|Germany can do it, but not the British. The Collected Republic of the People can install solar power with great will and nerve, but not Johnny English.
Let’s be clear here – the people in Scotland have a vision for future Renewable Energy, and so do many people in Wales and Ireland, but it appears English governance listens to fuddy duddy landowners too readily, and remains wedded to the fossil fuel industry and major construction projects like nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage.
|What precisely is wrong with the heads of policy travel in Westminster ? Do they not understand the inevitable future of “conventional” energy – of decline, decimation and fall ?
It really is of no use putting off investment in truly sustainable and renewable power and gas. There are only two paths we can take in the next few decades, and their destination is the same.
Here’s how it goes. Path A will take the United Kingdom into continued dodgy skirmishes in the Middle East and North Africa. Oil production will dance like a man with a stubbed toe, but then show its true gradient of decline. Once everybody gets over the panic of the impending lack of vehicle fuel, and the failure of alternatives like algal biodiesel, and the impacts of a vastly contracted liquid fuel supply on globalised trade, then we shall move on to the second phase – the exploitation of gas. At first, it will be Natural Gas. But that too will decline. And then it will be truly natural gases. As gas is exploited for vehicles, electricity will have to come from coal. But coal, too, is suffering a precipitous decline. So renewable energy will be our salvation. By the year 2100, the world will run on renewable electricity and renewable gas, or not at all.
People who know very little about renewable and sustainable energy continue to buzz like flies in the popular media. They don’t believe wind power economics can work. They don’t believe solar power can provide a genuine contribution to grid capacity. They don’t think marine power can achieve. They would rather have nuclear power. They would rather have environmentally-destructive new oil and gas drilling. They have friends and influence in Government. They have financial clout that enables them to keep disseminating their inaccuracies.
It’s time to ditch the pundits, innuendo artists and insinuators and consult the engineers.
Renewable Gas can stand in the gap – when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine and the grid is not sufficiently widespread and interconnected enough to be able to call on other wind or solar elsewhere.
Renewable Gas is the storing of biologically-derived and renewably-created gases, and the improving of the gases, so that they can be used on-demand in a number of applications.
This field of chemical engineering is so old, yet so new, it doesn’t have a fixed language yet.
However, the basic chemistry, apart from dealing with contaminants, is very straight-forward.
When demand for grid electricity is low, renewable electricity can be used to make renewable hydrogen, from water via electrolysis, and in other ways. Underused grid capacity can also be used to methanate carbon-rich biologically-derived gas feedstocks – raising its stored energy.
Then when demand for grid electricity is high, renewable gas can be used to generate power, to fill the gap. And the flue gases from this combustion can be fed back into the gas storage.
Renewable gas can also be biorefined into vehicle fuels and other useful chemicals. This application is likely to be the most important in the short term.
In the medium-term, the power generation balance that renewable gas can offer is likely to be the most important application.
Researchers are working on optimising all aspects of renewable gas and biorefinery, and businesses are already starting to push towards production.
We can have a fully renewable energy future, and we will.
|Poor dear Greg Barker MP. As he attempted to answer questions in the House of Commons today on his disastrous decision to cut the solar photovoltaic feed in tariff, his face became progressively redder. His temper clearly became frayed as he got quite cross, and asked female Labour Members of Parliament to calm down, and even asserted that one question from a female opposition MP was “hysterical”, which I think was borderline sexist.|
|For some reason, nobody asked the Department of Energy and Climate the basic question – why don’t you increase the Feed in Tariff budget, instead of trying to whittle down the pence paid per kilowatt hour produced ? The Feed-in-Tariff scheme is working really well at the moment. It’s preventing the country having to subsidise the construction of several new power stations, and it has been providing, until now that is, new jobs and economic productivity.|
|Sorry to say, but I think the people camping on the streets at @OccupyLSX and other places are not the real revolution. The real revolution is in energy. Democratisation of energy is the future – distributed, multi-level production systems, integrated pan-continental networks.
What ? Power to the people ? This is why the energy companies don’t like it so much, and why the corporate masters of the developed countries, and their shareholders, don’t want to have people believe in renewable and sustainable energy.
|This is why the newspapers are full of people disparaging renewable energy – journalists and commentators who know nothing about energy, who are not engineers and who don’t know who thought their ideas for them first. Wake up, media people, the future of energy will be zero carbon and fully of the people.
A little unauthrorised translation of what I could pick up from the trailer of a 2010 film (sorry, my German listening comprehension is very rusty) : “We are awash in energy. We are dependent on energy. How much energy is left for us ? Have we enough energy for a revolution ? How much must we pay for power ? Why must California nearly use as much electrical power as Africa ? (French) “We have this enormous potential – with the youth, the riches of Nature, the trees, the biomass, agriculture…but there is no progress…the catalyst is not there. And that’s electricity”. Do we need the big energy companies ? (German) “…energy concerns will become democratic…” The fourth revolution. Energy Autonomy.”
|On Wednesday, I received a telephone call from an Information Technology recruitment consultancy. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to provide computer systems programming services for NATO.
Detecting that I was speaking with a native French-speaker, I slipped into my rather unpracticed second language to explain that I could not countenance working with the militaries, because I disagree with their strategy of repeated aggression.
|I explained I was critical of the possibility that the air strikes in Libya were being conducted in order to establish an occupation of North Africa by Western forces, to protect oil and gas interests in the region. The recruitment agent agreed with me that the Americans were the driving force behind NATO, and that they were being too warlike.
Whoops, there goes another great opportunity to make a huge pile of cash, contracting for warmongers ! Sometimes you just have to kiss a career goodbye. IT consultancy has many ethical pitfalls. Time to reinvent myself.
I’ve been “back to school” for the second university degree, and now I’m supposed to submit myself to the “third degree” – go out and get me a job. The paucity of available positions due to the poor economic climate notwithstanding, the possibility of ending up in an unsuitable role fills me with dread. One of these days I might try to write about my experiences of having to endure several kinds of abuse whilst engaged in paid employment : suffice it to say, workplace inhumanity can be unbearable, some people don’t know what ethical behaviour means, and Human Resources departments always take sides, especially with vindictive, manipulative, micro-managers. I know what it’s like to be powerless.
|Once again, the BBC has allowed to pass unchallenged the impression that green power policy and renewable energy investment are behind the dramatic rise in British domestic energy prices.
Disappointingly, this has come from John Craven, whose accuracy is renowned.
However, on this occasion, he has allowed a blooper meme to consolidate in the public mind.
Here’s how Countryfile went yesterday evening :-
[ Countryfile, BBC One, 16 October 2011, 18:25. Part way through recording, starting at approximately 20 minutes 32 seconds. ]
[ Ellie Harrison ] Earlier in the programme we were looking at the expected huge rise in wind power across the UK. But in the race to create more of our energy this way, who will win and who is set to lose out ? Here’s John again.
[ John Craven ] Earlier, I discovered how the plan to put wind power at the heart of our future energy supply is creating a building boom in wind farms, both on land and out at sea. With billions being poured into wind power, and with it being at the centre of the Government’s strategy on renewables, the future seems certain. So who will the losers and winners be in this wind revolution ? The most obvious winner is the environment as less fossil fuels are burnt. But who else benefits ? Well, another clear winner is big business. Companies building the wind farms get a generous price for the electricity they produce. […]
I was speaking to a nuclear power “waverer” the other day. They said that George Monbiot or Mark Lynas was saying that since Germany has cancelled its nuclear power programme, Germany’s Carbon Dioxide emissions will increase, because they will be using coal and Natural Gas power stations :-
I explained that this was a common misconception, and that Germany is still planning to meet their carbon targets, and that it can be done even with coal and gas power plants because in a few decades’ time the coal and Natural Gas power plants will only be used a couple of weeks a year in total to back up all the renewables, such as wind power and solar power, that Germany is building.
This is not the end of the story, however.
It is a newer, clearer tone that George Monbiot uses in his piece “The nuclear industry stinks. But that is not a reason to ditch nuclear power“. He seems to have lost his dirty annoyance with filthy anti-nuclear activists and moved onto a higher plane of moral certitude, where the air is cleaner and more refined.
He is pro-technology, but anti-industry. For him, the privately owned enterprises of atomic energy are the central problem that has led to accidents both of a radioactive and an accountancy nature. “Corporate power ?”, he asks, “No thanks.” The trouble is, you can’t really separate the failings of nuclear power from the failings of human power. It’s such a large, complex and dangerous enterprise that inevitably, human power systems compromise the use of the technology, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. For a small amount of evidence, just look at the history of publicly-managed nuclear power in the United Kingdom. Not exactly peachy. And as for those who claimed that a “free” market approach to managing nuclear power would improve matters – how wrong they were. In my view, on the basis of the evidence so far, nobody can claim that nuclear power can be run as an efficient, safe, profit-making venture.
[ UPDATE : SKEPTICALSCIENCE HAVE DEBUNKED STEVE McINTYRE. ]
Steve McIntyre, probably the only person on the planet who might grumble about the cost of Barack Obama’s suit rather than his all-American wars, has suddenly become an expert energy engineer, it seems.
This month, he’s taking aim at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, regarding their special report on Renewable Energy, questioning the contributions of an engineer, Sven Teske, and basing his objections on the fact that Teske works for Greenpeace :-
Flinging any kind of pseudo-mud he can construe at the IPCC is not Steve’s newest of tricks, but it still seems to be effective, going by the dance of the close cohort of the very few remaining loyal climate change “sceptics” who get published in widely-read media :-
He even pulled the turtleneck over Andrew Revkin’s eyes for a while :-
And Mark Lynas has been joining in, in his own nit-picky way :-
The few comebacks have been bordering on the satirical, or briefly factual, with the exception of Carbon Brief’s very measured analysis of the IPCC’s communication expertise :-
Leo Hickman’s being bravely evenhanded :-
It’s not a total surprise that New Scientist and The Economist wade in deep :-
Sven Teske’s explanation has not been accepted by Mark Lynas, although it seems really OK to me :-
The Daily Mail digs out the usual emotive terms :-
Steve McIntyre is playing out the “Princess and the Pea” narrative, complaining about a few wrunkles in a process of international collaboration, and distracting us from looking at the actual report, which I would encourage you most warmly to do :-
It is full of the most incredible case studies and intriguing engineering discoveries. It makes cautious, conservative calculations, and looks at conditions and caveats in a very transparent manner. For a work that relied on the contributions of over 120 people and managed to compose a document so helpful and illuminating, I’d say it’s a work of profound achievement, and should be read in every school and university. Four scenarios from a collection of 164 are studied in depth to compare their strengths and weaknesses – and the conclusion of the SRREN team is that :-
“Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies…”
Somehow, though, Steve McIntyre believes otherwise. I suppose it’s not completely fair to berate him, because he might be suffering from a delusion, given that he seems to believe his opinion trumps that of over a hundred of the world’s authorities on what is possible in Renewable Energy technologies; and I’m the last person who would criticise somebody for having a mental illness.
I’m wondering, however, since he often sticks his nose up at IPCC matters, and since the world is suffering from stress in the supply of fossil fuels, whether he has a “Plan Beak” for the world’s energy crisis ?
Come on Steve McIntyre, tell us what your plan is to provide energy for humanity. Don’t tell me you believe that Nuclear Power is the way forward. I just won’t believe you, and a large number of the citizens of the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and help us all, even Switzerland, would share my doubts.
As everybody can clearly see from the Columbia University graph at the top of this post, the IPCC are right about emissions, and the global warming data shows they’re right about that too. Why should they be wrong about Renewable Energy ?
I mean, I detect there are a few issues with the way the IPCC organises itself, and the style of its reports, but hey, where’s the viable alternative ? I don’t see one, anywhere. And don’t go pointing me to groups with pretensions.
We may just have to get used to complex international bodies, formed of complex, intelligent people, and learn how to read their complex, intricate reports with care and attention. And not get distracted by grumpy semi-retired mining consultants.
from : Jo Abbess
to : Mark Lynas
cc : George Monbiot
date : Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM
subject : You may not have properly understood Germany’s energy plan
From where I’m sitting, you appear not to have understood Germany’s energy plan, which centres on ramping up and rolling out as much renewable energy as possible.
You are quoted, and write :-
“If the German greens really took climate change seriously, they would instead be pushing for a phase-out of coal – which generates by far the largest proportion of the country’s power and consequent carbon emissions – from Germany’s electricity grid. Instead, the new nuclear phase-out plan will see a hefty 11GW of new coal plants built in years to come, with an additional 5GW of new gas. The only way emissions from these plants could be controlled would be through “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) – yet Greenpeace in Germany has already mounted a successful scaremongering campaign against this new technology, helping to ensure that future fossil emissions will go into the atmosphere unabated.”
How does having strong renewable energy ambition sit with commissioning new coal power plants ?
Well, as you probably know, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine – hence back up is required. Nuclear power cannot back up wind power or solar power because it is not very flexible.
Coal and gas are easily stored, and coal and gas power plants can be kept awaiting use as and when required by renewable lulls.
There is no point in fitting Carbon Capture (and eventually Storage) to coal fired power plants if they’re only going to be used for occasional wind back up – too expensive. And the tests are showing problems. And even though it’s claimed that CCS can take away 90% of the emissions, it’s more like 85% because CCS uses more coal fuel.
It would be better if Germany opted totally for new gas plant for their wind back up, but they appear to not want to be big importers of fossil fuels, so they’ve gone mostly for coal which they can mine, at a pinch, at home. In the UK we’re going for gas, because we believe in continued good relations with Qatar (via the House of Saud ?) and Russia (via BP ?)
The amount of time that coal and gas plants will be in use when renewable energy is fully developed in Gemany will be days per year in total. So in 20 years time when they’ve built all their wind and solar, they get to meet their carbon targets and still have operational coal and gas plant for when necessary.
How is it that you’ve missed this central plank of their policy ?
On the one hand, I could be asked to excuse this lapse of reasoning on your part – as far as I know you haven’t trained as an energy engineer, so how could you be expected to understand load balancing and load following in the real world ?
On the other hand, you’ve just written a book extolling the virtue of nuclear engineering, in effect dismissing the sensible decisions that Germany and other countries have taken, so I cannot let this pass by without commenting.
Sorry to report it, but you’ve just made it into my Little Book of The World’s Most Annoying Men because you appear to have no idea about the pitfalls of nuclear power, you do not seem to understand other approaches to the energy crisis; and in addition, you have built a generalist argument concocted from stereotypes to make the green movement the punch bag for your position. When I read a similar irrational rant in Anthony Giddens’ book “The Politics of Climate Change”, I became so angry, my reptile-inherited brain took over, and I threw the book across the room.
Why, I ask myself, are you following in Giddens’ footsteps and becoming so reactionary ? Are you adopting the position of George Monbiot, who seems to be evolving into a curmudgeon ?
I shall not be buying your new book, because your arguments are, to my mind, faulty.
I receive another letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP on vellum yellow with sickly pale green type. “Dear Mrs [sic] Abbess”, the letter reads, “Further to our previous correspondence regarding Stop Climate Chaos Big [sic] campaign, please find enclosed a reply from Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary.” I asked Iain Duncan Smith in person for his own and personal support for a strong Energy Bill. What did he do ? Pass my letter on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). I would have prefered a personal commitment to the issue, but, sadly, it was not to be.
The Rt Hon continued, “I hope you find his letter reassuring…” Reassuring ? What ? Am I some kind of emotionally incontinent complainant ? “…and helpful. However, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.”
I’m looking quizzical, rubbing my chin. Adam Curtis appears to have lost control of his mind, or at the very least, is showing signs of unhealthy self contradiction. Where are the checks and balances ?
At the start of Part 2 of “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, he unpicks, and, I would suggest, stamps on, the idea that ecosystems are networks of feedback loops, tending to re-balance. And then at the end of the same presentation, he asserts that human revolutions fail, and society folds in on itself and returns to the state of power and control it was in before. Now which is it to be, Adam Curtis ? Self-correcting stability or non-correcting ebbs, flows and shifting sands ?
Although variability in Renewable Electricity generation is a real issue, it’s not a huge one, according to recent reports, that from the International Energy Agency (IEA) “Harnessing Variable Renewables” among them :-
Even so, there is a need to improve cheap methods of energy storage – and one of the simplest ways to increase capacity in this area is to produce Renewable Gas – which can be stored as easily as Natural Gas.
This chart shows why George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and Stephen Tinsdale have all plumped for the wrong choice – new Nuclear Power cannot deliver more electricity or reduce carbon dioxide emissions for us at the time when we need it most – the next few years :-
0. Massive energy conservation drives – for demand management – are clearly essential, given the reduction in UK generation.
1. It is impossible to increase new Nuclear Power capacity in less than ten years, but total UK generation is falling now, so now and in the next few years is the timeframe in which to add capacity. We cannot go on relying on Nuclear Power imports from France – especially given the rate of power outages there.
2. The fastest growing generation sources over the next few years will be Wind Power, Solar Power and Renewable Gas – if we set the right policies at the government and regulator levels.
[ 02 JUNE 2011 : THIS POST HAS ALWAYS AND WILL ALWAYS FULLY RESPECT BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY, AND HAS NOT AND WILL NOT INCLUDE THE REPRODUCED TEXT CONTENT OF E-MAILS FROM BP, ARISING FROM AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE WTIH JOABBESS.COM. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS CLEAR ATTEMPT ON THE PART OF JOABBESS.COM TO CONSERVE THE FULNESS AND THE ESSENCE OF COMPANY CONDIENTIALITY, IT HAS BEEN DRAWN TO THE ATTENTION OF JOABBESS.COM THAT EVEN JUST MENTIONING THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE MAY TECHNICALLY CONSTITUTE A BREACH OF BP COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY. SO, TO ENSURE THAT NO ACCUSATION OR COMPLAINT OF BREACH OF COMPANY CONFIDENTIALITY COULD EVER BE MADE, AND TO ENSURE THE PROTECTION OF THE CORRESPONDENT, THE NAME OF THE CORRESPONDENT AND THE DATES OF THE EXCHANGE HAVE BEEN REDACTED AND REMOVED AS OF TODAY. IT CAN STILL BE DEDUCED FROM THIS POST THAT AN E-MAIL EXCHANGE TOOK PLACE. THAT FACT, I THINK, IS NOT COMPANY CONFIDENTIAL, ALTHOUGH I EXPECT BP ARE WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS TO TELL ME IF THEY BELIEVE OTHERWISE, AND OPEN UP A PERSON TO PERSON CONVERSATION ABOUT THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION. THEY KNOW MY TELEPHONE NUMBER. IT’S AT THE TOP OF THE POST. WHERE IT’S ALWAYS BEEN. ]
From: jo abbess
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, BP
Thank you for your time on the phone earlier this week.
Last year in February, I was part of a small group of students that were grateful to have the benefit of an interview with XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at BP, then XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
I am taking my research into the energy sector further for my MSc dissertation, and I would be grateful if I could have an interview with somebody in an engineering department who has an overview of the energy sector.
It doesn’t need to be a face to face interview, as I am quite willing to telephone people. It only needs to be 20 minutes in duration.
I have prepared a short list of open questions that I am considering would be suitable for my enquiry into the future of energy resources and technologies (see below).
I hope that you can point me in the direction of somebody within BP who would like to offer their thoughts.
Questions with a UK focus
1. What do you think have been the best developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?
(What do you think are the most significant developments in the energy sector in the last 20 years ?)
2. What positive or negative changes in energy production and supply will take place over the next 2 decades ?
(What do you think will be the most important developments in the energy sector in the next 20 years ?)
3. Which energy resources and technologies look the most troubled ?
4. Which energy resources and technologies look the most promising ?
5. Does the UK face an energy supply gap ? Can we keep the lights on ?
From: jo abbess
Thank you for your helpful reply.
What I am trying to achieve is a real conversation with somebody within BP who has a general overview of the energy industry – sadly, the annual Statistical Review and company report do not answer the scoping questions I have.
I am offering an opportunity for BP to voice a vision, on record, of how the company intend to navigate future change, using parameters that are not generally the basis of shareholder reports.
I am sure that somebody in the organisation has a view on the onset of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas – from conventional resources, and that there must be aims and objectives for BP to manage this issue.
I am convinced that BP has planned for a range of policy scenarios concerning climate change – both mitigation and adaptation measures.
I am also sure that somebody in BP has a plan for navigating political problems, such as the probability of continued unrest in the Middle East, with the accompanying likelihood of compromised oil and gas production.
In addition, I am sure that somebody from BP can speak on the company’s behalf about how it will deal with the threats of economic turbulence and still be able to meet the needs of shareholders.
Some sample questions that could take in part of this landscape :-
1. Do you think that we are heading for a period of global energy insecurity ? What are the factors that could cause this ? What are the timelines ? Who are the key players ?
2. What is aiding or blocking the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy ? What technologies look promising ? What technologies are stuck in the lab ?
3.. How do you think we will manage the transition to clean energy ? How will the economic actors be able to diversify out of fossil fuels and still retain balance in the world markets – and not disappoint their investors ?
4. Do you think that people generally are aware of the issues of energy security ?
It would be excellent if you could find somebody to speak to these or similar questions in a short interview with me. I can do interviews by telephone at very low cost, and I would e-mail the transcript for verification before using in my research report.
My central question is “are we ready for energy change ?” – major transition in the resourcing and use of energy – and I am seeking a full range of opinion on that question.
If you could point me towards somebody who is willing and able to speak for 20 minutes on the phone on energy security issues, I would be highly grateful.
Solar photovoltaic cells based on semiconductor transistor junctions are becoming cheaper, more efficient and more widely relied upon. Mankind can thrive, drinking in the sunshine.
Yet, the solar power technology of today could still become a minor footnote if there is a revolution in Physics or Chemistry :-
“Solar Power Discovery Dims Future of Photovoltaic Cells : Posted by Francis Rey on April 18, 2011 : University of Michigan researchers made a breakthrough discovery on the behavior of light, which could alter solar technology from now on. Professor Stephen Rand, Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics, and William Fisher, an Applied Physics doctoral student, found out that light, when traveling [sic] through a nonconductive material, such as glass, at the right intensity can produce magnetic fields 100 million times stronger than previously deemed possible. During these conditions, the magnetic field has enough strength to equal a strong electric effect, producing an “optical battery” that leads to “a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation”, Rand said…”
Mmm, love that solar radiation !
America’s hooked on oil, but more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico won’t drive fuel prices back down, as Republican political activists try to claim :-
US production is only a small percentage of world supplies – and this won’t increase significantly even with more homeland drilling.
Gasoline prices are going to remain vulnerable to global events, global markets and global nerves.
The oil production companies that operate in the American market are quite happy to maintain higher prices for fuels. Think about it.
If the Americans want to fill up their tanks less expensively, what’s really needed is to consume less oil – and that means using smaller, lighter cars with higher fuel efficiency.
Can we glimpse the future of energy ?
Ambient, sustainable energy is all around us, and sooner or
later we will find the ways to make use of it for the good of all.
The following is an appropriately edited transcript of a
conversation on the Claverton Energy Research Group
forum online, and was written by Nick Balmer, a consultant
in renewable energy.
…The huge scale of the possible changes for all concerned is
causing all of the current Titans in the [energy] industry to deploy
the full force of the media [and their] PR [public relations] in an
attempt to manipulate the public and policy towards their own way
of thinking, or in such a way as to protect their own vested interests.
The great thing is that these issues are being aired out in the open,
and groups like [Claverton Energy Research Group forum] allow
people with knowledge of these affairs to debate these issues openly.
The big problem is that each of us has only a very detailed
understanding of some small fraction of the total issue.
Most of the public and government only has a very slight knowledge
of the total issue, and has had only limited access to ways to find out
in detail what is going on.
As Egypt is demonstrating today, everybody now has a voice and as
Wikileaks shows, sooner or later everything will come out into the
All of us are struggling to come to terms with this explosion of
access to knowledge.
It is quite clear that lots of bubbles are being burst as a result of
the Global Financial implosion and the huge expansion in available
Just as banking and property has been shown to be an unaffordable
Ponzi scheme and to be vastly over-inflated, UK energy policy is now
coming under huge scrutiny.
We can now compare our energy systems with other countries.
Due to the huge geological accident of fate, since the 1700’s in coal,
and 1970’s in oil and gas, we have been extremely fortunate in being
able to live way beyond the lifestyle standards of most of the World.
We have not had to adapt.
Other countries that didn’t have this advantage had to change over
Places like Denmark, Austria, Germany [and so on] have made huge
changes because they had less energy from fossil resources.
Now we have reached the peak or crunch point, we find ourselves well
behind those countries that had to adapt earlier.
Everybody is concentrating on the Capital cost of deploying per
MW [megawatt] and overlooks the cost of fuels.
The cost of fuels over time is massively more important than the
CAPEX [capital expenditure on investment].
So even if windfarms cost 20 times per MW or GW [gigawatt] more to
build than nuclear or coal or gas, in the scheme of things,
[wind power] is always going to win, because the fuel is free and
unlimited for centuries to come.
Similarly [solar power technologies], or even more effective,
household insulation and cutting energy use.
And yet the media and government are blinded by the barrage of PR
and media from the energy vested interests who are working with
every muscle to stop this coming out into the open.
I often meet financiers in my work trying to promote and support AD
[anaerobic digestion of biological waste for the production of
renewable methane], biomass, solar and wind projects.
I am always struggling to prove to them that I have an offtake [return
on investment] and the fuel supply. This is often really hard to do
[but] I only have to do this for seven to 12 years to make my business
cases stack up.
I was really depressed at the end of one such presentation and
discussion, when one broadly sympathetic banker who had turned me
down said that he was having even worse problems with largescale
How do you predict the price and supply of coal forward for 25 years
or more ?
It has jumped 17% in recent months.
How do you prove that you are going to have offtake for huge power
stations in future years ?
Demand dropped 8% in 2009.
How do you raise the equity or debt for a billion [pound] project when
banks don’t want to lend more than £30 million each ? Imagine how
many banks that would take ?
We have reached a tipping point in our economy, sustainability and
Yes, the existing mega-power companies are fighting as hard as
Mubarak today to hold onto power, but they represent the past just
as surely as he does.
Those companies can rejuvenate themselves, unlike the Egyptian
If they don’t, there are an increasingly large number of smaller and
more active players coming into the market.
The average household pays somewhere around £1,300 a year for
its heating and lighting.
The companies that come forward with a way to do that for £1,000 is
going to capture the market very quickly.
I have friends in Austria who only pay 65 Euros for services that I
pay £1,400 for.
They do this through insulation, triple glazing, solar and biomass energy.
Most [UK] households have less than £400 per year discretionary
disposable income. This prevents them making changes to their houses
they desperately want and know they need to make. This can
drop their energy demands hugely.
If somebody can unlock that Gordian Knot the benefits would be
enormous as there are something like 27 million households.
At a time when household debt is at an all-time high, incomes are
shrinking, and 40% live on ether government salaries, state
pensions or benefits.
Energy is a very high part of these households’ outgoings – if you
pay £1,300 a year and your house only brings in £11,000 to £20,000
A 50% increase in the £1,300 could bring great distress, and
possibly even civil unrest here.
The increases fossil power [companies] need to make their systems
bankable will increase energy bills. This will feed straight through into
government liabilities because 40% of us live on government payouts.
If government can drop the cost of heating and lighting quite easily
by £100 to £500 per household per year while at the same time
provide employment for hundreds of thousands of White Van men
cutting energy uses, doesn’t this make far more sense than building
unsustainable power stations that will have to be [bankrolled] by the
government, who will then have to buy back electricity at a price our
communities cannot stand ?
Project a similar calculation onto transport fuels and you get even
At $80 a barrel [of oil] industry is shrinking and relatively few
renewable fuel business cases work. At $100 a barrel most renewable
fuels can compete.
At $120 a barrel almost any alternative beats oil, and that is before
you start to look at issues like fuel security and the environment.
Although the battle is one of David and Goliath, or the Dinosaur and
those early mammals, between the new energy industries and the
existing vested energy industries, [it] has only one outcome.
It is only a matter of the co-lateral damage along the way.
Like Mubarak, it is clear they must go. Are they going to go
gracefully, or are they going to smash the place up first ?
Renewable Energy Consultant
An incomplete recording of the BBC Horizon programme “The Death of the Oceans ?” narrated by David Attenborough is below.
It’s about Global Warming, of course (and overfishing, and sonar making whales deaf – which is the bit that’s missing at the end). But it’s also about Global Warming’s evil twin – Ocean Acidification.
Believe what you will about the Anthropogenic component of Global Warming, and I know some of you resist the Science as if it were a hairy, sweaty, alcoholic dentist threatening to pull your teeth without Novocaine, but there’s no way you can deny that the increasing concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, most of it a direct result of humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels, is turning the Oceans into a giant bucket of fizzy soda, and is threatening marine life, which is a huge risk to the whole of Life on Earth.
The only solution is to stop burning so much Coal, Oil and Gas. Really, that’s the only way.
Oh, you can fight this inevitability with every brain circuit you have, trying to force others to believe that everything’s still OK, that the Earth is not dangerously heating up, that Life on Land and in the Oceans is not on the cusp of mass extinction, and that Progress is just fine, and Economic Recovery, or Shiny New Technology, or Geoengineering will save us, but one day you will understand. You will accept. The global systems of production, transport and agriculture have to change. The Carbon-based Industrial Age will be gone in only a few decades, only a couple of hundred years after it started.
You can relax. Everything will be fine – eventually. When we have Wind Farms on every ridge top, Solar Power plants in every desert, Geothermal stations in our Town Halls, Combined Heat and Power running on Biomass in every street, Marine Power-gathering machines, Organic food, small electric cars, useful 24 hours-in-a-day networks of electricity-powered public transportation. The time is coming for the new human world to be born – and it will be green, clean and less energy-hungry than before.
It’s going to be a bit of a traumatic birth and the Climate Medics are working hard in the delivery suite, but soon, very soon, Green Investment will see the light of day – those who are wealthy will, as one, put their finances towards Renewable Energy and Energy-efficient machines and Energy Demand Management, real assets, with real returns on investment, and the future will be secured.
See at top for video.
The Earth keeps turning, the Sun keeps burning, and the future will look a lot different than today as we drag down Carbon Dioxide emissions “by hook or by crook”.
We have to be wary of possible “crooks”. There are still technology “snake oil salesmen” out there, trying to impose Genetically Modified crops on us, or Nuclear Power, or Carbon Capture and Storage (to justify the continued use of Coal), and using the vehicle of science to push their wares :-
“Climate change threatens UK harvest : Climate change could push up food prices by causing large-scale crop failures in Britain, the Met Office has warned. : By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent : Published: 08 Oct 2010 : Rising temperatures could mean events such as the drought in Russia this summer, which pushed up grain prices, hit countries like the UK. But they said the worst effects of climate change could be limited by investment in better farming and the development of new drought resistant or heat tolerant crops. This could be done by aid money, breeding and new technologies like genetic modification (GM)…”
Look out for terms like “new crops”, “crop development” or “modified crops” :-
See the use of the word “biotechnology” in the actual research paper :-
But, as everybody can probably guess, most farmers in the world will not be able to afford Genetically Modified crops, and anyway, nobody really yet knows if GM crops confer the benefits claimed – there is some evidence that “life scientists” don’t know the full range of effects on organisms from gene splicing.