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« Alarmism in a Huff - Josh 351 | Main | Eaten: A novel »
Tuesday
Nov172015

Mackay bashes EU energy policy

David Mackay is in the headlines this morning, having described the EU Green Energy Directive as "scientifically illiterate" in a forthcoming episode of Costing the Earth.  He takes a potshot Ed Miliband for the foolishness of his policy decisions. Excerpts were included in the Today programme this morning, alongside a response from Ed Davey, who comes over very badly in my opinion.

Inevitably a BBC journalist - Tom Feilden - has tried to spin Mackay's comments as an attack on the government. Fortunately Mackay has corrected him - given that the current government was not mentioned at all in the Today programme, Feilden was not even allowing himself a level of plausible deniability, which was a bit daft, even by BBC standards of shamelessness. The offending tweet has now been removed.

 

 

The Today programme piece is well worth a listen. It's here.

 

Mackay Today

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Reader Comments (43)

McKay has posted Five things that are wrong with the renewables target.

He says "I feel the European renewables target is mis-defined in many ways, and is leading to perverse consequences."

The phrase "scientifically illiterate" is used. A longer article is promised.

Nov 17, 2015 at 9:39 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Dr McKay has completely missed the point. The EU Green Energy Directive is "Climate scientifically" literate. A completely different paradigm.

Nov 17, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterdidymous

I had the misfortune to wake up to this just as dimwit Davey began to speak the most awful nonsense. Why are we still hearing from this abject failure. His tenure, along with that of prisoner Huhne, at the DECC was a disaster for the country.

Nov 17, 2015 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Mackay was complaining only about Millibands price freeze because they had been discussing a deliberate increase in energy costs. Apparently Milliband got cold feet because some poor folk might suffer. Clearly MacKay has no such trivial lingerings of basic humanity.

As for an EU commitment of 20% renewables by 2020 - since that is actually far less than the legally binding UK commitment I can only assume that MacKay thinks it didn't go far enough.

So no Damascene conversion here. And anyone pretending that heat exchangers working off external cold air are somehow a more efficient heating scheme than just burning the gas at 90% efficiency - a notion contradicted by the national grid in their paper on biogas from sewage - has no right to call anyone else scientifically illiterate. I'm sure he knows all about solid-state physics but thermodynamics escapes him.

Nov 17, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Ed Davey: Once an idiot, always an idiot. A liar with verbal diarrhea.

Nov 17, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

JamesG: The EU target is 20% renewable energy by 2020. The UK target is 15% renewable energy by 2020.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:01 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip Bratby

"20% renewable energy by 2020"

Does this refer to just electricity generation?

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Philip B.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-greenhouse-gas-emissions/2010-to-2015-government-policy-greenhouse-gas-emissions

"The EU ETS plays a key part in ensuring the UK complies with its legally binding carbon budgets, which will in turn help us reduce UK emissions to at least 35% (below 1990 levels) in 2020 and 80% by 2050. These targets are set out in the Climate Change Act 2008."

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Ed Davey, who comes over very badly , so a 'good day' for Ed then ?
Has normally he comes over as a right-blank , still it is good to see him putting his 'retirement time' to use .

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Green Sand:

The 20% renewable energy by 2020 is 20% of total energy. The UK has decided that in order to meet its 15% renewable energy by 2020, about 30% of electricity must come from renewables.

James G: There is no guarantee that meeting the UK's15% target will have any impact on CO2 emissions.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip B.
"There is no guarantee that meeting the UK's15% target will have any impact on CO2 emissions."
Which is exactly why the real UK targets are much worse than the EU renewables target.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I thought Davey expressed the views of clueless idiots in a very believable manner. Listening to him, I could really believe he is a clueless idiot.

Mackay seemed to think that pricing electricity to restrict demand is the right thing to do.Shame for the vulnerable least able to afford it.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Thank God someone is brave enough to speak out about the problems of the 202020 target.

All of us so-called sceptics -- cowards to a man and woman -- how come none of us ever pointed out the serious shortcomings of EU and UK energy policy?

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

From the link posted above (first comment), McKay ends with:

"So I think there are good analytical grounds to justify redefining, renegotiating, or missing the renewables target. And I strongly support not having a 2030 renewable target"

The BBC are only interested in criticism of the current govt, and won't allow criticism of its renewables religion.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

golf charlie
You're missing the point.
Pricing electricity to restrict demand is the right thing to do. This will hasten the demise of the vulnerable least able to afford it — the poor, the useless, those who are not "like us".
I would hate to misunderstand the principles of the Optimum Population Trust or draw attention to the last political philosophy that had similar ideas but the current drive to reduce CO2 is a drive to reduce energy use (climate is an irrelevance) and at least part of that programme is a drive to reduce the number of people.
So without a staggering level of hypocrisy how can the OPT and the other misguided Malthusians do other than shrug their shoulders and echo Scrooge: “If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
It is, after all, their aim, is it not?

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Notwithstanding the stark reality, the whole premise is based on a preposterous supposition - ie man made CO2 = man made warbling.

Then, quite how we arrived at the unilaterally imposed industrial suicide note that is, the 2008 climate change act is unfathomable as it is bonkers political nonsense. The CCA is, endlessly prejudicial, as it is detrimental to the health, wellbeing and economic security: all of the people of Britain. Since 2008, another 3-4 million people have rolled up to these shores and they all need feeding, water, shelter heating and lighting - mass immigration is part of the liberal agenda and agenda 21 is their holy book, how do they square that [mass immigration] with the insane desire to limit UK CO2 emissions - not even God knows.

Bickering over the comments of Prof. Mackay welcome as they are, is not going to solve much, because until we rescind this act of perfidy [CCA2008] and forthwith - we're not going to be able to salvage much. Already and as it is, the damage to the UK economy, the energy sector, industry and manufacturing becomes irrecoverable, as it is we import too much and make too little, we are in debt and selling the nation off to our debtors and there will come a point in the not too distant future when all the markers will have been called in and we will still be submerged in debt - to borrow a buzz word from the green goons - it's not sustainable.

The green agenda, it will be the death of Britain.

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Interesting to hear, in that clip, Davey report that he was relentlessly lobbied by the Conservatives, including the PM, to go further on ridiculous biomass commitments. An eco-loon Lib Dem complaining that the Tories were eco-loonier.

They're all at it.

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Mike - OPT is now "Population Matters".

The patrons include Attenborough, Packham and Goodall.

Patron Susan Hampshire says "I drink lots of water and lead a healthy lifestyle. No coffee, no smoking — only a little wine and a very good diet. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables.” Wow!

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

I think you are very kind to Davey. He alongside Huhne have done more than anyone ( with the exception of Ed Miliband's climate change Act) to wreck our future prosperity. Mackay came over as a sensible proponent of changing energy provision as did the scientist on the following programme - is Radio 4 waking up to a very large rat lurking in their climate editorial over the past decade.

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

MacKay writes:
"1. The European definition of “renewable energy” equates heat and electricity, as if both have equal value. This is scientifically illiterate."

a. No they don't. The EU include transport fuels and energy efficiency in it's 'energy' definition, not just electricity.
b. He misses the point. The directive states: "By using more renewables to meet its energy needs, the EU lowers its dependence on imported fossil fuels and makes its energy production more sustainable. The renewable energy industry also drives technological innovation and employment across Europe." So it's more than just CO2 reduction here. We can easily reduce CO2 by closing down factories in the EU through making energy more expensive which is what MacKay obviously prefers but that would be just bloody stupid since all we do then is transfer our CO2 output to China and make everyone here too poor to pay those extra energy costs. The EU plan may be mad but his ideas are worse!

As for scientifically illiterate, later on he talks about kWhr/day and calls it 'energy'. There is a load more twaddle in the other 4 points but I got bored sifting through the sheer BS.

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mike Jackson, thank you for the clarification. The USA developed the electric chair as a means of executing a single person. Greens have worked out how to euthanise whole sectors of a community, by not wasting any electricity at all. Frighteningly devious, these Greens, getting away with mass extermination, but claiming to be acting for the benefit of the greater good.

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Ed Davey slowed the uptake of biomass?

2009 Biomass at 2539 MW
2010 2628 MW
2011 3928 MW
2012 3522 MW Ed Davey takes over when Chris goes off for a spot of jug
2013 4999 MW
2014 6083

Err, can anyone spot the slowdown?

(Figures from the magnificent REF 'green' database)

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Davey

'The fight against climate change will not be taken seriously'.

Excellent. Nor should it be.

We should welcome a warmer, greener, more productive, more liveable world.

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

I came in from my morning constitutional to the sound of the Today Programme. I heard about 2 sentences and I asked my wife "Who is that pratt speaking?" her response "Ed Davey". Now it can be a bit rash to jump to conclusions so quickly but not in this case.

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Ed Davey always put me in mind of being Wayne Rooney's mad cousin that they kept in the attic but he got out somehow. He should be returned there, and the sooner the better....

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

As I'm now approaching 70 from the wrong direction, I have never, ever, heard anyone of an alarmist persuasion explain to me how the atmosphere, which as we all know is very timid and prone to heat up at the slightest provocation, managed to shrug off those HUNDREDS of nuclear tests in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, each one of which must have produced thousands of tonnes of CO2, without having a hissy fit and overheating far more than the (shock, horror) 2C which is going to cause global meltdown..
Incidentally, I note from Yahoo! this morning that 'scientists say', if we do nothing, never mind 2C, the atmosphere is going to warm by 4C....
Not upping the ante before Paris by any chance..?

Nov 17, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

I do not know how much CO2 this testing produced, but certainly the earth was bathed in radiative bursts of energy.

Of course, the testing may have resulted in an increase in aerosol emissions leading to the blocking of solar irradiance and global dimming.

Nov 17, 2015 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

"global dimming"

It certainly seems to have had that effect at Westminster.

Nov 17, 2015 at 1:29 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Let's not forget Scotland's self-proclaimed 2009 Climate Change Act, wherein, "We have passed an historic, groundbreaking bill that sets an international example that we hope others will follow."

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/climatechange/scotlands-action/climatechangeact

Indeed. So, given the utterly disastrous enforced Longannet closure c/w China's recent 155-station rollout addition, how prognostic was that? It's bullsh*t all the way - and they've long known it.

Nov 17, 2015 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdc

The Costing the Earth programme is 3.30 this afternoon on Radio 4.
Not just David MacKay, but David Attenborough and film director James Cameron too.

Nov 17, 2015 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

@JamesG

I think you've actually missed the point of what MacKay is saying. Two buckets each containing a megaJoule of energy both contain the same amount of energy. But they aren't necessarily equally valuable or equally useful. One of those buckets could be a pool of lukewarm water - you can't do anything with that except bathe in it. You can't do useful work with that energy. Whereas another bucket could contain a megajoule of natural gas. And that you can do useful work with, You can drive motors or turbines with that. Mackay is making a serious science point - which frankly ought to be obvious to everyone but sadly isn't.

And his use of KWh per day was OK too. He was comparing the benefits of reducing energy consumption by a KWh as opposed to generating a KWh using renewables. It would be much better to do the first rather than the latter (assuming the same cost). The EU renewables directives encourage the opposite behaviour.

It's all a bit silly - because the renewables directive was never about saving the planet - it's a typical euro fudge to come up with a policy that 50% + 1 MEPs can live with. It is deliberately designed to force the building of windmills and solar panels but without helping to create any new nuclear.

Rationally we'd have a modest carbon tax.

But there is probably no level at which you would set a carbon tax that would lead to the building of windmills or solar farms.At all levels it would be logical to build something else.

Nov 17, 2015 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterNickM

David Jones
Thank you for the correction. I knew that one had morphed into the other and I couldn't remember which. I should have realised: "Population Matters" is so much sexier and ever so late 20thC trendy, isn't it? I believe Tickell père is involved as well in this dangerous nonsense.

golf charlie
Always keen to help. You seem to be coming very close to calling greenies mass-murderers. I must say I hadn't quite thought of them in that league but there again ...

Nov 17, 2015 at 2:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson, Greens love Malthusian theory, and are very keen to help.

The NHS had the "Liverpool Pathway". The Greens have the "Malthusian Cycle Pathway", where they accelerate the conclusion of the life cycle.

Nov 17, 2015 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Nov 17, 2015 at 12:01 PM Capell

The interesting thing about biomass is the way that it is structured.

The largest group is for purely selfish reasons, motivated by the availability of troughing, so, 60% of those projects (3,693 MW) are in-house generators and so serve to cut their electricity bills and get loads of OPM to boot.

Then there are three projects owned by 3 members of the Big Six, where coal firing was changed to wood chips because coal was being taxed and this could not be passed on to the bill payer, but there were large bungs to be trousered. These are projects connected to the grid which are metered by NG and come to 2,345 MW (reducing to 1,960 MW when Ironbridge goes off-line soon). Ditto loads of OPM.

There is one project which is embedded, so not metered by NG, and amounts to a piddling 45 MW. Ditto OPM.

Nov 17, 2015 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

The Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is Lisa Nandy, not Ed Davey. Ed Davey is not even an MP any more because the voters of Kingston and Surbiton decided he was no longer welcome.

The BBC thinks the election of 2015 never happened, demonstrating their continuing contempt for the electorate. This is never more obvious than when they are proselytizing for global warming laws and inviting their favoured activists/troughers on air. More grist for John Whittingdale's mill.

Nov 17, 2015 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Amber Rudd has the potential to become a national heroine overnight by running a red marker pen through the 202020 target which would drive Ed Davey to spontaneously combust live on the Today programme. Do it, Amber, for Queen and country.

Nov 17, 2015 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

David Mackay has undoubtedly clarified an important issue. It has apparently been a deliberate policy since 2008 to drive up the costs of energy, so as to encourage people to use less, either by taking their own measures to achieve greater energy efficiency, or by constraining the circumstances under which energy is required.

An almost equivalent tactic was that employed by Enron in California to deliberately constrain the availability of electricity, in that case with the specific intention of driving up the price and thus increasing profit.

Almost the entire improvement in quality of life since the mid-eighteenth century has been the result of learning to harness energy and make it widely available at an affordable price. The recent change in policy, to ration energy through driving up price, is completely contrary to this process. Yet to the best of my knowledge the government has never acknowledged this deliberate policy and has instead blamed the very substantial increases in energy costs on the power companies.

Nov 17, 2015 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMalcolmS

I believe I heard Ed Davey say 'wood from across the Atlantic does reduce carbon emissions'.

This man is a dangerous weapon who shouldn't be allowed out unaccompanied.

He is so uneducated (and possibly so stupid) that he fails to understand that wood produces 25% more CO2-eq than coal, even without including the transport costs (in CO2-eq).

Someone should give him a copy of this table:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emission_intensity#Published_data_on_energy_sources_emission_intensity_per_unit_of_energy_generated

[ignore the first table from the IPCC fantasy science department and study the 'Emission factors of common fuels']

In Ed Davey's brain, burning wood is OK because when your burning it, it is being replaced at the same rate by growth somewhere else. Good luck with that theory in a heavily biomass burning world. I believe consultants from Haiti can attest to how well the theory works:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/25/how-environmental-organizations-are-destroying-the-environment/

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

... when your burning ... = 'when you're burning'

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Capell,

"2009 Biomass at 2539 MW
2010 2628 MW
2011 3928 MW
2012 3522 MW Ed Davey takes over when Chris goes off for a spot of jug
2013 4999 MW
2014 6083 MW"

Err, can anyone spot the slowdown?"

These figures are unadjusted don't you know. Just wait for the real ones - they'll be with us soon I'm sure.

Nov 17, 2015 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohnbuk

NickM
I know his point and I've known it since I read his crap book. It is a worthless point imo because of the factors left out. You may feel different but it is irrelevant. The EU knows exactly what they were aiming for; they are just ridiculously optimistic about it but there is nothing scientifically illiterate therein. Mackay by contrast couldn't find his backside with both hands. If his position is that we must decrease CO2 by increasing fuel costs then - as I said - all that happens is we export jobs while keeping the same CO2 level or more. So he is economically illiterate and should just stfu about policy until he understands that simple point which the EU understand all too well. The unit kWhr/day is btw a unit of power, not energy. As for saving electricity being 7 times better than creating it - so what? They are not mutually exclusive but creating energy recognises that energy demand will usually always increase because any savings are usually swallowed up somewhere else. And if saving energy (ie negawatts) comes about by closing down factories the point is truly moot. The world is not as simple as Mackay would like to believe.

Nov 18, 2015 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Tickell père spouts here.

Nov 18, 2015 at 12:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Tickell père spouts here.
And isn't getting an easy ride, I'm pleased to see.
Now perhaps they would like to invite Amber Rudd to give her views and we can all then tell her what we think about coal-fired vs biomass and the (non) need to cut CO2 emissions.
Cheap and reliable is the way to go, Amber. All else is icing on the cake and you need a cake first!

Nov 18, 2015 at 9:09 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

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