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Is Johnson quite mad?


As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind: a place of almost limitless resource, but, in the case of wind, without the carbon emissions, without the damage to the environment.

And in ten years’ time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts. You heard me right.

Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle, the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.’ – Boris Johnson, October 6, 2020

THE Prime Minister’s latest obeisance to the wind energy cult prompted me to make a short film (which follows with a transcript below) to show why it is – and there are no other words – simply mad; why none of his hubristic claims have any grounding in truth or reality; what a terrible deception being practised on the British people, how terrible the costs and consequences to them will be if he is allowed to pursue this frankly insane agenda.

Since the start of the climate agenda, it has been obvious to everyone outside SW1 that wind energy suffers from fatal problems. It is expensive, and claims that it can achieve lower prices than fossil alternatives have yet to be proved.

In brief, solving the problem of intermittency causes the capital costs of electricity infrastructure to multiply, as new hardware and upgrades are needed to balance the grid and to provide backup. No government including and since Blair has been honest with the public about the consequences of renewable energy that will be imposed on each and every household: forcing them either to pay ever higher prices or submit to green demands for ‘behaviour change’. There is no third option.

No government has produced a cost-benefit analysis on households, businesses or the wider economy. Instead, armies of green blob zombies produce endless volumes of text that report only the upsides of the ‘green’ economy, obediently reproduced by journalists who couldn’t even wire a plug, much less hold the government to account on the public’s behalf. Fancy-pants boutique energy retailers promise thousands of jobs making apps that help people bond with their smart meters, but beneath the gloss is the darker fact of tech being used to regulate behaviour, regulate unnecessary scarcity, and ration utilities, rather than meet people’s needs and power a dynamic economy.

Here is the transcript of the film:

NARRATOR: The problem for Boris’s plan is that sometimes there is no wind. Here is Herne Bay on the north Kent coast, in the early afternoon of Tuesday November 10, just a couple of weeks after Boris Johnson’s speech in which he claimed the UK would become the Saudi Arabia of wind. The Kentish Flats wind farm is situated five kilometres offshore from here. Not one of the 45 wind turbines is moving.

The problem is shown here in a chart of total electricity supply and demand. For the first two days of November, wind provided Britain with a stable 10 gigawatts of power, approximately 40 per cent of the combined capacity of all the wind turbines in Britain. But on November 3, the weather began to change and output from wind farms began to fall. This caused the National Grid to issue an ‘electricity margin notice’, advising that there was a risk of shortages the following day. And on November 4, output from wind farms dropped to around 2 gigawatts just as demand was peaking and just as the National Grid had predicted. Output from wind farms continued to fall over the 5th and into the 6th, 7th and 8th of November.

This variability of wind power creates a huge problem for grid operators – a gap between demand and available supply. Even with the addition of other renewables, the gap between supply and demand was many times greater than the output from green energy sources. To make up the difference, gas generators were ramped up to meet demand. Nuclear power stations were already producing at their maximum capacity, and even coal plants were turned back on to help meet Britain’s need for electricity. This shows us how crazy Boris Johnson’s plans are. There is no way that wind can provide a continuous supply of power to Britain’s homes.

Over the next ten years, Johnson wants to nearly double the capacity of Britain’s wind farms and to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. If Britain experiences the weather that we have had this November in 2030, this is what the total output of Britain’s wind farms will look like. In nine years, the problem of intermittency will not go away, it will be made worse. In November 2030, there is no possibility that wind power will be, as Boris Johnson claimed, cheaper than coal, cheaper than gas, because unlike coal and gas, wind will be scarce. Wind will not be powering your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle, because there won’t be any wind. Britain will not be the Saudi Arabia of wind. It will be the North Korea of electricity.

In order to manage this new and unnecessary problem of scarcity, grid operators will ensure grid stability by reducing demand. Some consumers were given a glimpse of this future on November 5, when fashionable energy retailer Octopussy Energy emailed its customers to offer them two hours of free electricity if they halve their typical use, as measured by their smart meter, for the duration of the National Grid’s electricity margin notice. For now, this has been pitched as a special offer, but it was an experiment in managing demand. Energy companies have been lobbying government to change the law, allowing them to disconnect consumers during times of high demand and to change the way they are billed through their smart meters.

Here are Boris Johnson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at Octopus Energy, promoting the firm’s technology that will enable these changes through apps that let consumers monitor their consumption and real time energy prices.

JOHNSON: Hi, folks. We’re here at Octopus, which is an amazing energy company based in the UK, creating thousands of jobs in this country, around the world.

SUNAK:  Yeah, and I think the amazing thing we saw today is the technology that allows you to do dynamic pricing when you use your energy. Which means you can cut your bills and use greener energy at the time we have it. It means that you know that you’re charging your electric car using 100 per cent green energy, which is great. You can do it cheaper when no one else is using the grid, which lowers costs. And . . . and this is a technology and the UK’s leading it.

BJ: And if you haven’t got the organisation to do it, these people do it for you and save you loads of money and cut carbon and create jobs.

NARRATOR: If they get their way, energy retailers will be able to bill consumers according to the price of electricity at the time of use. If there is a surplus of electricity, it will be cheap and if there is a shortage, prices will rise. Rishi Sunak calls it dynamic pricing, but the proper term for it is rationing. He claims that smartphone apps will help consumers use electricity when there are lower prices. But what it really means is that rather than the grid responding to people’s needs, people will have to organise their lives around the power grid. Electricity will not be there for people when they need it, when they want to have a shower before work or school, when it’s cold and they need to heat their homes or to charge their vehicle before travelling. If there is insufficient wind, electricity will become too scarce and too expensive to meet people’s basic needs.

And despite Rishi Sunak’s claims that dynamic pricing will help consumers as more people try to respond to lower prices, prices will rise in response to increased demand. The answer from green lobbyists is that it will be possible to store electricity when there is a surplus, and they claim that by putting wind farms further out to sea, a more continuous supply of wind will provide a more secure supply of electricity. But both these claims are misleading. There currently exists no battery technology that can store the amount of electricity required for prolonged periods without wind. Grid-scale batteries are extremely expensive, adding cost to electricity prices and can only store enough power for a few hours’ supply. Weather conditions in which there is little or no wind can last days or even weeks, as we have seen this November, and putting wind farms further out to sea substantially increases the cost. Construction in deeper water requires much more work, both to install the turbines and to connect them to grid infrastructure.

And this has still not solved the problem of intermittency. Even out at sea, there are times where there is little or no wind. The prime minister and the green lobby have not been honest with the public about the costs of net zero and the imposition that this will place on consumers. They claim to be leading a green revolution. But unlike industrial revolutions of the past, the net zero agenda will not make things cheaper and more abundant to allow people to take control of their lives. The Green Revolution will instead force people to reorganise their lives around unpredictable cycles of scarcity, the weather and price signals. If Boris Johnson believes that is a good thing, he’s mad. Really, really mad.

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Ben Pile
Ben Pile
Ben Pile is a researcher, writer, blogger. Sceptical of environmentalism. For science, against scientism.

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