Damian Loses The Plot!
By Paul Homewood
From Damian Carrington’s blog yesterday, in the failing Guardian:
The planned £18bn nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset are derided by critics as “one of the worst deals ever” for Britain, but defended as crucial to the UK’s energy policy by the government.
Recent resignations and financial warnings have knocked confidence in the Hinkley C deal, raising the question of whether clean energy alternatives could plug the gap. The fast-changing economics of the energy world, with renewables and other clean technologies falling in cost, indicate they can. The alternatives also look faster to build – it would take a decade to get Hinkley into operation – and cheaper for consumers, who ultimately foot the bills.
Energy policy expert Jonathan Gaventa, from the thinktank E3G, has come up with five better ways of powering the nation:
Electricity demand is already falling. The Somerset site for Hinkley C was approved in 2010 but since then UK demand has already fallen by more than the plant will produce, about 25TWh a year or 7% of today’s demand. Due to repeated delays, Hinkley C is unlikely to produce electricity much before 2030, by which time six Hinkleys’ worth of electricity could have been cut from the national demand, according to a McKinsey report for the government.
Wind power generation equivalent to one Hinkley has been connected to the national grid since 2010. Onshore wind power, having dropped 20% in cost over the last five years, is much cheaper than the heavily subsidised price Hinkley is guaranteed for over 35 years. The costs of offshore wind are also falling and likely to be below Hinkley well before 2030.
Electricity from solar power is now also cheaper than Hinkley, having fallen by half in the last five years. From almost no solar panels in the UK, a third of a Hinkley has been added since 2010. Half of that was delivered in just 18 months, according to government statistics.
Another third of a Hinkley has been added to the UK grid since 2010 by new cables to other European countries, where electricity is currently cheaper. New interconnectors to Norway, Denmark and France could be laid by 2025, adding another two or three Hinkleys to the grid, according to a report for the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) in February.
Storage and flexibility
Another NIC report for the government found that four Hinkleys’ worth of electricity could be saved by 2030 by increasing the ability to store electricity, in large batteries for example, and making the grid smarter. This would also save bill payers £8bn a year.
“It is clear that a combination of efficiency, renewables, interconnection and flexibility would be more than enough to fill the gap if Hinkley C is withdrawn – and could do so more quickly, more reliably and more cheaply,” says Gaventa.
When you read drivel like this, it is no surprise that the Guardian is going to the wall.
So, in the simple terms that even the few remaining Guardian readers might understand, here is why their proposals are unworkable:
1) Energy efficiency
This is wholly and utterly irrelevant. Of course, greater efficiency will potentially cut down the amount of capacity we need overall. But if Carrington had bothered to look at the UK’s rapidly shrinking generating capacity, he would have realised that we don’t just need one Hinkley Point, but a whole fleet of them.
Below is the likely situation, come 2020:
The UK needs at least 60GW of dispatchable capacity, even if continued improvements in energy efficiency take place. However according to the Committee on Climate Change, electrification of transport and domestic heating could add a third to demand for electricity by 2030, so we are likely to need capacity of 80GW by then.
But it gets worse! Most of the nuclear capacity above will be gone by 2030 as well, with only Sizewell B’s 1.2GW likely to survive much longer (unless the older plants have their lives extended yet again).
Carrington makes the claim that by 2030 six Hinkleys’ worth of electricity could have been cut from the national demand. As this equates to 42%, I think we can safely chuck it in the dustbin.
Just to reiterate, the CCC anticipate the need for 380 TWh by 2030 in their Fifth Carbon Budget.
It therefore is not a case of either we have energy savings or Hinkley. We need every single bit of capacity we can get our hands on.
2) Wind Turbines
We’ll ignore the fact that he complains about the cost of Hinkley’s power, but does not seem to worry about the much higher cost of offshore wind. If he really believes the latter will become so much cheaper by 2030, then clearly we should not be building them now.
But apparently nobody has told him that we need proper base load capacity, for when the wind stops blowing.
The price of solar panels is not the issue. In winter, solar runs at less than 5% of capacity, and therefore is irrelevant to the UK’s energy needs.
It is ironic that Carrington is extolling the virtues of importing nuclear power from France, and coal power from the Netherlands!
But on a more serious note, imported energy is not controllable, and the amount involved is still tiny compared to overall energy needs.
5) Storage & Flexibility
The idea that battery technology can make any real contribution in these timescales is pure pie in the sky. No responsible government would tear up its energy infrastructure in the hope that it could.
So let’s now return to my original table for 2020.
Now fast forward to 2030. Take out most of the nuclear and the coal, and we are pretty much wholly reliant on CCGT.
Yet our politicians tell us they want to totally decarbonise our economy. No energy company is going to build new gas power stations if they are likely to be shut down in a few years time.
Mr Carrington has a simple choice – nuclear or gas. But you won’t read that in the failing Guardian.