Re: Just to be clear...
"If they don't know that data are plural...."
That only applies for speakers of Merkinese. Here on the right side of the Atlantic we're quite happy that data is singular.
3423 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012
"If they don't know that data are plural...."
That only applies for speakers of Merkinese. Here on the right side of the Atlantic we're quite happy that data is singular.
"Then they will want an even bigger one."
So we gave them (at current construction prices) a €10bn tool, and they've still not got the answer, nor even, it seems, an undisputed partial answer?
Fag packet maths says that the muttered-of Future Circular Collider would have a cost of the order of €50bn, which seems quite an investment to make in results that have the certainty usually associated with the dismal sciences of economics, weather forecasting, or climate modelling.
" Governments rarely look further into the future than 4 or 5 years."
Most don't. When it came to the French government, the original decision to go nuclear for everything was a long game, and originally came from the issue that they had few domestic fuel sources, and unreliable relationships with former colonies that did have energy reserves. With no worthwhile gas, and very limited coal, the opted to electrify France, railways, heating and all. That's why French railways are electrified, not because the railways had been given a modest pounding during the war.
This nuclear bet placed them superbly for the post fossil fuel world, but in a remarkably short-sighted move they signed up for EU policies demanding uneconomic levels of "renewable" power, and Hollande is currently letting the French power industry atrophy. The French nuclear programme is bogged down by the far-too-expensive Areva EPR, where they foolishly tried to be technologically too ambitious, and by the lack of a rolling programme to new build reactors, and rather than simplify the design and look to replace the existing nuclear fleet as it comes to the end of its service life, they have idiot politicians telling them that wind and solar will keep them warm and their trains running through the winter.
"The TOCs have to lease the trains from the ROSCOs (Rolling Stock Companies); the latter having a licence to print outrageously large sums of money at the TOCs', and ultimately the passengers', expense."
That is certainly the main problem with rail privatisation. And of course in most cases the ROSCOs are simply divisions of big banks, intent on scr*wing the end user (the usual financial services basis of "because we can").
This was an intended outcome by the Tories under that berk Major, but the vermin of the Labour party had thirteen years or so to fix this, and decided not to, as has the coalition.
"But it did sound really cool, especially when pulling away from a station!"
Impressively noisy, but not cool. Now Deltics, they sounded cool at full throttle.
"British Rail were actually getting rather good at running trains before they were unnecessarily privatised"
Good at running trains? So what was that outfit with a similar sounding name, similar sort of business, but that was famous for its surly staff, slow, dirty, uncomfortable, unreliable trains, and an inability to run trains at the slightest hint of hot weather, cold weather, snowfall, leaf fall, and the like?
The same people that couldn't even do basic maintenance on WCML so that every hundred yards there was a gaping crater pumping out a clay geyser whenever a train passed.
IME the rail travel experience is faster, more reliable, more courteous, cleaner and more customer focused than at any time in my life. I know commuters still travel in cattle trucks, but that's what commuting is about, so I've little sympathy.
"Seems daft that the governments are pushing sustainable energy policies while railways are operating significant numbers of trains on diesel instead of electricity."
If you're playing the "sutainability" card, what's sustainable about electricity from coal or gas? And where will renewables be when you need to run trains in winter, or even to a timetable? You also need to factor in the circa 11% system losses in electricity, compared to around 0.5% in transport fuels. I might also remind you that we're facing a "capacity gap" where forced retirement of existing fossil fuelled electricity plant is dramatically reducing the reserve margin.
The last thing government should be doing is pushing for rail electrification because this encourages the use of more electricity biased towards existing demand peaks.
"Do RAF drones knock first and ask politely?"
You'll have to wait until BAES' Taranis arrives (ten years late and five times over-budget), since the Reaper is a piece of unadulterated US technology.
" because they do exactly what they say"
Actually they don't. The number of infidels killed is trivial, and the vast majority of people IS kill are fellow Muslims, albeit belonging to the "wrong" faction, village, family, employer, sect or what have you. The religious label is merely for the gullible, and this is about thugs grabbing power because they can.
But Ms Rimmington is being a bit silly saying "trust the establishment, because you can't trust IS" since this ignores the fact that IS exists largely because of the actions of the security establishment and the lack of foresight, transparency and over-sight.
IS has been manufactured because the US and UK opened up a war (knowingly on false pretences) that took down all functioning government in Iraq. The puppet regime installed afterwards lacked legitimacy and created Sunni antipathy, and anti-government support. Meanwhile, the West handed over weapons to a poorly trained and inept Iraqi military, and then moved quickly on to interfere in a civil war in Syria. In doing so they supplied weapons to violent actors, even trained them at CIA camps in Jordan, whilst spouting complete nonsense about supporting "moderate rebels". Just as Al Qaeda was essentially a direct product of US destabilisation efforts in Afghanistan (to annoy the Russians), so IS is the direct product of US destablisation efforts in Iraq and Syria, in the first case against the then-ruling thug, and in the second case largely to annoy the Russians again. Having spent years spinning the idea that "Iran is in league with the devil" myth, our intelligence and security mandarins find themselves needing Iranian help to contain IS.
Or to summarise your somewhat lengthy but accurate post: "A load of old shit"
"@Ledswinger looks like you have no knowledge of South Park.. look it up, will explain a lot."
Naaah. Friends have tried to convert me, telling me it's just up my street, but I can't get on with it and didn't bother. I did realise that there was a reference there to something, but elected to play it for laughs anyway. But it looks like toilet humour is dead. More's the pity.
"said in the voice of Mr Hanky, the Christmas Poo."
I too usually over eat, and squeeze out a jagged, foul smelling leviathan of a turd sometime on Christmas day, accompanied by cacophonous noises. But you give your a name?
And even worse, "Mr Hanky"? Sheesh. Were I minded to christen the beast, I'd be thinking something like "Edward Scissorhands", or "Bowelo Ringsplitter", or "Osama Bin Shittin".
"Bigging Hill to Frankfurt, non-stop and home in time for breakfast."
Never in the field of Anglophone war humour were so many inaccuracies embodied in so few words. But I did appreciate the joke.
"Personally I'd like to tell them to stop being stupid NIMBY arseholes."
FFS, why? Taking H T5 and extra runways. Why should the poor fuckers in Hounslow (or more likely Uxbridge & Wembley) put up with a vast amount of additional aircraft noise, when most Heathrow traffic is already transit passengers who don't stop off, don't pay air passenger duties of even VAT, and generate a handful of low value jobs.
If CDG or AMS want the transit passengers, let them have them. They are of little economic value. LHR would still have enough traffic to create a global network, and UK airports should exist only for the benefit of the UK, not transit passengers. Fair enough if you can tax the bastards and make it a big earner that suddenly balances the government's budget. Can't see that myself, so lets stop talking about un-needed shit like HS2 and LHR's third runway. There plenty more big infrastructure projects we could do instead.
"Particularly those who peddled the ROC insanity, which has turned a simple engineering solution to low carbon electricity into an economic nightmare for the consumer."
But without ROCs (and LECs, and soon to be CFDs see note1) the windmills wouldn't have been built. What place is there in a sane energy system architecture for non-despatchable intermittent plant with load factors that vary from poor to unfeasibly poor, and which wouldn't offer an economic return on prevailing wholesale prices?
And that's before the compounding mistake of applying the merit curve rules, that give a de-facto must run status for renewables. The original merit curve design of allowing the plant with the lowest marginal cost onto the system was a really good, practical approach for despatchable plant. Now it means that renewables take load that would otherwise have gone to despatchable plant (fossil, storage, or nuclear), those plants are still needed but now are uneconomic due to reduced loads, so we need yet another subsidy cludge, this time to pay subsidies under the guise of a capacity guarantee. And even then, due to incompetent law maker and incompetent mechanism design, we'll be making fat and unnecessary capacity payments to the UK nuclear fleet who would have continued to run anyway, and maybe even to the French nuclear fleet, as they're likely to bid the interconnector into the Capacity Mechanism auctions.
If you actively set out to deliver the worst, most complex, inefficient, costly energy system you could, you'd end up with something like the UK now has.
Note 1: For those not familiar, Renewable Obligation Certificates and Levy Exemption Certificates are tradeable bits of paper that are issued to (eg) wind power operators for each MWh generated over and above the wholesale power prices they get paid. They sell these on to fossil generators who have to buy them, and this creates the subsidies for wind power. In future wind power will be paid under a scheme called "Contracts for Difference", where they directly get paid an amount of subsidy on top of the wholesale price, thus cutting out the not very hard work of having to trade the ROCs and LECs.
"Every time an electricity bill arrives and I see how much extra I'm being charged as a subsidy for these inefficient monstrosities, I get this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach."
It is a tragedy. Government policy is pushing for electric vehicles. We can't meet the instantaneous demand of any volume of cars charging across peak, so with ambitions by DFT for 10% of the car fleet to be EVs by 2025, we will like-it-or-not need to schedule the demand off peak. This then lifts off peak consumption dramatically (with a lot of unintended but predictable consequences). Throw in some peak demand reduction, and you've got a very flat demand curve. That's very different to the current "Dougal the dog" demand profile, and one that is fabulously suitable for nuclear. Instead of scheduling generation to meet demand, we will be able to despatch EV charging demand to meet the generation output, reducing overall costs of nuclear by at least 30%, maybe as much as 50% (because it is outputting power 24 hours that people want, rather than having to put up with 2p/kWh overnight because there's no demand).
Tragically DECC and our idiot UK and EU politicians have committed to all this gormless "renewables", and by my fag packet estimates we're now committed to around £24bn of capital wasted on windfarms and solar PV.. So even if we now build the nuclear, we'll have the blasted wind and solar destabilisng the wholesale market whilst the owners hoover up the various explicit and tacit subsidies.
And even more depressingly, that £24bn spent on sodding tree hugger toys, that could have been far better spent installing solid wall insulation on the circa 7m UK houses that have uninsulated solid walls - the costs of the programme would still be added to all of our bills, but the 7m houses insulated would see their energy use (or waste) reduced, and would benefit to the tune of around £200 a year for the life of the property, creating enduring economic and environmental benefits.
It's enough to make me tear my clothes off, paint myself in woad, and invade DECC with a spear to attack the evil-doers who have made such a pig's ear of energy bills, energy policy, energy efficiency and in fact everything else.
" Also see the Fire phone... "
And the way they offer the Kindle Fire with a "pay us or get spammed with our choice of adverts", which caused me to instantly rule it out, and get a Nexus. Google of course don't give you the chance to opt out, but the there's a big difference between being forced-fed somebody else's choice of adverts on your own device, and the Google model of somebody else's choice of adverts displayed where you would in any event encounter adverts anyway.
Seems to me Amazon are brilliant at internet shopfronts and good at logistics, but struggle with digital stuff and consumer propositions. In fact even with the reviewed device I'm left thinking "why would I want this? I've already got a house full of tablets and a Chromecast".
I can't respond on that, but claimed 50% energy savings in their case studies look improbable unless compared to a scenario of zero energy efficiency and zero common sense. In my case a Heat Genius system would cost over a thousand quid installed, and (as an industry insider) I reckon if might at best save 10-15% of my £700 gas bill on a like for like basis. So it is touch and go as to whether it would pay back at all after allowing for interest.
I'd really like things to be different and to offer you a more upbeat response that this system will save you bucket loads of cash with no downside, but that's not how things generally work. If you live in an uninsulated solid wall property, have no thermostat and no timer on your heating then YMMV, and likewise if you're off the gas grid with an inefficient oil boiler than you might get lucky.
"I'd say their basic desire is to simply bill you more"
No. The energy suppliers do understand their own business, they know people don't want to have this shit of capacity charging, max demand charging, and time of use tariffs. The network operators have done some fantastic detailed research which concluded that such schemes won't work for them. Citizens Advice Bureau (now the official voice of the customer) know it's a pile of shit (their official position is far more considered, erudite and appropriate).
It is DECC and OFGEM (both government departments) who think this intended complexity is a great thing. Sucking on the the teat of "climate change" they both think everything they do will save the planet. So it comes down to a choice:
(1) "I worship the religion of human induced climate change, and any cost increasing complexity must help reverse or slow this evil."
(2) "Any position not in accord with (1)."
"Nest has something called Rush Hour...... so that when it turns off during peak demand..."
We don't need that here in the UK, because we'll all be getting smart meters. One of the new joys these include is a maximum demand flag that can be set at different levels, and if exceeded it will cut off the power. All domestic mains connection in the UK should already have fuses or MCBs often 100 amp on 240V, so a theoretical maximum demand of 24 kW (not that I want to try that), but the thinking at DECC is that smart meters could typically set maximum demand at low values like 7 kW. If you want to use more instantaneous power then of course you can, but the smart meter has the capacity to not just limit capacity, but to bill on the basis of maximum demand (in addition to standing charge and per-unit costs). Throw in DECC's earnest ambitions to introduce both static time of use tariffs (perhaps three time zones per day, eightfold variation between off peak and peak charges), AND their hope to see dynamic time of use tariffs (ie the price varies every day and within the day, with at best a guidelines being texted to you 24 hours ahead), and it seems like energy is one area where technology is intent on making our lives more complex and more costly.
" if it doesn't see movement for a while it can turn down the temperature too."
A boon for the elderly, then.
"It worked out to be that for every person that died on 9/11 the US has spent over $10 million dollars (and rising) in revenge"
Cost of Iraq & Afghan wars, to date is around $2 trillion, with future veterans' benefits and wind-down costs projected to add another $2 trillion, according to Harvard researchers. Fatalities on 9/11, c 3,000. Therefore, cost of revenge per fatality, $1.3bn. Revenge may be bittersweet, but it is also very expensive, and to judge by results not very effective.
Those costs don't include the costs of DHS security pantomime, which in its most extended forms probably add another half a trillion dollars over the past thirteen years.
"Imagine if an airline flew a 747 with some engines they found in the corner of an old hangar from 40 years ago, with no proper storage paperwork. "
What, you mean like the Antonov 225 and 124's?
"The country where only Crims and ner do wells have the guns"
That should be ne'r do wells, if you please. Although it can also be abbreviated to SO19.
"Sometimes I think we in the UK have a 3rd world level of service from the mobile operators."
No, most third world countries that have a mobile service have a better network, because they built it later. But when you talk about a third world service from mobile operators, don't forget that the infamous thieving bastard, Gordon Brown, arranged for the 3G auctions to be run in a way that milked over £20 bn out of the operators.
If you forcibly abstract around £400 per customer from the industry, paid up front, then its hardly any surprise that (a) there's no enthusiasm to invest in assets, and (b) you're in no hurry to make obsolete your existing asset base.
Unfortunately if you're going to condemn shitty, corrupt little states that facilitate questionable tax avoidance for the rich and for big corporations then you'd better include Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, possibly the Netherlands, and most of all the Shitty of London.
And although these places may have no military, neither do we these days.
Note for non-British readers: London is about as British as Monaco is French. And as with Monaco, nobody knows how it is governed, and it is full of arrogant rich foreign bastards (plus quite a few arrogant rich native bastards).
"With increased globalisation it is becoming more important to make sure that companies serve the economies of the countries that they operate in."
You miss the point. By virtue of (say) Amazon operating in the UK, they are serving the economy - I get cheap goods, reasonable service, and average delivery. The people who aren't being served are the government, who want a bigger share than they already have of private sector profits, to fritter on what they loosely term "public services". You know, things like HS2, foreign aid, failed technology schemes, shredders for parliamentary expenses evidence.
To an extent the tax debate is simply about allocating money between one secretive and undemocratic group (government) or another (large global corporations).
"All of it is entirely legal."
I'd dispute that it is legal - transfer pricing to move profits around is illegal in most jurisdictions. Just because the crooked megacorps like Starbucks often use "license agreements" in this way doesn't mean it's legal. The problem is that national authorities don't work hard enough to find the details, prove that this is what is going on, and prosecute. Partly this is lack of will because too many politicians are on the lobbying payroll, but in large part it is a resource, skills and talent problem in HMRC, who don't have the time, the experience, or the intellectual firepower to take on some of the world's best (paid) tax lawyers. In exactly the same way that a premiership footballer stands a much better chance than an ordinary Joe Soap of being acquitted for rape, driving offences or what have you, because his lawyer is an experienced, talented expert paid far more than the Clown Prosecution Service drones.
The best way to fix this would be to partly outsource complex tax investigations to legal experts on a contingent fee basis. The big law firms wouldn't touch this work because they are on the side of the bad guys, but there's plenty of small expert law firms who take up the cudgels and have more than enough expertise. In much the way that RBS got thoroughly nailed by "small" law firms over Highland Capital (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, to those in the know).
"I suspect that temporary confiscation of the offending phone might prove the most effective punishment. "
Perhaps confiscate all phones in the possession of the driver at the time. As with impounded vehicles make the guilty pay (say £20-50) to recover the phone, and require them to turn up with evidence of identity including all their driving documents. You could have the traffic officers (or even PCSO's take the phone, but have the administration done cheaply by civilians back at the cop shop. The great thing about it is that it could be administered and enforced easily and immediately, and most people will have to tell their mates why their "off grid" all of a sudden, so it's not like a speeding ticket that you can keep quiet. Unlike the rest of the justice system there's no long delay, you get caught, you get punished, and its inconvenient to get your shiney back. With a week or two week forfeiture there's limited prospect of rich bastards effecting a legal challenge, and the punishment doesn't seem disproportionate to the crime (because lets face it, this is about people being caught using phones, not for people suspected of having accidents because of them). I wouldn't bother with points on licences - too severe, long winded and bureaucratic, better to treat is a something slightly more serious than a parking offence. And there's work embarrassment if Plod have taken the work phone away for two weeks, the penalty can be repeatedly administered.....
I love this idea!
"So it is jury drivers sticking together against other road users as the law of averages said the person was guilty as hell."
Maybe if you'd heard the case in court as a juror, or from the public gallery, then you'd actually be able to give us an informed opinion?
I presume that by "let off" you mean that the jury concluded that prosecutors had not proven their case beyond reasonable doubt after hearing the arguments and evidence.
As far as I know you have no evidence for your assertion that "jury drivers (were) sticking together against other road users", in which case you're a tit. Or if you do, I trust that you're going to write to the Lord Chief Justice, alleging that the jury contrived to help an offender evade justice. Of course, if you already know that the jurors were primarily drivers, and voted in that way then chances are you will be in contempt of court (for enquiring into how and why the jury voted as they did). Enjoy your porridge.
"I hope Google recognize how badly the 9 compares with the 7 and move entry level to 32Gb, adding a 64Gb option as should have been done in the first instance. And review pricing."
Just buy a Hudl 2 and stick in an SD card?
"You mean like the dossier provided to show a legitimate reason for the invasion of Iraq? pffft lol"
I did send an enquiry recently to Sir John Chilcot, c/o the Iraq War inquiry, asking if the dog had eaten his homework. I got a reply from a minion saying that my comments had been duly noted, which I'll take as a "yes".
I would encourage all interested parties to make similar representations:
"All they are supposed to claim is expenses necessary to perform their job as an MP so why do they need more than a one bedroom flat for their time in London?"
Why should the sponging fuckers get even a flat on expenses? When I took a job in London on an salary similar to an MP, with a long distance commute and long hours (but without ridiculously long holidays), nobody gave me free first class rail travel, nor offered me a big pit of cash to buy a place in London.
I think that's an accurate summary.
"My 4G on a Galaxy S5 claims 111Mb/s on Ookla "Speed Test" that is faster than any WiFi hotspot, but it's NOT FREE! My contract limits me to 1 gigabyte per month."
At least you can boast to the rest of us that you can burn through your monthly data allowance in about nine seconds.
" they (the Spanish) have always kept their family name, which is then passed on to their offspring along with the father's"
Your explanation solves some questions I couldn't be bothered to ask of Spanish colleagues, but raises the new question of how do they stop the cruft build up of names over the generations? Or is the female family name only passed onto the mother's offspring, and cast away when they have children (who presumably take the paternal family name and their own mothers family name)?
One thing you can say for paternal surnames, at least the rules are easy.
"So, having spent quite literally tens of billions for licenses "
The stupidity of the major networks in over-bidding for licences should be the problem of those companies' investors, not a justification for shoddy service to me many years later. Is that a challenging idea for you?
And it's not like the MNO's give a tinker's cuss about throwing money away. Vodafone for example have managed serial writedowns totalling something of the order fifty billion quid over the period since 2005, and on that basis I think they can more than afford a little extra competition, and investing a bit to make their customer's lives better, instead of their recalcitrant refusal to fix a fairly simple problem. I say good luck to Sajid Javid, because the MNO's have had the chance to forge their own solution, and they've decided not to bother. In all likelihood this won't get passed because civil servants take forever to draft or amend legislation, and our idle and underworked MPs won't get round to rubber stamping it before next May's musical chairs, but its still an excellent idea.
I suspect that won't buy very much. And it's a tad on the small side compared to the circa $30 billion spent annually on R&D by the top ten semiconductor makers.
Have the Singapore government been taking lessons from the British government on how to support R&D?
"The statements have been in the annual reports, you saying "it's not true" doesn't change that (and nor does me not having time right now to look up the references)."
Well, keep posting unresearched shite then. I work in the industry, I know what my competitors businesses do, and the points I've made are all correct and provable from public domain documentation.
Regarding First Utility, they own no generating assets, and buy in the wholesale markets. They believe that this harms their competitiveness because of their belief that companies with generation sell in a preferential manner to their own supply business. This is rubbish, of course, because if that were the case then the integrated players would be reducing generation profits by transfer pricing (mechanisms more complex than pure sale price, but not something I'll go into detail on), yet would have no advantage in the supply business because smaller non-integrated players already get (in effect) government subsidies of £60 a customer.
There's also the issue that most "integrated" businesses are anything but, and have completely ring fenced, arms length arrangements for generation and supply (and often for energy trading). With the problems of unprofitable margins in conventional generation (technically, "low spark spreads") caused by government energy policy, no business could afford to "subsidise" supply, because there aren't profits to transfer.
Oh, and nobody with any sense would build a base-load gas fired power station, since gas fired stations were never, ever, ever, designed for running base-load. However, the fact that we have gas plants like the one that had a fire in Didcot proves that the people making the decisions have no sense.
Where do you get daft ideas like this? All gas turbines have an optimal efficiency at a given speed, and that along with reliability suffers when you cycle power. They also have a relatively restricted speed range (compared to say a car engine that will work adequately well in a very wide range between say 1,200 rpm and 6,000 rpm). In combined cycle operation the plant doesn't start quickly, so isn't suitable for stop/start operations, and the cost of the combined cycle gear is difficult to recover in intermittent operation.
CCGT is perfect for baseload operation. It's compact, incredibly cheap and quick to construct compared to all other options. Compared to other fossil options is is very clean. It is highly efficient if you don't mess around cycling the plant. And it is very reliable.
The fire at Didcot is no big deal - there was a fire at the coal fired Ferrybridge plant this summer, a fire at biomass fuelled Ironbridge, last year there was a fire at the Hartlepool nuclear plant, and the year before a fire at biomass fired Tilbury.
So, your point was?
"Yes, absolutely. Take a look at the Annual Reports of the Big Six and you will see that they consider "vertical integration" (where they control the supply chain from ground to grid and beyond) an important part of their business model."
Not true. The gas and electricity national transmission systems are owned and operated by National Grid plc as a government regulated monopoly operating under price controls. Look at the accounts of RWE, nPower, EDF, and E.ON and you'll see they have no ownership of electricity distribution grids in the UK (for the hard of thinking, that's 4 of the former big 6 who have no stake in any grid or distribution activity). SSE and Scottish Power do own local distribution grids, but (like National Grid) these are separately accounted and separately licensed and regulated operations. The rationale for SSE and ScoPo owning distribution grids is because their board want to hold a related asset investment that has lower risk returns than generation and supply (because OFGEM regulate the economic returns of networks, and the profits are not dependent on wholesale energy markets or volumes of power delivered).
Most suppliers have some ownership of generating assets because that forms a partial hedge for reducing risk (and thus costs). Outside of the big seven (First Utility are no longer a "small supplier), smaller suppliers have to pay to buy hedging products in the financial market (or risk being bankrupted if the market moves against them), but they get a government subsidy in the form of exemption from Energy Company Obligation costs. That's worth about £60 per customer per year, and is greater than the costs of hedging cover.
The only way that vertical integration between generator and supplier can affect consumers is if the companies collude - if company A uses transfer pricing to make undue profits in its generating business, then its costs would be far higher than other companies, it would lose customers and volume, and ultimately it would have to change or go out of business (look at how Tesco have suffered after losing the plot and becoming uncompetitive in their core market). Given that UK gas plant has been paid £2 per MWh recently I think there's no evidence of the "excess profits" that the whiners keep going on about. Another indicator people might like to consider is why we have a problem with loss of capacity in the UK market. If it's such a money spinner why won't new companies apply for a generation and/or supply licence, build a new gas CCGT, and line their pockets? You can get into the supply business by spending as little as £300k on a new CRM, a leased office, and the necessary OFGEM licences.
All of this this should come out in the open as a result of the current Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the energy market, but you'll have to wait at least a year for that. Unfortunately the usual outcome of such investigations is incompetently planned market changes decided by civil servants, and last time they did something structural it resulted in British Energy (the UK nuclear power operator) going bust, and having to be bailed out by the government, who later sold it to EDF.
"if UK residents are protesting that they will pick up the meter costs (or that the companies will pass it on to them by stealth anyway), surely ANY savings however small on reading the meters is a profit for them?"
In theory yes, in practice no. A very small reduction in operating costs will get swallowed up in the continual competition to win customers, in spiralling government interventions, and the like. Without droning too much, the two things that drive energy company profits are (like most businesses) volume and raw material costs. Across the full energy value chain the cost to serve is around 50% fixed, 50% variable (and that variable is related to input fuel costs that are set by world markets). So increasing volume (eg a cold winter) is very important for energy company profits, though note that the profits are recorded in accounts published long after the cold winter is forgotten. Equally a mild winter is an economic disaster for energy companies. And the reason rising input costs are a driver of profits is simply because (like all retail businesses) pricing is a margin on input costs. BMW dealers make better profits per car than Ford dealers, but not as much as Bentley dealers. The same applies in groceries, and most other forms of retailing.
In other markets (eg Spain or the southern US) peak demand can be summer, in which case volume and profits are driven by hot summers and greater air conditioning use, but the principle is the same.
"Annex 1 of EU Directives 2009/72/EC and 2009/73/EC3 on common rules for the internal market for electricity and gas require that Member States undertake a cost benefit assessment on the provision for domestic customers of intelligent meters that shall assist the active participation of consumers in the electricity and gas supply markets, and implement these meters where the assessment is positive."
That's from a House of Commons Library briefing note on smart meters. You can certainly argue that the EU didn't mandate them unless the cost benefit assessment is positive. But according to our government (with its evangelical belief in climate change) the cost benefit calculations are positive, and therefore the UK smart meter roll out is indeed mandated by EU directive.
You can argue that the calculations are wrong (and I suspect most people round here agree they are) but that's a separate matter. As long as DECC's numbers turn a positive NPV on the "benefits", smart meters are required by EU directive.
"That means I can switch to the cheapest supplier for the next hour and then do the same thing an hour later"
Initially you won't be able to do that, but if we move to half hourly charging (as has now been mandated under code change P272 for all business customers) then you could well find that you get what you seem to want. On a half hourly basis you wouldn't be swapping to the "cheapest supplier", you'd be looking at the wholesale market prices that everybody pays. Everybody (on half hourly pricing) would pay the same rate for that half hour. Obviously there's a different rate the preceding and subsequent half hour. If a power station goes off line, or a big industrial customer goes off load, then prices vary unpredictably. Each day of the year the price varies for the same half hour.
You're welcome to that world if you want it!
I've no idea how much a (oil/coal/nuke) power plant costs, but I would have thought £10.6BN wolud go a far old way towards it/them.
£10bn might buy you a single 1.6 GW reactor, based on the dismally high costs for Areva EPR plants (although in practice you'd build more like 2 x 1.6 MW reactors for around £15bn, like Hinkley Point C).
The same £10bn budget would buy around ten 2GW CCGT (ie more than enough to head off the capacity concerns in the UK power market).
And £10bn would buy you about 4 1.6 GW hard coal plants (when built to EU environmental standards).
However, government has mandated that suppliers must spend the money on smart meters, and they've also messed up the wholesale market so that gas plant is loss making. Even if smart meters weren't eating the money, nobody would invest in new gas capacity at the moment. The forthcoming "capacity mechanism" is intended to subsidise required non-renewable plant, and will make sure that the existing gas plant is retained (DECC hope), but unfortunately due to incompetent design it will act as a huge windfall for EDF's existing nuclear fleet in particular, at customers' expense.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to pay more for your usage at times of peak demand (and less off peak), others may disagree."
The real function of energy suppliers is little understood, and it's not reading the meter and sending you a bill. It is to insulate customers from the brutal world of the wholesale markets, where generators offer contracts using pricing that varies by half hour, and by day and season. Those contracts are settled on what amounts to a take or pay basis. If you buy more than your customers use, you have to sell back into the market (either bilaterally in advance, or through the market's balancing and settlement process on the day) - that's probably at a loss. The big losers, however, are those who buy less than their customers use, because they are hit with "out of balance" charges which can be very expensive, easily enough to wipe out a company that gets it wrong.
If you start down the route of "time of use" tariffs for residential customers, then you have real transparency problems for customers. Either the time bands are a crude approximation of the wholesale reality with unintended consequences, or you try and mirror the whole electricity charging structures, which include charges for distribution capacity, for maximum consumption rate, for total consumption, and has rates that can't be declared much in advance because the wholesale market doesn't work like that. And potentially you have to make customers sign up to similar "take or pay" tariffs (which mobile phone users are familiar with) accompanied by huge "out of bundle" charges if you exceed your contracted volumes.
If people really want to have 48 different billing periods per day, with rates that can vary for each half hour, and have different charges for each day, with the meter negotiating (along with the other 25m smart meters!) for the cheapest half hourly rates, it can technically be done. The bill will be good reading, particularly if you don't want your winter fuel payments to be five times the summer payments, and thus have a direct debit overlay. Note that DECC, OFGEM and Which are all agreed that even current bills of a standing charge and a fixed flat rate are challenging for customers to understand.
If you believe that you should fit your energy use to the convenience of the generators and distributors, then you're in company with DECC and OFGEM. Personally I think that things should work the other way round, and the systems should make my life easy, which (believe it or not) is the system we currently have.
"The fundamental issue is that the power companies make billions. Literally millions per day. They are happy to take the subsidised government hand outs, & sod the rest of us."
Of course power companies make millions, we're huge companies undertaking complex and often high risk capital and manpower intensive operations to give miserable whiners like you power at an acceptable cost and reliability. I'd wager you don't do your locksmithing for free, why should the pension funds, insurance companies and private investors who own power companies provide the requisite capital for free? Take SSE, as they're a UK only company active in all parts of the energy market. Return on capital employed last year? 4.9%. That's about half the rate made by a supermarket, and a quarter of the figure for BT. If you've got a van and tools that are worth £15k, and your knowledge is intellectual property worth the same again, then 4.9% return would mean you earned £1.5k a year. So what you're saying is that you want power companies investors to provide the money required for a rate you wouldn't dream of getting out of bed for?
As for government handouts, what ****ing handouts? Energy companies are obligated by law to spend around £2bn a year on helping improve energy efficiency, and sorting out deficiencies in the welfare state. We have the government rubber stamping EU directives to shut down our generating assets without compensation. We have obligations to buy ever increasing percentages of power from the government's beloved wind turbines. We have to administer at our own cost bizarre middle class subsidies like the various "feed in tariff" payments. We have our arms twisted to invest in nonsense like "green deal".
But do continue to post your valuable thoughts - any comment thread on smart meters rarely centres on any facts.
The evidence does show that smart meters have a modest effect, of low single digit percentage savings on electricity, and circa 1% savings on gas.
Unfortunately that's about the same as the savings from a £30 energy monitor. But the cost benefit calculations for smart meters came from the same people that ordered aircraft carriers without aircraft, and who wrote the prize winning fiction that is the HS2 business case.
"providers want smart meters because it saves them the cost of sending meter-readers round"
For crying out loud, James! Energy suppliers do not want to install smart meters at all. It is a legally mandated requirement, passed into law by your democratically elected "representatives" in the Energy Acts of 2008 and 2011. And they did that not because you asked them but because they were told to by the Uberfuhrers of Brussels, in directives 2009/72/EC and 2009/73/EC.
Manual meter reading costs are about five quid per meter per year, and I'm sorry to tell you that a £5 a year benefit won't even pay the interest on the costs of a £200 smart meter, never mind the capital or operating costs. There are some other modest savings over the £5 on manual meter reading, such as not having errors arising from estimated bills, and the ability to settle traded volumes far quicker and more accurately, but these are also modest.
"Fortunately almost no-one who doesn't have a professional IT department needs Java anymore."
Whilst I share your opinions on the uselessness of Java, and the inadequacies of its update process, I have Markus Persson to thank for persistent demands to have Oracle's vile, antiquated bugware on some of the household machines. The man should be hunted down like a dog, and (at the very least) given a one way flight to the well known holiday destination Guantanamo Bay. And then do the same for everybody associated with Java.