Friday, August 07, 2009

Out Go The Lights

Britain may soon have an electricity problem according to The Economist.
In the frigid opening days of 2009, Britain’s electricity demand peaked at 59 gigawatts (GW). Just over 45% of that came from power plants fuelled by gas from the North Sea. A further 35% or so came from coal, less than 15% from nuclear power and the rest from a hotch-potch of other sources. By 2015, assuming that modest economic growth resumes, a reasonable guess is that Britain will need around 64GW to cope with similar conditions. Where will that come from?

North Sea gas has served Britain well, but supply peaked in 1999. Since then the flow has fallen by half; by 2015 it will have dropped by two-thirds. By 2015 four of Britain’s ten nuclear stations will have shut and no new ones could be ready for years after that. As for coal, it is fiendishly dirty: Britain will be breaking just about every green promise it has ever made if it is using anything like as much as it does today. Renewable energy sources will help, but even if the wind and waves can be harnessed (and Britain has plenty of both), these on-off forces cannot easily replace more predictable gas, nuclear and coal power. There will be a shortfall—perhaps of as much as 20GW—which, if nothing radical is done, will have to be met from imported gas. A large chunk of it may come from Vladimir Putin’s deeply unreliable and corrupt Russia.

Many of Britain’s neighbours may find this rather amusing. Britain, the only big west European country that could have joined the oil producers’ club OPEC, the country that used to lecture the world about energy liberalisation, is heading towards South African-style power cuts, with homes and factories plunged intermittently into third-world darkness.
American Greens have a similar plan for this country if we let them get away with it.

The Economist thinks energy taxes are the way to go.
...carbon must be taxed if firms are to invest in long-term, expensive, technology-heavy projects such as nuclear plants, cleaning up coal and taming renewable sources of power. Carbon is already assigned a price through the European cap-and-trade mechanism, but the system is focused on the short term, vulnerable to gaming and plagued by hugely fluctuating prices. A tax on carbon is hardly going to stop the lights going out in a few years, but it would provide a floor price for power, giving investors a clearer sense of likely profits. In the meantime you know who to blame.
A political solution subject to gaming? I'm shocked. And then there is the carbon tax idea. That may sell to the Brits but in America I recall we had a Tea Party about some relatively modest British Tea taxes. And to this day we are not fond of paying taxes to any government.

If Brits are going to stay warm at night I think that soon they are going to have to find extras to sleep with. Maybe some one like Louisa Lockhart who is rumored to sleep well with others.

On another note: I typed in "Green Electricity Swindle" into Amazon and this is what came up:

Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory, Does Climate Change Mean the World Is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?

Further: You can listen (while you still have electricity) to more Pat Travers on this CD:

Live! Go for What You Know

Cross Posted at Classical Values


ZenDraken said...

Efficiency is a fine thing, but you cannot conserve your way to prosperity.

LarryD said...

"...carbon must be taxed if firms are to invest in long-term, expensive, technology-heavy projects such as nuclear plants, cleaning up coal and taming renewable sources of power.

levelized cost of generating technologies
also, How much does the Federal Government spend on energy-specific subsidies and support?

In a rational analysis, wind and solar are non-starters, bio-mass won't scale, even hydro doesn't make the cut (capacity factor of 52%). Only advanced nuclear and geothermal are cheap enough, reliable enough, and carbon free. They're even cheaper than advanced coal, that 5% capacity factor difference gives the edge to advanced nuclear.

No, carbon taxes aren't necessary. But the rational choice won't be taken, because of public irrationality.