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« Regrets, apologies but all too late | Main | Energy, just like old times - Josh 205 »
Monday
Feb252013

The green, the crooked and the incompetent

Leo Hickman tweeted a link to this fascinating set of minutes from the September meeting of the DECC Science Advisory Group (SAG). SAG features several familiar names, including John Shepherd, David Mackay, Stuart Haszeldine and David Warrilow.

The whole document is worth a look, and it's only seven pages long. We learn much of what is worrying DECC's scientific advisers, for example the horrific (but presumably distant) prospect of low energy prices:

John Shepherd pointed out that whilst energy efficiency policies are required, they risk being ineffective while energy prices are low. Other SAG members observed that incentives such as a substantial price on carbon were needed to promote innovation and reducing carbon intensity, and it was vital to avoid carbon lock-in.

There is no sign that any of the assembled intellects noted that wind energy locks in the use of gas as a means to provide power when benign (i.e. still) weather conditions prevail.

The discussion also encompassed smart meters:

It was agreed that there is a need for much more work to be done to better understand consumer behaviour both now and with improved controls, as there is high potential for unintended consequences. Even simple devices such as easily and remotely programmable room thermostats (see above) could be very effective. An important innovation would be improving and reducing the costs of heat meters. Experience elsewhere where heat is sold directly (e.g. with district heating schemes) could be helpful. David MacKay expressed his desire to set up a research programme to trial innovations in the area of smart thermostats and heat meters, with the aim of reducing costs.

Your central heating in the hands of the green, the crooked and the incompetent - that's quite a scary prospect. Smart meters will be with us starting at the end of next year.

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Reader Comments (67)

The smart, it smarts.
==============

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

There is so much more that could be said about these minutes. For example, where is the concern over power cuts? How much of what was said is activism rather than scientific advice? What is ministerial input into the processes described?

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:51 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

These may be familiar names to some, but a brief summary of who these people are might be helpful if anyone could provide this info.

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I gather (heard on BBC news, no less) that we came very close to a power failure before the weekend, due to capacity limits. What hope after next year's decommissionings?

I see it's up to nearly 50GW right now...

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:59 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The "incentive" of taxes and charges on consumers.

The language of these people betrays so much.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

There is no sign that any of the assembled intellects noted that wind energy locks in the use of gas as a means to provide power when benign (i.e. still) weather conditions prevail.

You're assuming that when there's no wind, power will be provided. I don't get the impression any ecofascist considers this an important goal.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Smart Meters and dumb Politicians. What a combination.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Smart meters are another policy device to increase power costs and their associated political costs ultimately costing those who can't more.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDallas Beaufort

Reading the minutes is like a being a fly on the wall in Alice in Wonderland, or being on another planet.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:33 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I was very interested that Stuart Haszeldine is on the panel. Professor Haszeldine is a geologist who has had a lot of input into geological disposal of nuclear waste since the early days of NIREX and the proposed rock characterisation facility that was proposed for Sellafield in the 1980's. I believe Professor Haszeldine felt that the proposed site at Sellafield wasn't geologically suitable. Item 1 on the minutes is a discussion of the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) at which Professor Haszedine is not reported as having made any comments. Yet several months later he is quoted by the Guardian as saying:

"The three councils deferred a decision in October because of unease over a guaranteed right to withdraw right up until construction work started, and to look at alternative disposal methods. Evidence given by Prof Stuart Haszeldine (Haszeldine), a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, played an important part in raising concern. He said: "This has been a very short-sighted policy, run by driving local councils into volunteering for the wrong reasons: financial inducements. A lot of information is being suppressed in the process to entice councils into accepting technically flawed sites.

He recalled how a £400m examination of a site chosen close to Sellafield in the 1980s and 1990s was eventually abandoned due to the highly complex and fractured nature of the geology. He said: "I am very concerned we are heading into a cul-de-sac as before. Ultimately, do we believe in evidence-based policy or political opportunism to exploit communities with limited economic opportunities?" Deep geological disposal was the best long-term solution for nuclear waste, but only if the site is suitable."

Here we have Professor Haszeldine sitting on the DECC SAG and not making a peep about the GDF, or the governments approach, yet at the same time advising local councils against it. Surely we deserve better of our scientific advisors. There is no reported conflict of interest.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

John Shepherd - Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change

Tadeusz Oreszczyn - Director of The National Energy Foundation and The Sustainable Energy Academy.

Jane Dennett Thorpe - Director of Onawi CIC (a community interest company promoting wind turbines).

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Just explained to my beloved that our lives are about to become more tranquil, after those arguments when she turns the thermostat up to 25C become a thing of the past - as dial on our smart meter gives her the government's approved temperature du jour.

Normally, my breakfast political rants are ignored - but not this time.

"They wouldn't last five minutes!' - was the response.

I think UKIP might be interested in this.

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

J4R - absolutely correct.

They want us to return to the idyllic times of yesteryear when you read by candle, if you could afford one, and dug in the field 12 hours a day. Of course you didn't really need the candle anyway as you were usually so shattered you just fell asleep, after making the wife pregnant again.

These Greens are a strange bunch - you do come across (as I did recently) the useful idiots who have no idea what they are wishing for - they just believe in fairy tales.

Then you have the scientifically savvy guys, like a friend of mine, who do realise that a lot of Green stuff is mad, self defeating and devoid of any real world grasp. Obviously Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, comes into this category as well these days.

AND then you get the deep Watermelons who are just out to destroy the "evil" world we live in - one way or another.

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

John Shepherd - Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change

Tadeusz Oreszczyn - Director of The National Energy Foundation and The Sustainable Energy Academy.

Jane Dennett Thorpe - Director of Onawi CIC (a community interest company promoting wind turbines).

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Registered CommenterTerryS

I presume that they’re all offering their homes up as paying guinea pigs for these energy saving gizmos and that they’ve all had energy reduction inspections (at £200 a pop) to assess their homes for improvements? The £135,970 that Tim Yeo received last year from green companies would pay for an awful lot of high price gas and electricity, he wouldn’t need to bother with a single fluorescent light bulb. If these people come up with a scheme like Green Deal shouldn’t they be the first customers? Let’s see how they like saddling their homes with a £25,000 loan at 6.96%, for 25 years. With the additional binding agreement that they will not buy out the loan and if the scheme folds, they will pay the loan back in full, even if a future government writes it off.

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Cross posted from www.climate-resistance.org

We live in, perhaps, the most corrupt and disgusting polity since the 1930′s – more corrupt and disgusting than the 1930′s or any time in the past 150 years. Politicians, Central Banks (the massive inflationary fraud committed by Mervyn King on behalf of his friends in the city over 20 years and no one bats an eye!) so called NGOs (ENGOs!), international organisations to which we are treaty obliged, parasites one and all. Black outs will hit me and my community were it really hurts – they terrify us. Because we dirty consumers, we ordinary people must ‘pay’ and pay for our ‘external cost’. Surely, this cannot be sustained? I don’t usually read the Daily Mail but this article is pretty straight forward and I believe incontestable:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2283558/How-MPs-pay-subsidised-eco-firms-set-insane-new-carbon-targets-send-heating-bills-sky-rocketing.html

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

Chris Mottershead - Director of The Carbon Trust

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterTerryS

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

I can think of no more certain way of putting the population increase rate up than shutting off the power.

Have the greens integrated their population and energy control policies?

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Are these people for real?

Even simple devices such as easily and remotely programmable room thermostats could be very effective.

They are going to start telling you how warm you can keep your house?

How about two-way telescreens in every living room, watching what you are up to, while beaming in the words of our Glorious Leaders?

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

We need to know more about this pre-peer-review-review. Is there any way to get a deeper look at it.

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

'consumer behaviour both now and with improved controls'

Whenever your hear the words 'for the good of the people ' that is when to get worried for those words have be used time and again for what is often very far from being 'good for the people '

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Mr Hickman is beginning to show a pleasing degree of independence of thought from the normal KlimatApparat speak of some of his colleagues. First Attenborough, now this.

I suggest that should he show up here in person we treat him pleasantly and courteously.

There is no point in antagonising an influential guy who is starting to see the light. The example of Prof. Betts was not an edifying one.

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

RE: Remote thermostats - being generous this could just mean wireless room thermostats and wireless radiator valves - so you can easily turn heat up and down in individual rooms without having to walk into every room and without the blunt instrument of switching central heating on and off. That would be why they are awake to the possibility that making it easier to control your home temperatures could increase energy use as people make themselves more comfortable.(the horror!)

RE: DECC review of papers. Giving them a preview strikes me as a sneaky way of being able to generate policies or departmental comment that is ready in time for a paper being published. Their interpretation of it is then one step ahead of the science community and the media. It makes them look more clever and effective than they are.

Feb 25, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Looks like the Vatican discussing birth control - Cardinal Shepherd said to Cardinal Oreszczyn and Sister Thorpe agreed as did Fr. Haszeldine.

Do they wear ceremonial green robes and crowns of twigs?

Nomine Gaia et spiritu CO2 damnamus ad tenebras

Amen

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterTomO

Isn't the UN Agenda 21 at the root of all of this?

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

The top aim of Agenda 21 is "Combating Poverty". It seems this has been misunderstood, as these eejits are combatting the poor.

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM | Registered Commentersteveta

Rick,

No they aren't going to tell you what temperature your house should GE at. There is no need for that as they will enforce temp restrictions through pricing energy at levels that will force you to turn the heat down.

Mailman

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Would anybody like to quantify what difference changing the temp on my thermostat is going to make to the lights going out? My heat does not come from electricity. If all the houses all had electric heating how much difference could it make? As domestic heating is not the totality of electricity use.

I think this whole thermostat thing is part of the IPPR 'warm words' deception nonsense*, whereby it is important only in order to get everybody involved in the effort against climate change so they think they are in some kind of blitz scenario, all together defying the enemy. Which may be a fine fantasy, but how much difference could it possibly make? The whole thing is being played out on an ideological battleground by children. The adults will need to come in later and clean it all up.

*If there's anyone who has not read 'warm words', you really must.

http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/1529/warm-wordshow-are-we-telling-the-climate-story-and-can-we-tell-it-better

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"9. AOB
The SAG discussed the current requirement for DECC to receive Hadley Centre papers at the point of their submission for publication."

I would go further. It seems extraordinarily extraordinary.

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


"9. AOB
The SAG discussed the current requirement for DECC to receive Hadley Centre papers at the point of their submission for publication."

I would go further. It seems extraordinarily extraordinary.
Feb 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM michael hart


Why? If DECC are sponsoring the "research", isn't that what you'd expect?

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

A very sinister - but illuminating - document.

Interesting to see the list of their concerns (I've made them into a bulleted list)

Ravi is the new Director of DECC Strategy. (...) The SAG offered their expertise if he required any assistance. Members suggested that big challenges ahead included:

* backlash against higher energy prices
* availability of skilled people to ensure that electricity market reform delivers carbon emissions reductions
* electricity and heat system balancing and demand management.

Some further possible but uncertain potential eventualities were discussed: these included

* availability of unconventional fossil fuels (leading to low carbon prices)
* unexpected climate change (especially in & around the Arctic)
* public refusal of new nuclear capacity
* continued failure to achieve any meaningful international agreement on carbon emissions reductions
* political polarisation of opinion on scientific issues (including climate change)
* pressure to repeal the Climate Change Act

Feb 25, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

At first sight the requirement for sight of research papers on point of submission looks ominous. But in reality it is just another cog in a very big machine. For the whole climate research 'industry', through targetted funding, is locked in to provide suitable 'evidence' supporting the politically defined ideological paradigm.

In 2005, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Economics of Climate Change hit the nail on the head when it observed, referring to the IPCC, (I paraphrase) that sound science can not emerge from a flawed process, depending more on political requirements rather than scientific evidence.

The whole Establishment constuct regarding this green ideology will I think only finally be defeated by a hardship-driven popular revolt after much further social privation. We see it mainly as a UK problem, but it is at least EU-wide if not global. I dont know where the revolt will originate, maybe here, maybe not. In the communist bloc it started in Poland with the dock strikes, and ended at the Berlin Wall. That ideological experiment in social engineering took the best part of 40 years to to finally defeat it.

Feb 25, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

It was agreed that there is a need for much more work to be done to better understand consumer behaviour both now and with improved controls

Cripes, that is shockingly authoritarian phraseology - these bods really do think that they rule and rule absolutely - we [those idiots who pay the bills] used to be regarded as customers and utilities and government were there to help us..............we just don't understand [turn a blind eye to] the subtle ways in which we have been subjugated and now enslaved.

Why don't people see it and actually get it? Because, what happened in the DDR and Eastern Europe was a guide - it was then reformed, nuanced and finally finessed by the Western Communists.

Feb 25, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Thank you TerryS for information about some of those involved.

I wonder who Ravi Gurumurthy is, and what are the qualifications, expertise and experience that led him to be appointed as the person to direct the strategy of DECC?

He used to write speeches for David Miliband. And he went to Oxford. So basically that's all good then.

Feb 25, 2013 at 1:41 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

All of a sudden Orwell's 1984 seems like a benign world to inhabit.
It's the SUN stupid not CO2.

Feb 25, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Has anyone else noticed the prominent ads in today's broadsheets taken out by an alliance of interest groups to support the Energy Bill and demand "carbon free power by 2030".

I can't link because it's pay-walled at the Telegraph - so I decided to transcribe all the names for future reference (some are logos or acronyms I've never heard of - but most are, sadly, familiar) :-

SSE
RSA
RES power for good
PZ Cussons
Cisco
Dong Energy
Repsol
Interface
Harland & Wolff
The Co-operative
Ecotricity
Seajacks
Sea Energy plc
Mainstream Renewable Power
Good Energy
Repower
Modus
EDP Renewables
Triodos Bank
The Church of Scotland
The Methodist Church
The Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Quakers
Operation Noah
Scottish Renewables
Renewable UK
Solar Trade Association
REA
Regen SW
UKSIF
TUC
Basis
IPPR
Assocation for the Conservation of Energy
RSPB
Friends of the Earth
Christian Aid
Greenpeace
Oxfam
WWF

My immediate thought is - an awful lot of work and expense went into liasing with all these entities.

Who organised it? Who paid for it? Was it central government?

I wonder how many supporters, customers or involuntary financial contributors to these organisations are happy for them to enter the political sphere with support for this suicidal piece of legislation.

I'm sure many of them will have constitutions which forbid them from political activity.

I'm beginning to feel democracy has come to an end in this country.

Feb 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

IC/LEI dickly dock,
The mouse ran out the clock.
===================

Feb 25, 2013 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

@ Athelstan re: "Why don't people see it and actually get it?"

"(...) the lie can continue only so long as the people are protected from the economic,
polical and military consequences of the lie,(...)"

For example: aiui, a carbon tax is being introduced in April. The BBC has not breathed a word of this...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/search/news/?q=carbon%20tax%20in%20April

Feb 25, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSleepalot

John Shepherd pointed out that whilst energy efficiency policies are required, they risk being ineffective while energy prices are low.

Energy prices are low? Perhaps a consultation with the millions thrown into fuel poverty might be in order for Mr Shepard. There is an even better group to consult, those falling out of fuel poverty, but they are all dead and so don't vote.

Only a 'what recession?' public servant holding out for his comfortable pension could believe that we have low energy prices.


The SAG also questioned why real-time data would not be available to National Grid, since the information could prove invaluable for load balancing and in emergency situations when load shedding is needed to avoid power cuts.

And you can bet your cold and dark future that there will be no 'load shedding' where they, or our politicians and 'civil servants', live.

Me, I'll be in the front row outside Whitehall - knitting.

Feb 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Rhoda, while I take your point that many don't use electricity for heating, (and it does sound a lot like cutting down railings for spitfires) there are a disproportionate number of the poorest who have to heat with electricity, at least in the UK. If rental accommodation has gas installed then it has to be regularly checked. Landlords don't want this expense so most lower-cost rentals are electricity only. That may be more expensive to run but it's the occupant who pays the bills so the landlord doesn't care.
Similarly, partial grants for insulation etc often lauded by Greens don't do much for the poorest and non-owners as the poorest can't afford any contribution and landlords don't want to pay to insulate when it is the tenants who would be the main beneficiaries.

Greens are fond of stereotyping those who object to their policies as wanting to preserve their SUV lifestyle but in reality the hardest hit will those who can't afford the many effects of expensive energy or can't escape them.

In my own field, which requires reliable electricity, much of the production work has gone abroad and I'll be going with it if the lights keep going out.
It's those who don't have the means or the exportable skills which will be left to suffer in a wasteland.

Feb 25, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

The SAG discussed the current requirement for DECC to receive Hadley Centre papers at the point of their submission for publication."

I would go further. It seems extraordinarily extraordinary.
Feb 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM michael hart


Why? If DECC are sponsoring the "research", isn't that what you'd expect?
-------------------------
It is asking to review it before it is published, before peer review. A funder who wished to maintain an appearance of impartial non-interference with content would not dream of making such a request (or is it an order?).

There are other issues. External collaboration and cross-funding often mean that no single author, agency or funder can claim formal priority over others. DECC may fund some projects, or salaries, or buildings. I doubt it funds all of them. Look at the co-authors.

Feb 25, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Foxgoose: this should be brought to William Shawcross's attention, as it is prima facie evidence of charities involving themselves in political activity, for which they should lose their charitable status. He seems more interested in the realities of charities' behaviour than his PC box-ticking predecessor.

Feb 25, 2013 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

@ Rhoda Denmark has just banned oil and gas CH for new houses.

Feb 25, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSleepalot

Foxgoose @ 3:49 PM
Seems that the broadsheet ad you mentioned comes courtesy of the WWF, see http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/press_centre/?unewsid=6482

Feb 25, 2013 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterrussep3

I'm already seething from some of the comments on the Carswell thread. And then I read this:

"John Shepherd pointed out that whilst energy efficiency policies are required, they risk being ineffective while energy prices are low."

Firstly, what does that have to do with science? How is that even remotely connected to science?

Secondly, I'm guessing that Mr Shepherd doesn't have to try to make it through the winter without adequate heating.

Thirdly, I better stop typing or this post will need an ecclesiastical snipping for the sake of decency.

Feb 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Other SAG members observed that incentives such as a substantial price on carbon were needed to promote innovation and reducing carbon intensity...

In geography (aged twelve I think) I learnt about "carrots" and "sticks". Even remember colouring in a picture of a donkey, with a carrot dangling in front of its' nose, and a stick raised above its rear. Incentives are carrots. Do something and you will become better off. Sticks are implied threats. Fail to do something and you will be worse off. Higher prices to reduce consumption are a not a "carrot" but a "stick".

Maybe Josh could provide an appropriate cartoon for the committee members to colour in?

Feb 25, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

In the US, smart meters report on energy use. The fear is that different levels of use will be charged at different rates. They are installed regardless of consumer preference by private utilities. The hand of the federal government in this practice is not quite clear. How smart meters could benefit consumers escapes me.

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

There is only one solution.
Mass civil disobedience.
I for one will not have one of these damnable "smart" meters.

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon keiller

Pharos,

Your idea that the 'fightback' against 'communist ideology' began, merely, in Poland, with the Dock Strikes is cute but historical nonsense. Such opposition was there from the beginning and was brutally suppressed. More recently one might talk about Czechoslovak opposition to Gottwald in the late forties, the Hungarian uprising in '56 or merely the Plastic Peoples Band in the seventies. People hate oppression.

Feb 25, 2013 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

Feb 25, 2013 at 11:30 AM | rhoda

Your gas consumption will be 'smart metered' as well as your electricity. I wouldn't be too concerned though, the project seems way to technical for our incompetent governments ever to implement. Here is a speech by Charles Hendry MP about smart metering. They need to install > 100,000 meters per week during the roll out at a total cost of about ~ £12Bn. Guess who is paying both for the procurement of the meters and the installation. Fifty-three million meters have to be connected to a WAN and each will be providing information to headquarters every 30 minutes. They will know when your hot-tub gets turned on.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/charles-hendry-speech-to-the-smart-metering-forum

It all sounds rather infeasible to me.

What they don't tell the gullible who think it's a good idea to have a smart meter to tell you how much energy you are using is that it has the capability to change the price of your energy on a half-hourly basis. This will obviously be kept low profile until after the roll out when people will find that tariffs become like mobile phone contracts - confusion marketing. You will never be able to tell whether you are being ripped off even as you are.

Here is a link to the technical specification:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-metering-implementation-programme-technical-specifications

It will probably be cheapest in the future to use home heating oil and run a diesel generator off the same stuff. Leave the smart meter to idle on zero even if the government of the day does manage to get 53M smart meters on a WAN that works.

The meters themselves will have the capa

Feb 25, 2013 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

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