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Expensive and wasteful heat pumps are not the solution to Britain’s energy crisis

February 27, 2022

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Patsy Lacey

For some strange reason, the Telegraph usually delegates reports on energy policy to one of its Environmental staff.

Finally we actually get the facts from an energy expert:

 image

Heat pumps are receiving much attention as the alternative to home heating now that the switch from gas is beginning to take effect. The Government’s “net zero” initiative demands that we move to a more electricity-centric economy.

Roughly a third of our future electricity demand will be for home and office heating – amounting to an approximately 50 gigawatt peak requirement. Air source and ground source heat pumps are being proposed to be the major provider of this heat.

But is this realistic?

Ground source heat pumps require digging up substantial pieces of land surrounding the property; this adds to cost and means they are useless for flats and office accommodation.

Air source heat pumps seem to be the answer, but they do not work very well when the outside temperature is less than 5°c. Many people have to use supplementary heating with gas or oil to keep warm. This, of course, is not carbon friendly.

The answer is to insulate homes more effectively, but for most homes this is impractical. Already the cost of the heat pump installation is £15,000 to £20,000 and adding another £20,000 or £30,000 for better insulation is unthinkable for most people. The efficiency of heat pumps is roughly half that of a gas boiler because the working fluid is typical of that used in refrigerators and only operates at 37°c, as opposed to 70°c for water in gas boilers.

So, the large part of the electricity used to drive a typical household heat pump is wasted compared to a gas boiler with similar power rating. The conclusion is that the move to heat pumps is going to be impossibly expensive, and will be less energy-efficient than with current gas boilers.

The best solution is to use green hydrogen in a gas boiler. This means that all homes can carry on much as before but with hydrogen as fuel. This hydrogen can be manufactured by electrolysis from water, and emits no CO2 when combusted. The only issue is that large amounts of electricity are required.

Which brings us to the core issue: how can we produce electricity economically from green sources in the quantities that we require? Adding requirements for transport and industry, and hydrogen production, to that for heating adds up to a 150 gigawatt peak demand.

Sadly, Britain’s electrical energy provision policy has been non-existent for the past 30 years. In response to the zero carbon initiative, ministers have invested in renewable sources of energy at the expense of the public and common sense.

They have argued that renewable energy is cheap, but it isn’t, as the green levies on our electricity bills are now telling us. They have been unable to comprehend that renewable energy is intermittent, so that we cannot rely on it to provide stable supplies of electricity to run our industry, to run our cars, and to heat our homes.

So, what are our alternatives? In the growing realisation that renewables are not the answer, gas has come back into favour, even though it produces vast amounts of CO2. Now, due to the activities of Mr Putin, amongst others, gas is becoming a strategic weapon, and we are faced with hugely increased energy bills if we continue to burn gas to produce electricity.

Because of our lack of energy policy we seem incapable of making proper, appropriate, investment decisions to benefit the country. Rolls Royce could produce 100 modular nuclear “pressurised water reactor” systems in the time that it is going to take to finish Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. This would produce stable, economically attractive, green electricity that the country now so desperately needs.


Roy Faulkner is emeritus professor of materials engineering at Loughborough University and has wide experience in the energy industry, particularly with coal and nuclear, and the drive to reduce emissions. He is currently a consultant with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

70 Comments
  1. JimW permalink
    February 27, 2022 10:40 am

    Problem with RR SMRs is NIMBY. And the voting public. Likely as not the country will have to suffer black outs before a sensible solution can be instigated. Which may include that abundant hard black stuff under our feet.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      February 27, 2022 11:20 am

      “Problem with RR SMRs is NIMBY. And the voting public” I doubt if that is actually true even though the Guardian and the BBC might like you to think so.
      When the government opted to not chose Dungeness as a site for a third plant the real locals got up a petition to overturn the decision.
      https://www.kentonline.co.uk/ashford/news/new-blow-to-dungeness-power-stat-a73938/
      The sites with closed or due to close nuclear plants would very likely be strongly in favour of new plants. Particularly strongly supported sites other than Dungeness would definitely be Hartlepool, Wylfa and Trawsfynydd for the principal reason of volume of high wage packets plants would bring. It would be quite easy to get two RR units (probably more at some) on all existing/former sites and they would even be popular in Scotland despite Ms Sturgeon.
      Hunterston, Torness, (Chapelcross even) Hartlepool, Heysham, Bradwell, Wylfa, Trawsfynned, Oldbury, Berkeley, Moorside and Dungeness could probably host 20 to 30 units. There were also other sites evaluated by the government as suitable (notably Druridge Bay)
      i doubt, however, that RR would be the only option selected. Another exceptionally strong contender is a joint UK/Canadian venture that is even further progressed than RR.
      A nuclear plant, that can “burn up” the nuclear waste stockpile we already have and render its final waste to trivial amounts with minimal environmental isolation time is a perfect contender. Add to that an ability to provide peaking power and impossible to “melt down” and many of the perceived ” objections” are overcome.
      https://www.moltexenergy.com
      Nuclear can supply district heating systems from its waste heat
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beznau_Nuclear_Power_Plant#Refuna_nuclear_district_heating
      Nucleart perfectly partners with Electrolysers for hydrogen production, and again the waste heat can be used for Amine adsorption Direct Air Capture of carbon dioxide to manufacture with hydrogen “Carbon Neutral” synthetic hydrocarbons (Efuels). Surely the greenies cannot complain about that – they can fly to their heart’s content.
      https://climeworks.com/news/renewable-jet-fuel-from-air

  2. Gunnar Juliusson permalink
    February 27, 2022 10:52 am

    Heat pumps works very well in Sweden, which of course has a much colder climate than UK. Since twenty years most Swedish homes have air heat pumps. Ground air pumps are even better, but requires larger gardens than most UK homes.
    Isolation of private homes is of course essential, and has been for many decades in Sweden due to cold climate. But all types of renovations and new buildings should prepare for a colder climate, more electricity and less gas.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      February 27, 2022 4:47 pm

      Nobody actually claims they do not work. The issue is how cost effective are they against other alternatives in the UK. Unlike Sweden the UK does not have significant hydro electricity options and despite having a population barely one seventh of the UK, Sweden actually now has a larger nuclear power capacity than the UK.
      the fact that the UK has a milder climate is as much a part of the problem as anything else.

  3. February 27, 2022 11:00 am

    No mention, by the learned professsor, of the vast quantities of natural gas waiting, a mile or so deep, to be fracked. Already the gweenie pundits/apologists have begun telling us there’s 80% less than was initially discussed. Quite how they’d know is another question.-And 80% of what?-Give numbers! COAL and FRACKED GAS are our long-term solutions.Let’s get to it!

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 27, 2022 11:51 am

      I’d much rather we used gas directly for heating, or even to generate electricity (if we have to – which of course, we have to because of useless wind), than use it to create a second gas that we then use for heating and electricity generation. Only a PPE would recommend such a solution.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:02 am

    It’s a pity the retired professor spoiled what he wrote by claiming:

    “The efficiency of heat pumps is roughly half that of a gas boiler because the working fluid is typical of that used in refrigerators and only operates at 37°c, as opposed to 70°c for water in gas boilers.’

    ‘Efficacy’ is more accurate.

    Most heat pumps have a DAHPSE of approx 2.5 – 3.0 with some achieving 3.5. [i.e 1kWh of electrical energy will over a year, produce approx 2.5 – 3 kWh of heat.]

    Most gas boilers have a thermal efficiency of 85% – 90%

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      February 27, 2022 11:56 am

      Almost a perpetual motion machine

      • February 28, 2022 8:22 am

        Joe,

        I have to repeat this until the message gets through. You cannot use electrical units as a basis for efficiency, the fact that the Heat pump industry call it something else (CoP) which confuses people and they read it as effciency.
        The measure of efficiency of any thing electrical is how much fuel is used to make that electrical unit including losses accumulated until it reaches the consumer,. ball park figure of about 40%.
        Certainly a radiator at 60 degrees or so is more effective than one at 40 degrees all else bing equal.

  5. In The Real World permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:20 am

    In 2016 , a government committee headed by Lord Oxborough, concluded that electric home heating was not possible because it would need an extra 200GWh ,[ or 400% increase ,] in generation capacity .
    That report is now not easy to find and seems to be mostly ignored by politicians & the media which still keep coming out with all sorts of lies & propaganda to keep pushing the Green agenda .

      • In The Real World permalink
        February 27, 2022 2:52 pm

        That is the one Paul Stevens , thanks for that link .
        I had lost it and did not seem able to find it .
        You do have to go to page 65 to find the fact that , even with the highest standards of insulation , it would need another 200GWh of generation for home heating .

      • February 28, 2022 1:47 am

        The Parliamentary Advisory Group on CCS really only addresses heat pumps in two sentences:
        “If heat pumps were widely adopted the maximum demand could be further reduced. However, heat pumps are really effective only in new developments and it would need to be a planning requirement that they were incorporated from the beginning.” That’s it.

        I’m just retro-fitting air source heat pumps into my existing residence, which is at 1200m altitude and often snow-bound in winter. The German made pumps, running on single phase 240V AC, have a higher energy efficiency than gas burners at external temperatures down to -20C.

        How does that “magic perpetual heating” work and produce heat from cold? When it’s 5C outside, there is still 278 Kelvin of heat in the air. To have your room at a comfortable 21C, you only need to raise the input temp from 278K to 299K, about an 8% increase in temperature. That’s where most of the electrical energy is used, to drive the compressor to achieve that 8% increase. In actual use, the pumps usually push the fluid temp up to 338K (65C), a 21% increase in heat energy, and store the hot fluid in a buffer tank, so the pump is not running continuously.

        This is another advantage of heat pumps over electrical resistance heating – the air source pump can be driven at off-peak electrical energy use, and the heat stored in buffer tanks for later in the day.

        With respect to the professor, perhaps he can pull apart the specs of some of the modern heat pump designs and refresh his thinking on their current efficiency.

  6. Chilli permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:20 am

    > gas has come back into favour, even though it produces vast amounts of CO2

    Vast compared to what? The UK only contributes ~1% of total man-made CO2 – less than the annual increase in Chinese CO2 – all of which is dwarfed by natural sources and sinks of CO2; A gas which is only 0.04% of the atmosphere and has a mild and totally beneficial warming effect. The whole thing is nonsense on stilts. It annoys me that even sceptical articles have to accept the nonsense that CO2 must be cut as if it was some established fundamental truth. It’s a pack of lies.

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 27, 2022 11:55 am

      Yes, sir. It is a declaration of orthodoxy. It is required to keep the wolves from canceling you.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      February 27, 2022 7:45 pm

      CO2 is dangerously low. Halve the amount in the atmosphere and the planet dies.

  7. Andrew Harding permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:27 am

    If the general public were not so scientifically illiterate, this debate would be unnecessary. Fracking, is the way forward, an increase in atmospheric CO2 from 0.03%to 0.04% is hardly catastrophic!

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      February 27, 2022 12:01 pm

      That lack of knowledge is a long term failure of education policy. As is not understanding big numbers. Of course it suits politicians to have a populace they can both scare and hoodwink

      • The Informed Consumer permalink
        February 27, 2022 1:18 pm

        Therein lies the problem. The greens identified long ago that 90% of the public are not scientifically educated therefore propaganda was the tool of choice.

        Sceptics (other than Paul) largely argue amongst the scientifically educated which means only 10% of the population could possibly be mobilised to vote against green politics, assuming 100% of scientists could be persuaded climate change isn’t a threat.

        Instead of criticising everything the green blob produces sceptics should be promoting the advantages and benefits of extra atmospheric CO2. Matt Ridley has been recently setting this example. If there’s no positives for people to hang onto they will naturally fall for the ‘positives’ of renewables etc.

      • jimlemaistre permalink
        February 27, 2022 6:03 pm

        Informed Consumer, you make a most excellent point. Give the public something to latch their simple perspectives to. I say that we need to promote a large scale ‘Clean-up’ of pollution with government support at 50% of the costs. Install Scrubbers on the smoke stacks with electrostatic precipitators and Nitrogen Oxide burners to reduce the ‘REAL’ pollution. We let The Big Green Propaganda Machine pick carbon as the ‘Evil One’ while it is everything that else that is going up the stack that is truly destroying the Planet. The by-products from burning fossil fuels:

        1. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acid rain and respiratory illnesses
        2. Nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses
        3. Particulates, which contribute to smog, haze, and respiratory illnesses and lung disease
        4. Mercury and other heavy metals linked to both neurological and developmental damage
        5. Fly ash and bottom ash, that are residues created when power plants burn coal

        All are significantly reduced when we invest $800,000 million on coal plants.

        Let’s work smarter, Not Harder . . . Let’s be Visionaries, with a Goal . . .

        Clean-up Now! Furthermore All Electricity from ALL sources is Poison to Planet Earth . . .

        https://www.academia.edu/71021345/All_Electricity_Even_Renewables_Poisons_Planet_Earth

        Carbon Pricing is little more than a one Trillion dollar annual scam

        https://www.academia.edu/71023588/Batteries_Renewable_Energy_and_EV_s_The_Ultimate_in_Environmental_Destruction

        My Thoughts . . .

  8. Robert Christopher permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:44 am

    “Because of our lack of energy policy we seem incapable of making proper, appropriate, investment decisions to benefit the country.”

    No! It’s …

    Because we are incapable of making proper, appropriate, investment decisions to benefit the country, we don’t have an energy policy.

    And this chap is supposed to be a professor?

    “The best solution is to use green hydrogen in a gas boiler. … The only issue is that large amounts of electricity are required.”

    Really? So it isn’t the best!

    All we can say is that this guy has been ‘got at’.

    • JohnM permalink
      February 27, 2022 3:31 pm

      That was exactly my thoughts as I read the article.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      February 27, 2022 4:54 pm

      “The best solution is to use green hydrogen in a gas boiler.” To be frank that comment was obviously written by someone of the “Teaching” profession. i.e. Those who can do, those who can’t…….Nobody but nobody in their right mind who has considered the options is actually advocating distributing hydrogen through the existing gas distribution network to burn in domestic central heating boilers. Lunatic greens might but in the real world it is a well known non-starter.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        February 27, 2022 7:47 pm

        H2 is a good fuel, it’s even better if you add a few carbon atoms. We could call it ‘gas’. Green hydrogen does not exist, H2 is made from methane.

  9. February 27, 2022 11:46 am

    This is all about politics. Now is the ideal time for the government to change tack and get right behind fracking and drilling. The Ukrainian situation is the perfect opportunity to take the green extremists on and get the bulk of the people onboard. That is if Boris has the stomach, or even the inclination to do it.

    • February 28, 2022 11:18 am

      Boris will have to run everything by Carrie before he does or says anything that might upset the lefty-looney-greens.

  10. Phillip Bratby permalink
    February 27, 2022 11:49 am

    The real problem with heat pumps is that they use very high grade electrical energy to produce very low grade thermal energy (heat).

  11. February 27, 2022 12:08 pm

    I don’t think this professor is very clever. As others have said, it makes no sense to use electricity to produce hydrogen which in turn is used for heating. It’d be far more efficient to use the electricity directly for heating. The fact that he can write something so daft puts all the rest of the article under suspicion.

  12. Gamecock permalink
    February 27, 2022 12:08 pm

    ‘Sadly, Britain’s electrical energy provision policy has been non-existent for the past 30 years.’

    Uhh . . . wut? The POLICY is Net Zero. The POLICY is renewables.

    ‘Because of our lack of energy policy we seem incapable of making proper, appropriate, investment decisions to benefit the country.’

    Absolutely false. The bad decisions are BECAUSE of the policy, not the lack of a policy.

    ‘The Government’s “net zero” initiative demands that we move to a more electricity-centric economy.’

    MORE? Sir, what part of ZERO do you not understand? The plan is ALL electric.

    Riddle me this: is the ‘Government’s “net zero” initiative demands’ not a policy?

    ‘Rolls Royce could produce 100 modular nuclear “pressurised water reactor” systems in the time that it is going to take to finish Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.’

    Gross speculation. He doesn’t know that.

    Dr Faulkner’s indictment of heat pumps is accurate. The rest of his article is senile. Perhaps the Telegraph demanded 500 words, when he should have stopped at a hundred.

    • February 27, 2022 12:18 pm

      Net Zero is not really an ENERGY policy. It does not incorporate a detailed plan of how to supply all the electricity required. It depends on the market supplying it, given various incentives. There is no real plan beyond that.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 27, 2022 1:16 pm

        NZC is more of a policy for candle-makers.

  13. February 27, 2022 12:15 pm

    The cost of “retrofitting” most properties to reach the insulation standard required, to keep heating bills similar to current levels, is in the tens of thousands. The cost of retrofitting a heat pump system also runs to many thousands.
    The thing is though, this is a cost to be borne by property owners only. The younger generation have been excluded from home ownership by the ridiculous house prices we now have. So they see this as a form of justice.
    The property-owning “boomer” generation is hated by the younger cohorts because they say they have pulled up the drawbridge on those younger than themselves. So you need to generate some buy-in from this younger generation somehow.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 27, 2022 1:12 pm

      And all of it – all the materials, machines, factories to produce them, installation, maintenance – use fossil fuels to a lesser or greater extent. The CO2 emitted to do all of this in the UK would be vast and would take decades to “repay”.

      So it’s fantasy anyway.

    • Jordan permalink
      February 27, 2022 2:16 pm

      If getting their “buy in” means giving them an easy life, we will get the undeserving younger cohort that we deserve.
      The younger generation need to learn the game because sitting on their backsides and demanding the house of their dreams from the “parentiarchy” will lead to disappointment. That drawbridge might look like a convenient and dry way to cross the moat, but adult life is about crossing the moat when the drawbridge doesn’t oblige.
      The game was always to get on the first rung of the property ladder. My first incursion was some 40 years ago, and took 5 impoverished years out of the lives of my wife and I before we started our family. 5 impoverished years for nothing special. But we played the game, trading up and upgrading until we settled into what became our family home. Not that this has put us into megabucks territory.

      • February 27, 2022 3:34 pm

        The house price to average income ratio is far higher now than it was in your day. If it was a five-year struggle for you it is an impossible mountain for most of them now.
        Anyhow, the fact remains the insulation and heat pump retrofit is a cost on home owners. A much lower proportion of the young own homes, and it does not matter what the reason is. So they don’t have the skin in the game that we do.

      • Jordan permalink
        February 27, 2022 4:28 pm

        My point is that we buy below average priced houses to get onto the ladder.
        The ratio you mention is influenced by affordability, when interest rates have been at historic lows since 2008. Another is creditworthiness of the borrower which is linked to employment rates and general economic conditions – these have been relatively benign for a couple of decades.

  14. Sapper2 permalink
    February 27, 2022 12:50 pm

    Nothing is going to happen. Net zero is unaffordable to individuals, and to this sceptred isle in the round. Standards of living are going to drop considerably over the next few years if not decades through current policies.
    A major upheaval in our governance, elected politicians and the civil service who drive policy and its delivery, is needed, but there is precious little of obvious choices for succession of leadership. The upcoming generations are generally infantile in behaviour and belief, and merely followers of fashion. Some get rich, but that is as far their contribution to society goes. I cannot see the revolution that puts national wealth creation as one of its primary goals, together with robust defence and policing as the other. The umbrella of social support can only come from delivery of the two primary goals, and from private investment.

  15. BillJ permalink
    February 27, 2022 12:59 pm

    Of course burning hydrogen does not release CO2 but it does release the more potent greenhouse gas H2O!

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      February 27, 2022 2:58 pm

      Well actually it is massively worse than that! Firstly burning hydrogen is much more difficult to do safely than methane. The flame temperature can be so high that as well as producing H20 you also produce NOx.
      https://www.thechemicalengineer.com/features/hydrogen-the-burning-question/
      But it gets much worse. Hydrogen is very difficult to stop from escaping. Fugitive hydrogen emissions have three main effects. As hydrogen rises through the atmosphere quickly it can readily reach the stratosphere. Here it reacts with Ozone (O3) and will punch holes in the Ozone layer. The reaction with both 02 and 03 at altitude produces H2O (as vapour or ice crystals) at the height where its greenhouse effects are far greater and longer lasting. Finally it also reacts with hydroxyl radicals (+OH) to produce water vapour. In stripping out these +OH molecules it stops them otherwise reacting with methane (CH4) to break down to COO (via C0) hence methane can end up staying in the atmosphere almost indefinitely.
      The IPCC give CO2 a “global warming potential” (GWP) factor of 1 whereas they give H2 a GWP of 5.8 almost 6 time worse….tell that to your average greenie!
      Not a lot of people know that.

  16. Dr Ken Pollock permalink
    February 27, 2022 1:05 pm

    This is a very complex area, but one or two things are clear:
    1. Heat pumps use electricity that is produced and transmitted with an overall efficiency of around 35-40%, so this has to be factored in to the efficiency when compared with gas boilers. The latter is a primary source of energy, the former a secondary source.
    2. Green hydrogen might be good once it reaches the home, but it leaks from iron pipes and 25% of our network is made of iron pipes, so another huge cost for us to pay, before it can be used. Of course, in a post 2050 world, we can’t use plastic for gas and water, but that’s another problem…
    3. Rolls’ SMRs are the future, using nuclear fission. Safe and reliable. Look at our nuclear submarines, effective and safe for decades. Don’t give in to superficial public opinion. The public just need educating, to overcome the NIMBY concerns.
    4. The same applies to fracking. Why do we give in to extreme and ignorant views on a subject so vital to our economy? The professor may leave out some aspects, but I would prefer to trust an educated academic than the twerps that dominate XR.
    5. Note how stupid even a nation like Germany is. Closing nuclear power stations, because of a tsunami??? No-one died of radiation after Fukushima!!! Then cutting down old forests and demolishing villages – the first to build wind farms, the latter to dig up lignite. Why would we ever take notice of them again?
    Hope that helps to clarify some points…

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 27, 2022 2:14 pm

      “Rolls’ SMRs are the future, using nuclear fission. Safe and reliable. Look at our nuclear submarines, effective and safe for decades. Don’t give in to superficial public opinion.”

      Sir, military reactors are a completely different animal than civilian reactors. Comparisons are invalid.

      • Dr Ken Pollock permalink
        February 27, 2022 2:40 pm

        Gamecock, please tell me why? They produce energy from tiny nuclear reactors that work reliably for decades with no risk to the sailors. I had a long chat with the captain of one such boat, and he expressed no reservations. He also observed that on launch, the sub contained enough raw energy material to last its whole service life.
        Why should that technology not be expanded to suit civilian use, in exactly the same safe fashion?

      • Gamecock permalink
        February 27, 2022 5:01 pm

        “He also observed that on launch, the sub contained enough raw energy material to last its whole service life.”*

        Dr Pollack, there’s your clue.

        Military reactors are designed without direct refueling capabilities. Making them a lot simpler and more compact.

        How can they do that, and yet have enough fuel for their full service life?

        Highly enriched fuel. Like 90% enriched uranium. Stuff civilians can’t get near, for safety and security reasons. Your “tiny nuclear reactors” would need an army company to guard each one. Note that the captain’s sub launched with a full complement of guards for the reactor.

        *I doubt “whole service life.” Maybe 20 years. The US’ latest design has a NEW design requirement that it last its whole service life. They are going to >90% enrichment to achieve it. (Not going to state enrichment level as it might be classified.)

      • Dr Ken Pollock permalink
        February 27, 2022 5:37 pm

        Gamecock, what a very strange rebuttal to my comments.
        1. Are you saying you cannot design an SMR that can be re-fuelled? Not necessary in a nuclear sub, but why not for a static power station?
        2. They may have used enriched fuel, but are you saying you cannot build one that does not use that fuel? Might be a bit larger, or maybe more expensive? But not impossible…
        3. And why the huge guard? It is not part of our defense system, so not needed. Not required for domestic nuclear power stations, so why when they are multiples of smaller ones? Totally illogical.
        It seems to me that you would prefer not to see any viable nuclear alternative – the objections are illusory.

      • Gamecock permalink
        February 27, 2022 6:36 pm

        You need me to explain why highly enriched uranium must be guarded?

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        February 27, 2022 8:21 pm

        Gamecock, are you not familiar wit the fast breeder spectrum of nuclear reactor? You appear to have an extreme dislike for the nuclear power industry – why is that?

      • Gamecock permalink
        February 28, 2022 11:25 am

        Quite the contrary, Mr Sanders. I know way too much to ignore popular science silliness.

  17. Geoff permalink
    February 27, 2022 1:40 pm

    Prior to the 1960s our gas supply was actually “green hydrogen”. It was called town gas then (50 % hydrogen, 35 % methane) and made by cooking coal in a retort.
    The switch to North Sea gas (85 % methane) with three times the calorific value by volume was a no brainer and led to the widespread adoption of gas fired central heating as opposed to coal.
    Thus the reversion to town gas under whatever trendy name is surely a retrograde step.

    • Jordan permalink
      February 27, 2022 2:41 pm

      Isn’t town gas a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide?
      I remember how town gas produced a rather stunted orange flame in my grandmother’s gas heater and cooker. Then, one day during the 1960’s, she showed me the tall and lively blue flame following the switch-over to North Sea gas. She was really pleased by the improvement.

      • Geoff permalink
        February 27, 2022 3:26 pm

        There is some CO…

        Carbon Monoxide – 10 %, Ethylene – 5 %.

        Because of the hydrogen, town gas produced rather a lot of water vapour. I remember my grannies kitchen too. It was absolutely dripping when cooking in the winter.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      February 27, 2022 4:08 pm

      A switch from methane to 100% hydrogen simply will not happen because it simply will not work. I could post for hours on the detailed problems of hydrogen distribution but best not to bore everyone!

  18. Joe Public permalink
    February 27, 2022 2:52 pm

    “gas has come back into favour, even though it produces vast amounts of CO2.”

    ‘Vast’ is relative.

    Vast because we use 4x as much gas energy vs the amount of electricity generated by renewables.

    Small vs the amount exhaled by humans to provide the equivalent kWh of heat.

    A newish natural gas combi boiler produces maybe 1/10th the CO2 emissions that these 78 cyclists do exerting themselves to manually generate the energy needed to heat water for one brief shower:

    “Human Power Shower – Bang Goes The Theory – BBC One”:

  19. Jordan permalink
    February 27, 2022 3:02 pm

    >”Sadly, Britain’s electrical energy provision policy has been non-existent for the past 30 years.”
    >”Because of our lack of energy policy we seem incapable of making proper, appropriate, investment decisions to benefit the country.”

    For much of the last 30 years (especially the early part), Britain’s Energy policy was supposed to be left to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. It was SUPPOSED to be non-existent. The only fly in the ointment is that policy could never be non-existent enough to allow the invisible hand to get a chance. Electricity Market Reform between 2010 and 2015 was the end of any chance the free hand could have any part to play whatsoever.
    We are all debating whether there should be more wind, or nuclear, or natural gas, or hydrogen, or maybe whether the coal ban should be lifted, etc. Energy Policy has reverted to the Try To Persuade Government Policy. That’s the route get the energy mix you think we should.
    It’s the game we have always been playing, and we continue to play today, including on this site. So let’s not point any fingers (invisible or otherwise).

    • February 27, 2022 3:43 pm

      Leaving it to the markets is the very reason we are in the mess we are. Markets want a quick buck, they don’t care what happens in twenty years’ time.

      • Jordan permalink
        February 27, 2022 4:34 pm

        Agree. I don’t believe the markets are sophisticated enough to deliver all that is required of a power supply system. Whether that’s overall reliability or the various services necessary to make it work.
        Most of the essential operating services are intimately related to the grid configuration and operation, and the gird is commonly held to be a natural monopoly. So there will never be a market for these services, with competition driving down prices to some assumed economically efficient cost of provision.
        To summarise: Thatcher’s experiment was a miserable failure (and I should say that I regret to have to reach that conclusion).

    • Harold permalink
      February 28, 2022 3:24 am

      Let’s point fingers. There are so many government failures, I have no more fingers. Let’s point to NetZero just to begin….

      • Jordan permalink
        February 28, 2022 1:08 pm

        Yes Harold, I agree with you. But our engagement in the political-centric process of centrally planning the energy system is our acceptance that the Thatcherite free market was a miserable failure. If we are embracing central planning (with all its faults), there is no point in talking about markets (as their faults are worse).
        So let’s point fingers including NetZero. Let’s express our preferences about what we’d like to see from the centrally planned process. Could be nuclear. Could be coal. Could be less wind and EVs. That’s what you see on this site, and I’m not criticising anybody for it. But it is a rejection of free market principles and it’s important that we all appreciate where we have got to.

  20. February 27, 2022 4:39 pm

    How is hydrogen produced from electricity any answer? Electric boilers are available now as more or less direct replacements for the apparently doomed gas ones, so no need for the vast expense of a hydrogen network that needs electricity anyway, or for iffy heat pumps.

    • Joe Public permalink
      February 27, 2022 5:02 pm

      “Electric boilers are available now ….”

      With concomitant exorbitant on-peak electricity running costs that can’t effectively be timeshifted.

      Ofgem’s simple electricity vs natural gas prices “Average price cap unit rates” table is here:

      https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/check-if-energy-price-cap-affects-you

    • February 27, 2022 5:25 pm

      Electric boilers for heating seem pretty pointless as well. You might as well have a thermostatically controlled electric oil radiator in each room. I suspect that’d work out cheaper than heating water up centrally and pumping it around radiators.

  21. February 27, 2022 5:33 pm

    Hydrogen is not a solution to the UKs energy problems. In addition to the cost of producing it must be added to the very high cost of compressing it – far more than that of natural gas, the cost of much greater supply volumes because hydrogens low volumetric energy content compared to natural gas, the issue of metal embrittlement which requires wholesale replacement of the existing gas distribution system and other expensive concerns. I am sure Dr. Faulkner is aware of these issues.

    • February 27, 2022 9:45 pm

      It would be a much better use for windmills and solar panels to produce hydrogen for vehicles. The vehicles would use fuel cells, and could refuel in the same time as at petrol/diesel pumps. The range could be just as great as current vehicles.

      The use of the intermittent power sources in this way irons out the peaks and troughs. It’s not as energy efficient as using electricity to charge batteries, but as we know EVs have severe limitations of refuelling time and range. Similarly, wind and solar are virtually useless for an electricity grid for the reasons gone over on here many times.

      Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be a lifeline for the 40% of us without off-street parking where we can charge an EV.

      • Mikehig permalink
        February 28, 2022 12:07 am

        “It would be a much better use for windmills and solar panels to produce hydrogen for vehicles.”
        Easier said than done. A few of the challenges:
        > Where to locate electrolysers?
        If they are at key locations across the country, getting the power to them is a challenge when the transmission grid is already overloaded durings spells of high wind output.
        If they are co-located with the windfarms, they will be very poorly utilised due to the low capacity factor combined with the infrequent spells of excess wind.
        > How to transport the hydrogen?
        The gas grid cannot be used because of some material incompatibility plus the fact that our gas-fired power plants cannot handle hydrogen in the gas supply. Also the blend would vary with wind’s performance, causing problems for combustion control in any user.
        Compression to 2 – 300 bar into tube trailers for road transport is the industry standard but that is probably impractical at such scale. If the production is located with the windfarms, the compression facilities will also be woefully under-utilised and the remote locations will make it a logistical challenge. Lastly, compression adds significantly to the cost in both capital and energy. Liquefaction is far more costly than compression.
        > How to develop a viable network of fuelling stations.
        The country currently has something like a dozen hydrogen filling points and some of those are linked to research stations so a massive build-out programme would be required – and look how that is going for EV chargers. They would need a lot of space for security around storage and on-site compression would be required as vehicles’ on-board tanks operate at 700 bar.
        It’s a non-starter for widespread adoption.

      • February 28, 2022 1:56 am

        Mikehig: the refuelling issues you note have already been solved. The hydrogen is stored at above 700 psi pressure so it flows into the vehicle easily. Yes of course we would need a network of fuelling stations that goes without saying. The sites already exist they are called petrol stations. They just need modifying.
        I am not proposing burning the hydrogen either in vehicles or to heat homes or to generate mains electricity. That would be daft. I am proposing the hydrogen is used in fuel-cell powered vehicles. Fuel cell efficiency is about 60%, more than double a vehicle internal combustion engine.
        The post above features a fuel cell vehicle going for 845 miles on 5.65kg of compressed hydrogen. The fuelling took five minutes. I’d be very happy with that compared to a battery EV.

      • Mikehig permalink
        February 28, 2022 9:22 am

        KB; I’m afraid the issues have not been solved.
        The working pressure of FC vehicle tanks is 700 bar, not psi. The few stations we have use onsite electrolysis and compression to fuel vehicles. To go down that route would require substantial infrastructure at each station and major power supply upgrades…and plenty of space for safety around the hydrogen kit.
        Even if the investment was made to build massive facilities at each station, that does not solve the problem of supplying the power. Wind farms are already being paid to switch off during periods of high output because the grid is at capacity in those remote locations.
        Basically getting a lot of power from the farms to possible electrolyser sites is very challenging. The alternative is to generate the hydrogen close to the wind farms. That faces the challenge of transporting the hydrogen, as I explained. There has been a lot of talk about blending it into the gas network which would cause the problems I mentioned. Otherwise it’s tube trailers and relatively large storage at each site with compression to 700 bar.
        Lastly, there’s no getting away from the inefficiency. A FCEV uses 3 times the power for a given range compared to a BEV.

  22. Ray Sanders permalink
    February 27, 2022 8:24 pm

    Am I on the naughty step? All my posts seem to be going into “moderation””. What have I said or done that is so bad?

  23. Harold permalink
    February 28, 2022 3:17 am

    Why is anyone concerned about whether anything is “carbon friendly”, or not ?

  24. dodgy geezer permalink
    February 28, 2022 4:59 am

    What’s wrong with using coal? We have a lot of it, it’s cheap, and now that CO2 has been shown not to cause any dangerous climate change there is no reason not to use it. That’s what the Chinese, Germans and Indians are doing….

  25. Russ Wood permalink
    February 28, 2022 2:31 pm

    In South Africa, the ruling ANC is so divided and weak, along with its problem that most of the members of government and the uncivil service are there for the money only. Service? What’s that? Anyway the rulers seem to be incapable of taking any real decisions, and blow towards the latest bribes! Currently, we have a decaying electrical system, with no competent engineering knowledge to replace or repair it. We don’t know if there’s enough gas below our Karoo semi-desert, ‘cos the Greens won’t allow exploration. Oil companies, wanting to do seismic exploration off our coasts, have been banned, either because of “disturbance of local small-scale fisheries” or “disturbing our ancestors’ ghosts beneath the waves”. So, we may have LOTS of gas – but no-one is allowed to find out! Meanwhile, we carry on with about 50% of our electrical generation capacity out of action, leading to the despised “load shedding” or “rolling blackouts”.

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