Christina Speight adds:
Writer Christopher Booker here gives all the facts and the figures to highlight just how imminent and utterly disastrous the black-hole of electricity black-outs will be. I say “will” because there is virtually no window left to put it right unless Britain defies the EU and keeps our coal fired stations going and builds new ones too. Getting on with the nuclear programme at great cost is the next priority. Building wind-farms merely wastes money and produces nothing useful !
There was a song in my youth "When the lights go on again, all over the world". By this we meant the street lights , the neon lights - and we meant the end of the war! Now perhaps we should dust that song off again - - - ?
DAILY MAIL 2.9.09
Green zealots and muddled ministers are leading Britain to blackouts
By CHRISTOPHER BOOKER
Power-cut Britain, to anyone who remembers it, will seem utterly antediluvian. It predated home computers and mobile phones, and colour televisions were only then beginning to appear.
Those who were young in the early Seventies will remember poring over their homework by candlelight, and there was a clear division between people who liked the reek of paraffin lamps and people who didn’t. [And those even older will remember that except when under actual attack the lights stayed on throughout the war because people were prepared to ‘take the top brick off the chimney’ to keep them going -cs]
Then, along with the three-day week and crippling industrial disputes, powercut Britain disappeared into the past, never to return. That is, until now.
Once again we are being warned that within a few years this country could be facing its worst wave of power blackouts since those far-off days more than three decades ago — and that even the Government itself now admits these might be inevitable.
For seven years it has been glaringly obvious to energy experts that Britain will soon be facing a colossal energy gap, as the ageing power stations which currently supply 40 percent of our electricity are forced to close down.
Eight of our nine nuclear power plants are coming to the end of their life. And half of our coal and oil-fired power stations are rapidly running out of the hours they are allowed to keep running under the EU’s Large Combustion Plants directive, designed to stop the pollution blamed for acid rain.
By 2015, or even earlier, we shall thus begin to lose two-fifths of our present electricity supply, and the question energy experts are asking is: how do we propose to fill this yawning gap?
Britain faces a colossal energy gap
The seriousness of this cannot be overestimated. Cosy images of candlelit Britain in the Seventies are all very well, but since then we have been through a revolution which makes our society almost wholly dependent on computers.
It is no longer just our lights, cookers, fridges and televisions for which we rely on electricity, but pretty well our entire working lives, from offices, banks, petrol pumps and supermarket tills to traffic lights, railway signals and virtually all our transport system.
The tragedy is that for seven years, politicians of all parties have refused to face up to Britain’s fast-looming energy gap because they have all been bewitched by the great ‘green dream’, that we could somehow save the planet by generating much of our electricity from ‘renewables’, such as building thousands more wind turbines.
In reality this is just makebelieve. The 2,300 turbines so far built in Britain supply barely 1 per cent of our power, less than a single medium-sized conventional power station.
The Government talks about spending £100 billion on building 10,000 more windmills to meet our EU target that within ten years we must generate 32 per cent of our electricity from ‘renewables’. But, first, there is not the remotest chance that we could build three turbines a day between now and 2020.
And, second, even if there were, they would do virtually nothing to close our energy gap, not least because we would need to build a dozen or more conventional power stations just to provide back-up for when the wind is not blowing.
Almost the only politician who realised this was John Hutton, the former energy minister, who last year reversed Government policy by announcing that we needed at least a dozen new nuclear and coal-fired power stations to fill the gap.
As he starkly declared to the 2008 Labour conference: ‘No coal and no nuclear means no power, no future.’
Two weeks later, however, Hutton was moved to another department, and Britain’s energy policy was handed over to Ed Miliband, a ‘green’ zealot in charge of a new ministry ominously named the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Mr Miliband still makes noises about allowing the French and German companies which now dominate our electricity supply industry to build a new generation of nuclear power plants.
But under EU rules they cannot, unlike the wind industry, expect any subsidies, and the chances that any new nuclear plants could be built before 2020 are virtually non-existent.
Wind turbines won't solve the problem
As for new coal-fired power stations, he has decreed that these cannot be built without socalled ‘carbon capture’, piping off their CO2 to bury it in holes in the ground.
Not only would this double the cost of the electricity, but the technology to do it hasn’t even been developed yet.
In other words, Miliband is so obsessed with the need to halt ‘climate change’ that his concern with the ‘energy’ half of his brief — keeping Britain’s lights on — so obviously takes second place that it is scarcely evident at all.
This was glaringly obvious from his recent policy statement on making the ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’: hundreds of pages about how we are going to build windmills and achieve imaginary cuts in our CO2 emissions, but notably short on any practical suggestions as to how we are going to keep our economy running.
From a statement put out by Mr Miliband’s ministry this week, it has become even more obvious that the one thing they hope will save Britain’s electricity supplies from disaster is a scramble to build dozens more gas-fired power stations — just when our own North Sea gas reserves are fast running out.
This means we shall be looking to gas to provide anything up to 80 per cent of our electricity, and the gas will be largely imported from politically unreliable countries such as Russia and Algeria at a time when world gas prices are likely to be soaring.
It is exactly the disastrous scenario which Mr Hutton warned against last year.
Even if, by this extremely risky gamble, we might manage to close the energy gap now fast approaching us, it could only mean a further massive hike in electricity prices, driving millions more into ‘fuel poverty’.
Not for nothing is Mr Miliband also proposing that we should spend £7 billion on fitting every home in the country with what are called ‘smart meters’.
These are two-way devices, connected electronically to our supply company, which would not only allow us to see how much electricity we ourselves are using but would enable the firms to ‘manage demand’ by controlling how much power we receive.
A massive price hike is inevitable
If the power cuts come, this ‘Big Brother in the cupboard’ would allow the firms to ration our electricity use.
And it is revealing that instead of looking to that £7 billion to be spent on two or three new nuclear power stations, the Government prefers a system which would allow the misery of electricity cuts to be spread around in a ‘managed’ fashion.
It is ironic that this week’s stories about the Government admitting that we face the possibility of blackouts should have originated with the Tory Party, whose own energy policy has long been indistinguishable from the Government’s — windmills, ‘carbon capture’, ‘smart meters’ and all.
The truth is that, if David Cameron comes to power in nine months’ time, there will be no bigger headache confronting him than how to avoid precisely the disaster which his spokesman was yesterday warning about.
If there is one issue to which he and his colleagues should now be giving their fullest attention it is how to keep Britain’s lights on without prices going through the roof.
And that will mean abandoning a lot of that childish Milibandian make-believe which now threatens us with as great a crisis as any our politicians have ever landed us with.