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”.

Endnotes

i https://www.energynetworks.org/newsroom/around-one-million-people-affected-by-storm-damage-to-power-network

ii https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59506359

iii https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-59457927

iv https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-59483500

v https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59396135

15 Comments

  1. AFAIK, wind has yet to disable a gas pipeline system in Britain. Perhaps because they’re buried.

    Like

  2. I find myself staring into space thinking, “How prepared am I if the grid falls over?” My answer: not very.

    Like

  3. Like

  4. “Storm Arwen: Homes without power for 12 days is ‘best estimate'”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-59516192

    “The electricity supplier for the North East has warned that some homes will still be without power on Wednesday – 12 days after Storm Arwen struck.

    Northern Powergrid (NP) said its “best estimate” was that all of its 6,600 customers still off would be connected by Thursday.

    Earlier, a major incident was declared in Northumberland and the Army was drafted in to County Durham for help.

    In Cumbria, 1,300 households were without electricity on Friday evening.

    Regulator Ofgem has launched an “urgent” review into the energy network companies’ response to the widespread cuts.”

    Like

  5. Letters in the Herald in Scotland, pulled together by Willie Jackson at Scotland Against Spin:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ScotlandAgainstSpin/posts/5197470703615283/

    I particularly liked this one:

    “Where are Greta Thunberg, Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie now to explain to the thousands of households in the north-east still without power the benefits of being solely dependent on electricity with no gas or log burners or oil or solid fuel stoves or oil or gas boilers? Sole dependency on air heat source (AHS) pumps? I don’t think so.

    As an aside, I have yet to have it explained to me how an AHS pump is to be fitted onto the back wall of every tenement flat, in back courts with restricted vehicle access, and I see no sign yet of the further disruptive works necessary to instal car charging points every couple of metres along every pavement.

    In 2013 we on the west coast of Arran suffered considerable snow drifts and a continuous seven-day power loss, but with an oil Aga, and for cooking and water heating a gas hob and a log-burner and back up mobile cylinder gas heater, life was okay. But the three aforementioned experts want us to rip all that out in preference for their as-yet only alternative, the totally
    impractical AHS pumps. No thank you: back to the drawing board for that idea, as the last few days has proved elsewhere.
    And by the way, the diesel four by four SUV kept us mobile during that week and able to render assistance to others less fortunate than ourselves.

    Neil Arthur, Kilpatrick, Isle of Arran.”

    There are others saying much the same thing, if you follow the link above.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Storm Arwen: Snow, rain, and wind set to hit homes still without power”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59535707

    “Snow, rain, and wind have been forecast to sweep across areas still affected by power outages from Storm Arwen.

    Thousands in northern England and Scotland remain without power after the storm more than a week ago.

    The Met Office issued snow and rain warnings for these areas overnight on Saturday, with poor weather also expected into next week.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “remains concerned” so many properties are still without power.

    Around 4,700 homes across northern England and Scotland are still without electricity after the storm hit on 26 November, industry body the Energy Networks Association confirmed….

    …However, on Monday and Tuesday the UK is set to see more wind, rain, and snow – with strong winds expected on Wednesday too.

    Northern Powergrid previously said many of the affected homes could be without power until Wednesday, which will be 12 days after the storm’s 98mph gusts tore down electricity lines….”

    Like

  7. “Generators from Southampton for people still suffering power loss in Cumbria”

    https://cumbriacrack.com/2021/12/05/generators-from-southampton-for-people-still-suffering-power-loss-in-cumbria/

    “Workers from Electricity North West have brought generators from as far away as Southampton for people still suffering power loss after Storm Arwen.

    The firm said last night that it was still working to restore power to the final few properties affected by Storm Arwen and fewer than 120 customers remained affected.

    Electricity North West’s Regulation and Communications Director, Paul Bircham, said: “Our teams have made a huge effort to restore power to impacted customers as quickly as possible, in extremely difficult conditions. Although our restoration efforts are almost complete our work will continue to rebuild the network now that customers are back on.

    “We have had generators brought up to Cumbria from as far away as Southampton to to get people back on in areas where the damage is too complex for an immediate fix.””

    Generators. From Southampton. Not very green, but then “green” solutions don’t work.

    Like

  8. Jit: “I find myself staring into space thinking, “How prepared am I if the grid falls over?” My answer: not very.”

    That thought crossed my mind a few weeks ago and I surprised myself by taking a few steps – I’m usually a procrastinator extraordinaire:
    > Bought a “power block” that will recharge phones, iPads, etc up to about 20 goes.
    > Bought an extra surge protector so that all sensitive/ valuable stuff is protected: desktop; router; TV; etc. Even if any outages are controlled, there is likely to be some voltage disturbance, etc and sudden failures would be worse.
    > Exhumed an old, plug-in corded phone as I believe that the BT network has its own backup whereas mobile towers often do not.
    > Keep car fuelled to at least 50% to see me through another spell of panic-buying, should it happen.
    > Increased general stocks of non-perishable stuff, not so much against shortages but in order to ride-out any panic-buying episodes.
    > Increased my cash ready to be able to pay for stuff if the lights go out.
    > Check my torches, candles, batteries, logs, etc..

    Ideally I would like to find a power back-up that would run the pump and controls of my gas heating but I’m struggling as everything I’ve found seems designed for servers, etc..
    I thought about a genny but that’s a lot of hassle and pretty expensive if I wanted it integrated into my house electrics.
    Lastly I’m toying with adding to the “heat sink” capacity of my freezer by putting something hefty in it – a few bricks, for example. That would both help it stay cold and/or could be placed in the fridge section to do the same.

    What other measures are relatively cheap and easy?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a bit of an old story, so forgive me if it has already been covered on Open Mic, but I think that the testimony given by Paul McGimpsey, director of regulation at the Energy Networks Association, in front of MP’s is worth recording here. When asked why it was taking so long to restore power to customers, he said:

    “It’s not the prevailing wind that you would expect and as such trees fell differently on to the lines.”

    So it appears that when routing cables through wooded areas the engineers had quite sensibly taken the expected prevailing wind direction into account. Which is fine, until it isn’t. The fact is that Storm Arwen wasn’t the worst that the North East of England had seen in 15 years, it was just the most north easterly one. The evidence is that the energy network engineers had planned to have occasional large scale damage in preference to the more frequent but more moderate level of damage that might arise from a more haphazard cable routing strategy.

    Nevertheless, a certain Debbie Noble of Rothbury, wryly observed:

    “If we can only protect our lines from breaking when the wind blows in a certain direction, then we have a bit of a problem.”

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16970491/energy-bosses-power-cut-crisis-wind/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Meanwhile:

    “Gas crisis fuels call for UK to update energy security policy
    As rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine drive prices to record highs, experts warn of lack of strategy for gas supply”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/dec/15/gas-crisis-fuels-call-for-uk-to-update-energy-security-policy

    “Ministers are relying on an outdated energy security policy, leading academics have warned, as escalating tensions between Russia and western leaders propelled the gas market to record price highs.

    UK gas reached a record closing price of 322.5 pence per therm on Tuesday, according to data from market price experts at ICIS, vaulting ahead of the previous high of just over 298p/therm set in early October this year.

    A record was also set in Europe, as the benchmark market in the Netherlands rose to a record €127.45 per megawatt hour, according to ICIS data, breaking through the €116.75/MWh ceiling set in October.

    The price spike was triggered by concerns over deteriorating relations with Russia, one of the largest suppliers of gas into Europe, which prompted international condemnation after massing 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border.

    The market surge came as the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC), a group of academics funded by the government’s UK Research and Innovation body, called for a review of the country’s energy security policy, warning ministers had been “complacent about the supply of gas for too long”.

    Government policy, last updated in 2017, is now out of date and homes may face further volatility in the future, the UKERC cautioned, saying the gas crisis was “not just for Christmas”….”.

    Like

  11. “Net zero chance of coping with storms”

    https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/net-zero-chance-of-coping-with-storms/

    “…Consider this: after days without an electricity supply, many in the North East were still able to charge mobile phones in their cars, enabling them to call friends or authorities for help. They could still get to the shops to buy food, or even move in with friends and relatives who still had power.

    How will this work in a net zero world? Would your electric car battery have any charge when you woke up the morning after the storm? If the power cut was in the evening, then almost certainly not – most people will schedule EV charging for the middle of the night, when power is cheapest (and indeed off-peak charging may soon be compulsory). Moreover, ahead of a major storm, grid managers are likely to switch off all EV chargers remotely. If they didn’t, the demand from millions of people worried about the possibility of power cuts, and all trying to top up their batteries at the same time, would bring down the grid.

    So, after a future Storm Arwen, tens of thousands of people would wake up to find themselves stuck: no getting food or medicine from the shops, no escape to friends and relatives, no visits to emergency relief centres. Through policy foolishness, an entirely natural winter storm could become a manmade disaster….”.

    Like

  12. thanks for the link above Mark – by the Bish (Andrew Montford) no less.

    to add to your quote – “As the lemming-like rush towards the abyss of decarbonisation proceeds, it is clear that electricity system vulnerability is going to become a serious issue – one that threatens lives.”

    Like

  13. Among today’s news of 2 tragic deaths resulting from the second major winter storm, comes confirmation of the stupidity of electrifying everything in sight, for the second time this winter:

    “Storm Malik: Boy, 9, dies after tree falls during storm”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60183035

    “…About 20,000 properties in Scotland are expected to remain off the power grid all night, and Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney predicted further problems with the arrival of Storm Corrie.

    Northern Powergrid, which supplies power to about 3.9m homes in the north east of England and Yorkshire, said 36,000 customers were still without power as result of Storm Malik, mostly in Northumberland and County Durham….”.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Here we go again:

    “Storm Eunice leaves thousands of homes without power”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60442797

    “Energy companies are working to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes after one of the worst storms to hit the UK in decades….

    …Number of customers without power as of Friday night:
    UK power networks (Southeast and East): 156,000
    Scottish and Southern: 120,000 (mainly in the south)
    Western Power: 112,000
    Northern: 6,000 (mainly in Yorkshire)
    Electricity Northwest: 260
    Northern Ireland electricity networks: 15…”.

    What a great idea to make us all totally dependent on electricity for pretty much everything! Especially given that if the net zero warriors are to be believed, climate change will only make such storms more frequent and more serious (albeit of course the jury is certainly out on that, but not in their minds).

    Like

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