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« A not-so-cunning plan | Main | Crooked briefs »

Hunky dory

The Institute of Mechanical Engineers has a report out today which looks at the UK's energy situation. It seems that we have a bit of a crisis ahead.

The loss of coal by 2025, along with growth in demand and the closure of the majority of our nuclear power stations will therefore be significant, leaving a potential supply gap of 40%–55%, depending on wind levels.

To bridge this gap, the Institute sees no option but new gas=fired power stations and UK shale gas. As they explain though, there are some slight problems with this strategy. If there is no increase in demand then we are only (only!) going to need 30 new CCGT power stations. Unfortunately we don't enough skilled people to build them. And demand actually looks set to go up. And the greens are going to prevent UK shale going ahead. 

Apart from that it's all hunky dory.

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Reader Comments (92)

The plan appears to involve reduction in energy requirements by closing all industry in the UK.

Aluminium has shown the way. Steel is following suit.
Automotive soon to follow.

And as for domestic supplies...well it's a privatised system.
If you can't afford to pay then you've no right to life.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:13 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

The eco-loon target of stopping the use of gas for space heating (and cooking) ?

Only "zero carbon" / "carbon neural" energy allowed .... Why oh why can't we test all this on the Greens / Eco-loons first?

Cut the wires and shut off the gas, close the petrol stations in Brighton - the sooner the better. It's not like they haven't voted for it and the case for a pilot scheme cannot be denied :-)

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:18 AM | Registered Commentertomo

What about enough skilled people to work in them too. A lot of the people at old stations will be working towards their retirement. When managers know that a place is shutting, they often don't employ new people and often let the youngsters they've got go first.

The ten years will whip by while people dither. Tick tock.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Even if the wind is blowing, once the thermal plants are shut down there will be major problems with grid stability arising from the lack of grid inertia, and the difficulty in managing reactance issues. Apparantly senior bods in National Grid are aware of this, but the company's remit to properly manage the grid has been compromised by the dosh it currently makes from renewables contracts. Apparently nothing is going to change until after the first big blackout.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:19 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

50% of 56 GW is 28 GW. To build 30 CCGTs is possible but no-one will invest in them unless the Government subsidises the investment at the same ROI as windmills, say 20%.

Current 500 MW GE CCGT cost is $657 million so 20 would be $13 billion. 20% ROI comes to $2.6 billion/year subsidy or for 25 million UK households, $105/(household.year) = £70/(household.year) + running costs. This is probably a lot cheaper than green subsidies for windmills and pump storage. Let's build them starting now!

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Who will be held responsible for this? Every time any one of us gets behind the wheel of a car we have a duty to drive with care and attention. If we don't and we cause an accident then we are legally responsible. However our politicians are like drivers travelling along a motorway who pay no attention to what is clearly visible to what is ahead of them. If the lights go out then members of the present government, and also members of the Blair and Brown regimes, should be put on trial for gross negligence of their duty.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Sorry: arithmetic error: we'd need 60 CCGTs so subsidy/(household.year) = £210. Still cheaper than windmills + pump storage but extra tax.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

@Roy: only when the extra death toll in winter rises above 100,000 from its present 30,000 will politicians be held accountable by the alarmed public. The trouble is, it'll take a decade for any improvement in supply so we'd have millions of extra deaths. Perhaps the best way of tackling the politicians now is to warn them they will be held responsible for that future toll, not present issues. The best way would be to add a clause to the CCA; guaranteed supply!

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

These engineers are making false assumptions as their viewpoint is very narrow.

If the UK resident banks can keep the value and volume of Sterling creation up relative to its wider hinterland then soon they can import electricity from hydro rich / low population density Iceland and Norway (pushing up Scandinavian prices also)
The use of surplus diesel as the consumer credit/ car industry collapses will cover the rest .
This extremely low capex means of generation will cover requirements.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

You're not an engineer, are you Cork of Dork? Norway has refused to be Germany's pump storage hub so ain't going to help us**. Iceland generates by geothermal and the proposed 600 MW interconnecter is just one CCGT's worth.

**Denmarks western Grid is synchronously integrated into the Scandinavian Grid, so enables Danish wind to work. Irish wind power in its Midlands has been rejected and won't supply UK needs.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Crisis looms...?

Who said that.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Aila "Crisis looms...? Who said that."

The emergency response weavers.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Current energy policy implies that demand reduction will become compulsory in future, a novel way of meeting the targets of the climate change act! On the other hand, as policy brings the country to its knees, it should be considered an act of treason, but we have no-one to put in the dock. Formerly it would have been the Secretary of State for Energy, but the current SOS would blame the Climate Change Committee members who would pass the buck to the MPs who voted to set up their committee in the first place, and they in turn would blame the lobbyists who in turn would say the scientists gave them the ammunition. No-one stopped along the way to consider the probable collateral damage, which I think the MPs should have. The Climate Change Committee should also have considered the downsides of their recommendations in the interests of scientific and engineering integrity and the code of conduct under which they operate, if not for common sense, self-preservation or any other reason you might consider.

Jan 26, 2016 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMJK

uhh... Dork

Have you looked at the arithmetic for HVDC interconnector for Reykyavik - Cape Wrath? Even if the migrant Vikings give us the electrons and the cable could follow the direct route (which aiui it can't) - it does not add up.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:01 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Nope , I have always stated I am a simple serf with aspirations of becoming a peasant.
A simple Derry Power character (Irish bit part actor of the 1970s)

Icelands generation is now dominated by hydro , read their energy balance .

All that has to be done is for the London boys to whisper into their northern brothers ears.
To create a new crisis.
This will force Iceland and Norway to export its hydro wealth to gain tokens.
Its a old trick.
Read or watch Richard Werner's Princes of the Yen to understand the power dynamics of the so called hidden hand.
This ambition to focus the worlds wealth into the UK is happening as we speak.
It is therefore not very controversial to believe that it will simply increase in tempo.
Mean residents of the UK will see a further reduction of wellbeing partially as a result of migratory flows (a reduction in energy per capita) but this is nothing new under the sun.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Iceland's total hydro power is 1107 MW:

That's two CCGTs worth. The new power is Geothermal, mostly for the transplanted North American Al smelters.

You haven't a clue; admit it and we'll get along a bit better.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Yes Iceland although producing a huge surplus of energy per capita is a small fish.
Norway is the Great White Whale.
If living standards can be made to collapse up North then more of their surplus energy can be directed into Mordor.

The logic of finance capitalism is to simply increase prices (inflation)
It will continue to follow this programme until societal collapse.
It knows nothing else.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Looking at the report it's clear that they too have been at the Green Cool Aid - "carbon reduction" and that coal is "polluting".

They say "It remains crucial that we still look to energy demand reduction and energy efficiency as our main “tools” to address the challenges of UK energy supply. These are key areas where emission reductions can be made and UK competitiveness enhanced. "

Their recommendations include "investment in research and development activities for renewables, energy storage, combined heat and power and innovation in power station design and build" as well as demand reduction (aka power cuts?)

If you're heading towards disaster a good plan is usually to do a U turn, but Green Logic does not allow this.

Barking mad.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered Commentergareth

To bridge this gap, the Institute sees no option but new gas=fired power stations and UK shale gas.

Did you actually read the report? That is demonstrably untrue, the report gives 4 possible scenarios, of which that is just one, a future that they in fact describe as 'very unlikely ', along with big nuclear or a nuclear/gas mix. They actually conclude that the most likely scenario is number 4 - basically 'BAU' with extensions granted to coal.


Jan 26, 2016 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Capacity analysis seems to hinge around the minimum that can be expected from wind, which the Green Blob (who have infiltrated Ofgem and National Grid) refuses to set to zero. The 2013 report from the Royal Academy of Engineering did set it to zero, but they hid that inconvenient truth away in an appendix:

Its a bit like pass the parcel in reverse, which govt is going to be left holding the crying baby when the power outages start?

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

They produce these pamphlets from time to time full of green crap. Now having cheered on for years this lunatic energy switch to renewables they feel its time to reflect a bit more on what their membership that has been telling them all this time. It's a bit funny that all these IMechE missives have exactly 3 recommendations. Of course they are usually ignored. This one though managed to get a mention on the radio this morning but only as part of 'what the papers say' and the paper in question was the Sun.

Alas most recommendations require money that just doesn't have. Yet all we have to do is change or scrap the climate change act and ignore Europe.

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

If I remember correctly from the IEA energy balance figures Hydro forms the bulk of electricity generation in Iceland today.

Perhaps heat geothermal does the heavy lifting with regard heat generation but certainly not the bulk of(exportable) electricity production.
Go over to the guys on the energy matters website if you do not believe me.
I have a IEA PDF document (energy balances of OECD countries ) but it is in my other computer ....I would put serious money down on this belief .
Its a sort of "Gay Future" certainty in my little head.
but if you want to put money down well.............

Jan 26, 2016 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

@Corky: hydro is limited by topography. I know this having worked for a Canadian Al company with the biggest hydro power outside Russia. So, Iceland and Norway can't produce more hydro. Iceland's extra power must be geothermal but the interconnect is at most 2 CCGTs. Where do we get the rest of our energy from? There is a solution, not exclusively CCGT and nuclear. Watch this space (No, we will not burn the bodes of politicians - too few of them!)

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

The greens now want us to give up gas for heating our homes. That, according to an analysis I saw, requires 1TW of extra capacity. That is equivalent to 250 Draxes, All-electric cars demand another 1TW. All from Wind & Sunshine. I can just hear the Traffic Report in 2035 "Traffic on the M1 has ground to a halt this morning because of an anticyclone over ......".

We are living in cloud cuckoo land technologically & economically. As some one said, we await the first blackout which could take us weeks to get over. It might also cause a few deaths too. A few tens of thousands. Cold seems to be far more deleterious to human life that a few hundredths of a degree of warming.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

Three recommendations!

The first is unlikely to deliver. There's some scope for domestic demand reduction in space heating, but not in electricity. reduction. Everything points, in, fact, to increasing electricity demand.

The second is unlikely to deliver. Today's research is not going to make any impact by 2025. And just what improvements do they expect with wind and solar? They're old technologies. Battery storage will work, but the intermittency expected will mean deep cycling of the batteries, and thus low life. Research storage? Nothing new here, we've been at that game for a century. Inter connectors? To what? Germany is hell bent on closing down nuclear by 2022, and presumably replacing them with renewables. Besides continental intermittency has considerable correlation with th UK's.

Three is just waffle.

And they haven't even considered the crisis to come which is low grid inertia in an island grid. (Wind and solar bring no system inertia into the plant mix). Anyway, if we do have power cuts, expect them in the SE or Scotland.

It's got to be gas.

But then Corbyn comes along and says he'll nationalise, so who's going to invest?

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

If there are failures to supply energy to the cities then the ruling classes won't be ruling much longer. They might want to think about that.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSwiss Bob

The 3 recommendations condensed:
1. We all need to be told to use less electricity.
2. More R&D of super-duper innovations is a good idea.
3. Let's all have a cosy meeting to discuss how to do everything with no money.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG


" Apparently nothing is going to change until after the first big blackout."

Isn't this basically the approach that led to the recent flooding? Anyone who knew about the subject would have known that not dredging rivers would lead to more floods. The idiot policies are now being slowly reversed after the inevitable happened.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Think in terms of the entire production / consumption chain.

If aluminium becomes too expensive to consume then Iceland has a lot of electrical power to export.
This 2013 Iceland energy balance illustrates that Hydro forms the bulk of Icelands electricity production - more then double geothermal which is used primarily for heat.

Remember they designed the 2cv car with a aluminum body .
Then the plans changed......

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Capell, the Government needs to invest using UK taxpayer money.
It's the UK taxpayer who needs the infrastructure to exist.

Why rely on speculators who have no interest in providing a functioning country?

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:19 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

This can't be right! We gave Ed Davey a knighthood ffs.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

I'm reminded of those six Chinook helicopters that were delivered to the RAF and discovered to be unusable, because somebody in the MoD had ordered them without the required avionics (to be fair, the Chinooks were fine, just as long as the weather was). By the time the fiasco came to light, the clown responsible had almost certainly retired, with a fat pension and probably with a knighthood.

When the power fails, it will be the government of the day that will get blamed. Unless that government has been working flat out to try to solve the problem beforehand, it will deserve its share of the blame, but the principal blame goes to past governments and the present one. Blair pushed the starting-button for this disaster. Brown made it worse, setting up the Orwellian Department of Energy and Climate Change and putting Ed Miliband, in charge, apparently as a reward for always agreeing with him. Parliament passed the insane Climate Change Act.

One thing that baffles me about both politicians and political commentators today is the way they treat laws passed by previous Parliaments and the actions of previous governments as sacrosanct and unalterable. The whole point of elections is that they are not. No government or Parliament is bound by the whims of a predecessor. Cameron, apparently, doesn't know that (he started off by passing into law fixed-term governments) and he decided to keep the disastrous, green-infested DECC and to hand it, successively, to two fanatics, Huhne and Davey. Even now, unfettered by a need to appease the libdims, he hasn't abolished DECC, or imposed a rational policy on it. Whether he is motivated by his wife, as some assert, or by what he imagines to be fashionable greenthink, or is simply (as I suspect) paralysed by an addiction to dithering, I don't know, but he will be as much to blame as the preceding PMs, when the heating fails and the lights go out.

And he will be long gone, insulated, literally, from the problem, uncaring and unapologetic, like the mandarin who signed for those ornamental helicopters.

Difficile est saturam non scribere wrote Juvenal: It's hard not to write satire.

I suspect a budding Juvenal, in the not very distant future, will disagree. He, or she, will give up on satire, because all of the things a satirist can imagine will already have been done - or attempted, at least - in the real world.

And anyway, he will reflect, writing by candlelight is murder on the eyes.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

We need to scrap taxpayer funding into climate science, and the production of dire warnings of unprecedented consequences, if we scrap taxpayer funding into climate science.

Then we can think of planning the energy requirements for the current generation of people. It will save billions of pounds, and our Grandchildren will be very grateful that we did something to curb this destructive insanity.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

As a retired member of the above Institution, I became increasingly horrified over the years of the steady 'greening' of the Institution's pubications and membership opinion. I put some of this down to young membership heavily influenced by the alarmist agenda and keen to 'get involved' in moving the Institution towards the 'sunlit (and presumably windswept) uplands' of a brave new future in the 21st century freed from traditional means of producing electricity.
In the end I gave up writing letters of protest to the house magazine, as I seemed to be being drowned out by the 'anti-carbon' lobby.
I feel now that the wheel has gone - if not full-circle, then at least a few spokes towards the realisation that there is an almighty crash in capacity coming - and something had better be done quick-smart (as the Aussies might say)... Apart from anything else, there must be some realisation amongst the membership that 'engineers' will suddenly become the whipping boys of the political class for not providing the capacity when the fertiliser finally hits the fan..
Very sad state of affairs...

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

When you start with a flawed hypothesis that carbon is pollution and not the very essence of life then every twist and turn from then on is fallacious.
UK electricity production is 20% of energy consumed. UK emissions of the harmless substance CO2 is only 2% of world emissions. 20% of 2% of a harmless gas is in the statistical region of SFA. Even the most naive of scientists and politicians cannot be stupid enough to not understand that nothing that is done in the UK will have any influence at all on the world emissions of a harmless gas.
That only leaves corruption, rent seeking, egomania, and mental illness as reasons why our politicians appear to be playing the stupid card.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

In reply to Phil C, the IMechE opinion on shale gas is summarised here....

"We know that the UK offers fruitful shale gas potential both in its resources and in its ability to keep the lights on. With The UK Oil & Gas Authority awarding 159 blocks for onshore oil and gas exploration in December 2015 and the government stating ”alongside conventional drilling sites, we need to get shale gas moving”, investment and support is only going to continue to grow. Given that Amber Rudd is driving it forward, it is clear that shale gas is a suitable solution to ensuring that the UK can sustain its future energy consumption."

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"Mad dogs and Englishmen(engineers)..."
You have nine years ---- IF you started yesterday and they seemed to presume on Jan 2, 2025, a switch will be thrown and all the coal plants will just stop. Fact is it will be a long, hard period in the UK. A shame Winston's not alive to delcare "Never have so few heaped so much misery on so many with so few lies."
You'd best start digging caves and make more sweaters, candles since that's were you'll be over-wintering in 2025,

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

And of course the government has just given out extra money to install more electric car charge-points. You couldn't make it up.

Jan 26, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

@Corky: Iceland has (2013) 650 MW geothermal electricity production of which 65% is for Al production. To replace Al by steel for cars would be stupid if electricity use is to be reduced. You ain't seen nothing yet; millions of dead soon.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

James G

Is Phil C's selective interpretation of the paper deliberate or just force of habit? It's hard to believe that he and the Bish are commenting on the same article, but I know which version my money's on.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:26 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

From the ImechE website, here is part of the background of the lead author of this report, she is certainly not a mechanical/electrical engineer, and has no experience of the power sector, but she certainly ticks all the green boxes:

"Jenifer entered engineering in 1995 undertaking a BTEC in general engineering at North Hertfordshire College with an aim to change the world and create a cleaner environment through engineering. Following this Jenifer gained a BEng in Environmental Engineering in 2001 and an MSc in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy in 2003, both from Cardiff University. Following an early spell in research, Jenifer went to work for the waste strategy team at the Welsh Government for six years until she left to study a PhD in technological innovation for hydrogen production from waste also from Cardiff University."

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Meanwhile China Datang Corporation (CDT) is just finishing the construction of the second part of a 2GW, supercritical, low pollution coal fired power station in record time (less than two years).

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Cameron's get out of jail card : 'Oh well, we had to let all those immigrants in, that increased demand, so of course we failed to meet the old targets' He'll probably say as an excuse for not closing coal in 2025.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:40 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nope , you do not get it - I am not talking about replacement.

Very little steel , no expensive metal of any kind.
No consumer credit (started in 1919 under General Motors) = much much much less cars.
= oil at 5$

The only cars remaining would be peasant cars of the 2cv variety .
With minimum raw material and garage requirements.

Irish would drink out of a cleaned (or perhaps a uncleaned glass) rather then a can and beer shipped in from Holland.

Subtract the waste from the consumer war economy and many of the current connected corporate sector would not be able to recover their costs.
Iceland would have massive unused capacity .

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Well I think the Israelis may have solved the electric car problem - Revolutionary Israeli Car Engine: 1 Cylinder, 1 Piston, 86 Horsepower, Double the Efficiency

“The engine testing company AVL, which is the oracle in its field, recently confirmed our fuel efficiency data and they said about us that after 100 years and hundreds of trillions of dollars invested in engines, our own initial results are astonishing by any measure,” Fridman said, then added with barely restrained pride, “Many inventors try to think outside the box, but anyone who has checked our engine is saying that our inventor Shauli Yaakoby is probably not aware that there is a box.”

We should nurture the Israelis; we are going to rely on them a lot in the future,

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

@Corky: when I said millions of deaths, you imply billions. hap[y with that?

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I look forward to the day when the roads are empty again.
Only then will they preform their true purpose.

Once you have enough company tokens for 10 pints in the pub then nothing else matters.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

DECC has it sorted:

with assistance from the IET:

Meanwhile, Lisa Nandy is on hand:
Lisa Nandy, the shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “We face real risks to our energy security, particularly next winter. Energy bills are still too high and we’re failing to cut emissions fast enough. By any reasonable standard, this government’s energy policy is failing.”

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

@David Jones: the oscillating single piston, single cylinder engine with two cylinder heads is an old concept which has so far never made it to market.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Don't forget 'Bryony Brownouts' and 'Bryony Blackouts', though it is manifestly unfair to name only her with the blame.

Jan 26, 2016 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

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