The millions of gas boilers in the UK’s homes produce twice as much climate-heating carbon emissions as all the nation’s gas-fired power stations combined, according to an analysis. The finding highlighted the urgent need for a strong government policy to rapidly introduce low-carbon heating such as heat pumps, the researchers said. The data also shows that home gas boilers collectively produce eight times as much nitrogen dioxide as the power plants. NO2 is an air pollutant linked to tens of thousands of early deaths a year in the UK. Ministers have promised to publish their heat and buildings strategy before the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. The government is also contending with soaring gas prices, which have been driven up by rapid growth in post-pandemic demand around the world.
Guardian 29th Sept 2021 read more »
At last the Government has woken up and realised it won’t be able to smell any coffee this winter if rolling power outages mean that millions of people are unable to boil their kettles. It has taken spiking gas prices caused by a global energy crisis, a fire at an important interconnector that links the UK and French power grids and unrelated queues at the petrol pumps, but the Government has finally figured out this country’s energy policy isn’t fit for purpose. Crucially, it has now committed to more nuclear power. That won’t help us this winter (or for several winters to come). But if our current woes eventually result in the UK finally creating a joined-up energy policy, at least the crisis won’t have gone to waste. That said, so far the commitments have been vague at best. There have been airy suggestions of ploughing more cash into mini reactors and reports of nebulous talks with the UK manufacturer Westinghouse (among others) about building a large-scale nuclear power plant in Anglesey. After years of dithering, a change in the mood music is welcome. But now ministers must have their feet held to the fire. Most pressing is the necessary legislation to spell out the funding model for Sizewell and future plants. Next is a long-term road map on the exact shape and size of the UK’s future nuclear industry so that all companies within the supply chain can get planning. Finally, the Government must ready its arguments for the inevitable political backlash that will result from the first two steps. We’re already getting a taste of what’s to come from Greenpeace and the SNP. If the Government doesn’t move fast and add some meat to the bones of its renewed commitment to nuclear, its half-life will be measured in nanoseconds. Opponents of nuclear power say it is expensive, dangerous and results in toxic waste that lasts for centuries. They are correct on all three counts. Nuclear power may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is our least bad option. Far better, surely, than being unable to boil the kettle without Vladimir Putin’s permission.
Telegraph 29th Sept 2021 read more »
Across the Channel, the French, with no oil and depleted coal reserves, invested instead in nuclear power. Over the next 15 years, France installed 56 reactors, satisfying her power needs and even exporting electricity to other European countries, including us. They produce 70 per cent of their electricity by nuclear fission, which does not emit CO2, and are not dependent on energy from volatile regions like the Gulf or despotic regimes such as Russia. This was as much force majeure as prescience. As the French say: “No oil, no gas, no coal, no choice.” As a result, they find themselves in a better position than Britain, notwithstanding the headache over reactor waste disposal, although recycled fuel provides 17 per cent of French electricity. By contrast, and because of the apparent bonanza provided by North Sea oil, we shamefully neglected the one source of power that would help create self-sufficiency and meet low-carbon objectives. The Thatcher government commissioned eight new reactors, but cheap gas made the economics problematic and just one was built. Only when it was too late and much of the industry’s expertise had been lost did the last Labour government try to reactivate the nuclear programme. The Coalition agreed to build the first new reactor at Hinkley Point using French technology and Chinese finance, a damning indictment of our own inability to revive an industry that we pioneered. Future reactors were to have been Chinese built, which now seems inconceivable given the cooling relations between the West and Beijing. There is talk of a new era of nuclear power generation, focused on smaller, cheaper reactors designed and built in the UK to provide local energy generation. In the long run, we should be investing in thorium reactors, which have none of the risks and waste associated with the uranium fission cycle. But it would take decades to undertake such a programme, so we need a plentiful interim energy source.
Telegraph 28th Sept 2021 read more »
No one expected a key power cable from France to catch fire, worsening our shortages. But the reawakening of the global economy, the ebbs and flows in energy produced by wind and solar renewables – none of this is new information. The basic laws of supply and demand have gone overlooked in the recovery process so far – or, perhaps even less generously, those in government who understand this basic principle have also been operating with the hubris that such things are in the state’s control. It has only taken a few years for the energy price cap to fall apart: by forcing an increasingly competitive industry to cap what it could charge consumers, it tied smaller companies’ hands when prices rose. As the number of smaller players proliferated over the years, there was increasingly no justification for it. And with wholesale prices reaching up to 11 times normal levels, the cap has become a coffin, killing off smaller players in the market who are not allowed to raise their prices to reflect their increasing costs. And far worse consequences may be around the corner for British consumers, who are facing an uphill battle this winter against rising inflation and an energy shortage. The irony, of course, is that the Government’s unstable energy strategy makes it harder to plan ahead, and thus more difficult to embrace greener alternatives if and when they become available. This is hardly the message the Prime Minister plans to sell at Cop26, but it is a more honest one – and it is a reality he will be forced to confront if this crisis worsens.
Telegraph 28th Sept 2021 read more »