* Posts by Nick Carter

35 posts • joined 21 Apr 2010

UK.gov threatens to 'pull plug' on smart meter rollout

Nick Carter

@The BigYin

I suppose I'm naive enough to think that one day we'll have secure web login without relying on passwords only (like when I use my card reader for internet banking). Maybe you think that's impossible. You are obviously confident enough to reply to me using just password security.

As for spot price switching, yeah I know it's laughable with the "free" market system we currently live under but I like to dream.

Nick Carter

Cost reductions

Yes, it would allow some cost reductions by firing meter readers. Whilst I sympathise with those losing their jobs, do we really need to provide employment by keeping things inefficient?

Also it would be possible to allow the consumer to configure their smart meter (via the web) to switch between alternative generating sources (i.e. renewable, nuclear, coal, gas) according to the relative spot price of each source rather than (or in addition to) switching between supply/distribution companies. Those keen on renewables, for example, could set their meters to only switch away from the renewable tariff to one of the others when the non-renewable tariff is 80% of the renewable tariff (or choose your preferred generating source and price premium).

This would cut costs by getting rid of the administrative burden of price comparison/switching web sites and the legions of doorstep (mis)sellers, But again, that would mean job losses.

Proper regulation is needed to get rid of the plethora of confusing tariffs, and cap unit prices to pass on cost savings to the consumer. Maybe re-nationalise the whole edifice and cut out the administrative duplication of dozens of chief executives, sales teams, head office buildings etc.

Where am I going tomorrow? My electric car charger wants to know

Nick Carter

Unused Petrol

If the refineries have any surplus fuel left over then why can't they use it to generate electricity to feed into the grid? I'm sure that someone will think of a use for all that surplus electricity.

Sandi Toksvig puts the 'n' into cuts - on the Beeb

Nick Carter
IT Angle

Boring technical solution

Perhaps digital broadcasting of pre-recorded, edited programmes could have each part flagged with appropriate age restriction tags. So when a not-suitable-for-children gag comes along then it is given the relevant tag. Parents (or any other listener) could then configure their digital tuner so that the joke is replaced by a long bleep.

ps. Wasn't it Billy Connelly who described a Country singer as "putting the cunt into country"? I think it was in the Secret Policeman's Ball.

pps. Mike Harding said in an aside that he thought Kenny Everett said "Lets bomb the Russians" - thought he'd misheard the word 'bomb'.

Radio 4 bumped off Freeview by Gaelic TV

Nick Carter

Re: Why do we even have Radio on Freeview anyway

I prefer radio on Freeview+ because I can record programmes and timeshift them to a more convenient time. Not all programmes are available on IPlayer or podcast download, and there's no time limit for keeping them.

Gov axes £35bn Severn Barrage tide-energy scheme

Nick Carter

Financial calculations

Nobody seems to have bothered looking at it from a Return on Investment (ROI) angle.

Let's accept the Reg figures (£35bn construction costs, 17 terawatt hours per year). The retail price of electricity is approx 11 pence per kWh (£0.11); 17 tWh = 17bn kWh. Therefore annual income from selling the electricity to consumers is 17bn x 0.11 = £1.87bn per year. Subtract £120m per year for maintenance costs = £1.75bn per year = 5.0% ROI.

Considering the dismal rates of return currently available elsewhere, I think that's worth investing in. I'd be happy to buy a few thousand quids worth of Severn Barrage Investment Bonds to help build it.

If however (as seems more likely) the construction costs are closer to the more realistic £15bn - £22bn, and the cost of generating electricity from non-renewable sources skyrockets as oil and uranium runs out (shortly followed by natural gas and coal when the Russians & Chinese keep it all to themselves), then the Return on Investment will beat any other investment in global financial history.

And unlike nuclear power there aren't any decommissioning or waste disposal costs. Why would you want to decommission the barrage? It could be kept operating for centuries.

General Motors bitchslaps Tesla with Range Anxiety™

Nick Carter

@Blain Hamon

I like your tongue-in-cheek remark "just make our electric grids to handle several orders of magnitude more power than normal with no cost or problem!".

Have you (or anyone) calculated how much extra load would be put on a smart grid if we converted all road transport to electric (with extra rail freight lines to replace road freight)? I doubt it would be "several orders of magnitude more".

Do you think that the present sized grid has always been this size? I was under the impression that it has been expanded over the decades. Yes, it costs money but so does every infrastructue upgrade. It's called investment.


Keep taking the tablets.

Nick Carter

Peak Oil

Intervening replies seem to have addressed the issues of voltage & current; I'd assume that the battery container would have the necessary electronics to cope with whatever brand of battery(ies) it contains. I don't see how the internal chemistry of the batteries is relevant here, that's covered by the V/I issues.

As has already been said we are in the early stages of EV manufacture where there is little thought to standardisation (e.g. Betamax versus VHS), but it will come eventually.

It would be more efficient to standardise all our land based energy requirements to electricity rather than the present hotch-potch of separate distribution systems (Natural Gas, Heating Oil, Diesel, Petrol, LPG, Sperm Whale Oil etc.).

We have already reached Peak Oil in 2006 when demand exceeded supply. The price spike we saw then gave us the global recession we're still stuck in which reduced oil demand below the inexorably reducing supply. We have to convert to renewable energy for all forms of energy use.

You could faf about making liquid fuel from atmospheric CO2 and sunshine and trying to maintain the existing distribution systems but HVDC from CSP is my favourite.

Nick Carter

Re: Peter Gathercole 15:43 GMT

The infrastructure for charging batteries would improve in parallel with battery technology advances. So battery recharging stations would incorporated flywheel tech or massive capacitors (located in the no longer used underground fuel tanks) which would be charged at off-peak times but could give the necessary high current boost for rapid charging.

And you are assuming that everybody would want a full, rapid charge at every recharging station. Most recharging would be trickle charge topping-up at home, work or at street charging points.

Obviously grid capacity would need upgrading to replace the liquid fuel distribution network, and renewables (and fusion) would need to be brought onstream to supply the extra non-fossil fuel demand, but I don't think these issues are insurmountable.

Nick Carter

Re: Hazzardous Materials

What is all this crap about "VERY toxic materials in the batteries"? Plutonium? Cyanide? If you're depressed about the prospect of electric cars then get your doctor to prescribe some Lithium pills.

As for our 'overloaded' electric grids, I suggest we upgrade them.

And get the electricity from CSP like the Desertec project.

Nick Carter

@SImon Hobson 13:36 GMT

I think you've already answered your own criticisms. If battery swapping was implemented the car makers would be legally constrained to use the same battery pack, just as they are constrained now to ensure their vehicles can be refueled at any fuel station using any brand of petrol/diesel etc.

The batteries can still be altered (ie improved), it would just be the battery container dimensions and connections that would be standardised. For example, the lead-acid batteries used now can be any brand as long as they fit into the space provided. A smaller, more efficient, battery could just be padded to size with lightweight materials.

Nick Carter

@AC 13:36 GMT

A few years ago car phones were a niche market because before cellular technology there was only enough frequency space for a few hundred phones per city. Innovations in battery technology are bound to occur as long as there are enough people willing to be early adopters to provide the revenue to plough back into research.

You say "batteries are environmentally unfriendly to make". As far as I understand it once a Lithium battery reaches the end of its life then it should be possible to recover all of the Li it contains to manufacture new batteries (assuming Lithium doesn't leak out during normal use). The same applies to other metals like Titanium. Batteries won't be like catalytic converters which spew out particles of rare and expensive metals which can't be recovered.

Battery swapping is an excellent idea, other replies have covered the ageing problem by counting charge/discharge cycles to price the battery swap fairly.

Energy-saving LEDs 'will not save energy', say boffins

Nick Carter

LEDs and world food production

As both photovoltaics and LEDs get more efficient then it would be possible using multi-storey hydroponics to grow more per hectare. The electricity from 30% efficient PV (or concentrated solar in some places) could power LED lighting which emits light at the optimum wavelength for photosynthesis.

Nick Carter

@Fred Flintstone

I assume you're talking about trace quantities of mercury in CFLs. If that mercury ends up in a landfill and oxidises won't the landfill be no more of an environmental hazard than the original mine that the mercury ore was extracted from? That would surely be better than the mercury that goes direct into the atmosphere from coal burning.

I think any discounts you might have noticed on CFLs is the usual drop in cost/price due to mass production.

As for the other own goal you postulate - yes, money is made from energy sales and governments tax it, but won't that lower the tax burden elsewhere in the tax system?

Cleveland residents get RFID-equipped recycling

Nick Carter

Lockable bins

Wouldn't it be sensible to have a locking bar that goes over the wheely bin lid which unlocks when the bin is turned upside down for emptying?

People have no bloody idea about saving energy

Nick Carter

@AC 22:47 GMT

I've taken the trouble to do a bit of research because clearly you haven't.

The lumens per watt for a Quartz halogen is typically 24, whereas high intensity LEDs are >45 lm/W. So obviously if you replace a 20W halogen with a 2W LED it's going to be dimmer because you'll be replacing 480 lumens with 90 lumens. To get the same lumens you'd replace the 20W halogen with about 10W of LED.

The cost isn't 10-fold. In the long-term (and LEDs do last for the long term without significant dimming) you'd get a payback. This is similar to the short-term/long-term cost comparisons between Incandescent and Compact Fluorescent - upfront cost versus long term savings. Like the previous contributor mentioned you also save time & hassle in replacing halogens.

As for replacing inefficient fridges, I replaced my 20 year fridge which I found was using >700kWH per year with an A+ rated using <150kWH/year. It paid for itself in less than 3 years. I was waiting for the old fridge to die but then decided to make some measurements and replaced it pronto. The energy consumption of most appliances is often the LARGEST cost in TCO not the smallest.

And as for the crap about using incandescent lighting to heat your house: I live in the UK and don't heat my house all year so the heat given off by lights would be wasted for 8 months per year. Lighting requirements in winter aren't a lot different from other times, I sleep through most of the hours of darkness. Incidentally, in winter my space and water heating is provided by a wood burning stove so heat from electric lights would probably save me a couple of logs per winter which wouldn't save me any money (I haven't yet needed to pay for wood). Also, not all domestic lighting is indoors, and where air con is used the heat from lights would be a double waste.

Nick Carter

Every little helps a little bit

Or to put it another way, if everyone in the world reduced their energy consumption by 0.01% then we'll reduce global energy consumption by 0.01%.

Nick Carter
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RE: Lifetime of CFLs

I agree, I first started fitting mine in 1990 (those jam jar sized ones), and only one has failed so far (after about 10 years of daily use).

I too am investigating LEDs; mainly cos they are easier to run off 12V so keep going in a power cut. Yes, they are a bit pricey but like all semiconductor tech to do with energy efficiency/renewables (photovoltaics, invertor parts) I expect the price will come down with mass production efficiencies.

Nick Carter

@Cameron Colley 09:23 GMT

How many empty bottles do you need to get rid of? Are they piling up a crate a day? If you have that many then you have a consumption problem not a recycling problem.

Nick Carter

@Adam Salisbury

KilowattHours = Kilowatts * Hours

But this isn't much help with my fridge example unless you use a plug-in energy monitor dedicated to the fridge and monitor it for the whole year because you don't know how often the compressor's running (I suppose one day's monitoring could be reasonably extrapolated though).

I don't think there are any rules for household central heating temperatures, though I've heard that it's advisable for the elderly or infirm to tweak the temperature higher than most people require.

Nick Carter

Bottle Banks

Unless you're housebound there is no reason why you can't take your bottles to the bottle bank when you're going that way anyway. Most supermarkets or shopping areas have bottle banks nearby.

Nick Carter

Energy Monitors

We are often told how much energy we could save just by monitoring it. But knowing that your fridge uses 60W when the compressor's running doesn't tell you how many kWHours it uses over a year. Knowing that the kettle uses 3KW when running doesn't tell you how to make a cuppa more efficiently. So how do you save 25% without any impact on your daily routine? If you are having fewer cuppas or fewer hot showers/baths then it must be impacting your routine.

And to comment on that oft repeated chestnut about turning the thermostat down by one degree: it would be more helpful to suggest to people what temperature they should turn their thermostats down to e.g. 19C. That might mean some people change from 28C to 19C rather than just 28 to 27.

UK.gov finally kills ContactPoint

Nick Carter

Database design

It seems to me that those who design government databases haven't got a clue how to grant different access privileges to different roles. It's an 'all or nothing' approach with either 300,000 people granted full access to every row and column of the DB or just a few granted that same full access and no one else getting any access at all. Don't they know that different levels of access can be granted to different users according to that user's specific/permitted needs?

The Register comment guidelines 2010

Nick Carter

Anonymous Cowards

Could we have a way to uniquely label ACs within a thread? (e.g. AC1, AC2 etc) so that we can tell when an individual AC is posting multiple comments.

UK.gov may cut BBC licence fee in 2012

Nick Carter

less money = less quality

How will this help cut the massive deficit? It'll just mean less money for quality programme making, the game shows and soaps will continue being churned out because they fill the hours quite cheaply but the excellent BBC4 and BBC2 documentaries and comedies will probably get axed (and quite a lot of radio too).

Most new 2009 EU powerplant was wind oops, gas

Nick Carter

Re: Andrew Bush - Coal not Gas

You say that gas can be used for heating in the home "at up to 92% efficiency". This may be true for a minority of homes that have upgraded their boilers (perhaps using the 'boiler scrappage' scheme), but most gas heating is appallingly inefficient. Also there's the cost of gas leaks to fix, Carbon Monoxide poisoning due to bad installations, and the high cost of regular gas appliance servicing.

It would clearly be more efficient to convert all domestic heating (gas and oil) to electric with an updated method of off-peak storage (like storage heaters but with something more advanced like a central buried molten salt heat store where a home has got a ground floor).

Combined with smart grid technology we'd be ready for an increased proportion of renewable generated electricity (eg. Desertec project).

'Biggest thing in farming for 10,000 years on horizon'

Nick Carter

Agro Culture

I'd just like to point out that I'm no farmer either.

Big EU imports of Sahara sun-power coming soon?

Nick Carter

Re: Barrage

Yes, I do realise how deep the strait is - there was a particularly gripping episode of 'Das Boot' that illustrated that point. It wouldn't be the first seriously grand civil engineering dam project to be built or proposed e.g. Three Gorges Dam (2,335 metres long, 185 metres High) or the Severn Barrage.

There would probably be many other objections on aesthetic grounds to the Med being dropped by a few metres, like Ibiza and Formentera becoming one island or Venice no longer enjoying its watery views.

Maybe the Adriatic could be reclaimed to relocate populations displaced by rising sea levels?

Nick Carter
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Desertec website

Thanks for the above link. I think nearly all the comments/objections are covered by www.desertec.org/en/concept/faq/

Nick Carter


What would be chemical feasability of adding Hydrogen (from electrolysis) to coal to give methane which can then be exported by the usual methods (I think Algeria exports natural gas now). Obviously the coal would have to be brought in from somewhere else and this would still involve CO2 emissions, but at least some of the energy content would be from renewables. Or the world's supply of ammonia based fertilizers could be manufactured close to the CSP plants (and why not relocate all energy intensive but low labour industries to where the solar plants are (See Mike Richards comment above about Aluminium smelters).

Nick Carter

Protecting Installations

I suspect that the countries where the CSP installations will be built in the Sahara, like Algeria & Libya will be very keen to protect these facilities themselves to maintain a valuable source of income to replace dwindling oil revenues now that the world has passed peak oil. Unlike oil there is nothing to gain by holding back production in an attempt to manipulate the price because solar power can't be easily stored in situ so would be wasted if it isn't exported as it is being generated.

If CSP is spread over many North African states then it will be less easy for one state to corner the market or operate a cartel.

Nick Carter
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UK Energy Imports

The naysayers dismiss any renewable energy initiative because it won't be able to provide 100% of the UK's energy requirements, as if we're currently self-sufficient in indigenous fossil fuel/uranium reserves. Maybe there was a time when we had enough North sea oil & gas and working coal mines but that isn't the case now. They're confusing electricity generating capacity self-sufficiency with energy self-sufficiency.

I see nothing wrong with importing a substantial part of our energy requirements in the form of electricity from CSP in the Sahara instead of importing it in the form of fossil fuels and uranium.

As for storage, if a barrage was built across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean allowed to drop about 6 metres by evaporation (The Med would dry up in about 1000 years, about a metre per year, if it wasn't constantly replenished from the Atlantic), then the Med could be used as a massive pumped storage reservoir and Solar-Hydro generating system.

Most parts of the world have deserts which could be utilised for CSP, maybe South Africa's electricity shortages could be solved by installing CSP in the Kalahari and Namib deserts?

BT signs first smart meter deal

Nick Carter

Spot price tariff switching

Perhaps it might be possible to allow the consumer to configure their smart meter to switch between alternative generating sources (i.e. renewable, nuclear, coal, gas) according to the relative spot price of each source rather than switching between supply/distribution companies.

Those keen on renewables, for example, could set their meters to only switch away from the renewable tariff to one of the others when the non-renewable tariff is 80% of the renewable tariff (or choose your preferred generating source and price premium). The user configuration would be done via the web (First:Utility already allows online monitoring by the customer).

I suspect that the 'smart' meters we get won't be capable of this though.

Broadband boss: 'The end of freeloading is nigh'

Nick Carter

broadcast downloads

I wasn't proposing this to replace iPlayer on the internet but as an addition to ease broadband congestion (and to enable those with slow connections to use iPlayer for the first time).

The kit to receive freeview on your pc costs about the same as a freeview set-top box. It would just need additional software to enable off-air downloading. My thought is that a whole freeview multiplex could be used for downloads for each transmitter area so the download speeds would be comparable to, or exceed, broadband. Therefore a 1 hour programme would download in a few minutes not a whole hour. There's a limited number of programmes that can be requested so your less popular choice would soon move to the top of the list and it wouldn't be 1 queue for the whole UK but a queue for each transmitter.

Bear in mind that each digital multiplex has many simultaneous real-time broadcasts, for example all transmitters use Multiplex 1 and Multiplex B for the entire BBC TV & radio output - the equivalent spectrum space of 2 analogue TV UHF channels. So if 1 or 2 additional multiplexes were added for downloads then this would be feasible. Obviously it would need to wait for the analogue switch off.

Nick Carter

broadcast downloads

Wouldn't it be more practical if all the iplayer and podcast downloads were done using one or more dedicated freeview channels? It would just require a freeview receiver plugged into your pc, then on the respective BBC website there would be an option to download the program/podcast via freeview. Everyone's download requests would be put in the queue for their download transmitter with the most requested downloads in that transmitter area moving up the queue fastest according to cumulative waiting time since each request was submitted. Everyone would receive the download at the same time instead of separately via the internet.

Other broadcasters could use the same method with their own freeview channels (or even ISPs could use the system for other non-broadcast downloading to save on broadband congestion).

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