The drive to renewable energy in the UK and the EU is leading to some very unpalatable outcomes – the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

Today we learned that (as the headline to the Times article puts it) in a major blow to domestic zero-emission car assembly, BMW is to move production of electric minis from the UK to China:

BMW is to axe all UK production of the award-winning electric Mini and switch it to China, dealing a major blow to hopes that Britain could be a global hub for zero-emission vehicle manufacture.

BMW makes 40,000 electric Minis a year at its Cowley factory on the outskirts of Oxford. Production will end next year as part of plans to reshape the carmaker’s line-up from 2024.

It is another hit to the UK’s pretensions to become a leader in global electric car manufacturing, following Honda’s decision to quit Britain not long after the decision to leave the European Union in 2016. The Japanese carmaker decided to end plans to make electric cars for the European market at its factory in Swindon, switched production back to Japan and shut the plant with the loss of more than 3,000 jobs.

BMW’s decision comes amid reports that Britain’s only planned large-scale battery factory, being built by Britishvolt in the northeast of England, will go bust if it does not receive a £200 million rescue package.

Only a year ago, Boris Johnson, then prime minister, promised at the Cop 26 climate change summit in Glasgow to fund a “£1 billion electric car revolution” in the UK “creating hundreds of thousands of jobs”. His predecessor, Theresa May, intended that Britain would become “a world leader” in electric vehicle manufacturing and made it one of the “pillars” of her short-lived industrial strategy.

Given that we are told (wrongly) that “in the UK, renewables are now a staggering nine times cheaper than gas” one might well reasonably ask, where did all the green jobs go? Not least since China, the destination of choice for the jobs, still relies heavily on coal to generate most of its electricity while the UK’s National Grid boasts about how much of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources (albeit the boast is mostly about 2020, and there is a distinct reticence when it comes to talking about 2021, the year of the great wind drought).

Meanwhile, over in mainland Europe, it seems that there is a crisis brewing for the future of ancient forests. Today Politico tells us that Europe’s “[e]nergy crisis means a ‘very dark winter’ for Europe’s forests”. And “NGOs say they speak for the trees, which they worry countries seem to be chopping as fast as they please”.

What’s the story, and how has it come about?

Faced with soaring energy prices and potential blackouts, many EU governments are relaxing logging rules and encouraging people to burn wood to keep their houses warm — something campaigners say spells disaster for Europe’s already vulnerable forests.

Who would have thought that insisting on reducing Europe’s energy security by demanding it stops producing its own coal, gas and oil, thus making it dependent on supplies of those products from a country run by a war-monger, might ever cause a problem? Well, it might have occurred to a few of us sceptics, but apparently it never occurred to well-meaning “greens”. And now, with domestic fossil fuel production at desperately low levels, imports curtailed, and winter coming, it seems that the trees will have to pay the price, since renewables just don’t hack it, especially in winter, when demand for energy is at its height. What a surprise that people object to being left in the cold and the dark. What a surprise that wood is going to be burned in larger quantities than for some time. There’s that Law of Unintended Consequences again, “green” policies causing yet more environmental destruction.

Apparently, “the problem is set to be particularly acute in Central and Eastern Europe.” Romania’s poor record looks set to get worse. Slovakia’s illegal logging and wood theft is reported to be on the rise. Hungary has lifted restrictions that protected woodlands, and Latvia and Lithuania have authorised increased logging. A lot of people in Poland are “busy cutting trees to gather enough wood for the winter”.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the Green Party has backed keeping nuclear plants open until April (which will help the country through the winter) but not beyond that date.

Germany’s plan to shut its three remaining reactors amid Europe’s worst energy crisis in half a century has come under scrutiny from both within and outside of Germany. This week, climate activist Greta Thunberg questioned the logic of closing down nuclear power only to replace it with greenhouse-gas-producing coal.

Admittedly the “logic” does seem questionable to anyone other than “greens”. But then what’s it to be, Greta? If your “green” pals rule out nuclear, if renewables are unreliable and expensive (and of little use in winter), what are people to burn to generate electricity? What’s worse? Cutting down living trees that provide important habitats for flora and fauna or burning dead ones in the form of coal? As someone who cares about the environment, I think that’s an easy choice. “Greens”, on the other hand, are now in a bind.

12 Comments

  1. Seems some people are catching up on how daft the drive to “renewable energy in the UK and the EU” is & how unworkable in real life for them.

    as you say, if “in the UK, renewables are now a staggering nine times cheaper than gas”. one might well reasonably ask, why in an Energy crisis is our “renewable energy” not stepping in to fill the gap & if not why not?

    seems the MSM never think to ask this question. wonder why!!!

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  2. The Moray East Wind Farm which recently reached full operational capacity is stepping in – but not to make electricity cheaper. It has delayed taking up its contracts for difference, CfD, and is selling at the market price until 2023 meaning it will earn an extra £500m in its first 12months of operation. It could have delayed the CfD for three years so I suppose we should be grateful (?) it didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave, thanks for the Moray East Wind Farm comment.
    from the Moray East website blurb –
    “40% Of Scotland’s electricity will be provided”
    “1.7 Million tonnes of CO2 emissions saved every year”
    “950 Thousand homes throughout the UK could be powered”
    “500 Kilometers of cabling will be installed across the site”

    I notice it has statements from 15/09/21, 9:49 AM – https://www.morayeast.com/news/moray-east-celebrates-installation-last-turbine

    ” Power will be generated at £57.50/MWhr, the lowest cost of any new renewable generation and 2/3 less than offshore windfarms in operation around the UK today (typically upward of £140/MWhr)”

    “In September 2017, MOWEL was awarded a 15-year Contract for Difference (CfD) by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) for the delivery of 950MW of offshore wind generation at £57.5/MWh (2012 tariff-based). The wind farm is expected to be operational by 2022.”

    from that I have no clue what they are going to charge /MWhr (but 15yr Contract ?)

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  4. Dave Andrews and dfhunter. The key word from that PR statement from Moray East Wind Farm about the price at which wind will be generated would appear to be “will” (perhaps it should have read “might”). Yet another CfD side-stepped, it seems. By the way, 15 year terms for the contracts (if they are ever implemented!)is the norm, I believe.

    Moray East Wind Farm is massively unpopular with the locals, from what I can gather.

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  5. National Grid:
    Without the Demand Flexibility Service, we would expect to see a reduction in margins. In this scenario on days when it was cold (therefore likely high demand), with low levels of wind (reduced available generation), there is the potential to need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods of time in a managed and controlled manner.

    https://www.nationalgrideso.com/document/268346/download

    We can freeze in the dark for a few hours ‘in a managed and controlled manner’ because it’s not windy enough? Marvellous.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. oldbrew – never worry, the 100yr old BBC will make sure that a U-turn is needed & winter will become summer.

    Like

  7. “Home wood burning pollution expected to rise due to UK cost of living crisis
    Seventy years after 1952 London smog, energy crisis could increase winter stove and open fire use”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/04/home-wood-burning-pollution-expected-to-rise-due-to-uk-cost-of-living-crisis

    This December will be the 70th anniversary of the 1952 London smog, when five days of choking smoke killed about 12,000 Londoners. It was partially caused by a fuel crisis, specifically a shortage of coal, requiring people to burn poor quality mining waste.

    Air pollution from home fires is expected to increase this winter as people turn to solid fuel to heat their homes in response to the energy and cost of living crisis.

    Scientists at university research stations will be tracking air these changes in three UK cities. These complement measurements from a government network. My team’s analysis of this data, spanning more than a decade, tells us about when, and to some extent why, people are burning wood.

    Although outdoor wood burning, such as bonfires and patio heaters, may add to pollution in the summer, during Guy Fawkes Night and at New Year’s Eve; the majority of wood burning pollution comes from homes during winter evenings.

    No recognition, so far as I can see (other than a brief reference to “the energy and cost of living crisis”), that people are turning to wood-burning because the energy system has failed them. This is one of the costs of net zero.

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  8. “‘Eco’ wood burners produce 450 times more pollution than gas heating – report
    Report from chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty finds air pollution kills up to 36,000 people a year in England”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/08/eco-wood-burners-produce-450-times-more-pollution-than-gas-heating-report

    “Ecodesign” wood burning stoves produce 450 times more toxic air pollution than gas central heating, according to new data published in a report from Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.

    Older stoves, now banned from sale, produce 3,700 times more, while electric heating produces none, the report said.

    Air pollution was chosen by Whitty as the focus of his 2022 annual report. “It kills a lot of people [and] causes a lot of disease and disability throughout life,” he said. “Air pollution causes problems from the time before people are born all the way through till their last day on Earth.”

    The report estimated 26,000 to 38,000 deaths a year from outdoor air pollution. No estimate was made for the impact of indoor pollution, which Whitty said urgently needed more research.

    The wide-ranging report noted that most types of air pollution had fallen over the last 50 years. However, the evidence of the harm caused by dirty air, even at low levels, has risen rapidly and scientists now think it damages every organ in the body.

    Two observations. First, surely it’s a big plus for gas, and we should be ensuring we use our own home-sourced supply as part of an energy (and health) security policy. Second, why do climate worriers seek to deny gas use to developing nations?

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  9. Mark – thanks for the link

    Whitty seems to have let his recent media attention go to his head.

    Like

  10. Ireland is now burning more peat for pete’s sake:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/dec/12/like-an-oilwell-in-your-back-yard-irish-turn-to-cutting-peat-to-save-on-energy-bills
    This is a common theme on Cliscep: Destroy the environment in order to save it.
    I liked this observation:
    “The financial factor is a much stronger motivation than saving the planet. People are facing an immediate crisis.”
    If we stop developing gas and oil reserves the financial factor will be a very large number. So much for the “worried about the climate crisis” consensus.

    Liked by 2 people

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