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Why Net Zero Is Unachievable–Prof Michael Kelly

May 19, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Electrifying the UK and the want of engineering (pdf)


Prof Michael Kelly has a new GWPF paper out today on the problems facing the UK is it goes ahead with Net Zero.


It covers very succinctly all of the problems we have discussing in the last year, and asks the questions that nobody in authority wants to answer:







The opening paragraph refers to 9 GW of energy at Dinorwig.

As the notes on page 5 explain, this should state 9 GWh:

The power station is capable of generating a maximum 1,700
megawatts for a period of 5.3 hours as the dam is emptied, for a
total of 9 gigawatt-hours of electrical energy. After that the dam
must be refilled before continuing.


GWPF have corrected the mistake and republished the correct version, which I have now updated in my post above.

    • Steve permalink
      May 20, 2020 7:52 am

      Within hours of the government telling tradesmen, factory and office workers that they can go back to work in London, Grant Shapps tells councils to block the roads in order for the lycra clad civil servants to get into Whitehall with less obstruction by people working for a living. Then the mayor pops up and puts up the charges too. These career politicians are truly clueless.

      • Jason permalink
        May 20, 2020 2:18 pm

        They’re not. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re evil.

  1. tom0mason permalink
    May 19, 2020 2:23 pm

    As I’ve said before —
    IMO Reverting to wind and solar as a major electric power source is regressionary. It weds together the worst of both technologies — the unreliability of weather dependent generation with a vast and not particularly efficient, computerized infrastructure to try and control its placement on the grid system. As such it will ensure both domestic and industrial processes are curtailed because of their unreliability, unsustainability, and overall inefficiency.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 19, 2020 2:32 pm

      Net-zero? Wind and solar do not lower carbon emissions, they add to them.

      • tom0mason permalink
        May 20, 2020 1:05 am

        I neither care nor assess so called ‘carbon emissions’ as relevant to what the climate does. They are irrelevant as is born out by the historical record of climate, temperature, and the variation in these ‘carbon emissions’.

  2. Broadlands permalink
    May 19, 2020 2:29 pm

    Never mind Net-zero, even Zero is unachievable without the devastating social and economic effects we are currently experiencing because of the health-related lock-down that is lowering carbon fuel emissions from transportation. Those costs alone are unsustainable. It is not very complicated to see what happens when rapid decarbonization takes place. Net-zero would only make it much worse.

  3. philip walling permalink
    May 19, 2020 2:40 pm

    It must never be forgotten that the Climate Change Act (Milliband’s responsibility) went through the Commons and Lords with hardly a voice raised against it. The same thing happened for the current ‘lockdown’.
    Why do we bother voting for the clowns who purport to represent us as MPs?

    • ianprsy permalink
      May 19, 2020 5:43 pm

      It’s a problem at all levels. My local council voted to go for “Zero40”, even more extreme than HMG’s ridiculous plan. Some of tmhe councillors voting fir the proposal suggested “it” be “done” even sooner. Donkeys led by donkeys.

  4. May 19, 2020 3:03 pm

    Net zero means exporting various industries to Asia, then importing the products.

    • May 19, 2020 4:13 pm

      Until we run out of dosh.

  5. May 19, 2020 3:04 pm

    One way for Britain to achieve its emission targets is for enough Brits just move to china.

  6. Patsy Lacey permalink
    May 19, 2020 3:10 pm

    My daughter’s degree is in astrophysics. She teaches science (physics, biology and chemistry – God alone knows what they have in common) at an Academy secondary school. She and others like her feed their students with climate change garbage to churn out at GCSE and A level without even thinking it through.
    She lives in a house with two flats attached – one in which I live and the other inhabited by my great niece and her family. In the course of renovating, each had a new gas boiler installed (3). We have five cars in the family – one each and the other belonging to my late husband – 4 petrol and 1 diesel. We have 4 TVs; 4 laptops; 9 tablets and endless other gadgets all either directly powered by electricity or battery operated.
    She is typical of the modern generation who live their lives totally oblivious to the storm ahead. Now with the added pressure of Corvid19 they have even less reason to think ahead, as they juggle online teaching and educating their own recalcitrant children. Just when will the penny drop?

  7. Chilli permalink
    May 19, 2020 3:24 pm

    Yes it’s technically impossible. Yes it will cost £Trillions. Yes it will ruin the UK economy. Yes living standards will plunge. Yes it’s completely pointless and won’t make any difference to the weather.

    But just think about all the virtue that will be signalled by politicians ‘saving the planet’!!

    • May 19, 2020 4:10 pm

      I estimate that if the UK disappeared tomorrow, the temperature saving by 2100 would be about 0.01 K.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        May 19, 2020 5:15 pm

        Much less. Half of all iatrogenic warming comes from CFCs.
        Charney sensitivity is around 0.85 K per doubling.
        Closer to 0.001 K

      • May 19, 2020 6:11 pm

        I take Lewis & Curry’s 1.3 K TCR. TCR is more relevant out to 2100. ECS without feedbacks is of the order you suggest, but uncertainty about those feedbacks is the main problem with estimating final ECS.

        Did you mean anthropogenic there?

  8. Curious George permalink
    May 19, 2020 3:39 pm

    “the nine gigawatts of energy stored behind the dam”. Bad omen for the author. Why does he measure energy in gigawatts and not in gallons?

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      May 19, 2020 4:02 pm

      And GW aren’t even a measure of energy – any more than gallons are…

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      May 19, 2020 4:03 pm

      I have never seen Gigawatts as a measure of energy.

      On second thoughts, I think I have before, but it’s still incorrect.

      • Curious George permalink
        May 19, 2020 6:39 pm

        I even know where – the state of California measures the capacity of grid-connected batteries in gigawatts. No kidding.

      • Frosty Oz permalink
        May 19, 2020 10:47 pm

        Curious George – you hit on my pet hate. Measuring battery size by watts, not watt-hours. Ridiculous and misleading practice, that suggests the author doesn’t understand.

      • Curious George permalink
        May 20, 2020 1:56 am

        It is the law. I don’t intend to ridicule California’s progressive lawmakers.

      • Frosty Oz permalink
        May 20, 2020 3:18 am

        Actually, it’s not the law that drives California to quote storage by MW rather than MWh. The law, sections 2835 and 2836 of the Public Utilities Code, merely requires that the Californian Public Utilities Commission “adopt a procurement target” for energy storage systems. It doesn’t prescribe that the target should be in MW (or MWh for that matter).

        However, when the Californian PUC set its procurement target under that law, it set in in MW rather than MWh. CPUC decision 13-10-040 sets the target at an aggregate capacity of 1,350 MW. The decision makes clear that this (MW) capacity is measured as the maximum discharge capacity of each storage system. Nowhere in the decision does the CPUC stipulate the required storage capacity (MWh) of the systems to be installed. 4 hours? 1 hour? 10 minutes?

        The CPUC decision, interestingly, does require utilities to report both the MW and MWh capacities of the systems installed towards the 1,350MW target.

      • Curious George permalink
        May 20, 2020 10:22 pm

        Thank you Frosty, a nice summary.

    • May 19, 2020 4:08 pm

      To be authoritative it is best not to confuse power and energy. In fact all the figures as given re: electric cars are a bit off according to the back of my envelope. I think presenting them as a table would have been a better shout.

    • May 19, 2020 4:59 pm

      I think it’s a typo, unfortunately, s/be 9 GWh.

      He explains the calaculation in the notes on Page 5:

      The power station is capable of generating a maximum 1,700
      megawatts for a period of 5.3 hours as the dam is emptied, for a
      total of 9 gigawatt-hours of electrical energy. After that the dam
      must be refilled before continuing.

      • May 19, 2020 6:07 pm

        I have pointed this out to GWPF, who have amended the published paper to GWh,

        (I have also updated my post now)

    • Iain Reid permalink
      May 20, 2020 7:46 am


      Giga watts is a unit of electrical capacity as I’m sure you know?

      That and Giga watt hours are the units that matter to those that run the grid.

      Dinorwic and similar pumped storage systems are not a means of saving excess generation but rather their whole reason is that they can start very quickly and be up to full power in a few seconds (10 to 15 I think). This is used to counter very sharp spikes in demand which otherwise could cause frequency to drop too low risking load shedding from the grid.

      • Curious George permalink
        May 20, 2020 5:14 pm

        As I am sure you know, the unit of electrical capacity is a Farad (F).

  9. May 19, 2020 4:04 pm

    Yes Chilli because as most of us know, it has absolutely nothing to do with weather. To the tune of a very well know song: When will they ever learn ?” Sadly, surrounded by odd ‘uns like John Selwyn Gummer et al, they never will.

  10. CheshireRed permalink
    May 19, 2020 4:10 pm

    Can someone kindly explain how the Green Deal will ‘transform’ our economy?

    We already have an energy system. Replacing it will just add £1 trillion of costs which will need to be paid for with higher electricity bills than we already have!

    How is that reviving anything?

  11. John Peter permalink
    May 19, 2020 4:22 pm

    I was looking for real numbers, but was disappointed. I would like to see a costing year by year for the total conversion of UK to zero carbon by 2050. Electric vehicles and trains, electric heating, electric powered manufacturing, insulating all homes, installation of heat pumps, new hydrogen structure to replace gas, additional solar and wind including upgrading of grid etc. This must be into trillions. Saw 3 trillion mentioned.
    And for what purpose in a country emitting 1.02% of World emissions per Wiki? Whatever we do will have no effect whatsoever. I conclude that our politicians are not numerate.

  12. May 19, 2020 4:24 pm

    Each bit of emissions we cut is going to be more painful than the last. That’s obvious and irrefutable. It’s a bit like a thumbscrew. One might think after a quarter turn that the pain is bearable. That opinion will soon change.

    But even if it *were* possible to reach those hallowed grounds of Net Zero, it should be obvious even to our lords and masters that we are going to be ruined by it, and that unless we drag the rest of the world down with us, they will share in the “benefits” while shouldering none of the costs. (That the benefits of unilateral action are so small as to be difficult to measure is a side issue.)

    If we disappear tomorrow, as mentioned above, we will save the planet, and ourselves, about a hundredth of a degree by 2100. If we disappear tomorrow, the slack will be taken up by growth elsewhere within 12 months.

    To propose such a scheme is beyond stupid.

  13. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    May 19, 2020 5:08 pm

    Dinorweg is NOT a power station. It’s a freakin’ battery.

    • Joe Public permalink
      May 19, 2020 5:39 pm

      Not so. It is a power station.

      Dinorwig generates electricity by releasing the potential energy of the water stored within the upper reservoir.

      A battery converts chemical energy into electricity.

      • David Ashton permalink
        May 20, 2020 10:22 am

        I agree with Chaswarnertoo, Dinorwig is not a power station, it consumes power. It converts electricity into potential energy then converts that stored potential energy into electricity, in the same way a rechargeable battery converts electricity into chemical energy and then releases that chemical energy into electricity.

  14. daz permalink
    May 19, 2020 5:42 pm

    what about the bidding war that will come with electrification ? cobalt, copper , lithium will all jump in price when the west tries to build the vehicles , can the UK out bid the USA for materials , i think not .

    • mjr permalink
      May 19, 2020 7:48 pm

      and of course most of the rare earth metals used in batteries come from chinese territories. so thats ok, dealing with a free market democratic state that doesnt want to take over the world. Ha! good luck with that one

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        May 20, 2020 8:33 am

        Not sure how that would work. If China makes EVs and batteries expensive we will either not buy them or buy them and buy far less of other Chinese stuff.

      • mjr permalink
        May 20, 2020 1:07 pm

        phoenix44 missed the point hidden in my sarcastic comment. with huge demand for these rare earth metals and a supply controlled by China , they can decide who to supply and would use this as a way of control, influence, indeed blackmail. if we commit to EVs and batteries and the supplier doesnt supply what do we do? this just adds to chinese plans for world domination !!!

  15. Douglas Brodie permalink
    May 19, 2020 5:45 pm

    I’ve just started reading “When Prophecy Fails” by Leon Festinger (90p on Kindle). He postulates a theory of why cultists though the ages never give up on their beliefs until they are unequivocally “disconfirmed”, which seems to be the psychological term. The crucial point is that presenting them with anything less than totally convincing evidence that their beliefs are false simply causes them to double down on their faith. The book was written in the 1950s, perhaps pre-dating the term “cognitive dissonance”.

    His theory seems applicable to the establishment cultists living in fear of climate change apocalypse. They have invested so much in this belief that they will do all they can to hold onto it. Another modern term for it is “identity politics”. Unfortunately this means that eminently sensible papers like this from Professor Kelly will make no difference to their beliefs – they will simply ignore it or use some false logic to dismiss it.

    I fear that only demonstrable failure of their beliefs will cause their faith to crumble. Maybe after a year or so of Covid-19 there may be enough “disconfirming” evidence to cool their fervour: global impoverishment rendering their rich society’s climate change obsession unsustainable; indiscernible lockdown impact on rising atmospheric CO2; electricity blackout proof that renewables don’t work; falling global temperatures since 2016; the eventual failure of COP26 to agree Net Zero globally.

  16. Rowland P permalink
    May 19, 2020 5:47 pm

    We do not need battery driven cars when the simple alternative is the aluminium/air fuel cell developed by Trevor Jackson, a former submariner. The potential is to increase the range of a car to 1500 miles before the fuel cell runs out and can simply and quickly be replaced. See This needs support which the government does not seem very keen to provide.

  17. Thomas Carr permalink
    May 19, 2020 6:02 pm

    Its difficult to imagine that the coronavirus beast is capable of anything useful however some of our more perceptive MPs might recognise an opportunity.
    To undo at least some of the damage to the economy caused by the ‘beast’ two expensive projects should be cancelled. The first is HS2 and the second is to comply with the provisions the Climate Change Act.
    It would be difficult to imagine a better excuse for the House of Commons to commit to an about face and repeal the Act.
    Can it be long before the green lobby sees what is about to confound them?

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      May 19, 2020 6:50 pm

      Add in discarding Heathrow’s third runway and you get a chorus in many Conservative blogs, often pointing out good broadband in all parts of Britain would be money better spent (it we had any 🙂 ) as would improving our existing rail network, and early 5G isn’t worth the risk. So there are many aware of the potential waste.
      But will it be done? Those projects you mention are ticking time bombs. I read that HS2 will be a late, the under used £200 billion project unless it is cancelled.

      • I don't believe it! permalink
        May 20, 2020 8:03 pm

        Heathrow’s third runway is a private sector project as is 5G so if the private sector wants to invest in them why not (and given the importance of Heathrow to trade the sooner the better)

  18. Jonathan Scott permalink
    May 19, 2020 6:33 pm

    I am not sure there is much to be gained by constructing detailed and intelligent arguments to challenge baseless asininity. There is no scientific basis for the Net Zero (perhaps it is a statement of their collective active brain cells) nonsense so who waste time when its origin is political tied to corrupt business? This is a house of cards and the main card supporting the whole show of smoke and mirrors is the myth surrounding CO2. That is where the effort should be focussed because expose the can of worms there and the whole house of cards should come tumbling down. It is taken for granted as a truth by those with a political agenda and used by the weasels and maggots as a childishly easy way to make a lot of money with few questions asked. As for the useful idiot followers of the religion, well they have not got a clue but want to belong! The point is there is no statistically significant empirical data anywhere which points to CO2 as the cause of any of the warming (and any weather) which began 350 years ago. We simply do not know what has caused it but what we can say is what has not and that is CO2. How? Firstly because if there is a Greenhouse Gas effect (Unproven) physics shows that the electromagnetic signature of CO2 only raises its head as a small spike in the Ultra Low Infra Red end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Compare this to the many times more common Water Vapour and the CO2 signature is totally swamped by that of Water Vapour. Secondly there is zero correlation between atmospheric temperature and CO2 concentration over geological time. Zero, zip, nothing. Now, Correlation even if it does exist does not mean causation because there can be another factor which has not been observed. However it is not possible to have causation without correlation. Where there IS very clear correlation is between sun activity and temperature allied to the Milankovitch cycles. The current craze of the Media promoters of the Climate Myth to watch weather is asinine in the extreme given that there is no proven cause so how can there be a proven effect? The pathetic 6th grade use of the word “science” as if just saying it or writing it means anything at all just shows the general contempt the reporters who have made this garbage their career have for the general public.

  19. Jackington permalink
    May 19, 2020 8:50 pm

    I still don’t know how aviation fits into a net zero emissions scenario. As an island nation we must have aeroplanes to exist. Is this just another heads in the sand job?

    • May 19, 2020 9:54 pm

      According to the formal UN regulations, shipping and aviation are not counted in individual national totals, but are counted globally

    • Steve permalink
      May 20, 2020 8:33 am

      The CCC are proposing to balance out the CO2 produced by aircraft by BECCS. This means growing an enormous quantity of biofuel plants over the UK and using it for electricity generation with Carbon Capture and Storage. E is for energy. Not sure what the B is for. Again as usual, it’s uncosted and no land areas given. Strange but true.

  20. May 19, 2020 9:56 pm

    This is a idiotic idea whoever came up with it. The total cost would be enormouse, and we are already broke, so cannot afford it and the Public would not be able to pay, they are ripped off already. As for net zero, forget it. It is not viable and I suspect impossibel, we are a carbon based Planet and this would no doubt present unsolvable extra problems, possible the wipe out of the planet.

  21. David permalink
    May 19, 2020 9:58 pm

    In the reference to heat pumps and their electricity consumption, no mention is made of the fact that the land under small houses or flats will have insufficient heat output to be practical. Also air heat pumps would create intolerable noise with their fans and presumably on windless days would make the district very chilly!

  22. Mike O permalink
    May 19, 2020 10:12 pm

    In Australia we are planning to produce a major pumped storage system. We call it snowy mountains 2.0. Theoretically it’s capacity is to be 336 GW hours. We also have the Australian Energy Market Operator who publishes detailed data of the amount of electricity dispatched by generators on our eastern grid in five-minute steps. I have that data. I find our entire wind infrastructure could theoretically reach a stability point by applying this extremely large storage facility if it is ever built. The current wind infrastructure is physically quite large having a plate capacity of 7 GW spread across 55 power stations. But it’s capacity factor is 29%. The combination of all our wind and this new storage facility at a cost of AU$21 billion would be capable of replacing one 2 GW fossil power station. The idea that we can ramp that up from 8% of our annual dispatched electricity to 100% is delusional. In Australia currently we have 22.5% renewable energy. Hydroelectric is the only source that is dispatchable. It has been a long slow road to get to this point. Our fossil generation is still 77.5% of our energy needs on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

  23. Phoenix44 permalink
    May 20, 2020 8:18 am

    The whole thing is based on a belief that things like carbon capture will allow us to emit CO2 at relatively high levels still. Its wishful thinking, trashing economies & societies without any proper agreement from the people because they have been systematically lied to.

  24. Steve permalink
    May 20, 2020 8:22 am

    The Climate Change Committee has also committed to a vast increase in hydrogen production, most of which is to be from converting natural gas, using much energy in the process and then liquefying pumping the resulting carbon dioxide under the North Sea. They then suggest that industry is organised into clusters in order to convert to hydrogen, trucks, trains and ships run on it and some hybrid heat pumps and perhaps gas boilers use it in the home.

    None of this is costed and we finish up importing even more non- renewable gas than we do now. But they recommend that nuclear is reduced and seem to be happy that the small number of projects to replace existing nukes have been cancelled.

    Big green gas lobby wins and the taxpayer and customer loses, while Gummy and his mates laugh all the way to the bank.

    • A man of no rank permalink
      May 20, 2020 9:17 pm

      Steve are the CCC crackers?
      Hydrogen produces Water Vapour, a well known greenhouse gas.
      So we swop CO2 for W.V. – one g.gas for a stronger g.gas!
      Sorry to harp on with this but maybe it needs explaining before billions of £ are wasted.

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        May 20, 2020 10:09 pm

        It’s both worse and better than you think. If you burn one molecule of natural gas, CH4, you get two molecules of water and one of CO2 – if you burn one molecule of hydrogen, H2, you get just one molecule of H2O.

        But – to boil your spuds you need to burn 3 times the volume of hydrogen to get the same energy! (I think – someone will correct me if I’m wrong)

      • A man of no rank permalink
        May 21, 2020 5:22 pm

        I stand corrected Stuart, thankyou. I agree with your calculation.

  25. Douglas Brodie permalink
    May 20, 2020 10:54 am

    Professor Kelly talks of how “politicians, who do have to face the voters, hide behind the Committee [on Climate Change] in order to duck accountability”.

    Our craven politicians are now going even further at the bidding of Extinction Rebellion with their ludicrous Citizens’ Assembly of rank amateur members of the public who are going to tell us all how we can get to Net Zero.

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