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60%-90% drivel

The UK could be primarily powered by a secure and inexhaustible supply of renewable energy by 2030 without the need for new nuclear power plants, according to a report commissioned by WWF.

And if you have a cow you don’t need I have some magic beans…

Between 60% and 90% of the nation’s electricity could come from wind, solar, tidal and other sustainable sources, with the rest supplied via an international supergrid and gas power stations.

OK. Firstly, “Between 60% and 90%” is a hell of a margin of error. If it’s 90% then fair does but if it’s 60% then that is the dark ages. Secondly the international supergrid idea and gas stations. Neither are secure. If the French Prez decided to pull the plug then it’s back to the bloody stone-age. If the Russian Prez decided to close the pipeline then gas is not an option. Or we could buy it from Nigeria or Saudi Arabia both nations noted for their stability and adherence to Western values of fair play and not in the slightest corrupt. We could (and do) buy coal from Poland and Australia which are countries we are on excellent terms with and have loads of the stuff but coal is evil. Well, isn’t gas a bit evil too by the same CO2 token?

This report is inspiring, but also entirely realistic. It shows that a clean, renewable energy future really is within our grasp,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. “Failure to commit to a high-renewables future would leave us facing the prospect of dangerous levels of climate change and high energy prices.”

Is he taking the Michael? No. I think he’s doing something worse. He is costing wind-power including subsidies. Like almost every Green economic comment I ever heard it is nonsense. It reminds me of some plane-sense wonk a few years back who claimed the government subsidised aviation fuel. What he actually meant was they didn’t tax it. Now why do you think they don’t tax it? Why indeed do they instead have air-passenger duty? Is it not because air-transportation is intrinsically international? You wouldn’t drive the motor to France for a tank of gas but your motor wasn’t built by Boeing and “fill her up!” doesn’t mean over two hundred thousand litres.

The report states backing renewables would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and new economic growth. “Investing in clean energy offers us a means to tackle the two most crucial market failures that now confront the world: the financial crisis and climate change,” said Nussbaum. “The only question that remains is, are we bold enough to take it?”

No, it wouldn’t. I have no idea why people believe this rot but they do. The greatest ever expansion in economic growth was the industrial revolution. This was not caused by folks “Up Norf” abandoning the Ravelling Nancy for hand tools. It was due to a reduction in jobs which of course enabled productivity to rise per worker. It is not rocket science though of course it led to it. Or put it another way we could have full employment if we ditched tractors, pesticides and the Haber process and had 90% of the populace living as subsistence farmers for a mess of potage. I mean do they have unemployment in North Korea?

The report was welcomed by a host of businesses, including one the UK’s “big six” energy suppliers, SSE. “It’s a useful addition to the debate,” said Keith MacLean, SSE’s policy and research director. “Sufficient certainty that renewables will be a long term part of the energy system, well beyond the current 2020 cliff edge, is needed in order to allow the industry to mature and put renewables on a path of cost reduction that will steadily reduce and eliminate the need for support.“.

And if you believe that I’ve just put the Brooklyn Bridge on eBay!

WWF’s Positive Energy report differs from previous analyses by including a continuation of renewable energy building after 2020, as well as big increases in energy efficiency. The energy scenarios at the core of the report were developed by GL Garrad Hassan, the world’s largest renewable energy consultancy and part of the GL Group, which also works in the oil and gas industries.

So GL absolutely don’t have a dog in this fight?

The electricity not generated from renewables in the report’s scenarios comes instead from gas power. In the most ambitious 90% scenarios, the carbon emissions from those gas plants do not need to be captured and stored underground in order to meet the UK’s climate change targets, but in the less ambitious 60% scenarios, about one-third of the gas plants would require carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to be fitted. There are no coal plants of any sort in the scenarios, or nuclear plants.

I was wrong! GL have two dogs in the fight.

The warning that a new “dash for gas” could lock in high carbon emissions is echoed in another report published on Tuesday, from MPs on the Commons select committee on energy and climate change. The MPs state the current proposals for electricity market reform put too much emphasis on building new gas plants to fill the gap left by the closure of about 19GW of nuclear, oil-fired and coal-fired plants by 2020, and not enough on decarbonising the power sector over the course of the 2020s in which gas without CCS will have “only a very limited role”. The climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, told the Guardian last month that the government “will not consent so much gas plant so as to endanger our carbon dioxide goals”.

I agree. A “gas dash” is an epically bad idea. It will happen. It will happen because the real argument contra nuclear is NIMBYS and the luddites already are saying the whole of Japan is a nuclear wasteland with mutants eating brains. Despite the fact that unlike Japan we’re very geologically stable. A further point is that CCS is just an idea. It’s not an extant technology. It is almost certainly do-able but the costs are a complete unknown. Also that is fairly clear that Chris Huhne clearly puts the war on CO2 way above keeping the lights on and that is scary. It used to be said every country is three meals from revolution. These days I think it’s fairer to say we’re two power-cuts from anarchy. If this nonsense brown-outs Birmingham for a weekend there will be hell to pay.

The MPs’ report also echoes WWF’s call for more action on energy efficiency. “The government could be doing a lot more to reduce unnecessary energy wastage,” said Tim Yeo MP, the Conservative chairman of the committee. “It needs to look at how it can use building regulations and energy efficiency standards for electrical appliances to cut waste and save cash on people’s energy bills.

That is wishful thinking. Everything involves the use of energy. It’s basic thermodynamics. Do these people honestly believe that better insulated homes will not require more energy to build or that wind-farms are built by bunny rabbits?

The committee’s report additionally calls for much more gas storage capacity in the UK, to minimise the damage from supply interruptions or price spikes. The UK’s current storage capacity is just 14 days’ worth of gas, states the report, “a dangerously low level compared with France which has 87 days’ worth of gas storage, Germany 69 and Italy 59.”

Now why do the French have the best gas supply? They don’t have any. What they do have is a massive nuclear industry so almost all their electricity is nuclear so they’re not burning gas so they use less gas… D’oh!

In conclusion I have never read so much drivel in my life.


  1. Lynne says:

    What gets me is the idea that sustainable energy is so efficient it needs gas generated power to back it up.

    Living just over 10 minutes drive away from the Cuadrilla test rig (near Blackpool) I’m more than happy about the prospect of a dash for shale gas. After all, I’m sat over an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of it although I understand that only up to 40 trillion cubic feet is reclaimable. Good enough.

    As for WWF – aren’t there any pandas that need to be hugged?

  2. Roue le Jour says:

    Between 60% and 90%

    It’s hard to be precise because they don’t know how many people will survive the collapse of civilisation. If not many, then there may well be enough energy for 90% of them.

  3. Smoking Hot says:

    Lovely experience of renewable energy a week ago in Belgium. Driving to Zeebrugge port on a nice sunny day with no wind whatsoever. Strangely many of the wind turbines were turning! :)

  4. Schrodinger's Dog says:

    Maybe Chris Huhne is unconcerned about the lights going off because the government is preparing for it.

    Britain has more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other nation. Why? Fighting crime doesn’t seem to the answer. After all, Britain also has some of the world’s highest incidences of burglary, assault and mugging.

    Perhaps the real reason is a lot more sinister: they’re there recording everyone’s details are storing them in umpteen government databases, ready for when the balloon does go up. When the lights do go out, and the consequent unrest starts, the trouble makers will be immediately identified, rounded-up and hauled off to a detention camp somewhere. It will all be quiet, subtle and swift. There won’t be any images to arouse international outrage of protesters being shot on the streets. Indeed, it’s quite possible the lack of any apparent response to the blackouts will be used by the government of the day to show that the public accepts the need for “de-electrification” of the economy in order for Britain to meet its environmental commitments.

    Or am I being paranoid? I wish I knew.

  5. Adam Collyer says:

    “I have never read so much drivel in my life” – serves you right for reading WWF reports ;)

    You will note that they do not suggest building the Severn Barrage. That, unlike CCS, is absolutely do-able with current technology and would generate as much power as several power stations from tidal power. Of course they don’t want that – it would be a massive and wonderful engineering project, and to them, engineering is evil.

    I agree with you – what will in fact happen is lots more gas-fired stations.

  6. NickM says:

    I actually didn’t read the report just the Graun’s summary.

    The reason the WWF don’t like the idea of a Severn barrage (which I agree would be brilliant) is that their mates in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds don’t want it. Apparently it will destroy the habitat of wading birds.

  7. The Apiarist says:

    “It reminds me of some plane-sense wonk a few years back who claimed the government subsidised aviation fuel. What he actually meant was they didn’t tax it.”

    This is a common whinge of the Greenies, but they never mention that virtually no public transport in the UK pays tax on the fuel they use (or if they do they can reclaim it). This is why First Great Western can afford to leave their locos idling in London terminii for hours on end, filling the concourse with lovely diesel particulates.

  8. NickM says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot the Paddington-Bristol line isn’t electric. God knows what the shade of Brunel thinks of that.

    Diesel particulates and public transport. Now as a city taken all in all Athens is probably the most polluted place I’ve been. The Greek government had recently introduced a scheme to reduce traffic by boxing and coxing driving. Basically if your number plate ended in an odd number you could drive in Athens on like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday… And an even number it was Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday… You know what the average Greek coommuter did? Bought a second car with a complementary odd or even number-plate and pollution and traffic wasn’t reduced but parking also became a nightmare. One of my first (I was a callow youth at the time) riffs with that old law of unintended consequences.

    Now I say Athens as a city but the most honking specific place I’ve ever been is a traffic tunnel in Budapest where you need a machete to cut the air and the worst I’ve ever regularly been to is the Eldon Square bus concourse in Newcastle (thank you T Dan Smith and Mr Poulson!) which on occasions was vile. It has now been moved above ground as part of the amelioration of the travesty that is Eldon Square Shopping Centre and to be fair it is much better. But there is only so much you can do with an early ’70s brutalist monstrance and nothing can be done to re-build the Georgian and Victorian heart of Newcastle. One Victorian arcade remains to mock the Geordie nation. T Dan Smith went to jail. I doubt I’m the only Geordie who believes he ought to have been “Ghadaffied”. To be fair Newcastle wasn’t butchered quite as badly as say Leeds and still retains much Georgian elegance and Grey Street is still awesome.

  9. wiggiatlarge says:

    Nick M, your comments on WWF and RSPB are so right ,its an area that is being highlighted more and more ,the lobbying fake charities,why are so many “charities” involving themselves in areas alien to them,its public money their after.
    The RSPB were recently on R4 bleating on about the merits of windmills ,known in twitching circles as birdchoppers ,not only were they promoting same,but this was after a report was published only a couple of weeks before on the damage to raptors and other rare species in large numbers caused by same windmills,i think hypocritical drivel sits quite well with this lot.
    I get the impression from the never ending rubbish spewed forth from the likes of greens and associated organisations that there really isnt anything they would approve off unless it ment living in tents and rubbing sticks together.

  10. Bod says:

    Tents? Bah! You were lucky ….

  11. Tosh says:

    The Tosh Report says that: “By the year 2020 it is estimated that possibly there could be maybe the chance that there will be between 60 and 90 percent of hot air coming from politicians, with the remaining 10 to 40 per cent coming from invented reports. Any shortfall will be backed up by parliament burning.”

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