No 10 has a dilemma: it is committed to an unpopular renewable energy policy that punishes the poor, British industry, and will keep inflation high. But is it edging nervously away from the policy, or merely pretending to? The Telegraph has obtained a policy document, dated July, that seems to suggest that the government is …
"would increase household electricity prices by 25 per cent in 2105 " I plan on living on the moon with my longevity drugs by 2105.
On a more serious note, did the government SERIOUSLY think that nuclear would be more expensive than wind to operate? Really?
They probably thought wind and sun is there and its free, obviously the wind and sun is free harnessing it efficently is a huge challenge.
'Energy will be too cheap to meter....'
We were told at one point (when Calder Hall opened?) by some ignorant or disingenuous politician or civil servant so it is quite likely, sadly, that they did seriously think the thought and say the words. Or maybe they were in 'Sales' mode??? - Never!
However, in this case it really is a bit of a race, IMHO. The long term real 'cost' of Nuclear may end up greater than wind - who can tell - but I'd treat most estimates with a big does of salt. Both are likely to be higher cost and more human polluting than other forms of Carbon free or low carbon such as Tidal, Wave power or Solar Furnace.
your going to get alot more of them for a nuke plant then for a turbine. here in the midlands you'd think the HS2 was something that was something fuelled by dead kittens for the amount of protesting because *shock* the house price might dip a little. now imagine the reaction to nuclear power kitten eating trains !
There's another point, too: Wind isn't an infinite resource. Neither is the Sun. What's more, neither is a reliable source.
Oh, sure, the sun comes up during the day, but not every day is 'sunny'. Also, during the winter when we need the most electricity, we have the least sun and wind. So, power generation is inversely proportional to power consumption with these two renewables. Why didn't they see that? Or were they blithely ignoring it?
The comparison however isn't "a" nuke versus "a" turbine, more like one nuke plant versus 500-1000 turbines to get to the same GW of output (even ignoring the intermittency issue of wind).
That's an awful lot of back yards...
You may be barking up the wrong tree. I used to think that nuclear power was cheaper, too.
Truth is that the set-up and decommission costs are huge. The private sector does not want to stump up the money involved without the government chipping in and posting them a few truck-loads of banknotes. Add to that the uncertainty over if such plants will be allowed to operate for their full lifetime, given an increase in safety standards and a negative public opinion (cf: the situation in Germany), and you come to realise that in order to get nuke stations built, we'll be spending truly vast amounts.
Nuclear is not the magic answer. And it's not fast to build, either.
Close but no cigar
Although the 'too cheap to meter' quote is often ascribed to Lord Marshall of the CEGB, it actually comes from Lewis Strauss of the US Atomic Energy Commission and he was talking about nuclear fusion not fission.
The full quote is:
"Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter... It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age."
Feel free to score it out of 10.
Re: Close but no cigar
A decent 7/10 Mike.
Shame about the submarines, but he's got the important things right.
Re: too cheap to meter
It should be noted that "too cheap to meter" doesn't mean "free". Appropriately enough for this forum, the relevant analogy is probably that of broadband connection where you pay a flat rate per month and get a relatively thin wire in return. It isn't economic to meter your actual consumption. The flat rate pays for the infrastructure and the thin wire limits abuse.
With fossil fueled power stations, the fuel costs mean that this pricing model isn't applicable to the electricity industry, but in fact *most* other options have their costs so highly stacked up-front that the industry would save money by replacing meters with simple current limiters. End-users who wish to invest in batteries could even perform their own load-balancing and get away with a lower capacity (cheaper) connection.
Utter rubbish FUD here
The holes in this editorial are so big you could fit a planet through them.
1) Fuel poverty is happening now because of the HUGE rises in NON renewable energy cost ie Oil (and hence petrol) & Gas.
2) When these fossil fuel based energy source double in cost over the next 10 years, and assuming the figures provided have real factual basis, then you've seen nothing yet!
3) The cost of renewables will go DOWN in the next decade as the technology matures and efficiencies improve.
4) The price of energy is set by the market (the real cause of fuel poverty) .. It's not going to cost more money to turn a wind turbine this decade or next - wind is wind. It's free a the point of blowing. That will never change. The costs can only go DOWN.
Don't believe all the bad press that you read regarding renewable energy. Think it through for yourself. The markets can't trade wind, but they can oil and gas and their addicted to it so much that we see PR campaigns wrapped up it editorials such as this.
A little disappointed in the Reg on this one.
The problem with wind, as el Reg explored in other articles, is that it creates peak energy at the wrong time and those that have been installed produce less when we need it than we thought they would. The net result is wind turbine operators only making money out of the "renewable certificates" that the government issues and wind turbine operators paying to put their power in the grid.
Wind isn't ready for the emphasis that it's being given.
The cost of renewables won't go down that much, as it's the cost of the infrastructure required to support their use that's the major part of the expense of installing them.
All the concrete that has to be poured for the bases of the wind turbines, the cables that have to be laid, the re-jigging of the power distribution grid to be able to support them and the back up power stations that will have to be built for when the wind doesn't blow.
You may not be able to trade wind directly, but you can trade the the sites for the wind farms, and the output from them. Power companies will trade any form of energy that'll make them money. If *you* read around you'll see that there are already a lot of energy companies who can see a massive feast from renewables based solely on the subsidies the gubermints are providing from our inflated energy bills.
If the weather was as it is today (blowing nicely) 365 days a year, I'd have no objection to wind power being our primary electricity source.
Sadly it does'nt, so an equal amount of generating capacity has to be built in order to replace wind.
But the wind is always blowing somewhere... come the reply
Fine.. so long as you dont mind the 700 mile transmission losses getting power from a windy scotland down here in the south
But then...... the amount of subsidy available to wind power seems to be rising past the amount needed to subsidise nuclear
I smell something fishy here....
Given that wind energy is something like 20% of that advertised, we're going to need about 300,000 turbines to cover our increasing energy needs over the next 25 years. That's INSANE when you could build some coal-fired or nuclear power stations instead at a fraction of the cost.
you what ?
1. Huge rises in prices is due to renewables certs. For example I can get solar panels installed free of charge by a company so it can have the certs that they will generate.
2. Where is this comoing from ?
3. see above.
4. No, its down to energy companies having to buy teh bloody certs that cost a fortune.
Fuel poverty is happening as part of overall poverty levels, everything costs more and fuel is just one thing, remove all the "green" costs and fuel would be much cheaper, wholesale prices are not as bad as you think. As an example we are paying for petrol now with oil at around $112 per Barrel for Brent Crude what we paid when Oil was at $200 per barrel.
2) thats when we start burning trees!
3) Actually no, my late mother had a solar energy business in the 1970's and even accounting for inflation its no cheaper now than it was then and that was before the requirement for mass produced panels which drive commodity prices higher etc etc
4) Wind isnt deliverable hence why its not controlled by the markets, what will become interesting is mass storage of the power made to allow for the lulls when the wind isnt blowing.
Re: But the wind is always blowing somewhere... come the reply
Nevermind the transmission losses.
The biggest fault in that line of thinking is that yes you can string a cable from Scotland to down south and send the power over, but Scotland will want some power for themselves as well. So you'd need enough windmills up there to power both Scotland and down south.
And then when it's calm in Scotland people will wave their hands and just reverse the reasoning and power Scotland from the south where it'll be windy then, they hope.
This means you'd have to have enough wind capacity to power both locations, in both locations.
(Then what happens if it's calm in both Scotland and down south, right so let's add some in Wales to power Wales and Scotland and the south, errr um er right...)
All this adds up to truly mindboggling amounts of turbines on top of the already rather shocking number needed to replace just one big coal or nuke plant.
It's even worse than that
It's not unusual for all of Europe to be without usable wind for a week.
I rather like the look of wind turbines. My only problem with them is I don't believe they can meet our energy needs. That makes them a non-starter regardless of costs.
@nsid - 1) is false
Your 1) is false, energy has increased much higher than the rate of inflation.
Go to the DECC front page, click on Fuel Poverty, and there you are: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/fuelpov_stats/fuelpov_stats.aspx
So your "total bollocks" is in fact "total bollocks"
"Wind isnt deliverable hence why its not controlled by the markets, what will become interesting is mass storage of the power made to allow for the lulls when the wind isnt blowing."
This makes no sense. Wind is a market.
As for stored energy, I'm backing Hamsters.
Re: Utter rubbish FUD here
Thanks for joining The Register's comment forums. Welcome!
"The price of energy is set by the market (the real cause of fuel poverty)"
But if prices were left to the market, they would fall, taking people out of poverty. They are artificially high because of the government's policy to bribe (sorry, incentivise!) rent-seeking renewable energy providers. Fuel poverty has trebled.
So your argument is pear-shaped.
"When these fossil fuel based energy source double in cost over the next 10 years, and assuming the figures provided have real factual basis, then you've seen nothing yet!"
Mmm. Homework time.
"if prices were left to the market, they would fall"
Ah, yes, that's why fossil fuel energy prices rise so rapidly whenever there's a spike in the market, but then fall back equally as quickly when it dips again...
Lost in the politics
I think this demonstrate part of my thinking. Wind, and other renewables, are suffering negatively because of the systems (both administrative and infrastructure) that we chose. The problems have emerged from the system we're building or have put in place rather than true wind power. The forces that be always seem to c*ck it up and the execution of renewable energy seems like another example.
I remember reading this exact same post 30 years ago. Only it was in Ranger Rick Magazine and I was young enough to believe it.
And if you look closely at item #1 in your list, what you will find is that the only reason for the huge price jumps in non-renewable energy is the tree shaggers keep putting more and more fossil fuels on the "nobody should be able to use these because they are too dangerous" list.
Haven't we been here before?
Putting aside the benefits or not of cheap/green energy, let's look at carrots instead.
In the 80s and 90s the governments of the time were pushing home ownership for all. Stop paying rent, which is monkey down the drain - take out loans and a mortgage instead ,,,, and we've seen what the effect of that "boom" was.
So just considering what the politicians' motivations are: to stay in power and win elections (at any cost). It does seem that they're up to the same old malarkey again. Proposing cheap fiscal "tricks" to make people appear wealthier and associate that extra money with the party in power. Using the enticement of more spending money to garner favour and win votes.
That's fine, but what goes down - energy prices - inevitably seems to go back up again. So we get cheap power ... for a time ... we just start using more of it (or buying goods that need energy for their manufacture) until we're back to the same natural economic state again: spending up to the limit of our earnings. Then at some point in the future, after todays politicos are dead, emigrated or wearing the profile of their backsides into that seat on the board we find that it all goes pear shaped, just like the 90s credit boom did.
Re: Haven't we been here before?
And don't forget the ode to cheap energy at the end of the piece:
"Yet we know what the benefits of cheap energy are."
Yes, we do. Unfortunately, energy in the form of fossil fuels is getting less and less "cheap" (there's an argument that it isn't that cheap, anyway, either in terms of military spending or in terms of the denial of liberties in various client states that you can't put a price on other than the economic damage caused by the occasional poverty-induced act of terrorist desperation) with the rise in cost obviously reflecting the increased scarcity of such "cheap" sources of energy.
What with the puerile illustration photo of "green scientists" which I recall originates from some alternative medicine advertising scandal, implying that if you don't agree with the author, you aren't qualified in some way or other, thus more or less slinging mud at those who don't buy into the suite of beliefs sceptical of climate change (in its various forms and with its various causes), it would appear to be open season on sensible economic and social policy as well. One has to wonder whether it isn't just The Register that is paying for the author's opinion.
Re: Re: Haven't we been here before?
"One has to wonder whether it isn't just The Register that is paying for the author's opinion."
We're all in the pay of Big Oil and G... Damn, I've blown it. You have uncovered a MASSIVE CONSPIRACY.
Re: Re: Haven't we been here before?
It would be interesting to know if you do have any connections with some of the organisations whose stuff you've been reprinting recently, over and above merely sharing some links with The Register's readership, of course. For example:
As for "MASSIVE CONSPIRACY", I thought you'd already put forward Greenpeace and pals for having SUBVERTED GLOBAL AUTHORITIES in order to impose their WICKED AGENDA on the world's populace and bring about GREEN ARMAGEDDON. So there's probably no more room for another conspiracy just yet.
Ideal vs. Real World
The problem is that, in an ideal world, we should be moving towards renewable sources of energy. They are the future, and will (when technology advances far enough) be cheaper than the alternatives. I think even the greens accept there will need to be something to augment them due to the variability of the most readily available renewable sources in this country, whether something to generate a base power requirement of an effective energy storage scheme, but I think most people accept they will be a big part of future energy production (hate that phrase, "energy conversion" is better but everyone seems to think we "make" energy...)
In the real world, however, I think most people realise that technology still isn't there. I have had conversations with those on low incomes. Fuel bills are crippling them, and have meant they can't afford to have the heating on. Instead the entire family huddles under a blanket on the couch of an evening. Surely this is unacceptable in this day and age!
Yes, I believe we should be partly subsidising the "renewable" industry at the moment, as we need it to advance to a commercially viable state. I do not, however, believe we should be deploying half as much as we are, nor should we be subsidising by increasing fuel costs. If the govt wants them subsidised, let them do so, from government coffers. They can increase income tax to cover it, if they must. At least then it is those who can afford to pay who caver the cost. As things stand, the poor are sufferring more than those who are better off.
Idealism vs. Realism
There has to be a consideration of what matters to the 'General Public'. If the UK wants to be competitive in terms of trade/manufacture and hence retain and create UK jobs then we cannot allow the green polices to impact as it appears to be.
A majority of the 'Greenies' are comforably off financially and no in non-manufacturing jobs where these costs to not impact as greatly, these folk are also more likely to be able/willing to absorb the extra costs of these very expensive Renewables Policies.
What is currently more important for the UK as a whole? We need to stabilise the economy and get the vast masses of unemployed back in to work. We need to create jobs accross all levels of education/skill. We do not need to be forcing more and more below the poverty line with crippling fuel costs.
Should there not be some thought to renationalising the utilities? Or at least a state owned/run alternative rather than leaving in the the whole energy market in the hands of French/German companies.
Re: Idealism vs. Realism
"What is currently more important for the UK as a whole? We need to stabilise the economy and get the vast masses of unemployed back in to work."
It's a shame, then, that the Britard leadership didn't think about doing this, say, two generations ago. Instead of boosting educational standards, paying teachers proper wages, spending decent money on schools and universities, offering opportunities to those in unsustainable industries, generally readying the economy for the era we live in now, funding for education stagnated or was even slashed, token gestures about new industries were made, and everything was seen as something the market could do if large enough companies could be bribed into creating a few jobs every now and again. Anything owned by the state was sold off favourably for a bit of quick cash for some tax breaks to some part of the rich elite or "middle England" in order to get a majority.
It's lazy indeed to blame the "greenies" for Britain's problems now. But it's never too late to try and put things right, either. Don't expect anyone to try very hard doing so, though, since the pay-off won't come before the next election.
@AC Idealism v Ralism v reality.
When Thatcher sold off things like the gas and electricity, it wasn't to make a quick buck, it was to get money in to get us out of massive debt. This country was on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to the actions of the previous government, unions and general idiocy. Now, she didn't sell off everything - she sold half shares in the utility companies. Half remained with the government so they still had control and gained some benefit from the profit the utility companies made, and the other shares were initially offered to the people. I know as my folks bought some and still have them. Okay, most of those government shares have since been sold... by Blair and Brown. They wanted to be popular, to spend freely from a rapidly emptying trough, and hid this by taking money from anywhere they could. Hence the pension pots vanishing and the gold reserve disappearing while they generally pretended we 'prospered' under their care.
In the mean time, they came up with plans on how to further line their pockets, and all this renewable, green energy crap is just that. And I say crap because it isn't of benefit to the people (aka you and me) and it has nothing to do with the environment. No, it benefits those who already have money, who can pay for wind turbines and solar panels and have the space to put enough in to make them worth some certificates... which then generates more income for them.
A normal person living in rented accommodation can't get any benefit from wind or solar: We simply have to keep paying the going rate, and that's going up all the time. Buy a house, however, and you're tied in to a mortgage that saps your funds, and so you can't afford to install turbines or panels. Queue the free installs: Someone else turning up and putting panels on your roof so *they* get the certificates, which is where the real money is, and you get a little bit of 'free' electricity to help reduce your bills. And all that does is offset the price hike in energy prices by a small fraction.
Just thing about it: You're paying a surcharge to the electricity company to pay for the certificate they've bought from the people who put the panels in your roof. Yes: You wind up paying for those panels no matter what you do. Sucks, doesn't it?
And the way out of this? Ditch the certificates. Make the different energy sources compete but regulate them so they have to be 'clean', suitable, reliable and sustainable. Anything else is a waste of time.
And as for the 'Greens'? Well, they're the ones who bought the lie and helped push it forwards. How Blair and Brown and their cronies must have laughed all the way to the bank.
There endeth the cynics view :p
Two generations ago?
The roots of the present malaise does not date back so far. In fact, Thatcher's changes brought prosperity, which was then shamelessly squandered by Gordon Brown and his frontman. Look to the last decade of profligacy (not only in Britain) for the reason for current troubles.
, thanks to the actions of the previous government, unions and general idiocy
and i suppose nothing at all to do with the cost of keeping an entire generation on the dole, to be used as a stick the threaten the lucky ones with jobs to produce a lot more for less wages.
thank god for that then
Re: Two generations ago?
"The roots of the present malaise does not date back so far."
Yes it does. You and the previous commenter are so quick to blame the previous government - it's the classic Britard Game of Blame ruse you've fallen for - that you can't see that Britain has had problems downsizing its role for *decades*, and precious little effort has been spent in actually looking after the people who vote the politicians into power in the first place.
Ask around: everyone knows that short-termism is the order of the day in Britain. But that has been the case for years and years; it has merely been elevated to an artform now. Don't produce anything or plan for the future because that's so Soviet Union, and they lost, remember? This came straight out of some stupid idea that Britain needn't do anything itself because it can buy whatever it needs and the money will come from somewhere. Once upon a time, that was the British Empire, of course; now, some like the idea of an ever-expanding intellectual property bubble. Quite what kind of work the man in the street is supposed to have will remain a mystery to the Whitehall elite.
Pointing at Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher, the unions, Callaghan or Heath won't give you a single whodunnit-style scapegoat, even if you can lay some blame on each of them.
You seem to have an antipodean view of the argument. It's not that cleaner energy is more expensive, it undoubtedly is. It's that we've been living for so long on polluting energy, all the while and systematically destroying the planet (have a look at oil sand mining in Alberta, Canada if you think getting energy out of the ground is anything less than an affront to the environment) as well as our own health (have a look at the difference between the lungs of smokers, city dwellers, and those who live in the country, you'll notice normal non-smoking people in the city are exactly in the middle).
Remember how cheap gas was in the sixties? Cheap energy. Now we are going to have to balance those savings. It seems we as a species are singularly unable to look more than two weeks ahead (sort of like how women have a 0.5 M visual range).
Personally, I think this situation is not unlike the argument for biological meat. Most people think it's too expensive, but that is only because the price of processed meat has fallen so sharply. As with cheap energy, someone will have to pay the price for that (mega-farm-factories, methane > greenhouse gases, SARS, I could go on...)
Yes, it sucks that we are the ones having to pay the price, but this planet was never meant to support the lavishness we have bestowed upon ourselves, or the numbers now living in the third world (try reading 'Planet Slum' for an eye-opener).
It's high time for politicians and industry leaders to confess to this simple truth: that we don't need all this crap, and that we should focus on the things that define us as human beings; not buying the next iPad or iWhatever, not watching a screen for more hours than you spend sleeping, but connecting with other people and the world around you (final referral: Adam Curtis's 'Century of the Self').
"It's high time for politicians and industry leaders to confess to this simple truth: that we don't need all this crap, and that we should focus on the things that define us as human beings; not buying the next iPad or iWhatever, not watching a screen for more hours than you spend sleeping, but connecting with other people and the world around you (final referral: Adam Curtis's 'Century of the Self')."
Yes, crass materialism is wrong and silly, but I just need one or two details about how this world where people 'we should focus on the things that define us as human beings'. It sounds lovely, but I suspect it is a nice code for 'a much lower standard of living'. A world where food and basic consumer goods, as well as expensive gizmos like iPads, cost a lot more relative to incomes. If that is what you meant, so be it, but don't dress it up with nice terms.
you some kind of communist? boy?
Wishing more poverty on everyone seems to be really popular with some people. Perhaps they should try and see how many votes it gets?
and at 6 - 1 (and counting)
the vote for "wishing poverty on people" is carried!
Isn't atomic power highly subsidised?
Is the figure quoted for nuclear power including unlimited liability for any accident, the full cost of security and disposing of waste in facilities which may need to be maintained and monitored for thousands of years?
Oil and gas have widely fluctuating prices but the general trend is up. In NI local gas and electricity providers have announced price hikes of well over 20%, some near 30%. All blamed the rising wholesale price of gas and oil and washed their hands of what it would do to their customers in what is an uncompetitive market. It is only a matter of time before renewables, no matter how expensive become the practical option. Getting in on the ground floor as it were could pay off in the long run. Of course more efficient building design and advances in technology are going to be required before they see a wider roll out.
This article also ignored the benefits of being less reliant on countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia for our energy needs.
Isn't China the worlds biggest manufacturer and consumer of solar panels? What about the the new dams and other renewable projects as well as coal?
I doubt the picture is just as clear cut as the author makes out.
once you've got nuclear waste to keep secure for thousands of years, it doesn't cost you a lot more to guard ten times as much.
PS: If they were serious about renewables, they would have poured money into getting wave power working. After all, there are waves 24 hours a day, all year round and the UK is *particularly* well supplied with them. Instead, all parties (and Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth) have studiously ignored wave technology and never criticised each other for doing so. Which is interesting.
you overestimate the energy in the waves.
David Mackay reviews it in "Sustainable Energy without Hot Air".
The designers of the Pelamis wave system think a developed version of their technology could generate about 6kw for every metre of coastline at peak power. If we lined 500km (a bit over half of the entire western coastline) that'd generate about 3GW. They've never given a capacity factor, but offshore wind averages 27% - and in reality, wavepower broadly follows wind strength, so let's make an optimistic assumption of 33%. v So, 1GW average output seems a fair bet.
At the moment, a Pelamis system costs about £8Mn for 2.25MW nominal capacity.Even if you assume that halves, that's £5.5Bn for 1GW. About double the cost of nuclear, and still needing back-up for low output periods.
Lets keep burning stuff, we can always find new stuff to burn! Hurrah!
Oh no wait, that wont work, as we will actually run out of stuff at some point. Damn.
We need electricity and we're going to need a lot more of it as oil/petrol prices increase. If we're dependant on other countries to supply it we're putting ourselves in a much weakened position. See the Russian gas fiasco a few years ago. Relative self sufficiency is pretty much the only answer, in which ever form it can be achieved.
"Lets keep burning stuff, we can always find new stuff to burn! Hurrah!
Oh no wait, that wont work, as we will actually run out of stuff at some point. Damn."
Yup! It's not like wood grows on trees...
wood grows on trees
... aha! a biofuels enthusiast!
Nuclear is the only way to go for long term energy stability. We can, and need to, top this up with a good amount of the green stuff as well, because even nuclear will run out one day.
Mandate that every new build or renovation in the country *must* install a significant area of solar panels, like Australia. That should give the solar sector a good jump.
solar panels on new builds
fine for Oz, southern US, and other sunny areas. Not so much for UK
Some is better than none. Even on cloudy days a solar panel will still produce, just not as much as on a sunny day.
German solar plant averages a stunning
9% capacity factor. By 2008, they'd spent €35Bn to get 5,300MW of capacity - which averaged about 480MW average output.
It works out as a capital cost of about £64Bn per GW average output. New nuclear is about £3.3Bn/GW average output, nearshore wind about £9.4Bn/Gw.