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back to article UK's top boffin: Renewables targets were 'a mistake'

A former chief scientific advisor to the government has said that EU renewable-energy quotas will cause widespread fuel poverty. Sir David King believes that European heads of state, in agreeing the targets, may have mistaken electricity usage for total energy consumption - leading to overly ambitious and expensive goals being …

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Pirate

BWEA are in cloud-cuckoo land

Sitting there and saying wind is free, so therefore wind energy is free is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. Wind turbines are actually very expensive for the amount of power you get out of them, and the complete absence of any base-power capability in wind means you either need lots of expensive fast to start fossil fuel power stations, or enormous, incredibly expensive, pump storage to make it feasible.

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What about tidal and wave?

The Severn Barrage, if implemented, would take up quite a chunk of that requirement. If tidal power was implemented around the country, then you could have a continuous, predictable power source (high tide happens at different times around the country).

There are also exciting developments happening around harnessing tidal streams - again, completely predictable.

Wind is just one part of the mix.

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Anonymous Coward

Loving

"We don't have to pay for wind power"

So..if we meet the target, and 20% of the UK's energy is generated by wind or w/e, will my bill be 20% lower?

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*All* energy demand?

We'll never make it. I don't have the numbers but I wouldn't be at all surprised if over 90% of my personal energy consumption goes on transport, and I doubt that's atypical. Making any significant proportion of that renewable is going to be a tough one.

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Anonymous Coward

here we go again

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb.

really ? I heard it was more like £1M per MW to build turbines, not to mention the energy storage costs, and the fact that 1 turbine can only provide for less than 1000 homes.

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You what?

""We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb."

Did she really say that? Wind power is free? Turbines don't cost anything to build or operate? If that's the case, why does it cost more per unit than other sources? They're not profiteering, are they?

Tell you what, BWEA, mouthpiece of the wind energy companies, if it's free, build your turbines, and I'll pay you 0.01p per unit. You'll still make a profit, right?

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Coat

But they would say that..

BWEA chief Maria McCaffery is hardly going to say "We're all totally hatstand, this is totally crazy"

Windpower IS NOT free, its like saying electric cars do not cause pollution.

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Paris Hilton

Cool - Free electricity!

Can't wait for this wind power we don't have to pay for, this should cut my bill by loads... or have I been confused by bullsh** ?

Paris coz I bet she never has wind

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Politicians + Greenies

The blind leading the ignorant.

Or is it the ignorant leading the blind ?

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Nuclear should be classed as "renewable"

Nuclear energy ought to be classed as a "renewable" for these purposes. At any rate, it has all the benefits.

We should also get on with the Generation IV reactors. Eg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor

(which essentially eliminates the nuclear waste problem)

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Coat

Wha??

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

Right then, I'll just grow me a couple of wind turbines right here and start my own wind farm. Oh, wait...

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

Government all at sea on wind

Wind is too expensive because this (and the alternative) government ducks the nimby problem by going offshore. Not only is it twice as expensive (and much harder to maintain) - the targets are dependent on marine platforms that are not there or being switched back to oil as the price hike makes new oil projects more feasible.

So twice the price, might never be built - and if they are - nobody has yet cracked how you go beyond 20% windpower because of the interruptibility issue. There are ideas but AFAIK no substantially funded programmes to shift much non-time dependent power demand from 'instant-on' to a managed delivery. (The only crude implementation is the residential 'white meter').

Making vague promises is easy but not a lot of help when your strategic thinking ends at trying not to lose the next election.

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nbc
Joke

Irony Alert?

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

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Bronze badge

Oops, eh

Having previous worked for an energy company, I learned that there isn't enough sustained, strong wind in the UK to generate enough power. Given that it can't be stored, not really, what happens in seasons of relatively light winds? And you can't carpet Scotland and the north. Marine turbines are still experimental, and we don't have a lot of places to put them. That's why nuclear keeps creeping back onto the list.

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Grrr! Aaaargh!

> "We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb.

Yes we do. We need to put an infrastructure in place that can handle misfits of supply and demand, storing the supplied energy as and when, and doling it out when demand is high. This would take either extra hydroelectric capacity, or massive banks of batteries, all of which would have a cost. Then we'd need to *run* it.

Then we'd need some other technology to back the input from longer term changes in the chaotic and therefore somewhat unpredictable weather system.

Finally, if the Electric Lightning lives up to the promise of its Altairnano batteries or Shai Agassi gets his charging system widely accepted, we'll need enough spare capacity to run the private, commercial and industrial *TRANSPORT SYSTEMS*. You know, that curious thing the politicians all seem to think we can do without.

And we'll need to build electric harvesters and the plethora of other motorised widgetry that our technologically dependent civilisation runs on.

Overall, this will be much more efficient in terms of energy usage than our current setup, but we need infrastructure to support it.

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Black Helicopters

How shockingly naive!!!

""Predictably, the British Wind Energy Association dismissed the prof's thoughts.

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb." ""

This speaks volumes on the level of ignorance, stupidity and brainlessness (or alternatively - brainwashing from ecoterror organizations like Greenpeace) of the Hot Air ..err. .. Wind Energy proponents.

Manufacturing, moving, placing and maintaining their preciously unreliable, landscape-distorting windmills costs several things -- money and energy to begin with, not to mention its backup source for the inevitable days that the wind "just isn't right" for it.

I wonder how long before the wind lobby's protestations of "not the right kind of wind" becomes as laughable as the railroad's "leaves on the line" (or "wrong kind of snow" - I do not jest!) excuse ...

Black Helicopter icon, although I think "eco-poison green" would be a more appropiate color ....

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Happy

Too Cheap To Meter

re : "We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

so that should mean we get elec for free then ?

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Paris Hilton

All energy is free

Maria McCaffery scores points for the dumbest comment I've seen in a long time. All energy is free in the sense that she considers wind to be free "We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

All energy is free. Uranium, oil and coal are just lying in the ground. Water for hydroelectricity just falls from the sky, wood just grows. Do I have to spell it out any further?

Paris, because McCaffery's comment is the sort of thing Paris might say.

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Bumbling idiots

'"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery'

You my dear are certainly full of it. Wind power isn't going to cut it, may I be one of the 'I told you so's when the lights do go out.

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IT Angle

We knew this decades ago

Have you ever tried to power a "Sim City" with wind power? The French must've played Sim City, cos they went straight for Nuclear, and are now selling it to their neighbours.

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Anonymous Coward

wow

That woman at the end is loopy, no you don't have to pay for the wind but you do have to pay for storage capacity and generation when the wind isn't blowing, not to mention the maintenance and eventual replacement of expensive equipment. But other then those things, sure it's completly free.

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bit of short term pain?

Is this a case of short term pain for long term gain?

High prices of energy seem to be forcing people the right way at the moment, ie. less car journeys. more people working from home etc. Plus Its increasingly looking like cars will be of a non-petrol variety in the next 5-10yrs.

We have replaced our oil heating/cooking for electric and will be putting in a log burning stove in shortly to get us through winter.

So if we are forced to change from getting our energy supplies from Middle East/Russia/US etc. and become increasingly self sufficient is that a bad thing?

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Paris Hilton

Pay more for wind power??

I dont get it? We have to pay more for wind? I can see the initial investment of wind farms being a large outlay but then thats it their "fuel" is free unlike coal power stations. There just seems too much smoke and mirrors about all this Green Energy. Im going back to SEO thats much less confusing.

Can someone explain this to me. Im a renewable energy "noob"

Paris because if its hurting my brain its certainly hurting hers.

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Paris Hilton

Dull as dishwater

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

Well that's some startlingly stupid thinking, what are they planning on doing to harness this free energy? Plant windmill seeds?

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Anonymous Coward

How long

Before some idiot posts a "let's go nuclear" comment then?

Please, do the arithmetic first - I will keep this simple.

* We have at most 100 years of fuel (probably less than 50 that is economically recoverable) at current consumption.

* Demand is rising as new reactors are being built.

* There is no chance of finding new economically recoverable fuel supplies.

* Hardly anyone is building breeder reactors that could extend fuel life

* Hardly anyone is building reactors that have an alternative fuel (thorium)

* We do not have viable fuel from seawater tech.

* We are at the end of the improvement cycle - the latest reactors are not going to get significantly better.

Net result - price of nuclear (fission) is going to skyrocket, and probably drive people into fuel poverty even faster than wind power will.

Of course, if we build breeder reactors, or manage to crack fusion, then nuclear is viable. But please, think before posting pro-fission claptrap.

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Flame

BBC Reporting

On the subject of BBC reporting on all things Climate-Change related, did anyone hear last nights "PM"? They were discusing US Vice-presidential candidate Palin's right-wing fundamentalist Christian beliefs. In particular we were told that she was a creationsist and, as such, believed (and here the reporters voice moved rapidly up through the gears of incredulity) "That the earth is just six thousand years old, abortion is wrong in all circumstances, even when the pregnancy is a result of incestuous rape AND" (and here his voice nearly went off the scale) "global warming ISN'T man made!!". Cue significant pause to allow the true nature of these appalling revelations to sink-in. "Is this really the kind of message the US wants to send out to the East?" he asked Carly Fiorina - The Republican spokeswoman chosen to defend these charges.

Flames Icon? Well, whilst the other two beliefs might be fair game, questioning the age of the earth will surely land that reporter in a fiery after-life.

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Boffin

Politicians make mistakes?

Well, fuck me, who'd have guessed! And as usual, it's the rest of us that'll be picking up the tab for this cock-up.

And as for;

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

I'd suggest that Ms.McCaffrey should perhaps consider changing her diet / psychotherapist.

Or does she still believe in faeries too?

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Anonymous Coward

Why didn't he speak up at the time then?

Eh? These targets aren't new and presumably as ' top boffin' he would have advised an 'EU head of state'. Surely this is the kind of thing he's paid for?

Despite being a convinced 'tree hugger' I think a lot of this renewable stuff is hype (although I do have solar thermal) and believe that energy efficiency and the elimination of wastage is the key. Yes, even if it means ditching electronic gadgetry, consoles etc!

And Lewis.......how about a comment on the latest Canadian ice shelf news - sorry I'd forgotten you're far too partisan for a balanced view...............!

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Anonymous Coward

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

What fatuous bullshit this is, I suppose the raw materials that go into manufacturing the turbines and towers "just come naturally" too.

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Flame

Complete twat

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb.

So all those wind turbines spontaneously grow out of the hillside or sea, wire themselves up to the grid, and never need any maintenance?

And there was me thinking they were white elephants which are going to make electricity even more expensive than the ridiculous levels it is today, and to leave even those that still can afford it sitting in the dark for days at a time, when the whole of northern Europe is becalmed.

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No math please, we're British

It seems rather strange that people would fail to understand the difference between "average usage" and "peak usage" as it relates to power generation. Of course, these are the same sort of people who, when you hand them $12.17 to pay for a tab of $11.92, need to resort to a calculator to figure out that they owe you a quarter.

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Flame

WTF of the day

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb.

Captured in magic bottles by the wind pixies and delivered to the national grid by means of a perpetual motion machine, naturally.

Can I refuse to pay my water bills too, since that just falls out of the sky?

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Paris Hilton

Greenies want us back in the dark ages

"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally," BWEA chief Maria McCaffery told the Beeb.

Erm, I think she's rather referring to the hot air just blasted from her nether regions.

@AC - How Long and your: We have at most 100 years of fuel (probably less than 50 that is economically recoverable) at current consumption.

Every time this comes up you trot out the same old, same old with nothing to back it up. Give it up already.

There is not, nor will there be any really good short term solution for a long term problem. Power usage keeps going up and all the greenies in

the world aren't going to stop it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to get more efficient in the way we do things, but for whatever sake, use some plain logic and common sense to get there. It's sadly missing.

Paris, 'cuz she operates well in the dark; where we'll all be when the lights go off.

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Silver badge
Alert

No Problem

20% of all energy surely includes my breakfast cereal, so I am off the hook.

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Jim
Pirate

Re: No math please, we're British

Firstly, the word is "mathS" (unless you have a lisp). You cannot separate the s from mathematics so what makes you think you can ignore it when you short-form the word?

Secondly, if you were British, you would understand that the currency is £ not $.

Thirdly, the UK (like Europe) use the 1,2,5 sequence throughout currency denominations so the abomination that is 'a quarter' has no relevence - unless you mean the total of two Henrys or course.

Lastly, I think you are forgetting that, in todays media-rich world, you should not let accuracy get in the way of a good soundbite. The original article presented a peach of an example, as well as a good deal of comments on this site.

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Jim
Boffin

Re: Greenies want us back in the dark ages

Every time this comes up you trot out the same old, same old with nothing to back it up. Give it up already. (back at ya)

And that goes for the moron describing Greenpeace as ecoterrorists. Please go looking for information to form a real opinion rather than just repeating what you read/heard from a Murdoch outlet.

And as for the 100 years of Uranium at current usage? That has appeared in many peer-reviewed scientific paper so I think we can just accept that one. The paper I last read that contained this assertion was one promoting the IFR concept (published in Science), a concept that utilises around 95% of the energy in the raw fuel rather than the 5% that an LWR can and so pushes those 100 years to 2000 (approx)

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Tidal power is where it's at

The UK may have one of the best wind environments in the world. It certainly has one of the best tidal environments.

Tidal power as mentioned above is completely predictable. It can be stored if you use barrages, or if you want to keep everything neat and offshore you can use tethered buoys. Perhaps some tidal or wave arrays could be made part of sea defences in areas which need them.

What about geothermal? We have plenty of disused coal mines we could plumb equipment into.

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So let me get this straight...

'Free' energy is more expensive than the whole infrastructure of digging stuff out the ground, transporting it all around the world and managing the enviromental impact....?

Or is it rather that the companies have a need to make too much money and couldn't possibly take the hit on investing in future infrastructure but simply pass that on to the consumer thereby potentially reaping even higher profits?

I'll get me coat.

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Bronze badge

If anyone can be bothered

The government consultation on Renewable Energy Strategy closes on the 26th September.

Details from:

http://www.berr.gov.uk/consultations/page46797.html

Or call them on 020 7215 5000 and they'll send you a 280 page book. UK readers did pay for this after all.

Alternatively, read David MacKay's book, which is unusual in that it comes complete with numbers and sums.

http://www.withouthotair.com/

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Anonymous Coward

No real comment ...

Just enjoying the chance to comment on an environment story on the Reg .. odd how the usual claptrap posted on the environment (Orlowski, I'm looking at you) doesn't allow comment. Still, if el Reg does prefer to ignore the science and stories like the Ellesmere ice shelf etc. ...

Of course, it's possible Simon Travaglia is writing these stories for a larf, as no serious journalist would put their name to them!

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Joke

@Robin Bradshaw

"what are they planning on doing to harness this free energy? Plant windmill seeds?"

What?! Genetically Modified crops? You don't think the greenies supporting wind power are going to stand for that, do you?

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Nuclear and how it does work

Yes, we only have at the very most a few hundred years of uranium and plutonium. However the more interesting reactor designs, such as those which will be tested in South Africa and China, are the of the pebble-bed high temperature designs.

With only relatively small modifications, this allows one to build a so-called HTR. High temperature Thorium Reactor. This reactor design uses a relatively small amount of uranium or plutonium to perform the initial start up and can afterwards run on the much more common Thorium fuel.

This will get us a reasonable mid to long term solution, with none of the reliability problems of wind (and solar) power. Importantly, this will give us more then enough time to perfect fusion and switch over to that when we can.

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Flame

"too cheap to meter"

Actually, "electricity too cheap to meter" is exactly what the nuclear industry promised the world when the world's first nuclear power station, Calder Hall (near Windscale), opened in October 1956 (check it with your favourite search engine). They were of course lying then, and they're still lying now - about the economics, the risks, the alternatives... I've worked with the nuclear industry and their suppliers, and afaict they're not to be trusted technically commercially or politically.

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CTG
Dead Vulture

@No real comment

AO almost never allows comments on his stories. Still, it is about time we had another piece of bullshit from "Steven Goddard" to tear apart. Very odd how his previous articles suddenly had comments disabled once it was shown he was talking crap.

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Silver badge
Stop

@AC !!!

"And Lewis.......how about a comment on the latest Canadian ice shelf news - sorry I'd forgotten you're far too partisan for a balanced view...............!"

Well, here's a comment for you. Ellesmere Island was once entirely ringed by a single enormous ice shelf that broke up in the early 1900s. Possibly due to CO2 from horse buggies? All that is left today are the four much smaller shelves that together cover about 300 square miles. Last Wednesday, in a continuation of this process which has been going on for over a century, a 19 sq mile fragment broke away. Not a huge story, nor one associated with Global Warming.

It should be noted that each summer the Arctic loses some 8 million sq km of ice cover, which is replaced each winter. The somewhat greater melts of the last two years seem to be associated with changes in ocean currents, and not CO2 driven warming, since the air temperatures have actually got colder over the Arctic during this time. So no story there either.

"Before some idiot posts a "let's go nuclear" comment..

There is no chance of finding new economically recoverable fuel supplies..."

Afaict you're not to be trusted technically, commercially, or politically when commenting about nuclear power. You seem to have the economics arse-about-face! Whether a supply is economic or not depends on market price. As it rises, new sources become economic to exploit.

Nuclear power slumped in the 1980-2000 period, and the price of uranium bottomed at about $7/lb. At that price very few mines were economic. By now, the price is about £120/lb. At that price, seawater extraction becomes economic. The quantity of this resource is gigantic and it is practically limitless with respect to world-wide demand.

The Japanese have shown that this is technically possible - if the price stays at the present high level the technology will be developed.As it is the OECD state that the uranium resource base described in this document (http://www.neutron.kth.se/courses/reactor_physics/NEA-redbook2003.pdf) is sufficient to meet all possible future needs, so there is no need to look at seawater, or the comparable amount of thorium in granite around the world...

"Hardly anyone is building breeder reactors that could extend fuel life.."

Well, there's a simple answer to that - build some...! Is this really being proposed as a reason for not starting a major nuclear push? Hardly anyone is building massive tidal barrages, so I suppose you don't want those either?

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Happy

@How long

Good points, at current rates of consumption, nuclear fuel from uranium is set to run out at roughly the same time as our known reserves of oil. Scary scenario when you think about it. The alternatives you suggested, fusion, thorium etc are in the same infant development stage as renewables like hot rocks etc. So what do you think we should punt on to replace the others? Not the greenie, tree hugging, save the whale, dirty filthy hippie renewable crap. No energy must come from the most environmentally abusive, polluting source and has to be none renewable. It must be able to spurn alternative industries like military industrial ones and lead to security tensions across the globe to be truly worthy of powering our lives. Blood for oil yes but no blood for the wind, waves or the sun.

Smile, for irony.

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Alert

@Robin Bradshaw

>"We don't have to pay for wind power - it just comes to us naturally,"

>

>Well that's some startlingly stupid thinking, what are they planning on doing to >harness this free energy? Plant windmill seeds?

Robin, that's genius, now all I need is a VC to fund my new start-up gene-engineering company specialisng in hybriding trees with wind-turbines.

<cheap shot alert> I'm sure the green movement will fully support that...

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Unhappy

who employs these people?

I used to work for a company importing wind turbines to the UK about 7 years ago...

At that time a wind turbing would generate enough energy to cover its cost in about 15-20 years, but the average life of the turbines was about 10 years until they needed replacing. Although I can believe that their performance and cost has improved slightly since then I doubt they are cost effective.

The main market at the time was the rich farmers who wanted a small turbine on their land to prove they were doing something for the environment... It still couldn't power their Aga though!

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Same loony ideas as the gas board then

According to them my boiler is too old and needs replacing with one of these new fangled energy efficient boilers that will save shedloads of money.

They base it on the premise that boilers should be replaced after 10 years.

Their calculator then assures me that the increased efficiency gained by replacing my boiler will pay for itself in 15-20 years.

I presume that such equations and tools are used by the government, who probably do not have the wit to turn the page over and actually read and understand the figures.

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Whoops, he said. From his cosy study.

Fortunately, the poor loves 'confused' by such complex issues will not be likely to suffer the consequences as much as those who have paid them all their lives to get to grips with such things.

Along with, apparently, CEOs of vested interest energy supply companies, etc.

As to my dear old Mum, however...

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