TIMERA Energy, an energy consultancy, has just published its latest analysis of the crisis facing the UK’s power sector. In short, it highlights the huge deficit in reliable electricity generating capacity facing the country in the not-too-distant future.
This is due to a combination of factors:
1) The closure of remaining coal power stations, old nuclear and ageing gas power plants. In total they expect 24GW of capacity to disappear by 2030. Apart from the 3.2GW nuclear plant at Hinkley, there is little new capacity coming on stream to replace this.
2) Increasing demand for electricity, due to electric cars and heat pumps. By 2035, this will increase peak demand by 20GW, to about 75GW.
3) Growth of intermittent renewable capacity.
Chart 1: UK derated capacity deficit evolution
Although there are plans to quadruple offshore wind capacity by 2035 and build lots more solar farms, the amount of reliable power they can produce is negligible. According to Timera, wind output could vary anywhere between 4 and 32GW in 2030. The more wind capacity we add, the more volatile the grid becomes.
Meanwhile solar power is next to useless in winter, when it typically averages only about 4 per cent of capacity.
Timera reckon that the combination of these factors means that we will need at least 15GW of new dispatchable capacity by 2030, (that is capacity which can be switched on and off when needed). By 2035 that number rises to a horrifying 30GW.
You can forget about batteries and other types of storage filling this gap, because they can supply power for only an hour or two. This may help to help at times of peak demand. Ditto with smart meters.
But what the grid really needs is sufficient capacity to supply the grid for days and weeks on end when the wind stops blowing. It will be extremely dangerous to rely on importing electricity from Europe, which has been suggested, because their grids are likely to be equally stressed.
The only real answer is gas power. But there is little incentive for businesses to invest in new gas plants when the long-term future is so unclear. After all, the government has already stated that the grid will need to be fully decarbonised by 2035. This would mean that gas power stations would need to fit expensive, and currently unproven, carbon capture and storage equipment.
In any event, increasing carbon taxes will make gas plants uneconomic, which is after all their intention.
Many energy experts have been warning for years about the disaster we are lurching blindly towards. But unfortunately our energy policy is not set by the experts. Instead it is determined by the green activists who have taken over the Civil Service, Quangoland and the media.
God help us all.
Drax subsidies hit £893million last year
Thanks to the fruitcakes in charge of our energy policy, we now get nearly a tenth of our electricity from burning trees, most of which come from North America. In fact biomass generates more electricity than onshore wind farms.
This lunacy was triggered years ago, when the EU in their infinite wisdom declared that burning trees was ‘carbon free’. In the real world, we now know that emissions of carbon dioxide are much greater for biomass than even coal. Pound for pound, coal contains much more energy than wood, and the whole process of harvesting trees, turning them into pellets and shipping them across the Atlantic increases emissions yet further.
Proponents of biomass argue that growing replacement trees offsets the carbon dioxide from burning them, but this can take decades. And it may in some cases not even happen at all, as the land might be used for other purposes or simply left wild.
What is clear is that most environmentalists are now totally opposed to using biomass in this way. Quite apart from the subject of emissions, great damage is being inflicted upon virgin forests in North America which are being razed, destroying whole eco-systems.
The only real defenders of biomass are the businesses who profit from it, and governments, for whom it is an easy way to cut emissions (on paper at least!)
Talking of which, Drax, who produce most of our biomass electricity, have just published their annual accounts for last year. They state that subsidies amounted to £893million in 2021. These subsidies are, of course, paid for by electricity users on their bills.
On top of this, they are also benefiting from higher electricity prices. Given that net profit last year was only £398million, Drax would be bankrupt now without those generous subsidies.
Climate group taking Shell to court
An environmental group are taking the directors of Shell to court over their ‘failure’ to cut emissions fast enough.
According to a report by Energy Voice:
‘Environmental shareholder group ClientEarth claims the suit will be the first attempt of its kind to hold executives responsible for failing to devise a plan in line with the Paris Agreement.
‘ClientEarth argues that the 13 Shell directors are in breach of their obligations under the UK Companies Act and is petitioning the High Court of England and Wales to bring the claim forward.’
Shell and other oil companies such as BP have to some extent been their own worst enemies. In recent years they have kowtowed to every demand of extremist green outfits instead of defending the massive benefits brought to society by fossil fuels.
They might also point out that it is the responsibility of governments to determine whether we should use fossil fuels or not. They could also draw attention to the economic collapse which would inevitably follow oil companies unilaterally stopping drilling.
One could hope that the courts would throw out this latest absurd case, but given our politically activist judges that might be too optimistic.
What is really intriguing is the list of who is actually funding ClientEarth. According to their annual accounts: clientearth-2020-annual-report.pdf
We see the usual collection of far Left eco-groups, such as CIFF (who fund Extinction Rebellion), the Grantham Foundation, Wellspring and ECF.
But look who else appears on the list – none other than the Department for International Development (DfID, now subsumed into the Foreign Office). Why on earth is the government sending our money to an extreme environmental group who want to overturn the government’s own energy strategy and cause great damage to the UK economy?
Client Earth’s CEO James Thornton, by the way, is reportedly one of the highest paid bosses in the voluntary sector, with a pay package worth £252,000.
Nice work if you can get it!
Climate lockdowns looming
When Covid lockdowns began, there were many amongst the green fraternity who suggested they should be used as templates for climate lockdowns to ‘protect the climate’.
The BBC frequently commented on how clean our air was (when we were all at home), and how wonderful it would be if we could carry on that way. A leading UN economist, Mariana Mazzucato, called for a limit on private vehicle use, a ban on red meat, extreme energy saving measures and an end to drilling for oil and gas.
Even the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, got into the act, suggesting restrictions on daily life.
Until now though, such calls have come from the fringe. However last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a press release demanding pretty much the same. The IEA, of course, is the organisation that represents the richer countries, effectively the OECD. Its membership consists of 31 countries, so you can guarantee that its output reflects the wishes and policies of its member governments.
The IEA demands include:
1) Reduced speed limits
2) Increased working from home
3) ‘Car free’ Sundays
4) Subsidising public transport
5) Alternate day access to cities for private cars
6) Avoiding business travel
7) Reduce air traffic
8) More electric cars
They call for these actions to address the current energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. But can anybody honestly imagine such measures being dropped after a few months?
In fact the IEA let the cat out of the bag, when they said: ‘The new report also includes recommendations for decisions to be taken now by governments and citizens to transition from the short-term emergency actions included in the 10-Point Plan to sustained measures that would put countries’ oil demand into a structural decline consistent with a pathway towards net zero emissions by 2050.’
The restrictions on our lives are naturally presented as ‘in our own interest’. Where have we heard that before?
The proposed ‘solutions’ to climate change, Covid, and now the Ukraine war are all exactly the same — hammer the public with more restrictions on travel, less freedom, and even more surrendering of power to unelected government regulators.