In an encouraging sign of a great awakening, million of people in the UK are now, after a week of brutally cold, absolutely windless weather asking "Why have we wasted so much money on wind turbines and harvesting solar energy."
Yet when politicians are asked directly: "How do we keep the lights on and our homes warm when the wind does not blow and the sun is too low in the sky to make much impression on photovoltaic cells that do the business in solar panels? They start to waffle about the impending climate catastrophe, the importance of achieving net zero and the urgency of reducing Carbon Dioxide emissions. There has been an almost universal enthusiasm in business, finance and politics to finance more wind farms. We were told we would get more than half our power from renewables. On a warn,breezy day in high summer when demand is at its lowest this is sort of true. I say sort of because it really depends on how on defines 'renewables'. However on the coldest day of 2022, in mid December only two weeks from the end of the year, a windless day on which in all but a few small areas of Britain the temperature did not rise above freezing point at any time and wind turbines contributed only 3% of our electricity supply.
The electricity companies made up the shortfall by importing enery from France's nuclear power stations and bringing online coal and gas fired stations, ostensibly shut down in pursuit of impossible 'net zero' targets, set by one of the recent COP climate conferences when thirty thousand or so delegates from the worlds of politics, business and academia fly, many by private jet, to some exclusive resort and amply supplies with gourmet food, fine wines and high class prostitutes to keep their minds sharp and focused, decide what sacrifices the rest of us must make in the cause of 'saving the planet.'
The stated capacity of UK wind turbines is over 25 GW, which
compares to demand on a cold day of a little over 45 GW. However that 25GW is a notional figure, dependent on ideal wind conditions prevailing over the whole of Britain. In reality all the wind turbines in Britain rarely supply as much as 25% of our electricity and much more often they do not even provide 10%.
This autumn and winter we have lived through periods of little wind, when the wind electricity output can be as low as 1 per cent of our total needs despite having theoretical capacity for many times that. Whenlack of wind coincides with cold, dark evenings and mornings when there is no solar power either, the power companies have to turn up output from gas and our few remaining coal generators which are designated as standby systems because amid all the hype for wind and renewables and the worship of St Greta of Thunberg somebody had the foresight to anticipate such situations.
Ever since 2005 when this blog and its stablemates Boggart Blog and The Daily Stirrer were born I and my colleagues, three old gits who have vast experience in busines, finance and engineering and still have all our marbles (well as many of them as we ever had,) have been warning of the technical and practical shortcomings of 'green energy generation' and anticipating such situations as have been experiences in the past few days. What we did not anticipate was the war in Ukraine and the diastrous sanctions imposed on Russian oil and gas by NATO member states. Unfortunately the response of of Russia this year to the genocide of ethnic Russians in Ukraine by the neo - nazi nutters in Kiev has led to an ban on the
gas imports that sustained Germany and Italy, leaving the EU trying to cut energy use to match the shortfall in supply so having shut down our North Sea gas wells and the massive Rough storage facility in pursuit of 'Net Zero' we have nowhere to turn
There have always been problems with adding too much wind power to our system. Much of the wind power is best generated offshore in Scotland where there is availability and on good days more wind. This needs an enlarged high voltage network to bring it south to where it can be consumed, with losses of up to 30% along the way. Too much intermittent renewable power fed into the system makes the necessary balancing of the grid more difficult, with more need for back up generation that can be available almost instantly if the wind drops. Relying on European imports does not work when the EU is also experiencing a cold period with little wind, especially if enough of the ageing French fleet of nuclear power stations continue to struggle to stay open.
Import dependence is also bad in other ways. It means exporting well paid jobs. It means paying large taxes on energy away to a foreign treasury instead of keeping them at home to pay some of the NHS bills. It gives the UK less control over energy when there are supply constraints that need managing.
The first aim of energy policy should be to ensure the security of supply, with the industry and regulators ensuring a useful surplus over normal maximum demand from domestic stations. The second should be to keep electricity and domestic heating fuel affordable for consumers by developing a system which always used the cheapest power available. The distant third was concern for the environmental because while mathematical models predict doom and gloom (don't they always?,) there is little real world evidence that Carbon Dioxide emissions from human activity have a significant effect on the climate.
In the first decade after privatisation, a time when I worked as an Information Technology consultant in the industry, the power companies made huge advances, replacing old coal stations where only around a third of the underlying energy emerged as electrical current with clean coal technologies that were more efficient and also removed the really nasty pollutants such as Sulphur Dioxide, and building gas-fuelled combined cycle stations that improved energy efficiency by more than half, allowing cheaper prices and a much cleaner output. There was plenty of margin for cold days when something went wrong with a power station or two.
The current Government has wisely said it is going to make national security
of supply a main aim again but will they stick to this pledge when the ecoloons and baxk to nature brigade start screaming. If they intend to do so it will
require plenty of stand-by power for when the wind does not blow and as power stations cannot be started as quickly as a car having wind as a primary source which gas or coal as back up means keeping those fossil fuel stations running with their output going down to earth. This is an absolutely insane business model, the money spent on ensuring the security of our electricity supply would be wasted because the politicians are too vain and the scientists to arrogant and stupid to admit that for the past thirty years they have been wrong.
'Scientists' (always wrong about everything,) tell us that investment in battery storage on a huge scale will allow us to keep wind turbine electricity from windy days to manage windless ones, however stored power tends to dissipiate quickly, batteries are hideously expensive and lithium (currently the raw material for the most energy efficient batteries,) is highly volatile and tends to spontaneously combust, triggering unquenchable fire that can burn without oxygen and cannot be quenched with water.
Greta Thunberg can go to hell, gas and oil will still be around when she gets there.