I wrote Energy Through The Looking Glass almost a year ago, before the energy crisis had reached its current severe proportions, and several months before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Even then it was obvious that we were running into pretty serious problems, and since then things have deteriorated greatly. At the time, it seemed clear to me that our reliance on inherently expensive and unreliable renewable energy was responsible for many of our difficulties. Yet, at the same time, the usual suspects (most obviously writers at the Guardian) were doubling-down on telling us that this wasn’t the case.
I stand by everything I wrote at the time and by the arguments I then presented to undermine the claims made in the Guardian. It seems, however, that debunking the debunkers will be an ongoing task. This week the Guardian’s website included an article by Simon Evans (Deputy Editor and Policy Editor at Carbon Brief) headed “Is net zero really to blame for soaring energy bills in Great Britain?” with his negative conclusion in the sub-heading: “Despite frequent claims in rightwing media, green levies make up fraction of bills and renewables are reducing costs”.
I think it’s worth running through the points made by Dr Evans to see how valid these claims are.
The first claim, sadly, seems to be one of traducing one’s opponents’ arguments based on who one’s opponents are. The first few paragraphs are devoted to pointing out that the argument against renewables is ”rightwing commentary”, with individuals being singled out as fitting this bill (David Frost, Nigel Farage, Allison Pearson, Tim Newark, Iain Martin, Leo McKinstry and Steve Baker, and of course Liz Truss). As if that isn’t enough to damn the argument forever, we are given the added information that Nigel Farage is apparently a self-confessed admirer of Vladimir Putin. Not that it’s relevant what Farage thinks of Putin, but it’s worth seeing just how far out of context that claim has been lifted. A link is supplied to an article in the Express which cites Farage admitting in an interview with Alistair Campbell in 2014 that he admired Putin as an operator, but in which he went on to say that he disliked him as a human being, didn’t approve of him politically, and wouldn’t want to live in Russia.
However, I digress. It’s just worth considering sometimes the extent to which the man, rather than the ball, is played.
Fortunately the rest of the Guardian article seeks to deal with the issue of energy costs, though I think it’s fair to say that it raises a number of aunt Sallies before knocking them down, while ignoring some inconvenient facts.
First the argument over green levies (based on Liz Truss’ claims that if she becomes Prime Minister she will suspend them). Dr Evans argues that they are playing no part in rising energy bills, indeed that the opposite is true (I struggle with that, since surely the opposite would mean that they are helping to reduce bills, or at least to reduce the amount by which they are rising, in other words, the levies would have to be negative). We are told that they have fallen since the summer to around £150 a year, an average of 8% of bills. And this may be true, but it ignores the fact that these levies are also paid by businesses (who don’t have the benefit of a price cap, unlike domestic consumers), who seek wherever possible to pass these additional costs on to their customers, and if they can’t do so they may go bust. Furthermore, while (as the linked Carbon Brief report states) green levies (including those for social policy objectives, such as the warm home discount and the energy company obligation) may be around 8% of domestic bills, they represent 12% of electricity bills, but just 3% of gas bills. Had the current spike in gas prices not occurred, then the plan was to impose significant green tariffs on gas bills too. Had it gone ahead, it would probably have added around £170 per annum to domestic gas bills. If you choose to get your information from the Office for Budget Responsibility rather than from Carbon Brief you might conclude that “green” levies will cost us £13.8 billion this year alone – (renewables obligation at £6.6Bn; CfDs at £2.1Bn; capacity market at £600M; Feed-in Tariffs at £1.6Bn; Green gas levy – assuming it goes ahead – at £100M; renewable heat incentive at £1.1Bn; and climate change levy at £1.9Bn). Although many of those costs might ultimately be borne by households only indirectly (via costs passed on to them as consumers of businesses who pay some of the levies directly) that works out at around £500 per household per annum, not £150. In addition, the OBR anticipates that they will rise to £17.5 billion by 2026/27.
And of course, no mention whatsoever is made of the way in which renewable energy destabilises the grid, nor of the fact that every bit of green energy coming on-stream reduces not one jot the need for reliable back-up power (to cover the unreliability of renewables). Why, for instance, no mention of this?
In Great Britain, we are in the middle of a transformation, with the energy we use increasingly coming from cleaner greener sources. In 2019, for the first time since the industrial revolution, most of our electricity came from low carbon sources [sic]. National Grid is at the heart of that energy transformation – investing around £1.3bn each year to adapt and develop our transmission network to connect new sources of low carbon and green energy to our homes and businesses.
National Grid reveals £54bn wind power network upgrade plan
I reckon that alone isn’t far shy of £2,000 per household.
Almost a year ago I wrote this:
It’s also worth looking at the relative cost of electricity and gas in the UK. Admittedly the price of gas has shot up over recent days, and my domestic energy tariff is five months old, but even after recent gas price rises, gas is still cheaper than electricity, not least because – thanks to the unreliability of renewables – electricity costs have also shot up. My current domestic tariff is 14.795p per kWh for electricity, but a mere 3.921p per kWh for gas, making electricity almost four times more expensive than gas. Interestingly, the tariff it replaced had electricity at 10.269p per kWh and gas at 2.752p per kWh. Both had increased by close to 40%, but that wonderful renewable electricity hadn’t seen my electricity tariff rise by less than my gas tariff (actually, the electricity tariff rose by 44% while my gas tariff rose by 42.5%). What was that about renewables not suffering from from market-led problems? What was that about renewables being cheap? Surely, as the system relied more heavily on renewables when I renewed my tariff than when I signed up to my earlier one, that should have been reflected in my electricity tariff either having gone down, stayed stable, or at least not having gone up at the same rate as my gas tariff? Yet it wasn’t.
Since then, sadly, both my gas and electricity tariffs have increased substantially. Electricity is now charged at 28.02p per kW/h, while gas is 7.34p per kW/h. Electricity is now costing me 89% more than then, while gas is costing me just under 88% more. Gas continues to cost a little over a quarter of the cost of electricity. Shockingly, however much we all try to economise on our energy use, we will still now face significant bills, since the daily standing charge has risen (in my case) to 42.24p per day for electricity and to 27.22p per day for gas. As Carbon Brief acknowledges, these costs represent this:
Another 3% is due to the collapse of multiple energy suppliers last winter. The cost of managing the customers of these failed businesses is being passed on to households via their bills.
Of course, almost without exception, those energy suppliers claimed to supply “100% renewable electricity”. Note well also:
The National Audit Office estimates this will add £94 per household to annual bills, some £2.7bn overall. This excludes the cost [of] bailing out major supplier Bulb, which could reportedly reach £2bn.
Why are gas prices so high?
The next argument discussed is the suggestion that the net zero agenda has led to higher gas prices. A Daily Telegraph article is put up to be knocked down, it having made the claim that “’a conscious decision was taken to rapidly reduce the supply of fossil fuels’ in the UK.”
This argument is dismissed in a number of ways, some good, some less so. First of all we are told that the rising gas prices are a function of market fundamentals, and to a large extent that is undeniably true (though I struggle with the irony that, as Dr Evans tells us, cold winters have led to a surge in demand).
We are then told, less convincingly I think, that although UK gas production has been holding steady, reserves are running out (and we are here offered a link to a National Audit Office report). That report tells us that what used to be called “[t]he OGA [Oil & Gas Authority] estimates that the UK has 10 billion–20 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas reserves”. However, (and here’s the rub), the report also tells us that:
It is primarily a commercial decision for operators as to whether they continue to extract oil and gas using existing assets or invest in constructing new assets to extract new reserves.
In a market economy, no sane managers of a fossil fuel company would invest large amounts of money in the construction of new assets to extract new reserves when they are being told that:
The Department projects that electricity generation from natural gas will fall by 63% between 2017 and 2035, although there is uncertainty around this as it will depend on the availability of alternative generating sources such as renewables and nuclear power.
In other words, it’s a little more complicated than simply saying that reserves are running out, so there’s nothing to see here. Campaigners regularly go to Court to try to obstruct new oil and gas field developments. There are precious few incentives and plenty of disincentives in the “net zero” environment to seeking to bring new gas reserves in the North Sea on stream.
Next we are told that fracking in the UK has experienced a decade of failure, so that’s rapidly dismissed. This equally ignores the relentless campaigning against fracking and the borderline absurd rules imposed on fracking companies (but on no other industry so far as I am aware) regarding the limits on permissible earth tremors. In addition, an effective moratorium on fracking has been in place in the UK for almost three years now, while fracking is banned completely in Scotland to all intents and purposes.
Ironically, on the same day as the Guardian article appeared, we also learn from the Telegraph that an “[e]nd to drilling ban could produce much-needed supplies as early as January, according to government source”.
“There is even one fracking company who reckons they could even get some energy into the market by next winter if they were allowed to get cracking straight away,” said a senior Government source.
The firm, based in the north of England, has told the Treasury that if it is granted a fracking licence immediately, it is likely to be able to inject new supplies into the market by January.
Finally, regarding security of gas supply and price, the closure of the Rough storage facility some years ago is dismissed even more casually:
For the record, the decision to close Rough, formerly the UK’s largest gas storage site, was “nothing to do with net zero”, according to a government adviser at the time.
That may or may not be true, but I’d like more than a link to a tweet from Guy Newey (“helping clean tech companies thrive in the future energy system. Ex-PAD, SPAD, wonk, hack”) on 18th August 2022 saying “It has nothing to do with net zero” by way of substantiation. And whether the claim is right or wrong, the closure of Rough has undoubtedly left the UK seriously exposed, and a Government that wasn’t obsessed with net zero might surely have had a bit more to say about it at the time.
Renewables are “unreliable”
The final argument raised, only to be knocked down (albeit very unsatisfactorily) is the argument that renewables are unreliable and that they leave the UK exposed and dependent on foreign providers.
Well, they are unreliable, and unpredictable too. 2021 saw a wind drought, remember. Solar panels are little better than useless in winter, when energy demand is at its highest. As I write (it’s now after dark), the live status of the National Grid shows the UK’s electricity demand being supplied by coal (1.7%); gas (59.4%); pumped storage (2.3%); biomass – which many of us don’t consider to be “renewable” (10.2%); nuclear (15%); solar (0%, obviously); wind (3.1%); hydro (0.7%); and 4.6% via the interconnectors (with 2.9% attributed to “other”). Yes, you read that right – the much-vaunted wind was supplying 3.1% of our electricity. Not a terribly impressive performance on the part of renewables, in summer, when demand is low – hydro, solar and wind together currently supplying just 3.8% of our electricity needs, and therefore less than 1% of our total energy requirements. Sometimes, of course, renewables supply rather more. Reliable fossil fuel power plants are expected to ramp up and down at short notice to cater for the primary place given to renewables. It all adds to the cost. That extra cost never seems to be counted.
How does Dr Evans deal with the unreliability point? Well, he doesn’t. Instead he side-steps it. He simply states:
Yet renewables have generated enough electricity in 2022 to avoid the need for five times as much gas as the UK imported from Russia last year. Pearson is not only upside down but back to front: the more renewables the UK builds, the less “dependent on foreign providers” it will become.
No, Allison Pearson doesn’t have it upside down, or back to front. The electricity generated by renewables in 2022 has been generated unpredictably and unreliably. The existence of those renewables does not enable us to close our fossil fuel facilities – we still need them as back-up to cover the unreliability of renewables. I repeat, this doesn’t save us money; it adds to the costs, since we effectively need duplicate power-generating systems. The more renewables we have, the greater the costs.
If Alice’s adventures were written today, she would inhabit another looking-glass world.
On reflection, I think I may have given Dr Evans too easy a ride in not really challenging too much his assertion that rising gas prices are simply the result of market forces. Specifically, in his Guardian article, he said:
“The reality is that gas prices are soaring thanks to market fundamentals, from surging post-Covid demand to supply outages, cold winters, weak nuclear output and the invasion of Ukraine.
On top of that, Europe’s worst drought for 500 years is hobbling hydropower, restricting deliveries of coal and further squeezing French nuclear, all as a rash of heatwaves spike electricity demand.”
Gas prices were rising rapidly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and before this summer’s drought. Market forces having an impact on price are essentially the interaction of supply and demand. And while Dr Evans mentions some issues relating to both supply and demand, he underplays, to my mind, the fact that years of net zero dogma and signalling to the markets make it unrealistic to expect energy companies to invest significant sums in developing new supplies. That fact alone must, realistically, have massively hobbled the supply side of the supply and demand equation.
An excellent article in the Telegraph by Juliet Samuel makes this point very well:
Unfortunately it’s behind a paywall, but Paul Homewood has reproduced a significant section of it here:
I think this says it all rather well:
“Industry saw the writing on the wall. Utilities shut down their long-term gas contracting departments and began to buy gas at the going price on the day, fatally undermining security of supply and making new investment un-financeable. Fossil fuel producers began handing money back to investors. Even state-owned producers, like Qatar, cut investment on the basis that Europe (the UK included) had become an unreliable customer. In the first half of this year, even as Russia began to turn the screws, the West’s seven biggest oil firms spent more on dividends and share buybacks than on capital investment. They were only doing as they were told.
And now? Well, now, as “big oil” might say: “We just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face.” Europe needs gas. It is pleading for gas. Instead of flying media to gas fields to court capital, the oil and gas men are being flown to the capitals of Europe and begged to invest. Despite the incredible prices, they hesitate.
The meeting goes like this: “We need you!” say the politicians. The producers scratch their heads as they mull $20 billion, 20-year investments, and wonder whether, when the war is over and the green bandwagon rolls back into town, the politicians will still sound so sweet on them. “Your green targets still say we need to shut down by 2030,” they point out. To which Europe says: “Well, of course. Fossil fuels are evil!”
The upshot is that the market is broken and it is governments and do-gooders who broke it. They broke it wantonly, recklessly, touting their saintly intentions, and now we are all reaping the consequences.”
Paul also has another interesting article at his site, which plays into the question of conveniently ignored costs associated with net zero:
“Slated as the first large-scale pumped hydro storage scheme to be built in the UK for more than 30 years, Utility Week Innovate digs into plans to deliver up to 1.5GW and 30GWh of storage by 2030 at Coire Glas.”
This is at a cost of £1 billion. As Paul comments:
“The claim that it can power 3 million homes is the usual deceptive spin we get from the renewable lobby.
But how long would 30 GWh really last us?
In winter, the UK consumes about 1 TWh a day; that’s 1000 GWh, or 41 GWh every hour. Coire Glas will be able to supply this amount for 43 minutes.
The article claims that this sort of long term storage is vital if high levels of wind power are to be supported:
Large amounts of long-duration energy storage will be required to support accelerated renewable energy plans set out in April’s energy security strategy, in which the government increased its offshore wind target to 50GW by 2030 and committed to onshore wind and solar roll outs that could see 95% of power coming from low carbon sources by 2030.
What’s more, a government document published in August discussing the deployment of large-scale and long-duration electricity storage concluded that it has an important role to play in achieving net zero, integrating and maximising the use of renewables, contributing to security of supply, and shaking up Britain’s technology mix.
The reality is rather different. Less than an hour’s worth of storage is of little use, other than for balancing ups and downs in demand during the day, or hour to hour volatility in renewable generation. We would need hundreds of Coire Glas style storage plants to cover the periods of days and weeks on end, when the wind stops blowing.
And at a billion pounds a time, who is going to pay the bill?”
Net zero is an expensive and highly damaging fantasy that is wrecking the British economy and which might well end up destroying lives and businesses wholesale. Indeed, if people can’t afford to heat their homes this winter, it could well be fatal.
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Thanks Mark for the excellent summary of the terrible state of things and the desperate spinning that is going on to preserve the status quo. The arguments of Evans (and Ben Marlow in the Telegraph, also excerpted at Notalot) do not bear the slightest scrutiny. It was useful too of Juliet Samuel to remind us of the too-shiny Mark Carney and his blather about stranded assets. The assertion of a nincompoop or someone with vested interests. Neither he nor Marlow seems to have heard about supply and demand. You cannot reduce the supply until after you have reduced the demand.
A key point that you mentioned – as did Samuel, and I think I did in https://cliscep.com/2022/08/09/why-i-am-against-net-zero/ is that if we ask the gas extraction companies to invest in new fields, they won’t. Because they know that as soon as the current fires have been put out, it will be their heads on the block again. The only thing likely to get them on board for the long term is a firm commitment that they won’t be cancelled again. And who can give such a commitment?
I am a mild-mannered type, but it makes my blood boil to hear the sophistry that some folk engage in to keep the madness on track, to keep driving this country and its people into the ground. They will say anything except, “I am sorry. I was wrong.”
There is hope for us, and everyone, because the cracks are showing. More people are prepared to say in public what sceptics have been saying in their siloes for years. Bravery inspires the fearful.
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Another Telegraph article, so again behind a paywall, but the headline is enough to give us an insight into the (for now) PM’s through the looking-glass mind:
““Boris Johnson: Don’t give up on green energy””
Mark, it’s also on the front page. I think it’s a great idea. Let’s bang our heads against the wall some more to make our headache go away. The story also says that Boris is far more popular than either Truss or Sunak.
Sorry, it has taken me a while to get around to reading this. Keep flogging that dead horse. No one of any importance is listening, I’m afraid. 😦
John, whether or not these people are “of importance”, they’re certainly not listening!
“Green Tories back Johnson’s call for successor to invest in renewables
Outgoing PM to warn against focusing on short-term energy solutions in one of his final speeches”
Do these people live on the same planet as the rest of us? Have they not noticed that gas is producing around 60% (a proportion that has certainly not gone down of late_ of our electricity these days? Are they unaware that gas provides the essential back-up, required because of the general unreliability and uselessness of wind? Are they genuinely unaware of the costs that never seem to get counted – but which are nevertheless very real – associated with renewables, when they keep regurgitating their claims that renewables are cheap? Are they unaware that electricity in the UK is roughly 4 x more expensive than gas? And so on, ad nauseam…
A powerful analysis which I urge you to read. IMO it blasts Carbon Brief’s arguments out of the water:
“The Fantasy World of Renewable Energy”
This piece should be compulsory reading for all Parliamentarians and anyone involved with setting UK energy policy.
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Another superb demolition of Simon Evans and Carbon Brief:
“Energy: green lunacy
By Richard North – August 29, 2022”
Another piece that should be compulsory reading by those charged with designing and implementing UK energy policy.
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Mark; great review of the current situation….SNAFU, of course.
One other regular bleat from the windies is that they are “saving us money” on the basis that CfD rates are now well below market prices and producers are refunding the difference.
As you probably know, they conveniently forget that only a minor part of wind output is covered by CfDs. Almost all onshore and over half of offshore are under the ROC scheme whereby they are paid about £50/MWh (onshore) and £100/MWh (offshore) on top of the market price. So they are adding to power costs, not reducing them.
In a final twist the latest wind projects to come onstream have declined to take up their CfD contracts as they make much more money selling at the market price!
Yes, that CfDs are a farce has long been my understanding. I would love to write about this shambles, but I would wish to be on very firm ground before doing so, and my repeated attempts to get to the bottom of what appear to be hugely one-sided contracts (or options, as they may more accurately be described) have met with failure. I wonder why it’s so difficult to find out about them in detail? (I don’t really wonder – I suspect that I know why). Anyway, John Constable is a very impressive individual who really knows his stuff, so I am inclined to believe his description of the way in which they work (or, rather, the way in which they don’t work for the UK public).
“Electricity: Lack of capacity ‘holds back green energy'”
Irony piled on irony. They’ve opened it up to a Have Your Say. Fortunately some readers have made more sensible comments than some of those quoted in the article:
“The green roots of the energy crisis
Alex Epstein on the cost of demonising fossil fuels.”
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Mark & Mike – Mark, from your The Daily Sceptic link – partial quote
“We have seen in the last year that some wind farms have started to generate power but have not exercised their CfD contracts because the market prices that they expect to earn are so much higher than the CfD strike price. This is entirely up to them: the ‘contracts’ allow them to defer the start date or, indeed, to simply abrogate the agreement. One wonders who drafted these ‘contracts’ – the office cat?”
I have no clue how CfD work, but I always thought a Contract was a binding legal thingy, seems not, chuckles the cat knows more than me.
A few superb quotes here. The irony seems to pass the BBC by entirely:
“Rationing energy is nothing new for off-grid community”
Some recognition by Nils Pratley of the Guardian regarding the incoherent way in which renewables subsidies and “contracts” for difference work (or, rather, fail to work for the taxpayer and energy users):
“Wanted: a new energy contract for renewables and nuclear projects
Encouraging energy firms with old-style contracts to switch to new charging arrangements could save £44.4bn over six months”
Orsted has chosen to delay taking up its CfD contract at £73 per MWh, and instead is being paid at market rates. I wonder why the BBC didn’t mention that, and slyly talks about cheap new CfDs instead?
Quick, somebody phone Orsted and ask them nicely. Maybe we could get Ed Davey to do it?
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Good grief – where to start?
“Liz Truss puts hard-right ideology above lives – and is backing oil and gas to prove it”
I wonder if he reads newspapers other than the Guardian? I wonder if he’s aware of the Times story confirming that renewables operators are not taking up their low-priced CfDs, preferring instead to get paid market prices, since CfDs – it turns out – are not contracts at all, but one-way options?
Do Guardian readers believe this stuff? Energy Through The Looking-Glass indeed.
“The elite’s green fantasies are finally unravelling
The desperate scramble for fossil fuels now makes the posturing of COP26 look almost otherworldly.”
“Time to Hit Pause on Net Zero”
More from Alice in Blunderland:
“Switching to green fuel needs same urgency as Covid jab, says energy boss”
The BBC has opened it up to a Have Your Say, and comments perhaps aren’t going as planned, the top one being:
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More Through the Looking-Glass madness and Disinformation from the BBC:
“Six ideas to combat high energy costs”
1. “A bigger windfall tax”. But only on fossil fuel producers, despite the huge windfall profits made from renewable companies who are deferring their CfDs and charging at market prices instead.
2. “Capping energy profits”. But only the energy profits of fossil fuel producers, not those of (mostly foreign) renewables energy companies.
So, the first two plans will disincentivise fossil fuel companies from future investment, reducing supply, and making the cost of fossil fuels (most relevantly gas) even more expensive.
3. “Taking over energy companies”
As it happens, I think there is a discussion to be had about re-nationalising essential utilities, but the idea that nationalisation would, in the short term, enable prices to be kept low (other than robbing taxpayer Peter to pay energy user/taxpayer Paul) is simplistic in the extreme.
4. “Sell clean energy at a discount”
So now renewable energy is “clean” (despite the damage done to the environment in producing it – more pure and simple subliminal propaganda).
But not in 2021, when we had a wind drought, which pushed up demand for gas. Why use out-of-date figures to mislead?
No, it hasn’t “tumbled”. It has fallen, but by nothing like as much as often claimed (see audited accounts of renewable energy companies). The modestly reduced price isn’t reflected in bills, because CfDs turn out to be an option, not a proper supply contract, and “clean” energy companies are behaving just like all those nasty capitalist fossil fuel companies by gaming the system that was naively put in place by the idiots who are responsible for energy plicy.
Some academics saying it doesn’t make it true. By the way, that’s a heck of a price spread, and as for £70 p.a., given what’s happened to bills, talk about p*ssing in the wind!
“Some experts” again. I think on this occasion that would be anybody who doesn’t live in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
5. “Store more gas”
The irony in a government that has massively subsidised renewables arguing that paying to keep gas storage open risked making the market dependent on public money is simply jaw-dropping. Perhaps if politicians had been less fixated on net zero, they might have better appreciated the importance of maintaining sensible levels of gas storage facilities.
6. “Use less gas”
Welcome to net zero Britain.
You’ve missed the best one:
7. “G7 to cap the price of Russian oil and gas.”
…and sanction counties such as India, Turkey and China who are reselling Russian oil. Russia says that counties either have to pay the market price or there’ll be no sale.
In other news; Gazprom has completely closed the Nordstream 1 gas pipeline, so Germans are going to be cold this winter.
Bill: That’s completely unworkable. The price cap I mean. The closure of Nordstream 1 sounds pretty workable – though it is meant to be temporary.
The gloves are off in the gas war it seems, mittens & onesies for me this winter. brrr
Another cracking article from John Constable:
“Know why your fuel bills are soaring? 20 years of ‘renewables’ lies, says JOHN CONSTABLE
THE UK’s energy crisis has been in the making for more than 20 years and is the result of the incompetent policies of Mr Blair, Mr Brown, Mr Cameron, Mrs May, and Mr Johnson, and all their hapless energy minsters and advisors too numerous to name.”
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The closure of Nordstream 1 looks to be fairly permanent now. There’s an explanation from Russian sources here:
My understanding is that there were originally six of these pumping turbines. One is known to be held in Canada and another in Germany, I don’t what happened to the other three.
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Bill: The engineering and economics of a gas pipeline is not my specialist subject. Nor the impact of sanctions from the West thereon. But I’m sure Gazprom/Russia could solve the problem if they really wanted. It is being used as a weapon, as a retaliation for sanctions. My main point stands: Russia’s weapon works, the latest from the G7, the price cap, won’t. I’m reminded of Margaret Thatcher facing up to Arthur Scargill. The first year he tried to create havok and the new government backed down and gave in, because coal stores weren’t high enough at power stations to enter into a fight Thatcher knew they were bound to have. We should look the same, pragmatic way at Putin and our energy challenges and Ukraine and its military ones. Alexander Mercouris yesterday summarised the reality on all fronts very well, from my side. Our new prime minister from Tuesday likes to be thought of as another Thatcher. I hope the realism, caution and pragmatism of Thatcher, out of care for the British people, does indeed become her watchword.
Much as I disagree with Boris, his comment about “mainlining” Russian hydrocarbons has a ring of truth about it inasmuch as Europe has become addicted to cheap Russian gas.
Simply putting the drug of choice on a high shelf does not stop the palms from itching.
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Jit: To your Boris I raise you a George Bush and, if you’re not careful, a Donald Trump 😉
It was this powerful passage from John Christy in August 2012 that I was taken back to on hearing from you about Boris’s ‘mainlining’. There is a Putin-specific part of what our outgoing PM was saying which I’ll come back to in a moment. But here’s Christy
That’s exactly why I dislike the drug-taking analogy for oil. Every bit as much as Just Stop Oil loves it.
The stupidity of Western Europe in becoming so dependent on Putin for energy in many forms is a quite different thing. Trump famously warned Germany about it at the UN and they laughed in his face. That wasn’t addiction, it was prideful ignorance. Exactly what Thatcher didn’t have as she considered how she was to overcome Scargill. (She was given next to zero chance of doing so by many, let’s remember.)
But the outworking of such wisdom now vis-a-vis Putin, given Europe’s past stupidity, is going to involve very large doses of humble pie. Not the drug of choice for most politicians. But we mustn’t rule anything out given the UK’s current regime change.
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I’m with Brendan O’Neill at Spiked on this:
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For those claiming that renewables are the answer to our problems, this might enlighten them:
“The 2021 European Wind Drought and Weather-Dependent power generation”
Lots of useful and interesting statistics, graphs and charts. I particularly like the conclusion:
That’s very good Mark (4:15pm), because banishing the green religion from the halls of power is so central to O’Neill’s narrative. I also agree with him about Truss having to contront the dimmer kind of ‘free marketers’ in taking radical steps to keep industry as well as households in business. But actual achievement of any of this would be extremely impressive.
“Heat pumps should be key to Truss’s energy strategy, urges expert
Measures unlikely to include incentives for people to install devices, which cut bills and emissions”
Quite apart from the nonsense of trying to force people to use a heating system that leaves them colder and at great expense, while piling yet more pressure on a creaking National Grid, the numbers don’t add up even within the Guardian’s own article:
Looks like a 42 year payback to me. That’s on an optimistic basis. The Guardian article, as its wont, links to another Guardian article:
This tells us:
Irony, it seems, is alive and kicking.
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For those who tell us that renewables are the answer to our current energy problems, may I just point out the state of generation on the grid right now?
Pumped storage: 2.4%
And we’re sending more than 20% through the interconnectors to the beleaguered European system. Yes, we have cranked up oil and gas to do this, so that we’re currently generating 20% more than we need. We did this using expensive gas because guess what? You can’t just crank up renewables to fill a gap in demand when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
Guardian reporters can give the lie to the claim that renewables are cheap when the context requires it:
“With no new windfall tax on energy firms, a cap on nuclear and renewables is urgently needed”
“Tory MP begins ‘net zero tour’ of UK to highlight benefits of action
Chris Skidmore urges new PM to ignore ‘tiny vocal minority in Westminster’ arguing against climate target”
Well, that’s a through the looking-glass comment if I ever saw one. I think net zero is very much an obsession of the Westminster bubble, and most people care only about having a reasonable life without unduly expensive and unreliable energy. And they’d like to avoid blackouts.
I trust he will make the entire journey by train and/or EV.
I can’t avoid foaming at the mouth at this:
Is he really oblivious to the massive subsidies paid to renewables companies, the huge amounts the Government is throwing at net zero, the £54Bn alone that is due to be spent on making the National Grid capable of dealing with the unreliable energy supplied by renewables in big and small amounts up and down the country? Is he really not aware of the cost of the smart meter roll-out programme (£18Bn last time I looked), of the costs of effectively running two energy systems in tandem and the extra costs to fossil fuel generators of having to ramp up and down on demand to fill the gap left in supply when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing? And all the other costs, too many to mention here? Really?
Apparently it is we ‘deniers’ who are being ‘simplistic’. The boffins have ‘probabilistic models’. Well, that settles it then.
John, I am trying to read the paper now. The supplementary information is 150 pages, so it’s hard going.
I believe them. Don’t you?
I’ll leave it to you to look into the detail, but I would be shocked if they have looked into the costs in anything like the thoroughness with which they have for the benefits.
John & Jit – just the BBC lead in to the “study” makes it sound like it’s a no brainer – “Even if you’re a climate denier, you should be on board with what we’re advocating,” Prof Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School told BBC News.
“Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money,” he said.
the Titanic springs to mind for some reason!!!
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read a bit on the Joule paper –
“which are made using the stochastic version of Wright’s law.”
“Since our study is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on cost declines for key green technologies, we do not consider liquid biofuels, geothermal power, marine energy, traditional biomass, co-generation of heat, solar thermal energy, or CCS (our results are nevertheless robust to these modeling choices; see Experimental procedures).”
gave up after that
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Ben Pile has an excellent Twitter thread ripping to pieces the BBC article and the Oxford Martin School and its study claiming that renewables would save humanity trillions, if only we would sign up.
“Energy crisis? It isn’t that we have too little oil and gas. It’s that we have too much
We have green, cheap alternatives ready and waiting – but first we have to commit to keeping fossil fuels in the ground”
How long are they going to be allowed to keep repeating this nonsense?
The claim is linked to that CarbonBrief article from 8th July which is now both out of date and discredited:
Where are the fact-checkers when you need them?
Read the rest of the article, read it and weep.
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No, sorry, I won’t 😉
“‘Vital’ energy security bill must be brought back, says Labour
Shadow climate minister says Britain is losing the race to create green jobs”
God help us.
When are our Parliamentary representatives going to understand that we cannot enjoy energy security, !low-carbon” energy and low costs? That is a circle that cannot be squared, as has been amply demonstrated by now.
“UK pays more for electricity than it costs to make”
Well of course we do! We don’t just have to pay for the cost of making it, we have to pay renewables operators to switch off when they’re providing more energy than the grid can cope with; we have to pay for very expensive upgrades to the grid to cope with renewables being placed offshore and on islands and remote parts of the mainland a long way from where most of the electricity is needed; we have to pay reliable back-up sources to sit idle and ramp up and down to meet the vagaries of unreliable (and often unpredictable) renewables; we have to pay for all the renewables subsidies.
But you wouldn’t know it from the BBC article – it’s all because gas is so expensive, apparently:
No link is offered to the CTI report.
“But only make about 40% of all electricity used by UK homes” ??? How do they work it out,is the other 60% from ” 100% guaranteed renewable ” suppliers. Last week renewables fell to about 20% of total generated who lost out?? Can I get my leccy from the the nuke plants they are pretty steady all year.
I thought about posting this against “Where Did All The Green Jobs Go?”, since the government’s policies seem to be good at destroying jobs, but not at creating them. However, the comment from the representative of Friend’s of the Earth Scotland made me conclude that this is a better home for it:
“Harbour Energy to shed 350 UK onshore jobs, blaming windfall tax”
Freya might have donations to fund her personal verbal emissions, but it’s strange that she is unaware that companies that do not make a profit do not survive indefinitely. Sure, some newish and already rather large companies are seemingly trying to prove that statement wrong, but someone has to pay the bill at some point.
Beat me to it Jit.
“effective tax rate of 75% in the UK regardless of the level of oil and gas prices in the market or realised”
I may be a daft old codger but for simplicity – make £100 for work/pay/etc & then pay £75 in tax!!!
then some want a windfall tax on top of that. how to move UK back into the Dark Ages.