Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Dieter Helm on energy policy | Main | Wheels coming off »

Numbskull or nefarious?

Still on the subject of the National Grid report, Nicky Campbell on Radio Five Live interviewed Jeremy Nicholson of the Energy Intensive Users Group and Sally Uren, the CEO of Forum for the Future. This was a remarkable segment in more than one way (audio below).

The thing that has struck commenters here at BH was something Ms Uren said about the reliability of renewables. Accepting that the wind sometimes doesn't blow and the sun sometimes doesn't shine, she said:

...that's not a worry when we're thinking about security of supply from renewables because we have these things called "storage units" and so we have this grid that allows us to store energy and deal with peaks and troughs in demand and so this notion that when the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing so does our energy, it's just not true.

This, not to put too fine a point on it, is about as far from the truth as it's possible to get.

Meanwhile, I was also intrigued by Nicky Campbell's decision as the interview neared its end to give the final twenty seconds to Ms Uren. He had been timing it, he said, and this would even things up. I was surprised by this since I'd never heard of interviewers timing things to ensure that both interviewees got equal time at the microphone. Moreover, Ms Uren had been first to speak and I had also got the impression that they'd both had a fair crack at the whip over the piece.

The exact balance between interviewee time is not normally get worked up about, but since Campbell had raised it, I decided to time the various segments myself. Here are the results:

NoName Start End Time
1 SU 01:28 03:00 01:32
2 JN 03:00 04:04 01:04
3 SU 04:04 04:35 00:31
4 JN 04:35 05:22 00:47
5 SU 05:22 05:58 00:36
6 JN 05:58 06:35 00:37
7 SU 06:35 07:20 00:45


By my reckoning, after segment 6, when Nicky Campbell made his intervention, Sally Uren had had 2 min 39 sec and Jeremy Nicholson had had 2 min 28 sec. With the extra bit at the end, the division was roughly 60% for the green and 40% for the man from industry. My timings allocated Campbell's question to the two interviewees, so it's possible that he's doing it a different way, but it doesn't smell quite right to me.


NickyCampbell Power Cuts

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (69)

In an attempt too be generous to her I presume that she has not understood the nature of the STOR units. She thinks they are batteries and we know that they are diesel generators. Is this the disinformation that is being put about to salve the consciences of the greeny brigade?

Oct 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

The only energy storage units I am aware of is stacks of coal or wood chips and tanks of diesel or natural gas. I guess pumped hydro may be an option but Dinorwig Power Station in Wales is the only one I've found and it only provided for 6 hours of power so suitable for daily load leveling between peak and slack demand.
Better hope for very short cold spells this winter.

Oct 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

Surprised Nicky Campbell didn't have Russell Brand on as omni-expert ....

The state broadcaster pours more poison and lies into the public arena. The most generous comment I can make about Sally Uren is that she's a fantasist with a buzzword vocabulary that should get censure from the Campaign for Plain English - FFS just have a small romp around her web site.

@:Sean - hydro does have an element of throttling but I think even if every economically viable identified opportunity was exploited the sum would fall well short of what's required.

Oct 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM | Registered Commentertomo

'Storage units'...

Oh, that'll be Big Yellow Self Storage, then...

(Other storage companies are available...)

Oct 28, 2014 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1


Jonathan Porrit draws £1700 a week from "Forum For The Future" - see here (careful with the coffee / tea and keyboard / screen)

See page 15 for a pie chart that AFAICS is a paradigm of transparency /sarc

O2 thieves the lot of 'em

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:16 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Around 2003, after working with small wind systems using battery back up, I met the main civil servant dealing with the supply network to lobby about wind jobs. But as a side issue I asked about appropriate storage for large scale wind.

The figure we used for battery devices was about 10 days storage for wind. On the assumption that much of the use could be stopped in a dire emergency I thought 3 days storage was a possible figure for a largely wind powered electricity grid. I then said that I estimated that we would need around 100 pump storage schemes of the type used to iron-out the nuclear supply (for a very similar issue - but short term supply mismatch rather than long term. And we would need more than just scaling up the available pump storage as the quality of the sites is less - so we need more).

I pointed out that unless we started building fairly shortly, that we would be heading for power cuts. And I said something along the lines of "if you think the opposition to the beauly Deny proposal is bad - just you wait till we get the power cuts and are forced to build these pump storage.

The civil servant made it clear they were well aware of the problem and were even more pessimistic than I was.

Looking back, perhaps what he really meant was "the intention is to get the public to demand these backup by letting the power cuts happen.

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermike Haseler

There are a number of dynamics that govern the way the interview will go, not least being how much time they had to fill 'till the next planned segment. Jeremy Nicholson made some very good, precise and targeted points, but he used a direct way of speaking (very effectively I thought) and once he'd said what he wanted to say, he stopped. That clearly surprised the interviewer, and Sally Uren, who would be more used to woffling on until she was stopped, which is how they'd be trained. Listening to it, I think Cambell had a few spare seconds and knew that Uren would fill them so handed them over. In my opinion she then used them to say pretty much nothing. To me, Nicholsen had made his points, and the listener would have taken them on board. Interviews are less about winning and losing, than about the impression that you leave with an audience.

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

There is a transcript of the interview by "Paul - Nottingham" (no relation) on the previous thread.

"Well, all can say is I don’t know what planet Sally’s on but it’s certainly not the same one that our members in industry or indeed anyone else I know. "

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

mike Haseler

... has a level of detail planning that has actually identified 100 physically viable sites been performed - or simply the quantity required? Any reports detailing the projected amounts of land and money required? Or has this been done on the back of a DECC napkin somewhere?

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I think she has been extracting the uren...

Oct 28, 2014 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

There is the tiny possibility that Sally Uren isn't a liar. It's always a possibility that someone who describes themselves as an expert – and draws a correspondingly healthy salary – might just be totally ignorant about the subject she earns her living from.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

In an attempt too be generous to her I presume that she has not understood the nature of the STOR units. She thinks they are batteries and we know that they are diesel generators. Is this the disinformation that is being put about to salve the consciences of the greeny brigade?

Oct 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Ivor Ward

I heard this and nearly drowned the radio. Texted them to state that it we *cannot* store energy from wind farms, and noted the STOR diesel backup, with its even greater subsidies than wind.

Oddly, they didn't read it out.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

The climate obsessed have this thing called "magic", They think their magic will solve all problems and banish CO2, the human released devil, to the nether regions.and restore the climate back to its benign unchanging perfect ways.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

From a recent Tom Heap piece on Radio4 it would appear that "storage" is a very wide definition. It varies from saving energy, better management and water in reservoirs. All very laudable, but hardly reassuring if you are on an operating table or o a mundane level trying to run a household or business. I once had a conversation with a mining union's general secretary that in the past energy sources or modes of transport when they were ousted by cleaner or easier forms. This usually took a long time as one form succeeded another. This must be the first time that human society has ditched a technology before the successor was ready. I will not stray down the case of whether the threat of climate change actually deserves a lemming-like rush over a cliff ( a myth by the way), however it certainly does echo the collapse of other civilizations by blaming gods for the vagaries of disease and natural disaster.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

Most people won't be able to parse this interview and understand that the green/prog was blowing smoke. They will only understand when the lights actually go out. Even then, the green/prog media machine will spin it their own way. The lights will have to stay off/go off for quite a while or quite frequently before the public finally realizes the depth of this scam.

Oct 28, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterrxc

Cumbrian lad 2.18

Whilst reading the transcript I started wondering if Campbell was being leaned on from on high because the Uren woman was so obviously loosening the argument.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Constable

I was watching a programme on BBC the other day called Underground Britain (I think) which visited the reservoir at Cruachan (?) in Scotland, a reservoir with an underground power station built in the 1950s which we were told can generate enough power for a city the size of Edinburgh. And when demand is low, the water is pumped back up for reserve. What the programme didn't say specifically but I have since read is that it can only provide power for short term peaks - the water supply is very soon exhausted.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

If only they produce renewable energy storage ideas as easily as they seem to produce an never-ending stream of quangos, think-tanks, lobbying groups and the rest of the talking shops.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

On the previous thread I said that Sally Uren was a dimwit, but perhaps not so. She is certainly ignorant of technology and is a danger to this country. I think she is just a natural-born liar. Why does the BBC interview people who are ignorant of the subject under discussion? (Rhetorical question)

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:14 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

So no Downton XFactor Strictly Specials . Imagine a TV blackout over Christmas.Broadcasting is a heavy power usage industry.

Emergency measures required .Recarbonisation

Relite my Fire by Take That Christmas number one.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

“She thinks they are batteries and we know that they are diesel generators”

That sounds horribly plausible. The Greens who know they are generators seem to be doing a good job in keeping this quiet, aided and abetted by the Beeb, who either don’t know themselves, or want to keep it from the great unwashed.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:38 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The Uren woman was wheeled out on the news snippets on Radio 2. Telling us that renewables were the way to go to prevent power cuts.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Sean said:

" I guess pumped hydro may be an option but Dinorwig Power Station in Wales is the only one I've found and it only provided for 6 hours of power so suitable for daily load leveling between peak and slack demand.".

Actually there are three aren't there? Dinorwic and Tan y Grisiau/Ffestiniog, linked primarily to Wylfa - the TyG pylons cross my land - and one in Scotland linked to the Hunterston plants. Together they seem to add up to about 2GW but only for limited periods and they are usually assumed to be working flat out at periods of high demand anyway. Not much scope for solving the capacity crisis there.

Oct 28, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Hird

The thing that gets me the most these group like Forum for the Future. They are what I could classify as "non-producers". Somebody linked their annual statement for last year. I checked out their "achievements" of which the principle ones include:

-To accelerate big, system-changing projects.
-To become more international.
-To ensure a robust funding model.

I don't even know what that means. So I had to dig into the details and came up with specific home runs:

-Our stranded assets report on nutrition in the food manufacturing sector was published in July.
-Tea 2030 is a collaborative futures project designed to show what a sustainable value chain for tea
could look like.
-We began a project with Value Added Africa to explore opportunities for initiatives that benefit
smallholder producers in Africa.
-In the US, with our partner Unilever, we researched barriers to food waste diversion.
-Our Community Energy Campaign engaged a broad cross-section of civic-society.
-Our Sustainable Business Models Group, including all of our Pioneer Partners, held bimonthly clinics

It just goes on and on. What the hell is all that?? And I noticed they had 70 employees with salaries totaling 2.3M pounds and over 10% in pension contributions on top of that. Their salary structure is well over half their yearly expenses.

I'm just a lowly engineer but I get paid to produce actual results. I have no idea what these guys do or how it benefits society. And I have a feeling this is just a drop in the bucket. I think we have a large segment of society who are non-producers. I'm no economist but this doesn't sound good.

I sure hope none of my tax money is going towards groups like this.

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermcraig


"I think we have a large segment of society who are non-producers"

And ever-increasing, as the opportunities for productive work diminish and the bureaucrats keep finding more non-jobs for all the graduates who are qualified for them.

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I forgot about one other tidbit in the Forum for the Future report from 2013. They state:

"The vision is for all farms in the UK to be generating their own energy by 2020, becoming a vital part of the local, secure, resilient and sustainable rural energy infrastructure."

In answer to the subject question, I'm leaning towards "Numbskull".

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered Commentermcraig

I guess pumped hydro may be an option but Dinorwig Power Station in Wales is the only one I've found and it only provided for 6 hours of power so suitable for daily load leveling between peak and slack demand.
Oct 28, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Sean

There are also:

Cruachan Dam, Argyllshire, 440MW
Foyers, Invernessshire, 300MW
Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, 360MW

Dinorwig is 1.728GW

This does not, of course, give operating times.

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Roger Hird
"The one in Scotland" is Cruachan/Loch Awe

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

She started the interview. Campbell wanted to allow her the first word and the last. He's a time-served pro and knew exactly what he was doing alright.
She also stated a blatant untruth. Not a variance of opinion, note. It was a straightforward incorrect statement. In a sane world the BBC would actually compel a correction.

Ho ho, look; pigs flying over my garden.

Oct 28, 2014 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

I sent this tweet a couple of hours ago, no response yet

Hi Sally, could you give me any more information on the storage units you mentioned this morning on Radio 5? What are they? @sallyuren

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul - Nottingham


There all candidates for the second space ship along with the telephone sanitizers. (For the non-enlightened - Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Further to my previous posts

11.33 on enjoy.

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Uren needs 5 minutes under the Andrew Neil grill

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

mcraig: "The vision is for all farms in the UK to be generating their own energy by 2020, becoming a vital part of the local, secure, resilient and sustainable rural energy infrastructure."

Forum for the Future obviously believe the BBC vision of "everyday farming folk", as envisaged on The Archers and Countryfile, as young, wealthy, articulate graduates - when the majority in upland areas, such as Powys and the Welsh Borders are in their 60's and struggling to make ends meet. There's sod all chance of them becoming "a vital part of the local, secure, resilient and sustainable rural energy structure", when most of their fences, gates, vehicles and machinery are held together with baler twine.

Oct 28, 2014 at 6:52 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Reposted from earlier thread:

Paul of Nottingham - thanks for the transcript.

That BBC "interviewer" is as dim as SU. Why didn't he ask her about her absurd claims about storing energy "in the grid"? How do these people get a (no doubt well paid) gig at the BBC?


Oct 28, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

You lot. You all seem to be forgetting STOR.

There ya go. Stored power. STOR (That is how itz speld izzen tit?)

That's what she is talking waffling wittering pontificating expounding muttering spouting on lying about.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

But why was she on the programme at all? Whom does she represent?

The 'Greens' have just one MP - and she represents an insane asylum. They have miniscule electoral support and yet are given prominence and publicity as if they represented a significant force in British politics, which they clearly do not.

I would go further and add that were it not for the obscene amount of propaganda time given to them by the fellow travellers in the Leftist media, what little support they have among hoi polloi would be indistinguishable from that of other tiny fringe groups like Seventh Day Adventists or Welsh language fanatics.

This profoundly silly woman had no business on any programme that pretends to be impartial..If the 'Greens' want power, let them win an election.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

"all farms in the UK to be generating their own energy"

I'd rather farmers concentrated on producing food. We have a large digester plant under construction nearby, and the farming consortium building it freely admit that it will be fuelled by both waste and crops grown for the purpose. They also admit that it would not be viable without energy subsidies - I wonder if the crops are also subsidised? DECC and DEFRA are quite stupid enough to have allowed it...

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:12 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Wow. Just read the transcript.

" ...we need to really think much more seriously about the role that renewables can play ..." is the ONLY truthful utterance she produces from the side of her mouth.

I have to take a little rest now for the sake of my blood pressure/heart.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

Tsk Nicky Campbell not quite as bad as Richard Bacon at interviewing

@ H2O: the miracle molecule, Good one mate
America has the George Forman Grill,
& the UK has the Andrew Neil Grill

Apart from David Rose... Why aren't the rest of the investigative journalists doing their job ?

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:18 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Having investigated Dr Sally Uren's antecedents, it is clear that she has limited understanding of energy production and transmission. Her first degree is biology and her PhD is in the environmental sciences. So she's probably of an ecology bent. Coupled with her professional experience working in environmental consulting, she's probably been involved in planning disputes and regulations related to ecological and habitat protection rather than energy systems. So this would clearly explain her ignorance on the 'storage' of energy statement (a bit of a blooper)!

She has risen to head of the forum of the future based on her skills, experience and knowledge in ecology, not energy. I think she should've been wise enough to know her own limits and let someone else do the interview, instead of being made to look a fool.

Oct 28, 2014 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterAbc

Here in NZ, we have electrical storage systems in the form of massive lakes feeding hydro schemes. However, the land mass of NZ is about one seventh larger than the UK and our country is mountainous compared with the flattish UK, plus the fact that our population is about the same as that of the UK in Tudor times, so hydro storage is not an option for the UK.
However, if political bullshit from idiots such as Dr Sally Uren was electricity, the uk would have enjoy electrons to burn!

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Well, I've received a reply from Sally Uren. She referred me to this article on her organisation's site which was posted at 16.09. This refers to two forms of storage a) Pumped storage "like Dinorwig Power Station in Wales, a hydroelectric scheme which acts as a Short Term Operating Reserve to provide a fast response to short-term rapid changes in power demand, or sudden losses of power stations." and b) Pie in the Sky storage "We don’t have commercial storage yet, but it is coming and the costs of renewables are dropping."

The article does also suggest that your fully charged electric car could power your house but a) This wouldn't last for long and I understand that if you flatten your battery you have big problems b) You probably don't have an electric car anyway and c) If the Government puts fuel duty on electric cars as it should this is going to be very expensive.

Basically, there is currently no real storage on the grid.

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul - Nottingham

She does however say in two other posts (joined together here:

hello, a case of lack of clarity, storage solns exist today but need to scale

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul - Nottingham

"hello, a case of lack of clarity, storage solns exist today but need to scale"

Yep, folks, what the world needs is a giant AA battery.

To quote a great modern philosopher - "what a maroon!"

Oct 28, 2014 at 8:55 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Heads will roll, memos will be sent, this was a major error by some BBC manager
In a normal world this would be just a normal interview. Yes Jeremy Nicholson was impressive & really knew what he was talking about, but you'd expect that from an executive.
However for green issues normal interviews are not allowed normally on the BBC.
Rather the eco-warrior producer, & eco-warrior presenters usually enforce a ban on non-greens. It's only on the odd occasion that the real world sneaks thru like when Prof Mick Carter & the Bish were allowed on . Check we have got a numpty presenter Nicky C, but usually they invite some numpty cool green they met at a dinner party etc. you can't have uncool non-greens coming on and upsetting the dream. That's the way Richard Bacon seems to do his progs.

This prog had a greendreamer vs a good communicator from the real world, so of course she looked like an idiot against him.

But it was the ending that was shocking.
We had some mad green telling us that other people are doing a "bit of scaremongering" !
..Isn't the whole green movement based on "scaremongering" ? screaming hysterical predictions of doom ..which never actually seem to come true.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen


She clearly has no idea what she is talking about. The problem with pumped storage schemes, such as Dinorwig, is that they only exist because of a fortuitous combination of geology, topography and former mining activity, and there are no other sites available in the UK. You could not create them from scratch, the costs would be millions greater than they could ever recoup.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:10 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Just to say many thanks, Paul - Nottingham, for transcribing this morning's Radio 5 segment - terrific stuff! I hope you don't mind that I've taken the liberty of giving it a second home here (with due credit.)

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

There was an interesting article on the Guardian Environment site on an embryonic super battery technology. This may be what Dr Uren was on about, but it seems far from the finished article in storing surplus energy from the grid and using it to re-balance. It would be an obvious advance if true but I think it has a long way to go.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

It seems that Ms Uren is confusing an acronym (short term operating reserve) for something that exists, with, er, storage, which doesn't. The problem with STOR, especially for the greens, is that it uses smelly and inefficient diesel, rather defeating the object of using clean and shiny (but unreliable) windmills.

I wonder who will be the first person to blow the whistle on this on the BBC? Once the scheme is generally known, there are going to be some very awkward questions bandied about.

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>