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back to article UK.gov energy policy: You can't please all the people much of the time

Try and please everyone, and you can end up pleasing no one. The government's new draft Energy Bill risks just this. The Government says it needs £110bn of investment in new energy production plant to keep the lights on. That's slightly down from the £120bn figure the Department had cited earlier, but it needs to be qualified. …

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Why keep the lights on anyway?

I do not know what the fuss about keeping the lights on is anyway! As an amateur astronomer, the lights going off is positively appealing. It would also reduce the electricity consumption overall leading to less use of fossil fuels (and therefore, surely the use of renewables if unchanged would be a higher proportion anyway helping to meet targets).

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Re: Why keep the lights on anyway?

Yeah, let's all lose our electricity so you can get a good perve at Orion's cock in your telescope.

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Re: Why keep the lights on anyway?

Can humans really hope to get away with hubble and kepler? Once we are found guilty of voyeurism in a galactic court it's all over. Civilizations have been destroyed for far less.

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Megaphone

Blinded by the light

I cannot understand why on earth this country (UK) still insists on using gas to provide electricity. The vast majority of domestic use of gas is for heating homes. If that gas is burnt off to generate steam then once that resource is used up they will have to resort to electricity for home heating. And how is that electricity going to be generated? Let me guess what could be used to generate enough supply for domestic and industrial use!

Gas is a limited resource. Why can't it be used wisely instead of thinking only of today?

Pah!

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Re: Blinded by the light

The simple answer - it costs a lot (for a remote dwelling, an impractically large amount) to lay on a gas supply. But I agree that, where it exists, it should be used.

The more complex answer - the only practical way to generate baseload electricity is thermally*. Without gas, you'd be using (dirty ungreen) coal or nuclear (double plus ungreen), both of which are substantially more expensive than gas.

*Or hydro if you live near mountains.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blinded by the light

We use gas because it is cheap to buy, clean to burn, easy to handle. It's fairly flexible as a fuel source if you don't mind higher costs and increased emissions (although that negates using it as standby for low grade renewables like wind).

Gas is a finite resource, but at the moment its one of the least finite, and we should use it now, with a longer terms strategy to develop better and cheaper renewables, rather then frittering subsidies on the current generations of nuclear and renewables, both of which are too expensive. Are you suggesting we should use coal?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blinded by the light

"Gas is a limited resource"

Pardon me, but have you been living in a cave?

Some limited resources are less limited than others. The estimated gas reserves have just gone up tenfold. Nobody talks about Peak Gas any more and we've just discovered at least 15 years of supply for the UK, and there's probably a lot more. All thanks to shale.

Yes, exploitable reserves will not be economic eventually. But right now the only people "limiting" this resource are the Greens, because it destroys the economic justification for their beloved windmills.

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Re: Blinded by the light

"The estimated gas reserves have just gone up tenfold"

So that's 10 times more CO2? How then can gas be justified as a low carbon solution?

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Re: Blinded by the light

nuclear is double plus green....not the other way round (and incidently has the lowest mortality and pollution rate per produced unit of energy of ALL).

for once I would like to hear a single scientifically valid argument to support these crackpot claims about nuclear energy......personnly I think these whiny bitches are filthy hypocrites as they sure as hell don't care about the 300k dead per year due to coal, or the TENS OF THOUSANDS dead due to 'biomass'

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Re: Blinded by the light

nuclear can be cheapest ,AND least finite of all fossil fuels (latest estimated put it at over 60000 years energy supply, with just the current reserves, assuming an ifr-type GEN IV)

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Re: Blinded by the light

Just the nuclear waste from your current plants (and scrapped nuclear warhead) would last you WAY longer than 15 years (well over a century) if you would build some IFR reactors.

low co2 energy = check

lowest mortality rate= check

solution for highly radioactive waste= check

and STILL supposed "greens" oppose this perfect solution

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Coat

Re: Blinded by the light

So you're saying that when it comes to gas; Use, but use wisely.

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Boffin

Re: Blinded by the light

Coal is also a finite resource, but has no other use except steam trains and power stations. While I think we should stockpile a fair bit for the former use, the rest can _and should_ be used to produce leccy - it's no bloody use to anyone if we just leave it in the ground.

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It's not the fuel but the source

Much of eastern Europe grew pale with fright a couple of years ago when Russia stepped on the gas-supply hose and the supply was reduced to a trickel, France was sitting smugly on its own nuclear-generated electricity. The lesson was not lost. Given the politics today, do we want to rely on gas from Russia, the Middle east, etc? Nuclear and wind/marine/hydro are all local. A country can hide a lot of 'let's render ourselves independent of foreign suppliers' with lots of talk about 'green' and 'carbon reduction'.

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Re: It's not the fuel but the source

"Given the politics today, do we want to rely on gas from Russia, the Middle east, etc?"

No - which is why we need to develop Shale Gas as quickly as possible, if it is economically viable. There may or may not be enough on land, but there is plenty off-shore.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not the fuel but the source

You miss the point about non-conventional gas reserves. Ignoring the DECC attempts to underplay the Bowland shales, there's a good chance of vast reserves of shale gas under the North Sea. France is sitting on the largest known shale gas reserves in Europe, various other countries have significant amounts. We don't need to be dependant upon dodgy suppliers, although we can and should import gas if that's a cheaper option.

£110bn will add at least 40% to average UK 'leccy bills when you include the interest. Don't know about you, but I don't think that's going to go down too well.

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Re: It's not the fuel but the source

That's the other economic advantage of gas.

If we use gas we don't need to spend 30bn on Trident.

After all it would be a bit silly to have an expensive nuclear weapon to protect us from Russia when they can shut us down by just turning a tap off - so savings all round.

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Unhappy

"What will householders complaining about the £200 increase in bills today think when they realise it's completely unnecessary?"

They won't realise it is unnecessary because the BBC and others will tell them it's all to do with the price of oil, or running out of non-renewables, or some other such thing.

And they won't be El Reg readers by and large.

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Agreed

The BBC is the news source for superstitious numpties. It tells 'em exactly what they want to hear.

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Happy

Only £200 added to our bills!

Our masters are truly merciful! What have we done to deserve this precious gift?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only £200 added to our bills!

"this extra gift" is what you meant. Already about 12-15% of your leccy bill is various government mandated subsidies and transfers.

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Anonymous Coward

I've asked for 4 billion.

I pay myself 200 grand a year, and hire a team of 5 retired builders who for a hobby help me, and from the interest, then I

1. buy houses as they come on the market.

2. Do them up, insulate the ssht out of them.

3. Completely re-roof with solar tiles, so they look normal.

4. Rent them out until they are worth the orginal cost, then sell them.

When I'm sixty five, I give the government their 4 Billion back, and the problem is solved.

Alas, there are flaws in the plan which make it unviable. These are.

1. No MP's children get a job.

2. No MP gets a lucrative non-executive directorship at PepsiCo or somewhere.

3. I don't provide a sink for unemployed single mothers, or unskilled immigrants,

4. I don't have any built in dependency on Barrosso or any other EU department.

5. There's no funding for the Fawcett Society to get one of their middle class failures into a six figure desk job, with some stupid job description like "Diversity Strategist"

All I do is _completely_ solve the problem.

So naturally. It won't happen.

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FAIL

God help us all

After two decades of procrastination, this is what we get. A plan that delivers electricity in the most expensive way possible. Massive subsidies paid to all the generators at our expense. It's a joke. I don't know why, despite decades of government fuck up in almost all policy areas, I'd *still* been hoping for something that would make sense.

The real question is, when we have the most expensive energy in the world, thousands are dying each winter, industry has collapsed because it can't compete and the whole country has rolling power cuts, will we be satisfied because we've met the 2020 CO2 targets.

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Shale Gas

15 years of self-sufficiency, eh? Gosh, that's a lot, isnt it?

Someone remind me again of how long it takes to build a nuclear plant ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shale Gas

Fastest it could be done would be about three years construction time, plus perhaps three years planning.

Mind you, there's probably about a thousand years of shale gas under the North Sea.

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The article seems to be suggesting that open cycle gas turbine plants are a suitable type to be building for all future needs. That's at best misleading: that type of plant is used for peaking loads due to low capital costs and fast response, but their efficiency is terrible. Combined cycle gas turbines are much more suitable for general use, and indeed did largely replace coal during the 90s.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Fair point, thanks.

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It is a fair point, but I suspect the government wants open-cycle, so they can use the figleaf of it all being convertible to cover for future wind, wave, solar, etc in periods of calm, dark, etc. Fast response is essential for that purpose, despite everyone involved knowing damned well that's not what they're really for.

It's called politics and it's wasteful.

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LPF
FAIL

I'm osrry but why dont we just make our own nulear plants again? seriously we have done it befor eand we can dfo it again, whats all this nonsense about no longer having the ability, what we cant train ourselves to build them again? I've never heard such rubbish, if IRAN can build a nuclear pl;ant are they seriously saying the britain is unable to , becuase thats a fecking joke and a bad one at that!

And we are doing a 20% carbon reduction, which will be swallowed up by China in what 3 months if that, we are economically cripperling ourselves and the actual difference means nothing, we need to leave the EU now!!

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

You're right, we can, but it will take a while.

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Anonymous Coward

Quite right, we built our own nukes before, but at vast expense and decades late. Even the French are having trouble with cost over-runs on their latest French reactor, and the Olkiluoto plant in Finland has been a disaster.

Nukes are a great form of power if you can afford a plant that costs many times the equivalent output gas turbine. And banking on low fuel costs for nuclear is a bit suspect, because the fixed operating costs are very high, and if enough people pile into nuclear, the fuel costs will become significant.

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the fuel cost is negligable...And if you build an IFR type (the best ,most mature GEN IV) you can even use the waste from current plants as fuel...

As this is an extremely mature design with several decades of runtime already (as EBR, EBR-II), none of the above complications can be expected

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Wonder how much it would cost

to stick a solar panel or two on every house hold?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wonder how much it would cost

18 million houses with roofs, about £4k per house for a diddy little panel (not a whole roof array at £16k), so about £72 billion. That didy panel on every roof would only generate around about 5% of your power needs, including none at all when cloudy or dark, and next to none four four months in winter (due to low angle incidence), and ignoring unfavourable alignment or shading, so you've still got to build a national generating base capable of producing 100% of peak demand.

Even if you went for a full roof array you end up with a £300bn requirement, perhaps 15% of total power from solar, but still the need for 100% of peak demand supported by fossil or nuclear power.

Oh, and every ten years you need to replace the inverters for solar panels, so that's a ten yearly recurring cost of £4.5 bn if there's one per roof.

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Re: Wonder how much it would cost

A lot. And also what do you do at night?

You need a lot of baseline generation, and storage (e.g. hydro) to smooth out renewable sources that are not constant (like geothermal).

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Stop

Re: Wonder how much it would cost

and that ignoring the REAL big cost of solar/wind: STORAGE....if you scale solar/wind above 10% with adequate backup (meaning over 80% of production capacity of a period of multiple days) it becomes completely unmanagable....

This extremely important fact does seem to get buried over and over, sacrificed on the altar of ideological blindness, as it proves the nonsense of the "100% renwables" claims from ecofascists

everybody has an oppinoin on this subject, very few have a clue....

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Re: Wonder how much it would cost

Oh no, storing energy is expensive!

Be reasonable, we have 3 sources of energy: geothermal, nuclear and solar. Everything else is storage. I understand why you don't think it's sensible to install solar (certainly not the current generation), but everything else about your comment reeks of arrogant assumption.

Local generation with local storage can not only help smooth out the grid, but also I think make people more aware of just how much energy their wasting. Solar, wind, bio-digetion or just granny on a peddle bike, it's certainly more poignant than some big project to burn shale trapped plankton farts.

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Still no energy policy?

This Government like all the others that have proceeded it since privatisation haven't got a real energy policy. The decisions that need to be made take decades to come to fruition yet the goal changes by the month.

Instead the regulator at the Governments behest is politically shifting the balance on a regular basis undermining any capitalist solution without taking the responsibility of commnading an outcome. The large organisations that could have borne the burden of extensive directed investment have been broken up in a misplaced crusade for competition that has eroded margins and transferred all the wealth to the energy trading markets.

Small one station combined cycle gas turbine based generating companies don't have the mass to invest under the current levels of uncertainty and the large players have been whittled down by the regulators. We've steadily reduced our options without addressing the problem.

I'm no fan of nationalisation in principle but it is looking increasingly obvious that the best way to provide electricity is through a monolithic monopoly which can easily be commanded to achieve a particular goal and large enough that it can fund and engineer acheivement of said goal by itself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still no energy policy?

Maybe you don't recall the raging successes that were the nationalised rail industry, the nationalised car industry, the state owned airline, the nationalised aircraft industry, the dismal telecoms monopoly (arguably that still exists), or the public sector water authorities. Even the nationalised 'leccy industry was only effective as a means of supporting jobs for coal miners, rather than building good, efficient, cost effective plant.

Indeed, if the government can't come up with a coherent, sensible and affordable energy strategy, why do you think that a government owned state power monopoly would be able to deliver anything?

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Re: Still no energy policy?

Your point isn't without merit. I agree that nationalisation was a disaster for the industries you mentioned. The power indusrty was vastly overstaffed at privatisation and the biggest gain out of the whole process was the slimlining of payroll. What the pre-privatisation electricity industry was extremely good at however was planning and delivering comprehensive and integrated generation portfolio. We're running a working museum power industry at the moment, so well built and specified were the components that long after their design lives and changes in operating regimes they tick on. For their vintage most are pretty efficient it's just without an overarching command economy in generation no long term plan for renewal was ever going to take place.

I avoided mentioning that i think the existing energy industry should be nationalised because I think it would be a retrograde step. Forced consolidation into a single private monopoly properly regulated might be a solution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still no energy policy?

"What the pre-privatisation electricity industry was extremely good at however was planning and delivering comprehensive and integrated generation portfolio. We're running a working museum power industry at the moment, so well built and specified were the components that long after their design lives and changes in operating regimes they tick on."

Only partly true. The bigger and relatively newer CEGB stations do indeed tick on (albeit with massive capex to keep them coing and compliant, eg Ratcliffe and Drax), but there's plenty of older crapper and often subscale stations the CEGB and predecessors built that have been long closed, and represented inefficient investment. If you look at the current generation fleet it is actually not a bad mix, largely because we've replaced older plant (and delivered new demand growth) with a mix of open and closed cycle gas turbines. All of the EU LCPD closures will be mid merit coal plant, mostly ex CEGB, but much of it actually doesn't run often if at all. So for example Kingsnorth closed without being missed because it rarely ran, Ironbridge might stay open for another couple of years, but rarely runs at present, etc.

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Cuadrilla

Read the Cuadrilla presentations carefully. You'll notice that 200 TCF is at the lower bound of what the company believes it has in gas-in-place. It's highly likely this 200 TCF figure will eventually end up in the 300-400 range. Assume that 20% is recoverable and you have 60-80 TCF of gas. To put this in perspective, this is enough gas to allow the UK to completely eliminate imports for almost 30 years. Another way to think of it - this field could supply all of the UK's gas needs for 14 years.

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stop the BS and let GE build some (s-)prism reactors

That way you can be the first european country to have cheap, save electricity, AND take care of your nuclear waste (which is used as fuel in an IFR-type reactor as the prism)... The uk has enough waste for the next century at least (probably more)

The only reason to chose the enrichment approach over IFR types is corruption tbh...

And please ,for once, look very long term: no nuclear tech = no space expansion = humanity eventually falling back on a mideival civilation as resources have run out and pollution is completely out of hand..... There are no alternatives to nuclear reactors in space....

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Holmes

Is an electricity shortage such a big deal anyway... I mean, when the entire UK is forced to use smart-meters, they can ration it as and when it becomes available anyway.

(Sherlock because we all know that scenario is coming)

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Yes it's a big deal

>> Is an electricity shortage such a big deal anyway

OK, we complain as it is that the UK cannot compete with <insert foreign land> manufacturers. Now add into the mix that a business won't know from one day to the next what the energy costs will be, or even if they'll have any at all.

When the lecky goes off, or just goes so high in price as to be unaffordable, then the business has to stop production. Then what ? Will the employees say "no problem boss, we'll go home without pay and not complain" ? I don't think so.

So the business either pays staff to do nothing, or it quickly find it can't get anyone to work for them (without paying inflated wages to cover the dead days.)

Either way, the business finds it's costs vastly increased and becomes even less competitive.

The alternative is that many, many people will start fitting their own diesel generators - not too inefficient if you use heat recovery on them. So the mad rush to intermittent renewables will lead to even worse shackles on business, AND a rise in the use of local diesel generators. That will really help the economy recover, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve air quality ... or rather it won't.

For small loads, could use a UPS - but then you have a load of lead acid batteries to manufacture - and a round trip loss that will actually increase overall electricity usage.

Yes, the "smart grid" stuff is mostly about "load management" - more or less a euphemism for rationing. Yes, some things (like electrically heating water in a storage cylinder) can be fairly easily used to manage demand, but many uses can't. "Cup of tea darling ?" ... "Oh sorry, it'll have to wait until we can afford to boil the kettle !"

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