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How will we keep the lights on without coal?–Booker

March 11, 2018

By Paul Homewood



Back from India, Booker picks up on two recent items in today’s column:


How will we keep the lights on without coal?

I did not personally have any horror stories from the recent “Beast from the East” because I was visiting my Indian family in Goa (90F in the shade). But I did note that Britain’s lights were being kept on through those freezing days by our few remaining coal-fired power stations, running flat out to contribute up to a quarter or more of all the electricity the country was using.


Cottam Power Station

Coal-fired power stations: we still need them Credit: Oli Scarff/AFP


Within a few years, we will no longer be using coal at all – even though in 2014 it was still contributing 30 per cent of our electricity. This is because the Government wants to close down all the coal-fired power stations, for causing all that global warming you were lately shivering through. We must put our faith instead in ever more subsidised windmills and solar panels. Yet even last Friday 67 per cent of our power was coming from unsubsidised fossil fuels, and only 11 per cent from “renewables”.

Without coal, we will have to rely even more on that other fossil fuel, gas. But, under the Government’s latest “capacity market auction”, not a single new gas-fired power station is to be built, to replace those that will also soon be closing. The terrifying fact is that our politicians are so lost in groupthink that not one could begin to explain how we will then be able to keep our lights on.



Currently, coal and gas are supplying 64% of demand, with wind running at just 4%



43 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2018 1:22 pm

    “The terrifying fact is that our politicians are so lost in groupthink that not one could begin to explain how we will then be able to keep our lights on.”

    The politicians (the establishment, consisting of the brightest and best that the country has to offer) have decided that they can keep the lights on by stopping industry from being industrial and by rationing what small amount of electricity is left among domestic consumers. The rationing will be based on price (for those of the establishment who will be able to afford it) and by use of dumb meters (for the others).

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      March 12, 2018 4:25 am

      “A week is a long time in politics” so your politicians don’t care what happens in 2 or 3 years because they will be gone – probably somewhere warm and sunny.
      We too have clueless politicians in Australia, how about a swap? You send yours down in sackcloth with broad arrows and we send our lot to you in kangaroo costumes. Just tell them that it will save the polar bears and they will be enthusiastic.
      We need an exchange rate and I suggest I.Q.with 7 of our = 80 IQ (collective), excluding our current State Premier Jay Weatherill who is about minus 80. (After blacking out the State he wants to triple the capacity of renewables).

  2. Patsy Lacey permalink
    March 11, 2018 2:05 pm

    Amidst the controversy concerning the poisoning of the former Russian Agent and the push for sanctions, am I wrong in thinking that it was Russian gas which saved our bacon in the recent energy crisis. I am no Russian apologist but perhaps we need to get our energy house in order before we think of retaliation.

    • March 11, 2018 2:14 pm

      Gas imports from Europe played a part, and some of those would have originated from Russia. The false thinking, or lack of thinking, behind the decision to close the UK’s largest gas storage facility last year – at a time when coal power is being phased out – was shown up in a big way.

      We need to forget about assumptions of future mild winters, or face more of the same.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        March 11, 2018 3:59 pm

        If we didn’t know any better we could make an argument that says someone is running down our industry and power supplies with a purpose, and it’s nothing to do with AGW/CC. Perhaps I need fitting for a tin-foil hat, but I just can’t help thinking……. (personally, I’d get rid of any Greens working in BEIS – ‘cos they’re not working for the country).

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        March 12, 2018 10:01 am

        Harry Passfield,
        I have had similar thoughts for a long long time. Working in manufacturing since 1971 I saw unions, management and prime ministers doing their best to destroy it. This, the carbon free future, seems to be the end game.

        Whether you are in favour of a hard, soft, squidgy or no Brexit you can’t help thinking that when it happens the current crop of politicians both in the UK and EU won’t have agreed anything about anything, but the headlong dash to a carbon free future will be assured.

      • Tom O permalink
        March 12, 2018 9:22 pm

        You really aren’t thinking long term enough. What happens when you don’t have heat and it’s cold? People die from hypothermia. What has been the postulation for years from the UN? Population needs to be reduced. There appears to be a genuine “hate” for the white races, and which people live in the regions that will be frozen out if there is no power? Think about it.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 12, 2018 11:13 am

      Since the Yamal LNG startup the UK has seen its first cargo in late December, which the government claim has been re-exported, and then the second cargo of the Christophe de Margerie into Dragon LNG in the second half of January. Since the cold snap, we have seen a further cargo that was originally shipped on the Christophe de Margerie, but transshipped to the Maran Gas Ulysses for delivery to Dragon LNG (presumably a vain attempt to disguise its origin), and the Eduard Toll is supposedly bound for Grain, but at present is at anchor at the Sunk Light off the Essex coast. The main source of emergency supply (for which we had to pay a substantial premium to bid it away from a short of supply Europe) came from the interconnectors to Belgium and the Netherlands. The Belgian supply relies to a significant extent on LNG imports and pipeline gas landed at Dunkirk. The latter is Norwegian, but there were also several cargoes of Yamal LNG landed there. There have also been Yamal cargoes landed at Rotterdam, but these are less likely to have made their way into the export pipelines to the UK (and likewise Nordstream gas, because the Netherlands export terminal at Balgzand is fed by offshore fields in the first instance, and has Norway’s major Emden landing point just over the border as a potential source).

      Each Yamal cargo is about 1TWh of gas, or approximately a quarter of the daily consumption in the height of the cold snap – which would have been higher still if we had needed to run the CCGT stations in place of wind and coal by about 10GWe, or 20GW gas, or another 0.5TWh of gas per day. Even with that contribution from CCGT we would have been short electricity if it had been windless and the coal shut down. The choice would have been between how much power cut, and how much gas supply cut. As it was, industrial gas supply was sharply curtailed along with the CCGT – only possible because of the coal and unusually high and consistent wind.

      Norway has continued to be our major import source, and they have supplemented their pipeline exports to us with at least one LNG cargo on the Atlantic Princess landed at Grain just before the weekend. The milder weather coupled to the lower weekend demand did mean that for the first time since the cold started, the stock of gas in storage rose slightly on Sunday from its low point of 5.4TWh: at the peak shortage we were using stored gas at as much as 1.9TWh per day. LNG cargoes had previously been more or less pumped over into the grid straight away.

  3. The Old Bloke permalink
    March 11, 2018 3:19 pm

    And in a few years we will all be driving electric powered cars, maybe buses and maybe trucks. We will have no gas central heating only electric and all just in time for a Grand Solar Minimum. Whoopidoo.

  4. Robert Fairless permalink
    March 11, 2018 4:07 pm

    One is captive to the whims and foibles of an incompetent political elite. Their ignorance and lack of common sense is beyond measure. What they have done to the energy industry is to convert a reasonably efficient industry into an unbelievable mess whose organisation could easily fit into Alice in Wonderland with its schemes verging on outright madness.
    Written into Law are targets which are impossible to achieve. What is in the legislators mind when they demand everything to be run on electricity without the means of producing it. Coal mines closed down, coal fired power stations closed down with no alternatives except wind turbines. The destruction of millions of acres of forest to provide wood pellets to burn in converted power stations. They haven’t yet worked out that burning millions of tons of wood pellets every year will denude, indeed destroy all available forests in a few short years. As to wind turbines, even covering every acre of land over the entire country would be insufficient. Perhaps the government is hoping for a miracle to save us. Would that miracle perhaps be coal? No, the government, with malice aforethought has created out of wealth a dystopian wasteland where the ordinary citizen will pay the price of their folly.

    • March 11, 2018 4:17 pm

      Thank you Robert. You have put it much better than I did.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      March 12, 2018 10:05 am

      The International Union for the Conservation of Nature assessed the status of 700 European beetles that live in old and hollowed wood.

      Almost a fifth (18%) are at risk of extinction due to the decline of ancient trees, the European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles report found.

      Can’t have beetles and renewable wood produced energy it seems.

  5. sarastro92 permalink
    March 11, 2018 5:11 pm

    Freeze in the dark… a very teachable moment…

  6. Chilli permalink
    March 11, 2018 6:34 pm

    O/T but more green nonsense on the BBC last night: Gardeners World BBC2 – Monty Don bemoaned his use of evil plastic pots and declared his intention to start using terracotta – despite the fact he recycles his plastic pots – using them year after year. And despite a kiln-fired terracotta pot clearly using vastly more energy and materials than a vacuum formed plastic seed tray or pot.

    • March 11, 2018 7:51 pm

      The worst and most biased green nonsense I have heard on the BBC recently was the ‘Costing the Earth’ programme on the Great Barrier Reef.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      March 12, 2018 10:08 am

      Once a terracotta pot breaks it is pretty much useless, on the other hand plastic is potentially recyclable and could be used as fuel in the worst case.

  7. Douglas Brodie permalink
    March 11, 2018 6:40 pm

    I made this same point in a recent open email to politicians. There were periods during cold, dark January when fossil fuels supplied over 70% of our electricity with nuclear taking the total up to almost 90% while wind and solar barely registered above zero. We survived the month despite gas supply difficulties mainly because January was mostly extremely windy. Yet the government is intent on shutting down all our coal-fired power stations and running down our gas-fired power station fleet with most of our aged nuclear power stations due to be retired soon yet progress on replacing them is glacially slow. See

  8. Stonyground permalink
    March 11, 2018 7:06 pm

    Time to buy yourself a diesel gennie that you can run on cooking oil if needed.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      March 12, 2018 10:15 am

      Having survived the winter of 1963-63 in rural Perthshire having enough fuel to keep you warm for two months is now my number one winter priority. Back then it was solid fuel: wood, peat and coal for a Rayburn and paraffin for heating and lighting. Bottled Calor Gas for cooking and lighting.

      These days it’s exactly the same, apart from the gas light.

      Anyone using a wood burner as primary domestic heat source and runs out of wood before April was taking a risk.

  9. Keith permalink
    March 11, 2018 7:32 pm

    Interesting that our useless and clueless Energy Minister, Claire Perry, was conspicuous by her absence.

    • March 11, 2018 7:56 pm

      That would be the clueless Energy Minister who said about Brexiteers: “I would hypothesise that they are mostly elderly retired men who do not have mortgages, school-aged children or caring responsibilities so they represent the swivel-eyed few not the many we represent.” By the way, I don’t have swivel-eyes (whatever they are).

      • mikewaite permalink
        March 11, 2018 10:24 pm

        So how did the brexiteers outvote the remainers (supported by the likes of one the most detested men in Britain- T Blair) by 52 to 48?
        IF even simple arithmetic is beyond her how can she be relied upon to manage Energy and Business competently?

      • Nigel S permalink
        March 11, 2018 10:44 pm

        If she had grandchildren she would understand.

      • March 12, 2018 8:18 am

        I am not retired, I have a mortgage, I have three kids, two of them in school and I don’t have swivel eyes. I’m also a high rate taxpayer in a skilled job. She is clearly out of touch with her electorate, just like many of her colleagues.

  10. Green Sand permalink
    March 11, 2018 9:11 pm

    • Nigel S permalink
      March 11, 2018 10:40 pm

      V. good but these guys have a fully developed solution and they got grants to develop it too!

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        March 12, 2018 4:10 am

        Have they got a smaller model that works for bicycles?
        Our village is occasionally infested with recumbent bicycles(3 wheels?) and some tow a battery pack to help going up hill.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        March 12, 2018 1:42 pm

        Human ingenuity to get round a problem created by human stupidity.

      • Tom O permalink
        March 12, 2018 9:40 pm

        I wonder how much “range” is cut down by hauling the 400 pound trailer behind your EV? And then again, you do have to haul your fuel along with you. I suspect that when you add in the carbon costs of building the car, the trailer, etc., you aren’t nearly as green as you probably would have been driving one of those Hondas that got 55 miles to the US gallon of gas in the ’80s. Certainly not as green as that Honda CRX that got 80 MPG at the same time the Prius came out at 45.

  11. John F. Hultquist permalink
    March 12, 2018 5:11 am

    Please stop burning our forests!
    Message sent from the USA.

    • March 12, 2018 11:47 am

      Thank you John. In the 1980’s I did class fieldwork in the forests along the Roanoke River in North Carolina which have been obliterated by Drax.

      • mikewaite permalink
        March 12, 2018 12:26 pm

        Is not Roanoke a famous name in American (and British history) ? How badly has the area been affected by the Drax business?

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        March 13, 2018 2:50 am

        I’m familiar with the forests just west of Savannah, GA.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 12, 2018 1:43 pm

      We would love to but as we don’t have a democracy here we have no power over this.

  12. Bitter@twisted permalink
    March 12, 2018 8:12 am

    Moonbeams and Unicorn pharts?

    • Rowland H permalink
      March 12, 2018 12:02 pm

      Save gas. Fart in a jar!

  13. March 12, 2018 8:39 am

    So glad most of our heating, cooking and hot water is off grid (multi fuel Rayburn) and we have an old Land Rover with hand throttle and high amp alternator, capable of running as a stationary power source if required for 12v lighting. I’m expecting us to get some severely cold winters in the next few years in this solar cycle and the next and I’m convinced we’ll face national energy shortages. Having a few ton of solid fuel and logs means we can keep warm, cook and have hot water no matter what happens.

    Sadly even our level of preparing for power cuts and severe cold is being undermined by governments and councils who are considering or implementing bans on solid fuel stoves and old cars. Looks like they want the whole population dependant on grid energy so that we will all freeze to death when they turn the power off. They don’t want people with independent energy supplies!

  14. March 12, 2018 11:54 am

    There were 2 articles here about the plight of New England during the January cold spell. The predicament was self-imposed.

    These states had overseen the shutdown of the coal-fired power plants and had prevented any gas pipelines from invading their spaces. New York was hard hit and they are sitting on the Utica shales, but the governor will not allowing fracking. The other northeast states have neither coal nor natural gas and, by-golly, they are not about to allow any into their space.

    My sympathies run shallow for them.

  15. dave permalink
    March 12, 2018 12:34 pm

    “…they want the whole population dependent…”

    “If Caesar can hide the sun with a blanket, or put the moon in his pocket, we will pay him tribute for light” (Cymbeline.)

  16. March 12, 2018 1:44 pm

    No problem. According to Bloomberg,

    Batteries Will Kill Fossil Fuels — It’s Only Matter of Time

    Yes, they really did write that.

    • dave permalink
      March 12, 2018 3:23 pm

      There is a confusion bubbling beneath the surface of many of these so-called debates, and it is about whether one can appeal to authority in science. One can – but only in a particular way: One must state the formula or rule and place it in context.

      It is quite easy to understand the difference between good and bad appeals.

      Imagine you and I are discussing how long it would take a tennis ball to drop from a 20 meter roof. You say it will take three seconds and I say two. I appeal to my status: “As a scientist…” Bad! I appeal to the status of Physics as a whole:”It is well-known…”Bad! I drop a name: “Newton wrote…” Bad! I explain: “I used the formula s=(1/2)*a*t^2.” Good! Now we can calculate or possibly you will explain why the formula is wrong or inappropriate (“There is a strong up-draft there!”)

  17. Athelstan permalink
    March 12, 2018 4:30 pm

    In a logical world, without coal and gas using my crystal ball, pressages a future of fubar or totally fooked, thus it would be ever so slightly understataing the case, to scream… it not now the time to renew coal plant (as the Germans are doing) and to get on with hydraulic fracturing aka: fracking.


    Mrs maybe, since the days of HMG stupidity really came ‘online’.

    Speculation, you could point at, when we dumped our nuclear industry.

    Also and decided to meekly accede, to Brussels did/would ban via the LCPD all UK coal fired plant (how convenient – huh?).

    Next, the ‘dash for gas’ days via mr tarzan and then the greyman.

    Further, along to theresa’s and in between the broon/bliar terror, milipeed huhne, davey, dave and george turned us all lalaland and moonbeam technology is the new green joke it’s jus’ so unfunny but here’s the punch line. Credo, on or thereabouts the twelfth of never, nuclear built with 60/70…………… year old design constructed by the Chinamen.

    Wing and a prayer?

    Abandon all hope more like.

    As many have stated on here and probably (moi?) myself included, there only way to bang some sense into the green blob beholden political floozies-crackpots – is for the lights to go out sooner than you think and – it will – blackouts come to pass.

  18. Vernon E permalink
    March 12, 2018 4:40 pm

    I agree with earlier posters – the pressing problem is the Minister for Energy, Claire Perry. The immediate conclusion reached on seeing or hearing from her in the media is that she is an ignoramus of frightening proportions and will lead us cheerily into disaster and chaos. What to do? My own MP is un-involved (bazaars and kissing babies) and the only one who can see daylight seems to be Owen Patterson. Can’t we make a concerted effort to influence him?

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