Los Alamos Fire risks Plutonium Waste Stores

The city of Los AlamosinNew Méxicohas a population of eleven thousand people and 30,000 55 gallon drums of contaminated plutonium waste. The drums are not stored where people live but close by in the open air in the grounds of the Los Alamos National Laboratory which was famous for developing the atomic bomb. People and plutonium do not live comfortably together and when nature intervenes the discomfort turns into danger. Continue reading

Standard Assessment Procedure and Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure – flawed tools in the toolbox

One of the reasons why the microgeneration of energy (which is the use of small household technologies to generate energy which is created and used on site) is employed so infrequently is that there is little government support of it in the United Kingdom. Microgeneration is wrongly seen as a lifestyle choice, rather than an environmental imperative. As microgeneration industries have grown in the United Kingdom, government incentives have been introduced (also in the case of some important technologies they have been turned on and off, creating instability. The second reason is that the ordinary consumer cannot be sure about its value, because the government approved methodologies for calculating the benefits are deeply flawed. Continue reading

The UK’s Energy National Policy Statement

There is some difference I suppose between a National Policy Statement and a National Policy, but the subtlety is beyond me. I should not waste time on semantics and assume that the Energy National Policy Statement is simply national energy policy written down, or in other words, national energy policy.

The government has published its Energy National Policy Statement, abbreviated to ENPS, which is its energy policy. Having a longer title than necessary tends to make things suspiciously pretentious, full of froth and bubble that loquaciousness brings. The Energy National Policy Statement is a poor substitute for a fully thought out energy policy.

It has been quite hard the track down the policy statement; you have to go through a variety of UK government websites, most of which contain statements about the statements and to save you the bother of this tedium I can tell you that the link to the policy is  http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/consents_planning/nps_en_infra/nps_en_infra.aspx

which you will see comprises six policy statements and two government responses and an impact assessment. Who would of thought that energy policy should be so hard to lay out succinctly. Perhaps it is better not to be befuddled by this approach to attempting to communicate policy and settle to down load the “over arching national policy statement for energy” at http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/meeting-energy-demand/consents-planning/nps2011/1938-overarching-nps-for-energy-en1.pdf

From this document we glean that energy is important and needs a significant amount of large scale and small scale infrastructure, that theUKis committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels) and that this is going to be a major challenge. Calling the reduction “a major challenge” is more than the litotes of British reserve; such a reduction, on our present course of energy policy, is simply dreamland.

Energy we are told should be secure, safe, low carbon and affordable. We are not told that energy cannot be both low carbon and affordable or secure and safe. These conflicts have not been addressed in the policy statement, yet they are critical in getting the policy right.

My immediate impression of the revised policy statements is, when you clear away all the froth and bubble

  1. The planning laws will be changed to make planning consent for infrastructure projects much quicker and presumably easier to obtain.
  2. The UKwill build eight new nuclear power stations to replace those that are going to be closing down; so we are on a nuclear pathway without a real debate about it.
  3. There will be a need to invest £100 billion in the electricity infrastructure to enable a lower carbon grid; if a government makes any infrastructure expense estimate it is usually right to treble or quadruple the estimate. HM Revenue and Customs collect £157 billion from income tax and national insurance tax in 2009.
  4. There will also be a need to invest in gas pipelines, storage facilities
  5. The UK does not have virtually any of the infrastructures needed to achieve its 80% target.
  6. The UK will mainly rely on private investment to finance the changes that will be necessary.

The sheer size of the cost of “decarbonising” our energy supply makes it necessary, if private investment is to be used, to provide for quicker planning decisions so that we can get on with much needed greenhouse gas reductions. The sheer size of the project also, in my view, mitigates against using privately raised money and should point towards using taxation as a means to raise the money.

Fighting climate change is like fighting a war; the cost is terrible but the cost of failure is worse. We would not sub contract the fighting of a war to private finance and I wonder of the wisdom of doing so in the case of climate change.

The Green Deal needs a small but essential fix

The Renewable Heat Incentive will enable householders to pay for the cost of their solar thermal and similar installations from the savings that they will make over a ten year period. The way that fuel prices are rising many people will find themselves financially better off within the first ten years and having had the equipment pay for itself will enjoy tax free savings for up to a further twenty years. Continue reading

Everyone makes mistakes

Sometimes governments get details wrong. A policy that they devise from the best of intentions may, when the rules are put together, have some flaw which renders the policy less effective. When the flaws are pointed out, if the government remedies them, the opposition will loudly proclaim that the government does not know what is doing, and seek to show the government as incompetence or worse, indecisive. However, most of us would rather have good rules that work, than bad rules that are flawed and we should congratulate a government when it get things right, rather than damn it. Continue reading

The Energy Tipping Point of Mr Laidlaw

Mr Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica, said at the recent Economist Energy Summit that he believes that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point in energy. Presumably a tipping point occurs when the old regime of there being sufficient energy to meet the world’s needs changes to there being insufficient energy to meet the world’s needs. Mr Laidlaw points to three factors that are creating this tipping point. The first is dependence on volatile world markets for fuel, the second factor is climate change and the third factor is affordability. Continue reading

There is no Greek Financial Crisis

There are many crises in the world today; there are wars in Afghanistan and Libya, there is unrest in Syria and insurgency in Iraq and many people are losing their lives, but the crisis that is dominating the news today is what is called the Greek Crisis. Greece has as a sovereign nation borrowed money and it cannot afford to repay it. Greece is being urged to accept severe austerity measures to enable it to repay the money that it cannot afford to borrow. It must, it is being told, sell national assets, work harder for less money and pay more taxes to enable it to repay what it cannot repay. I do not know whether to solution is that which is being put forward by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. I do know, however, that the crisis is not one about Greece, but one about banking and the way we organise our international lending and borrowing. Continue reading