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NIC’s Review Ignores The Real Energy Problems

July 10, 2018

By Paul Homewood




Britain’s first independent infrastructure review has poured cold water on plans to invest billions of pounds in a string of new nuclear power stations, in favour of cheaper wind and solar power.

The National Infrastructure Commission dealt a blow to the Government’s nuclear ambitions by warning ministers against striking a deal for more than one follow-up to the Hinkley Point C project before 2025.

Instead, billions of pounds should be funnelled into renewable power and energy efficiency measures for homes and businesses.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said by holding off on multiple, pricey nuclear deals ministers can “protect the money in the pockets of consumers”.

The cost of renewable technologies has plummeted in recent years, casting doubt on the economic merits of nuclear projects spearheaded by major energy companies including EDF Energy, Korean utility Kepco and China’s state-backed nuclear company China General Nuclear.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Credit: Micha Theiner


By making renewables “the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago”, Sir Armitt claims UK consumers could pay the same in real terms for their energy in 2050 as they do today.

Sir Armitt’s report said by the end of the next decade around half Britain’s electricity should come from wind and solar power, up from just below a third. Meanwhile, £3.8bn should be invested in home energy efficiency alongside low-carbon alternatives to replace oil and gas for heating homes and businesses.


Heaven help us!

It is relevant to point out that John Armitt was CEO of the basket case Network Rail from 2002 to 2007. Now apparently he is an expert on energy policy.

But he is obviously unaware that nuclear and renewable power are not interchangeable. Nuclear provides vital baseload, which wind and solar cannot. Of course, we could provide the same baseload with gas or coal power plants, but he does not seem to think that these are even worth mentioning.

Silly Jilly states that nearly a third of Britain’s electricity comes from wind and solar, but the actual NIC press release admits this is from all forms of renewable power. In fact, wind and solar only contributed 18% last year, with biomass accounting for another 10%. As we know, burning wood does not reduce emissions of CO2 in the short or medium term, and is simply a very expensive accounting trick.

Armitt seems to make no mention of biomass however.

He also seems to be blissfully unaware that solar power produces next to nothing in winter months. For instance, between October 2017 and March 2018, solar power generated 0.81 TWh, just 0.5% of the UK’s total generation in that period of 159.3 TWh.

He talks about cost effectiveness, but how can he justify spending billions on solar panels that can’t be used in winter?


Even the Committee on Climate Change accept that we will still need gas to supply a quarter of Britain’s electricity in 2030, even under a “High Renewables” scenario.

Figure 4.3 Generation for scenarios that reach around 100 g/kWh in 2030 (TWh)

High nuclear High renewables High CCS
Nuclear 84 47 63
Onshore wind 47 52 47
Offshore wind 72 91 72
Carbon capture & Storage 27 27 48
Solar 17 34 17
Tidal 2 2 2
Biomass 24 24 24
Hydro 5 5 5
Gas CCGT 99 97 100
Gas OCGT 1 1 1
Total 379 379 379

Scenarios for Fifth Carbon Budget – CCC


Yet, as the CCC also show, about 40GW of baseload will have closed by 2030, of which 10GW is gas:


Scenarios for Fifth Carbon Budget – CCC


As we currently have about 32GW of CCGT capacity, this will leave us with 22GW by 2030. In other words we will probably need 40GW of new CCGT capacity by then, something that Armitt makes no mention of at all.

He also talks about converting homes to hydrogen for heating and cooking, but there is no mention of the absolutely horrific cost of doing this.

Finally he claims that UK consumers could pay the same in real terms for their energy in 2050 as they do today. I am not aware that he has a crystal ball, but what is certain is that the wind and solar farms we build today won’t be around by then, so building them now won’t affect that equation. In any event, I don’t know of anybody who gives a toss how much how much we will be paying in 32 years time – what we do care about is what we are paying now and in the near future.

But we do know that the cost of subsidising renewable energy is already crippling, and will continue to inexorably rise for many years to come.


Like all quangocrats, Armitt blindly follows the policy objectives laid down by his masters in Whitehall.

It is a pity that he could not produce a truly independent report, to warn of the very real dangers that govt climate policies are leading us to, the huge costs involved, and offer a real alternative.

This is a chance missed to introduce some realism into the debate.



There is one more graph I want to show from the CCC’s Fifth Carbon Budget:


Figure shows hourly results in a hypothetical power sector scenario reaching 100 gCO2/kWh in 2030 of the contribution of nuclear, wind and solar output to meeting demand, stacked from low to high against hourly demand, stacked from high to low. The role of demand-side response, storage and interconnector flows are also shown in the dotted lines (bringing down peak demand during periods on the left and increasing demand at periods of higher low-carbon output to reduce potential curtailment). The implication is that gaps between low-carbon output and demand on left side of chart must be met by coal/gas CCS as well as conventional thermal plant (e.g. unabated gas).


As the description states, the graph illustrates how much electricity will still need to come from coal or gas in 2030, even under extremely optimistic scenarios.

Above all though, it shows that for much of the year, we will need 40GW or more of “spare” capacity, and maybe as much as 70GW at peak times.

  1. HotScot permalink
    July 10, 2018 6:20 pm


  2. July 10, 2018 6:47 pm

    Isn’t there a brave medical practitioner somewhere who’ll get at least some of these people sectioned? I know that’ll let them off the hook somewhat – but really – being given a lavish sinecure and then spouting deranged nonsense like the NIC “report” is indicative of some MH issues – surely?

    The National Infrastructure Commission is the epitome of the porcine Peter Principle.

    Perhaps some wag has tipped some psychedelics into their trough?

    • Rowland P permalink
      July 12, 2018 4:45 pm

      Yet another costly Quango – jobs for the boys – we can look forward to getting rid of.

  3. July 10, 2018 7:10 pm

    So Mr NIC Adviser, what past projects did you advise on ?
    \\ John Armitt was CEO of the basket case Network Rail from 2002 to 2007 .. //

    … Network Rail not exactly highly rated as an org with a great reputation for past planning

    \\ Now apparently he is an expert on energy policy.//

    Peter Principle ?

    • July 10, 2018 7:31 pm

      Peter Principle – perhaps not entirely accurate …. since at NIC one is looking at people who’ve generally moved sideways.

      It isn’t uncommon for corporate and public sector nabobs to “try it on” in areas they have zero relevant experience or understanding of – the epic fall of Bob Horton at BP springs instantly to mind.

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    July 10, 2018 7:15 pm

    Coupla days ago 19GW of faceplate windmill capacity was producing oh point eight of a GW – and for a week or so it’s been lamentable with gas, of course , ramping up to save is.

  5. July 10, 2018 7:35 pm

    The Government probably thinks all engineers are equal, so a civil engineer, who clearly has no knowledge of power engineering, will give advice they can trust. Yet again we appear to be doomed due to unbelievably bad energy advice from two bodies (CCC and NIC).

    • richard verney permalink
      July 11, 2018 10:15 am

      In actual practice since the point about base load and the requirement that this should not be intermittent is so basic, that even a schoolboy ought to be able to explain the problem that arises should energy production be reliant upon wind and solar, unless there is feasible battery storage that will store say 1 months worth of winter energy requirements (the winter of 2009/10 and 2010/11 demonstrates the need for that level of backup).

      So I do consider that any civil engineer ought to know the b0ll0cks being proposed.

  6. mikewaite permalink
    July 10, 2018 7:51 pm

    One could link the 2 recent reports here. That on Shorrocks and this on Armitt.
    It is precisely because we have idiots like Armitt in prestigious and influential public positions that we see the rise to unimaginable wealth, for no gain to the rest of us, of people like Shorrocks with schemes that don’t make any economic sense.
    The real question, if we want to rein in those such as Shorrocks is how to get rid of people like Armitt and make sure none of his ilk set foot in a public office, except perhaps as a floor cleaner, ever again.
    So, who appointed Armitt , what is the paper trail?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      July 12, 2018 2:38 am

      One silver lining in this report (or at least the Aurora report on which the NIC report is based):

      Meeting carbon targets with tidal increases government
      subsidy spending by up to £2bn/year, 2020-40

      I think that rather squashes tidal.

  7. Athelstan permalink
    July 10, 2018 8:45 pm

    “Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said by holding off on multiple, pricey nuclear deals ministers can “protect the money in the pockets of consumers”.

    “can protect the money in the pockets of consumers”

    gobsmacking – he certainly deserves to be.

  8. July 10, 2018 8:52 pm

    Nuclear is clearly a threat to the green blob, hence this concerted effort to throttle it. The level of argument is pathetic, but is sufficient to give cover to any govt (100% certain to be a Labour one soon) that wants to kill nuclear.

    • richard verney permalink
      July 11, 2018 10:22 am

      Nuclear, because of the underlying regulations that have now come to pass, is not a viable form of energy production.

      The sensible energy production is gas (via fracking) and coal (planting some trees if one wants to make that more carbon neutral).

      If one is sensible, there is no role for renewables, for wind or for solar in a high latitude cloudy country like the UK, where peak energy demand is winter evenings, and where when it is particularly cold there is usually a blocking high resulting in little wind.

      The only game changer would be some form of new revolutionary advancement in battery technology/storage, but nothing is even on the horizon, and it is extremely doubtful that the necessary advance will be made in the next 20 years.

  9. Adam Gallon permalink
    July 10, 2018 8:59 pm

    Who are these marvellous people? Armitt’s biog makes no mention of Network Rail, shovel that into a dark corner eh? Now, who knows anything about energy? Professor David Fisk CB – “He was a non-executive member of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA) from July 2007 until May 2017.” Hmm, sounds like he might know something? However – “David was Chief Scientist and policy director across several government departments including Environment and Transport, and was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. His responsibilities included the UK’s climate change policy…” Oh yes? Who else? How about Julia Prescott, MA in Oriental Studies, Cantab. ” a member of the Advisory Board of Glennmont Partners, a fund focussed on renewable energy.” Oh, bit of a conflict of interest there?

    • July 10, 2018 10:49 pm

      I looked at them just after it was formed, Adonis as chairman caught my eye and I had other professional interests in their deliberations / output.

      I was not impressed …. Cleggie’s tame boffin eh?

  10. Ian Miller permalink
    July 10, 2018 9:02 pm

    Ignoring renewables’ intermittency requiring fossil fuel back-up, the whole basis behind the establishment of ‘Wind generated’ energy to reduce CO2 emissions appears to be fraudulent.
    During the first 10 months of 2017, 400 scientific papers were published that cast doubt on the position that anthropogenic CO2 emissions function as the climate’s fundamental control knob, or that otherwise question the efficacy of climate models or the related “consensus” positions commonly endorsed by policymakers and mainstream media. These 400 new papers support the position that there are significant limitations and uncertainties inherent in our understanding of climate and climate changes, and that climate science is not settled. It is shown that modern temperatures, sea levels, and extreme weather events are neither unusual nor unprecedented. Many regions of the Earth are cooler now than they have been for most of the last 10,000 years.

    In as far back as 2016 the number of peer-reviewed scientific papers published in scholarly journals challenging “consensus” climate science was 500. This amounts to more than 900 papers in less than 2 years.

    Why are people like Sir Armitt given credence anywhere these days ? Who is he ? Why is he ? What does he know ? Why is he even allowed to speak ?

    • richard verney permalink
      July 11, 2018 10:34 am

      Not only is there a genuine issue as to whether CO2 is the control knob, Germany establishes that wind does not result in the meaningful reduction of CO2. Indeed, it is not even clear whether wind and solar reduce any CO2.

      Germany has greatly increased the amount of wind and solar in its grid since 2009. I haven’t checked, but it is in the order of a n increase from about 19% penetration in 2009 to about 32% penetration in 2017, and yet Germany’s CO2 emissions have not fallen between 2009 and 2017.

      In 2015 Stanford University did a study looking into solar, and it concluded that as at the date of the study (2015) if one takes into account the amount of CO2 used in the manufacture of solar panels and solar installations (it included hot salt installations), no CO2 had been reduced worldwide.

  11. markl permalink
    July 10, 2018 9:08 pm

    “… in favour of cheaper wind and solar power….” this meme is starting to pop up a lot and is beginning to take hold just like AGW has done through repetition. Doing the math tells a different story for wind, solar, and backup to achieve the same 7 X 24 reliability.

    • Curious George permalink
      July 10, 2018 11:28 pm

      Meme? You are a way too polite. Nonsense, or propaganda, or a lie.

    • richard verney permalink
      July 11, 2018 10:38 am

      If it is as cheap as claimed, it needs no subsidy.

      I have no problem with wind and solar, as long as there is no subsidy, and as long as no carbon tax is imposed on coal and gas. Let each stand or fall on its financial merits, without rigging the market one way or the other.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        July 11, 2018 1:23 pm

        And they meet their Grid connection costs and Backup.

  12. July 10, 2018 10:51 pm

    The NIC on Smart Power

  13. Jeff permalink
    July 11, 2018 12:02 am

    Too much cloud and too low sun in the UK for large scale solar.

    • richard verney permalink
      July 11, 2018 10:39 am


      AND PEAK DEMAND is winter evenings when there is no soar whatsoever. No engineer, designs an energy producing system where peak demand coincides with no energy production!

  14. July 11, 2018 12:37 am

    Isn’t all this Orwellian, or is it Alice In Wonderland – what I say means what I choose it to mean (to you) and nothing else?

    The Big Lie is not a character flaw of Goebbels or Stalin or Mao, but a character trait of the Aristocracy of Power. It is not about creating a Potemkin Village to preserve an existing order (bad enough) but of simply getting one’s way when reason won’t do it. It is part if a legal conspiracy to fraudulently misrepresent and then defraud the taxpayer. It works because there is no legal accountability to CEOs (or any other top-of-organizations): we all know they are simply charismatic talking heads.

  15. Bitter@twisted permalink
    July 11, 2018 7:16 am

    Another “Common Purpose” stooge.
    How do you think this bozo got his knighthood in the first place?

    • Old Englander permalink
      July 11, 2018 8:47 am

      Can you find Armitt’s name in any of the internet lists of Common Purpose members ? (sorry, “graduates”). I didn’t, though it doesn’t mean he isn’t one. Thanks

  16. Europeanonion permalink
    July 11, 2018 8:56 am

    Paul, Paul, you are not dealing in the same currency. You are dealing in facts while the State, the Government is dealing with perceptions, votes. This folly will continue. People generally are convinced that green is the answer mainly because Government has courted popularity and supported this lie, a cosy conformity. Now political parties are so embedded in the deceit that they are doing what they always do and have entered an auction between themselves as to who supports popular sentiment the most.

    Of course this being an industrial matter essentially it impacts the Tory Party most. They are, remember. the ‘nasty party. They support industry (nasty polluting stuff that sharp characters make a financial killing in) whereas the Labour Party can be indifferent to industry assiduously plants money trees, it is probably what they mean by the Green Economy. We can live on loans and have jam today. What do they care about some future date when the mills grind to a halt? It will never happen, it is a fiction but the worlds end through pollution, another prognostication, is the truth? Choose your truth. Whereas the the future and our financial well-being are certainties and offer no jeopardy, the money has always been, a thing which we should not be concerned about ,that is one certainty. The other is that not having enough energy to be the source of our wealth is also that historic thing of it always being there at the flick of a switch, what can go wrong?

    We have been so well supported by industry and its energy source that we now are in a generation that takes it all for granted, it will all materialise. A few years hence and Great Britain will be that which provides the fame attached to the Easter Islands, a place where bad planning and the worshipping of things which made stuff plentiful ‘now’ just didn’t see the writing on the wall.They made huge statutes descriptive of their assertiveness and wisdom we build wind farms. Wind farms are ‘Cold comfort farm’ and, according to the GB national grid website the rejoinder to no coal days recently has been virtually no wind days, no coal, no wind and passed their sell by date nuclear taking the strain. Move to winter and the same sort of high pressure system governing our weather…”abandon hope ye that enter here”.

  17. Alan Smith permalink
    July 11, 2018 11:19 am

    John Armitt has plenty of power generation experience. In his early years we worked together on the construction of Grain Power Station and then he went on to manage the construction of Littlebrook Power Station. He worked for the company that built Sizewell B.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      July 12, 2018 1:03 pm

      That sounds more like ‘construction’ experience. How long did he spend running the power stations and working in the control rooms?

  18. Dave Ward permalink
    July 11, 2018 1:05 pm

    “Nuclear provides vital baseload, which wind and solar cannot”

    But you forget – in the Orwellian future of “Smart” everything, there WON’T BE any need for baseload…

  19. It doesn't add up... permalink
    July 11, 2018 2:51 pm

    Some admissions in the Aurora report that underpins the NIC one:

    A high renewables pathway risks loss of load in extreme weather stress events, although system costs calculations already include the cost of such occurrences

    Despite 17.9 GW of interconnectors, imports are fundamentally limited by what is happening in other countries.
    It is not unlikely that there would be some international correlation of weather-related stress events.
    ▪ More work is needed to test the resilience of systems with different levels of renewables to a extreme stress

    In other words, they didn’t attempt to model real weather that has long periods when renewables production is limited – or when the Norwegian annual hydro output has to drop by 30%, perhaps for a couple of years in succession (it is currently scaled right back). Of course, had they done so, they would have found that their proposals are infeasible without major blackouts.

    • July 11, 2018 10:43 pm

      Having seen rather too many reports like the Aurora one it strikes me that they are almost always contrived to arrive at a predetermined policy and the commissioning and review process is utterly corrupted.

      Few of those affected or even those with conflicting relevant evidence who’d demolish this stupid stuff have the resources to resist the lavishly funded and fairly skillfully PR’d promotion of it.

  20. July 11, 2018 6:26 pm

    On anthropic global warming, Centauri Dreams a scientific futurist magazine has this article: The Apkallu Initiative: A Minilithic Artefact for Rebooting Human Civilization in the Event of Global Cataclysm on which there is significant mention of Ice ages and the data on cores from Greenland with this graphic( author Kelvin F Long ( you will be very interested to note the current temperature.

  21. pochas94 permalink
    July 12, 2018 3:17 am

    If it must be done by government fiat, it is a perfect project for the globalists to promote.

  22. Gerry, England permalink
    July 12, 2018 1:09 pm

    If we get the no deal Brexit many people are wanting then the access to the interconnectors goes which is goodbye nearly 18GW.

  23. July 14, 2018 12:01 pm

    Sir Donald Miller, Former chairman of Scottish Power, hits back in a Times letter today.
    It ends :
    \\ While costs are vital for electricity, reliability of supply is even more so.
    Experience of building Hunterston and Torness nuclear stations confirms that both objectives can be achieved with nuclear.
    In the 1990s, when 60 per cent of Scotland’s electricity came from nuclear, electricity prices were among the lowest in Europe.
    Experience suggests that it would be a mistake to base energy policy on the inflated prices agreed by the government for the new Hinkley station. //

    It begins
    \\ Sir, In proposing that the UK rely on renewables for 50 per cent of electricity supplies by 2030, with no additional nuclear power (“Boost green power and halt nuclear, advisers urge”, Business, July 10), the national infrastructure committee is embracing a high-risk policy.
    The day their proposal was released, power output from wind turbines met only 3 per cent of supplies at time of maximum demand and solar roughly the same.
    This was the highest output from wind turbines over the week, output on other days being 1 per cent or less at times of maximum demand.

    An increase in renewable energy from 30 per cent (the present figure) to 50 per cent of the total energy system would do nothing to guarantee that electricity was always available.
    This requires adequate backup from gas or nuclear plant which can be relied on to generate when the wind does not blow and the sun is not shining.
    Further developments in battery technology can certainly be expected, but there are no grounds today for believing that this or any other energy storage technology will ever achieve the capacity and economics required to meet demand for the extended periods required.//

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