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« UK opinion on climate | Main | Biofuels debate »

The numptocracy

Energy Secretary Ed Davey was interviewed on the BBC's Newsnight show last night. The whiff of incompetence is almost overwhelming.

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Reader Comments (127)

'If I were living in Sicily and a prominent member of the local Mafia offered me "protection," I would know exactly what he meant and that it was going to cost me ...'

Yep, about $1.7 billion ...

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Apr 5, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Brownedoff:

You provided a link to a Carbon Brief article entitled, "We've managed these things in the past, and managed them quite well" - an interview with Richard Smith of National Grid. He's reported as saying that building new gas plant to fill the potential gap in the country's energy supply could just be a waste of money because the "country already has a large number of gas plants [that have been] mothballed and these could be brought back into service". So, he indicates, there isn't a serious problem, the capacity problem being solved "without the dramas predicted in some parts of the media".

But is this true - do these mothballed gas plants exist? The article provides a link (to the NG's "winter outlook" for 2012/13) that is supposed to provide the evidence. That (paras 191 and 192 on page 52) refers to 4.2GW of CCGT generation that's currently unavailable "for a variety of reasons" and notes that "some of this generation may become available to the market". I'm suspicious of the "some" and the "may" - and is 4.2GW enough? (BTW note that para 194 refers rather vaguely to "an additional reserve requirement to meet wind generation output uncertainty ... met from both synchronized sources and non-synchronized sources". What does all that mean?)

The outcome of all this seems to be that we needn't worry about wind's intermittency because there's plenty of backup capacity and anyway new systems mean wind is becoming increasingly predictable. Nothing much to worry about then - indeed, as commentator Alban Thurston ("renewable sales professional, lobbyist and marketer") says:

High time that more public authorities like Richard Smith, Slingo, the Met Office and the National Grid raised their profile, gave more public interviews such as Smith's to Carbon Brief, and countered the tsunami of cack & lies served up by right-wing papers on the topic of climate change & energy.

Might Thurston be right (about energy that is)? After all, the NG's "head of energy strategy" must know what he's talking about. Er ... surely he must?

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

So far as I can seen, the Great Delusion has long since gone critical in the sense of being self-perpetuating:

- The whole of the opinion forming classes, and the media they manage, being convinced of CAGW as an unquestionable reality.

- A politicised Administrative Senior Civil Service, where huge numbers of lucrative, pleasant and inflation-proof-pension careers depend on its continued existence.

- A politicised Scientific Civil Service, giving governments the advice they want to hear, rather than assessing reality, and with careers built on the perpetuation of the delusion.

- Scientific learned societies hijacked by True Believers and giving authority to "the science".

- New Climate Scientists™ being educated by existing Climate Scientists™ - more a sort of rote-learning so far as I can see, rather than critical enquiry.

- A generation of indoctrinated schoolteachers passing on their beliefs to their pupils.

The longer the Great Delusion lasts, the greater will be the cost and the suffering. I think its demise will only be triggered by apocalyptic events, maybe in combination:

- A succession of arctic winters
- The economic collapse of the UK
- Prolonged power blackouts

Perhaps Davey and the DECC are unwittingly hastening the end of the Great Delusion?

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:32 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

One of the founders of Greenpeace in the US, Patrick Moore, has said that its policies are now "anti-science and anti-human". So that their paramount motivation is malevolence, with a dictionary definition:-

"maliciousness, spite, spitefulness, grudge, venom. Malevolence, malignity, rancor suggest the wishing of harm to others. Malevolence is a smoldering ill will:

What is to be done?
a) Round these people up and parachute them into North Korea, where they will find the political and economic climates more to their taste?
b) Have them made the object of a Bill of Attainder?

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterGordonW

AGW is a latter-day trojan horse sent by the greens to destroy western civilisation from within and we sceptics are latter-day Cassandras foretelling the doom ahead but being ignored.

Timeo Davey et dona ferentes, you might say.

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterstanj

Why wasn't he asked about the new "carbon floor tax?" This is delibrately designed to put energy bills up (some estimates say by 100%) and nothing to do with the "external cost of fuels", which seems to be Davey's only reason why bills go up - nothing to do with me mate. This and the other green taxes are certain to increase the number of deaths of cash strapped public and the stifling of manufacturing industry. Doesn't he care?

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Thompson

You are too kind in calling him incompetent.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnboy

Huhne & Davey sat on a wall.
And watched all around them the power grid fall.
When asked why there is no power.
They pointed out that the wind did not blow this hour.
When asked why people freeze and die in the cold.
They say it is all due to their getting old.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

'.... to keep the lights on - and we WILL...'

Memo to self: Get that standby generator up and running...

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Blinks rather a lot for someone who 'believes' his own propaganda.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

How screwed are we? This man couldn't find his own bum in the dark with the aid of a torch and a map!

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilton Gray

Greenago delenda est

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngusPangus

Actually, I found Paxo's constant interruptions extremely irritating, and did nothing to undermine the daftness which Ed Davey was spouting. A few incisive questions about the ability of fairy breath and peek-a-boo sunbeams to 'keep the lights on' would have been - er - illuminating...

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

The rather obvious results of dysgenics in the upper classes, years and years of eton oxbridge in-breeding have resulted in an idiocracy of jeering public school boys who should "rhubarb" in the house of commons and claim it's "democracy".

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

*public school boys who should "rhubarb"

should have read:

public school boys who shout "rhubarb"

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

Apr 5, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Robin Guenier

Mothballed plant is in that state because it costs more to run than can be earned trying to compete with power stations that can make a living by offering cheaper juice.

The only way a mothballed plant can be returned to service is by somebody paying a price for the juice which gives the operator a reasonable profit. This means a subsidy from the taxpayer or higher electricity bills if National Grid makes a contract for more expensive juice. Either way the peasant is stuffed and NG make a windfall profit.

It would be better to build 4.2GW of modern CCGT capacity rather than try to resurrect the dead. Then, go on to build another 16GW of the same in short order.

A synchronized source is a proper despatchable power station running connected to the grid but on a low load yet is capable of being ramped-up in a short time period - this is spinning reserve.

A non-synchronized source is a proper despatchable power station that is on "hot standby" - everything is kept thoroughly warmed up and the machine can be connected to the grid at short notice and then ramped-up but not as quickly as a machine coming off spinning reserve.

As to their ability to forecast wind, well, it is not good - Mr. Bratby has drawn attention to their "expertise" in this field several times on BH.

I get the impression that Richard Smith of National Grid is a member of a Green NGO as well as an employee of NG.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

If we build a device to attach to Mr. Davey's eye lids we could capture large amounts of energy from his rapid blinking.

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterWindy

Given that the hair needs attention - can I suggest a large ginger afro wig set off nicely with a remaindered BBC red plastic nose? (The YouTube red play button almost does the red nose thing on my browser!)

Perhaps we can promote him to Science and Technology and CERN could borrow him to bend light and find Dark Matter? (precedents already in place)

c'mon he must have a use ... surely?

Where's @cassetteboy when you really need him?

Apr 5, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Davey c/w present and previous fellow numpties are raising the level of their disinformation campaign. The intention is becoming clear, when the lights go out it will not be because of a lack of due diligence and long term joined up thinking by our elected representatives. It will because the electorate have been foolish in not following the advice of the numpties.

Their aim is to make energy availability exclusive, selective, and yet be able to attribute the blame to the citizens.

They are of course correct, we are serial offenders with a very long record of voting for numpties.

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:01 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I think you'll find that most household bills will have soared beyond the projected 2020 increase already this year. We won't have to wait long before we can throw that buffoon's fantasy figures back in his face!

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeide de Klein

So, first time I have seen Mr PotatoEd in action. Not a pretty sight.

As much as we might wail here in Bishopland the answer lies elsewhere. We need those members of the MSM who can see through the stupidity to maintain the campaign. The utter stupidity of energy policy needs to be in the headlines week in and week out. Mr Booker, Mr Rose you have your orders. Go to it.

PS One of the Sundays needs to get Monckton to do a pull out special - 'World Misled by Climate Science'

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins

Brownedoff's link to that carbon brief interview with the National Grid's Head Of Strategy was interesting. Particularly the first comment which notes how NG are profiting from the extra costs of variable wind so are unlikely to raise objections no matter how bad it gets.

There's also a link to an NG report which makes the stunning claim that incorporating 23,000GWh of variable wind over an 18 month period only reduced the efficiency of conventional stations by 0.1%. ie. that the additional energy cost of back-up was only 23GWh.

Smells like pure BS to me as an engineer - definately some slight of hand being used to disguise the true cost. My concern is that our politicians are being fed these distorted figures by vested interests and there is NO-ONE at DECC with a critical eye to check the numbers - because they're being told what they want to hear.

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

@Hilton Gray 1:24pm
Is that because his head is already up it?

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

There won't be any pushback from the pampered moralising activists at the BBC until the electricity bills on their sumptuous residences grow so high that they realise they cannot send young Tarquin to Bedales after all.

Apr 5, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Chilli, I share your suspicions.
However I would also read that statement as meaning that the inefficiency cost 0.1% of the combined output of all of the conventional stations: coal + gas + nuclear.
That is a rather different figure, around 520 GWh by the back of my fag packet. That still seems suspiciously small when you look at the daily swings in CCGT output as the wind output fluctuates.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Actually, I found Paxo's constant interruptions extremely irritating, and did nothing to undermine the daftness which Ed Davey was spouting. A few incisive questions about the ability of fairy breath and peek-a-boo sunbeams to 'keep the lights on' would have been - er - illuminating...
Apr 5, 2013 at 1:37 PM sherlock1


Full marks to Davey for keeping his cool.

To an uncritical listener, he will have come across as someone attempting to answer the questions reasonably but being prevented from doing so by the rude and querulous interviewer.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The current basic annual salary for an MP in the United Kingdom is £65,738.

We have the monkey now give him the peanuts.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

After studying the that claims only "0.1% efficiency loss" due to wind, I can see what they've done. In the concluding table they've only included the CO2 'cost' of their estimate of the proportion of the short term operating reserve required to cover the emergency situations when wind outturn falls short.

ie. They take no account of the additional cost of ramping up and down the rest of the fleet to match the wind. They're only counting the emergency situations when the rest of the fleet can't cover the wind shortfall.

Their 'justification' for this grossly misleading assumption is as follows:

2. Analysis of the effects on carbon intensity on the remaining generation fleet due to the intermittent nature of wind
Half-hourly or Daily Data on the efficiency of thermal generation stations is not readily available. Therefore, for this analysis an approximation of the efficiency of gas fired plant has been made by analysing the amount of electricity generated by gas fired power stations and comparing it to the volume of gas consumed by the same stations.. There are two key findings:
 At a total gas fired power station fleet level, there was no correlation between the overall efficiency of the gas fired power station fleet and the amount of electricity generated by wind
 The analysis showed that there continues to be variations in the efficiency of gas fired power stations, but this could not be linked directly to wind intermittency
Variations in power station efficiency may be due to a range of reasons, including, but not limited to, the age of the plant, temperature, maintenance schedules and operating strategy and whether the plant is generating at or near its Maximum Export Limit or its Stable Export Limit. The method used for calculating gas fired power station efficiency, namely using gas delivered from National Grid’s National Transmission System as a proxy for gas consumed by the power station can only provide an approximate indicator of power station efficiency, as it ignores the effect of gas linepack variations in the power station operator’s system."

And we're supposed to take their word for it without any supporting data or independent audit - in the knowledge that NG plc are profiting handsomely from the expansion of wind?

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterChilli

Following my earlier post it seems that another saviour may be at hand. I had been wondering where the white knights of Powerline had got to. Tallbloke has a post here -

It remains to be seen what these guys will bring to the fight but one of the weaknesses of the sceptical position is the lack of fire power. In principle at least, industry has as much to lose from the crap energy policies as the rest of us. Maybe this is another sign that the tide is turning and will soon wash away Mr PotatoEd.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenternTropywins

Green Sand - I agree.
The elites now finally see the crisis coming and are preparing the ground to blame the demand side (i.e. us) rather than the supply side (i.e. them).
See also the questions from the Lords highlighted here yesterday - "Why are we not subsidising renewables enough?"

Be prepared for much more of this...and understand that they will only ever be able to see it as a political crisis (which it is for them) as opposed to the energy supply crisis it is for everyone else.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJud

Only one way to describe Davey's performance:

WALOB (What a load of B******t)

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz

When people can't afford to heat their homes, even a fit young man can die of the cold indoors in April in 21st Britain:

A 26 year old Newcastle University graduate has died of hypothermia whilst apparently researching a documentary on homelessness:

Greenago delenda est.

Green-age must be destroyed.

Apr 5, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngusPangus

I copied the Davey vid with a screen grabber and put it on Utube but did not know how to place the link up here, I thought it should be put on line to show how cynical this man is, sob the poor I`m alright jack.

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Madame, the peasants cannot afford to heat their homes and are dying of hypothermia.
Why, then let them use wind power...

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

[Self Snipped!]

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecm

Ah, so he's going to regulate prices down. "Insulate consumers" from price increase through the visible hand of government. He might want to check into what happened when Nixon tried that in the US.

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

I suspect that Davey is trying desperately to protect his dream of shutting down our economy to save the planet to counter criticism from pragmatists in his party who look at the snow in April and shudder both with cold and with having to explain to constituents how it's all down to global warming.

There are people in the Lib. Dems who do know that the so-called IPCC science has been debunked and possibly some who will accept in private that the climate is getting a lot colder.

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecm

I'm hoping against hope here, obviously but, as we know/hope/pray/dream, there are people at Westminster who know how serious things really are. Isn't it just possible that the Tories are giving the Lib Dims enough rope with which to hang themselves? With election time looming, they're going to need clear water between them policy-wise, and it might be convenient to hang power cuts etc on the LDs and their crazy green nonsense, which they couldn't do anything about 'cos of the coalition deal. So what if a few pensioners croak in the meantime? that's just collateral damage ain't it?

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMeIKnowNothin

Troll comments and follow ups removed.

Apr 5, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Can't we persuade Ed Davey to talk about his energy policies more often?

Apr 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

Yes I saw the whole thing two nights ago. Funny really as I haven't watched Newsnight for ages, certainly not consistently for years and never since Savile. I think I felt some sympathy towards Paxman in the face of such wilful blindness. I noted that in his closing comments for the program immediately after the interview he was hunched, demoralised and fatalistic and as the credits were rolling, he sat slumped looking at the floor in front of him.

It was quite obvious to me that he was at his wits end on how to interrogate such a moron as Davey. As I watched the whole segment, as each speaker (no dissenting voices as usual) finished, all I myself could managed was to repeat out loud each time - "You are a moron".

Nothing else could be said really.

I also noted that the interview with the solar panel home owner who ran everything off his solar panels and may a healthy profit was scuppered as the final frames showed him driving his electric car out of his garage passed a huge stack of cut wood. Why would he need that? Very efficient, very clean energy that. Well if its good enough for Drax, its good enough for him.

Apr 5, 2013 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered Commenteramoorhouse

I imagine Ed Davey must know from one or other of the "incredibly detailed" DECC reports he keeps referring to that more than half of Europe's "renewables" are in fact wood.

Since as our ancestors discovered 600 years ago there isn't nearly enough wood for the job, most of the wood is now imported from the likes of Canada where prices have already risen 60% in the face of overwhelming European demand.

In the UK some of this wood goes to converted coal fired power stations like Tilbury B where the wood stockpile was destroyed by fire last year or now to Drax where 3 of the 6 boilers are being converted to run on wood. That means of course that they will produce only about one third as much electricity as they did when using coal.

Drax lies on top of coal fields and beside villages where unemployed ex coal miners draw their social security. Eastern Canadian power stations import coal many hundred miles from Wyoming and will export the wood from nearby forests to Yorkshire.

Wood in most instances produces more carbon than coal even before you take the transport miles and combustion inefficiences into account. Even if saving carbon is a good idea this is surely not the way to do it.

It would all be totally laughable if it weren't for the fact that it is our children who will be paying the subsidies which drive it all; it is our jobs that are being lost and it is our pensioners who are being placed at risk off freezing to death in winter.

Messrs Davey, Huhne and Milleband have a lot to answer for.

Apr 5, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

redc: ...but he managed to maintain his head tilt angle through the entire interview...

That posture is called 'the tilted head of compassion' or 'compassionate head-tilt' (or at least that's how I know of it). It is a body language trick that's supposed to make the person look more sympathetic and, of course, compassionate.

Apr 5, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

In desperation I emailed UKIP and told them that the insanity of the other parties concerning climate change, green taxes and energy policy represented a huge opportunity for UKIP. I suggested that the GWPF had sensible views on these subjects and would give good advice. (I think even Nigel would approve).

Sadly, I have had no reply; I sent the email about a week ago.

However, I think this route is the only one we have. While all the main parties have the same policy, we have literally no choice but to live with the insanity. The threat of losing more votes to UKIP is about the only thing that seems to worry them.

Apr 5, 2013 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Schrodinger's Cat

It's already UKIP policy. Here's the pdf from last year:

And here's Farage saying 'Let's stop the wind turbines and get Britain working again'

I'm not a member, but I imagine their lack of reply to your email is because (I have read) they are very short staffed and are being snowed under at the mo by people clamouring to join, asking for info, etc.

Apr 5, 2013 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

I don't think its incompetence. It looks to me as though the UK government is following the example of the US government when dealing with the media, and entering any interview with a set of talking points, which they stick to come hell or high water. It works in the US because of the obsequious behavior of the media who mostly do what they are told and stick to the talking points on pain of being forever excluded from future interviews if they deviate.

Unfortunately, there are those in the UK media that haven't get received the memo, and insist on asking the questions they want answered rather than the questions that allow the talking points to be delivered.

What this does, is make the interviewee look like a complete pillock that can't understand a straight question and insist on talking over people to deliver a message that no-one is interested in.

Open question as to wether the UK media is beaten into submission (moves are underway in that direction) or the government learns that the US style of propaganda is not going to fly.

Apr 5, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Peake

There are a few in Westminster who think that UK energy policy is bonkers - Redwood, Tyrie, Lilley and others among the Conservatives and Helmer the MEP who defected to UKIP - but they are in a small minority. The only way it will change is voting pressure by the public. That will have to come from outside Parliament (not from within Parliament as there are too few anti votes to make a difference). UKIP is the only political vehicle for this - opportunities present themselves in the forthcoming local elections, by-elections (Middlesborough next up) and the MEP European elections in May 2014 when UKIP are expected to do well. If UKIP gets its act together it will usefully focus its anti-EU stance on the immigration and energy policies that emanate from the EU, with which the public at large can and will identify. In Helmer they have a sound recruit.

Apr 5, 2013 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

You should have been at the Guildhall in Worcester on Wednesday evening. Nigel Farage arrived at 7.0 PM but the hall (upstairs) was already full at 6.50.
However rather than disappoint the vast number who were hoping to hear him, he delivered a precis of his full address for 20 minutes from the balcony, downstairs.
Those of us who were seated were not bored however, as an MEP colleague, Mike Natrass (I believe) told us some almost unbelievable tales of the waste and corruption at Strassburg.
A good third of Nigel's superb speech concerned the folly known as 'renewable energy'
The two friends I took along haven't voted for years.
They're now firmly in the UKIP camp.
Nigel spoke to us for nearly an hour without notes, the fourth time he'd delivered his speech that day.

Apr 5, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Apr 5, 2013 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterGummerMustGo

Unfortunately, the Minister appears to be disenguous at the very kindest.

The assertion that energy bills on average will rise by only £22 by 2020 is a patently absurd assertion given that since 2004 they have risen from somewhat over £500 to somewhat more than £1300. The reality is that even with just infaltion, the average energy bill will rise by more than £22 by the end of this year! Energy companies always put up their prices in the Autumn, expect by winter 2013 to be paying more than just a further £22pa. I would suggest that every UK energy user sends Mr Davey a bill for the excess being paid over and above his £22 assertion. That might make him think.

The government's assumptions on energy saving are patently flawed. To take just one example of insulation. The UK' housing stiock is old. 60% is pre-war and of single brick construction and therefore not suitable for cavity wall insulation. A further 20% is post 1980 and already has a reasonably good standard of insulation. At best only 20% of housing stock can usefully benefit from cavity wall insulation.

Old houses are not well suited to double glazing. With fire places/chimney and air bricks, quite a bit of heat is lost via these openings and if the fire place is removed and boarded, it leads to damp unless additional air bricks are fitted, or vents over the windows. again, that goes a long way to off-setting the benefit of double glazing. Post 1980s houses probably already have double glazing. Again, the number of houses that will achieve a useful saving via double glazing is far less than the government assumes.

I was rather disappointed by Paxman since I understood that he was a little sceptical of CAGW. I am sure that I have read some comment about him to that effect.

Apr 5, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

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