There is – to me at least – little doubt that the UK’s infrastructure is a mess. Severely potholed roads; a shambolic and unreliable rail system; a massive push for electric vehicles before reliable at-scale electric charging points have been put in place; poor rural bus services; leaking water pipes; repeated discharge of sewage into rivers and onto beaches; coal-fired power plants destroyed before adequate and reliable alternatives have been provided; the Scottish ferries shambles. The list goes on and on. No doubt you can add to it. It’s such a shame that nobody has responsibility for these matters. Oh, wait a minute…
The UK Infrastructure Bank (“the Bank”)
The Bank was launched (with up to £22 billion of public money over its first five years) supposedly with a view to encouraging private finance alongside public investment. Specifically, it is supposed to achieve two strategic objectives – first “helping to tackle climate change” and secondly to support regional and local growth. Immediately I am struck by the hubris. As we at Cliscep (and others) never tire of pointing out, nothing the UK (as the ongoing emitter of around 1% of global greenhouse gases) does can possibly tackle climate change. The idea that a bank spending perhaps £4.4 billion p.a. (a lot of money, admittedly) directly, or with a view to encouraging investment in UK infrastructure, can make the slightest difference to climate change is beyond ridiculous.
That is not to say that investment in infrastructure is a bad idea, nor is it to say that the creation of the Bank was misguided. For example, I have opined in comments at Cliscep to the effect that the UK is more likely to run short of water due to an ever-expanding population (combined with ongoing water leaks and a lack of investment in basic infrastructure such as reservoirs) than it is to do so due to climate change.
But what does the Bank actually do? Primarily, it seems to obsess about climate change. In the last week or so it has made an announcement regarding its “first natural capital transaction”, a £12 million investment “to support an innovative nature restoration project in the Scottish Highlands and Islands with the aim of stimulating natural capital markets, and helping to tackle climate change, boost biodiversity, and deliver benefits to the local community.” Quite what that has to do with infrastructure is beyond me: my Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines infrastructure as “the basic physical and organizational structures (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise”.
None of which seems to be affected by this much-trumpeted investment. Never mind, it’s helping to tackle climate change – apparently:
The Bank’s finance is expected to enable the restoration of temperate rainforest on the Estate, which, once restored, can absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere. The west of Scotland is home to one of the most important remaining temperate rainforest sites in Europe, with this rare habitat now making up just 2% of Scottish woodland.
As noted in the Scottish Government’s 2018-2032 Climate Change Plan, habitat restoration can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing biodiversity, and delivering wider co-benefits. The restoration activities planned for the Tayvallich Estate also support the Treasury’s strategic steer to the Bank that nature-based solutions can contribute to its twin objectives of tackling climate change and supporting regional and local economic growth.
The Bank’s loan will enable Highlands Rewilding Limited to move to further rounds of funding with potential investors, with a view to developing new natural capital business and revenue models on the Tayvallich Estate.
Well, I suppose that satisfies the Bank’s first (and fourth – see below) investment principles, the first being to “support the Bank’s objectives to drive regional and local economic growth or support tackling climate change.” As for its second investment principle, however, I fail to see that it makes the grade:
The investment is in infrastructure assets or networks, or in new infrastructure technology. The Bank will operate across a range of sectors, but will prioritise in particular clean energy, transport, digital, water and waste.
Do bear in mind that the Bank’s four investment principles (the other two relate to delivering a positive financial return and “crowding in” significant private capital over time) are cumulative. All four are supposed to be met – one, two or three being satisfied should not suffice:
To be eligible for financing, private sector projects must meet our four investment principles.
Still, if it’s to do with climate change, perhaps the rules can be bent? Under almost no circumstances, however, will the Bank invest in infrastructure projects that involve nasty “carbon” (presumably not even if they would support our energy infrastructure):
We do not invest in projects involving extraction, production, transportation and refining of crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal with very limited exemptions. These exemptions include projects improving efficiency, health and safety and environmental standards (without substantially increasing the lifetime of assets), for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) where projects will significantly reduce emissions over the lifetime of the asset, or those supporting the decommissioning of existing fossil fuel assets. We will also not support any fossil-fuel fired power plants, unless part of an integrated natural gas-fueled CCS or CCUS generation asset. This policy will be updated over time to reflect changes in government policy and regulatory standards.
It seems that net zero and climate change will always trump sensible infrastructure investments.
So much for policy. How has the Bank performed to date with regard to other criteria?
On 25th January 2023, a report was issued by the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (“PAC”), regarding the Bank. The mainstream media don’t seem to have shown much interest in either the Bank or the PAC’s report, but I think it’s well worth a look. It makes a number of criticisms and recommendations, though needless to say no criticism is made of what seems to me to be a disproportionate focus on climate change and net zero at the expense of dealing with our crumbling infrastructure. I recommend reading the report, but for current purposes, this paragraph from the report will suffice:
We are not convinced the Bank has a strategic view of where it best needs to target its investments. The Bank’s 10 deals to date have mostly been relatively conventional investments, including seven loans. While the Bank’s early deals reflected a sensibly cautious approach, it is not yet capable of making the full range of investments it could potentially make, and will not be able to do so until it has sufficient staff qualified to make more complex transactions. The Bank claims to be filling gaps in the market and making investments the private sector would not consider, but so far the Bank has provided financing to deliver broadband and build solar farms, both relatively common projects. The Bank struggled to articulate the priority areas for investment, and how it will recruit staff necessary to fulfil its role. The Bank can only deliver on the government’s ambition and wider objectives if it moves beyond making “safe” investments, because the scale of the challenge is so severe. The Bank has not demonstrated it has a clear idea of how its investments complement each other and provide additionality. In addition, they are not yet making direct equity investments, instead investing through equity funds.
National Infrastructure Commission
The National Infrastructure Commission website does at least recognise what infrastructure consists of, identifying eight infrastructure themes – transport; energy & waste; digital & data; water & floods; place; environment; design & funding; and regulation & resilience. So far so good, but then one moves down the website, only to find this: “YPP discusses net zero for the next generation”. It rapidly becomes obvious that the Commission is as net-zero fixated as is the Bank:
The UK is home to over 22 million people under the age of 30, many of whom are increasingly aware of the uncertainty surrounding their future due to climate change. Young people, both today and in the future, will bear the consequences of the decisions made today on net zero. It is therefore crucial that young people have a say in these decisions.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) Young Professionals Panel’s recent ‘net zero for the next generation’ roundtable brought together 20 young professionals with NIC Commissioners, to discuss their priorities for the net zero transition.
And so it goes, the next feature on the website being “Go big where it counts to hit economic and climate goals, says Commission”. Another piece on the website tells us:
We need to move from setting targets to delivering on the ground, making it easier for every household to make the greener choices necessary to meet our climate commitments.
“We welcomed the investment in CCUS when it was first announced and it is good to see further steps in forming carbon capture clusters. We must keep up this pace to ensure the UK regains pace in this internationally competitive sector.
“We look forward to seeing the promised draft national policy statements for energy. Once finalised, these should speed up decision making and help provide greater certainty to developers, investors and communities.
“The extension of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme will give it more time to make an impact, but without a drop in upfront costs for consumers it is difficult to see how it will prompt the necessary uptick in heat pump installations. The lack of a revised spending commitment means it is hard to assess the contribution the scheme will make to government’s own target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.
“The intention to rebalance gas and electricity prices will help reduce the operating costs of heat pumps, electric vehicles and other low carbon technologies. The sooner this can be achieved, the better.
“The Commission will continue to monitor delivery of infrastructure commitments made as a result of our own recommendations. Shortly we will publish a report on the planning regime for major infrastructure projects, and later this year we will publish our second National Infrastructure Assessment to look ahead to the next phase of the net zero journey, including the infrastructure networks needed to underpin CCUS and hydrogen technologies.”
Well, I suppose it is at least talking about infrastructure, even if I don’t like the way it’s talking.
National Infrastructure Assessments
The Commission has issued its Second National Infrastructure Assessment Baseline Report, which “[s]ets out the current state of the UK’s economic infrastructure and identifies key challenges for the coming decades.” The Second National Infrastructure Assessment will itself be published in the second half of 2023.
Although this is important work, and some of the Assessment’s findings will be valuable, this offers further evidence of the fixation of the establishment with climate change, since this guarantees that it sees the world in a certain way, and defines its priorities accordingly. By way of example, the first issue the Baseline Report mentions when saying what more needs to be done is this: “greenhouse gas emissions from economic infrastructure must reduce further, fast”.
It says that future trends and government commitments will bring new challenges. The first challenge it mentions is this: “climate change will make it harder to make and keep infrastructure resilience”.
Nine key challenges have been identified for the Second Assessment – climate change and net zero take pride of place, with the challenges including these (five out of the nine):
the electricity system must decarbonise fast to meet the sixth Carbon Budget
decarbonising heat will require major changes to the way people heat their homes
new networks will be needed for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage
good asset management will be crucial as the effects of climate change increase
action is needed to improve surface water management as flood risk increases
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (“NSIPs”)
A brief word on NSIPs. An overview can be found here. Broadly, they are projects of certain types, over a certain size, which are considered by the Government to be so big and nationally important that permission to build them needs to be given at a national level, by the responsible Government minister (the ‘Secretary of State’). Instead of applying to the local authority for Planning Permission, the developer must apply to the Planning Inspectorate for a different permission called a Development Consent Order (DCO).
The system is undergoing a review, and a policy paper was published on 23rd February 2003. The thinking behind the proposals seems to be summed up by the tagline “Better, faster, greener, fairer, and more resilient”, and as always, net zero is in the mix:
Improving energy security, achieving net zero and delivering the transport connectivity, water and waste management facilities this country needs demands investment in infrastructure. We must have a planning system fit to deliver it, while keeping communities and the environment at the heart of decision-making.
The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) consenting process has served the UK well for more than a decade. However, the demands on the system are changing, and its speed has slowed. The number and complexity of cases coming into the system is increasing. Policy changes are more frequent in response to a changing world.
Cumulative impacts, particularly in the offshore wind and electricity networks sector, require strategic solutions outside the remit of individual projects.
Supposedly, the “greener” part of the tagline is expressed thus:
by delivering positive outcomes for the environment and following the mitigation hierarchy with proactive plans for environmental protection and enhancement
Given the proliferation of wind farms and solar parks blighting the environment, their idea of “environmental protection and enhancement” differs markedly from mine. I suspect that their environmental thinking (if it can be so described) goes no further than “tackling climate change”.
Our integrated plan for delivering clean and plentiful water
It sounds great, doesn’t it? My attention was drawn to this DEFRA document dated 4th April 2023 by an article by James Woudhuysen on the Spiked website. Titled “Why water rationing is coming down the pipeline – Instead of securing our water supply, the government plans to radically reduce home usage”, it gives a downbeat assessment of the “integrated plan” just issued by DEFRA. I recommend that you read both the DEFRA report and James Woudhuysen’s scathing summary of it, then you can make your own mind up.
Apart from the inevitable genuflection to climate change (apparently it “is making…pressures worse. We are facing longer and more frequent droughts which are increasing interruptions to our water supplies. Wetter winters and more frequent, heavier storms are leading to more flooding and more pollutants being washed off fields and urban areas”), there is much that sounds positive in the document – we all want cleaner water and a better environment.
For current purposes, however (i.e. discussion relating to infrastructure issues) this is probably the crucial paragraph:
The supply/demand gap – Water companies provide around 14 billion litres of water a day for public water supply. On average households use 144 litres of water per person per day. The National Infrastructure Commission has recommended, due to the increasing pressures, that around 4 billion litres of additional water a day will be needed in England by 2050. The challenge increases when considering the regional variation of water use across England (see figure 3) caused by different types of industry and population levels, as well as current levels of water company leakage (figure 4). This Plan sets out how we will close this gap through increased supply and greater water efficiency, including reducing leakage.
Read on (as far as page 61) and you learn that “Half of the 4 billion litre a day gap in public water supply by 2050 will be delivered through increased supply.” What of the other half? If you make it to page 67, you will find out: “The other half of the 4 billion litre a day gap in public water supply by 2050 will be delivered through improving water efficiency, reducing demand, and cutting wasted water.”
And how is this to be achieved? Like this:
To drive progress to close the gap, we have set a new legally binding target under the Environment Act 2021 to reduce the use of public water supply in England per head of population by 20% by 2038. To achieve this we will reduce household water use to 122 litres per person per day, reduce leakage by 37%, and reduce non-household (for example, businesses) water use by 9% by 31 March 2038. This is part of the trajectory to achieving 110 litres per person per day household water use, a 50% reduction in leakage and a 15% reduction in non-household water use by 2050.
Or as James Woudhuysen puts it:
Last month, a House of Lords select committee reported that no new reservoirs will be built before 2029. It also said that water regulator Ofwat has ‘historically given more focus to a short-term desire to keep water bills low at the expense of long-term environmental and security-of-supply considerations’. In other words, the regulator has fallen asleep at the wheel, letting leaks multiply, sewage pile up and reservoirs fall into disrepair. Yet the implication of Our Water Plan is that we consumers are mostly at fault for the water shortages of the future. It is we who must tighten our belts, and we who must install smart meters to ration our use…
…The problem with the government’s plan is that it is far keener on social engineering – in creating parsimonious, ecologically conscious citizens – than it is on the actual engineering of leak detection, leak repair, pipe replacement and all the rest…
…Calls for demand management and behaviour change are simply codewords for austerity and rationing. The government wants us to accept the blame for the shocking state of our water infrastructure ourselves, and to endure poor personal and home hygiene as a consequence.
Not everything that is being done by those in authority is bad or misguided (or both). The water plan seems to contain some positive stuff that I imagine most people could sign up to. For the good of the environment it might not be a bad thing if society was less demanding and we all used fewer precious resources. However, we seem to be reaching (indeed, we may already have reached) a stage where rationing (via euphemisms such as “demand management” or “smart meters”) is becoming inevitable because those charged with ensuring our infrastructure is in good enough shape to supply our needs have failed us. We have to stop using gas and petrol and diesel and rely on electricity for everything, but electricity supplies are looking increasingly shaky, thanks not least to net zero, yet net zero is embedded in all aspects of insfrastructure planning. The great advance UK society has made since the Victorian era is the provision of plentiful water, allowing for personal cleanliness and a healthier society, yet now it seems we will all be expected to get by with less and less water use in our homes. It strikes me that something is rotten in the state, and an obsession with net zero and a fanciful belief that the UK can “tackle climate change” is at the heart of it. Personally, I would prefer a functioning infrastructure, and I suspect most citizens would too. However, we aren’t to be given a choice. As James Woudhuysen concludes: “It’s time we caused a stink about it.”
Excellent analysis. Thank you. Climate policies, to be charitable, are attempting to sell themselves as the exception to the engineering proveb, “Faster, better, cheaper, pick two.” The other many policy fallacies and deceptions in a sense devolve from that wellhead.
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There’s one set of British infrastructure that rarely (if ever – recently -) receives the plaudits it deserves.
Our natural gas transmission (and distribution) networks.
National Transmission System (NTS) typically operates between pressures of 40 – 90 bar, but ranges between 7 – 100bar
Local Distribution Networks operate at Intermediate Pressure between 2 and 7 bar; Medium Pressure between 75mbar and 2bar and Low Pressure 30mbar up to 75mbar.
They dependably supply >20 million customers with approx 3x the annual energy that our electricity grid delivers.
Britain has approx 40,000GWh of underground plus LNG natural gas storage vs a piddling 29GWh of electricity storage
More importantly, but rarely (if ever) acknowledged, is the fact that whilst our electricity transmission cables store zero kWh, our NTS stores an additional approx 4,000GWh of energy (Linepack).
On a cold winter’s day our gas infrastructure can deliver at approx 250GW vs maybe 55GW via our electricity grid. The peak 1-hour ramp-rates capabilities are approx 61GW vs 8GW – 7.6x as great.
Nat Grid (Gas) provides some informative resources.
Its daily Prevailing View … includes the real-time chart “Supply, Demand and NTS Actual Linepack”. Beware the units! ‘mcm/day’ is million cubic metres per day. 1mcm of NG is approx 11GWh, so a flow rate of 1mcm/day is ~0.46GW.
Perhaps the most interesting tables and charts in its Daily Summary Report are (underground) Storage and LNG stock levels.
Today, Britain has 11,057GWh of NG in medium-term underground storage (60% full); 3,709GWh in long-term underground storage (i.e. Rough) (44% full); 8,578GWh of LNG (~62% full); and, 357mcm (i.e. ~3,927GWh) in Linepack
Widespread unplanned gas ‘blackouts’ are rare. Very rare.
Few of us will forget the widespread effect of the instantaneous “GB power system disruption on 9 August 2019” electricity blackouts that affected many parts of the country.
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Hi Mark / Mods
I just posted a comment containing 3x links. I don’t know whether it’s spam-trapped or disappeared into the ether. 😉
You get up in the morning and you miss your power shower – because they’re banned. The house is freezing because they turned off the gas and you can’t afford to install a heat pump, nor would you be able to afford to run it even if you got a 100% government grant to install one. You go to work – and you just stink like the rest of them. On the way, you avoid (if you’re fortunate and/or skilful) the numerous large, gaping potholes in the road surface. If you are virtuous, you drive an EV, which is a lot heavier than your average petrol car, and thus contributes more to the formation of potholes, as well as being less efficient, therefore less environmentally friendly. If you’re a planet destroying petrol or diesel head, then you pay more to be on the road – more tax on fuel, more in road tax. A day in the life of the net zero citizen.
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I hope your excellent comment that has now appeared is the one you refer to, since I can’t see any others waiting to be released. Either someone released it, or it eventually found its own way out of jail. Profuse apologies for the vagaries of WordPress, and thanks for your persistence.
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I’d refreshed the page a few times before notifying of its non-appearance. Then lo and behold, it appeared when ~30 mins later I again refreshed the page. 😄
No need to apologise; it was because of previous experiences with the vagaries of WP that I’d sent it. Sorry for sending you on a wild goose chase.
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“Road-building spree will derail UK’s net zero targets, warn campaigners
Hybrid vehicle pollution and van traffic update adds 26 megatonnes of carbon emissions to Department for Transport decarbonisation plan”
It seems that the the UK government’s infrastructure policy is dysfunctional even within its own terms. Far better, making much more sense, to drop the net zero requirement from its infrastructure plans (if they can be termed such).
I support better public transport, and I am keen to encourage cycling. However, I think Dr Parr needs a dose of reality. Where I live the winters are long, dark and harsh, and the idea that people would choose to cycle rather than take a car is fanciful. Also not everyone is young and fit enough to be able to cycle reasonable distances, let alone want to. And where the Council has built cycle lanes the keen cyclists don’t use them, preferring to whizz along the roads at great speeds instead.
I’m pretty sure that calling the Caledonian pine woods “rainforest” is of recent provenance, perhaps coined as a means of casting a glamour. And the use of “now” indicates some contemporary destruction, when it was pretty much gone a thousand years ago.
As to “rewilding” – this cynic sees in this only a means of paying landowners money for owning land that would otherwise be unproductive in any sense and therefore almost worthless. Can’t build a housing estate on it. Can’t grow wheat on it. Can’t put solar panels on it. Wind turbines? Maybe there might be an angle where wind turbines are claimed to be compatible with re-wilding. In any case, there is money for this stewardship, in order to pay for wholly pointless work to be done by men and machines.
As I like to say, ecology is mostly common sense. So is rewilding. All the humans have to do is make like a tree and leave. Nature will do the rest. No money is needed. And a further danger here is of paying for schemes that are later reversed. Good examples are farmers being paid to grub out hedgerows to increase productivity and later being paid to reinstate them, or landowners being paid to cut drains into moorland and later being paid to block them.
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Then (on the same topic of rewilding) there is this from Myfanwy Alexander at Spiked:
Creating a straw man and throwing in a nice little oxymoron to boot. “To create the glorious woodland dreamt of by the rewilders” takes exactly zero human management. What it does take is a long time. But as the rewilded land is “forever”, there seems no point in artificially trying to speed up the process.
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Quiz shows, Infrastructure and Reality . My wife and I regularly watch quiz shows like Millionaire, The Chase, Impossible etc etc. At times we are gobsmacked how uneducated (or stupid) people can be i.e. “where is Aberdeen – Pass” “Where are the Hebrides – Greece” it would seem people find it more important to know how many hits the Spice Girls had (half of them get that wrong as well), The Chase has the Professionals to raise the level thank goodness. “The UK is home to over 22 million people under the age of 30, many of whom are increasingly aware of the uncertainty surrounding their future due to climate change.” I would hate to think of the exact number who actually know what Infrastructure means. Probably think it’s a new type of minecraft . Anyway, as usual I have ruminated, cogitated and tried to digest Marks’ article in relation to present day living . Water usage was one area that has been annoying me recently with regard to 1. washing machines and 2. toilets. Washing machines with only 1 water inlet (cold) seems to be the norm nowadays, during the winter our mains water temp can drop to 5c, the machine barely has time to heat it up to the required 30c or higher before completing wash and starting rinse. Trying to keep the soap fully dissolved in 5c water is nearly impossible, so we get sludgey pipes. Modern toilets tend to have small cisterns with with dual flushes etc. Older houses like ours require a substantial woosh to clear the system. Not sure if Scotland will have as tight control on water usage as England if we do, god help plumbers. Reality – “As James Woudhuysen concludes: “It’s time we caused a stink about it.”
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“Kilroot power station: Environmental group stalls extension”
I posted this article here, because I think is the relevant bit:
I fear that is true of most politicians, and many of those charged by politicians with overseeing our infrastructure arrangements.
Falling apart at the seams, this past week in the Calmac ferry saga has been a wonderful example of this phrase. It’s been like a little boy telling glorious fibs to get out of trouble with reality coming crashing down round his feet. At the end of last summer Calmac advised the country they would be spending an extra £Xmillion on vessel overhauls to “guarantee” a better LIFELINE service to the islands. Virtually every vessel has had a breakdown since overhaul, sorry the Rothesay duo have so far survived. The cover charter vessel (from Orkney) has also been held up due to the charter vessels’ cover vessel being held up in Belfast because another vessel took longer than expected. The little boy again ? The problems started last year it’s now April the cover vessel has been in dock since then, but there is a cruise conference in Barcelona to go to .
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In some ways the ferry shambles is truly astonishing, a metaphor for the crashing and burning of the SNP, which in itself might be considered a metaphor for the failure of the faux “progressive” net zero debacle.
It’s been little reported, but I gather SNP MP Ian Blackford has even requested the British (oh, irony) army to step in and help out.
Yes, this is is on the short crossing to Ardnamurchan , both ferries have now broken down which could be tricky for the Army to cover as they are offset roro. Blackford did not mention the the lady on Arran diagnosed with cancer, now terrified she will miss her chemo appointments. The lorry stuck on Lewis for 3 days with a load of seafood destined for London, will he get a decent price for late delivery ? The families going home to Stornoway after Easter on the mainland were diverted on a 182 mile journey to Skye to get another ferry. The list goes on and on. I think the hardest pill to swallow is the SNP/CMAL were offered virtually 3 ferries for the price of 2 when the flagship Loch Seaforth was built , no, they wanted to build the infamous 2 in Glasgow.
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Despite the obsession of the various infrastructure bodies with net zero, it seems they can’t even get net zero infrastructure right:
“UK has no public electric charger or hydrogen refilling station solely for HGVs
Automotive sector’s lobby group warns deadline to end sale of fossil fuel trucks by 2040 may be missed”
Unfortunately this is behind a paywall:
“Net zero Britain will be unable to keep the lights on, MPs warn
Green power unlikely to generate enough energy to run the country without radical reform, says Business Select Committee”
Mark – one sippet from the link –
“Demand for electricity is expected to soar as households buy electric cars and heat pumps.”
wonder if they live in the real world?
If we are all forced to buy electric cars and heat pumps, then demand for electricity will soar. However, if they think we are all going to rush out and buy these things voluntarily, then no, they don’t live in the real world.
The ferry saga continues F.F.S. The vessel replacing the vessel on charter to Calmac has run aground after a fire/smoke in the engine room (all passengers okay) and is now out of service. Unless some other kind company lends them a ferry the charter will have to return to Orkney. This has been been a complete F.U. after another since December. And by the way the charter will need a bit of work to fit all the berths.
I think it’s fair to say that Scotland’s infrastructure is worse than that in the rest of the UK. Certainly the ferry shambles is truly appalling. The sooner the SNP/Green government is in the dustbin of history, the better.
Correlation is not causation, of course, but it’s interesting that the most net zero-fixated part of the UK is such a mess.
I’ve just returned from a fortnight’s holiday on the Isle of Skye. Normally, the main topics of conversation amongst the islanders are midges and the weather. This year it was ferries and potholes. The ferry fiasco has left them spitting blood and the potholes are so bad that communities are being cut off. In short, the infrastructure is in tatters and island life is being massively affected.
John, I’m envious (though not regarding the potholes). Though I can’t complain, as I’m not long back from Assynt. I trust that Broadford Co-op is holding up nicely, even as the infrastructure round it crumbles.
Strange, because my impression when I spent 40 days touring the Scottish mainland in summer 2021 was that the roads were generally in much better condition than those in England. It was actually a joy to be driving on well maintained road surfaces. Maybe things have gone downhill quickly since. I’ll let you know when I visit Dumfries & Galloway soon.
The mainland roads are indeed in good nick and, to be fair, so are those on the south of the island. It was in the second week when we ventured north that the problems started. The road to Dunvegan was absolutely lethal, and the Glendale road took out at least three vehicles whilst we were there. Dunvegan locals were telling me that everyone in the village had suffered at least one puncture that winter.
Meanwhile, a chap in Broadford was telling me he had come over from Lewis to get his car serviced before the only ferry was due to be withdrawn from service indefinitely for maintenance.
But the Coop’s still looking good 👍
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There are only 2 main roads going North , roughly speaking 1 from Edinburgh over the Forth bridges up to Perth and 1 from Glasgow again arriving at Perth. Both roads are now in poor condition with the same sections being patched and repatched (secretly at night lol) so now very lumpy instead of holes. From Perth the A9 heads for Inverness with various resurfacing attempts which break up after a sharp frost. The A90 heads for Aberdeen via Dundee , not so bad but has some lumpy sections. When a longer section is resurfaced you can tell they are using lower/cheaper grade asphalt, lorries start to leave track marks after a couple of months which then break up during the winter.
The roadworks on the A9 north of Perth are problematic – we were stuck in them for quite a long time returning from Assynt just over a week ago. In fairness, that sort of thing’s not restricted to Scotland, though the A9 upgrade is almost as big a shambles as the ferries. I was stuck in roadworks there 18 months ago, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress.
As for the ferries, it’s some years since our return ferry from Islay ended up being both delayed and taking us back to somewhere completely different (many, many miles from where we’d embarked for Islay a few days earlier). Fortunately we had our car, so we didn’t need to get back to where we started, though it was still inconvenient. More recently we were lucky to take the ferry from Uig on Skye to Tarbert on Harris when we stayed on Lewis, as the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry was problematic then. A couple of weeks ago we were staying en route to Assynt at a B&B, not too far from Inverness. Our hostess came to warn us that our fellow guests would be arriving in the middle of the night because their ferry (Stornoway to Ullapool) was massively delayed. It’s only a few years since we had a similar experience when our ferry from Rum to Mallaig was massively delayed, and we arrived at about 11pm instead of 4pm. It feels as though it’s been going for ever (though in reality it has all happened on the SNP’s watch).
Reality bites for the BBC and for the net zero fanatics (while some of us have been aware of these issues for years):
“Renewable energy projects worth billions stuck on hold”
Mark; As you say, that article is not news. There’s an obvious solution: tell these renewable projectors to build the necessary grid connections themselves.
Hopefully these constraints will slow the wave of new projects which, if they do get built, will only add to the ballooning constraint payments.
“Renewable energy companies worry it could threaten UK climate targets.”
Who are they kidding? Allow me to translate:
“Renewable energy companies worry it could threaten their profits.”
The reason they are not being connected is that the physical infrastructure necessary for incorporating their (highly variable) electricity generation into the national grid does not exist and will not exist until grid engineers work out how to safely incorporate 100% penetration of zero inertia, unreliable, intermittent renewables into a grid which was designed to accommodate the exact opposite from fossil fuel powered generating stations.
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This was on the BBC news today, with Justin Rowlatt leading/or not, the viewer thru’ the problems.
but you just have to read the above quote “The system was built when just a few fossil fuel power plants were requesting a connection each year, but now there are 1,100 projects in the queue.” to realise someone/lots of people have not understood what this rush to net zero thru wind & solar would entail.
I suppose heating is part of the infrastructure…
“Pump it up: UK householders on ditching their gas central heating
Climate crisis and high fossil fuel prices motivated some to invest in heat pumps – how did their first winter go?”
As it happens, our gas boiler was serviced yesterday. We asked our heating engineer about the likelihood of gas boiler installations being banned, and he said that while it might become compulsory to install heat pumps in new houses, in his opinion the government could never ban replacement gas boilers in older houses, since very many older houses would require hugely expensive upgrades for heat pumps to be viable – new pipework, new radiators, additional installation, depending on the age of the windows, possibly new double glazing. Our house (around a third of a century old) would need new pipework and radiators, he said. It’s a pipedream (pardon the pun).
This morning I drew Paul Homewood’s attention to that BBC report: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2023/05/12/renewable-energy-projects-worth-billions-stuck-on-hold/#comments. And see my opening comment – essentially making Jaime’s point.
Mark, Like yourself, I’ve just had a new boiler fitted and received similar feedback from the technician on heat pumps.
One problem which gets only a few mentions is humidity causing the external exchanger to ice up, reducing efficiency and/or making the machine to run resistive heating to defrost itself. This could be a hidden problem as it would only be noticed by someone inspecting the outdoor equipment.
I would hazard a guess that the UK has relatively high humidity, on average, due to our geography and latitude. Heat pumps seem to work well in Scandinavia where it is much colder but also drier (plus their houses are far better insulated). Likewise they are common in more temperate places – I read that France installed about 500,000 last year.
We know that the performance claims are predicated on “Goldilocks” ambient temperatures but I wonder if the fine print includes weasel words about humidity.
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Robin, thanks for the NALOPKT link, interesting comments.
“Fresh Blow to Net Zero as British Gas Refuses to Install Heat Pumps in Millions of Homes Because They Don’t Work”
Mark – thanks for the “dailysceptic” Heat Pump link above.
I notice in the comments – MTF says, with a link –
“This is an odd interpretation of a British Gas campaign to increase heat pump sales by reassuring customers they will be warm. The unsuitable houses are not so much those with solid walls as those with microbore piping.”
the link takes you to – https://www.britishgas.co.uk/home-services/boilers-and-heating/air-source-heat-pumps.html?source=HomeImprovement
seems he is correct on reading the BG link.
only comment I would make from that BG link is the headline quoted price – “From just £2,999 – or £499 in Scotland”
further down “How much does an air source heat pump cost?
Our prices start from £2,999 in England and Wales, which includes the government’s £5,000 Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant. In Scotland, the £7,500 Home Energy Scotland grant means our prices start from £499.
The exact cost of an air source heat pump will depend on whether any extra work is needed to upgrade your home’s insulation, pipework and radiators. Once we know that, we’ll give you a fixed-price quote that covers everything.”
well many canny Scots may give in & order 2 for that price. wonder where all this grant money comes from?
dfhunter: as noted, that linked-to BG website is upfront about heat pumps’ suitability and the possible need for extra works. Fair enough.
However, it also makes claims like:
“When it’s installed in an energy-efficient and well insulated house, an air source heat pump is more environmentally friendly than a gas-powered boiler.
That’s good news for your carbon footprint – and for the UK’s progress to Net Zero too.”
The reality is that the incremental electricity to power the heat pump will almost certainly come from gas. While CCGTs can reach about 60% efficiency at settled state, that is optimistic for real-world operation. Add in losses in transmission and multiple transformer steps and something more like 40% seems likely.
Compared to a modern condensing boiler with an efficiency of over 90%, the heat pump would have to achieve an average Coefficient of Performance of better than 2 across all conditions – cold, humidity, etc, – to have a lower carbon footprint.
Further, while BG do raise the possible need to upgrade insulation, pipework, radiators, etc, they make no mention of any requirement to uprate the property’s fuseboard and incoming supply cables.
There’s a lot of devilry in the details which has yet to see the light of reality.
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Lots of money is spent on net zero (though the National Grid may not be up to the job); meanwhile we suffer things like this:
“Network Rail says infrastructure will get less reliable”
Needless to say, it’s the fault of climate change, so much so that we’re told this more than once…
I love the euphemism, by the way:
There’s an article in the DT about a govt review of noise from heat pumps.
It’s paywalled, unfortunately.
There must have been a lot of complaints to trigger such a review so soon.
On cold frosty mornings apparently, the noise from the heat pumps is most audible. Couple this with the fact that in cold weather especially, heat pumps run continuously, and you have a recipe for an urban noise nightmare. Nothing like the occasional noise from next door’s gas-fired boiler expelling exhaust products to the outside as it efficiently heats the water to circulate in the radiators. This will be a constant, annoying, loud hum from machinery located outside of domestic residences.
Regarding the story about the government review of the noise from heat pumps – at the risk of being a conspiracy theorist, I can’s help wondering if the government has realised that the heat pump roll-out has been a disaster and that their planned annual installation figures are a joke, given that people just don’t want these things. However, it’s too hard to admit that they called it wrong, and they just can’t admit that net zero is a disaster, so maybe rowing back on heat pumps, using noise nuisance as a justification, is the way they see of getting themselves out of this mess without too much loss of face. Just a thought.
Mark; that sounds quite credible, in these madhouse times! It does look like an excuse to walk back from the ludicrous plans.
Jaime; If it’s not just an excuse for dropping the plans, it does beg the question of why it’s such a problem here given that there are millions of these machines in use all over the world – and many more millions of the very similar aircon units.