Recently, pro-nuclear, anti-wind power climate change-sceptic and early publisher of Resurgence magazine, Hugh Sharman, announced to the Claverton Energy Research Group forum that he had been published in European Energy Review. “The clock is ticking”, reads the headline, “Energy policy has become a hotly debated topic in the UK. No country in Europe has more ambitious climate change goals. But the UK has taken few concrete steps yet. It is estimated that £200 billion is required until 2020 to start the UK on the its energy transformation. […] Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is expected to come out with a White Paper setting out the framework that should persuade utilities and investors to sign on to the government’s vision. Will it work? Energy consultant Hugh Sharman has grave doubts. With some like-minded specialists, he has started a website bringing together people who are alarmed at the UK’s energy situation. He […] sketches a sombre perspective…”
In his piece, Hugh pokes sticks at the UK Government (which a number of people do, all the time, regardless of which party is in power). “7 July 2011 : The coming UK energy meltdown : By Hugh Sharman : 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…”
I agree that the statistics are poor regarding the technical training of the British Civil Service and the UK Parliament. The country’s governance could scarcely be less science, engineering and technology-aware, and they seem to believe anything that’s put in front of them. And those with the largest public relations budgets usually succeed in being the ones to put things in front of them. And sometimes, the “revolving door” is in operation, and the people who put things in front of the government for consideration used to be in the government :-
http://www.aeat.co.uk/cms/aea-recruits-leading-international-climate-change-expert-2/“7 July 2011 : AEA recruits leading International Climate Change Expert : AEA has appointed Chris Dodwell as Knowledge Leader in International Energy and Climate Change. Chris joins AEA from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change where he was Head of International Climate Policy…”
I agree with Hugh Sharman that the UK needs a plan for energy, “a new energy strategy based on a realistic assessment of its assets, its needs and the options available to it”; however, as I voiced to him in an e-mail :-
“…I do not agree with you when you say that the UK’s “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”…”
“…The aims and ambitions of the Climate Change Act are completely parallel to the aims and ambitions of Energy Security, and in fact, the concrete actions to be taken are exactly the same. With a joined-up suite of energy security policies, it would be possible to (a) turn around the profligate waste of North Sea oil and gas (b) reduce imports of oil, coal and gas and (c) not be “flapping about” trying to attract energy investment to the UK…”
“..What are these Energy Security measures ? These include Energy conservation, end-use electricity demand management, substitution of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels with those of biological origin, wind power, solar power, geological/atmospheric/kinetic energy storage…”
“…The European Union, by the way, are ahead of the game in researching the full potential of Renewable Gas. Several car manufacturers and their pet universities have been looking at the business of making liquid vehicle fuels from mostly biomass feedstocks and have come up with pretty similar proposals…”
Hugh Sharman kindly provided me with a copy of his article, and it contained a number of things to commend it – as well as some things I could never agree to because they appear to me to be incorrect. There was some spin on a number of things which annoyed me, one of which was his dismissal of the solar Feed-in-Tariff scheme, after taking a swipe at the Renewable Energy Obligation which preceded it :-
“…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 exponentially 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…”
I disagree completely – the solar photovoltaic assets that are being created by Feed in Tariffs across Europe are delivering “firm capacity”. It’s true that there are weather-related, diurnal, seasonal and cloud-related variation in the solar power that is supplied, but it is definitely displacing fossil fuel use – measurably so, so it’s disingenuous to claim that solar power doesn’t provide power that can be relied on.
There is a thread running through public discourse, principally on the theatrical stage of the news press, claiming that renewable energy doesn’t work. It is a ridiculous, damaging claim, and undermines progress. This kind of negative myth is only one of the things damaging the uptake of solar electricity, but the key thing limiting growth is the very small base from which the technology starts. There are very few solar power installations, and the Feed in Tariff is a good way to incentivise more.
In a further e-mail to Hugh Sharman, I commented :-
“…I’m going solar. That’s where we should all go, FiT or no FiT. I’m not a “rich” property owner, I’m just a homeowner, and I think the FiT is an excellent way to grow the UK’s energy generation capacity, regardless of who gets the FiT payments […] I know it seems like the FiT is a redirection of tax revenue into only certain peoples’ pockets, but I’m entitled to some compensation for carrying a generating station on my roof, I think. But because of your accusations that only the rich will benefit from the FiT, I’m going to donate some of the proceeds to a charity that fits solar on the roofs of social organisations or hospitals or whatever I can find. With care, I have cut my energy bills by around 30%, so that gain is mine, but the FiT I can share. People won’t fit solar PV to their roofs without some help, and the FiT is the way to justify it to them. You can’t go round offering people the full capital cost of a low carbon installation – the country couldn’t afford it. The FiT is ideal – it makes the “opex” turn in a positive direction, so that people feel that the initial “capex” is worth it…”
What I’m about to do, I do for my country. Fitting solar photovoltaics to my roof is my contribution towards saving the taxpayers and energy bill payers the cost of massive subsidies for new nuclear power stations.
I am going to host part of the nation’s new distributed solar power station on my roof, and pay to do so. I think it’s only fair that I receive a small amount of public finance as compensation for the inconvenience of generating the nation’s power.
[ UPDATE : NOTES FROM THE CLAVERTON ENERGY RESEARCH GROUP FORUM ]
Subject: Gregor Czisch’s European supergrid book out now
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2011 11:51:52 +0100
From: Herbert Eppel
To: Claverton Discussion
The hot off the press publication of Gregor Czisch’s European supergrid masterpiece (which my team translated into English) is very timely […]
As we know, Gregor demonstrates that an electricity system based 100% on renewables is not only possible but also cheaper than options involving nuclear.
On 10 July 2011 13:36, Hugh Sharman wrote:
I wish I could put a scintilla of trust in Gregor’s super-grid! But I cannot.
I strongly recommend you and Claverton to discuss Paul-Frederik’s masterly analysis of wind power and its ramifications here in DK and all around, including our malfunctioning, already constructed Nordic “super-grid” at
From: Dave Andrews
Sent: 10 July 2011 12:55
To: Hugh Sharman; Claverton Supergrid group
Subject: Re: Fwd: Gregor Czisch’s European supergrid book out now
Hugh – can you explain what possible relevance analysing the Nordic Supergrid can have to the Czisch super grid?
The Czisch scenario areas is far far larger than the Nordic supergrid, which connects several areas with different weather systems, time zones and load shapes, and shares all of Europe’s existing hydro, and needs to be analysed as such, not by reference to Paul’s analysis…which I have not doubt is a good one.
To criticise Czisch from a scientific point of view you need to read the Czisch book and state where it is in error.
To: Claverton Energy Discussion
From: David Hirst
Sent: 10 July 2011 16:07:51
Paul-Frederick’s paper is a good statistical analysis of the workings of the Danish system, as it currently stands. A helpful, constructive and thoughtful piece of work. It also analyses the Norwegian hydro system status, and so provides good evidence of the limits to which this hydro can act as a battery for the rest of Europe (one day).
There is good evidence that depending on wind will produce times (and days) of low wind, and so low output, even over large (even continental) areas. This is a key issue for wind, and is, I think, well recognised in most literature. The system needs to be engineered to cope at as low a cost as possible, and with as few emissions (CO2 and other) as possible. There is no doubt that filling these gaps will need technology, some of which can come from demand participation. Participation will need new thinking, in political, social as well as technical areas.
This is challenging, and needs creative and constructive, forward looking thinking. Many in Claverton do this, and aim to contribute and explain aspects of possible solutions. Most of which will play a part. Paul-Frederick’s paper gives some helpful analysis against which one can test possible solutions.
Sharman does not do this at all. His criticism is unconstructive, unhelpful, and cynical. It reads like a dictator’s manifesto. It condemns everybody and everything, and attacks the easiest targets (like forecasts or government policy), without offering any sort of constructive criticism or solutions. It does so using derogatory and emotive language. And subverts statistics by being highly selective in the ones he quotes. So far as I can tell, what he wants is no wind and lots of nuclear, but is not so honest as to make that clear.
It is a shame he cannot be despatched like NoW [The News of the World newspaper]