2570 posts • joined 1 Jun 2012
OFCOM seem to think that lower termination rates would be a good thing for consumers. Unfortunately, as soon as mobile termination rates match landlines, the cold callers and scammers will realise there's a much better chance of a mobile phone being answered than a landline, and it doesn't cost any more to pester people on their mobile, and then where will we be?
Oi OFCOM! You useless knobs! How about customer-set termination rates, so that I can establish how much it costs to call me, according to the dialling number? Nothing for known friends and family numbers. A very small amount for businesses that need to have my number (again on a permitted number basis). And an arm and a leg for known spammers, number withheld, and international calls (ideally accompanied by a cost per minute that I can levy, perhaps around 70p).
"I'm not sure I'd describe someone else reading my quite frankly rather banal email traffic "terrifying"."
I think their concerns have passed over your head with quite some clearance. I doubt my web activity is of much interest, but I *do* find it terrifying (1) that the state considers it necessary and appropriate to have absolute access to what I read, write, watch of listen to on line, or say over phone lines or even VOIP. And that the fuckers record and store this whenever they can in as much volume as the hardware I've paid for them to have allows.
Considering that the state rarely backtracks, is a serial offender when it comes to both mission creep or outright incompetence, and will not allow itself to be held to account, the last people on earth I want to have oversight of my in and outbound communications are my own government. It's a sorry state of affairs when I'm more relaxed about the Chinese or Russian government's ability to spy on me than my own or "allied" governments.
(1) Admittedly in an arm chair manner, rather than an "about to be eaten by a lion" manner.
Re: All good stuff
"Unless you produce yourowm power..."
Actually no, it's just the same. If you produce your own power at any scale then you've got exactly the same issue that your capacity investment is fixed, but your power demand varies. That's why wholesale and B2B power prices vary by day and by season, because meeting peak demands means more lightly utilised plant.
What Google are doing (in the article) is reducing off peak demand, and that's the least useful form of power reduction whether you generate in house or buy from the grid; What you really want to do is reduce your peak load, or to reschedule your peak load so that it is different from the peak grid demand. To an extent they can already do load shifting across time zones where the data connections permit that, but as far as I know there's not sufficient cable capacity to run all of continent A's data processing on continent B during continent B's dark hours when power demand is minimal and prices low. And as we now know, you most certainly can't trust continent B.
All good stuff
For commercial customers your prices are determined by four things:
How much you use
When you use it
The maximum you use in any half hour
The grid connection capacity
So a 35% power saving won't alter maximum demand or grid connection capacity needs as these are set by the data centre running at full chat. As the power savings will be maximised at lower utilisations (so off peak) the unit cost savings will be lower than Google's average unit rate as well.
At a guess this is a 5-7% cost saving on the total power bill rather than the claimed 20%. Still worth working for, but nothing to get in a lather about.
Re: You ignore China to your peril
"Whatever you think of China, it's a huge, huge, err pretty damn big market."
Not for software, or foreign IP, branded goods etc. A market is where you have a meeting of demand (a desire to purchase backed up by the means to pay), and supply (a willingness to sell at some price offered by a segment of potential buyers. China is still (on a per capita basis) a very poor country, and culturally (as with all emerging economies, including the US and Europe in their times) expensive stuff is there to be copied or stolen.
Re: Software piracy?
"However, a home brew OS would have the necessary protections from the government along with enforcement provisions."
Certainly the latter. But they've already tried this and failed. Who now remembers Red Flag Linux?
Given the vast number of alternative distros in Western markets, you might assume that home brewing an OS isn't that big a deal, but the reality is that there's precious few competing desktop operating systems, even from those regimes (China, Russia, Iran etc) who might seem to have a damn good reason to want an OS not under US control, and who you'd assume could throw the necessary resources at the matter.
Maybe all the recent NSA/GCHQ news has persuaded them that enough is enough, and they'll deliver Red Flag Linux 2 this time and force nationwide adoption (to be followed by all non-Western powers copying the approach but not the software). In that case the world's "security" agencies can sit back knowing that there's far less chance of easily snooping foreign powers, and they can concentrate on inspecting the underpants of their domestic populations. Many might conclude that was the real objective in the first place, because the political elite in all countries aren't really interested in real democracy, merely the sort that gets the right one person elected (eg Syria, Russia, China), or the supposedly "free world" version in which two sets of indistinguishable and incompetent clowns play buggins turn, not really minding who wins so long as they get their turn in due course (eh UK, US, France, etc).
Re: Double duty
"these days employers rarely provide employees a phone since everyone has their own"
Why do employees countenance using their personal device for work stuff? Done properly you've got all the corporate security and policy restrictions, and there's no way I'm letting my employers decide what I load on my phone. Alternatively you've got the problem that employees phones are not restricted by corporate IT policy, and the business is allowing all email traffic to be exposed to whatever malware the most cretinous user has loaded on their phone.
For SMEs, one man bands and business owners I see few problems, in the corporate world or data security paranoia I can't see why either side would want BYOD?
Re: PCCW is the NOW! Broadband (aka Netvigator) outfit?
"Maybe this is why they originally wanted the licences (though it seems unlikely) ?"
The rationale for companies buying things in markets a zillion miles from your home territory is usually a choice between the following:
1) The buyer doesn't understand what they are buying, but think they do, and will then be disappointed. This is 70% of most corporate company/asset/licence acquisitions.
2) The buyer doesn't understand what they are buying, know they don't, but are just doing it for ulterior motives (eg justify trips to exciting foreign location; engage bored and stupid executives in M&A to divert from the real chore of running a business; need to persuade investors that there's long term growth in new markets to cover a couple of bad quarters in the home market; churn up some tax losses; launder cash into a safer market away from dodgy home government etc etc). This is 20% of acquisitions, and where I put the PCCW licence purchases.
3) Once in a while companies do buy businesses they understand. This is rare (10% or less of all corporate deals), and even then only a fraction of these deals make money, because buying and profitably integrating a business requires commercial and operational talent, which is very different to understanding it, which is largely a technical consideration.
Re: not convinvced
"In fact, this seems a great thing for Mythbusters to look into..."
And you're volunteering to be the guinea pig? Good man!
Re: Mixed Views on this
It's more than home helps who will be on the scrap heap, given that the money is "for research into industries like manufacturing, agriculture, health, transport, civil security and household robotics".
Personally I don't think this has anything to do with household robotics, agriculture or health. The term "civil security" is a rather sinister one, and I think that's what the money's going to be spent on. The only hope is that this is after all the EU, so the chances of them being successful in building a Eurobocop is about the same as the chances of them getting their accounts successfully audited.
Re: TRAITORS@ I ain't Spartacus
"We also know that Iran has a nuclear program. But I've no idea what intel we have on why they've got it, and whether they intend to bargain it away, build it for safety, or even use it."
Do we know that? We know that they have civilian nuclear ambitions because they commissioned a power generating reactor to be built by the Russians. But if you read more widely than the mainstream Western press, it's interesting to see the extent to which the claims of WMD programs seem to come more from geopolitical antagonisms and deliberate management of the press by Western governments than to any real evidence that Iran has ever had much intention of building a bomb. If you recall, Saddam supposedly had WMD, and it all turned out to be a load of old c**k. Then Libya was supposedly buying nuclear weapons tech, which likewise appears to have been bluster and misinformation by both sides. In Syria there's quite a lot of evidence that the use of chemical weapons has been false flag activities intended to support intervention which was only hours away when British public opinion stopped Parliament from repeating the mistakes of Iraq all over again (and were matched by similar attitudes in the US), all this despite the BBC's propaganda machine breathlessly declaring that the Assad regime was using chemical weapons.
The interesting thing is that despite the lack of public support for all of these actual or potential interventions, there is clearly an influential constituency who are keen on war and foreign intervention. In the light of all that, are US claims of Iranian WMD any more credible than either Iranian denials, or the Iraqi dossier? Do we think that GCHQ-on-Sea is able to actually scoop Iranian intelligence because they send plain text emails via AOL about their plans?
And this is my problem with your proposition. Electronic spying, keeping things under wraps, depending on the "intelligence" gathered remotely keeping us safe, defending our economic interests, sounds all so pacifist and 21st century "peacekeeper". In reality this approach is why there's about 188,000 dead Iraqis (a number still increasing at around 50 per day, every day), and why the US is $2 trillion poorer, and the UK around $10bn. And the subsequent attempts to involve the West in further wars for no good reason show that nothing has changed, other than the fact that the peasants have had enough of losing costly wars started on the pretext of "intelligence".
"Now we wait for some idiot in a place like Blighty to say: "hey we can this here...""
You are behind the times!
DECC data issued a couple of days back shows that thanks to over-generous subsidies there is now around 3.2 GW of solar PV installed in the UK, and growing at around 15% per annum. That's two typical thermal power stations (sounds good if you love renewables, gaia, hippies and pandas) but of course the thermal plant will be available all year round, whereas the solar PV struggle to achieve 9% load factors in the UK. This capacity is actually about the same as the installed solar PV capacity in Australia. There's a subtle difference, because in Oz solar PV achieves a 14% load factor, which means that an antipodean solar PV array will produce 55% more power than a similar installation in the UK.
And just to make sure that the UK solar PV was as expensive as possible, the clowns of Westminster ensured the subsidies were directed to individual household level installations, ensuring no scale economies. That 3.2 GW is from 551,000 individual installed PV arrays. So that's at least 551,000 individual surveys, scaffoldings, connections, sale & warranties, 551,000 inefficient short lived consumer grade inverters, 551,000 arrays mostly with no cleaning or maintenance regime, 551,000 export meters installed, and 551,000 electricity customers getting fat subsidies off of the rest of the electricity consumers.
Re: How well does it ramp?@ Tom 7
"A large underground facility in the desert of Oz is going to be cheap "
I doubt it. Even if you built it in the centre of Sydney, London, or New York, the land would be a tiny part of the finished costs of high volume high temperature storage (although the ease of building in the middle of nowhere would make it a preferable choice to a currently populated location). In the middle of nowhere you also need to transport all equipment, personnel and materials.
The fundamental problem with energy storage is that the actual energy density is low, leading to high capex costs per useable unit of energy stored. And that's stored, not produced. There's plenty of storage technologies under development (CAES, molten salt, steam, power-to-gas) but few plants operating at scale, and few development paths to take successful pilots into low cost commercial designs. Molten salt heat storage (itself a formative technology) operates at lower temperatures than supercritical turbine-friendly conditions that the Aussies have shown can be produced from insolation, so to store that you would need something new, perhaps molten metal storage. And as the storage temperature goes up, the insulation requirements and conversion technologies become more challenging and the heat losses rise, and you're into very advanced materials science for all that high temperature, high pressure kit. To go much beyond the current molten salt heat storage technologies requires both new science, and science and manufacturing of a complexity directly comparable to nuclear power plants (in which case why not build nukes in the first place).
My personal view is that renewables are useless without storage, and we haven't yet cracked storage, ergo renewables are expensive toys. Having said that, I suspect that power to gas is the long term technology to beat, because chemical storage is an easier, cheaper, known technology, and the stored medium (either hydrogen or methane) has alternative uses in addition to power generation, such as transport fuel or feedstock gas.
Re: Perhaps it's time Amazon delivered a solution.
"I believe Wally world had the same unhappy ending when they came across the concept of trying to apply American staff relations to European employment laws."
Whilst I'm sure there's more than an element of that, I can't help thinking that if they didn't want to do the whole Roman thing, Amazon were berks for then establishing fulfilment centres in Germany, rather than at cross-border locations in Poland and Czech R, (and perhaps Holland to serve the Ruhr/Rhine cities).
Re: An honest question...
"From what I've heard, German copies had Nazis replaced by The Regime and all swastikas were replaced by another logo."
Re: Delusions and Dreams. An Economic Know-Nothings in the FT
"If the USA with its large economy can withstand the last popped bubble, surely China can too ! After all the economy is big (or already bigger now) and Manufacturing being so strong, can withstand the buffeting. They have no external debts like the US, either."
The US hasn't withstood the last bubble bursting. The vast bad debt pile hasn't been fully purged, neither trade nor budget are in balance. They've simply put off the reckoning by printing more money and increasing debt levels. That keeps things going for a while, but as any fule noes, the successful answer to a problem of too much debt is very unlikely to involve more debt. The US, UK, Europeans and Japanese are all trying to solve the problems they have by borrowing more, but over time the numbers are clear, that the marginal productivity of debt declines, meaning that when they started, each £1 of borrowing gave them (say) £2 of GDP. That was good, but the more you borrow the fewer good opportunities there are, meaning that now borrowing £1 buys you a few pence of GDP.
Japan is now exploring how bad things can possibly be made, with limited external debt. They have a declining population, and vast and increasing public debt owed to their own population. If China had learned one useful thing from the West, it should have been about the debt-related life cycles of empires, and the need for balance in all things - investment and consumption, budgets, and international trade. In a desperate bid to make themselves the world's largest economy they've sacrificed all those required balances, and pushed themselves into the same mess as the rest of us.
The ability of an economy to withstand this depends on having sufficient levels of accumulated wealth to absorb the losses (when they are recognised) from prior mis-investment. The US haven't fully done this because they tried to paper over the cracks with debt, but being a wealthy country they are better placed to take the hit, and have better capital reserves and saver protection. In China, when depositors find that the bank has folded on the back of dodgy property loans to local party officials, and taken their life savings, and the factory has closed leaving them with no job or income, how will that pan out?
Re: Three Reasons Why..... plus the fourth real reason
Unfortunately those are but a small part of the reason for China's GDP growth.
There's another more fundamental reason, and that's that they've printed and imported trillions to fund an unsustainable capital and infrastructure boom. All of the spending contributes directly to GDP, with a further multiplier effect as wages are spent, and materials and services paid for.
China is drowning in over-capacity of capital asset manufacturing plant, is building properties that there are no occupiers for, has a vast property price bubble (these usually don't deflate politely) and is busy building highways, railways, bridges, airports and ports for which there is no traffic.
In the first fourteen years of this century China's outstanding credit market debt went from $1 trillion to $25 trillion. China has 1.5 billion (alright, BEEEEELLLIONN) tonnes of steel capacity, with demand about half of that. China has built more apartments standing empty than the entire housing stock of the UK and Germany combined. For me there's one number that sums up how distorted the Chinese economy is: In the two years 2011-12, China consumed more cement than the United States consumed in the entire twentieth century. You can talk about urbanisation, large population, workshop of the world as much as you like, but that doesn't explain either how China has made economic use of this volume of cement (and all related materials), nor how it will get off the treadmill of capital consumption without the sort of bust that will make 2008 look like a stroll in the park.
The much vaunted success of "red capitalism" is actually anything but. For China this is a toxic combination of traditional state central planning, leading to excess investment, combined with the use of excess debt common in capitalist bubbles. Sooner, maybe later it will end the same painful way as any other debt fuelled mis-allocation of capital.
Re: good news if
" Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve. Speed limits could even rise because average driving standards will improve."
Bwahahahahahahahahahahaaa! You think for one moment that the luddites of government are going to let cars go faster?
" I've done a bit of this in the past. We only asked for the numbers, which could be passed back to the party to check if any of their expected supporters hadn't turned up and might be offered a lift or whatever"
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the major political parties that if they want people to vote, then trying to chivvy prospects to the polls may not be the best solution.
A better approach might be to run the country for the benefit of the electorate, not MP's and their mates? To stop spending vast sums that the country doesn't have? To offer a simple level of basic competence when in office, and constructive criticism (rather than pompous grandstanding) when in opposition? To stop electing leaders and selecting ministers who are TOTALLY unrepresentative of the electorate, often have no credible work or life experience? To stop talking complete 5hit about "hard working families" whilst allowing global mega corps to pay no tax, and whilst running the printing presses to transfer wealth from savers? To stop lying all the time about everything? To be open and honest about problems facing the country?
On second thoughts Julian, I think they'd better stick to placing a few wrinklies outside the polling station and having car on call for anybody who's forgotten that democracy needs them.
Re: Poor network
"Vodafone must be relying quite heavily on massive corporate contracts including within the public sector."
Maybe, but I doubt it. Most mass subscriber industries (insurance, energy, telecoms) operate on continuing churn, mostly driven by dissatisfied customers. You may leave Voda, but somebody else is joining them because they're pissed off with O2, and so on.
In financial terms it never pays to reward loyalty, because if you keep the best deals for your "oldest" customers, you can't offer the best deals to acquire new customers, so your business shrinks.
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?
- 'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
- Pics Facebook's Oculus unveils 360-degree VR head tracking 'Crescent Bay' prototype
- Crawling from the Wreckage THE DEATH OF ECONOMICS: Aircraft design vs flat-lining financial models
- Bargain basement iPhone shoppers BEWARE! eBay exposes users to phishing vuln