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Another capacity crunch in 2018/19?

The last 48 hours has brought news of yet more pressure on the electricity grid. The good news is that the year that is currently looking most likely to bring power cuts - the winter of 2015/16 - is unaffected. The bad news is that a second capacity crunch may well be looming in 2018/19.

The first piece of bad news came when the operators of the massive Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife suggested that they will not be bidding to supply electricity in 2018/19:

Scottish Power has decided not to enter the contest to supply energy generating capacity in 2018/19, arguing financial changes are needed to avert the threat of closure.

The National Grid said it had been working closely with the industry and Ofgem to review the charging regime.

Click to read more ...


That dinner

The dinner at Nic Lewis's house the other day, at which sceptics and mainstream scientists got together to chew the fat, has already been reported by Anthony Watts. (I was invited, but unable to attend). There's now a fuller report at the Responding to Climate Change site here:

It was one of science’s strangest social events to date.

Some of the best known names in the climate debate – including Mail on Sunday journalist David Rose, blogger Anthony Watts, and Met Office scientist Richard Betts – shared salmon and civilities at a dinner party last month.

Hosted by the sceptical scientist Nicholas Lewis at his house in Bath in September, the group discussed their similarities, differences, and how they might calm the debate that rages across the pathologically provocative medium of Twitter.

“Both sides are really fed up with the outrageous alarmists who are not representing science properly. Both don’t like those who shout about it and call people names and take a polarised point of view,” says David Whitehouse from the sceptic think-tank The Global Warming Policy Foundation.

I gather that Tamsin's account will appear shortly.


Walrus inconsistencies

Updated on Oct 3, 2014 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The story of the Point Lay walrus haulout continues to provoke a great deal of interest. Today the reins have been taken up by Climate Progress, who have got hold of walrus expert Tony Fischbach, who wants us all to know that what we are seeing is new:

Under historical conditions, there has always been sea ice over the Chukchi Sea over the summer...This is a real change that we see thousands and tens of thousands of animals coming to shore and resting together in these large haul-outs.

Click to read more ...


Quote of the day, consumer care edition

The Department allowed inflation indexation [of contracts] because consumers are thought to be better placed to absorb the impact of high inflation than generators.

DECC explains its approach to looking after energy consumers



Close down DECC

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has issued a report about the award of renewables contracts. It is not a pretty sight.

By awarding early contracts worth up to £16.6 billion to eight renewable electricity generation projects without price competition, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (the Department) failed to adequately consider how to secure best value for consumers. In committing 58% of the total funds available for renewable contracts under these transitional arrangements, the Department has severely constrained the amount available to be awarded under new arrangements through price competition, reducing the opportunity to test the market and secure the best value for consumers. Under the terms of these contracts the Department failed to defend consumers’ interest. For example, the risks associated with inflation will be met by consumers with inflation measured on the Consumer Prices Index. At the same time any benefit from excess profits will be retained by the developers as there are no claw-back clauses.

Click to read more ...


The underpinning of energy policy collapses

UK energy policy has one key predicate, namely that fossil fuels are going to get inexorably more expensive. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, the sine qua non of the whole renewables programme. Renewables, we are told, will save consumers money, and only if we dig much deeper might we discover that in fact we are actually being told that renewables are being forecast to be cheaper than fossil fuels in the future.

For years that forecast has looked ever more implausible, as all around us a revolution in unconventional oil and gas has caused fossil fuel prices to fall. Now, finally, the government has been forced to respond and to reduce its forecast prices.

Burning gas for power is currently far cheaper than electricity from wind farms, which receive billions of pounds in subsidies from consumers.

Yesterday however the Department of Energy and Climate Change released new forecasts slashing its power and gas price forecasts for later this decade by as much as 20 per cent.

But ministers have repeatedly argued that gas prices will keep on rising, eventually making green energy good value for money.

This is a bit of a nightmare for the greens in government, and it is hard to imagine that the government and its advisers are not going to have to reassess the whole renewables programme. No doubt it is not beyond the wit of the bureaucrats in DECC to come up with some plausible explanation of why renewables will get much cheaper in the future, but it will be interesting to see just how much they have to wriggle first.


DECC's new adviser

DECC has finally persuaded someone to take on the role of chief scientific adviser - as readers no doubt recall the role his been vacant for several weeks since David Mackay stood down.

The new man is Professor John Loughhead, who currently runs the UK Energy Research Centre, a sort of retirement home for superannuated environmentalists. Loughhead is an engineer by training and was formerly the head of technology at wind turbine manufacturer Alstom. His professorship is an honorary one from the University of Cardiff.

His public pronouncements suggest that he is cut from the same cloth as Mackay - he will go with the political flow, setting out just enough of the engineering problems with the rush to renewables to cover his backside.


Oh Godlee

Fiona Godlee has an editorial in the British Medical Journal on the subject of climate change (£, but free trial is available). It begins with a defence of the journal's climate campaigner position and moves on to discuss some of the science. For example:

The IPCC reports that it is highly likely that global warming is causing climate change, characterised by more frequent and intense temperature extremes, heavier rainfall events, and other extreme weather events.

Click to read more ...


Off target

Anthony reproduces a Nature editorial that suggests that nations should abandon the 2°C target that has allegedly focused political responses to global warming in recent years.

Bold simplicity must now face reality. Politically and scientifically, the 2°C goal is wrong-headed. Politically, it has allowed some governments to pretend that they are taking serious action to mitigate global warming, when in reality they have achieved almost nothing. Scientifically, there are better ways to measure the stress that humans are placing on the climate system than the growth of average global surface temperature — which has stalled since 1998 and is poorly coupled to entities that governments and companies can control directly.

Click to read more ...


The walrus and the ecoperson 

Tom Nelson is having some fun with uber-ecoperson Bill McKibben who has been tweeting about an AP story in SFGate about a huge congregation of walruses on the coast of Alaska. SFGate helpfully provides a photo:

According to the story, this so-called `haulout' is down to climate change:

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

Which is the kind of statement to get McKibben going of course.

Click to read more ...


The Pause comes of age - Josh 295

Today is the official birthday of the pause. James Delingpole says so and he is, as we know, always right - especially when he is quoting BishopHill.

What will the Pause do next? Get a job? Go on a gap year? Maybe go to college and rack up some proper student debt. Who knows, but it's worth celebrating the good news that the planet's temperatures are not accelerating to thermageddon. 

Cartoons by Josh


Climate models and clouds

Idly looking for something to write about this morning I sidled over to Geophysical Research Letters where my eye alighted on the abstract of a paper by Cheruy et al. It concerns the CMIP5 climate models and considers clouds and the transfer of moisture from land to atmosphere. Here's the abstract:

Over land, most state-of-the-art climate models contributing to Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) share a strong summertime warm bias in midlatitude areas, especially in regions where the coupling between soil moisture and atmosphere is effective. The most biased models overestimate solar incoming radiation, because of cloud deficit and have difficulty to sustain evaporation. These deficiencies are also involved in the spread of the summer temperature projections among models in the midlatitude; the models which simulate a higher-than-average warming overestimate the present climate net shortwave radiation which increases more-than-average in the future, in link with a decrease of cloudiness. They also show a higher-than-average reduction of evaporative fraction in areas with soil moisture-limited evaporation regimes. Over these areas, the most biased models in the present climate simulate a larger warming in response to climate change which is likely to be overestimated.

If I'm understanding this correctly, when you consider climate models' simulation of clouds and land-atmosphere coupling, the warmer models show the most marked biases against observations.

But don't worry, they are just fine and dandy for informing policymakers.


Inner damage

The Telegraph is carrying an interesting report about an experiment carried out by German researchers, who fired low frequency sound at human subjects to see if they could find an effect on the inner ear.

The physical composition of inner ear was “drastically” altered following exposure to low frequency noise, like that emitted by wind turbines, a study has found.

The research will delight critics of wind farms, who have long complained of their detrimental effects on the health of those who live nearby.

In fairness, the sample size is small - only 21 subjects - but almost all of them exhibited the same reaction, and one gets a warmish feeling from the work because the scientists were measuring a physical effect rather than relying on their subjects' subjective reporting of what they experienced.

Worthy of further research, I would say.


Quote of the day, murderous edition

Via Warwick Hughes comes this award of money from the government of the Australian Capital Territory:

Aspen Island Theatre Company: $18,793 to assist with costs of the creative development of a new theatre work, ‘Kill Climate Deniers’.



Hardtalking with Stern

Nicholas Stern was on the BBC's Hardtalk show, being grilled by Zeinab Badawi about his recent report.

For a BBC journalist, Badawi did not too bad a job of taking potshots at Stern, with ammunition apparently sourced from Richard Tol. I was amused when she called Stern a "climate lobbyist", before correcting herself.

Stern himself was deeply unimpressive, with the mannerisms and delivery of a minor council official rather than a great academic sage and, as Pielke Jr notes on Twitter, constantly resorting to namedropping rather than rational argument.  I was struck also by his allegation that Tol builds his conclusions into his economic models. This struck me as quite a strong thing to say.