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Categories

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‘Energy’

Osborne: robbing the poor to pay foreign businesses

George Osborne is looking increasing like one of the most profligate Chancellors of the Exchequer we have ever had, robbing the poor to pay foreign businesses.

  • Hinkley Point C nuclear power station £24.5bn
  • HS2 (high speed rail link from London to the North £46.2bn
  • Trident replacement £23.4bn

All those figures are almost certainly under estimates but still total close on £10obn, nearly enough to run the entire national health service for a year.

Hinkley Point is only possible by bribing the French state-owned EDF electricity company with the promise of  £92 Per megawatt-hour (to rise with inflation) which is twice the current wholesale electricity price. And then he promises the Chinese communist government to guarantee a loan. The private sector and bankers have looked at the scheme and won’t touch it.

If Hinkley Point goes ahead Sizewell C in Suffolk is almost certain to follow with a similar price and guarantees. Both these power stations are on low-lying coastal land subject to storms and total surges. Fukushima was safe until the tsunami.

HS2. The need for this project is hotly disputed with campaigners suggesting better ways of improving the rail infrastructure. Osborne has invited Chinese business to tender for work on the project.

Trident. Even the military is questioning whether this would be money well spent. One study of military opinion found “significant concerns about the costs and role of Trident. The funding crisis facing the Ministry of Defence means that spending on nuclear weapons is increasingly seen as unjustifiable when conventional equipment is needed and many in the armed forces have lost their jobs.” It looks like applying a cold war solution to the UK’s defence in a very different world. A US design for the submarines’ power plants is part of the plan.

Why Osborne thinks any of these projects is value for money or the British economy remains a mystery. In his budget this year Osborne cut £12 from the welfare budget.

Finding high tech lighting in the fens is a sign of how barriers to rural business are lifting

Choosing light fittings for the new house has proved more difficult than we expected. In keeping with the eco idea, they have to be LEDs and after six months we still have five bare light bulbs awaiting replacement.

Yesterday the search ended in Chatteris, one of those unexciting fenland towns which is not the sort of place you expect to find modern lighting design.

We had seen some of TP24’s products at the Ecobuld exhibition earlier this year but continued looking at every lighting shop and department that we passed. Yesterday we went to Chatteris and found an obviously expanding business with two offices, a showroom and a warehouse in separate buildings.

The showroom at the top of a former chapel was a surprise. Most of the ceiling devoted to light fittings and a remote control to turn them on and off. At one end, a theatre-style presentation area is set up to tell retailers and wholesalers about the products. Table football signals, high-tech business.

While running costs are an obvious reason for switch to LED lamps, experience in our previous house convinced me of another big advantage – not having to replace bulbs because LEDs last a lot longer.

Screen grab pf TP24 savings calculator

Screen grab pf TP24 savings calculator

While running costs are an obvious reason to switching to LED lamps, experience in our previous house convinced me of another big advantage – not having to replace bulbs because LEDs last a lot longer.

Much of the current market is replacing the bulbs in traditional fittings, but it is the design possibilities which are most exciting. Lamps can come in different shapes, flat light panels are possible, thin strips of light can be fitted under shelves and cupboards, pendant lamps can be fitted closer to ceilings.

Driving back from Chatteris along the A14 I reflected on how LED technology together with the Internet has brought employment to a rural area. It takes imagination and business acumen to build this sort of business but it can be done and there are advantages in doing this in a rural area where the overhead costs of premises are likely to be lower.

In Chatteris I noticed high-speed broadband cabinets in the streets. This service has now arrived in Debenham, Suffolk where I live and I look forward to it opening up the opportunities for imaginative people to create jobs here.

A website like TP24’s could be based in the centre of a major city just as easily as it is the flat fenlands of Cambridge. One of the barriers to business in rural areas is coming down.

A call for the next government: reduce carbon emissions and boost the economy

The only organisation to send me a copy of its manifesto is my electricity supplier. It arrived in my email inbox yesterday.

Ecotricity, the green power company, has produced its vision of Britain as a low-carbon state in 2030 and outlining policies for the next government to make this happen.

It is also in the commercial interests of Ecotricity and its founder Dale Vince, said to be worth £100m, that this should happen. I also think it is a valuable vision as we are already seeing the benefits, both for our finances and comfort, of converting our 1960s bungalow into an eco house.

The policies called for are:

  • Creating a Minister for Carbon – to set carbon limits across all sectors of the economy
  • Ensuring Britain’s power generation is 80% renewable by 2030 – saving £11.7bn in fossil fuel costs
  • Implementing ‘Quantitative Greening’ – deploying quantitative easing by the Bank of England directly into the renewables sector
  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies – all government support for fossil fuels cut off by 2025
  • Increasing support for electric cars – including scrapping VAT, helping to ensure all new cars are electric by 2030

Unlike many political manifestos it is accompanied by a detailed analysis — by Cambridge Econometrics — which, in part, concludes:

It is evident that a commitment to a low-carbon future could lead to substantial growth opportunities in the renewables and motor vehicles sectors and their supply chains. Around 150,000 jobs could be created in the power sector and associated supply chains, with a further 50,000 jobs relating to the motor vehicles industry.

I do hope that our next government recognises that a drive for a low-carbon economy would create more jobs, help re-build the country’s manufacturing industries and be good for our health.

Solar electricity prices increasingly matching and beating fossil fuel

Solar electricity is rapidly heading towards price parity and better, according to a report from Deutsche Bank. While the report is about the US market there is no reason to believe that similar circumstances do not apply in other parts of the world, including the UK.

The Bloomberg financial news service reports:

Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report….

The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. The price of Earth’s limited fossil fuels tends to go the other direction.

Solar is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity prices in 47 US states in 1916 even if the current 30% tax credit drops to 10%. The bank’s chart shows the position state by state.

Not surprisingly the biggest price advantage for solar is in Hawaii followed by California. But then comes New York and several other north eastern states with sunshine hours closer to those in northern Europe. Looking closely at the chart it is hard to see a correlation between climate and electricity price.

Price parity or better for 36 US states in 2016.

Price parity or better for 36 US states in 2016.

The Bloomberg article comments:

Solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency. Currently, it’s responsible for just a fraction of one percent.

Because of solar’s small market share today, no matter how quickly capacity expands, it won’t have much immediate impact on the price of other forms of energy. But soon, for the first time, the reverse may also be true: Gas and coal prices will lose their sway over the solar industry.

The prediction of declining importance for gas and oil prices is why finial markets are becoming increasing interested in alternative energy sources.

Angus cuts electricity costs for street lighting by a third

Angus council in Scotland has cut its spending on electricity for street lighting from £1,266,000 million to a shade over £830,000.

The Dundee-based Courier newspaper quotes a council report saying:

The roads business unit have undertaken significant street lighting infrastructure improvement works recently, which have resulted in the replacement of inefficient lamps with new energy-efficient units, which results in significantly reduced energy consumption.

They have also negotiated a new electricity contract at a lower price.

This report provides a footnote to yesterday’s post about the “rebound effect” on savings from energy efficient lighting.

Controversy over reaction to Nobel for LED developers

A blunt response to the award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics to three developers of LED lighting has brought angry response.

This is how two men who run a controversial think tank greeted the award in the New York Times.it would be a mistake to assume that LEDs will significantly reduce overall energy consumption,”

They are talking about the “rebound effect” which is an important consideration when evaluating energy saving technologies. If I buy a new fuel efficient car and use all or part of the savings to drive greater distances that is a very direct rebound.

The argument of Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute is LED lighting will enable more people around the world to light their homes and workspaces so the use of electricity for lighting will increase.

True, but if incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs were used the the increase in electricity demand would be much greater.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus have written an extensive paper on Lighting, Electricity, Steel: Energy Efficiency Backfire in Emerging Economies. It has a lot of detailed data and they argue:

From candles to kerosene and electricity, as lighting technologies have become more efficient and more affordable, societies have been very creative in finding new ways to use them, leading to more overall energy consumption.

And,

In the UK per capita lighting consumption from electricity jumped three orders of magnitude in 100 years, from 3,750 lumen-hours in 1900 to over 18 million lumen-hours in 2000.

They do say that in some countries lighting demand is reaching saturation. I suggest that in the UK we are starting to see reductions by measures such as switching off street lighting after midnight.

In summarising a publication, Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency. the International Energy Agency, says:

Considering multiple benefits also has important implications for unravelling one of the persistent challenges in energy efficiency – the rebound effect – revealing that it is not always negative. In fact, the rebound effect often signals a positive outcome in terms of achieving broader social and economic goals.

Inevitably, the NY Times piece has drawn responses from commentators and bloggers (Climate Progress: Confuses the facts is one). Earlier this year the Breakthrough Foundation came under attack from a writer on Harvard University’s Centre for Ethics blog:

While sometimes functioning as shadow universities, think tanks have been exposed as quasi lobbying organizations, with little funding transparency. Recent research has also pointed out that think tanks suffer from a lack of intellectual rigor. A case in point is the Breakthrough Institute run by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, which describes itself as a “progressive think tank.”

Discussions on climate change and energy efficiency are bound to be complex. We do not need people like Shellenberger and Nordhaus making simplistic statements which hamper informed debate.

LEDs are catching on as efficiency savings are recognised

Plymouth is planning to replace the lamps in its 28,000 street lights with LEDs to save £1.5m a year in electricity bills. The £13 million scheme is set to be approved later this month, according to This is Plymouth.

Here in Suffolk street lights were turned off between midnight and 5.30 am last year (East Anglian Daily Times) saving the council £390,000 a year. Lights near crossing and other danger areas are left on and lights on high poles dimmed. The intelligent lighting system cost £2.5 million which suggest pay back in about seven years: less is energy prices continue to rise.

In Debenham, our village, there has been some opposition to the switch-off and the Parish Council asked the county council to leave the lights on until 1am. The county council declined.

The bungalow will be completely lit by LEDs. In our present house we never really converted to compact fluorescent lamps because the low voltage down-lighters were not compatible. And we did not like either the delay or the quality of the light.

About 18 months ago we replaced the down-lighters upstairs with LEDs and were immediately converted. The light quality is good and not one has had to be replaced.

The initial cost is high but the electricity savings are very good and replacement costs largely eliminated.

What did “Eco” written on a electric switch ten years ago mean?

On the first day of the project I am diverted when Lesley calls out that there is no hot water for her shower. After digging out a multimeter which has not been used for years, it seemed the thermostat for the off-peak immersion heater had failed.

So plans to investigate the construction of the bungalow’s solid floor are put on hold. We have a good idea already as we have the original building specifications. But we need to check. Many people have told us insulating the floor will be the most difficult task.

At least replacing the thermostat is an easier job that putting in a new heater, but it does mean a trip to B&Q after the village hardware store told me they could not get them from their plumbing supplier. It seems I was the third person in the past few weeks to want one. They are going to have another go at getting a supply.

I hope they succeed: it would make a contribution to reducing hardware miles.

The switches for the water heating are seldom seen. Generally it is only when we come back from holiday and need to use the boost heater that we glance at them.

They hint at the changes in energy consciousness this century. One is labelled “Eco” and the other “Normal”. I must have written those labels 12 years ago.

Back then I used “eco” as an abbreviation for “economy”. That was when electricity was a lost less expensive. On August 24, 2004, The Times (£) ran a story headed, “Soaring fuel bills spell end to era of cheap energy“. It started:

FUEL bills for millions of householders will rise by more than four times the rate of inflation as a decade of cheap energy prices came to an abrupt end yesterday.

British Gas, Britain’s largest gas and electricity supplier, announced its highest increase since customers were allowed to switch suppliers in 1996.

Since then “eco” has become a prefix for everything from houses to washing powder which claim to be ecological. But not cheap burgers with bits of horse. They come from the economy ranges.

Many words change meaning with time but I was a little surprised to realise that only a dozen years ago I was using “eco” as an abbreviation for “economy”.

A good thing that came from my trip to B&Q was the purchase of a pair of safety goggle, so that the floor of the bungalow can be investigated with less danger.