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« 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

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Reader Comments (69)

Here it is :

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

@jamesp "I'd rather farmers concentrated on producing food. "

Me too, but there are already indications, that up to 5% of UK downland pasture and arable land is being turned over to biofuel/biomass production, because it is more profitable (and that has to down to subsidies).

Oct 28, 2014 at 9:44 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

yep pumped storage is not what she was talking about, but I know of 2 in Scotland & you guys seem to be looking at Wikipedia pages that don't count Scotland SSE PDF report. I count :
1 1728MW Dinorwig, Wales
2 360MW Ffestiniog, Wales
3 440MW Cruachan Dam , (tourist attraction near Oban)
4 300MW Foyers, Fort Augustus Highland
5 * 600MW @Coire Glas above Loch Lochy ..basically approved December 2013 but no construction yet, risky market & no cash
6 292MW ESB TURLOUGH HILL (the only one in Ireland) Eire
7 Spirit of Ireland project doesn't seem to be happening
"As a backup to wind power, it is more 'sustainable' than conventional generation but is significantly more costly."

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@Trefor Jones ha she's one of those that believes what's in the green pages of the Guardian is true wonder the industry guy said she's not on this planet ... in 2014 The Guardian Green is as reliable as Murdoch's Sun was in the 1990's
seems like that Alevo plan is fundraising venture ..there is very little info dated before that Guardian article. Just one page dated Oct 16th

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:07 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Significant advances in battery technology seem to get announced about once a week. It is one of the great grant and subsidy rorts - convincing some government body that you are really, really onto something this time, and getting public money to pursue it. Putting out splashy press releases that are uncritically swallowed by environment "journalists."

Then ... crickets.

This has been going on for decades.

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I don't know, pretty strange but I can't rule it out, time will tell .at least 6 months. Jostein Eikeland's background

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:37 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

She was on again tonight unopposed :Radio Scotland Newsdrive go to 1 hour:52 to 1 hour 55

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:44 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

For new readers - from June last year, Bishop Hill highlighting a STOR story at the BBC:

"Plymouth diesel power stations 'to help green energy'"

Oct 28, 2014 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

More Uren:

Last year, Geoff Chambers blogged about Sally's love for Big Brother:

Brian Robinson (the Rhetaur) also blogged about a strange speech of hers called "Systems to Solutions":

A particularly apt observation from Brian:

She puts me in mind slightly of Dolores Umbridge, the Harry Potter character portrayed by Imelda Staunton, simpering meekly while spouting ghastly and dangerous rubbish.

Oct 28, 2014 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

As Johanna points out, utility scale Battery Energy Storage Systems, (BESS) have been around for a long time, There was a large unit in Berlin at one stage. I once worked on projects for utility scale storage, and as part of that visited the then largest battery in the world in Puerto Rico and had a walk around inside it. 20MW and 14MWh of flooded lead acid cells! For the technically minded, there's a review paper of 'lessons learned' here:

Oct 28, 2014 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Wow. What a thread. When the time comes to establish the responsibility for the deaths due to power cuts, and exactly who should be hanged from the (non-functioning) lamp-posts, the comments here could be cited as evidence that the catastrophic results of the government's energy policies were entirely predictable, and indeed predicted, by many well-informed citizens.
But a special thank you to Alex Cull (Oct 28, 2014 at 11:26 PM) for citing an article I wrote over a year ago about this person, and which I'd completely forgotten about.
The only way to defeat these people is by ridicule. (Modern lamp posts are not designed for the job). We'll know that we're in sight of winning the argument the day that organisations like Forum for the Future start to lay off personnel, and journalists cease to treat the likes of Sally Uren as Saviours from Outer Space, instead of the inhabitants of another planet which they undoubtedly are.

Oct 29, 2014 at 1:30 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Sally Uren makes the same noises as my son (a senior civil servant here in NZ) when he is feeling particularly cycnical and entertaining, but she is totally unaware of the fact that she (unlike No 1 son) is spouting the most egregious nonsense.
She would be incredibly funny if she was not so stupidly dangerous.
Is there some place where she and her cohort can be kept in isolation?

Oct 29, 2014 at 2:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Fossil fuel and nuclear generators do not act as 'back-up' to renewables. The former reliably front-up and the latter mostly don't turn up.

Oct 29, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

According to my QI book: '1227 facts to blow your socks off' - all the batteries in the world would provide mains power for.... ten minutes...

Oct 29, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Oh boy, that takes the never ending audit to a new level. I can just see you guys emulating Andrew Montford, the Timekeeper (fitting for an accountant, I think), with your stopwatches and clipboards, coca and cardigans sitting of an evening auditing the news.

Oct 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

I see that at the moment we have some oil powered generation on grid (0.20 GW). Is this a test or do we really need it?

Oct 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul - Nottingham

Many greens have considerable difficulty with orders of magnitude. I had some difficulty explaining to a character who wanted to propel his boat electrically and recharge the batteries with solar panels why the fact that his panels would keep his battery charged against the occasional bit of VHF radio use didn't mean they would do the same for kilowatts of propulsion power and that the "bigger panel" he thought was the answer would be many times bigger than the boat.

I think this article is another example of the same thinking - we have AA batteries, scientists just need to develop bigger ones, problem solved. Life is so simple if you're a bit stupid.

Oct 29, 2014 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

@NW are you saying most greens are so naive that they'd buy anything off anyone if they told them it's a "Magic solution" ?
- that's like Jack in Jack & the beanstalk .."look Mum I sold the cow for these magic beans", everytime they buy some beans they believe it's going to grow into a massive tree instead little plants.

(note the irony that one normal gas power PLANT is 3 times bigger than the world's biggest wind power output)

Oct 29, 2014 at 10:06 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Like Geoff I'd like to thank Alex for quoting my article from all those months ago.
Isn't it astonishing that even today, with the climate scam in tatters, the political imperative causes an otherwise quite good journalist like Campbell to behave so strangely!

Oct 29, 2014 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian (the Rhetaur) Robinson

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