A recent industry study into the UK energy sector of 2030 - which according to government plans will use a hugely increased amount of wind power - suggests that massive electricity price rises will be required, and some form of additional government action in order to avoid power cuts. This could have a negative impact on plans …
Nothing new here
Renewables are more expensive than carbon-based, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Our current use of cheapo leccy does not take into account how expensive it really is in environmental terms. If we want to clean up the environment, it comes at a cost, and politicians are afraid to say so publicly.
"In other words, nobody would want to build and maintain a power station with no reliable idea how much it would get used from one year to the next"
"So we're talking power cuts on a fairly routine basis", bit of a discrepancy there, bit of scaremongering perhaps?!
Interconnectors still seem a good idea. Someone owning one could charge for the electricity sent through it, like a toll road. Clearly if one side of the connector has higher demand and lower supply the market would pay the toll as well as the cost of the electricity from the other end? Especially as this reduces the requirement for thermal backup plant. Can someone explain how this removes the price differential?
People pollute. Perhaps if everyone had fewer children then there wouldn't be a ballooning global 7+ billion population.
Is this a subversive plan to totally f up our country in totality? Just how can you manufacture, home work, keep clean, have water, run sewerage plants et al without 100% reliable, 100% of the time power. This is back to the caves stuff brought about by weird beards, bad science and gerrymandering politicians who are blinded by spin and rhetoric and some sort of international competitive negativity of doom and gloom.
As I peer at the rain, part of our long wet summer I wonder if all those enjoying the GW grant scams are sunning themselves in Bali or some other exotic venue (soon to be flooded no doubt)
How come they never meet in Scunthorpe?
hydrogen cell in every home
and deliveries of H in some containerised format?
Extraordinary Bias from the BBC
Thank you for this report. I have written to the BBC complaining about Harrabin's daft effort, and quoting the url for this story.
The BBC's pro-wind bias (and pro-AGW 'consensus') is always there, but seldom as clear as here.
Isn't hydro-electric a possibility for storing the excess "cheap" wind-generated electricity until it is needed? Pump water uphill when there is extra electricity, run it back down through turbines when there is a shortage. No idea how much capacity we currently have or would need, though.
Fossil energy prices aren't normal. They are grossly subsidised by tens or hundreds of millions of years worth of solar power conversion by the earth's biosphere and geology.
Let's face it...
Nuclear is the only real option whether we like it or not.
There may be a case for small windfarms serving small communities that want them, but vast swathes of the countryside covered in [ugly/beautiful] windmills just aint gonna happen.
There were plans for a small (I think it was 6 turbines) windfarm a few miles away. You should have seen the fuss with world + dog + local mp all nimby'ing away.
Refused in the end.
not really, I mean it's common sense to all but the fanatics and the polititians.
Not very common in those circles then!
I'll do the next report for half the price, it cost how much????
Hope you don't mind
I've just comment to the BBC that they may want to spend some of the Chief Excs expenses on researching stories and bloggers, i linked your article hope you don't mind. If it wasn't for Dr Who and Match of the Day i wouldn't use there services.
And the report sounds very clear and consise on what it was about, 30 pages ain't bad as even an MP could find time between fiddling expesnses to read this and maybe realise a better plan other than lets let wind solve all our problems.
Just need to design a sustem that is compact and can store leccy at peoples homes when its at o% cost and take it on Dragons Den.
What did they expect?
When electricity and gas are in the hands of the private sector they will always look for the quickest return on investment. For a matter such as this, where it will effect everybody, then a national program funded by the exchequer to bring the utilities back into public ownership so that the profits could be ploughed back into the infrastructure, instead of lining foreign share owners pockets. Price hikes will only mean that this recessions lasts longer and longer as people reign in their spending even further. But why is demand increasing? too many people, old generating capacity not being replaced. It comes as no surprise that the BBC is not telling people about these issues, when they have an agenda of their own, and as to politicians being less than truthful...LOL UK Government EPIC FAIL Gordon Clown and the Labour Gang EPIC FAIL in everything they do.
Separate payment for capacity and consumption
Is it only in Italy, that electricity consumers pay for having the right to consume a certain peak effect?
If we split out the capacity cost and the production/delivery cost, then it will become much more obvious that the economy behind on-demand and nature-controlled electricity production is very different. But at the same time, it will also make the playing field more even, and make it easier to see the price tag.
If the price of capacity is too high, maybe people will be able to figure out that they don't really need to run the washing machine, the dish washer and the electrical oven at the same time as they are ironing and boiling water for tea (and thus actually reduce the capacity need).
do some research
So there is no way to store the excess power collected during peak wind for use later?
I assume you've not heard of DINORWIG POWER STATION a.k.a Electric Mountain?
We already have the technology that means we do not need all the old power stations to be maintained to keep us in power during those few hours of zero wind.
Actually you don't need to mitigate intermittency at all, you just sell it as intermittent like Economy 7 was sold, as intermittent electricity for intermittent use as a slight discount. e.g. charge your cars spare power pack with cheap 'leccy, warm your storage heater with cheap 'leccy etc.
Power cuts? Why? The only reason we are winding down oil generated electricity is because oil production is winding down. This has nothing to do with wind farms, it is a consequence of not being able to afford high oil prices for electricity generation. Does wind capacity help that or not?
The cost argument only works when the electricity companies claim they need backup capacity and factor that into the cost, but this just large centralised electricity companies trying to argue that large centralised electricity generation is the future... they have a strong interest in arguing that. Contingency plants not needed for electricity sold as intermittent.
The bird and bat chopping argument I see sometimes is also false, having lived near those large turbines at Aachen, I have never ever seen a single dead bird or bat in the grass underneath. So I believe this is a bogus claim aimed at trying to make an emotional argument.
So lets do the windfarms and quit letting the electricity generators complain about the competition.
Is this for real?
Firstly, the idea of energy storage is completely ignored here.
That is surprising in itself because just this week a boffin announced he'd come up with a super efficient green battery that could be used to store large amounts of electricity. Theoretically, enough of these connected to the grid would rule out any possible power fluctuations.
Secondly, as energy efficiency becomes more of an issue, there will be less demand per home...
Very expensive electricity...
...is not avoidable.
In case you hadn't noticed, ten years ago the UK was a net energy exporter. North Sea oil and gas were a major revenue generator, for the private sector and the public purse.
UK oil production peaked in 1999 and has declined at 7% per year for a decade. Gas similarly. We are now a net importer of oil, gas, coal and (French nuclear) electricity. This is not cheap, and it is going to get a LOT more expensive. The UK government has a current account deficit of £800Billion, and yet is paying to bail out private banks who are largely owned by foreign shareholders. The banks, previously our other main revenue earner, are on life-support. What little is left of our manufacturing industry (cars, steel, wind turbines) are all being shut down.
The current value of Stirling is unsustainable. It is bound to fall hard soon.
If we don't invest very heavily in renewables, (mostly wind, some tidal) then in ten years a bankrupt UK will be importing 80% of its energy needs using ever more worthless pound notes.
Renewable energy infrastructure may not be cheap, but the wind is free, forever.
Nuclear stations will not be built fast enough to offset the decline in available energy, Without energy we do not have industrial society. The UK has a critical energy crisis.
(Not to mention the global supply peak of oil that happened last year - or climate change!)
The solution to an intermittant supply is to create storage and also adjust demand to match supply where this can be done practically. We have enough time to think up these solutions before wind becomes more dominant in supply.
Hydroelectric storage facilities to cope with peak demand already exist, although there may be limits for suitable sites to create many more of these. Using wind energy to create hydrogen via electrolysis is another possibility (which could be used for thermal generation or transport).
On the supply side, all these electric cars and other devices are going to need charging, however an intelligent charging/metering system (similar in principle to economy 7) could be envisaged whereby battery charging is prioritised at times of peak availability. Perhaps this could be encouraged by a variable tariff changing dynamically with supply - with the user setting the maximum price they want to pay for the charge & the system cutting out when this is exceeded (so the wealthy can still pay more if they absolutely *must* need a full charge for their overconsumptive wagons the next morning). If battery capacity and drive system efficiency sees massive improvement and a weekly rather than daily charge routine becomes the norm it will become a case of deciding which night to plug in the charger, people will be watching the 'supply forecast' after the news and weather to inform such decisions.
Other energy uses could be considered on similar principles, not every use of energy has to be met at an immediate point in time.
This is why we're building new pump storage power stations.
Fossil fuel, what fossil fuel?
I like the implication that building a power grid that relies on sources other than fossil fuels is an option. Simple scarcity of resource will crank gas, oil and coal prices through the roof. A KWh of Welsh/Scottish wind or a KWh of comrade Putin's most precious gas, which is cheaper in the long run?
i want coal power i cant afford bloody renewable
no its not a matter of choice im just dead broke trying to support 4 people on a 21,000 pay which the goverment decreed 8 years ago to be more than enough to survive.
Oh yeah but if i go on the dole i would earn more than that
I was thinking myself (during a thunderstorm) that it might be an idea to buy some candles incase the power went off...
Looks like it might be time to invest.
iHate - because I need power to comment on the reg!!!!!!
@John Lamb and AC
hydroelectric storage would help through a calm, but only until the water's all run through. The UK's pumped storage facilities can store about 30 GWh, about one eighth of a day's requirements. (Source: www.withouthotair.com )
Best to wring our hands and wait, then
Interesting that at no point in either this report or El Reg's reporting is there any assumption other than that the current "market" is sacrosanct, and not part of this potential future problem. If the world is changing, why should our religious belief in "the market" be exempt from criticism?
The reality is that we are late weaning ourselves off the status quo, and while yes, the apparent emphasis on wind power does strike one as a stupidly silver bullet approach, when clearly we have a lot to learn about renewable sources, and when diversity seems to be the more sensible approach. But in the same way as the BBC is accused of an unhelpful editorial bias, El Reg's approach does suffer from the same issue. It would be great to see these issues covered in a rather more positive way. The most obvious way of doing this would be to link renewable reports with certain well-known Asus 701 marketing images. (sorry, not sure where that thought came from.)
Vulture Swallows Fossil Industry Guff
So a group of companies who are heavily invested in fossil fuel power stations brings out a paper slagging off renewables and El Reg swallows it hook, line and stinker. There is a market like this already, it's called Nord Kraft and the scandanavian countries use it to buy and sell electricity. Yes there are times when the price goes negative and there are industries that have sprung up to exploit this,. Yes it had reduced the share of the market for Oil, Coal and Gas fired power stations but only their owners think it's a bad thing. The market is there and it works, this report is just the latest in a long line of attack jobs by those invested in the status quo and should be looked at with more of a sceptical eye than the Reg seems to posess in this field....
Re: pump storage
To the pump storage respondents:
Yes, we have pump storage, which is very useful for short-term fluctuations in demand - BUT it can never have the capacity, to last for a couple of days of no wind.
Yes, we have a connection with France (Nuclear) - but what happens when one February, low pressure sits stationary over Western Europe? France will not have the capacity to bail us and Germany - plus a ruck of smaller countries - out.
As Your Neughbour.....
In discussions about electricity I find it exasperating that European mainland prices aren't quoted.
We now pay ~15p a unit
The French ~ 4.5p a unit
The Germans ~8p a unit
So we're being stuffed ~400% for our electricity by peculating politicians + penpushers who are colluding with their inefficient monopolistic cronies in the "private" energy utilities ....
Strikes me this is like arguing the toss between paddle wheels and propellers as the ship is sinking.
What pray, do you think the public reaction might be if this was the price of OIL ?
Energy utilities in the UK have descended into a stinking pit of dishonesty and cheating - speculative billing is rife, the per unit billing is mired in tariff hell and they're hitting on the taxpayer for their capex budgets = no doubt nice work if you can get it...
What a one-sided, scare-mongering report.
Cheap green electricity is a myth? Wake up and and smell jiggawatts - cheap electricity is a myth! A point very well made by Perpetual Cyclist if I may say.
The idea that we should stand around saying our only source of energy is nuclear and fossil and yet the sun rises and sets every day, the tides go in and out and - on most days - there's plenty of wind.
The only nuclear option is fusion. If that ever becomes viable then we have a solution. Assuming, of course, the nett fossil fuel exporting economies can be persauded to stop drillling/mining/selling.
And carbon capture and storage is snake oil in my opinion.
The only positive note I can see is that, being almost 105 years old, it won't be my problem.
Flee the planet!
" Is this a subversive plan to totally f up our country in totality? Just how can you manufacture, home work, keep clean, have water, run sewerage plants et al without 100% reliable, 100% of the time power."
Yes you can, industries already buy intermittent electricity at a discount. It's use for pumping and other non time critical batch processes. An example of domestic intermittent power was Economy 7. Note we've also had major problems with gas supply so your nice gas powered central heating won't go on for ever either.
e.g. you need a storage tank 10% full, so you fill it when you have cheap 'leccy to 100%, and keep it there. If it ever falls to 10% you'd have to use expensive leccy and so you ensure the capacity of the tank means you never have to do that.
Wind is inherently more unreliable than other renewable sources... which is why we can't rely on it as a primary source. What wind energy can do though, is make up a sizeable proportion of our overall energy strategy going forward. Tidal energy is a much better solution as renewables go since tidal forces are as reliable as clockwork.
Essentially wind farms have a very large fixed cost (especially when grid enhacements are considered) with vary small variable costs (per KWh). Thermal power stations have a more modest fixed costs but (nuclear apart) high variable costs, most of which is fuel. Only if the cost of fuel for thermals rises to such a level that it compensates for the fixed costs of wind will the total cost of the Wind + Thermal be less than Thermal alone. It doesn't greatly matter what the scheme used is - somebody has to pay it. Of course if fuel costs do increase a lot (and I suspect that they would have to go up by a multiple) then eventually the Wind + Thermal mixture would cost in, but that might be a long time away.
Now it may be (depending on your views) that the extra cost is justified. However, what we have to be very careful about is a system that doesn't provide energy security. The ROC system is a subsidy system (despite what Lewis says) - it's just that it's a cross-subsidy system wherby thermal power will be charged at a much higher rate. It's probably possible for the government to come up with a regulatory system to force energy suppliers to have the thermal power to cover for windless days, but the market rate for units provided that way on days like that is going to be eye-watering to cover the losses incurred on windy, low demand days.
Personally I hate the ROC system - if reducing carbon emissions is the aim, then there ought to be a simple carbon tax. In principle, market dynamics would then move us towards a cost-optimised mix based on the price of carbon. Of course there is the danger then of carbon generation by proxy (as happens with manufacturing in China at the moment). I suppose it might be possible to place a carbon taxes on imports, although no doubt that would be an administrative and political nightmare, and the latter is probably enough to kill it. However, if it did work then it would automatically mean that energy-intensive industries would migrate to parts of the world where low-carbon (and hence, low-cost) power can be generated. That already happens to a certain extent with things like aluminium smelting or even server farms. However, that's without the added impetus of a "carbon tax".
Turn the lights off ...
I once read that if all office buildings in the UK were required to shut their lights off at night and power down non-critical servers and workstations that we would no longer be a net importer of energy in the UK.
Maybe that would at least buy us some time to put a sensibly balanced energy plan in place.
I don't remember the figures but the seemed quite plausible.
And hey, we might be able to see stars at night again.
Black helicopters - because they won't be able to hide in our reclaimed night skies.
It all goes round and round: The electricity companies are promoting Economy 7 like power again, Ffestiniog and Dinorwig are mentioned (even the Scots are talking of new pump store schemes) The problem is the sheer scale of it all.
Dinorwig took about 12 years to build and now think of the NIMBYism that would accompany the planning of a new one. It only provides 1320 MW for a limited time, to help with peak lopping where would you put the lakes for all the others we are going to need?
Also remember why the two Welsh sites were chosen, Ffestiniog as base load for Trawsffynnth and Dinorwig for Wylfa - both nuclear plants that really like to be going 24/7 and steadily.
I don't know an answer let alone a quick political fix. Stock up on candles and wind-up radios, cook over a hearth with a log fire. 1300 here we come again.
A little negative, Lewis?
Just because the current economic plan won't work, doesn't mean we shouldn't TRY to encourage renewable power.
I agree with you that the BBC and government are almost fanatical in their greenwashing of wind power, but likewise you should be careful not to completely damn it just to be a devil's advocate.
Way to miss the point...
Renewable energy is not over priced.
Currently our energy is underpriced - shaving margins continuously, and reaping vast bonuses for shareholders has meant that the companies haven't invested in research and development of alternative energy sources over the years, even though it has been known for decades that fossil fuels were a finite quantity, and now we're all going to have to pay for the lack of foresight.
BBC To Account
Another example of BBC reporters way out of their depth. Who's going to call them to account and stop them spreading this dissinformation? More excellent journalism by El Reg though.
I cannot understand why why huge projects like the Seven barage are suggested, which have little chance of being built.
Surely with the large number of small bays around our island, we could just build some large concrete walls between the widest points with gates in to let seawater in during high tide, close these at peak time and run the water back out through turbines for the next 6 hours.
Or even use the incoming tide to generate power as well.
If we had quite a few such sites then surely a steady supply could be achieved.
Probably a lot less disruptive than a huge project, and only requiring 1-2 miles worth of concrete walling/infrastructure.
Am I missing something?
well, so much for electric cars
If the amount of power we'll have available in the future is so paltry and expensive, we certainly won't be able to afford all these wizzy new electric vehicles that the trendy members of the meeja keep rattling on about.
In fact, given the way people live - we'll all come home from work between 6 and 7 and expect to just plug our cars in to recharge them. However, the drain on the grid (if we still have a grid in years to come) would be so huge, that the demand of 20 million homes each trying to suck anywhere up to 10kW would probably kill it. This also makes the unrealistic assumption that the wind will be kind enough to blow a gale every weekday evening, to drive our wind-generators, or that the tides would magically change their timetable to occur at the same time every day throughout the year for the benefit of tidal powered generation.
It will however, give rise to a whole new series of excuses for not going to, or being late for work. Still at least the roads will be clear.
It is possible to store vast amounts of electricity in pumped-storage.
Consider Loch Arklett, it is about 1km by 3km, and 300 metres above Loch Lomond. If a 10metre water depth variation is acceptable, the Loch Arklett can store about 8 GWh of energy. However, large water-level swings tend to annoy shore-nesting birds.
Calculation is here-
Loch Arklett is part of the Loch Katrine drinking water scheme for Glasgow; Loch Katrine has about 4 times the surface area of Loch Arklett, and are at about the same hight above see level.
I'm not sure how many other large cwms are high above lochs for further schemes.
Tidal has predictable 25hr cycle (or 12.5 if generating on both rising and falling), and it take several days for the tide to reach right around th cost. Thus several stations placed at strategic points should be able to give a constant capacity (slightly changed by the spring/neep tide monthly cycle).
@ storage pepol
I am shure he has looked at storage (or somone did) and I know form my visits to both denorwig and festinagogo (sorry spelling v bad) that they can cope with v limited demand
as to building more considering the difficulties we have building anything cos of nimby isum trying to build a new lake or 2 is nion impossible easer by far to build a nuclear plant and skip the 2 planning inquires (1 for the wind far 1 for the pump storage station) even better if we build enough nuke plants we can sell our excess leky and at least this country will be making something
sorry that came out more hostile than I intended
@AC 11:18 Green Batteries
Were they the AC type of batteries or do they need yet another layer of expensive tech to make cheap wind power work?
Re: Pumped Storage
For those commenters who are bemoaning the lack of mention of pumped storage as an alternative to thermal capacity in dealing with intermittency, the basic problem still stands. Creating pumped storage is extremely expensive and the impact very large, and who is going to want to invest in it unless the returns are very large?
There has been a study, reported on by Lewis on this very site - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/20/mackay_on_carbon_free_uk/ - which took in pumped storage as an option. If I remember correctly, we're looking at having to convert pretty much every major body of water in the UK to pumped storage. What's that going to do to the ecosystem, particularly if some of it has to be sea water?
Cost up front
At least you know how much wind power is costing you. As I look out of the window at the warmer, (much) wetter summer weather predicted years ago by climate models, I wonder how much Britian is loosing in tourism as a result of global warming. Hundreds of millions a year?
Green energy will be expensive, but the argument from the climate scientists has always been that the cost of continuing with fossil fuels will be much, much greater.
So Nuclear is the only option then according to The Dorset Rambler; OK tell me where all the fuel is going to come from in the UK. AFAIK we have no real large deposits of any of the potential fuels for fission; what we do have is masses of wind and tidal power on tap, plus some solar.
How many of our current disasterous wars are based on access to fuel sources from abroad? Do you really want to do that again with uranium (which is not finite in any case, so in 50 years time we end up back here in any case, but with masses of radiated waste to deal with). Nuclear is a short term dead end
Usual Greenpeace Propaganda
So what are the counter arguments to Mr Page’s article:
< Perhaps if everyone had fewer children then there wouldn't be a ballooning global 7+ billion population.>
<Isn't hydro-electric a possibility for storing the excess "cheap" wind-generated electricity until it is needed? >
Ignorance – pumped storage can’t cope
<If the price of capacity is too high, maybe people will be able to figure out that they don't really need to run the washing machine, the dish washer and the electrical oven at the same time as they are ironing and boiling water for tea >
< That is surprising in itself because just this week a boffin announced he'd come up with a super efficient green battery that could be used to store large amounts of electricity. >
< Nuclear stations will not be built fast enough to offset the decline in available energy >
Propaganda – wind energy is diffuse, so it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to build realistic (as opposed to nameplate) capacity. Plus we also need to build the infrastructure to offset its intermittency. In other words nuclear is a far more realistic prospect for replacing future losses in capacity.
< On the supply side, all these electric cars and other devices are going to need charging , … , people will be watching the 'supply forecast' after the news and weather to inform such decisions.>
The Land of La La
Wind power is cheap
Admittedly current designs are expensive - stupidly so.
With 'linear' designs like the Sushi-Bar generator your talking £200 for a 1Kw installation. OK its not quite as efficient as a £700 windmill - but since its cheaper than the pole you have to buy to stick the windmill on at 1/5th price its a better investment!.
You can see what is happening here. The arguments are constantly changing to send us down the greenies chosen hairshirt path. There is even a comment above along the lines of nuclear power stations cannot be built quickly enough to address our power shortages. Well, they can be built a bit quicker than the infrastructure needed to distribute windpower and store enrgy to cover baseload shortages. EDF reckon they can complete them by 2012. And the only rreason for the urgency was greenie bleating about how unsafe nuclear is - rather contradicted by the French experience and the fact that many other 'sensible' scandinavian countries are going down this route (Finland for instance). And what is the timetable to doom ? this seems to change regularly to scare us a little more - and all this from yet unconvincing science and forecasts. Its all b0llox I tell you
Criticising bias with bias
Lewis, we know that you favour nuclear fission power but please stop your view clouding your analysis so much.
Our demand for power of all sorts is the source of the problem. As people like Amory Lovins have been arguing for decades generation is not the best solution, using less power is. If we can improve our energy efficiency we will need less generating capacity.
The ROCs you fume about - calling them a "tax" puts you in with Daily Mail crowd - are incentives to encourage investment and are due to be phased out over time. At least they are in Germany. Even if your supposition that wind farmers will be paying companies to take their power so they can pocket the subsidy does come to pass that would be no less absurd than many of the other schemes in agriculture and elsewhere.
The economic arguments are very important but they are manifold. I've read a report from E.ON from last year which already indicated that wind energy was being bought on the LEX (Leipziger Energy Exchange) last summer because it was cheaper than energy from gas based generators. So wind energy was being bought instead of gas energy and limiting the *spot* price.
As for interconnects - the European Commission is pressing ahead to encourage pan-EU distribution networks which should increase both efficiency and reliability by enforcing the separation of network and generation ownership. This is essential if projects like Munich Re's proposed Desertec are going to have any chance of success - a certain degree of skepticism regarding the project is advisable but it is interesting that an insurance company is getting behind the project.
Your critical coverage of the renewable is welcome when it debunks some of the myths but it is easy to go from debunking ill-informed hacks to simply slagging off the whole issue.
French nuclear power
The French have been steadily building nuclear power stations for decades. I thought the policy of the current UK government was to pay for a steady stream of reports from their friends (like the one under discussion here) but decide nothing and do nothing whilst hoping that the French will have enough capacity for everyone.
Energy Storage is the obvious answer
Every home should be installing a large battery storage system.
When the wind blows it trickles in, when it doesn't it powers our homes. All electrical goods should be be relatively power efficient by 2030, one hopes. This will at least sort homeowners out and undoubtedly create another industry thereby creating employment.
- Vid Hubble 'scope snaps 200,000-ton chunky crumble conundrum
- Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?
- Google offers up its own Googlers in cloud channel chumship trawl
- Interview Global Warming IS REAL, argues sceptic mathematician - it just isn't THERMAGEDDON
- Windows 8.1 Update 1 spewed online a MONTH early – by Microsoft