IT IS eight years since the veteran broadcaster Peter Sissons said he viewed the BBC as hopelessly biased on climate change. It is seven years since we discovered that BBC editorial policy in the area was dictated by environmentalists.
I’ve long since given up consuming the corporation’s output, and feel better informed for it. So when it was suggested that I listen to the R4 Today programme’s coverage of the issue yesterday morning, I was intrigued to learn whether there had been any change in tone. The answer is ‘not really’.
The hook for the segment was that Theresa May is said to be about to do something silly around climate, so as to leave a ‘legacy’ (heaven help us). However this was, perhaps surprisingly, the cue for some coverage of the problems that were expected as a result.
We were told that nuclear was too expensive to help, of course, and although we are regularly told that renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels, the renewables industry was given the opportunity to beg for more subsidy: ‘enabling the investor community to know that they will be able to get their returns’. We also had a look at battery storage, much touted by environmentalists and renewables advocates as the answer to the intermittent supply of power from wind and solar power stations. What these people never set out, however, is that while batteries are an expensive but technically feasible way to deal with minute-by-minute fluctuations in wind energy, they are not even a remotely plausible way to store larger quantities of energy.
We were told that that we’d need 40,000 shipping-container-sized batteries to power the UK for a single day. But there the segment moved swiftly on, avoiding the question of how many days storage we might need. The answer is probably a month or more (remember the bitterly cold but completely windless winters ten years ago?) So we’d need, say, a million or more of those shipping-container-sized units. Oh yes, and Plan A is to switch the entire economy to electricity, doubling UK electricity output, so two or three million units is probably nearer the mark. A rough calculation suggests that might cost something approaching £2trillion,* and of course they would need replacing every few years.
The last interviewee was someone from the Energy Intensive User Group who said, in essence, that energy prices were too high and such businesses were no longer going to invest in the UK. This again might be seen as just a small flaw in the plan, but again, we moved swiftly on, this time to the summing up, which as you can probably guess was built around the idea that we plough on regardless: we were told that the green future ‘was out there’ but it would be ‘expensive’ (you can say that again) and that there were ‘technical challenges’ (you don’t say!)
In the political bubble, every major political party is hell-bent on driving us on to their centrally planned renewable future, regardless of the cost. In the media bubble, everyone is hell-bent on not asking awkward questions. The establishment are united in a belief that they are leading us to a promised land.
But like so many trips to promised lands, you can be sure that the journey to a renewables-powered future will exact a heavy cost. Livelihoods will be lost, and so will lives; the natural world will be devastated. But these are issues for another day; they are not the concern of those who live in bubbles.
*Details of the battery facility discussed are available here. The facility has a capacity of 24.5MWh and there are 20 of the battery units, so each one has a capacity of 1.225MWh. Each kWh of battery storage costs $500-600, so let’s say half a million pounds per MWh. So three million units would cost £1,837,500,000,000.