, just good insulation and airing it out at 3AM. And a car radiator with cold cistern water pumped thru for dehumidification in the living room where I and wife can be purely comfortable without hardly any electricity while all our friends are slathering coal smoke all over the world while driving their AC to the limit.

And of course all this is rank amateur compared to what we all could be doing if we put our wits together and just did it.

And as for the windmills all pooping out at once-- Well, anybody who grew up in the south befoe AC knows that sometimes EVERYBODY should just poop out and go swimming. All this working all the time is silly. Especially when what they are working on is crapola, mostly.

Thanks Hugh and Euan.
Postponing closing down 'old coal' generators in UK?
Well, most of our coal is imported (biggest supplier is Russia) and I share your concern for international coal market going forward. UK cetainly will not be mining more coal for itself in future.
16 GW gap?
Oil generation of power scarcely figures anyway.
Nuclear: these oldies can not limp on forever. Do you see anyone subsidising the very substantial upfront new nuclear cost anyway?
So far, wind subsidies have been a drop in the ocean and future necessary large subsidies (the case for up-front subsidies is much the same as for nuclear) will only work in a big way, I presume, if we can share a super-grid HVDC network connecting with very large wind and non-wind sources across Europe and beyond.
So gas (NG)? We have big infrastructure & connectors including LPG/LNG terminals, and like the rest of EU, we must find the means to buy our NG. Longer term? Insulate?
Power generation and distribution? You make good points. Anything to get that peak load down?

There can be no doubt that the UK must evolve an energy strategy that will liberate the economy from hydrocarbons as fast as possible. But its resources and financial circumstances are increasingly modest

Well, yes.

Realism? You mention 1910, 1934. More like 1914 and 1936; we seem even closer to zero hour it seems to me. Is UK really such a special case, though? The financial assumptions based on growth ('keep partying-on') seem to hold sway everywhere. (Lower wages and social payments and abolish services to maintain 'competitiveness'? ... Hmmn. Your term 'ruin' springs to mind.)
Oh, and rising CO2 is also real.

Put in the context of 1000 years of british history, how important is this energy meltdown?
Obviously very serious. It will change society significantly. But I think not irrepareably.

One "silver lining" is that the UK may be one of the first developed countries into the maelstrom, and forced to change, and so it may be one of the first out the other end.

It will be a painful 20 years.

There is no "other end". In the long run, population will be forced back down to sustainable levels (20% of today's population).

The decommissioning simply won't happen. Thats all. Or the power plants will force the government to pay for the necessary changes to meet requirements.

The PV on your roof subsidy is just as useless for middle income people because if you have a semi-detached, you aren't going to be able to fit it on your roof either. So even less people than you realise can utilise it unless you have a really understanding neighbour. This is before we talk about how the roof has to face the right direction and be a big enough space without inconvenient chimneys and things.

The PV on your roof subsidy is just as useless ...

The FIT isn't just for PV panels on the roofs of houses - in fact domestic roofs are, in general, not very suitable.

PV panels can be installed almost anywhere and companies are purchasing land to cover with PV panels as the FIT is such a good investment.

This is what has happened to my electricty consumption purchased from my supplier since installing PV panels on my garage roof last October.

electricity usage

Far from being useless, the FIT means I no longer pay for my electricity, my supplier pays me, and I expect to make around 10% tax free return on my investment in a full year!

Is that a 1.5 kW system?

It is a 1.8Kw system, but the inverter top stops at 1.72KW - I get this most days at the peak time if there iare no clouds.

Not a bad estimate for a back of the envelope. I took your best difference in output and divided it by 6 hours of good sun and assumed a 30-day month ;-) BTW that seems like a good size system for starters at my house -- what did it run approximately minus CA and FED rebates.

FIT (Feed-in Tarriff) that I receive is for the UK and there aren't any Government rebates for PV. I did recieve a £1000 grant from my local Government and £400 from National Government for my solar hot water system - about half the cost for the evacuated tubes and controls etc.

The UK is cloudy in the winter so, as you can see, in January there is little PV production!

Hi Xeroid - not useless for you;-))) where the sun is shining. Send me an email, would be great to have a detailed post on this.

What you really mean is that I am paying for your electricity if you are getting a federal subsidy or a state subsidy if I happen to live in the same state.

I'm not necessarily opposed -I just like to tell it like it is.

I don't make enough anymore to take advantage of such subsidies as are offered-another case of the very little guy getting screwed.

There shoulds be a better and more equitable way to help the pv industry grow, but I'm not sure what it might be.

One possibility might be to all subsidy money to publicly owned systems installed at fire stations, schools, and other such infrastructure.

This would be more equitable to say the least.

Another might be to have a dollar for dollar tax credit for lower income folks.

I just finished my self engineered and constructed, long in the works domestic solar hot water system for which I will get a zero subsidy.

Life just ain't fair. ;-)

The subsidies aren't that large (except for perhaps New Jersey), so its not costing you much. And most cases, PV eats into the need for peak FF capacity, which requires expensive capital plant investment. Its not clear that non PV houses are paying much. What is clear to me, is that early adopters, like me paid a premium to be early. Prices are dropping enough that we would have been better off to wait a few years. So these early adopters, despite the subsidies are doing everyone else a favor, they are seeding the growth and improvment of the product. So don't begrudge them. Thank them. And inquire about what it would take to join them later on.

Every reference I follow to low cost solar takes me to thin film, or curiously, panels that are claimed to be polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels, but have much lower nameplates than top end brands of roughly the same size and type of panels. It would also have a notation of "Blemish", whatever that means. Following is the site:

I've seen some cites that a brand or two or monocrystalline panels from many years ago are still performing with little degradation from nameplate, but thinfilms have yet to prove they can withstand the test of time.

I'm also wary of thin-film.. but I'm also mindful of an older maxim of 'You get what you pay for.'

We keep demanding that Solar is only worth it if they can make it really cheap for us. Really.. what are we expecting when we think like a Wall-mart Sourcing Manager?

These prices are pretty good.. I might not insist on going for the absolute lowest bidder.. $1.99/watt

Kyocera is high end stuff, for sure. Noted, though, that I'm getting yet another cite for low cost solar that's not top of the line in efficiency. Your cite is for polycrystalline panels.

Curiously, Kyocera frames in anodized black aluminum. If PV is adversely affected by high temperatures, why would they do that? That's got knock a few watts off of generation by contributing to the efficiency losses due to heat issue.

My local community college did a massive solar topped parking lot canopies installation using Kyocera's best, and they went up another 2 feet compared to most canopy installations. 14 to 16 feet. That gets them safely out of the reach of high profile vehicles. There's hundreds of other solar topped canopies in my town that range in height from 10 to 14 feet.

I don't know how much damage the Dark Alum does to the output and panel temps, considering the panels themselves are also very dark.. but I'm sure they are eager to keep on the winning side of the 'we're not ugly' wars, and blend in with rooftops.

Enemy Mine ;-)

Of course I basically agree with what you are saying-knew it in advance of course.

I just take offense when somebody says they are "making money" due to thier costs being artificially lowered by a subsidy not equally available to all taxpayers.

And as I remarked above, I am not necessarily opposed to the subsidies in and of themselves, but only the inequitable way they are distributed;your points are all very good ones.

And as a matter of fact, I do expect to be buying pv panels and installing them myself within the next few years-right now, it is not yet a wise use of my limited funds- pv panel prices are falling faster annually in dollar terms than thier annual output of electricity so far as I see.

It would seem that one, fairly simple way to make the subsidies more equitable, is to make them taxable. If you get paid a subsidy, you have some kind of applicant number, and this is passed on to the IRS, and they will expect to see declaration of same on your tax return. The subsidy is then effectively taxed at your marginal rate, so the well off, get less.

I actually think that most government subisidies to individuals (and companies) should be taxable - we already have this system in place that, while not perfect by any means, does mean that those on the lower rungs get a greater benefit, and those who don;t need it, get less.

In the UK the poor person may still benefit from the subsidy (if they meet certain criteria) - by allowing their energy supplier to use their property to fit PV panels, the consumer can use as much of the produced power as they want for free , the supplier gets the subsidy.

My main point was to reiterate that this subsidy is only helping the well off as even a lot of the median earners can't take advantage of it because the space of their houses/gardens is not realistically available once you look into it. Even though they do own their own home.

I am however pleased that you have moved onto solar so successfully in the british climate.

Here in CA mostly companies are installing massive amounts of PV. The entire SFO airport. IKEA. Wineries. You name it. PV is going in and it seems it is not letting up. Lots and lots of wasted roof tops all over the place. When are peak electric times, when the sun is shining. Not going to fix the problem, but I bet it helps in the long run.

Almost all of those installations ultimately driven by state mandates.

"When are peak electric times, when the sun is shining."

Depends on where you live and what's commonly used for heating. All time peak energy use records outside of areas with year round mild weather is set on early winter mornings. If the right thing is to stop incinerating things for heat, especially fossils, and start doing it with electricity, the peak electricity usage is going to be in the winter in any area that routinely has freezing winter temperatures.

Solar PV is not great in the winter. You make tons of electricity in the summer though and require 2x the nameplate in the winter. California is weird in that the heat component is not so bad as other parts of the country. Living on the coast allows you to get by without AC albeit you cannot grow tomatoes very well.

It might have started in Europe, but in my part of the world, Canada refined hothouse tomato growing to the point of giving US farmers in temperate areas a run for their money. Now it's somewhat popular in the States, and beginning to take hold in Mexico, although quite a bit slower due to it requiring an initial high capital investment.

My father lives in Carpenteria Ca. Look at that area and similar coastal communities from satellite imagery and you'll see a common theme of hothouse installations. They work fantastically in relatively cool climates and you can better protect what you're growing from the usual insect, weed, and disease pressures you get when growing out in the open.

Judging from the popularity of them, they must be hugely profitable ventures......especially if you were fortunate enough to have already owned the land.

because if you have a semi-detached, you aren't going to be able to fit it on your roof either.

Whyever not?


The rules for getting the subsidy denote that you must have a certain sized roof available. At least from what i've read from my supplier. Because of the shape and size, plus possible chimneys, you would have to place it right across your neighbours roof as well.

That means effectively only one of you can have solar. Even if said neighbour lets you do it in the first place or if the rules allow you to even split a solar panel across a roof like that. They may not for legal reasons.

I'm not naysaying the whole thing, but it does come across as a subsidy just for the power companies and the well off more than I would like.

What area is required for a subsidy?


Here is the link from my electricity company. 23 square metres to have it fitted.

To be honest I only briefly looked into it. So my first impressions on availability to the average home owner may not be right.

Thanks, I took a look at my parents old house, which is a standard post-war semi, and that amount of panel should fit on quite comfortably though they might not like the aspect. The roof would still take a good amount of panels and be productive though different panels would produce at different times of the day. The size limit seems to be related to Eon's view of its profitability rather than subsidy directly. Maybe there are other schemes that have a lower limit still? As prices come down, fuel prices go up, methods improve and there is more experience then I would expect limits to come down as well.


Given that scaleability is one of the features of PV, it surprised me. I also do have to wonder if there is a catch in this for the home owner. It does seem "too good to be true".

I also do have to wonder if there is a catch in this for the home owner

Possibly ... I think you have to be careful what you agree to as you might not be able to sell the house for 20 years!

For a while I attended a few meetings of the "Coal Forum". It was (still is, I think it's still going although I haven't been involved for about 4 years) a forum organised by the UK government to bring together key players in the UK's coal industry - miners, generators, regulators, government, import facilities and others - as a means to facilitate dialogue and help inform policy. I was representing a large UK generator at the time.

I should say that all content of the meetings was secret (a worrying sign in itself) although the existence of the group is not. I don't intend to breach the obligation of confidentiality here, so I won't discuss any details. However, I discovered 3 things from these meetings which are only my opinion and therefore not a secret:

1. The government is(/was) far too heavily reliant on the IEA for energy related advice

2. The quality of the advice offered by the IEA direct to government defied belief in its staggering complacency and denial of verifiable facts

3. Certain civil servants were somewhat aware of number of 2, but for reasons which I could only speculate on, were not willing to do anything about it.

For what it's worth I think things have changed a lot since then and I think there are a few people at DECC who understand the scale of the problem - this is the reason why they want CFDs instead of premium subsidies - the CFDs don't pay out when fossil prices go sky high, in fact they pay back. Unfortunately it is simply not politically expedient to say anything like that in public, so we go on in the half-world.

"Europe’s largest generator, Drax Power, was only saved by its bankers taking a longer view but at a huge cost to its then owner, AES."
Actually Drax went bust, the banks sold their debt for a fraction of its face value (far from taking a long view) and the new owners foreclosed on the non-recourse debt and AES left the keys on the table and walked out of the room with nothing.
The buyers of the debt were mainly distressed debt hedge funds, they got the deal of the lifetime, within 2 years dark spreads had roared ahead, Drax was IPO'ed and the hedge funds exited with, in some cases over 1000% returns.
One of the legacies of the entire affair was that the hedge funds feared that the experienced operators would panic and find other jobs leaving the Drax in-operable. They handed out free shares worth a small but reasonable amount to the power station staff, but these shares went ballistic within months, literally creating millionaires in some cases, ordinary people who had done nothing except not resign from their comfortable well paid jobs. The new head management team (who came in afterwards) found to their dismay they were poorer than most of the staff at the station!
Amazing really, and so far from the old CEGB days it is hard to believe.

You don't have to run faster than the bear, just faster than the slowest in the group.

Others are going to run out of the ability to pay for oil before the UK does.

Haha, that's too simple!

There is no one bear! The analogy is more like the group (you/we?) are running from a group of bears! Its not like we've pulled through when someone gets caught by the fastest bear. It just continues, the second-slowest will be caught by the second-fastest bear! Etc.

Thanks Euan for this update of an earlier article on UK's energy descent (Feb 2007)

UK's 2P oil reserves are depleted by 80%

Graphs and tables are on my website

"Among the chief dangers that the UK faces in 2011 is the critical obsolescence of its electricity infrastructure, its essential bankruptcy and the absolutely unrealistic aspirations of almost its entire political class, although not its population, for a new, low-carbon, high-growth, job-creating, tax-paying economy."

Not just the UK. It seems this particular delusion is nigh universal.
Since it is politicians we are talking about, I venture that this is what their constituents want to hear.

My personal understanding is that the coming collapse of industrialization will halt, or at least drastically diminish the CO2 problem. The climate, however, is already headed into a new pattern that nobody really understands yet. Whether or not it is or was caused by human activity is really unimportant. Whether or not we can actually do anything effective about it is unknown.

The only certainty I come away with is that one of two outcomes are certain: Either we manage to adapt to the inevitable, or we disappear like Triceratops.

"The climate, however, is already headed into a new pattern that nobody really understands yet. Whether or not it is or was caused by human activity is really unimportant. Whether or not we can actually do anything effective about it is unknown."

I think perhaps the whales cause the problem. Of course, it is odd that we still cling to the idea that GHG actually is not transforming our world. Funny that while every other species of animals is in decline, except humans, many think human activity is not causing this transformation. LOL.

The central planning scenario with which the new Coalition Government started out in May 2010, was for oil to rise from $70 to $85 per barrel by 2025. It assumed that the price of gas would rise from 58 to 71 p per therm in 2025. And that coal would actually get cheaper over the next 15 years, falling to $80/t.

Just one year later, a snapshot of the present (June 2011) shows Brent oil comfortably over $100/b, gas pushing 70 p/therm this coming winter and coal already 50% more expensive than the government’s assumption for 2025!

I can't help but suspect a strawman with the seemingly constant "debunking" that I see on sites like this.

Now, I'm not familiar with the UK agencies, but fail to believe that anyone in the entire nation was stupid enough to give predictions like this serious weight. Really, that nation is more educated than the US by far, as it shows in virtually all public polls that ask about definable facts. On top of that, even in the dumb US, the agencies that give energy price predictions are wise enough to put sufficient disclaimers on the predictions, although whether or not anyone pays attention to that is a different matter.

How can you really say that any given behavior is a result of such obviously wrong predictions? People don't plan ahead to 2025 in general like this discussion assumes. Those people have no idea how they're going to cope with future energy prices, and I see nothing in their behavior that argues that they believe otherwise for some magical reason, aside from this absolutely ridiculous predictions that are constantly written about on TOD. I don't believe that the predictions being debunked were ever a basis for planning like they are being assumed to be. Given that, articles like this one are pretty much pointless.

Well we continually have to listen to news reports that the trade deficit got wider than expected because of the high price of oil. And there is a growing number of scientists, engineers and analysts who are alarmed at the way our Green thinking politicians are happily planning to shut down swathes of our power generation plant with no obvious way of keeping on our lights. And I do know that civil servants at HM government read these pages and myself and Hugh exchange many emails with them. So is this pointless - it does feel like it a lot of the time since I'm not sure we have any impact at the political level.

Considering America happily continued expanding it's road network to the detriment of it's civilisation, while it's own oil supplies declined i'm quite sure these predictions are more than capable of being used. Especially as we all know it's just the speculators pushing the price up really...


I'm sure there are plenty of examples of truly horrible decision making based on arrogantly declared future predictions by government.

Probably part of government knows there is a problem, but ultimately the decisions are made my the majority. I would guess the dedication to roads in the US and our oil addiction is not 100% of the participating folks, however.

Thanks Hugh/Euan. Great stuff, except for one thought: The imminent debt implosion, in Europe especially and globally eventually, will alter the course of the UK's energy future in ways we can only speculate about. IMO, the UK's energy meme will be one of entrenchment rather than positive evolution. These are the two huge elephants in the UK energy room:

Global Debt Clock; click on the UK for it's current debt profile.

...and, of course, there's this: Human Population=massive competition for declining resources.

I can reach no other conclusion than that the UK's future will be one of triage, austerity, and conservation. Any remaining resources and time should be focused on holding the line with less. I agree with other posters, above, that the UK no longer has the luxury of choice regarding climate goals, etc. Rest assured, they won't be alone in this respect. Sucks, really.

There are yet other pressures that will be exacerbating those you mention:

"Global warming will threaten Britain's security by triggering wars, food shortages and mass migration, Energy Minister Chris Huhne warned today.

Although the UK may escape the worst physical impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels, the UK will still be exposed to 'alarming and shocking' consequences of climate change elsewhere, he said.

The warning comes as Ministers are preparing a White Paper that will usher in a new wave of nuclear power stations and a massive expansion of wind farms to cut Britain's greenhouse gas emissions."

On the native population front, at least, Britain has the advantage of having a fairly top-heavy demographic pyramid:

The majority of the current population is beyond (or nearly so) their prime childbearing years, so a fairly rapid fall in population by natural attrition should be possible in the coming decades. Not that this doesn't present other challenges, and not that there won't be huge internal and external pressures to allow large amounts of immigrants. But these are relatively tractable problems, compared to the situation a post peak Egypt, Yemen, or really almost any of the MENA countries, face.

"Yemen’s population is predominantly young. According to U.S. government and United Nations estimates, in 2007 about 46 percent of the population was under age 15; slightly more than half the population, 15–64; and less than 3 percent, 65 and older."

a fairly rapid fall in population by natural attrition should be possible in the coming decades

According to the modeling of the National Statistical Office

UK population will still grow from 61 million in 2008 to 63 million in 2020, but peak at around 64 million in 2035 even if net migration is zero (natural population growth on current trends)

Thanks for the link. So they peak in about two decades. In the mean time, they become more and more elderly and tend to do less and less, so need less (external) energy. The exception would be home heating, which the elderly tend to like. Another good reason to have a crash program of sealing and insulation.

I tend to think that population projections are a bit on the high side. They are generally based on pure numerical extrapolation from the past hundred years or so. But those were times (at least since the '40s) of ever rising standards of living and expectations of the same. People both live longer and are more willing to have kids if it looks like things are going to be going well. If the future starts looking like a bottomless black hole, fewer will be eager to have kids, and more will probably start drinking themselves to death, as happened/is happening in post-collapse Russia.

Immigration is the wild card. And as the population of young workers decreases and populations abroad continue to explode, there will be internal and external pressure to bring in more and more 'guest workers.'

I believe the OP doesn't understand that conservation is the centerpiece of British energy policy: when energy prices triple the British (particularly the poor and the elderly on fixed incomes) will patriotically massively cut their energy consumption.

I think it should be mentioned that CEPOS is a right wing think tank and that its report on Danish wind energy is of questionable merit:

Researchers correct the false allegations on Danish wind energy

A think tank recently criticized the performance of Danish wind energy. A broad group of energy researchers from all over Denmark now refute the allegations, which have also been emphasized by the U.S. organization IER in the debate on wind energy.

In a normal wind year, Danish wind turbines generate the equivalent of approx. 20 percent of the Danish electricity demand. Only approx. 1 percent of the wind power production is exported while the rest is used to meet domestic Danish electricity demands and the cost of wind power is paid solely by the electricity consumers. The net influence on consumer prices was as low as 1-3 percent on average in the period 2004- 2008. In 2008, the net influence even decreased the average consumer price, although only slightly.

These are the conclusions from a large group of Danish researchers and experts who in a new report examine recent allegations on Danish wind power and corrects the false claims which have been made by the think tank CEPOS and promoted in the U.S.

Recently, a study made by the Danish think tank CEPOS claimed the opposite, i.e. that most of the Danish wind power has been exported in recent years. However, this claim is based on an incorrect interpretation of statistics and a lack of understanding of how the international electricity markets operate. Consequently, the results of the CEPOS study in general are not correct. Moreover, the CEPOS study claims that using wind turbines in Denmark is a very expensive way of reducing CO2 emissions and that this is the reason for the high energy taxes for private consumers in Denmark. “These claims are also misleading” states the group of
leading energy researchers and experts. The cost of CO2 reduction by use of wind power in the period 2004- 2008 was only 20 EUR/ton. Furthermore, the Danish wind turbines are not paid for by energy taxes.

The CEPOS report has been used in the U.S. to cast serious doubt on whether other countries can learn from the Danish case. But – as the researchers and experts document in a new report – the CEPOS conclusions are in general misleading and not correct.

In Denmark, 20 percent wind power is integrated by using both local resources and international market mechanisms. This is done in a way which makes it possible for our neighboring countries to follow a similar path. Moreover, Denmark has a strategy to raise this share to 50 percent and the necessary measures are in the process of being implemented. The Danish researchers and experts behind the report “Danish Wind
Power - Export and Cost” are now cooperating with organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere to correct the misconceptions.

As far as home heating goes it just does not get that cold in the UK. Folks can use one room and heat one room for winter living. Will they freeze no, will their standard of living be lower yes.

Folks can use one room and heat one room for winter living

A lot of folks here do just that. Some heat that one room for only part of the time.

We have strange weather in UK. Often wet with temperatures just above freezing. Excess deaths have been widely and carefully studied (google UK excess deaths cold old winter living). For example, Finland has 45% fewer winter deaths than the UK. Tells you something perhaps?

That the UK has 60 million people and Finland 5 million?

Comparison of rate.
Actually complicated across EU.
Scandanavia does better.
Lots of factors, but the four with poorer insulated housing have higher rates, Portugal, Spain Ireland, UK, but that is only one argument. Reasonable review I found at

Excess winter deaths are not as clearly related to temperature as is often made out. The biggest single factor is what varieties of flu viruses are circulating over the winter and what age group they strike. For instance UK excess deaths in the cold 2009/2010 winter were 30% fewer than in the much milder 2008/2009. Swine flu, in general, leaves the elderly alone. That's not to say of course that the number of average excess deaths wouldn't decrease further given better heating for the elderly in fuel poverty.

Official excess deaths stats for 2010/2011 have not been published yet as far as I know but could be calculated from the weekly provisional figures.

The wool industry will be doing well as people turn down their thermostats. Of course, insulation is the cheapest means to "warm" homes with less fossils, but insulation is so boring to talk about people forget about it. It is cheaper than fossil fuels in fact in the long run, but building codes were never updated when times were tough previously. People remodel but are not required to insulated properly. Too bad we wasted the 1970s - 1980s oil crisis and have almost nothing to show for it because a few tycoons needed to get rich fast and blocked all those building code proposals.

Hi I am looking for ideas on improving insulation in an existing house. I have a stick built house with six inch walls with one layer of fiberglass insulation in them.

So far the one idea I have found is rip off the siding, add 4 inches of rigid foam insulation, screw wood strips into the existing frame, cover with new siding (salvaged?). Then do finish work around the windows and edges.

This is a common fix in Northern Canada. Having demolished the outside of your house it is a good opportunity to install higher efficiency windows, too. This is one of the few opportunities that triple glazing will pay for itself. Inside insulation is more effective but far more intrusive.
Be aware that if you have a crappy old vapour barrier inside, the styrofoam outside will trap even more moisture leading to a potentially very bad situation.


I would imagine that you still have to do something to the inside of your walls, especially toward the top, to be sure the heat doesn't just go up the relatively uninsulated wall interiors to the roof, and there cause ice damns, with all the associated damage?

I like your plan. Many homes need to be re-sided as it is. What a great time to add a little extra bulk to your house if you have the space. Heck just trim back the bushes. Keep at it.

Don't know if the content of the article is available online, but there is a good discussion of the topic in Fine Homebuilding magazine, "Six Proven Ways to Build Energy-Smart Walls", page 68, #208, January 2010.

Also, from personal experience, ants like some types of foam and will go great distances to use it for building colonies.

You're on the right track. Do some more research.

The foam as a retrofit does create moisture problems.
Another option would be to remove the siding, and then add a second "wall" on the outside, using 2x4's and insulate those with fiberglass.
Leave the plywood sheathing in place, but remove the rainscreen (felt or tyvek or whatever) , and then add the new studs on to that. You make sure the studs are staggered so as not to coincide with the existing ones, and then put R12 batts in between those. I would also run sill gasket between the new studs and the sheathing, just to slow down wood-to wood heat movement.

This will avoid moisture trapping, add extra R-value and by staggering the studs, dramatically reduce thermal bridging, which will raise the effective R-value of the existing wall substantially.

You could even do the new exterior wall at 24" spacing to save a bit of time and materials. Put sill gasket between your the new studs, top/bottom plates and the old ones, to reduce the thermal bridging there. While you have the walls open, use spray foam to seal around pipes, electrical boxes etc.

This would be logical time to replace windows, but you don't have to, just pay careful attention to the water sealing details with the new wall.

At a rough guess, this would likely more than double the current effective R value of your walls.

Then go and do something to the roof/attic to improve that too...

Last January temperatures dropped to -14C in many parts of England. That was the week our central heating went wrong. I was glad for the woodburner,..

It is also the week my mother in law died. I am certain the cold was a factor in her death.

Yes, the random factor really plays hell with things. Government for instance won't spend money on extra measures for what amounts to a rare event such as really cold winters. Especially when the temperature will probably be back to "normal" within the week.

'it just does not get that cold in the UK..'

There but for the grace of the Gulf Stream..

Nonetheless, even in last winter's icy UK blasts, I hope my British cousins remember that the ground temps a mere 6-10 feet below them remained very reasonable. Probably in the vicinity of 45f/50f.

Maybe it's time to start digging even MORE?? Cozy(ish) in the winter, cool(ish) in the summer.

That's nice, but hard to retrofit.

Instead of bringing the space down to the earth's moderated temperatures, I like the idea of bringing the earth's temperatures up to the space.  Pump groundwater to use as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer.  As Wimbi attests, this works.

If you had e.g. a vapor-cycle engine running off the ΔT between a hot-water solar collector and the groundwater, this could be a net source of electric power in the summer.

That's fine, too, but when all's said and done, making a survivable 'spider hole' or expanded ice-storm shelter is still just a matter of digging. (and yes, laying in walls, floor, etc if possible, necessary). And surely somebody out there is available for some digging work..

I have no problem with the setup you suggest, and there are many other ways, like the simple cool-tubes we buried under our house in the Maine woods all those years ago.. it just strikes me as ironic that any folks who freeze to death may be getting buried in just the depth of soil that could have kept them alive..

I am very happy that both grid reinvestments, new grid investments, more wind power, reinvestments in hydro powerplants, reinvestments in nuclear powerplants and lots of CHP is comming along nicley in Sweden. The biggest problem so far has been reinvestments in old nuclear powerplants taking them of line for roughly double the planned time.

I were even happier before Fukushima when it realy started moving regarding new nuclear reactors to avoid the risk for an energy shortage in the 2020:s and especially the 2030:s. But it seems to loosen up now, industries are again makig public thru media that they want to finance and build new reactors. It seems like we are getting over this withouth a long dealay in these precarious post peak oil times.

How many Gigawatts are needed to keep the London office towers lit, the Underground running, and the data centers humming?

I thought that the only part of the UK with a future was the financial sector in London.

Datacenters produce lots of heat joules too. This is a good point that maybe the scheme is to monetize the price of NG to keep the lights on. Financials can make NG cheaper.

Merrill, the only part of the UK with a future will be the food sector ;-)

Ah yes! The return of the landed gentry and the great estates.

Euan - This post doesn't seem very constructive. Sure, it correctly points out that UK politicians and bureaucracy have been shortsighted & over-complacent with regards to energy supply, but we knew that already. And - let's be fair - the same can be said of the politicians & bureaucrats of many other countries.

The snide comments about "green dreams" are to some extent justified - the ROC scheme is not well thought out, and FITs are a whole lot worse. But we must move to renewables some time, and it makes sense to take the first steps before we run out of fossil fuels, rather than after. The events at Fukushima have caused many of us, though evidently not Mr Sharman, to doubt that nuclear is the best answer.

Mr Sharman correctly points out that most of the coal we burn is imported, and getting rapidly more expensive. So why should the UK grovel for a derogation on coalburning power stations, when fuel may be unobtainable anyway?

I think there's an excellent chance of us reaching the target of 20% less CO2 emissions by 2020. Sovereign debt default leading to a world economic slump...rapidly rising fossil fuel prices combined with collapsing domestic production and weakening could well drop a lot more than 20%!

Finally (albeit a side-issue) "destruction of forests for ship building and fuel came to an end with the steam engine and the exploitation of coal" is alas nonsense. The British Isles were mostly deforested a millennium ago, long before the start of the Industrial Revolution. See

Excellent points.

Sharman seems to have an even narrower view of the world than the policy makers he is critiquing.

Besides posting some of euan's graphs, I can't see how this obviously blinkered opinion/promotion piece is worthy of being a main post at TOD.

I'd like to point out that one of the main features of what I call Greenthinking is to suppress literature that does not conform to the Greenthinking doctrine. Dohboi I think you need to be very careful to not fall into that trap.

I'd also like to point out that with our editorial review system with 8 editors, this post attracted 3 yes votes and 2 yes with modifications. And sufficient modifications were made to push this towards 5 yeses - where 3 are required for publication. You seem to believe you personally have better judgement than this exquisitely honed democratic review system.

If you want to critique the post then go read the many pieces of legislation, like Hugh has done, along with the endless pieces of commentary and come back with technically based commentary please.

You folks are welcome to your opinion, I to mine.

If the best you folks can come up with for a "technically based commentary" is what wastedenergy below rightly characterizes as: "the UK would be much better off moving away from its dependence on an unsustainable energy source (natural gas) and would be much better off if, instead, it shifted to dependence on an unsustainable energy source (nuclear)" TOD is falling on hard times, indeed.

Not sure what you mean by 'the Greenthinking doctrine.'

Perhaps you mean the conclusion that every established scientific body in the world who has considered the matter has come to--that AGW is real and dangerous?

So you don't like Hugh's post, you don't like nat gas, you don't like nuclear. What is your plan?

And do you like healthcare, wellfare, pensions and education?

What is your target population for Earth in 2050?

I'll bite at the hook set up for DoughBoy.. with apologies..

It's less about 'dislike', I don't TRUST Gas, and I don't TRUST Nuclear (and I mean the 'technology', not the engineers who bravely champion it).. I don't expect either of them to be reliable 'friends' to your Nations in the UK. Do you really doubt that Nuclear is going to be especially vulnerable to economic disruptions, to CC events like warm waters, floods, jellies, droughts, and to fuel and infrastructure disruptions, like:

'With the diesel disruption, the trucks couldn't make it to the last specialty parts supplier over the poor old Middlesex roads, to pick up a barely-off-the-assembly-line 'Pump X' to restore the cooling system' ..

Too many bottlenecks.. coming at a time when we'll also have too many other big fires to fight.

So then, what to do? How many people CAN the UK islands support? What will the gulf-stream do? What will the climate allow?

I don't like all the sneering at everything green, it seems to sound so confident and tough, but it's a blind-spot. Wind, Geothermal, Solar and Conservation etc are real factors, they are options, while none of them is any more of a panacea than Nuclear or Gas. What are the downsides? How many farms, cattle and towns would be sacrificed in Devon, Cork or Edinburgh with another Fukushima? How long of a windless, icy-spell could people find a way to hunker down through?

Population Target? That's why I don't like the Population threads. That is really not in our hands. Pop. will go where it can. I reckon that is going to be 'down' at this point, tho' unlike others, I see little way of setting any kind of number ranges for how far and how fast.

We get to look at 'how to live', and 'where to live' .. ie,
I hope England remains livable for many, and the gulf-stream keeps feeding you that latitudinally quirky warm streak. But I also think PO and CC will be telling us that there WILL also be places that are going to be just too expensive to live in any more. There might not be an acceptable solution.

As Yeager (Sam Shepard) said in 'The Right Stuff'
"Sometimes you get a pooch that can't be screwed.."

The climate of England doesn't depend as much on the Gulf Stream as it does on the summer warming of the North Atlantic by insolation followed by the westerlies transfering energy from the ocean to England.

Besides, with another 4-5 C of global warming, England should be quite nice.

The problem is that the past two winters saw those westerlies actually pushing to the north, not to the northeast. The warm air was blocked by colder air from the northeast, and flowed instead to the west of Greenland, warming southern Greenland. At one point, the Gulf Stream, which was pushed along by the winds, meandered into the Labrador Sea. If the THC weakens or stops, there won't be any space for the warmer branch of the Gulf Stream to flow, which would result in cooler temperatures in the Nordic Seas. Remember the Younger Dryas event, which rapidly produced a climate flip back to Ice Age conditions lasting more than 1000 years in the midst of the longer trend toward warmer temperatures...

E. Swanson

Yes, I am aware of Richard Seager's work. I have noted that his conclusions are based on modeling work which he did that does not include the effects of sea-ice decline. An earlier paper he did showed that Northern Europe would cool as the result of a shutdown of the THC. Besides, the Gulf Stream isn't the problem, it's the northward flowing branch called North Atlantic Drift Current. furthermore, we know that the Younger Dryas and 8200BP events happened, likely he result of a shutdown of the THC (although the forcing mechanisms today are different). And, we know the THC (aka, the AMOC) varies in time, such as during the late 1970's and again during the 1990's. Anyway, if the wind shift seen the past few winters is the new normal, there won't be any way for the warmth of the Gulf Stream to penetrate to Northern Europe. Time will present the conclusion to us, no matter what...

E. Swanson

vulnerable to economic disruptions, to CC events like warm waters, floods, jellies, droughts, and to fuel and infrastructure disruptions, like:

I disagree, nuclear is a dense energy source, you need 1 truck per 2 year to fuel it, everything related nuclear is way less energy intensive then wind power, which use more steel and concrete and need more gas to maintaint them since you need to travel over the country to fix them all. 8 sites is more easy to manage then 100 000.

More dillute energy source mean more transport required, beside you can even use electric trains, which use no gas at all. You can't with wind power or solar because it's too dillute. And I just forgot about clouds and a non-windy week. You can't tell me wind and solar are more reliable then nuclear, can you?

And how much do you have to mine to get to that one truck? And how many hundreds of thousands of tons of high and low level radioactive waste do you have to deal with for essentially eternity? ...

The wind will be blowing for ever and the sun will keep coming up for ever.

After Fukushima, you are not telling me that nukes are not less safe and less reliable than any other source of energy, are you?

The wind will not blow forever. Just a few billion more years. Ditto the sun. Don't exaggerate ;)

The wind will go first, then the sun warms and boils away the oceans and the atmosphere. The sun will outlive the earth, which it will swallow whole as it expands into a red giant.

After Fukushima, you are not telling me that nukes are not less safe

Hell yes, how much died from fukushima? !!

How about saying coal kills 1 million per year, every year, from pollution. Nuclear accidents don't even come close to this, when they happen.

And how many hundreds of thousands of tons of high and low level radioactive waste do you have to deal with for essentially eternity? ...

Beside, it's not because it gives you the creeps that's it's an huge problem, uranium exists since the dawn of times and I can't find any massive hecatomb related to uranium sitting underground miles away from everybody. I can't find either any problem with civilian spent nuclear fuel either. We may feel it's all killing thousands of people every seconds with death rays, but frankly, its just sitting there and nothing happened since 50 years.

I don't think its good to be spelling doom when nothing happens. You don't want to lose your credbility because there are things you can improve. That just looks like panic, I can't see where that might help.

I have an environmentalist friend I've known for over 25 years. He always votes for the Green party, has built five small energy efficient houses and always owns a small, energy efficient vehicle. A couple of years ago I was surprised when he announced that he had reconsidered his anti-nuclear stance and now believed that nuclear power was essential for the future. Even after Fukushima he still holds this viewpoint. It certainly gives me hope for the future.

So nuclear is safer than coal, so far. Whoop ti doo.

Let me know when your solution to world energy doesn't involve the deaths of thousands, or the risk of acres of land becoming infertile for thousands of years.

The land around Chernobyl is so fertile, it's become a wildlife refuge (aka "Viridian involuntary park").

Looked it up. Interesting. Apparently the radiation levels at Chernobyl are all over the place. Seems the effect of the radiation is more subtle than expected.

However my main point still stands, there is a "risk" of loss of fertility around a broken nuclear plant if the doses are high enough.

No, we don't have time for that. This is the best alternative, those risks included.

Did you took that from Transformer 3, lol?

How about a credible source of info. ;P

how much do you have to mine to get to that one truck?

With in-situ leach mining?  For LWRs, about 6 truckloads; for fast reactors or thorium reactors, about 1 truckload.

And how many hundreds of thousands of tons of high and low level radioactive waste do you have to deal with for essentially eternity?

If you get rid of (reprocess, recycle and burn) the actinides (or make only negligible amounts in the first place, e.g. with LFTR), the radiotoxicity of the fission products becomes lower than the original ore in about 500 years.

After Fukushima, you are not telling me that nukes are not less safe and less reliable than any other source of energy, are you?

In China, coal kills several times as many people EACH YEAR as the tsunami.  Fukushima has killed 0 from radiotoxic effects and injured what, 3?  And don't forget the Onagawa plant, which came through the quake and wave in such great shape, it became a refugee center.

Nuclear gives you electricity that isn't going to suddenly shut off from fuel shortage when there's an extreme cold snap.  It's a safer neighbor than most anything else.  I'd rather have nukes than "green" power, if I had to pick one or the other.

'With the diesel disruption, the trucks couldn't make it to the last specialty parts supplier over the poor old Middlesex roads, to pick up a barely-off-the-assembly-line 'Pump X' to restore the cooling system' ..

The modern designs are passively safe.  If a part is unavailable (and can't be substituted), things will wait.

Too many bottlenecks.. coming at a time when we'll also have too many other big fires to fight.

If you're looking for bottlenecks, just-in-time long-distance deliveries of fuel and electricity (from wind farms on the other side of the island... or continent) are much bigger threats than anything affecting nuclear.

Population Target? That's why I don't like the Population threads. That is really not in our hands.

Population increase of the UK (and USA) is being driven largely by immigration, meaning immigration POLICY.  Saying there's no control over policy is absurd.

As the other excellent post that you presented on going to the galaxy makes clear, there is no chance of pursuing endless growth into the indefinite future. I don't have any one plan, but it is certainly not trying to pretend that we can continue with BAU--constantly trying to ramp up energy growth, economic growth, consumption growth, population growth or any other type of limitless growth.

This needs to be made as clear and plain to as many people as soon as possible.

Only then can we discuss strategies and plans.

If we honestly want to live for something anything other than just maximizing our own very short-term and very shallow consumption levels, then we don't have much to discuss.

If we want to even pretend to care what happens to the generations that come after us, we have to seriously consider radical powerdown, de-growth, redistribution, and adaptation to radically more modest expectations as far as material and energy consumption go.

Basic health-care and education need not be hugely resource intensive.

Population is a whole area unto itself, and is less important than consumption patterns, which can change quickly and radically.

But since you mention it--globally, the death rate has stopped decreasing and will likely continue to stall at about 8 deaths per 1000 people per year or rise slightly just from demographic dynamics. Meanwhile birthrate is falling rapidly, from about 20 births per 1000 to about 19 in the last year. At those rates, the two lines could easily cross within a decade--we could peak by about 2020 at just over 7 billion and drop quite quickly from there, even without a major 'die off.' (Perhaps optimistic, but at least a possible scenario, it seems to me.)

But frankly, I think what the horn of Africa is going through right now is what we will be seeing in much of the rest of the world, especially MENA and South Asia, in the very near future. I find this very sad indeed.

Sharman mentions closing 8 GW of coal capacity and 3 GW of oil capacity by 2016 and 6.4 GW of nuke capacity by 2018, but does not mention the amount of spare capacity in the U.K. system. He does not state how much capacity will come online during these periods. He projects that consumer bills could increase by 23% to 52%, but fails to mention that conservation and efficiency improvements would be a natural response to rising prices. Apparently that is a major part of the U.K. energy policy that Sharman omits. He criticizes wind power as occasionally being weak all over the U.K. simultaneously, but does not mention plans to interconnect the electrical grid with other European countries which would reduce that issue. For example:
Vattenfall to Cooperate in UK-Norway Interconnection, Feb. 2, 2011:

Vattenfall today signed a cooperation agreement with four North European energy companies to plan and build an electrical interconnector between the U.K. and Norway.

The HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) interconnector will have a capacity between 1,200 and 2,000 MW.

By interlinking flexible hydro power with intermittent energy sources such as wind power, NorthConnect may contribute to reduce the need for fossil fuelled electricity generation.

This article is a biased analysis of the U.K. energy plan plainly omitting portions to make it seem inept. TOD can and should do better.

"He projects that consumer bills could increase by 23% to 52%, but fails to mention that conservation and efficiency improvements would be a natural response to rising prices."

I wouldn't bank on conservation and efficiency improvements to reduce costs. For example, the local water supply has been under pressure due to drought and reduced precipitation in the winter. So they imposed a hosepipe ban, asked people to conserve, etc. People did just that and water consumption dropped. As a result the revenue received also fell creating losses on the service provided. Now they're talking about increasing the cost of water supply due to the lower consumption.

A knock on effect of this is that I'm now looking to make drastic reductions in my metered water use to offset the rising cost and switch over to rainwater/well for non-potable water use. On the downside of PO there is likely to be feedback loops that aren't yet obvious. Like the counter-intuitive way conservation and efficiency savings can lead to increasing costs or cuts to services.

He didn't say conservation and efficiency improvements would reduce costs; he said they would be a natural response to rising prices. But your argument is a valid one that IMO does not receive enough attention in these discussions. As Samuel Insull developed and expanded the early metropolitan electrical grid systems in America, he rode the wave of dramatically improving economies of scale as power plants became fewer and larger, while loads were averaged out over ever-increasing areas. The same principle applied to other industrial scale distribution systems as well. As resources become scarcer and consumption decreases, it seems that we may to some extent ride that wave backwards. Perhaps the solution is to maintain the large, efficient systems, but fewer of them?

I agree with you that the price of electricity will increase with decreasing consumption. I saw utilities in California use the argument that decreasing revenue from conservation programs requires them to rise the price. Declining productivity can cause prices to rise.

What I was suggesting is that higher electric rates would decrease consumption partially compensating for the closure of the coal and nuclear plants and thus avoiding the power shortages that Hugh Sharman predicts for later this decade. The U.K. energy policy is not as ill conceived and dysfunctional as he is trying to make it appear.

"The British Isles were mostly deforested a millennium ago, ... "

I have trouble accepting this statement. A millennium ago was 55 years before the Battle of Hastings. Many decades before the Doomsday Book. On what records could this claim be based?

The British isles were deforested just before the advent of coal.Most of the wood was used in ship/boat building,houses and heating.Exactly when was this I don't know.

About half of UK forest cover had already gone by the time the Romans arrived 2 thousand years ago. Peak UK forests was about 4000BC before humans really started changing the landscape.

The main centre of the Iron industry in England was the Weald of Kent prior to the industrial revolution and was speedily declining due to the deforestation of the Weald for charcoal before the industrialisation shall we say 1750

The forests of Britain were cut down over a period of about 6000 years. Originally, Britain was covered by very heavy forests of huge trees which were nearly impossible to travel through, and were populated by lions, wolves, bears and other dangerous carnivores.

Neolithic men started chopping the huge trees down with stone axes and killing off all the major wildlife, and they've been at it ever since. Now it looks like one big garden which bears no resemblance to the original dark and dense forests, and the most dangerous wild animal is the Scottish red deer.

I don't want to encourage an off-topic discussion. However, it may be worth clearing up a few misconceptions...

As Undertow says, the British Isles are estimated to have reached 50% deforestation by Roman times. Historical records from then are sparse, but the percentage of trees versus other types of vegetation can be judged from buried pollen. (The age of the pollen is known from radiocarbon dating.)

Deforestation was not - initially at least - due to "chopping down trees". Have you ever tried chopping down a big oak tree with a home-made stone axe??? What you can easily do with a stone axe is to ring-bark trees and kill them. This permits more light to reach the ground, so the grass will grow and you can pasture your livestock in the shelter of the dead trees. Their hungry mouths will prevent regrowth of saplings. After many years have passed, the deadwood and stumps will have rotted away completely, and you (or more likely your son) may then choose to plough the ground and convert it to an arable field.

If you're faced with pinewoods, with a juniper & heather shrub layer, regular burning is an even simpler method of converting the land to pasture.

All summit predators - lynx, bear and wolf - were eliminated from Britain a long time ago, whilst new herbivores like sheep, goats and rabbits were imported. Benefiting from the absence of predators, and mild winters, herbivore grazing can suppress our forest cover without direct human intervention. So deforestation is more due to sheep than shipbuilders.

So let me make sure I am understanding correctly: the short version is that the UK would be much better off moving away from its dependence on an unsustainable energy source (natural gas) and would be much better off if, instead, it shifted to dependence on an unsustainable energy source (nuclear)?

Am I getting this correct? Sorry, I was just wondering if there was anyone out there who actually seems to have their eye on how to make something work that won't just kick the can a little further down the road. If someone can clarify how either A) this is not taking the "easy out" of calling for an expansion of nuclear power instead, or how B) nuclear power is more sustainable than fossil fuels, I'd be very appreciative..

All depends on what nuclear material you choose to burn. U235 I agree with you not sustainable for long (<20 years if widely used). On the other hand U238 long sustainable period say 600 years. And my favorite thorium (not in and of itself a fissile material but can be made into one) say 2400 years. None of these is sustainable at the million year mark but kicking the can down the road is valid if you can get a 2000 year kick in.

On the other hand the UK has those small islands off shore that with abundant wind. How about filling them up with wind turbines? Much cheaper than working in water.

Anyone wishing to test their ideas on how the UK can meet its energy requirements through low-carbon technologies can try out this tool:

Please note that this tool does NOT address the issues of cost.

U238 long sustainable period say 600 years.

Much, much longer than that.  The USA alone has U-238 sufficient for 300 years' worth of total energy consumption, already mined, refined and sitting in warehouses (depleted uranium from the Manhattan project onward).

Total human energy consumption is, IIRC, equivalent to about 5000 tons of uranium per year.  Rivers leach and carry into the world's oceans some 30,000 tons of uranium per year.  Mining the oceans for uranium would thus allow some 6x current human energy consumption for not hundreds, but millions of years.

That won't be necessary.  By then, we'll have moved on again.

Without making any comment about the instance:

ALL technology is stop-gap:
It gets you from here to there.

Spark-Gaps, Coherers, Relays
Vacuum Tubes -or- Valves
Discrete Transistors, each with its own case
Integrated circuits

Discrete transistors only ruled for about fifteen years.

What is the immigration situation in the UK? Do you have to let any citizen of the former empire immigrate if they wish? All of India, Egypt and Kenya?

No. But you have a very limited view of our former empire that included Nigeria, S Africa, Canada, USA :-), Australia and New Zealand and lots more. Today, if anyone from the EU wants to emigrate here they can - that includes Poland, Baltic states, Czech republic and so on. And IMO they are very welcome. Well educated, hard working, well mannered people. But we need to keep an eye on the resource imports to fuel this.

Actuaries will understand the demographic bind the UK is in.

I admit not knowing about Nigeria. I was just using former members that have large and fast growing populations.

There can be no doubt that the UK must evolve an energy strategy that will liberate the economy from hydrocarbons as fast as possible. But its resources and financial circumstances are increasingly modest. The energy aspirations of its politicians are incoherent and technically illiterate. All this is about to come to a head with the transparent reluctance of international financiers to invest in the “green” economy.

It's a nice write up, but the question remains, what would you have them do differently?

Sure it would be nice if they explicitly understood the issues - but its career limiting to outline the real problems the UK faces without having the fix plan to accompany them (you'd be a pointless doom merchant, and nobody likes them, or promotes them).

Sure it would be nice if they had a build out of nuclear power stations already in progress - but would you want to be promoting it with Japan, let alone saying how the hell you could afford it if industry won't?

Sure it would be nice if real household efficiency retrofitting were in train, but the planners are a nightmare and the money isn't there for something so unsexy.

They are supporting the growth of renewables; they are supporting R&D on "how the hell do we sort out our housing stock"; they do still give lip service to nuclear.

Government suffers from a malady of "conspiracy of optimism" precisely because more middle roads are unpalatable and the individuals taking a rosy view won't be there when the reality hits home. Its simply no good expecting an accurate strategy in public, because it would be public. Its also no good expecting movement faster than present without defining a mechanism that makes that practical.

We don't want for problems, we want for answers that can practically work.

but the question remains, what would you have them do differently?

This is fair comment. I'll try to write a post on this.

If you do Euan, please bear in mind that politics is the art of the possible. It's OK for politicians to promise 80% reduction in 40 years time, because they know they will never be called on it. Even 32% by 2020 is reasonably safe.

However, massive nuclear build out, announced in the current climate is politically impossible. Even higher fuel economy figures for cars would be a problem when set against people's Top Gear desires.

Personally I think the innovation that is needed is not in technology, it's in approach. For instance, getting rid of a 'standing/service charge' and legislating that companies have to incorporate it in the price of electricity would push the price per kWH up and make solar much more enticing - all without changing the average size of bills today or paying a penny. That's politically plausible, and it's that kind of change set that are needed.

Whereas strategically recognising the need for a retrenchment from fossil fuels is fine; there needs to be a tactically viable route to deliver it, otherwise its pointless.

Some of the negative comments directed at one another on TOD are indicative of how intractable our problems are. I believe it is the nexus of multiple severe problems which will only exacerbate government paralysis. How do we deal with peak energy issues at the same time we address (or don't address) multiple environmental pressures such as natural resource availability, climate change, ocean and soil degradation, human population vs. other species, not to mention economic problems of debt, growth, and unemployment? Any one of these problems could tax the abilities of governments and societies to adapt and change. The convergence of all of them simultaneously increases the odds of disastrous decisions (markedly decrease coal consumption, continue using coal, phase out nuclear power, expand nuclear power). The safe road through all these problems doesn't exist yet because the solution to one problem is likely to exacerbate 3 others. Our survival as a species is threatened because each group which has an answer for one piece of the puzzle has not been willing or able to understand others who have answers or only questions about another piece.

We are sheep trying to find our way out of an economic morass at the same time there are wolves no matter which way we turn. We spend energy arguing over the size of each wolf and how big their fangs are because we need to set priorities. When the engineers, the economists, and the environmentalists are unable to build consensus within their groups and there is acrimony between each group, it is because each group is looking at a different wolf and sees huge fangs. If we humans are to adapt to all these pressures, we will need to listen to each other carefully. Most economists aren't hearing that our natural resources are finite. Most scientists aren't able to factor in likely human responses to economic privation. Our problems, which are the province of one or several disciplines in conflict, are crashing into one another, competing for our attention. The engineer, struggling to solve his or her problems, wants to know how big your wolf really is, cuz he's struggling with a wolf of his own. "Your wolf can't possibly be as big as mine." Unfortunately, that convergence of problems is what will tell us how big each wolf is. There will not be many happy sheep.


An excellent metaphor for our predicament. I will have to remember it.

The economists, the engineers, and the environmentalists are indeed "talking past each other". An still many people assume that our politicians will solve all of this if we just elect the right ones. This is why more and more people are coming to the realization that they need to focus on how to deal with the coming storm at a family and very local level.

Best hopes for the sheep.

You are right politicians only deal in win/win scenarios and solution are now loose/loose scenarios. We will have to wait until physical reality forces our hand. Until there are shortages of food, fuel, electric. So until I see rationing I do not expect to see action from politicians.

I assume Figure 8 is installed capacity. Is there an equivalent graph of electricity production by fuel type up to 2010? I think this would be clearer.

Oh dear, and it started so well. First few paragraphs were interesting, well reasoned, informative and so on.

Then it just degenerated into an advert for nuclear power.

Please, we don't need this on the oil drum, it used to be a place to discuss things, not get spammed by paid consultants.

Bit more editorial acumen needed, people.

If it is meant to be an advert for nuclear Hugh Sharman doesn't live in a very appropriate country to proclaim its virtues. Denmark voted against nuclear several times and instead it's developed the highest proportions of combined heat and power plants / district heating (or windpower) in Europe, and its CO2 emissions are falling.

By contrast, when Thatcher was in charge the UK gas lobby blocked moves to use waste heat from power stations to heat its buildings and we now reap the consequences - among other things a huge gas network that maybe won't be able to afford enough gas in 2030.

The UK's gas-fired power stations emit plenty of waste heat to heat all the UK's urban buildings, but the UK never built the pipes to link up the power plants with the buildings. They'd be expensive, but at least we know what they cost from Danish experience. We don't know what nuclear costs at all accurately, since private companies refuse to pay for the waste disposal or the insurance, and anyway it seems quite plausible that after Fukushima it will be much more expensive.

Besides, nuclear only supplies base load electricity, not much use for heating buildings. The 3% of UK delivered energy it does supply is neither here nor there.

Denmark has very high CO2 emissions due to its rejection of nuclear power. The UK would be in a much better position if it had plenty of nuclear power (that, btw, can certainly be used for heating buildings, as the production is thermal by nature). Also, nuclear operators in most countries are required to pay for insurance and waste disposal, so they don't/can't refuse to do so.