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« Maria McCaffrey on Radio 5 | Main | Numbskull or nefarious? »

Dieter Helm on energy policy

Dieter Helm's appearance before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee today was pretty special, I gather. From his opening remarks - he said that it's a pretty amazing state of affairs that we are even discussing the possibility of power cuts and that we are failing on each of security, price and decarbonisation - that's certainly true. 

Video below or direct link here. Helm starts at 11:39.

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Reader Comments (52)

Interesting (and chagrinned) about the great interest in "managing demand" ... my preference is they would attend to supply which is really all they can manage and all they are really responsible for.

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

He had a good slot on the World at One too; the Beeb even gave Peter Lilley a lengthy and respectful hearing. Nearly fell off my chair in amazement.

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil McEvoy

And in other news the ongoing search for the ghost of 'carbon' continues with the Met Office proposing to build a new £97m Computer to top the £47m already spent!

An expose of the EU 'trick' here to get other countries to sign up to reduction targets that they themselves know they cannot keep to keep the scam rolling.

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered Commentertheguvnor

Helm testimony is clear and compelling.

He makes mincemeat of several sacred cows with surgical precision - to mix metaphors.

His audience had very little room for logical objections.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Well I thought it was Brian Clough! He gets straight to the heart of the problem. (Just like Brian Clough.)

Why have we been waiting twenty years to hear these views?

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

The green/climiate obsessed world view is inherently unworkable, if living safe healthy prosperous lives for as many as possible is the goal.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Another dose of reality following on from the earlier dose from Owen Patterson. But will those in power (or current officials in DECC) listen and learn?

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeomac

"But will those in power (or current officials in DECC) listen and learn?"

How do you get out of this without looking stupid? The politicians are panicking; Maggie kept the lghts on during industrial unrest. The lights will go out due to these fools' infatuation with the ramblings of an eco-movement (and their fellow travellers) who have never, ever, been right about anything; acid rain, agw, ALAR, chlorine, golden rice, etc etc etc.

Another problem is TAXES; there is no chance of those green taxes being rolled back/cancelled - over 40billion last year alone.

Had the so-called "Precautioary Principle" been applied correctly, the warmistas and associated bedwetterati would have been told to get lost.

What a complete shambles.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJMT

The term "technology neutral" was used numerous times by more than one person.

What does that mean?

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

What's Martin Rees (next to Matt Ridley) got to grin about during Helm's talk? The old fool.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Woolley

Our politicians should all be hung out to dry and first in the queue should be Davey followed closely (very closely) by the likes of Caroline Lucas and her merry idiots. We will all suffer the consequence of this debacle because our 'leaders' decree it and because they know nothing about anything important. What a bunch of overgrown schoolboys we have running the country.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGobsmacked

Watched all of his presentation. Very impressive! Although, perhaps wisely, he largely punted on the question of global warming, aka climate change. He pretty much stuck a knife in the insanity of the government's policies. One cannot help but wonder why more economists in the US, aside from the awful Paul Krugman, do not address themselves to the same questions and logical solutions.

I was also impressed by the questions from the Lords. They seemed to me to be a pretty squared away bunch of gents. Being from the US, however, and although I have a general idea of the power of the House of Commons, I have very little understanding of the influence and power of a committee of the House of Lords. Can someone give me a short tutelage on its place in the decision making hierarchy?

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Howerton

Very good, straight to the heart of our needed energy supply policy. Interesting to hear him say words to the effect that "....we would have had a real supply emergency now if we'd had 25% economic growth since 2006 but luckily we had a recession." Chicken or egg, jump or pushed? Was the recession a green inspired ploy ie forced hard landing not soft landing? Call me cynical.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Helm blames Milliband, Huhne and Davey.

Well that's a start. But what about Hewitt, and Hain? I can't remember whether Alan Johnson did any wrecking - probably did.

And which idiot saw through the NETA system - the one that scrapped the capacity market, and introduced (why??) inbalance payments?

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

A very cogent and thoughtful speaker who expressed scepticism about many things ... except global warming! He never once gave any indication that CO2 and global warming could turn out like fossil fuel prices; totally misjudged.

Perhaps you have to accept (or pretend to accept) the global warming conjecture in order to have any credibility at all amongst politicians.

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

What's Martin Rees (next to Matt Ridley) got to grin about during Helm's talk? The old fool.
Oct 28, 2014 at 4:06 PM Ian Woolley

It's possibly what is referred to by psychologists as "a shit-eating grin".

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:13 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Billy Liar:

"Perhaps you have to accept (or pretend to accept) the global warming conjecture in order to have any credibility at all amongst politicians."

Right, you can fight only so many battles in a few minutes and climate is not his area of expertise. His decision to avoid a confrontation may have been strategic.

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Phil Howerton,

"I have very little understanding of the influence and power of a committee of the House of Lords. Can someone give me a short tutelage on its place in the decision making hierarchy?"

As a subject of her Maj(esty), I would also like to know that.

The whole subject of the House of Lords seems to be shrouded in mist. Didn't we get half way through reforming the Lords, and then just sort of give up?

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Billy Liar,
I think that climate science is irrelevant. This is a policy issue. The policies don't work. One of the underlying dysfunctions for this miasma is that politicians started pretending they were scientists and tried to sound sciencey. And scientists started pretending they were policy wonks and started to push specific policies.The insiders and yes men lapped it up and got the subsidized faux renewable industry going. Sort of like a raw spot rubbed until it festers.
The science behind the climate alarmists is falling down around them daily as the failure of their predcitions and models.
Let it fall down around their ears..

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

From my reading of Dieter Helm's work he seems to accept the basic AGW premise and as others say he concentrates on his field of expertise which is the correct policy response. He made it very clear to their lordships that the current policy is defective on all relevant fronts. So far so good. But what influence does this bunch of old codgers have on actual policy?

DECC are fully aware of Dieter Helm's views on the policy response and simply bash on regardless. Ideology trumps common sense at every level of government.

if only there was a political party that has not signed up to the Green stupidity

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

I have a question, which the Lord's themselves didn't ask - or perhaps they all know the answer. Why have we been moving from gas to coal in a decarbonising world, as Helm states?

Can anyone explain?

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

@oakwood in the recent past gas prices rose & coal prices fell, so suppliers who run both chose to mothball some gas plants.
- The level of CO2 output means nothing to them, cos the ways the law is set up is that their only obligation is to buy in a certain amount of "fairy magic" renewables. If the law had been set up to reward suppliers to actually reduce CO2 then of course they would go all gas, cos each $ invested in switching from coal to gas reduces CO2 by more than other options like renewunables etc.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:08 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

if only there was a political party that has not signed up to the Green stupidity

H2O: the miracle molecule

In the UK it's UKIP. In the USA it's the republicans. It europe it's no-one.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The term "technology neutral" was used numerous times by more than one person.

What does that mean?
Oct 28, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider
Rob, in public policy "technology neutral" means providing a level playing field for competing technologies, i.e. the government does not try to pick winnners or favour one over the other. The idea is that competition between technologies and their suppliers will produce the most efficient outcomes for consumers.

It is the ideal of market oriented policymakers, but you don't see a lot of it in practice, unfortunately. Almost any form of regulation distorts markets, and governments rarely resist the temptation to over-regulate everything that moves.

Current loopy energy policies are the opposite of technology neutral, and not surprisingly consumers are getting mugged.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:16 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

UKIP are the only party to have signed up to this. They realise the futility of it all. Read Roger Helmers blogs. He actually talks common sense and can see we need change. We are never going to get change all the time we keep voting for the same things. Labour, Lib Dimmers and the Tories are all singing from the same hymn sheet. We need something different.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGobsmacked

Hunter @6.18: Quite the neatest and most concise summary of the current state of affairs that I have seen.
Prof. Helms evidence and this committee are important because the following is now out in the open, authoritatively.

The three pillars of energy policy; Security, Economy and Emission Reduction are mutually incompatible.

Existing technology cannot deliver decarbonisation

Offshore wind is a total waste - much better spent on R & D

The policy so far has been a futile pretence of action

The economic recovery is doomed without policy revision ( that should ring some alarm bells).

I look forward to the response from the DECC. The thought of either Liz or Lady Verma leading is sheer joy.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

oakwood, as stewgreen wrote, coal has been cheap but also a whole series of coal stations have been given a death sentence because of EU directives on SOX and NOX. Either clean up or shut down. The utilities decided to mostly run them to death. One by one they are shutting down, leading to part of the crisis. At the same time the subsidies for renewables was so high the gas stations are too expensive to run especially during the summer and when the wind blows consistently. So the utilities start moth balling the gas stations which involves a lot more than turning off the lights. There's even a risk that suppliers could go so low in profit they decide to pull the plug permanently which was in part what happened in California in 200/2001. No point building new coal stations because the government has decreed they are for the chop to reduce CO2. No point building gas stations because they aren't guaranteed a reasonable slice of the market, there are already moth balled plants and draconian CO2 reduction would see them shut down too. Meanwhile successive governments have dithered.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Phil Howlerton asked:

Being from the US, however, and although I have a general idea of the power of the House of Commons, I have very little understanding of the influence and power of a committee of the House of Lords. Can someone give me a short tutelage on its place in the decision making hierarchy?

Basically, a House of Lords [HoL] select committee purview various issues usually with this one [Science and Technology Committee] on matters concerning the UK economy.

A HoL committee, they can make recommendations and critique but have no real power, what they say - does not necessarily 'go'.

The so called real powers, are resident in the Lower house of Parliament. Where, ultimately laws are drafted through and in the executive and then are scrutinized and voted upon, by elected representatives [Member of Parliament] - seated in the legislature.
It must be said however, that, the sovereignty of Parliament is now totally compromised. It is a fact, that, many of our laws are made by supranational bodies and in Brussels and thus are rubber stamped by our own executive and legislature here in Westminster. All of this, which in effect strands the British people, who are and have been to all and every intent and by deliberate purpose - disenfranchised and sidelined.

Parliament plays a charade, they pretend to democracy but so long as we remain in the EU - all we are is a Soviet province - in some ways we do not have as much power as say a federal state in the USA - say Texas or Greenlalaland aka - California.

I Hope, all of that helps somewhat.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

When the transcript comes out I will probably find Professor Helm didn't actually utter the words "it's not difficult" but I am damn sure it is the message the committee got and in spades!

Politicians faced with pure unadulterated logic, the silence was deafening as the enormity of their self imposed folly slowly became so inescapably crystal clear and full view of a world wide audience.

There will be several new drive belts on the spin machines tonight.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:21 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Thanks stewgreen and TinyCO2 - good, clear explanations.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

It is shocking just how cheap coal is - $10.25/ton at the mine in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. There are ~6150kWh locked up in that ton of coal which equates to about 0.1p/kWh.

The fuel cost of coal powered electricity is negligible. The entire cost of a kWh of electricity is essentially the transportation cost of the fuel, the inefficiencies (thermodynamic and other) of the generation process and the electricity distribution costs. There are also the inevitable hefty taxes.

In terms of fuel cost, coal powered electricity is very nearly the same as wind, solar and hydro.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

They just need to pass a new government regulation to make blackouts illegal.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterWill Nitschke

Interesting, and lots of good stuff. I wonder why he appears to accept the "Carbon" / "Climate Change" narrative. He would appear to be well able to recognise that the lack of warming puts a big question mark over the AGW theory.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergareth

@hunter Oct 28, 2014 at 6:18 PM: It's a shame there's no 'up' arrow for your succinct summation, but here's mine anyway +1.

Could someone tell me if I can legitimately download this video, snip out the relevant section, and upload that to the likes of youtube?

It would be nice to make this video easier to find for other people who normally wouldn't watch HoL meetings, or don't like Silverlight on their PC's.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknownknowns

@unknownknowns - don't worry about copyright - just do it.

The worst that can happen is that YouTube might remove it. Very unlikely.

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

The full video can be downloaded from here, in .wmv format (417 Meg):

If you wish to convert it to some other format like .mp4, (you could convert to many other format), then d/l ffmpeg, (search engine will find you a copy of the open-source binary of ffmpeg), and use that in a old fashioned DOS box (command-line):
ffmpeg -i 0000026081.wmv -ss 01:02:45 -t 00:49:33 -async 1 cut.mp4
The above would cut from 01:02:45 (start time) for the duration of '-t' switch, (remaining time to end of video), resulting in a ~180 Meg file.

You could just cut out his introduction with the ffmpeg command-line:
ffmpeg -i 0000026081.wmv -ss 01:02:45 -t 00:02:15 -async 1 cut1.mp4
The above would create a 2min 15sec section from the start point 01:02:45.

Hopefully useful for someone.

Oct 28, 2014 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknownknowns

Very interested to hear what he says about the abundance of gas. Truss the other day said that gas will run out in "a few years".

Oct 28, 2014 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB


The above URL doesn't seem to work for downloading the .wmv, so my post of (Oct 28, 2014 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknownknowns) should just be binned, sorry :( I should have stepped through things first before posting!)
It can be d/l'd and altered however, just using another method.

Oct 29, 2014 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterunknownknowns

There are plenty of clips on youtube of UK Parliamentary Committee hearings, have been for years, so I doubt that there's any legal issue about putting them up.

Oct 29, 2014 at 1:07 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I'm still waiting for the politically correct to get jiggy with the term "blackout".

Oct 29, 2014 at 2:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

We are awash with fossil fuels. Coal prices are falling. Gas prices are falling. Oil prices are falling.

My domestic energy prices aren't falling.

Go figure.

Oct 29, 2014 at 4:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Some above have asked why, despite his apparent clear cut logic, he presented not an ounce of scepticsm to AGW. I am sure its a strategic decision. If he did, he could too easily be dismissed by his opponents as a 'denier', and that all of his arguments were part of a 'denier' agenda, and therefore not to be trusted.

Working in the environmental sector myself, I have learnt to do this so as not to seriously damage my working prospects and credibility in other subject areas. A big proportion of the environmenta sector are so convinced of AGW, and taken in by the propaganda against sceptics, that any hint of AGW-scepticsm is received like telling a devout religious fanatic you don't believe in a god - wth shock, and sort of superior sympathy. I don't promote the concept of AGW, and I don't openly challenge it, but manage to walk the tightrope. I can talk about (for example), the challenges of climate change (yes, because its real, and always happening), without selling out on my own views.

Oct 29, 2014 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

He made it very clear in there that offshore and onshore wind is a total waste of money, attacking it from the energy density viewpoint and saying it wouldn't do anything appreciable to modulate climate change even if IPCC climate change theory were correct. I didn't see any disagreement in the room. The question has to be asked why we don't put an immediate halt to new wind farms.

Oct 29, 2014 at 7:44 AM | Unregistered Commentermyrightpenguin

Once again I see the Mainstream Media belatedly reporting on a matter that has been discussed on the blogs for ages. For how long have we at BH been monitoring this issue, watching it slowly grind to this inevitable conclusion? As for our witless politicians, it seems that they really are as ignorant and stupid as they appear to be since this slow but inevitable blast of reality has taken them completely by surprise.

Oct 29, 2014 at 7:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

This video doesn't seem to be available online - can't find a working link despite searching for 10 mins, or at least not one that works if like most people you don't use a PC. As it seems to be important, could someone who is using a PC load it to youtube?

Oct 29, 2014 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter

So while we in the UK are leading the world in renewables, the US has cheap energy thru fracking, & the rest of the world via coal at $10/tonne
Thankyou Greenpeace for turning this country into an industrial museum where corrupt officials from China come to vacation.

8:47 PM @Billy Liar It is shocking just how cheap coal is - $10.25/ton at the mine in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. There are ~6150kWh locked up in that ton of coal which equates to about 0.1p/kWh.
.. just add on transportation, thermodynamic losses, electricity distribution costs & taxes

Oct 29, 2014 at 9:20 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Well folk can stop the blame game at Milliband if they like but some of us go farther back to dear old 'Maggie', who may very well have 'kept the lights on during industrial unrest' (that she actually fomented in the first place) but also
1. disbanded the CEGB and privatised the national grid, thereby ending the well- established plan to build more PWR's and indeed any coherent energy planning whatsover,
2. undermined the UK coal industry that forces us to now buy Russian coal from mad-dog Putin (so much for energy security),
3. started the process of SO2 regulation that eventually closed Kingsnorth, Cockenzie, Didcot A and converted Drax to a tree-burner,
4. and to cap it all off she opened Hadley Centre in 1990 with a remit that presupposed manmade warming was already happening and just had to be 'proven'. Presumably this was to further undermine the coal industry in place of a nuclear future that she then undermined in December of the same year and which was finally stuffed by her acolytes Major and Blair who sold our nuclear assets to foreigners for for peanuts.

All in the name of finding imaginary savings from closing down government authorities in favour of 1200 unaccountable quangos all suckling from the public teat plus an extremely short-term gain from selling off valuable UK assets at bargain-basement prices only to use the money up in unemployment benefit from the extra 2 million folk put on the dole thanks to Keith Joseph's planned debasement our manufacturing industry in favour of banking and housing ponzi schemes from bonus-hungry bankers.

Oct 29, 2014 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Dieter Helm is a card carrying believer in CO2 driven Global warming because of the good correlation between atmospheric CO2, global population increase and global coal consumption. See presentation at :-

Oct 29, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara

Oct 29, 2014 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter "This video doesn't seem to be available online"

Here is a link to an online copy:

Oct 29, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterphewtoo

Prof Helm talks about future renewables, the current renewables being no good. What does he mean? Nuclear? Pie in the sky? Is he also a PPE man?

Oct 29, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

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