Can we keep the lights on?

Can we, as a nation, keep the lights on, with these intermittent wind turbines? Can we keep the lights on, without nuclear power stations or coal burning power stations? Can we keep the lights on, with all these climate change targets? You often hear journalists and politicians ask these questions when discussing energy. The question indicates the importance of energy security, being able to flick a switch and know that the lights will come on, every time. However, they are asking the wrong question. Energy security is not about keeping the lights on. 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

Energy Policy Folly – Wind Turbines

Christopher Booker, writing in the Daily Telegraph on 23rd April, rightly, in my view, argued that the lights in Britain will go out more sooner than expected because of European Union and UK energy law and policy. He sets out the facts as Continue reading

War and Oil

I have a memory of a television news report just after theIraqwar started. A man, whose child had been killed by Allied bombing shout “just take the bloody oil and go, leave us alone”. At that time many of us thought that theIraqwar was about oil, and so it has proved. TodayChinabuys Iraqi oil than all the other nations put together, butChinadid not fight inIraq, so what benefit was there to the Allies for fighting the war? Continue reading

Changing our environment through crisis

There have been two new crises in the world that have occurred in the past few weeks. One crisis is the devastation of the nuclear power facility in Fukushima in Japan, which was caused by building the nuclear power plant close to the sea in region where earthquakes happen routinely, without sufficient protection for the plant from damage by earthquake and tsunami. The second crisis is taking place in Libya, where a civil war, with one side backed by most nations, is happening, with all the loss of life, bombing, explosions and waste that happens in war. Continue reading

The efficiency of wind turbines

Wind turbines derive their energy form the kinetic energy in wind. When the wind blows the turbine revolves and the turbine is connected to a generator which generates direct current electricity. The electricity is inverted into alternating current electricity and then fed into a grid or into a place where the electricity is used. There is a limit to the energy in any given amount of wind, but there is also a limit to the maximum amount of energy that any turbine can collect and harness. Continue reading

Renewable Heat Policy – muddled thinking

The United Kingdom Government has published an Energy Statement in the form of Departmental Memorandum from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. As a whole it is much of the same, with little change from the previous position, but that is to be expected from such a new government that has to get to grips with securing our energy and climate change future which is the most difficult and important of its tasks, whether it realises it or not. Continue reading

Montana’s coal

Peering into the future of global warming means that you have to guess about the future greenhouse gas emissions that humanity will create. About 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions are made from burning fossil fuel. If emissions from fossil fuel burning were reduced by 80% the overall emissions of greenhouse gas – mainly carbon dioxide – would all be sequestrated and recycled safely by natural processes. Continue reading

Putting the record straight – Professor David MacKay

I wrote about Professor David MacKay’s nuclear vision in but I did the Professor an injustice, because I ascribed views to him which are not his own. He has commented on my blog that his views, which were widely reported in The Sunday Times as well as in the trade magazine “Heating & Ventilation”, were in fact misreported. He was giving a talk and in the course of it posited “Plan M” as an illustration of one of the choices that we could make about energy policy. He did not recommend Plan M, but used it to illustrate the choices available.

I owe Professor MacKay an apology, which I unreservedly make now. Continue reading

Rising energy bills and the scramble for energy

When I first started to write about the forthcoming energy crisis, many years ago, it was because it was something that I had studied and analysed; it was my reason for founding Genersys, a renewable energy company; in this case the analysis created the decision, rather than the decision to found Genersys creating my views about energy. For many years my views were ignored. People were just too complacent and comfortable with the existing arrangements and politicians and decision makers either lacked the imagination to understand what would come or were too busy starting wars, running the economy and doing all the other myriad things they do in office while also spending a great deal of time ensuring that they would stay in their jobs.

I have promoted renewables on the basis that the future cost of energy is significant and a very important factor in decision making about renewables. This has caused some disbelief, but now perhaps as respected bodies like Ofgem have now made their studies public, there will be an increased take up of renewables, particularly micro generation like solar heat.

The figures suggested now by Ofgem’s study “Project Discovery”, are these. On a worse case, domestic energy bills could rise (yes even after the existing rises) by 60% in the next seven years, with that figure being above inflation. The best scenarios suggest a rise of 14% above inflation in the next eleven years. These figures have to be considered in the light of the United Kingdom’s domestic energy bills having already risen by 120% in the past ten years.

Of course fortune telling is an occupation with low probabilities of success. My own view is that Ofgem have underestimated the rise, significantly.  Other nations have already identified the energy squeeze that will happen. China is buying oil fields and oil exploration companies. South Korea is investing heavily in renewable energy, so is Chile and I expect Japan to do likewise. The United States is developing a renewable policy which will lead to very significant take up throughout the country. Other smaller less industrialised countries are also spending on renewables.

The reason is this: energy prices are bound to rise significantly. An energy squeeze will be even more damaging than the credit squeeze has been. Every aspect of industrialised life depends on energy – we truly live in the Energy Age. The only way that you can guarantees supplies of a resource like energy, which we have traditionally sourced from finite resources, is through genuine renewables like solar heat, photovoltaics and wind energy. We will still need to have plenty of fossil fuel, but renewables will have to be a key part of every nation’s energy future, not an afterthought as a sop to environmentalists or as a way of reducing the impact of climate change.

Recent reports claim that oil has peaked; natural gas is controlled more and more by a handful of states that will wish to build their wealth upon it, rather as some states have done with oil. Coal is also probably close to its peak and Uranium is also finite. It is clear that the scramble for energy has already begun, and the United Kingdom has not even entered the race.