Skip to content

Letter to Telegraph

October 6, 2019

A very good letter in today’s Telegraph:




SIR – As a chartered engineer who worked in the electricity supply industry for 39 years, I despair to hear politicians like Rebecca Long-Bailey claiming that renewables will provide for most of our energy needs by 2030.

Renewable generation – solar, wind and tidal – is, by definition, non-synchronous and it is technically impossible to operate our electricity transmission system solely on non-synchronous generation. There is a real danger of system instability and consequential widespread blackouts once non-synchronous generation exceeds around 30 per cent of total generation at any one time.

The National Grid report on the recent major outage makes numerous references to the lack of inertia in the system. This resulted from insufficient large synchronous generators (nuclear, coal, gas) being connected.

Given the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the only option is to increase significantly nuclear build rapidly. Both Labour and Conservative governments have been unwilling to commit themselves to this, which has led us into the problems we now face.

It is unfortunate that politicians and environmental campaigners are ignorant of the technicalities of energy supply, or wish to ignore them. MPs may have the power to change the laws of the land, but not to change the laws of physics.

Steve Proud



  1. October 6, 2019 1:52 pm


  2. Ariane permalink
    October 6, 2019 1:53 pm

    Thanks to this engineer from Swansea. But, the laws of physics also tell us that there is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 6, 2019 5:43 pm

      Greens have infiltrated BEIIS. It is the only explanation.

      I bet this engineer from Swansea would have something to say about the barrage.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      October 7, 2019 9:21 am

      Yes, I am surprised that an Engineer would say that.
      Perhaps he thiught it necessary to get his letter published.

  3. Martin Burlin permalink
    October 6, 2019 1:55 pm

    An example of fact based science versus climate change science

  4. Richard Waite permalink
    October 6, 2019 1:58 pm

    Paul high point is that it was published at all.

    On Sun, Oct 6, 2019 at 8:35 AM NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT wrote:

    > Paul Homewood posted: “A very good letter in today’s Telegraph: SIR > – As a chartered engineer who worked in the electricity supply industry for > 39 years, I despair to hear politicians like Rebecca Long-Bailey claiming > that renewables will provid” >

    • Duker permalink
      October 6, 2019 9:20 pm

      I agree with what the engineer is saying, however there is one form of renewable energy that can provide the synchronous control , hydro. In my country a large part of the energy production was hydro even before wind became available. However the hydro and wind are distributed but not where the most demand is, but transmission lines are available. This can produce another problem , voltage drop over distance, which effects the magnetic field in electric motors, mostly in industry. So a power source close to the major demand is required. ( I hope I have that right).
      The idea that renewables are all thats needed for a grid to function , supply all the capacity needed on demand and be cheaper than thermal is unfortunately widespread and often vehemently so by some ultra greenies

  5. GeoffB permalink
    October 6, 2019 2:18 pm

    I am a retired electrical engineer, but I went down the electronics route. However when I did my degree in the 60’s we did power transmission and the need for spinning inertia was a fact then, it is just like have many mammoth flywheels spinning (a steam turbine is a big hunk of metal) if something goes down, then they slow down but it gives enough time (maybe only seconds) to get more steam into the remaining ones before the frequency drops and all the trips go. The ex head of national Grid, Colin Gibson wrote in the Telegraph recently that we should build no more wind farms due to grid instability. The maximum amount of non synchronous power on the grid is coming out at 30% for stability yet NG was close to 50% on the day of the power cut.
    The ac distribution system invented by Tesla has good points, particularly the ability to transform voltage, but the downside is the need for reactive power (VARS) (sort of negative energy). Wind farms, Solar and Batteries cannot provide this.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 6, 2019 4:26 pm

      As Paul pointed ouf in a very good post some months ago, inertia is a battery- and coal has a lot of inertia.

      • Robert Christopher permalink
        October 7, 2019 9:09 am

        True, but a battery isn’t inertia.

    • Saighdear permalink
      October 6, 2019 7:53 pm

      YEs, I think I understand that, yet the clever Germans have missed it.( I say germans ‘cos the rest of europe seems to want to follow in their death spiral ‘come on, jump in everybody, the fire is nice and warm’ mentality ) BTW on HR tv with them tonight( a repeat) was the ?first? of a short series about taking an Oddi ETV with caravan from Frankfart to somewhere in Sunny Italy. Apart from reading that it cost £16.40per40kWh to recharge en route somewhere & £67 per 473kms … there was a lot of hassle etc etc – see for yourselves “Die E-Mission: Mit dem Elektroauto über die Alpen” at,video-101668.html

    • Saighdear permalink
      October 6, 2019 7:57 pm

      …. electrical engineer …. hmm from what I see ‘n hear, FOR EXAMPLE, when are the AgricEngineers and farmers going to stand up for themselves – THEY SHOULD KNOW all about CO2 in THEIR environment. Instead they are all more than happy to go with the flowof eurogravy:talk about farmers no longer milking cows – milking the system instead. Time for Land reform??? Seems likke the Inst of Agri Engineers is going full steam ahead with this nonsense .

  6. Chris Matchette-Downes permalink
    October 6, 2019 2:39 pm

    Excellent – the papers need more such letters

  7. October 6, 2019 2:53 pm

    It is just a pity that the message cannot be got through to the government and its civil servants in BEIS. The people at the top of BEIS who are responsible for energy security, reliability etc have no engineering or any other relevant expertise. They are just typical administrators, usually from Oxbridge, who have worked their way up the greasy pole, moving from one department to another. They wouldn’t understand what this letter is telling them. They will just go on encouraging yet more offshore wind farms.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 6, 2019 4:29 pm

      Greens have infiltrated BEIIS. It is the only explanation.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      October 6, 2019 5:20 pm

      Phillip: I’m a lawyer and was educated at Oxbridge. And, although I know what the word ‘synchronous’ means, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t really understand the difference between synchronous and non-synchronous electricity generation and therefore why it’s dangerous to try to operate an electricity transmission system if non-synchronous generation exceeds about 30 per cent of total generation.

      It would be very useful if you were to explain this to me in terms that are simple enough for me to use when, as I seem to be these days, I’m in debate with greenies. A recent example: (Admittedly there wasn’t much of a debate here as, despite this being called The Conversation, the author didn’t deign to reply to my comment.)

      • October 6, 2019 5:40 pm

        Synchronous generators are those whose frequency is set to 50hz. If demand exceeds supply, frequency falls and the synchronous generators increase power which brings the frequency back towards 50hz (and vice versa if demand falls). It is like a governor set to 50hz or a cruise control on a car.. Asynchronous generators (or non-synchronous generators) do not control their frequency, they just change frequency to follow any changes in frequency; ie if the frequency falls, the frequency of the asynchronous generators also falls (and vice versa). They do not assist maintenance of grid frequency at 50hz.

      • The Man at the Back permalink
        October 6, 2019 6:18 pm


        This might be helpful from Ron Clutz’s website –

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 6, 2019 6:26 pm

        Thanks Phillip, that’s very helpful. I particularly like the cruise control analogy. Three questions however (forgive my hopeless ignorance):

        1. Why is it essential that frequency is held at 50hz?

        2. Why do asynchronous generators follow frequency changes (up or down)?

        3. Why is it dangerous if asynchronous generation exceeds about 30 per cent of total generation? Or, to put it another way – is 20 per cent OK?

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 6, 2019 6:35 pm

        Thanks TMATB – also very helpful. Although it verges on the technical for a poorly educated person like me. (As I said, I’m looking for simple answers that will help when engaging with the greenies.)

      • J Martin permalink
        October 6, 2019 9:13 pm

        Robin, I think my understanding of electrical supply may not be sufficient, but my understanding is that all the generators have to hold to the same synchronous 50Hz, because if some of them drift off, then you have a situation where they start to cancel each other out, but that power cannot simply disappear so then there is a danger that equipment will melt or explode.

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        October 6, 2019 10:03 pm

        Robin, good luck!

        1/ 50Hz is not a given, the US use 60Hz. The important thing is that all the generators are rotating at the same speed and in sync (50Hz = 50 revolutions per second). Think rowing eights? If one rower goes slower or faster than the rest, chaos would quickly ensue. The chaos for power stations can be real damage to the generators, there is a lot of power involved after all, so snapped shafts, fires and flying debris are all potentially possible. J Martin has it. To avoid that power stations disconnect themselves if voltage or frequency diverge far enough from the norm.

        If the demand increases, then the voltage drops, causing the generators to slow down, which reduces the frequency. The sheer inertia of the rotating mass tries to hold the frequency at the same level which momentarily increases the power output, but this also increases the current through the windings of the generator, which causes it to get hotter. So, even if a power station is in sync it will disconnect below a certain frequency for self protection, because that implies too great a load.

        2/ Asynchronous generators e.g. wind turbines/solar/batteries/some hydro inject power via electronics that simulate a revolving mass of steel and copper. But, as Philip Bratby says, they do nothing to increase the amount of power produced when demand increases, so they don’t help stability. They have to follow the prevailing frequency to be useful at all, viz. rowers.

        3/ My personal view is that the design of the synthetic inertia associated with renewables is not mature enough to exceed some percentage but they could do better. Think small children in the boat armed with soup ladles. They may help, but too many are going to cause grief!

        (I’m struggling with probate and trust issues at the mo. My barrister daughter is telling me to see a damn solicitor! There is a lot of subtlety that is difficult to put in a few paragraphs, that I just know you will appreciate!)

      • October 6, 2019 10:03 pm

        1 A lot of equipment is designed to operate at about 50hz and will fail or be damaged if frequency is too low or too high.
        2 Asynchronous generators do not have the capability to change their power level dependent on the frequency frequency. For example the power of wind turbines is just dependent on the wind speed.
        3 There is no specific %age level at which it becomes dangerous, but the higher the amount of asynchronous generation, the less inertia there remains in the system to maintain the frequency and so the grid becomes extremely sensitive to changes or faults (ie the frequency will change more rapidly and so is more likely to result in blackouts).

      • Ed Bo permalink
        October 7, 2019 4:29 am

        Robin: I just want to build on the comments of others here.

        What is essential is that all generators be tightly “in phase” with each other at all times. That is, their positive voltage peaks and negative voltage peaks must closely match every cycle. Otherwise, different generators would be working against each other, with possibly dangerous short circuit conditions between them.

        I hope it will be obvious even to non-technical readers that if two generators are not producing the same frequency, it is absolutely impossible for them to stay in phase with each other over multiple cycles.

        Stuart’s analogy of a rowing team is a good one. Even if they are stroking at the same frequency, having one out of phase is still a problem. If they are not all stroking at the same frequency, it is not possible to have proper operation.

        With traditional “synchronous” generation, the large mechanical inertia of the rotating generators means that changes in load result in very small frequency changes that can quickly be compensated for. With “asynchronous” generation, the alternating current signal is created electronically.

        The algorithms that do this are getting better. (I’ve done a little bit of work on them, and colleagues of mine have done more) Elon Musk’s inverter associated with his battery bank in South Australia does seem to have helped.

        But I agree that this technology is not mature yet. How dozens or hundreds of these systems will interace when severely stressed in the real world is not yet known.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 7, 2019 8:14 am

        Thanks everybody – I think I understand rather better now. And that should be helpful.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 7, 2019 12:21 pm

        You may find it useful to understand a little more about inertia. It’s flywheel energy, and much as with kinetic energy, it depends on the weight being rotated and the square of the speed of rotation. Generators operate at 3,000 rpm to produce 50Hz power. Wind turbines operate at about 20 rpm, so for the same effective mass produce just 400/9,000,000ths of the inertia. Solar panels and HVDC inverters on the ends of interconnectors do not rotate at all, and in fact modern wind turbines also operate via electronic conversion of the power they do produce rather than mechanical operation via gear boxes and speed governors, and this lose their linkage to mechanical inertia.

        All rotating masses contribute to grid inertia, so that includes industrial motors on the demand side as well as generators. Of course, with the closure of so much industry, the demand side contribution to inertia has fallen. Inertia is measured in energy units. For grids they use GVAs, or GWs. You can think of this as the number of seconds for which the grid could operate if suddenly all the power sources were cut off and it relied on meeting demand solely from inertia at a given demand level in GW. At the time of the August 9th blackout that was about 7 seconds. The physics are that as the energy is converted from flywheel energy to electrical energy the speed of rotation is slowed to compensate. For any given deficit of supply, the rate at which frequency has to drop increases if there is less inertia available. Thus with low grid inertia there is much less time for spinning reserve to react if frequency is to be prevented from falling to levels where tranches of demand are cut off to restore the supply demand balance, or in extremis where generators shut down for safety reasons.

        It takes 12 seconds for Dinorwig to go from spinning in air to producing 1.2GW and it can reach 1.7GW in 75 seconds – but it has to be spinning to start with to kick in at that sort of speed. Then there needs to be transmission capacity available on routes that make good a shortfall. Dinorwig is well placed to help if there is a sudden problem with the Western Link HVDC lines from Hunterston to Deeside, but not so well placed if the problem is elsewhere and the Western Link is transporting lots of power from Scottish wind farms.

        Other solutions for providing virtually instantaneous response to major grid outages are expensive. You can run old generators as motors, or so called synchronous compensators, but that requires power to keep them spinning. You can hook up expensive batteries that are only called on at full capability when a problem arises, which makes the cost per incident very high. You can use demand management to instantaneously cut off some uses, as Centrica are proposing with immersion heaters – the problems with that we discussed here recently.

      • October 7, 2019 2:35 pm

        Robin, I would only add that 30% grid penetration by intermittant renewables is too high. Grids can only get there when they use neighboring interconnected grids to dump surplus generation and import power to cover deficits. Hawaii is a good example of an independent grid that ran into problems at 10 to 12% renewables. California does it by offloading to Colorado and other western states. Germany used to destablize other European grids until the EU stopped them.


      • tom0mason permalink
        October 8, 2019 8:20 am

        J Martin,

        “but my understanding is that all the generators have to hold to the same synchronous 50Hz, because if some of them drift off, then you have a situation where they start to cancel each other out, ”
        No! The GRID is the vital system to protect NOT the customers!
        The operation of an electrical grid supply system relies on 3 basics.
        1. All generators to stably supply the required a.c. grid voltage.
        2. All generators will run at precisely the same frequency of 50Hz (or as we used to call it 50 cycles per second)
        3. All generators run with the same timing! That is to say when the peak of the a.c. voltage on the grid (that happens every 1/50 of a second for a 50Hz system occurs then all generators will also be at this peak voltage output.
        All generators on a grid are synchronized ONLY when they are correctly at 50Hz, have their phases (timing) correctly aligned, and are generating the correct output voltage. Any deviation from these parameters and protection circuits will remove generators and loads (customers) from the grid until this is achieved.
        Understand that —
        1. If a rogue generator attempts to supply the wrong voltage to the grid, then it will over dissipate (either sourcing or sinking too much current) prompting the automatic protection circuits to removing it from the grid.
        2. if a generator tries to drift off frequency then all other generators on the grid will oppose it, therefore the grid frequency will not change but the rogue generator’s output will badly affect the phase of the grid (causing excessive losses and grid component overheating), and the rogue generator itself will probably now CONSUME electrical power instead of generating it. These actions will prompt many automatic safety and protection equipments to operate removing this rogue generator from the grid.
        3. If a rogue generator tries to run at the at the wrong phase it will generate a current anomaly (incorrect phase balance) compared to the grid and excess phase power will be detected by the protection and safety equipment, prompting the removal of this rogue generator from the grid.

        Generating power for an electrical a.c. grid is to finely balance the system keeping phase (timing), frequency and voltage at the correct national values, while all generators supply what the load demands and not much more. The demanded (customer’s) load is shared between generators in such a manner that no overstressing of any generator(s) or grid components occurs. The grid system is constantly monitored by automatic and human systems.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 8, 2019 8:45 am


        You say ‘I would only add that 30% grid penetration by intermittant renewables is too high’. But that happens quite often in the UK without, it seems, serious problems. For example, as I type this wind alone is contributing 32% to demand:

        A general point. This mini-thread has demonstrated the complexity of the issue and how people who believe they understand it don’t necessarily agree with each other. It’s hardly surprising that people at the top of BEIS with no engineering or any other relevant expertise struggle to cope with it – without necessarily being infiltrating greenies.

      • Saighdear permalink
        October 8, 2019 9:04 am

        ‘This mini-thread has demonstrated the complexity of the issue ……’ indeed and I understand at least the jist of it from my own experiences. Trouble is we have a Society which thinks it can Legislate for ANYTHING. Unfortunately, some people ( Manufacturers /Service suppliers) go along with that Creed. Hence we have so much trouble and later disagreement.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 8, 2019 12:41 pm

        Robin Guenier

        There are several different problems with the incorporation of renewables on grids that manifest themselves at different levels of penetration with emphases that vary according to local circumstances.

        Short term variability of output – as wind gusts or clouds pass over a solar farm – requires that other generators are able to match the changes in output rapidly. This can be a big problem in relatively isolated locations. It was widely suspected that a sudden drop in wind was the cause of a rolling blackout in Northern Scotland in 2014, with inadequate capacity available to compensate fast enough.

        Even shorter term variation in output voltage and current – known as “flicker”, and caused by turbine start up which actually draws current from the grid out of phase with voltage and produces a voltage dip, and also by the variations in power as a blade passes its supporting tower. A further cause can be harmonics introduced by inverters where the power is converted electronically for grid supply. These problems can be tackled using switchable capacitor banks and grid batteries to some degree, but that also adds cost.

        Differences between periods of high wind output and next to nothing require full backup from reliable sources. These extreme variations stress the backup capacity, often resulting in inefficient use of fuel as well as mechanical wear from start stop cycles that shorten component life and increase maintenance bills. There was a study on the Irish system that showed the effect of this meant that there was virtually no reduction in CO2 emissions compared with before the introduction of significant wind. Of course another effect is that reduced average load factors for backup generators increases their fixed costs per kWh produced.

        As penetration increases still further, periods when production is close to capacity can overload parts of the grid and force curtailment to prevent melting transmission lines. This is the origin of most of the curtailment we have seen in recent years, and has been addressed by very substantial investment in additional grid capacity including the Beulay-Denny line and Western Link HVDC. The latter has suffered from frequent outages due to damaged subsea cables, which have also affected the Moyle connector between Scotland and Northern Ireland which is also used for dumping surplus Irish wind. Investment in added grid capacity has cost as much as the wind farms, and really should be added to the cost of renewables.

        Increase some more, and the proportion of renewables with essentially zero inertia reduces the available inertia to handle any sudden problems such as the loss of a transmission line (one of they key reasons for the big South Australia blackout). That leaves very little time to react, and may be beyond the capability of the remaining generation. Of course, it only manifests itself when a problem occurs. I have seen estimates that National Grid expect inertia to drop as low as 2-3 seconds in the not too distant future – surely a concern if we failed to avoid partial blackout at 7 seconds. It requires substantial investment in very fast backup and maintaining more spinning reserve that can take over seconds to minutes later. Ireland has been operating by dumping surplus wind on the UK in order to maintain sufficient inertia sources of generation, and when that proves insufficient on a windy night when demand is low, curtailment.

        Curtailment becomes increasingly common once capacity is increased beyond minimum demand levels. This means that the marginal cost of wind and solar increases to reflect the marginal additional curtailment. Curtailment is much cheaper than storage as soon as you have to look at storage that will only be drawn on less frequently to match extended periods of low winds, or seasonal variations in demand, or worse still, a 1 in 20 poor year for renewables output. It seems that getting higher than about 60% renewables on average becomes very difficult without extremely cheap storage – examination of many systems around the world tends to throw up similar numbers.

        Overall, inertia is just one of the problems with increasing renewables penetration. I’ve not covered all the nitty gritty details, but don’t be surprised when people raise different issues. They all exist. Some are more amenable to solution at reasonable cost than others.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 10, 2019 7:51 am

        Despite Ron Clutz’s comment that ‘30% grid penetration by intermittant renewables is too high’, wind is now contributing 34% to demand: Are we sailing too close to wind this morning?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 10, 2019 11:57 am

        Think if Houdini crossing a tightrope over Niagara. With a big balancing pole he will make it fairly easily. Take the pole away, and the risk of being blown off by a gust of wind increases sharply. Of course, that risk only happens when it’s gusty. High wind penetration doesn’t guarantee a blackout, but it increases the risks if anything goes wrong that otherwise might have been recoverable.

  8. Coeur de Lion permalink
    October 6, 2019 3:02 pm

    It’s distressing that this engineer thinks we have a need to reduce CO2 emissions. He should now do some reading on the climate change topic and bring his sober intelligence to bear on this field and see what comes up. I wish him well

  9. Paul Reynolds permalink
    October 6, 2019 3:05 pm

    The final sentence perfectly sums up the root of the problem. PIg-ignorant politicians and dimwitted campaigners, for heaven’s sake, wake up to the real world!!

    • Saighdear permalink
      October 6, 2019 8:00 pm

      Pleeeeease don’t insult my piggies. but I agree with those politicians and come painers. AsI’ve mentioned earlier – Farmers with their Pals – the Agri Engineers are not much better.

  10. Athelstan. permalink
    October 6, 2019 3:18 pm

    Until the lights go out in the winter an increasingly likely if bloody awful prospect: only that might focus minds.

  11. Ian Phillips permalink
    October 6, 2019 5:38 pm

    One can understand the phobia with nuclear energy among the environmentally-minded and peace movement groups, where nuclear means plutonium, nuclear weapons grade spin-off products + horrid toxic waste for 100s of years. Who could disagree?
    Boris has I believe mentioned “fusion”…but I don’t think there’s a single fusion reactor yet in existence anywhere..?? No one is talking about Thorium. Whenever I mention the word, eyes glaze over……it’s more effective than Valium.
    If newly emerged developed countries like India can have up and running Thorium molten salt reactors, why don’t we? The safety factor is the big plus and the availability of Thorium is worldwide.
    Thorium would be ideal for our more densely populated country.
    Google “ITheo” the website devoted to promoting knowledge of this….Pass the word on….

    (Physics graduate).

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      October 6, 2019 10:10 pm

      ‘If newly emerged developed countries like India can have up and running Thorium molten salt reactors, why don’t we?’

      They don’t. There is not one thorium or even uranium fuelled molten salt reactor anywhere. They may be the future, but they aren’t here yet. Unless you can provide a link?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 7, 2019 10:16 am

      Thorium remains in the research phase and us not without problems in getting to a commercial design.

      • Steve permalink
        October 7, 2019 12:54 pm
        This analysis of the comparative costs of non-synchronous wind and solar against nuclear is as good any.The assumed lower cost of wind assumes that HMG organises a competitive tender as the Dutch did and obtained cost a third of those negotiated by DECC, which we are lumbered with currently. The same could be done for nuclear on existing sites already connected to the grid. The latest costs for nuclear from US sources are only $33/ MWh, against £89 for the Hinkley Point EPR expertly selected by May, Clarke and the civil greens at BEIS. Gummer’s academic experts have used the higher estimates for nuclear when deciding to recommend their order for 15,000 offshore turbines and numerous gas reformation plants plus altering the mains and most buildings and transport, at very low cost according to their superficial workings.

        An advantage in addition to the lower cost estimated by the engineer authors of the above is that the costs of rebuilding to eco-house standards could be avoided if we simply did as the French have been doing for the last 50 years and using off-peak space and water heating to balance nuclear plus using night time to charge all of our electric vehicles so that they are ready to go when we actually need them.

        Of course, the Greenies will quote Chernobyl and run a mile. My wife, who is a scientist in the medical field refused my offer to borrow SEWTHA on the nuclear chapter and demanded other sources, leading to a severe standoff for the evening. This followed my comment that the new programme by Simon Reeves on BBC was ER propaganda, biased and unproven. Perhaps Paul would have a look at this.

  12. Tim Howard permalink
    October 6, 2019 5:47 pm

    At last, a letter from someone who know the realities of the limits of wind and solar. The ignorance of HMG, Parliament, and the likes of Extinction Rebellion is beyond belief!

    I despair at the endless misinformation given out about off-shore wind getting cheaper and the 100 percent renewabales which my provider E.ON is falsely claims to be able to provide me [Has anyone reported E.ON and the other providers to the Advertising Standards Authority?] Lies, damned lies, and climate change hysteria.

    • Phil permalink
      October 7, 2019 6:21 am

      Have YOU reported E.ON to the the Advertising Standards Authority?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      October 7, 2019 1:52 pm

      HMG may well be ignorant; Extinction Rebellion certainly are not.

      Stop falling into the trap, Tim! ER do not give rat’s ass (or a flying f***, whichever version you prefer!) about CO2 or climate except to the extent that the current scam can be used to further their own hard left political ends. The current activity in London represents the largest congregation of “useful idiots” ever assembled. The objective of their leaders is political revolution and the overthrow of democratic government.

      We do ourselves no favours by taking them at (their own) face value. We are in danger of giving them the noose with which they will hang us. In some cases, literally, though I imagine they will probably prefer firing squads.

  13. Thomas Carr permalink
    October 6, 2019 6:56 pm

    I wonder what the senior professional institute ( Institution of Electrical Engineers ? I.E.E.) is doing to inform the BBC science correspondant(s) of this issue? The very least would be to contact Jim Al Khalili who interviews scientists in his programme ” The Life Scientific”. Perhaps the thing would be to contact the press relations officer at the IEE and ask to what extent it has briefed the BBC on these issues.

    • Chilli permalink
      October 6, 2019 9:12 pm

      Don’t waste your time with the IEE – they’re completely controlled by the green blob. I quit in 2009 when they gave over their entire monthly magazine to climate alarmism in the run up to the infamous Copenhagen COP. Their writers likened anyone sceptical of climate hysteria to holocaust deniers – including Chartered Engineers and fellows.

      • Roger B permalink
        October 7, 2019 10:32 am

        The IEE is now the IET. I posted this in one of their Community Forums last week and am awaiting any response:

        OK so we have a problem that requires engineering solutions. The engineering community should be part of the solution but I don’t see any concrete action. There is a lot of rhetoric and virtue signalling but no planning, no road maps of how to reach a solution, no estimates of resources and time scales.

        Ms Thunberg can berate as many political leaders as she likes, but without engineering nothing will actually change. Resources will always be limited and these will control the time scales. Moving the ‘CO2 Neutral’ target from 2050 to 2100 may not be ‘kicking the can down the road’, it may be the optimum way. Is it sensible to shut down generating stations before the end of their useful life and so waste some of the energy and materials used in their construction, probably not.

        Firstly what is the problem to be solved? The UK shall be ‘CO2 Neutral’ by 2050. What does that actually mean? What does CO2 Neutral mean?

        1) Don’t burn anything that contains carbon?

        2) Burn things containing carbon and then stick the carbon back in the ground somehow?

        3) Burn things containing carbon and buy carbon credits (indulgences)?

        The technology for 2) does not exist in an industrial form yet and probably won’t by 2050. It might be available by 2100. If the whole world is trying to become CO2 neutral there won’t be enough carbon credits to go round for 3) to be practical so that leaves 1).

        1) means don’t burn coal, oil or gas (possibly wood as well) for:
        a) Electricity generation
        b) Process heating
        c) Domestic heating
        d) Transport

        The technology generally exists to replace fossil fuelled transport with electric/hydrogen power. The electricity and hydrogen need to be produced somewhere which increases the load on a) Electricity generation. A large amount of infrastructure need to be built for charging EVs and distributing hydrogen for fuel cell or combustion engined vehicles. We need to increase our ability to produce battery or fuel cell powertrains, including the supply chain, by a factor of 100. Is this possible by 2030, 2040 or 2050 depending on which rhetoric you choose?

        How do we replace oil and gas for domestic heating? The first step is obviously to reduce demand by reducing heat loss. This is quite difficult with a lot of the UK’s housing stock and previous attempts at improving insulation have resulted in numerous problems with damp etc. There will still be a need for heating so how can this be achieved?

        i) Ground or air source heat pump.
        ii) Electrically heated storage system.

        Both of these increase the load on a) Electricity generation and may be difficult to install in existing UK properties. Changing cooking from gas to electric is relatively easy but further increase the load on the electricity generation and distribution systems.

        I don’t have any answers for process heating. How can we manufacture concrete and smelt metals without burning gas or oil? Aluminium smelting and some of the refining processes can be done electrically but that also increases the load on a) Electricity generation.

        How to proceed with electricity generation and distribution? The load on the system has been increased by the other solutions and we have to shut down more than half of our existing capacity. What are the alternatives?

        Nuclear is a good start for base load but the current generation of reactors have slow response times to changing loads. It’s unlikely that newer generation systems will be available in time to be on stream by 2050. They will be available by 2100. The fuel cycle will also need to be supported by breeding and reprocessing. Could we build ten or more nuclear power plants by 2050?

        I don’t think Solar PV is viable at the UK’s latitudes, in southern Spain it may be.

        Wind is an option, however the low energy density and moderate capacity factor will require many turbines spread over large areas. The intermittency will remain a problem and will require a complementary system of storage or back up. The concrete and steel requirements for wind power are greater than those for nuclear power which offers a significantly greater service life. Could we build and install enough wind turbines by 2050?

        Tidal barrages/pumped storage. Tidal barrages also require vast areas due to the limited head (tidal range) and slow cycle time (11hrs). They also have an intermittency but it is plannable and can be managed by multiple basins with some loss of total efficiency. A useful contribution to the problem would require a barrage on all the UK’s major estuaries. The barrages could also be used as pumped storage facilities to support wind power but that removes the generating capacity. Separate pumped storage facilities could be built to support wind power but the likely, mountainous, regions are well away from the generation sources and end users. This will require expansion and reinforcement of the grid system. Are there enough places to install tidal and pumped storage systems? Could enough be built by 2050?

        If the above can supply enough electricity what about the distribution system. In another thread it was noted that domestic distribution is based on an average 6 or 7 amps single phase per property. In a CO2 Neutral world that is not enough. Additions are required for EV charging, cooking and heating. Will doubling the value be enough? How can that sensibly be achieved? I would suggest reinforcing at higher voltages and doubling the number of substations to reduce the disruption of the 415/240V system to a minimum. How many new substations would that be to be built and installed, 1000s?

        This is a possible road map to a CO2 Neutral future. It is full of assumptions that can be challenged. It contains many open questions. It does not contain estimates of the amount of raw materials involved. Is it possible by 2050? I don’t think so. Is it possible by 2100? Maybe. Is it necessary?

        Best regards


      • Steve permalink
        October 7, 2019 1:06 pm

        SEWTHA McKay has a thorough chapter on the possibililies of pumped storage in the UK. It can’t be anything like adequate.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 7, 2019 2:13 pm

        I quit the IET as well. Their magazine read like a Guardian supplement. They were even stupid enough to have a front cover story about air travel being made more difficult by the tropical hotspot. The tropical hotspot – a key piece of global warmism – had already been shown not to exist. I was even more shocked at how bad it was by coming across an old copy that actually had intelligent articles throughout. A spoof blog about a student son of engineering parents was the best bit on the current magazine!!!

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 7, 2019 10:40 am

      Educating the BBC is virtually impossible. I am presently working through a complaint about the misleading article Harrabin wrote on the recent round 3 CFD auction. He responded personally by ignoring the points I made entirely. Now starting round 2 before taking it to OFCOM, which I have warned them I will do – not that I will stand much chance there either.

      I tried to interest them in getting closer to the truth about the August 9th blackout, but they simply ignored me until the first National Grid report showed that Hornsea tripped before Little Barford, and even then persisted in reporting nonsense.

      All we can do is show they are being watched.

  14. October 6, 2019 7:14 pm

    Full marks to the Telegraph for printing this. Unlike the Guardian, they have not yet jumped on the bandwagon of climate change. I’m longing fgor the day when the gruiand gets its come-uppance. Roll on the Maunder Minimum!

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      October 7, 2019 9:28 am

      Oh yes they have.
      The only regular columnist from the sceptical side of things, was the late Christopher Booker. His work was increasingly marginalised & shunted into the margins of the paper.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        October 7, 2019 1:49 pm

        Not quite, there is still a young lady who writes it as it is.
        Can’t remember her name.

  15. October 6, 2019 8:53 pm

    Anyone who threatens the crazed anti-CO2 ideology, intentionally or not, is either attacked or ignored.

  16. David permalink
    October 6, 2019 9:59 pm

    When I checked this afternoon on Gridwatch. Solar was about 3 GW and Wind about 10 GW – well over 30% of the demand at around 30GW

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      October 7, 2019 9:38 am

      And now, we’ve wind supplying 7.53GW, solar 0.29GW & a trickle of water to give 0.53GW. 23.3% of the 35.9GW demand. We’ve got a coal station running to help the 51.5% contribution from fossil fuels. Then on the 19th September, wind trickled out 0.82GW. solar a sparkling 2.13GW. So we’ve now got a system, where a major contributor, can be producing anywhere between under 1GW, to 10GW, only semi-predictably, which might, or might not, coincide with peak demand.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 7, 2019 11:07 am

      At weekends and overnight demand is low, and with priority granted to renewables it will always stretch the system in the event of any mishap. Things will continue to work until there is an unexpected problem that suddenly disrupts the supply/demand balance. On August 9th, the trigger was a lightning strike that caused a section of transmission line to be disconnected. That meant an instantaneous power shortage to the North of London, and power surpluses for generators whose power had been routed over that line. The grid was unable to reconfigure power delivery before the imbalances caused generation to trip off for safety reasons (including a large tranche of “embedded” wind and solar, as well as Hornsea and Little Barford). That led to a supply shortfall and rapidly falling frequency, but there was too little response available from inertia, batteries and slightly slower acting spinning reserve which depends on increasing fuel burn to pump out more power. The consequence was that frequency fell to the point at which some demand is cut off to help restore balance.

      Since the blackout, National Grid have been operating with a little more caution in periods of low demand, often limiting throughput from interconnectors (which also offer no inertia and no reserve possible when run at capacity: reserve even when run below capacity is not particularly fast acting). They also appear to have curtailed some wind. Harder to spot would be higher levels of spinning reserve, but I strongly suspect that they will have increased this – another blackout event now would be a cause for resignations. Meanwhile they continue with the mantra that such events are rare. The last similar one was in 2008.

      • Steve permalink
        October 7, 2019 1:11 pm

        It’s a shame that the closing of our older nukes in 10 years time won’t be rare. I wonder what NG will be doing then.

  17. Stephen Lord permalink
    October 6, 2019 10:16 pm

    Basically the politicians are blowing with the prevailing wind until the climate hoax fad passes at which time they will be forced to invest in CCGT because that will be the only immediate solution

    • Athelstan. permalink
      October 6, 2019 10:54 pm

      The UK, and forthwith: needs to get fracking.

      Although gas for heating and industrial processes, coal for base load and electrical generated power/ lighting.

      The reality is however, a disaster needs to event before the penny drops.

      • Saighdear permalink
        October 6, 2019 11:19 pm

        huh, haven’t you heard last week… SNP “government” not permitting fracking in scotland. – but like all their tripe, it’s ok to import gas from 1/2 way around globe

      • Athelstan. permalink
        October 6, 2019 11:49 pm

        I despair for Scotland, I like the place and there are many sensible people up there, usually not in the big cities tho’.

        I can see Orkney and Shetland saying good bye.

  18. October 7, 2019 1:56 am

    One should be careful regarding the ‘synchronous’ part of the letter because all offshore wind generators (up to 2010) have the DFIG configuration –

    “This has important consequences for power system stability and allows the machine to support the grid during severe voltage disturbances (low-voltage ride-through; LVRT). Second, the control of the rotor voltages and currents enables the induction machine to remain synchronized with the grid while the wind turbine speed varies”

    • Iain Reid permalink
      October 7, 2019 10:05 am


      that doesn’t address the problem. Frequency is the issue not voltage, volatge control is realatively easy. Yes they remain synchronised and will droop if the system frequency droops, but it can’t assist in putting more power in to bring back the frequency.

      • Saighdear permalink
        October 7, 2019 10:33 am

        Indeed Iain, does the genral pubic and some bloggers here actually USE “mains”electricity to UNDERSTAND what AC is and the importance of AC FREQUENCY in machinery control systems etc. I have several 3-phase & Muli-voltage generators as well as Inverters and converters in our workshops – becoming an increasingly frustrating problem when some machines – evenmodern (electronic) Welders don’t function reliably on fixed settings because frequency and voltage have changed. Can imagine this on a national scale. It’s all OK for resistive loads, otherwise ….. let the Electrical engineers explain

      • Athelstan. permalink
        October 7, 2019 2:38 pm

        Major German industrial processing centres, have flat refused to use intermittent whirlgig output, they can’t sell it to Poland either. that’s why they are recommissioning and building new base load capacity – using some funny stuff named erm lignite I think.

      • tom0mason permalink
        October 8, 2019 8:56 am

        Indeed Iain Reid, frequency is the main issue but also is the phase (timing) between the generators and the grid.
        To be synchronized the generators on the grid system MUST be phase aligned, i.e. not only is everything running at a nominal 50 cycle per second (50Hz) but the A.C.’s cyclic variations (at nominal 50Hz) occur at precisely the same time. Therefore the control of all generators on a grid system is very precise, to better than 1/50 of a second.

  19. October 7, 2019 9:10 am

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “It is unfortunate that politicians and environmental campaigners are ignorant of the technicalities of energy supply, or wish to ignore them. MPs may have the power to change the laws of the land, but not to change the laws of physics.”

    MEANWHILE, China continues to manufacture UNreliables (wind/solar) for the gullible, CO2-theory-obsessed West, using “dirty” coal as the catalyst.

    LET that sink in.

  20. A C Osborn permalink
    October 7, 2019 10:07 am

    Paul, this is interesting at Tallblokes, the Exec at the National Grid says they would not mind it being taken over.

    Maybe they can see the future where they will be taking the blame for rolling brown/blackouts caused by stupid government policies.

  21. October 7, 2019 10:50 am

    I enjoyed reading Mr Proud’s letter in the Telegraph but with regard to his comment, ‘Given the need to reduce carbon emissions’ I would say to him, Why?

  22. Vernon E permalink
    October 7, 2019 11:54 am

    A good point made by Roger B that cavity insulation is probably the most effective way available of cutting heat waste but most older homes are refused by the contractors because there is actual regulation demanding that there be at least two courses of bricks showing below the damp course. This is rarely (never?) the case with old properties. Surely, with the billions of potential savings it is not beyond the imagination of the industry, perhaps with a good university (e.g. Manchester), to come up with a non-transmitting injectable foam for the lowest level of the cavity.

    • Ariane permalink
      October 7, 2019 1:38 pm

      Engineers say insulation in Edinburgh tenements is a very very bad idea. No bricks, concrete or foam, please. Ventilation for the stones. The actual problem is fuel poverty caused by subsidies for renewables and all the grand schemes dreamt up by wealthy people to warm their egos and satisfy their mad ideologies.

      • Saighdear permalink
        October 7, 2019 1:51 pm

        Aye you’re probably correct on the inisulation sidecosts included,
        NOW did aall this ego stuff stem from their’better’ education? U kno wot they say about a little learning is a…..

      • Ariane permalink
        October 7, 2019 6:01 pm

        Saighdear, it’s not the education. Maybe it’s the money, the glamour of the job and the conferences, the group-thinking, the excitement and romance of the fight against ‘the status quo’, the arrogance and the LACK of education. I’ve asked 2 Extinction Rebellion people – when they were demonstrating with leaflets and banners – how much CO2 there is in the atmosphere. The young man had no idea and didn’t want to know. When I told him he said I was being patronising. The middle aged woman literally begged me not to tell her as she ‘would only forget the statistics.’

      • Saighdear permalink
        October 7, 2019 8:20 pm

        Whaat? …. and you let it go there? ie not to bepatronising or tell the wifie ? 🙂 Ojh I know -I’d have that problem too – with fowk like that. Maybe you sholdhave used that over used to good effec phraseof ” How Dare You” & ” you should be ashamed….” asfor the education – a littlelearning – IS a LACK of a proper education. Howmany teachers really know the subject they “teach” ..
        O/T I wish the Brexiteers could have donesomething like all that – but I would like to think we are ‘nice & considerate people’ who wouldnt like to inconveneience others. Payback time will be sweet.

      • Ariane permalink
        October 7, 2019 8:40 pm

        I did tell the middle-aged woman (who told me she had a degree in Physics) that she should be ashamed of herself. The young man moved off to leaflet passers by. Even more anarchic events now in London. Our governments encourage the nonsense.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        October 7, 2019 1:55 pm

        If the outer Bricks of a House with cavity walls is porous, cavity insulation leads to Damp Transference to the inner wall in many cases.
        My son’s house is one of them.

    • Steve permalink
      October 7, 2019 1:59 pm

      Cavity insulation is usually not a problem when installed properly. The problem is that it only halves the heat loss in the usual 2″ cavity walls in older houses. The U value is 0.6. Building Regs require 0.26 in extensions and 0.3 for existing. For houses using the green deal or with heat pumps much thicker insulation will be needed, about 6″ thick and on outside walls on terraced houses this is impractical. Inside insulation reduces space and usually the electrical wiring and piping needs to be repositioned. In older solid wall houses the situation is even worse.

      In my old solid wall house I installed a multifoil, cross battens, a foil faced foam and plasterboard lining and this reduces heat loss by 4, but this is now illegal, as building inspectors don’t like multifoils. My heating bills have halved but with heat pumps instead of a boiler the cost and ineffectivity would be impractical.

  23. Vernon E permalink
    October 7, 2019 2:59 pm

    I can only say that my current 1920’s house which was insulated before I bought it and is the snuggest and most economical I have ever lived in.

  24. Ivan permalink
    October 7, 2019 3:15 pm

    It only breaks the laws of physics if you stick to current designs. It’s not like someone is suggesting a perpetual motion machine. There are ways for wind farms to provide “synthetic inertia”. There are even people advertising a system for sale. Doubtless it costs something, and so wind-farms won’t do it unless they are paid to. But doubtless there will come a point where it will be worth paying for.

    The other day I was reading an article about changing the proportion of flows down particular wires to avoid overloading links, thus avoiding, or delaying, the need to reinforce a link. The conventional wisdom is that the laws of physics prevent one doing that, and that was my instant reaction. But again that is to assume standard equipment designs. Clearly it isn’t very easy, or they would have been doing it 50 or 100 years ago. But today there are, apparently, ways of doing it, and they are actually being installed.

    • In the real world permalink
      October 7, 2019 4:11 pm

      Synthetic Inertia , [ or Grid forming inverters ], can only work in very low power supply situations .
      Large scale ones do not exist , nor can ever work on Grid type loadings

      But as the original article said , someone will claim they can change the laws of Physics to make renewable energy work .

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 7, 2019 4:26 pm

      Network configuration was never much of a problem when we had generators situated close to demand, and so the amount of power that had to be routed over the transmission network was limited. If one power station went down the load was easily shared amongst the others. But when the transmission system becomes highly congested because you need to find routes for power from Scotland’s wind farms to supply London without overloading links, given the offshore East coast wind and perhaps a large geographically concentrated input from solar in the SW of England it becomes a much trickier problem. The means of solving this have been known for a long time: it entails running large linear programmes and observing the outputs when you switch links and generators out of the system. Of course, you need to be able to do the switching, but that is on and off via circuit breakers. It may seem paradoxical, but cutting some links in the grid may lead to a more stable distribution of power across the links that remain without threatening overloading a particular link. The grid continues to obey the laws of physics. However, you do need the capacity across the grid to deliver power from where it is generated to where it is consumed.

      The problem has become much more severe because of the number and variability of power sources, as well as the physical and network complexity distance from centres of demand. Faster computers help.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 7, 2019 4:41 pm

      There’s an article discussing limiting grid routes here:

  25. Mike Higton permalink
    October 9, 2019 11:38 am

    Has there been any response to this excellent letter? (I’m not a Telegraph reader).

  26. Peter F Gill permalink
    October 9, 2019 8:58 pm

    Congratulations are due to Steve Proud even if he hasn’t strayed into the faulted set of AWG hypotheses. He clearly knows his grid stuff. I note that others want more information on the grid problems with renewables. This was actually provided almost a decade ago by Derek Birkett in his book “When will the lights go out”, Stacey International , 2010 ISBN: 9781906768409. I listed it in my book list “Books that tell a different story” which was available on Roger Helmer’s web site until he retired as an MEP and energy spokesperson for the old UKIP. If anyone would like to carry it I can send my latest version which is Rev 11.

  27. Robin Guenier permalink
    October 15, 2019 8:48 am

    There’s a letter in today’s Telegraph responding to Steve Proud: (scroll down to letter headed ‘Energy priorities’). What the author, Blaise Kelly, is saying seems to be nonsense. But what do I know?

    • Peter F Gill permalink
      October 15, 2019 9:28 am

      You are almost right Robin. To be correct you need to replace “seems to be” by “is”. As ex Chair of the largest Branch of the Energy Institute I eventually resigned my Fellowship last year. In my letter to CEO Louise Kingham I predicted coming brownouts and blackouts linked to renewables. Outrageously, starting with the Royal Institution, the hierarchy of the whole lot of Institutions are firmly on message with AGW and the Climate Change Act. Because of the lowered qualification threshold for membership the Energy Institute is stuffed with people who would not be able to answer basic questions about most energy conversion technologies.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 15, 2019 12:09 pm

        Thanks Peter. Quite apart from his comment about the ‘myth that large, centralised power stations provide greater grid stability’ and his reference to ‘variable, but highly predictable, generation from renewables’, the idea that we could ‘make our own wind, wave and tidal turbines, and photovoltaics’ is surely absurd? Wind currently generates about 18% of our electricity – i.e. about 5% of primary energy. We currently have about 10,000 wind turbines. So – if we decided to get all our energy from wind (probably the most effective ‘renewable’) – we’d need another 190,000 turbines. Let’s assume efficiency savings could get that down to 150,000. That would mean a vast manufacturing programme requiring about 130 million tons of steel, 370 million tons of concrete, 6 million tons of (largely non-recyclable) plastic and significant amounts of rare earth materials. And the UK could produce all that in a reasonable timescale? Er no … I don’t think so.

      • Peter F Gill permalink
        October 15, 2019 12:52 pm

        In my view the only way of bringing some sanity into the wind debate is for government to insist that any new wind farm proposed must at the same time propose the gas fired back-up required to guarantee a certain minimum and maximum electricity generation delivered. I have consistently recommended this for many years. Economically of course, this kills the whole thing stone dead.

        I used to argue a lot with David MacKay when he was adviser to DECC. Close to death and no longer having to toe a government line he was interviewed (just over a week before his death). Towards the end of the interview he was asked what choices he would make with his own calculator as regards electricity generation in the UK. Without hesitation he said nuclear base load the rest fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS). The interviewer asked why no solar or wind. David said that for solar the ratio between summer and winter generation capacity is circa 9:1 and so so much back up is required in the winter it is not worthwhile. He explained that a similar argument applies to wind back up. David was right in all respects except CCS. The latter is simply not required. There is of course a need to largely eliminate SOX and NOX emissions for which there are a number of proven technologies available.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        October 15, 2019 1:30 pm

        But…but Peter that can’t be right: XR ‘demands’ that ‘Government must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025’. And politicians, the media and assorted celebs are taking them very seriously.

      • Peter F Gill permalink
        October 15, 2019 2:37 pm

        Yes Robin gullibility is endemic in the three groups you mention. They are almost all also categorised by a lack of any proper understanding of the science involved in this CO2 craziness. In one sense one can hardly blame the groups for thinking as they do as they are bombarded from all sides with one message and the virtual exclusion of alternative messages. Interestingly the energy policy arena is likely to be that which exposes the nonsense in a number of ways. I have mentioned one concerned with renewables. Others include the question of how many equivalent Drax sized power stations will be needed to satisfy government policies concerning the proposed switch to electric vehicles, the phasing out of natural gas for heating new build properties. And I haven’t even mentioned increasing the numbers of people who will be in fuel poverty and the consequent increase of excess deaths in winter.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: