It is now almost a week since Storm Arwen (the first named storm of the season) hit the UK, causing significant damage, particularly in the east of Scotland and in the north east of England. Tragically, it resulted in three fatalities, and also in considerable damage to the country’ energy infrastructure, with the result that at its worst, customers were left without electricity in Scotland, England and Wales. According to The Energy Networks Associationi:
Damage to the power network from Storm Arwen has affected around 1,000,000 homes and businesses.
That is a staggering amount of damage and disruption from a single storm. One has to sympathise with both the engineers and others struggling to restore power to those affected, often in awful weather conditions, and those freezing in their homes without access to heat or light or the ability to cook or even warm up food.
Even today, although 3,000 homes have apparently seen power restored during the course of the day, 16,000 households continue to suffer, while outside temperatures remain very low (and so, presumably do indoor ones, in the absence of means to heat homes). And although it is hoped that significant progress will be made tomorrow, it is likely that some homes will still be without electricity as late as Saturday, more than a week after the storm struck and their power disappeared.
Not surprisingly, the thoughts of some unfortunate individuals have turned to the wisdom of purchasing [diesel] generators in case they find themselves in a similar situation in futureii:
Linda Dunk had the power restored to her Aberdeenshire home on Thursday afternoon after six days without heating, light or water.
She told BBC News she was looking forward to a hot bath after days which had seen her and her husband cooking on a one hob gas burner, using electric torches and flushing the toilet with a bucket.
She said they were going to get a generator as she thought the infrastructure had been so badly damaged there may be more problems later this winter.
“I don’t want to spend another six days like this, I’m too old,” she said. “I want to go to bed not worrying about these sorts of things.”
And indeed, in a modern, western, developed, wealthy country, such a desire shouldn’t be an unreasonable one. So what an indictment of the system that people now don’t feel confident unless they own a generator.
Moreover, what does this say for the “net zero” agenda? The agenda that will supposedly see the entire nation pretty much dependent on electricity for everything, from heating and cooking to driving and travelling. What happens when the demand on the infrastructure is so much more intense and another Storm Arwen or a cyberterrorist attack or perhaps some other as yet unforeseen eventuality takes out a significant proportion of the nation’s electricity supply?
The BBC has, in fairness to it, had dozens of articles on its website about Storm Arwen and its aftermath. I think an articleiii which appeared there three days ago probably sets out all too clearly what “net zero” Britain could look like if a storm or an attack damaged the nation’s electricity supply:
After three nights without electricity, residents in the parts of Scotland worst affected by Storm Arwen are growing weary.
In Torphins, Aberdeenshire, people are struggling to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures and are grateful for the hot food handed out by local good Samaritans.
Among them are Paul and Rebecca Murray, a father and his daughter, who are relying on the heat provided by a single gas heater….
…Paul and Rebecca have no phone signal to contact anyone and on Sunday there was no water. “It’s absolutely terrifying,” Rebecca said…
…”I don’t think we can go another night without power,” she said.
“It’s been really, really cold. We’re lucky, we’ve got a stove and lots of logs but obviously with more snow, it’s just maddening, absolutely maddening.”
She said that food in her freezer is starting to defrost and she has to walk to the main road to get signal on her phone…
…Meanwhile in Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Debbie Martin has bought a second-hand generator after recently switching to fully-electric heating…
…She told the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “You can’t do the things you would normally do.
“You can’t brush your teeth because your toothbrush is flat. You have to drive round in the car to charge your phone.
“To boil the kettle, I’ve been putting it on the log burner stove and it’s been taking an hour and a half.”…
…”We bought a second-hand generator in Dundee yesterday, so we’ve gone round a couple of neighbours’ houses to get their phones and iPads charged because people can’t contact relatives.”…
And in another BBC articleiv there was this:
Jayme Yates-Bell, from Kendal, has diabetes and kidney failure and said the situation she faced was “really challenging”.
“We need to know how long we’re going to be like this,” she said.
“I’ve got a fridge with my medicine in that’s now probably useless.”
Log burners, gas heaters, diesel generators, driving around in petrol or diesel (obviously not electric) cars to charge ‘phones are the tactics people have had to resort to in order to get by and live anything approximating to a normal life. I listened open-mouthed to Evan Davis on the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 the other day, as he casually asked an interviewee whether local authorities’ disaster recovery plans should include provision to supply (presumably tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands) of generators in future to people adversely affected by power cuts. The interviewee replied equally casually that perhaps they should.
And what conclusions are drawn by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State charged with overseeing all this?
He said the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy would be looking at the lessons of the storm, to improve the resilience of power system [sic].v
Which, I suppose, is better than nothing, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence. I’d be a bit happier if it dawned on him that being reliant on unreliable electricity for absolutely everything isn’t the best way forward. We have just been shown a vision of the future. welcome to Britain 2050. No wonder the Government doesn’t want a referendum on “net zero”.