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Harrabin’s Jaunt To Madeira

June 12, 2019

By Paul Homewood



Roger Harrabin has been having a nice all expenses paid jaunt to Madeira, in order to pimp for EVs. Why he actually had to fly out there, instead of simply using film footage is a mystery!





Talk about an absurd solution to a non-existent problem!


Porto Santo, which is just a few miles off the Madeira coast, has a population of around 5000, a number which can triple during summer months.

A study in 2009 described the current power set up. (I assume little has changed since):




In short, Porto Santo has a perfectly viable and efficient system. Indeed, the sort you would design if you were building it from scratch.

Diesel generators can easily meet demand for power, even at peak levels. Generation can also be easily ramped up and down to deal with fluctuating demand.

The only drawback is those two windfarms, which are totally superfluous to requirements, and simply act to disrupt baseload.


So, step forward this new plan to turn Porto Santo into the first fossil free island in the world. The plan has actually been on an 18-month trial for a year now, so Harrabin has been rather late to the party! (Details here).

Instead of the perfectly workable current arrangements, the new plan demands that:


1) Existing diesel generators are scrapped, and replaced by a number of wind turbines/solar panels at huge cost.

2) Thousands of car charging points are installed. (The trial has 40 charging points in place, for use by the 20 EVs being used as guinea pigs). Given a population of 5000, I would guess there could be 1000 cars on the island.

3) Half of Porto Santo’s cars need to be EVs, for the system to work.

4) Add yet more renewable capacity to charge up all of these new EVs.

Drivers meanwhile will be expected to leave their cars during the day for charging (when the grid decides its appropriate). It is not clear what these drivers are supposed to do when they need them. (Intriguingly the car featured by Harrabin was a police car. Stop thief, can you just wait an hour while my car charges up!)


Harrabin does not tell us who is going to pay for all of this green flummery, but it certainly won’t come cheap.

He does tell us that drivers of EVs can make a profit, by charging up during the day when solar power is in surplus and selling back at night when electricity is dearer. That may be so, but unfortunately somebody has to pay the bill for that.

At the moment, electricity is readily available when needed, and consequently scarcity pricing does not exist. Any “profits” for EV owners will simply be added onto electricity bills.

Harrabin reckons this could become a global trend.

The BBC is currently in the dog house for withdrawing free licences from pensioners. I have a better suggestion – sack Harrabin and his hangers on. It will not only save money, but also help to make their news reporting slightly less of a bad joke.

  1. Henning Nielsen permalink
    June 12, 2019 7:43 pm

    “…Porto Santo into the first fossil free island in the world.”
    Oh, come on. No doubt the Maldives are long since fossil free, submerged as they must surely be by now?

    • June 13, 2019 9:07 am

      To be fossil free, they must first ensure that tourists arrive by sailing ship. Presumably the to-ing and fro-ing either via their own airport directly or Madeira’s with a short onward hop have to be added to the ledger at some point.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        June 13, 2019 11:09 am

        There are a number of luxury “Sailing” ships providing cruises these days, but as far as I’m aware they all have diesel “auxiliary” engines (for when there’s little or no wind), and diesel generators to provide the comforts the guests expect…

  2. Jackington permalink
    June 12, 2019 8:29 pm

    I did catch someone in the film mention sotto voce the need for back up power.

  3. sensferguson permalink
    June 12, 2019 8:58 pm

    I suspect that since Porto Santo is Portuguese the EU has paid the bill…..

  4. sensferguson permalink
    June 12, 2019 9:00 pm

    And how long will the stored power last?

  5. Martin Howard Keith Brumby permalink
    June 12, 2019 9:06 pm

    Looking at Google Earth, it would be hard to devise a journey on Porto Santo longer than 10km. (Or are the EVs all high clearance 4x4s?). I would have thought push bikes or shank’s pony would suffice for any normal use. Plus a few mobility scooters, perhaps.
    Is Porto Santo being used as a dumping ground for useless and unloved EVs?

    • June 13, 2019 3:25 pm

      Off road EVs are not remotely viable; any slight snagging, which a petrol or diesel would simply rev through, would cause either the battery to fry, the electric motors to fry or (presumably) blow the main protective fuse.

  6. Pancho Plail permalink
    June 12, 2019 9:15 pm

    The car owners will have to make a lot of profit to cover the reduced life of their batteries due to the daily cycling of the batteries. On an island of that size it would be feasible to charge only once a week in normal usage as I would imagine it would be hard to do more than 30km per day.

    • June 12, 2019 10:25 pm

      Renault sell EVs but lease the batteries. But if batteries are so great why don’t the authorities just buy some and forget about the cars?

      • Curious George permalink
        June 13, 2019 2:34 am

        I recognize a sales pitch when I hear one. This island would be fully self-sufficient with 10 electric vehicles per household.

  7. June 12, 2019 10:12 pm

    What is the source of your info that it was an all expenses paid junket for Harrabin? Normally the BBC would have to acknowledge that? Thanks

    • June 13, 2019 10:14 am

      I doubt he paid the bill himself!

      • mjr permalink
        June 13, 2019 12:21 pm

        I hope he did not make this clearly unnecessary journey on one of those horrible polluting aeroplane things

  8. Gamecock permalink
    June 12, 2019 10:28 pm

    Charge ’em up during the day; drain ’em at night.

    Uhhh . . . when do people drive them?

    It sounds like very expensive – though portable – batteries.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 13, 2019 11:01 am

      A basic Nissan Leaf is £30,000 OTR after £3,500 PICG in the UK. A Dacia Duster is £7,000 OTR, so call it £25,000 of subsidy with battery renewals at £12,000 every five years and vehicle replacement every fifteen years. Call it £50,000 per vehicle every 15 years. Used to the maximum each vehicle would supply 15x365x40kWh, or 219MWh during its life. That is £228/MWh just to cover the cost of the battery storage subsidy.

      Perhaps you can understand how I came to choose my internet moniker.

  9. Shoki Kaneda permalink
    June 12, 2019 11:28 pm

    Late spring in Madeira? Not much mystery why he went there.

  10. Joe Smith permalink
    June 12, 2019 11:38 pm

    How many Ah in a car battery? They must leave charge in it so the vehicle owner can use the car in the morning
    I saw this and cannot see the practicality
    Sincere BBC shutdown all debate, the Harrabin claims have got wilder.
    He is not a scientist or engineer he has an English degree

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    June 13, 2019 1:55 am

    Let’s do some sums. If demand is 36.32 GWh/year, that’s 100MWh/day, or an average of just over 4 MW. We can take El Hierro in the Canaries as a rough guide (their project was supposed to deliver 100% renewable power too), as it is in a similar situation and has a slightly higher level of demand. Typically it has a factor of two range in demand between overnight lows and peaks at midday and mid evening that shows very little seasonal variation. We could guess at 2.8-5.5MW as typical for Porto Santo. In El Hierro, wind has proved to be an unreliable source, and the main use of the hydro pumped storage system has been to increase grid stability by simultaneously pumping and discharging to create loads on the facility’s pump motors and generators that give rise to inertial energy that can be used to help smooth out fluctuations in demand and wind generation, since the reservoir size is too small to bridge large gaps in wind output. There is a lot of analysis of the El Hierro system that was done by the late Roger Andrews and several others here:

    This chart, drawn from Roger’s final report on El Hierro gives a flavour of the problems that Porto Santo will likely face:

    A typical Nissan Leaf has a battery with 40kWh capacity. 500 of them could therefore hold up to 20MWh. That’s enough to supply power for perhaps 4-8 hours, depending on the time of day. Utterly useless in the context of wind lulls that last a week.

    This is probably about the best data I can find on likely solar output patterns – note it seems that they added capacity in May 2018. It relates to a site in Funchal on Madeira

    The seasonal variation is quite strong: they appear to have had a cloudy winter. You can explore intra day generation here:

    It doesn’t look like solar will cut it either. Has anybody done these sums before committing large sums in EU subsidies to this idiotic project?

  12. June 13, 2019 6:16 am

    It is a well known fact that all the BBC correspondents, analysts and reporters who cover science and the environment have massive carbon footprints. Harrabin, Heap, McGrath, Shukman, Cox, Attenborough etc – they are always off jetting around the world.

    Hypocrites, all of them.

  13. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    June 13, 2019 7:40 am

    The way things are going it’s more likely that petrol and diesel cars will be used as emergency generators:

    • Dave Ward permalink
      June 13, 2019 11:15 am

      Yup – mine’s already set up to do just that, and rather more substantial than the “plug it into a cigarette lighter socket” method Jalopnik talks about…

  14. June 13, 2019 7:55 am

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  15. June 13, 2019 8:33 am

    Strangely there is no mention of BMW’s latest technology – lunar paint. This would enable driving in the day.


    Why hasn’t the BBC heard of it?

  16. June 13, 2019 8:41 am

    Note much detail in the video
    How long does it take to get full charge.
    Currently 94% Diesel generators and only 40 charge points
    Going to need to built a lot more windmills and lots of charge points.
    When charging can not drive.
    There are lots of unsold cars due to world overproduction. Could use them or just there batteries.
    Oh these are special 2 way batteries that can both charge and release energy.
    What will they think of next.

  17. Harry Passfield permalink
    June 13, 2019 9:32 am

    Of course, Harribin can explain how this ‘technology’ on an island the size of Porto Santo can be extrapolated to an island the size of Britain. Man’s an idiot.

  18. Ben Vorlich permalink
    June 13, 2019 9:45 am

    I was trying to find out what airmiles Harrabin has accumulated this year as he has to report from the location and talk to a local environmentalist. It was impossible to find anything.

    Does anyone have any information on where he’s been, and how far he’s travelled in the UK as a supplementary.

  19. Harry Passfield permalink
    June 13, 2019 10:23 am

    AEP’s in full support of the Zero-C plan over at the DT. He believes the Chancellor it totally wrong in his costing of £1T. His article is a scream.

  20. jack broughton permalink
    June 13, 2019 10:42 am

    “He was old, he was bad and no stranger to vice,
    he was vile he was base he was mean”….
    Have some Madeira me dear, Flanders and Swann: looks apposite to me.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 13, 2019 11:03 am

      Unfortunately it doesn’t raise our hopes when we see idiocies such as this.

  21. IAN PHILLIPS permalink
    June 13, 2019 10:53 am

    Dear Paul, I receive the Oxford Dept. of Physics Newsletter. The latest edition arrived this morning.I forward this article, which has links to the climate/ocean warming research referred to.Would you like to take a look, post and comment?Best Wishes,Ian Phillips. PS  I am a sceptic on AGW, regularly writing to my local Totnes paper and advertising your website whenever I can. Just one plea, though. Recently you made a few EU related ‘leaver’ comments. I am also a strong ‘leaver’, but I think you would be well to stick to climate issues. The internet is full of ‘leaver’ groups and detailed support for democracy. backed up with first rate information.By stark contrast there’s still so little on ‘climate reality’…beyond your site. Please put all your energy into the ‘climate’ hoax, the subject you are so good at! A century and a half of reconstructed ocean warming offers clues for the future | University of Oxford

    | | | | | |


    | | | | A century and a half of reconstructed ocean warming offers clues for the fu… Due to a scarcity of data, most global estimates of ocean warming start only in the 1950s. However, a team of sc… | |



  22. Eoin mc permalink
    June 13, 2019 11:55 am

    The elephant in the room about this continual eco peddling in broadcast media of this idea – of sending the battery contents of EVs onto the grid while they are parked up – is that the batteries of those EVs will end up needing to be replaced within a much shorter timeframe than the standard approximate seven-year time frame. Tulipmania and the South Sea Bubble was eminently sensible compared to the current European fixation on banning carbon emissions.

  23. Ivan permalink
    June 13, 2019 4:29 pm

    The first fossil-free island, where 24-hr electricity is (reasonably) reliably available, is Ta’u in American Samoa. The have entirely solar generation and enough batteries to last them a couple of days or something. The $8m cost is about $10,000 per capita for the 800 population. They didn’t pay for it themselves. But we also need to understand that they use rather little electricity per capita in comparison to places with more development.

    After the Puerto Rico hurricane, Musk was saying something like, let’s do something like that in PR. I did a back of the envelope, and first thing I spotted was that they use 3 x as much electricity per capita in PR comparison to Ta’u. I reckoned you’d have to cover about 10% of PR in solar cells. And increasing the above to $30k per capita for the 3 times increase in consumption, then we are talking something like a $100bn system for the somewhat over 3m population of PR.

    In most places battery storage is far too expensive to use for bulk time-shifting of renewable generation to dark/windless periods. Porto Santo island has got its undies in a twist due to some unfortunate investment decisions and an old-fashioned inflexible approach to security of supply. Other small windy islands succeed in integrating a higher proportion of wind power with diesel generators.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      June 13, 2019 6:36 pm

      As ever, Roger Andrews has looked at T’au here:

      and Puerto Rico:

      I can thoroughly commend both articles as examples of how serious analysis can be done with the benefit of no more than a spreadsheet programme and the inquisitiveness to go in search of some data. You can be sure that were he still with us, Roger would have dissected the claims for Porto Santo with the same rigour and intelligence.

      • Ivan permalink
        June 14, 2019 4:18 pm

        Thanks, impressive.

        As a small point, I think his estimate of 4 sq km of solar isn’t consistent. Using convincing methods, he estimates 15GW (I had estimated more by the primitive method). Standard estimates of unit land area for large scale solar arrays are 1-2 ha per MW. So that implies 15,000-30,000 ha, ie 150-300 sq km. Out of PR’s 9000 sq km.

        Btw “ivan” lower case i is a different poster.

  24. ivan permalink
    June 13, 2019 4:39 pm

    You have to hand it to Renault PR and sales departments for their outstanding work in finding another use for the second, or third, hand batteries they will be leasing to the island as storage units. It can also be seen as a massive virtue signalling exercise for the company as well as being an excellent sales drive.

    If they keep it up they may get a pat on the back from the UN Church of Climatology for helping with the scam.

  25. Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen permalink
    June 24, 2019 11:36 am

    Harrabin has been a ‘pimp ‘ for a long time.Knows little or know science… had a long talk to him once in Chicago of all places..

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