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Energy and climate priorities

The Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has asked for suggestions of what they should do to hold the government to account in the coming session. Now shorn of any obviously sceptic members one assumes that the committee will simply be asking the government why they aren't making more futile and expensive gestures, but I don't suppose there is any harm in our putting some alternative ideas forward, if only so they can be ignored.

The obvious one to me is to look again at current energy policy in the light of the crash in oil prices, but perhaps readers would like to make some other suggestions. I'll compile the best ones into a letter to the committee.

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Reader Comments (49)

How can the government justify basing policy on climate models that show continuing divergence from observation?

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Addressing the balance of affordability, energy security, and sustainability remains a challenge for policy development. As many of DECC’s existing policies are scheduled to come to an end between now and 2020, early action in the new Parliament is needed to deliver affordable and secure energy and keep the UK’s emissions reductions on track. The next year will be crucial to ensure continuity of energy policy into the 2020s, maintain investor confidence, and ensure that the right framework is in place to meet our decarbonisation targets.

1 Affordability: Stop subsidising useless renewables; wind, solar, biomass. Stop building DGs for STOR.
2 Energy security: Build despatchable power stations.
3 Sustainability: Get fracking and open new coal mines etc.
4 Decarbonisation targets: Repeal the Climate Change Act and remove the targets. If still persist with decarbonisation targets, get building nuclear power stations, the only low carbon electricity generators.

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Yes indeed - the amount of taxpayers money so far spent to combat climate change, in all forms - public sector non-jobs, subsidies, payments made for windfarms NOT to produce energy, indeed. How much have we spent? What has it achieved?

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

How long do you think the oil price "crash" will continue? 5 years, 10 years, forever? Might this have a bearing on policy changes you could suggest?

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered Commentersam

@ Schrodinger's Cat

Whilst Horatio Nelson had a valid excuse, our political masters have no right to be blind sometimes... and really should see the signals.

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Make sure of a 10% (or so) capacity margin against the worst recorded winter demand (adjusted for GDP) in the last 100 years, without reliance on imports of electricity.

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Mikky: The traditional margin was about 16 - 20%.

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:36 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Actually, more like 28 % if you were considering 5 year planning horizon

Jul 27, 2015 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

How can the current head of the electricity grid remain in post when he is prepared to accept ZERO safety margin against peak winter demand and has no plans to stop the destruction of despatchable power stations.

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

Specifically -
[1] obtain from DECC an analysis of the cost per ton of CO2 emissions reduction since the passage of the Climate Change legislation. This must be adjusted for "outsourced" emissions where manufacturing has been moved offshore. Otherwise we are just being fooled.

[2] Obtain a comparison of DRAX CO2 emissions pre and post conversion to Imported wood chip. Obtain the amount of subsidy and/or reduction in taxation provided to induce this change in fuel and the cost per ton of CO2 emission ( which may well have increased)

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpectator

Philip Bratby @ 9.21: You have picked out the crucial paragraph from the TOR of this inquiry. However the ECC role is to "examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the DECC" and report to the house. It has no mandate at all to indicate what policy should be or even to advise - Gummer's committee has a statutory existence for that. You should couch your succinct menu in terms of "priority areas for examination" avoiding difficult technological terms like "despatchable" and obscure abbreviations like "DG's for STOR".

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2


Need to suggest inquiries rather than just telling me things you are unhappy about!

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

1) Gordon brown was lauded for making Bank of England monetary policy independent of the short term meddling of politicians. It is time UK Governments realised that energy is actually as important as money: When it isn't there, life is unpleasant.

2) Given that, historically, UK Governments often appear to have no real energy policy at all, perhaps they might start planning for a time when circumstances dictate they suddenly decide they need one. I suggest preparing a short list of pork-barrel subsidies, overburdening regulations, and long planning requirements, for a large bonfire. Nuclear power stations aren't going to be built otherwise, even at excessive cost. Nuclear protesters know that delay is in fact the strongest weapon in their armoury.

3) Repeal the Climate Change Act, obviously, as Philip Bratby suggests. It was built on the combination of green BBC agitprop, and unvalidated computer models. These sandcastles in the air can neither match observations nor make useful predictions.

4) Privatise the BBC Department of Green-political-propaganda-and-energy-sabotage.

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

That the UK has the lowest uptake of CHP of all the major economies in the EU – apart from France – has to tell you something.

Richard North and Booker have covered this and Owen Paterson has speechified about it.( HERE) There are a number of different manifestations of CHP that should already be in place - but blobbies have been deliberately ignoring this technology.

A fraction of the funds put into renewables spent on the emerging fusion tech (esp. Lockheed) would be a fair thing to do imho.

I don't expect much though - looking at the committee members - nope, not much at all...... A troupe of baboons inspecting a space rocket comes to mind.

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Three things:
I want a commitment by the government, monitored publicly, to have at least 10 fracking wells producing gas by the end of the parliament. The committee can monitor progress.

No more coal fired powerstations to be shut down untill equivalent capacity of gas fired power stations are brought online to replace it, to ensure baseload is maintained as emmissions are reduced.

Climate models the IPCC rely on to be publicly and independently validated, with any not passing being excluded from future consideration, and if UK funded then funding ends. Only independantly validated climate models to be used for projections on which policy is based.

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

Need to suggest inquiries rather than just telling me things you are unhappy about!

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:21 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Inquire what is the minimum time that it has ever taken to successfully plan, build and commission a nuclear power station, and how much progress they have made in speeding up this process.

Inquire when are they going to fix the list of things people are unhappy about?

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

What is expected to be the final cost of total decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK, and how much are global temperatures expected to fall as a result?

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Dawkins

Obsolete wind farms.
All infrastructure has a lifespan. At the end the turbines will need to be removed.
But what about the supporting roads and power lines? Whose responsibility is it to remove those? And where is the boundary between "created for this windfarm" and "general infrastructure"?

And is that part of the liabilities listed on the books of windfarms – should it be mandatory that it is

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:36 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

x-post from unthreaded

The major industrial reciprocating engine makers are now (and have been for some years) offering a range of power plants using propane / methane fueling. One question that might be asked -

why .... hasn't the STOR power program in the UK mandated the use of gas where possible and situated generator sites on/near major gas lines....

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:36 AM | Registered Commentertomo

examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the DECC:

1. Ask DECC why their staff numbers have increased by 38% since the 2010 spending review.

2.Ask DECC to quantify the exact reduction in global air temperature in 2100 as a result of their current policy.

3. Ask DECC to quantify the expenditure per degree of global temperature reduction by 2100.
3b. Ask DECC why we should care when 396 million people will go to sleep hungry tonight and every night and will not live to 2100.

4. Ask DECC why deploying modular construction modern AP1000 reactors would not be the most cost effective way of providing C02 free base load electricity into the forseable future. 2 reactors per existing nuclear site.

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Inquiry into the decision not to build a new efficient coal power station at Kingsnorth, which could have replaced inefficient 70s stations, and the role of anti-democratic activism in that decision.
Why is new coal power prevented in the UK when Germany is building new coal power stations?

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterrotationalfinestructure

More Paterson CHP here

Jul 27, 2015 at 10:59 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Hallo, Bishop - there are chapesses here as well, you know.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

1. Our current energy policy has now delivered a ludicrously thin margin of supply / demand error of just over 1%. That is clear evidence of the failure of current policy which has come on the back of the global warming scare and consequent decarbonisation policy. It is plainly in need of substantial reassessment.

2.Our policy of obstructing fracking is unsustainable. The only way we'll ever know whether fears are valid or not and whether the process is environmentally safe and commercially viable is to test frack. We need a nationwide 100 well test-drill roll-out to find out once and for all.

3. Admit there's a problem with the data and the predictions. Investigate climate data manipulations and computer model shortcomings as they are skewing the entire palate of evidence for decarbonisation.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Perhaps one suggestion would be to ask why there should be a Committee for Climate Change. What do they think is possible to affect climate change in any way whatsoever? As climate change is a slow process, occurring over many years, why is it felt that the government intervention is required for people to adapt to any change? What next, a department for sunrise and sunset?

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent


that's a bit radical.... Don't go giving them ideas.... :-)

You obviously haven't come across the Planetary Orbit Planning Committeee?

Addressing the risk from badly tied shoelaces would be on legislators agendas if they thought they could get away with it.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Registered Commentertomo

1) What effect, using the most pessimistic projections of the IPCC, would full implementation of the Climate Change Act have on global temperatures and global climate over the course of the next century.

2) What effect, using the most pessimistic projections of the IPCC, would killing everyone in the UK, burying them in the abandoned coal mines and allowing nature to totally reforest the islands, have on global temperatures and global climate over the course of the next century.

Answers 1) Barely a smidgeon of a smidgeon of a degree C, (totally lost in the margin of error), and as for climate, completely unknowable.

And 2)1) Barely a smidgeon of a degree C, (totally lost in the margin of error), and as for climate, completely unknowable.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

Ask DECC to collect and publish the CO2 produced by all fossil fuel generators at (say) 30 minute intervals.(Including all STOR plants.) This should include generators running on standby, spinning reserve, maintenance, etc. as well as when on load.
This should be calculated from *actual fuel used* rather than electricity produced.
We already have figures for electricity produced from conventional and renewable sources.

We can then see how much CO2 is being saved as renewables ramp up and down. I suspect this to be a lot less than many claim.

Of course this will never happen - transparency is what greens fear above all else.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterauralay

"what they should do to hold the government to account in the coming session ?"
#1 Ask government to provide PROPER COST BENEFIT ANALYSES which show the amount of CO2 saved/increased for each $ spent on each category of CO2 mitigation policy already implemented, before implementing NEW costs/obligations on people.
I think that agrees with other points that @Jeremy Poynton, @Spectator make

#2 The cost/benefit analysis for PAST DELAYING the implementation of fracking in terms of both $$ taxes lost and CO2 not saved

#3 What measures the government has implemented to prevent GreebBlob corruption ? such as
i. requiring politicians to declare greenbiz interests, ii. checking up on Swansea barrage corruption,
iii. ensuring that wind/solar/any energy businesses don't use delegation company tricks which might leave sites uncleaned up at end of life, whilst protecting the main company from costs.

#4 Ask gov to provide evidence it has measure in place to deal with Austrian/Greenpeace filibustering aimed at preventing it's nuclear programme.

@Tomo "A troupe of baboons inspecting a space rocket comes to mind." very good
but is it more like a team of bullet company directors investigating guns the government is thinking of buying?

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:42 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

auralay: I have asked DECC (via my MP) in the past for data on how much CO2 emissions are increased due to ramping up and down of fossil fuel power stations in response to the intermittency of wind and solar. The answer is they don't know and don't want to find out. Obviously it would be the nail in the coffin for all uncontrollable asynchronous renewable generators if the true increase in emissions that they cause were known.

Jul 27, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

A Panelbase opinion poll last year found that 66% of Scots polled wanted "devo max" which would mean any Scottish government would have control of its energy policy and economic policy, including oil revenues.!9% opposed "devo max". Why not suggest that the Committee consider granting "devo max" as the majority of Scots desire?

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentersam

"Holding the government to account" is really asking: Are we, the tax-payer, getting value for money?

Therefore, I would suggest that the government be asked to declare at what point in wind/solar power delivery they believe they are getting value for money - based on the infrastructure costs and the subsidies paid out.

As a corollary to this question, I would ask of the government if it felt it should not be good practice to demand of renewable energy suppliers that their generators (wind/solar farms) be capable of delivering a set percentage of their 'name-plate' rating before they qualify for subsidy - and that they (the renewable energy suppliers) should refund the tax-payer when they do not meet these levels of delivery.

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Anent above. Committee cannot grant "devo max". But might recommend. Or not.

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersam

How many ministers/MPs will be executed for each death due to their energy policies?

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

Ask DECC to publish cost-benefit analysis for the partial conversion of Drax from coal to imported woodchips.

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

We do people cry for 'transparency' in the formation and the working of political policies when they mean visibility? Transparent things are difficult to see.

Jul 27, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

In 2014, the DECC published a paper entitled "Paris 2015 - Securing our prosperity through a global climate change agreement".

The executive summary opens with these words:

"In 15 months, the world will gather in Paris to secure a legally binding, global climate change agreement with emission reduction commitments from all countries"

That ambition now seems unlikely to be achieved. If so, what would be the implications for Britain's energy policy? In particular, would the Secretary of State consider amending the CO2 targets set by the 2008 Climate Change Act as she is entitled to do under part 1, section 2 of that Act?

Jul 27, 2015 at 1:10 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

The DECC needs to demonstrate how easy it is to run a pointless political talkshop on renewable power, by only holding televised debates in premises with no connection to mains electricity.

Electricity would be available from wind and solar, and when available power does not meet demand, the Honourable Members could simply hop on to exercise bikes powering generators.

The viewing public will happily watch MP's actually doing some hard work, rather than reading about it, and they can actually prove to the world how healthy and efficient they are.

Alternatively the DECC could just take the credit for preventing the climate from changing, and go home, which might save rather more taxpayer funding.

Jul 27, 2015 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

@ Jeremy Poynton - Jul 27, 2015 at 9:22 AM

I've seen a figure quoted of $ one trillion for 3% of world wide energy...

@ M Courtney - Jul 27, 2015 at 10:36 AM

"At the end the turbines will need to be removed. But what about the supporting roads and power lines? Whose responsibility is it to remove those?"

Don't forget the massive concrete & steel bases, which are invariably left in the ground, and simply covered over with a layer of soil.

Jul 27, 2015 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Ward

Simple question really - how long does HMG intend to deny that observed data is consistently proving that their expensive and damaging energy policies are based on erroneous theories.

Jul 27, 2015 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterVernonE

Drax power station had a nominal capacity of 3960MW when burning coal and provided about 7% of UK capacity. Now it is converting to burning wood pellets we should ask whether this reduction in capacity has been accounted for in 1.7% reserve calculation. If not then we probably no longer have any reserve.

Jul 27, 2015 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpen

Your Grace, some ideas for discussion:

• Ensure that the minimum EROEI for all energy sources connected to the National grid exceeds a value of 7 to ensure current and future societal needs.
• Ensure that cost/benefit analysis are repeated every 5 years following commissioning, and results made public, on all installed sources connected to the National grid. Analysis to include measured net power supplied to the grid and reliability metrics including all incurred repair/replace and maintenance costs.
• Based on cost/benefit analysis for installed sources connected to the National grid the Government to establish, and make public, criteria for the approval of new power sources to be connected to the grid.
• Cost/benefit analysis for all installed sources connected to the National grid to be undertaken, and published, with and without the effect of any, direct or indirect, government subsidy or tax to establish a more direct comparison basis. Such data to be used in the approval of new power sources to be connected to the grid.
• The Government to publish data, collated through the National Audit office, for all historical green investments indicating the costs and benefits accrued to support future investment decisions.
• The Government to establish a maximum threshold for ‘green’ levies/taxes, either direct or indirect, that any company should be subject to as a means of ensuring future economic competitiveness.
• The Government to ensure that any information source relied upon in the formulation of Government environmental policy, peer-reviewed or not, …
o whose conclusions or recommendations depend on statistical analysis, is independently and publically approved by a chartered statistician(s) , before being relied upon by the Government.
o have all supporting material made available to the public before being relied upon by the Government.
o has any FOI limitations or similar restrictions upon the content from which the conclusions are drawn removed.
• The Government to remove any FOI limitations on:
o any, part or fully, publically funded research upon which the Government relies to formulate environmental policy.
o any, part or fully, publically funded media broadcasts of non-fiction content relating to environmental policy.
• The Government to publically report the subject, time and date, and names of any NGO contact with the Government, relating to environmental policy, which happens on a formal or informal basis, where the NGO receives Government funding directly or indirectly.

Jul 27, 2015 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterVarco

Just ask them if they flew anywhere nice and warm for their summer holidays, and whether those countries had a higher death rate consistent with the wild guesses of the expert advisors, that taxpayers pay for.

Perhaps they could be asked to recommend to the House of Commons, that this House notes that:

a) Mann's Hockey Stick Graph has a proven track record of being unreliable

b) the Arctic ice cap is in no danger whatsoever, along with its itinerant polar bears

c) climate change is a nice little earner, and foreign politicians and con artists, must wait their turn behind British politicians and other con artists.

Jul 27, 2015 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Some suggestions:

1) Inquire into the role of OFGEM's Supply Market Indicator in benchmarking energy bills - in particular
a) The effects of assuming a long forward commodity hedge on actual hedging strategies and costs (and hence prices);
b) The assumption that lower consumption is "good for consumers" is masking real price increases for energy;
c) Validation of rising National Grid charges for power and gas transmission.

2) Inquiry into an alternative benchmark for green policies, based on assuming no subsidies for any technology beyond nuclear decommissioning costs for established plants, and no green taxes/levies - what would be
a) The configuration of generating capacity, and the balance between gas and electricity in consumer and industrial markets
b) The configuration and cost of the national grid - in particular savings on not grid connecting renewables, and savings through not having to reinforce the grid to cope with fluctuating patterns of supply from intermittent sources, and savings on continental interconnectors for power.
c) The impact on the economy of consistently lower energy prices in saving jobs, raising manufacturing exports, lowering imports of manufactured goods (including wind and solar equipment)

3) In the light of 2),
a) how much of the government's welfare bill is self-inflicted by policy driven higher energy prices?
b) to what extent do higher energy costs act to price low value work out of the market via higher transport fares and the need for a higher living wage to pay bills?
c) what is the true cost of the policy of bowing to the climate gods?

4) In the present state of development of nuclear energy
a) Should Hinkley C be cancelled, in the light of Areva's ongoing problems at Flammanville, Olkiluoto etc. before sunk cost accumulates to leave us hostage to an even higher price for its output?
b) Is there a current alternative that could offer nuclear power at lower cost?
c) What is the strategy for future nuclear R&D and industrial development, given that this provides the only longer term viable alternative to fossil fuels for most uses?

Jul 27, 2015 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Could DECC have Heathrow Airport officially recognised as a record breaking Urban Heat Island with the most annual visitors? It would be great for visitors to be able to write home recording that Heathrow is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and in the Guiness Book of Records.

It may prove some comfort for those stuck there in blizzards, and during summer holiday delays, it would be educational and fun, for children (and their parents) to while away their boredom, spotting correlations between jet movements and changes in recorded temperatures.

Could DECC advise how many more years of global warming pause/hiatus/chillax will have to pass before they are prepared to rethink their assumptions about man made global warming, and which bit of Mann's Hockey Stick Graph predicted the rapid rise in questions about the lack of any warming.

Jul 27, 2015 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

“early action … is needed to … keep the UK’s emissions reductions on track”

They should ask why progress on decarbonisation has been almost non-existent over the past decade as measured by the UK’s electricity generation all fuels carbon intensity, despite all the expensive new windfarms and other renewables. When the emissions from plant biomass are calculated using the carbon intensity of coal, as they should be, rather than being treated as carbon neutral, this key metric has fallen only a few percentage points since 2005 (pending re-calculation using 2015 data due out later this week).

Jul 28, 2015 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Brodie

I strongly endorse the biomass point made in various ways by earlier contributors, thus:

Demand from DECC why they allow Ofgem to continue to deem biomass burning to be carbon neutral in circumstances when DECC's own 'BEAC' model shows clearly that biomass can be many more times CO2-emitting even than coal (as well as emitting more pollutants).

Jul 28, 2015 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Drew

Drax released its half year figures today at

Beyond my abilities to work out what's what, but there are a lot of numbers in's so distorted with government taxes, initiatives, allowances and various boondoggles that I can't make head or tail of it. Looks quite detailed, however.

Jul 28, 2015 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterstun

They should change their name, and their remit. They should be the Commons Energy Committee and should only consider UK energy supply issues.

It is idiotic to try to combine a topic on which the Commons can and should act, with one on which they are totally powerless, and it propogates the continuing idiotic delusion that the UK can in some way 'tackle climate change', which in turn leads to these idiotic gesture political decisions like wind power subsidies and solar subsidies.

We should be making decisions for the UK which are in line with our international obligations, so if there is some sort of global agreement on emission reductions, obviously we should be good citizens and do whatever we have agreed. Which at the moment will be pretty much no reductions but there you go.

What we should not do is go out on a limb with the idiocies of the Climate Change Act, whose very title shows how mad it is. Its actually about UK energy policy, which for some crazed reason its compilers thought would have an effect on climate change.

The other thing the committee could do is propose to the government that it simply repeal the CCA. It is bad for democracy to have laws in effect which no-one has the slightest intention of implementing, and even were we to implement it, it would have no effect on climate change. What on earth are we doing leaving this crud lying around?

Jul 29, 2015 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

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