The coming UK energy meltdown

#1
On The Oil Drum The coming UK energy meltdown by Euan Mearns
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Complicated subsidy

The idea behind the liberalisation of the UK energy market started under Margaret Thatcher was to have a free market in generation and sales and a government-regulated transmission and distribution system. Then Energy Minister, later Chancellor (Economics Minister) Nigel Lawson famously said at the time that “energy (should be) a traded good like any other commodity and its supply was to be settled in the market place”.

This has more or less come to pass. We have a regulated (privately owned) transmission company, National Grid, that owns the country’s high voltage transmission system (as well as the high-pressure gas transmission system). Almost all the major thermal power stations, fossil-fueled and nuclear, are now owned by six large energy corporations, EdF, Centrica, Eon, RWE, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE). Consumers are free to switch energy supplier and energy switching rates in Britain are among the highest in the world. Energy prices are not (yet) particularly high compared to the rest of the EU.

Yet all this is irrelevant if in the long term not enough investment is made in power generation while the UK at the same time is becoming dependent on outside suppliers. This will lead to an energy crisis no matter how “the market” is organised. And this is the reality we are headed for. Why is this so?

It should be noted that, rather than leaving the energy market “free”, the UK government has embarked on a hugely ambitious climate change program that has far-reaching impacts on the power generation market. In 2008 the UK Parliament voted through the Climate Change Bill and thus made CO2 emission reduction a legal requirement for the Nation, and not just for its own remaining tenure but all the way through to 2050. During the same year the UK Government agreed to implement the EU’s 20-20-20 targets, which require that the country will deliver 20% of its energy demand from renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, just eight years from now.

In addition, the Labour Government introduced an expensive subsidy, called the Renewable Energy Obligation. This obliges electricity companies to purchase an ever increasing fraction of their power from OFGEM-approved renewable energy resources. A Renewable Obligation Certificate (or ROC) rewards the wind turbine or biofuel generator with an agreed number of ROCs (between 0.5 and 2) per MWh, over a pre-agreed number of years, depending on which renewable resource the Government wishes to incentivize. The cost is met by the consumer to whose electricity account all of this is charged. The typical value of an ROC to any renewable energy generator since it was launched has been between £30 and £50; it is the subsidy the generator receives on top of the market price. So far, this subsidy has cost consumers £5 billion, with £1 billion in 2010 alone.

This is set to rise to £7 billion per year by 2020, representing an accumulated transfer from consumers to (mostly) wind developers of roughly £40 billion – enough money to pay for a respectably sized nuclear capacity.

So far this incentive is delivering only 6.5% of the UK’s electricity whereas the target for 2010 was 10%. The transparent failure of this incentivization programme to achieve its targets should have given the in-coming Government some warning. Instead, it ploughs on regardless, introducing continental–style feed-in tariff (FITs) for roof top PV (annual capacity factor about 6%) costing consumers anything up to 40p/kWh. This is a great way to further transfer funds from poor consumers to rich house owners. None of these renewable energy sources will deliver any firm capacity.
Public consultations
In 2009, OFGEM belatedly realized that the “energy-only” electricity trading system that it set up in 2002, was no longer fit for purpose. This trading arrangement, called NETA, replaced the “energy + capacity” trading system put into place at privatization. Under NETA, generators have no incentive to invest in spare capacity. Now OFGEM and the Government have become aware that a completely new tariff structure will be needed to fund a properly diversified mix of privately owned, dispatchable generating capacity needed to meet the ambitious targets of the Climate Change Bill and the 20-20-20 targets, while also delivering energy security. Far too late, they are realizing that dispatchable “low carbon” capacity does not come cheap. In fact, according to a recent news report, generators are now discussing with the government massive subsidies (to the tune of £10 billion) to build back-up gas-fired power plants that will stand idle for most of the time.

In all, it is estimated that between £100 and £200 billion of investments in offshore wind, transmission lines and back-up capacity are needed to realize the green dreams of the UK government. At this moment, the new Coalition government is studying a proposed Electricity Market Reform (ERM) that will determine the new tariff structure. This is merely the latest round in an endless series of “public consultations” and energy and global-warming related “white papers” that have been produced by the government in the last 14 years since liberalisation. (This included an announcement in 2003 that no new nuclear build was needed to achieve the UK’s climate targets followed by one in 2006 that said that nuclear energy is vital.)

The effect of all these U-turns and consultations has been to make the market extremely wary of committing money into the generation sector. The “money men” have not forgotten the introduction of the NETA energy trading system when many billions were lost by private generators who had invested in the UK generating sector under the old rules. The nuclear industry was bankrupted and had to be nationalized. Europe’s largest generator, Drax Power, was only saved by its bankers taking a longer view but at a huge cost to its then owner, AES.

The new trading rules that the Coalition is preparing come at a sensitive time, when the media are full of horror stories about price rises while millions per month are being spent by National Grid for compensating wind turbine owners whose output is being curtailed because of network congestion. OFGEM has said the investment required to ensure UK energy security and to decarbonise the power industry to 2020 could see consumer bills increase by anything between 23 and 52 per cent - equivalent to adding between £250 and £600 to today's average annual bill. There is a real risk that consumers “can’t pay and won’t pay”. Under these circumstances, the chances of separating £200 billion of private capital from its owners to be invested in the UK’s long-term “low carbon” vision must be slim indeed.

Tipping point
The challenges described in this paper cannot be fixed as long as they remain unrecognized by the people that we elect to write and abolish legislation. Elaborate roadmaps to 2050 and lofty-sounding calls for emission targets in the mid-2020s will be as pointless and useless to future generations as any such “road map” for the nation would have been if written in (say) 1910 or 1934.

Among the chief dangers that the UK faces in 2011 is the critical obsolescence of its electricity infrastructure, its essential bankruptcy and the absolutely unrealistic aspirations of almost its entire political class, although not its population, for a new, low-carbon, high-growth, job-creating, tax-paying economy.

The imminent closure of 16 GW of coal, oil and nuclear power plants and the realization that these simply cannot be replaced by the equivalent - or even much greater - wind power capacity, (even if it could be built, which is doubtful) is widely recognized in most senior echelons of the UK’s financial, manufacturing and engineering companies. Speaking at the recent Economist Energy Summit in London, Sam Laidlaw, CEO of Centrica, said: "We are rapidly approaching a tipping point in the energy story of this country and there is a risk that society is not being realistic about the path ahead. (…) Over this next decade three forces are coming together - our growing dependence on increasingly volatile world energy markets; our commitment to make serious cuts in carbon emissions; and our obligation as a society to ensure that energy remains affordable at a time of huge pressure on household incomes."

The problem is not unique to the UK. Major energy and concomitant trade deficits and even national bankruptcy are facing countries all over Europe. Europe cannot afford much more of the same.

It is probably pointless to try and get this message through to the EU’s present energy establishment, fixated as it is on perpetuating Kyoto and writing endless “2050 road-maps”. But given the extreme fragility of the UK’s economy, and the imminence of an electricity supply failure, it may still be possible to bring to the attention of the UK’s financially embattled Coalition, the extreme danger of its chosen policies, before the financial plug is pulled and its emission-related targets are exceeded by industrial ruin.

There can be no doubt that the UK must evolve an energy strategy that will liberate the economy from hydrocarbons as fast as possible. But its resources and financial circumstances are increasingly modest. The energy aspirations of its politicians are incoherent and technically illiterate. All this is about to come to a head with the transparent reluctance of international financiers to invest in the “green” economy. A huge U-turn lies ahead when it will have to plead with its EU partners for a derogation on the closure of the coal capacity and with EdF to keep the old nuclear fleet on the road, while developing a more realistic energy plan. This must almost certainly require the electrification of almost everything and the speeding up of nuclear capacity build, wherever possible innovating technically and reducing the costs by depending more on South Korea and China than our partners across the Channel in France.
Worth reading the whole thing.

It starts by pointing out that the UK has been energy independent for half a millennia and so the delusional behavior of the last half century is perhaps understandable. Its a long story of feckless regulation, under investment and privatized sausage making compounded by giddy dreams of a renewable energy economy that a less than eager private sector is somehow meant to create. Unlike some of its neighbors UK has squandered North Sea gas in a couple of generations and practically destroyed its coal industry along with the rest of its industrial base.

This isn't so much an argument about the details of technology but the short sightedness of politicians and the people who elect them. Like the much ballyhooed deficit this is another can being kicked down the road to the grand kids. Privatization of utilities (apart from water) can provide marginal benefits to the tax payer but not when managed like this. Utilities that don't turn a short term profit and require long range investment are inherently problematic for the private sector, larding them with public sector bungs can be unwise. Keeping the lights on it a common good, it comes a long way before feel good sops to green piety for most people. This will end in soaring energy costs, collateral damage to the rest of the economy, job flight, massive government intervention and sky high taxes.
 
#3
Luckily we are apparently going to build some new nuclear power stations.
BBC News - New UK nuclear plant sites named
Could be online by 2025 supposedly, well concealed tax payer bung to EDF, still the same happy talk.
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The plans will be debated and voted on in Parliament, but ministers are hopeful that, with a pro-nuclear majority in the Commons, they will win the argument.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: "Around a quarter of the UK's generating capacity is due to close by the end of this decade. We need to replace this with secure, low carbon, affordable energy.

This will require over £100bn worth of investment in electricity generation alone. This means twice as much investment in energy infrastructure in this decade as was achieved in the last decade."

Mr Hendry said industry "needs as much certainty as possible to make such big investments," adding that the plans "set out our energy need to help guide the planning process, so that if acceptable proposals come forward in appropriate places, they will not face unnecessary hold-ups".
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I doubt if this even plugs the gap that'll be left by North sea gas. There are also big downsides to nuclear power over the longterm, the industry has always operated as a ward of the state, I'd be looking at longterm options with coal and shales.
 
#4
Could be online by 2025 supposedly, well concealed tax payer bung to EDF, still the same happy talk.I doubt if this even plugs the gap that'll be left by North sea gas. There are also big downsides to nuclear power over the longterm, the industry has always operated as a ward of the state, I'd be looking at longterm options with coal and shales.
Even though there millions upon milions of tonnes of coal under there.There are something like 500.000000 tonnes plus both under and near under where i live.they have shot themselves in the foot by closing everything up the money it would cost is astronomical .We have not had a decent energy policy for years thats both main government the lib dems are not worth mentioning (whoops i just did).Thats why we are in the state we are now
 
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#5
Even though there millions upon milions of tonnes of coal under there.There are something like 500.000000 tonnes plus both under and near under where i live.they have shot themselves in the foot by closing everything up the money it would cost is astronomical .
The alternative view, of course, is that we have a viable reserve to be accessed in the event that the options are reduced.
 
#6
The alternative view, of course, is that we have a viable reserve to be accessed in the event that the options are reduced.
Yes, that's an upside of wielding the wrecking ball in the 80s.

Now think about desperately needing to get at it within a decade or two as the UK is forced to pay through the nose fror energy by Gazprom, EDF's French grid etc. The startup costs and lead times will no doubt be considerable.
 
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cloudbuster

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#7
Yes, that's an upside of wielding the wrecking ball in the 80s.

Now think about desperately needing to get at it within a decade or two as the UK is forced to pay through the nose fror energy by Gazprom, EDF's French grid etc. The startup costs and lead times will no doubt be considerable.
If it's needed in a hurry go for open cast or strip mining. The occupants of the former pit-villages may be put out, but in the grand scheme of things, not beyond the legislation of the day.

I wouldn't get too stressed about running out of gas any time soon. The Norgies are more than happy to sell us their surplus.
 
#8
Maybe we could turn off unrequired lights during the night? Have you seen London by night recently? Outstanding visually,but surely a huge waste of expensive leccy? Multiply that by all the major conurbations..........
 
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cloudbuster

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#9
Maybe we could turn off unrequired lights during the night? Have you seen London by night recently? Outstanding visually,but surely a huge waste of expensive leccy? Multiply that by all the major conurbations..........
Couldn't agree more. While the streets need illuminating, how much energy is wasted lighting-up the bottom of the clouds?
 
#10
I'm absolutely chuffed to goolies that our green Marxist Environmetalist Friends want us to concrete over the UK, and build mega-huge wind turbines and more wind farms offshore..... this IS Greeeeaat news.

Oh f*ck I got that wrong again..... Matron says that wit, sarcasm and Victor Meldrewness does not become me...

time for more anther coffee and cake...
 

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#11
Maybe we could turn off unrequired lights during the night? Have you seen London by night recently? Outstanding visually,but surely a huge waste of expensive leccy? Multiply that by all the major conurbations..........
During the Enron inflicted power cuts in Silicon Valley we were being told to live in the dark on Stamford campus while all these cooperate towers were blazing away, some wonk told me it was inherent in the building design, actually turning the lights off buggered the air con, go figure.
 
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cloudbuster

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#12
actually turning the lights off buggered the air con, go figure.
Plausible. Having the lights on during the night would keep ambient temps up around where they would be with the office occupied, which means the a/c isn't ramping-up in the morning then cutting out at night; cycles that use up more energy than leaving the lights on.
 
#13
If it's needed in a hurry go for open cast or strip mining. The occupants of the former pit-villages may be put out, but in the grand scheme of things, not beyond the legislation of the day.

I wouldn't get too stressed about running out of gas any time soon. The Norgies are more than happy to sell us their surplus.
At what price and against which bidders? The Scandinavians have been much more parsimonious than the regulation shy Brits in harvesting their fields and will be respectful of market forces.

From that article:
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The central planning scenario with which the new Coalition Government started out in May 2010, was for oil to rise from $70 to $85 per barrel by 2025. It assumed that the price of gas would rise from 58 to 71 p per therm in 2025. And that coal would actually get cheaper over the next 15 years, falling to $80/t.

Just one year later, a snapshot of the present (June 2011) shows Brent oil comfortably over $100/b, gas pushing 70 p/therm this coming winter and coal already 50% more expensive than the government’s assumption for 2025!

Similar, unrealistic assumptions are used by the Bank of England, the newly formed Office for Budget Responsibility and the UK Treasury, as key inputs for their economic models, forecasting inflation and economic growth. Even the “high, high” assumption for the oil price in 2010 is just $103 per barrel. Can it be any wonder that the Bank of England seems unable to forecast, let alone affect, inflation by playing around with interest rates?
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They are living in la la land.
 
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cloudbuster

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#14
As we in the industry well recognise, Government control of crude prices is limited. Having monopolistic control of supplies has a greater influence. ie OPEC. Creating buffers gives you some limited control of seasonal trends, as in the case of the Irish 'Kinsale' field, and the US strategic reserves intially formed for oiling the Fleet.

Hopefully, we can use the next few years of relative austerity to review our energy usage, and hope that the trickle-down effect of this moderates and modifies those countries who are going through a period of vastly increased expectation of availability. Relatively high energy prices have the effect of forcing people to manage their usage more thoughtfully.

Am I scared about meltdown and mass-blackouts? No. Historically, Man has found the means to adapt to his circumstances. I have no doubt we'll manage a bit longer.
 
#15
From a UK PLC point of view UK businesses fear energy risks
Organisations in the UK rate energy supply and costs as a top risk factor to their business, reports Reuters.

This is according to a report entitled Energy Risk Management for UK Businesses, commissioned by nPower and conducted by the London School of Economics, says Green Technology World.

The report was revealed just 10 days after a second major British energy supplier enforced double-digit tariff increases.

However, research found that one in six major business energy users still do not have a policy in place to manage energy risk.

David Cockshott, director of Industrial and Commercial Markets at nPower, says many businesses do not believe that cost and supply are within their control. “However, there are ways businesses can mitigate their risk, including investing in self-generation or demand-management technology.”

Energy Efficiency News notes that the UK Coalition Government's changes to the Carbon Reduction Commitment efficiency scheme has curtailed businesses' energy efficiency plan, according to nPower.

nPower says around 72% of UK businesses have invested in energy efficiency measures since participating in this scheme, 62% have installed smart meters and 20% have taken on additional staff to manage the scheme.

Green Wise states the report reveals UK businesses expect the government to provide funding for green energy and energy efficiency solutions.

When asked who should finance investment in self-generation energy, 61% of businesses felt that the UK government should pick up the tab – just 18% believe it should be them paying for it.
From the report:
box 1: five top risks for energy management
1. Continued upward trend in energy prices
2. Increased volatility in energy prices
3. New price risks from carbon regulation
4. Reputation risks from carbon regulation
5. Increasing regulatory and technological complexity
 
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#16
Carbon-regulation is a worry, I'll grant you. Let's wait and see how successful Ms Gillard is in her attempts to appease her coalition partners.

As for the quoted report, would you expect a Green lobbyist to say otherwise?
 
#17
From the The Telegraph The Government's energy policy leaves everyone in the dark By Jeremy Warner
Chris Huhne's plans to increase private investment in British energy look hopelessly optimistic.

Oh for the glory days of Sir Arthur Hawkins and the Central Electricity Generating Board. I never thought I'd say that about an organisation that seemed, at the time, to embody the very worst aspects of post-war corporatism and central government planning. But compared with the abject chaos into which British energy policy has descended since privatisation, the absolute rule of the CEGB seems a paragon of virtue.

Next week, Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, will get his chance to set things right with long-anticipated reforms to the electricity market, designed to create incentives for the investment in infrastructure renewal that Britain so urgently needs. If he doesn't succeed, there is every chance of power interruptions and brownouts towards the end of the decade. Regrettably, it's hard to be optimistic.

In a statement late last year, Mr Huhne said that he aimed to make Britain one of the best places in the world for energy investment. Yet soundings in the City and among electricity generators reveal widespread scepticism. Far from galvanising interest in the UK market, the reforms seem so far only to have created further uncertainties. One major overseas player, RWE, confirmed this week that it will be abandoning Britain altogether, so frustrated has it become. E.ON, the other major German electricity supplier operating in this country, looks equally unlikely to invest in new nuclear, given its home country's decision to phase out atomic energy altogether in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Of the main prospective investors in nuclear renewal, that leaves EDF, the French utilities giant, which is committed to only two of the eight new reactors that are judged to be needed.

Growing demand, shrinking supply and an almost impossibly ambitious set of targets for emissions reductions have come together in a ghastly triple whammy of challenges for UK energy policy. Over the next decade, many of our nuclear and coal-fired power stations are due to be retired. That means we will lose about a third of our generating capacity, creating a need for new investment that the Government puts at £110 billion but industry estimates to be more than double that.

It's much the same across Europe, where Citigroup Global Markets predicts that around a trillion euros of investment will be needed over the next decade to replace power stations coming towards the end of their lives and meet the new environmental requirements. What makes it much tougher for Britain is that, unlike the main continental markets – where the government places the orders, and the utilities, which are all essentially still underwritten by the state, deliver the goods – the industry here is fragmented, substantially foreign-owned and almost entirely beholden to short-term, market-driven considerations.

Thus far, these mechanisms have failed to provide the incentives needed to bring about the necessary investment in nuclear, renewables and clean coal. All such generating capacity requires massive up-front spending, which will only be undertaken if there are cast-iron guarantees about demand and price. Indeed, if ever there was an industry better suited to public control than private ownership, it is this one, for the unknowns are so great that only the public purse can underwrite the necessary investment.

The competition in electricity pricing that privatisation brought about 20 years ago may (arguably) have kept prices relatively low for the consumer, but it's not been at all good for our infrastructure. A huge backlog has built up, which must now be cleared. And Mr Huhne has scarcely helped matters by lobbying, with all the conviction of the religious fanatic, for ever more demanding emission targets from Europe. Given that the UK starts from a higher base of greenhouse gas emissions than some of our counterparts – owing to our greater dependence on coal – we have to run that much harder to catch up.


To do so, the Government is proposing four major changes. The first of these – putting a floor under the price of carbon – is little more than a thinly disguised stealth tax, since the difference between the market price and the floor price will be paid to the Government to help defray the national debt. All the same, it does obviously provide some sort of incentive to invest in carbon-free generating capacity. Second, the present system of "feed-in tariffs" for favoured forms of generation will be modified to create guaranteed prices for nuclear and renewable energy, thereby making these fundamentally uncommercial power sources more viable. Third, separate price incentives will be introduced to persuade investors to build a buffer of generating capacity that can be easily switched on to meet demand when the wind fails to blow. And finally, an emissions performance standard will be introduced to deter the construction of new coal-fired capacity.

It's all very messy – and astonishingly pricey – but in theory it ought to prod the industry into meeting the Government's objectives. There are, however, a number of very obvious drawbacks. The most important is that these four measures will add hugely to the cost of electricity. The Government's own estimate is that they will increase it by a third over the next decade in real terms – and the industry reckons it will be much more.

Absurdly, the Department of Energy and Climate Change claims that the net effect on bills will be broadly neutral, since higher prices will drive greater efficiency. You only need to think about this for a few seconds to realise its lack of logic – for unless its overall revenues rise very considerably, the industry isn't even going to think about investing the thick end of £200 billion. No, it's the consumer who will be made to pay, however much we try to avoid it by starving ourselves of central heating in the winter months.
Worse, these much higher bills will make large tracts of British industry – in particular, any factories or plants that are especially energy-intensive – uncompetitive. To stop industrial investment drifting overseas, the Government is going to have to introduce a separate set of subsidies for what are judged to be key strategic industries.

And even once you take all of these changes into account, they still might not be enough to make the energy industry invest. As one executive observes: "Can we trust the Government to keep its word on the pricing regime once the full impact on household bills strikes home? Somehow I doubt it." George Osborne's smash-and-grab raid on North Sea oil in the last Budget gives every reason to suppose that good intentions will eventually take second place to political expediency. The big companies won't invest if they suspect, even remotely, that it's on the basis of empty promises.

As Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of Centrica, said last month, "the clock is ticking. In my view, we… have got one year in which to take action, or our carbon reduction targets may have to be sacrificed in the interests of safeguarding the security of our energy supplies." By that, he meant that just to keep the lights on, highfalutin ambitions for nuclear and renewables will get trampled in a renewed dash for cheap – but import-dependent – gas-fired plants. Sir Arthur Hawkins, who was thwarted in his attempts to get Britain to follow France into massive nuclear investment all those years ago, would be turning in his grave.
That second bit of bold is mine, there's a basic ideological problem here and its nothing to do with the merits of different technologies.

New Labor and the ConDems share, a languid core belief that market forces can be left to sort things out even when the incentives are to take a sensibly short term profit and let the future British energy security go hang, folk like Électricité de France after all will share part of the stinging tariff British customers will pay for continental energy.

This is a traditional British "muddling through" approach that pre-dates Thatcherism by centuries. That administration cannot be blamed for innovating experimentally with what were moribund state run institutions. What's odd is looking at the deepening mess its making of some utilities that lackadaisical laissez-faire remains such an article of faith.

The other faith based policy consensus here is green tinged. I'm not entirely skeptical about the concerns behind this but the resulting policies do sometimes look more like conspicuous environmentalism than a serious attempt to tackle the problem. I do wonder if UK PLC can afford the luxury of such piety?
 
#18
The engineering institutes have been warning of this for years. But hey, who would listen to them?
 
#19
The engineering institutes have been warning of this for years. But hey, who would listen to them?
Over the last thirty-odd years, being really sodding thick has become strangely fashionable in Britain. Equal opportunity rubbish, stupidly equal schooling and lie upon lie perpetrated by Government hasn't helped, but basically most of Britain wouldn't believe a scientist if he said that water is wet.

If you fancy a look at this, have a shufti at any forum where the topic of bovine tuberculosis is discussed. Wall to wall "Wah fluffy animals, leave 'em alone" crap, and not a man jack of 'em can be bothered to go learn a spot of basic epidemiology, nor discover for themselves that bTB vaccine basically doesn't work, and that vaccinating badgers is an expensive waste of time. HCN down a lot of badger holes is the solution, but what gets me is the way no bugger even thinks of finding a bit of knowledge for themselves.

Its the same with nuclear power. Coal-fired plants actually output several times as much radioactives into the atmosphere than do nuke plants, but no bugger ever realises that; too busy flapping their hands, running round in small circles and squealing idiotically. The honest fact is that because the Labour Party are basically absolutely useless at anything except giving money away and are spineless buffoons with it, we don't have a modern energy distribution system, we don't have an effective water distribution system (London is dry, Cumbria is really rather wet, and there're a number of canals going between the two...), we don't have properly mothballed coal mines, and we don't have a functional nuclear energy system. We also have a Prime Minister who really needs to grow a pair and turn round and stand up for himself, and into the bargain needs to turn round to the EU and tell them precisely where they stand regarding sovereignty over the UK.

However, I am pessimistic as to whether anything good will come of this. The EU is going the same way as the USSR, not through a forced arms war but through its own internal lackwittedness; as empires go, the EU has to be the most ineffectual, most useless and least well planned empire ever conceived and put into motion; it will completely disintegrate inside another decade easily, but because of out lunatic political classes, we stand a fair old chance of getting pulled under when the poxy edifice dies.
 
#20
It's more basic than misunderstood technology. Energy is a utility that requires long range investment, this is something the UK is lousy at.

For instance after years of nimby wrangling a nuclear plant takes a decade to set up, has a marginally profitable life of a few decades and then must be expensively decommissioned.

The institutionally more able French had to build 30 plants to provide 80% of their power and they are now aging fast, They still have to import expensive peak time Watts from old school German coal fired generators. Having belatedly realized all their eggs are one basket it's not at all surprising they are desperately looking to run pipe across the Maghreb to the vast African basins.

As with nuclear other more trendy renewables require massive research investments and long lead times to roll out the unsightly infrastructure. They are predicated on science looking centuries ahead with high levels of uncertainty to possible disaster that it suggests they may prove entirely inadequate to avert.

These are difficult projects that span administrations, they require vision, political courage and generally the only way to do it is with huge wads of tax payers money. It follows that it requires an electorate that is not entirely focused on its immediate well being but that of the future generations. British politics has largely lacked these resources since the 60s.

Expensively closing the pits, toying with nuclear power, making your main source of energy north sea gas and then pissing it away in a couple of generations all happened largely for shorter term political reasons. The politicians dealing with more imminent problems who made those tough decisions for UK PLC are now mostly safely dead or in their dotage.

The voters who often supported them eagerly on the promise of lower taxes may briefly experience nostalgia for the miners strikes, candles and toast over coal fires in the early 70s before moaning like a bitch about how cold it is in their granny farm compared to their nice gas heated semi. That's sold off for the inflated fortune their care costs to some kid entering a life of onerous debt servitude, crushing taxes and economy crippling black outs.

The plans in place are not at all promising, a lot of hope is being pinned on 8 nuclear plants that are realistically a couple of decades away and that's if private investors can be persuaded to take a long range punt on this cheese parring underfunded program ever turning a profit.

Let's face it the UK polity can't even get it together to build a simple little thing like an aircraft carrier on time and too budget there's little hope of a massive program to rebuild the nations crumbling energy infrastructure.
 

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