2399 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012
Plus ca change
Hold a mo, isn't this the same Vodafone that squeezed out a circa £6bn writedown same time last year? And the same Vodafone that cropped off a £2bn writedown iin 2010? And the same Vodafone that puffed on a £6bn writedown in 2009. And the same Vodafone that laid a perfectly formed £12bn writedown in 2008? And the same Vodafone that rolled out a stonking £28bn writedown in 2006?
Has nobody noticed a trend here?
And the curious thing is that the write offs listed are slightly above current market capitalisation, suggesting that over the medium term the board have managed to waste more than they've made.
Far from "offering optimism for improvement", the simple fact that this is Vodafone, with its useless, overpaid, city grandee board means it is poised for further writedowns. Clara Furse will fit right in.
Competition from Virgin Media?
OFCOM asleep on the job again, happily swallowing all of BT's bilge. Virgin Media have been actively trying to price themselves out of the market over recent months, and are only a threat to BT for those seeking a 100 Mb/s connection. I have seen little real world benefit in the change from about 10 Mb to 20, and then through to 60 Mb (soon to be 100), which leads me to conclude that Virgin Media are not COMPETING with BT, they are DIFFERENTIATING themselves from BT, by emphasising the one (largely irrelevant) metric they know BT's technology will struggle to match.
It's unfortunate that OFCOM are so clueless, and haven't spotted what most other regulators have long realised, that in weakly competitive markets you need to dismantle dominant players. The answer for BT's long suffering customers is to split BT up into separately accounted regional franchises (been done with gas, broadly speaking how water was privatised in the first place), and forcing Virgin Media to offer network access to third parties.
Re: Monopoly & regulatory capture vs. Competition
"I think that the system in the UK where the incumbent was required to provide wholesale access to its last mile infrastructure, within a regulated price structure, while not being perfect has proved much more workable."
Ahhh yes. BT buying media rights, and still planning on net neutrality? I somehow think not. And the shambles of national broadband, that's hardly an advert for the UK regulatory model.
Re: When in doubt about regulations and origins of same,
"Net neutrality is doomed unless Congress and the FCC show some backbone"
Why would they do that? Who own these two bodies? The sad reality is that western "democracy" is anything but, and your elected representatives work for their mates, not their electors. And it's not just the US: In the UK parliament and OFCOM are equally committed to working for the benefit of lobbyists.
"there's noise complaints from the neighbours to deal with."
Assuming your neighbours aren't Russian you can dispense with the armour piercing options, and carry more of the useful stuff against civilians and lightly armed bandits. So, stock up on flechettes, particularly if they've got any small dogs. Ask nicely and the suppliers might offer you mini-flechettes designed purely for small dogs and civies.
Re: Regulation is needed
"The GP in Todmorden encouraging people to dig up "wasteland" and plant fruit and veg sounds admirable, until someone "doesn't ask" and digs up a bit of wasteland which is in fact a protected area containing rare plants or animals. Or digs up an area that was wasteland because it was contaminated."
Of course, of course. Where would we be without government to tell us both what we can do, and what we can't do. I feel so much safer knowing that some public sector numpty has left contaminated ground as wasteland, or that it secretly harbours endangered wildlife.
Re: OTOH, you could regulate to encourage new business
"I'm thinking nothing so abstract. I'm talking about rewarding the people who get off their arses and make stuff happen. Investing in funds doesn't cut it."
But it's there already, for example "entrepreneur's relief" for capital gains, that is a huge reward for people who qualify and have made up to £10m.
But we don't need more incentives to dodge tax, because few people go "Oh, I've got this brill idea, but what with 40% tax it's not worth making myself a millionaire". The problem of insufficient innovation and entrepreneurship is two fold - the zillions of pages of bureaucratic regulation you need to cope with, the high costs of establishing and growing a business (business rates and employers' NI in particular), and a wider culture of risk averse investing. These days you can't get small company funding from an equity market, because they are now all about secondary trading of established companies. VC's will rip you off and steal your company, banks are reluctant to lend, and still steal your company (a big hello to RBS GRG at this juncture).
You know the biggest innovation in funding innovation, and encouraging a culture of entrpreneurship? Kickstarter. And why? Because it encourages people to take risk investment. What's the reaction of government? To try and restrict it, regulate and strangle it. The best thing government can do for innovation is to keep well out of the way, shred a few more million pages of possibly well meant legislation, and scrap employer's NI and business rates as they currently exist. Load it all on corporation tax so it comes out of profits, and levy a punitive withholding tax on (mostly US) corporate tax dodgers.
Re: This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.
"You need to re-check your history. "
He does (and so would I have had to in his place). But the wider point is valid - the US went through the usual build an empire, fight wars, debase the currency......and you (judging by your moniker) are now in the terminal glide phase, hanging on to your "send a gunboat" approach to diplomacy, your tenuous status as the global reserve currency, and so forth.
I don't say that critically - Russia, Britain, Spain, Netherlands, assorted Middle Eastern countries, we've all done this. I'll credit the US of A with one thing, and that's that (in addition to being the kings of make-work and bullshit) they get things done more quickly than everybody else. In this case, completing the "empire life cycle" more quickly may not be seen as quite such a good thing.
Re: 2020 @ I ain't Spartacus
"Threatening to do this again in a few days is likely to mean Europe has to move to other gas suppliers, "
What other suppliers? The US shale boom is not exportable in large volumes, not withstanding the conversion of some east coast import terminals to run as export. The global LNG market wants a huge price premium to supply Europe in preference to the shorter runs to Asia & Japan, and if you want certainty you need to contract months if not years ahead. Add in the fact that Europe doesn't have the LNG facilities to import much more than a fraction of its demand, and you start seeing problems with these alternative suppliers. There's only one country with the gas reserves to change things, and that's Iran. The west having demonised and threatened Iran (and vice versa) for thirty plus years, I can't see either side working to get Iran access to world markets anytime soon, nor being willing to cosy up with Europe.
The EU has only three energy security options:
1) Keep doing what you're doing, which means dreaming of renewables, whilst actually being beholden to a range of energy-rich despots round the world.
2) Tear up their climate change religion, reinstate coal as a major component of the energy mix, and start fracking in continental Europe.
3) Adopt a French-style solution of building nuclear power plant to cover 90% of demand, and accept that it will have crap load factors. This sound superficially attractive, but the wheels come off when you consider that the builders of nuclear power plants simply have no idea how to do it cheaply.
Re: Wow, 800 extra staff ......
"....... which means 2 techies and 798 project managers."
Well, they must be outsourced or contractors then, because in the RWE first quarter results announced today, the npower supply business is shown with 530 fewer employees than the same time last year.
I imagine that Npower devised their own perfect storm:
1) You're a UK board member of a German owned company with a history of fines for customer service failings - surely if you decide to change things, they can only get better?
2) In an environment of steeply rising bills, you decide to fuck with the main billing system. The business case promises better performance and lower costs, and you believe it.
3) You opt for SAP because it's German, and that's reason enough in any German owned company
4) You select IBM Global Buggerups as the lead consultant, because you once heard that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, and because you believe the snake oil salesmen they sent, who took you out to reference sites in exotic parts of the world, and bought you lush dinners
5) At the same time you decide to outsource many of the actual customer operations staff to Crapita, because that'll "improve" customer service AND save money on top of the business case promises of sunlit pastures and newborn lambs. They promised us, they promised!
6) Just to help, your German uberlords insist that you sack all your UK back office staff and roll everything up into a German based shared service operation seven hundred miles away, so that the UK business gets worse internal services and has to pay more for them, meaning nobody can get bills paid, contracts let, nobody can get meaningful management information, or even anything done.
7) When the pilot SAP roll out showed problems you opt to "go large" and extend the roll out to all your customers, because IBM insisted it was all the fault of the legacy systems.
8) And according to the latest results, you've had to triple your UK capex budget, presumably to pay for all the contract variations with SAP, IBM, Siebel etc, because their contract writers ran rings round your procurement team.
Maybe it wasn't like that. Perhaps somebody from npower can enlighten us?
Re: "we're talking multi-million pound fines "
"Corporate fines aren't the answer here. They have no significant effect in discouraging the responsible individuals from doing stupid things, and the costs are just passed on to the customers (and the workforce)."
That is for another day. There's people with problems now, and they have to work within the existing frameworks. I can also assure you that companies don't like getting fined, and do try and avoid it. Moreover, the size of regulatory fine is always adjusted up or down for aggravating or mitigating circumstance, one of the most important of which is actions taken as soon as it became apparent that there was a compliance failure.
One of npower's festering sores is of course that it decided last year to outsource big chunks of customer service, at the same time as the botched SAP roll out was continuing. Another triumph for the management consultants!
"Personal bonuses => personal fines."
A fine is a statutory or regulatory outcome, and that option already exists where criminal behaviour can be proved. Where there's simply incompetence or commercial misjudgement, as is most likely in this case, it's stupid to suggest that the courts should act against individuals. No, bonuses simply need to be able to have a negative component for personal incompetence, so that berks like npower's senior managers can see their base salaries eroded (and clawback of prior years' bonuses). But even that would require primary legislation, which won't be happening anytime soon.
Re: Can't get a bill, can't swap supplier
"1) I don't believe this means you are entitled to a refund on direct debits paid (I may be wrong but I thought it only applied to pay on bill customers)"
I can't say with certainty, but I suspect you can get the direct debits refunded. That's your money until the supplier has billed you, even if it has been physically transferred to their bank account. If they were able to back-bill past twelve months by relying on DD payments, there'd be different treatment of DD customers to credit customers, and that sort of customer discrimination is prohibited.
But, as with my advice to the other people with problems, you can write to Paul Massara in Swindon, explaining the situation and demanding immediate resolution or a deadlock letter. Once you have the deadlock letter you raise the complaint with the energy ombudsman who has the power to force a solution on the supplier, OR if the complaint hasn't been resolved within eight weeks of first being raised with the energy supplier, then you can approach the energy ombudsman without a deadlock letter.
For your own scenario with the double meter system, not sure why that's a problem, largely because I don't follow what you mean - is that two meters and a single MPAN? Even that shouldn't stop you switching supplier, as it's unusual but not unheard of. I'd phone up your choice of alternative supplier, try and change, and then persist in identifying why they can't do it, and then seek to overcome that. Note that separate to your complaint about npower, the energy ombudsman can deal with complaints about switching, so if a supplier says they can't take you on, tell them that you'll take THEM to ombudsman, and if (as is likley) they don't budge, then report them as well.
Don't expect a quick solution from the ombudsman - with the volume of complaints npower in particular are generating they are probably swamped.
Re: Pull their fingers out@ Shaun Sheppard
"Damn Led, are you paid by the ton of mail landing on their doorsteps ?"
If only. Npower are so staggering useless I'd be a very rich man indeed if I got a share of the postage on their complaints inbox.
I work in this industry, I've worked in other regulated sectors, and I know how bad it can be when complaints aren't resolved quickly. You have to give them a couple of chances to fix things normally, after that the only hope for quick resolution is rapid escalation to the very top.
If you want to make a complaint to the big wigs, far better to send it to the CEO on paper. Not only will he have a very efficient PA who will send out a polite reply in his name, but they will ensure it goes to the right (reasonably high level) person for resolution, and that person who has to resolve it sees that it has come from the office of the CEO. Moreover, all incoming mail to the CEO is usually formally logged, which discourages "the dog ate your homework" excuses lower down the organisation.
Because Massara has been running a shambolic business for so long, he may be immune to customer complaints. But RWE's top man won't be accustomed to getting letters of complaint about npower, and when Massara gets a call from the group CEO's office saying "voss is diss?" he'll want to look as though he's in control.
Re: Working hard to resolve it? @Oddlegs
See response to Shaun Sheppard - you need to write to npower's CEO in Swindon, copy his boss in Germany, explaining the problem, demanding immediate resolution plus compensation for harassment, nuisance, waste of your time and call costs to them, and also asking for a deadlock letter so that you can refer the letter to the energy ombudsman.
If they won't issue a deadlock letter, then write to Dermot Nolan, chief executive of OFGEM, reporting that you believe their failure to resolve the complaint, or to issue a deadlock letter put npower in breach of the terms of their energy supply licence (and copy npower's CEO). I doubt OFGEM will take much quick action, but if they agree that npower are not treating customer complaints as their licence requires, then we're talking multi-million pound fines (npower have repeatedly been clobbered for these for different compliance reasons).
Re: Pull their fingers out@ Shaun Sheppard
Keep your trap shut!
The ****ers can't charge you for energy used more than a year ago if they haven't billed you for it, so you may well be able to claim a refund for all the direct debit payments more than a year old.
They may do this automatically, but it's npower, so I'd assume not. If, when you eventually get a bill and they are sniffy about crediting the >12 month energy, refuse to accept their view, tell them you wish to take it to the energy ombudsman and you'd like a "deadlock" letter (you need this prior to the ombudsman examiing the case. Don't let up, if need be write to the npower CEO (Paul Massara) by snail mail, and if you're up for the postage, to Peter Terium, RWE group CEO at the company's offices in Essen, Germany.
In three quarters of all cases the ombudsman finds in the customer's favour, and what's more it costs the energy company (from memory) about £400 per investigated complaint, even if the ombudsman doesn't support the customer.
Re: Who writes this rubbish?
" surely any anomaly should be kicked to a human operator "
In theory, yes, in practice AF447.
More graceful error handling would be a better bet, with the computer reverting to handling anomalous situations on some empirical rules, and flagging to the duty meatsack. Considering AF447, a frozen pitot isn't exactly an unforseeable scenario, so unclear speed readings were always a potential issue. Keeping thrust and attitude stable and autopilot engaged would probably have saved AF447, instead of the rules that required the autopilot simply taking its ball and go home if it detected movement of the goalposts.
Which means the software still needs proper QA, proper process analysis, and proper testing, so that the empirical rules are an acceptable risk whilst the coffee drinker gets his thinking hat on.
Re: 566 terawatts a day?
"But water heating makes more sense in Europe than Subsidizing Solar voltaic."
As somebody not very keen on most "renewables" I've got to concede this. Where you've got sunshine and no gas (much of southern europe) solar thermal is a no brainer - it works, it is storable, and it is cheap.
Problem in northern Europe is that nerks of government and civil service can't conceive of anything happening without their say so and subsidy. In the UK, having made a pig's ear of solar PV, they've now added solar thermal to the list of permissible subsidised technologies, for an unbelievable generous 19.2p/kWh. By 2018 there will be no form of power generation NOT getting some form of DECC & OFGEM approved subsidy, excepting the older nuclear fleet.
From an overall efficiency point of view the whole solar PV thing across Europe has been a disaster. Instead of choosing solar PV over solar thermal, they should have required industry to laminate the PV panels onto flat plate thermal collectors with insulated backs, and then mandated only combined panels to be installed in domestic situations. In volume would have been not much more expensive, the water heating would have kept PV panel temperatures a little bit lower and thus more efficient, and you'd collect far more of the incident insolation,and even store the heat beyond sundown in the hot water tank. Admittedly still expensive, still useless in winter, but probably three times as efficient as typical solar PV panels.
Re: Reporting and Monitoring via the Internet
I wouldn't worry. The thesis of the article (or at least the title) that this could destabilise the grid and bring it down is rubbish.
Renewables (and most forms of micro-generation) operate as negative demand. When they are producing the wick gets turned down on some more flexible asset (usually gas turbines, sometimes hydro), and the system operator monitors the performance of the grid rather than individual plant. Loss of management information from solar assets might mess up the statistics, but since solar can't be despatched it doesn't really make any difference to how the grid is run.
Because of its widely distributed nature, and inherent vulnerability to fluctuations even a collective take-down of all UK solar would have minimal effect. The grid is run on the basis that one or two major plant could come off load at any time without warning (this is why reserve capacity is important). Loss of all solar be lead to some brown outs or a few moments of power loss, but not a risk you don't already have eg from high winds bringing down power lines, fire in a fuel hopper at a coal or biomass plant, safety interruption at a nuclear plant etc. An incidental impact of the expansion of renewables is that the grid is more capable of managing supply demand balance, eg through frequency response, short term operational reserve and other mechanisms.
Re: 566 terawatts a day?
"Solar is a great idea, most roofs are empty with nothing on them, and could easily be built from solar materials, cover every roof in the UK and you would generate all the power we need..."
You believe that cobblers? In winter there's a factor of 4x between expected average summer and winter daily output. In both situations there's a good twelve hours of darkness with no output at all, and no way of storing the output for protracted periods. Factor in the high cost of small solar (£2.5k/kW) and solar rated capacity is as expensive as nuclear, with only a fifth of the same output, delivered mainly when you need power least. Add in any form of power storage to the solar costs, and it makes nuclear look like an Aldi special buy.
Re: 566 terawatts a day?
"It's also interesting that website says instantaneous output is around 7GW, from 230000 installations. That's about THREE nuclear reactors."
Given the dismal load factor of solar (globally perhaps 20%, in the UK 10%) that's hardly a valid comparison.
Re: Desktop version?
Presumably it'll just be Chrome with a new title and auto-launching into GMail. You can do that now to create a pseudo desktop application, with a bit of messing about, I suspect the "new product" is much the same thing in an easy to install package
I can't see them coding a "real" desktop email client from scratch.
"One problem is that PayTV doesn't seem to be very popular over here (Germany)."
Where's the problem? Perhaps the lack of success is why Murdoch wants equity investors to buy the manky assets off of him? The tame management at BSkyB are only too happy to oblige, Murdoch adds more money to his vast pile of cash, and powerless small investors in BSkyB wonder why their management are paying good money for old rubbish.
The only negative surprise in all of this was reading that Murdoch was still in the land of the living.
Re: Am I the last person on Earth...
" Am I the last person on Earth......who would be willing to pay for software?"
No. There's three other commentards who've claimed they would pay as well. Will all four of you be able to support the development and maintenance of a new paid for browser, even forked from existing versions?
" I also demand a world-wide ban on singing "The Sun Has Got His Hat On"!!"
I think the BBC are already on the case of that particular request.
Re: @ Tom 13
"How difficult would it be to bring the mothballed coal plants back online?"
Not very, if you actually mothball the plant (ie turn it off, and keep it clean, maintained and secure). Mothballing coal plant is more difficult than gas, because it's bigger and mechanically more complex, but it can be done. Note that mothballing involves maintenance and security costs, and usually you have to keep paying the staff otherwise you lose the skills.
Or are they actually tearing down the facilities?
Mostly yes. Not in a hurry, but they aren't mothballing, so recommissioning would be very difficult. There's time yet, because not all LCPD closures have gone through, but I've seen no evidence that any coal plant is being mothballed.
Note that we did have a considerable excess of generation capacity, far more than we needed, so some of the closures have little effect. The problem is we're getting to the point where reserve margin is too narrow, and when it gets to zero, you are reliant on everything running full chat when you really need it. Given that something somewhere will break at an inopportune moment, or a nuke plant will have to go offline for refuelling or a statutory inspection, it is accepted that 15% is a decent reserve margin, 6% is critically low. I think we're about 10% at the moment, with more closures coming.
Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.
"Thumbs down for stating facts?"
I didn't downvote you, but I suggest that the thumbs down were probably for stating bollocks:
"10,000 of thousands cross the entire nation." I challenge you to prove there's millions of fracking sites in the US, or even globally.
Which is a pity, because behind the hyperbole, you've got a point that most fracking requires high vertical well densities that won't be feasible in areas of productive and/or expensive land like the UK. The green lobby are focusing on the spurious, sensational and untrue reasons for opposing fracking, the dull, pragmatic reasons would be more correct.
Ultimately the geology of the UK is also against fracking - most formations are far too heavily faulted to make the process cheap and effective. We can certainly do it, but nobody in the electricity or gas industry believes it will be cheap, nor available in sufficient volumes to offset security of supply concerns.
Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...
"I'd be interested in hearing what makes them think Gridco are wrong, though I do agree that we no longer understand modern peak winter demand."
Differing assumptions and strategic plays. The point I was making was simply that there is no consistent view of when reserve margin becomes dangerously low. If we have a very cold winter next year, chances of a problem are much higher than if we have mild winter. If all the LCPD plant is permanently closed we have a bigger problem than if a few are mothballed with government prepared to claim a derogoation against the LCPD rules. etc etc. DECC claim to have wargamed things like plant closures, weather conditions, system demand responses - eg DNO's have a list of companies they can ask to turn the wick down, or go to standby, but AFAIK the system has never been tested in practice. You can choose to trust them or not as you see fit.
"There are plenty of storage options, both for storage of electricity and as storage before the alternator, but few of them are productised for volume use, because "the markets" haven't seen a reason to do so."
That's because it is more economic to build a new plant with low utilisation (eg OCGT) than to piffle around with far more expensive storage. Capex for gas OCGT would cost about £250m/GW, whereas pumped storage would be about £2-4bn/GW. That, sonny Jim, is a market in action. Of course, if you want to pay but think the market isn't giving you a gold plated solution that you want, then form your own supplier, and recruit people wanting to pay four times current electricity prices - I don't think you'll get a very long queue. There's also a world of difference between the sort of short term balancing services that storage can provide (sometimes very well) and the medium term need to cover seasonal types of variation in demand and supply or more protracted loss of load scenarios.
"Add to that the likelihood that brownouts no longer work as they used to as a demand management measure. "
Lucky you're so well informed. Maybe you'd better tell the DNO's, DECC, OFGEM and National Grid, because when I was with them the other day talking about this very topic, they were adamant that voltage control has been successfully tested as a means of demand management, continues to work, and will continue to work. I suspect you've ignoring the importance of simple loads (primarily heat and light) that are major components of peak demand.
Re: If it's really 2015 @The Other Hobbes
"What you can't do in the UK is build sustainable storage. Because markets"
No, not because of markets, because of two things you don't understand: Technology, and economics.
You give me power from a wind turbine, and I can store it for a time. Either as electricity-to-gas, electricity-to-compressed-air or as electricity-to-heat. All three have very, very high capital costs (my employers have plant doing all three of these things), and all have high losses, either in the conversions from and to electricity (for gas, compressed air), or decay (stored heat). Likewise pumped hydro is technically feasible, but uneconomic. Your obviously much lamented CEGB built Dinorwig to store power, in a scheme that cost about £3bn at current prices, yet generates not a single kWh, it merely stores it from other expensive forms of generation, and throws a quarter to a third of it away in the process.
As for Germany, yet again you're talking out of your @rse. They've destroyed the profitability of thermal generation by subsidising renewables (a move that has put up German power bills by 30%, the highest state levies of any EU country). In summer they have an excess of renewables they try and export, but Poland (for example) has had install special interruptors on the cross border links to stop German renewables destabilising the Polish grid. Owners of thermal plant in Germany are looking to shut many GW of uneconomic plant, but that's now going to require yet more subsidy because on a cold still winters day there's neither renewable power to be had, nor any prospect of storage. Meanwhile the German government passed laws to try and stop uneconomic plant being decommissioned, as though they can reverse the laws of economics. Far from being a success, German power policy has been a huge and expensive failure, forcing up power costs for all consumers to transfer the money to a wealthy few (just like UK solar FiT), and when you include the German nuclear catastrophe, actually increasing the carbon intensity of German electricity.
Re: reliant on Russian gas?
"Since when have we been reliant on Russian gas?"
Since our own gas reserves and distribution systems were connected to the European gas network by interconnectors, and since our own reserves ceased to cover domestic demand.
We have interconnectors to Belgium and the Netherlands, and the Langeled pipeline to Norwegian gas fields is another indirect connection to the European gas market. So if the Ruskies turn off the gas through Ukraine, Germany sucks the gas out of the wider European system, prices skyrocket, and demand restrictions start coming into force.
The only way we could isolate ourselves from this would be to order LNG on long term contracts for winter delivery (we have the necessary LNG terminals, Europe is less well endowed), close the interconnectors and wave a warm hand at the freezing continentals. Completely feasible, but can you see either Millitwerp or the Bullingdon boys having the intellect or balls to do that?
Re: If it's really 2015 @The Axe
"They have enough problem supplying a few percent of the electrical needs of the UK at the moment, how the hell can renewables supply 100%."
They can't, even the tree huggers know this, although DECC's ambition is for the UK to be a post gas, post petroleum economy by 2050. Unfortunately with all energy policy focused on CO2, you need to allow for more than just the electrification of heat that you mention - we've got government pushing the railways to adopt further electrification, and ambitions for widespread adoption of electric vehicles (DECC ambitions of 1m on UK roads by 2020, IIRC). And you need to factor in significant UK population growth largely due to uncontrolled immigration, and the energy demand in building new housing and infrastructure to serve this population growth.
All of these things need more generation capacity even as we close coal and gas plants (that's right, modern CCGT plants are being mothballed and closed because of the destabilising impact of renewables on wholesale power prices to thermal plant). Figures I've seen quoted suggest a need for a four-fold increase (ie replacement of existing assets is also required) in electricity generating capacity by 2050. The tree hugger endorsed forecasts reckon we'll only need double, but the bare numbers are that at present gas provides about 45 MTOE of power to heat, and transport energy demand is about 60 MTOE, current UK electricity supplied to end users is about 27 MTOE. There may be some benefits from smoothing peak demand, but my opinion is that at absolute best that reduces the need to "only" a three fold increment in power generation capacity, plus renewal of the plant being retired as we speak.
You're looking at a fleet of nukes (or fusion plants, or fairy dust generators) to generate around 240 GW. Hinkley Point is costing £5bn per GW, let's assume that economies of scale cut that by a third (!), and you've still got a need for £800bn of investment, before you start on the cost of new transmisson and distribution systems.
We do need to plan for a post fossil fuel world, and to eke out what we have. But the pell mell rush for renewables that cost a fortune and deliver so little is criminal incompetence on the part of EU and UK politicians. Just on current policies, UK power prices will keep increasing at 10% per annum every year until at least 2020, and given the costs mentioned above, may need to keep increasing at that rate until 2040, by which time half of GDP will be consumed by the energy sector.
Remember all this next time you hear that ghastly, ignorant, rubber faced twerp Milliband whining that high power prices are the fault of profiteering energy companies.
Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...
" I think we'll probably find that those "accelerate" come the blackouts."
You're on the money with the point that fracking will come too late. It will also come too little in the UK for geological reasons as well.
Some points of order/interests:
My colleagues in power generation think blackouts are more likely post 2017, and disagree with National Grid and OFGEM's assertion that the big risk is 2015/6. You can choose to believe whichever you want, but the important thing is we've not really bottomed out what modern day peak winter demand actually is.
The issue about bottoming out what winter peak demand is arises because we don't really know the cumulative effect of all those CFL's, all the dry to wet heating conversions in social housing, the de-industrialisation of the UK, the improvements in insulation through industry managed programmes (CERT, CESP, ECO etc), or the impact of rising prices on both demand and the economics of energy saving. Plus DECC hope that the forthcoming "capacity mechanism" will fill a lot of gaps, by essentially paying people to use available standby generation or to shed load on request.
In the short term, winter peak gas demand is easily met by contracting LNG in advance, and accepting there's a price premium - we've built the bloody gas terminals, so to talk of a lack of fracking as a cause for blackouts shows what a bunch of ill informed knobs the House of Lords are.
Ultimately, the fracking debate is purely about security of primary energy supply, not about short term power generation reliability ("LOLE - loss of load expectation"). The fundamental problem is that the obsession of politicians and bureaucrats with "climate change" means they make stupid, short sighted decisions. In Germany, that decision was to close down relatively modern, well run nuclear plants, in the UK it was to implemented the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive in a manner that closed off many GW of coal capacity. And the great thing about coal, was that you could stockpile it in vast amounts, there's many global sources, and its cheap.
Your comment that "renewable build outs are constrained by cash, political power plays" is incorrect. The reality is that subsidies both open and hidden have supported the vast build out of wind and solar, and that the committed schemes for both will keep pushing your bills up until at least 2030, whilst making the threat of supply interruption worse (I spent all of today in a room full of industry colleagues, regulators and government policy makers, and these were the openly spoken baseline assumptions). Renewables are secure, in that we aren't beholden to other countries, but they aren't reliable because they can't be despatched (scheduled to run on demand), and when they do run you can't store the power, meaning that they destabilise the grid and the market.
I hope the tree huggers are pleased, they've got everything they asked for.
Re: So who gets the money?
"You go to the Big House for using a gun, but you get a Knighthood if you use a pan."
Another triumph for Blair's vandalism. House of Lords used to be full of unelected fuddy duddies that (with a few exceptions) didn't do much interfering.
Now it's full of unelected fucky wits that are always trying to interfere. Off with all their heads, particularly Blair's plastic peers
Re: "50:50 merger of equals" - tosh
You're bang on, mate.
But one has to worry about the rationale for the deal "synergies between the two businesses". This is corporate claptrap for "there is no good reason for this deal, but maybe we'll find some change down the back of the sofa".
Total synergies are the administrative cost of one of the two listed companies' head offices, circa £10m. Deal fees to the wasters at City banks will be five times that as a minimum, legal fees another million, management consultants the same again, devising a new group name and brand identity another million, redundancy and restructuring costs about £5m. Because DSG is a product retailer, and CPW is a contract retailer there will be no real operational benefits, and neither will benefit from each other.
As usual this is corporate M&A as a diversion from the hard work of actually running a profitable, successful business. In line with other comments, I've found CPW staff OK, but as vendors of high value contracts they're probably being paid a lot more than the Currys and PCW plebs, so no CPW competence will rub off on the box shifters - if anything it'll work the other way round as dysfunctional management cyborgs from PCW try and borg CPW.
Re: Nothing to do with @Rol
"I would dearly like to see the whole telecommunication network nationalised, because it is too important to be left in the hands of companies who time and again have proved themselves to be shameless liars, unrepentant cheats and devious free market subversives."
I'd agree that there's not a very effective market, but obviously you're too young to remember the inefficiency, waste, incompetence, high cost, and total lack of innovation that the state telecommunications monopoly had in the UK. I can, and I'm in no hurry to go back there.
Moreover, given that a nationalised industry is under the control of politicians and bureaucrats, don't you think that the Westminster House of Shame contains more than its fair share of shameless liars, unrepentant cheats and devious free market subversives?
"They need to expand their fibre network for one thing if they want to see a big jump in subscribers."
The Cable Cowboy hasn't bought this to absorb cash (ie invest in it), he's bought it to ream it out for cash. His definition of "investment" is simply speculative M&A, so you'll see an ongoing $14bn bid for a Dutch cable network, a $1bn share buyback, takeover of the 20% un-owned stake in the Chilean cable business. However, the chances of Virgin Media expanding their fibre network can be summed up in three letters: nil.
The longer term game plan is just to buy and bolt together cable companies, strip the costs out, push the prices up, and then sell out at some future date to another investor - for example a cash rich pension fund looking for long life infrastructure assets. Legislative and commercial barriers to market entry in local infrastructure are high, so there's little competition, and the inability or unwillingness of the mobile telcos to supplant fixed line data connections means that the fixed line market is unlikely to be threatened by 4G (or even 5G).
As usual it's all OFCOM's fault. Only two sizeable local loop infrastructure players, one of whom has to offer common carriage over its assets, the other doesn't, and then a mobile telco market where there's no leadership to make wireless a credible choice (in future rather than now) for home broadband.
What is this new devilry?
"Liberty Global, which is now a UK PLC, ...."
but still listed on NASDAQ. Presumably some contrivance to dodge taxes on both sides of the Atlantic, whilst reaming out customers with inflation busting prices increases and rough service.
Re: Offline functionality...@fandom
"I'm kind of curious, did you get past the second paragraph of the article?"
Not sure if that's aimed at me, but I'll respond. Yes, I did.
The point is that Google's idea of offline use is route or map caching rather than permanent local storage. So the Google solution is great if you just need a few hundred yard diversion in town, or a couple of miles out of town, but its no good at all when your location hasn't been cached and you're in an area of no coverage, or on a poor data network. Of for that matter, if you're on a restrictive contract or PAYG tariff that means downloading mobile data is something you want to actively avoid.
To an extent, the Maps story suggests Google is quickly becoming the new Microsoft - dominant in a couple of areas, but then failing to listen to customers, with "Our way or no way" offers.
If the very modest improvements described represent "a lot of work", then I can only conclude that Google's staff are exceptionally unproductive, because all of this looks to me like a lukewarm makeover to the existing and inadequate caching solution. But having said that, there are free alternatives that I use when Google is too slothful to do what I want, and my gripe is largely about the unrecognised promise of Google Maps - it could be a world beating app. but by tying it so tightly to high speed mobile data connections, Google choose to cripple it.
Re: Offline functionality...
"This kind of functionality comes for free in Lumia phones "
And Android. Navfree (previously known as Navmii) is free, uses locally stored maps, and has better quality voice than Google Maps' horrible synthesized quacking. The overhead map view isn't as polished as Google Maps, but there's little to choose when actually driving, and I prefer the 3D view of Navfree over Google Maps. Navfree also has a speed limit data and speed limit reminder. In terms of map accuracy I've not seen much difference between the two (ie the odd small error in both). Routing in Google Maps is a touch better, but not enough to make me tolerate the "on-line plus caching" inconveniences.
For Android users looking for an alternative to Google, it's free so what have you got to lose by trying it for a month? I'm not naieve enough to believe that my location data won't be sold on somehow or other, but the app isn't obviously intrusive. And because Maps is a default permanently installed app for Android, but won't by default fill your storage up with map data, you can have both, and use whichever fits the circumstances of the day.
"Once upon a time there was two ways to do things - the wrong way, and the great western railway."
Well, seven foot track and a decent loading gauge didn't prevail, more's the pity, so arguably we went the wrong way long before the GWR was finally crushed by the state.
Re: Utter rubbish ...
"Gob-smacked that government (we elect them don't we?)...."
Yes, but they don't represent your interests.
"are not more supportive of public/community owned broadband infrastructure."
They tried publicly owned infrastructure. Almost without exception this stifled all innovation, resulted in high costs and poor customer service. That's why it has no mostly been privatised. if the privatisation isn't doing what you want, then that's not a flaw with the private company - they are supposed to look after their shareholders interests) it is a flaw with the regulation by the government.
When it comes to community owned infrastruture, what can government do? Use taxpayers money to subsidise even more rural broadband?
Re: I'm glad Australia hadn't spread it's gospel before now.
"Australia's communications minister Malcolm Turnbull viewpoint is somewhat skewed - possibly Australia has an interest in copper? Fibre optic has so many long-term benefits that makes anything else ill advised."
Mine production of copper is about a million tonnes a year, making Oz a world top 5 producer. The only country consistently producing more is Chile. Of course, if Australia is adopting fibre, then what to do with the 90 odd million tonnes of copper reserves, particularly if China's crazy investment boom tails off? Sell it to the developing countries, in the belief that they're simple and won't realise they've been had?
Re: Virgin as well as BT
"Not that I want to stay with them after their take-over by Liberty Global (and previous fattening up) has seen a big rise in the price they charge me."
Same here. But even near doubling of my speed from 60 Mbit to 100 Mbit isn't much use - when will I notice any difference, unless I was wasting my life trying to illegally fileshare every grumble flick ever made? I've got better things to do with my life. What I'd like is the same service I originally signed up for, at a lower price, not a pointless speed upgrade plus a big increase in costs, who's ulterior motive is really just to bolster the bank accounts of a near-death billionaire.
As usual the problem lies with the ineffectual twerps of OFCOM, itself headed up by an unqualified Blair placeman. VM aren't small any more, they don't need protection, and their local loop should be unbundled to let other people use it. Instead of this, OFCOM wank around failing to shove BT into place (much as the ASA have managed nothing in this sector), and my forecast for the near future sees that berk Ed Richards as a probable successor to Chris Patten, as part of the 1%ers merry-go-round of well rewarded sinecures.
Recognising that the apparatus of state doesn't work for me, and that nothing is going to change, yet envious of the well paid and undemanding jobs at the top, can other commentards suggest how I can get on the quango gravy train? I shall happy put my principles in cold storage for the duration of my "public service".
Re: I've missed something here
"I'm not sure a general purpose OS is suitable for this"
Maybe, but just because they started off with general purpose Linux doesn't mean thats what they'll end up with. From a security point of view any sensible designer is going to strip off all code that isn't needed, and the bit that's left ought to be there only because it is needed.
However, before Linux fans break out the champagne, I'd note that the US have yet to rationalise their many different air forces, armies and drone units (including at least six separate major air operations). The vast amount of overlap, duplication, infighting and waste, when combined with a budget squeeze that has barely started make this consolidation inevitable.
It doesn't follow that the USNAS will be the lead developer for pilotless choppers - could be the marines, could be the air force, could be the army, could be a new combined defence development unit. Until the consolidation has been completed there's no guarantees as to what hardware or software will prevail.
Re: Bzzzzttt.... Fail
"Won't hold up. Read the language of that CFR - it talks about "delivering or retrieving" something. That doesn't describe what people are doing with their drones, not at least if all they're doing is flying a camera around"
Well, yes I did read the language. And it talks about "delivering or retrieving a person or object". If you want a photo using a drone, you are delivering a camera to the point to take the photo (and then you're retrieving it, unless it's a kamikaze mission that wirelessly transmits the image back).
Re: Increasingly "The Petulant Clown of White House" @ Big John
"The reason why he has no international political clout is simply due to the fact that the US government as a whole is in an out-of-control deadlock"
Not quite, IMHO, because he doesn't need the support of Congress to declare war (and if he did need it they'd be too worried of NOT voting for war to oppose him).
The real reason that he's got no credibility is in particular the succession of "red lines" that were drawn in the sand, crossed by his opponents, and no consequences ensued, in both Iran and Syria. So his opponents think he personally lacks resolve for overseas military adventures. They also believe that for obvious reasons the US public are war weary, and that Obama is now a lame duck president.
To a large extent, Obama's heart and brain are in the right place: Overseas military intervention has been a costly twelve year disaster in terms of US & allied lives, local lives, money, and respect. Where Obama has come unstuck is that his administration haven't come to terms with the fact that whilst the DoD and the rabidly out of control "national security" sector might still be sniffing the napalm fumes and listening to Ride of the Valkyries, there's few real Americans willing to pay the price that accompanies that sort of foreign policy. As a result US foreign policy is still framed in terms of "do as we say or we kick yo' ass" and is weak on diplomacy, cultural understanding and respect. To be fair this has been recognised, it simply hasn't yet resulted in the changes required, and the whole apparatus of "national security" has become a huge obstacle to the changes that are needed.
This isn't to say that the US needs to walk away from all forms of intervention (and having happily appointed themselves as world policeman, it's a little late to object to others expecting this of them). Walking softly and carrying a big stick has always been a good strategy, but over the past decade the US has been to busy using the stick, not enough time walking softly.
Re: Invisible Precision
" End user perception is the benchmark, if that isn't noticeably improved you're wasting everyone's time and money."
There's a whole slice of the market that buy on spec, with little regard for anything else. Think of PC tinkerers, who always need the graphics card with the highest FLOPS benchmark. Think iPhone buyers who upgrade to the new model with Pavlovian reliability. Think camera enthusiasts who buy the latest <insert Nikon name here> because it has a few more pixels or whatever....
In many instances these upgrades have no noticeable effect for end users. But does that matter? Without early adopters there is no market, and despite the fact that they can't see a real difference for the new product, they've got the spec they've just paid for, and they'll believe they can.
I take my hat off to these people. Thank you for helping encourage innovation for the sake of innovation. Thank you for paying extra to reduce the cost of the technology by the time I will buy it. Thank you for taking the risk on new products that simply may not work. Thank you for taking the risk on standards that may never gain market acceptance. Heroes to a man!
Re: Reading with great interest
Work yer arse off to get back on the merry go round, 'cos in my view financial markets are looking exactly like 2006 all over again, and we all know what happened next. My (then) employers folded in 2007 and I elected to take an immediate job offer on significantly lower pay to stay in employment rather than hold out for the right one, and in hindsight that was a very good choice. YMMV.
" it's bearable and at least some food chloroplasts and roughage"
I think with the finish line in sight they'll have decided to try and sleep it out. Anybody who's ever tried eating significantly reduced calories will know how you feel colder, more slothful, and sleepier. And sleep sounds better to me than trying to eat nettles, beetles and the like.
Re: Wait a minute...
"Is there an unfair disparity in valuation here?"
As others have said, patents of dubious value on both sides, but I think the point is that this is a US court, and the home (corporate) team have to win, regardless of the fairness, significance, or ultimate harm to consumers.
If you want further evidence of this bias, you may recall that Obama intervened to support a ban on import and sale of certain Samsung phones, yet intervened to block a ban on Apple products that had similar legitimacy (or similar lack of, depending on your view).
Re: I could not agree more .....
"I do not think it is a good time to da that shortly before a bubble burst, innit?"
Fastest appreciation is always before the bubble bursts, fill your boots, streets of Shanghai are paved with gold, I tell you.
But as an adviser, what does our friend care if somebody invests £30m in Mythical Dragon Enterprises ten minutes before they go bust? As long as the Western investor is still solvent he can claim his fees.
- ASTEROID'S SHOCK DINO-KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
- BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
- Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
- Review You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
- FTC to mobile carriers: If you could stop text scammers being jerks that'd be just great