Progress But No Improvement

Back in February Grandad posted that 2016 could be the year of the smart meter for the UK. It all depended upon some new technology due mid-year.

Gaz_Leccy2Well mid-year as come and gone but there are signs that next month could actually see the delivery of the essential glue for this massive project – the data network. This is the means by which energy companies link to each other and their customers. The latest prediction is that the network will be operational by the end of September. However the men from the ministry were still predicting a mid-August start right up to … mid-August.

So progress is promised real soon – but sadly there are no signs of any improvement to what the entire scheme will actually achieve. Crucially it will still add over £11,000 million to the UK’s energy administration overheads. Making it a nice little earner for the company getting the implementation contract but for no one else. This massive additional cost is predicted to save just 2% on an average household’s bills – and increase the costs for the others in order to pay for it.

What seems like ages ago the Institute of Directors issued a report suggesting changes to Whitehall’s grand plan that would achieve the same result but for much less expense. In summary these were –

* Exclude gas meters from the deployment – since almost all future green energy will come as electricity not gas. Leaving working gas meters unchanged will save billions.

* Send the meter readings to customers’ existing phones, tablets or PCs – rather than requiring additional, and relatively expensive, dedicated displays.

* Exclude tower block customers from the scheme – since the proposed system will struggle to cope with dense high-rise dwellings.

* Limit the smart meter roll-out to homes with high energy usage since they could reduce their consumption the most – as is planned for smart meters in Germany.

* Make smart meters available at cost to those customers that want them – rather than being subsidised by everyone through increased energy charges. The current plans will hit the poorest / most careful customers the hardest.

Whether the new faces in Government will take their brief window of opportunity to re-evaluate smart meters (or at least check their basic financial assumptions) is unclear. But it does seem that there are too many expensive projects around and too few sources of taxation to come anywhere close to paying for them – even before Brexit entered the equation.

In The Land That Time Forgot

While most of our elected representatives have been on family holidays or important overseas study tours a few have been busy jostling for leadership of the Labour Party.

Anton_Deck_300A contest that seems to have become a contest between old labour and even-older labour policies. In fact one of the few modern elements has been the repeat of Ed Milliband’s ill-fated strap line – Your Next Prime Minister. Otherwise it was the familiar messages about renationalisation, stopping privatisation and spending money that we don’t have.

But looking at the two candidates it is hard to imagine either of them ever being put in a position to implement any of their declared policies. One seemingly out of touch with anything outside his dogmatic bubble throughout the last forty years. [Who is Anton Deck? Was something on in Rio?] While the other is apparently unaware that it was strongly Labour constituencies – including his own – that were most in favour of Brexit and who is now calling for delays and a second referendum.

So once this contest is over the Labour Party will have gained many more activist members – but in Parliament it will still be lacking the influence its numbers should command. So then we are left hoping that the Conservative Party takes decisions that meet the voters’ mandate and protect the nation’s interests; while resisting the vested interests of lobbyists with deep pockets.

But that may be a little too much to hope for …

Not So New

Over the past few weeks some Grandads have reported spotting a newspaper on sale that brought back memories from twenty or more years ago.

Robert_Maxwell_European1The European was launched by Robert Maxwell in May 1990 with the aim of being the paper for supporters of the integration of Europe. Much the same aim as The New European except now the language used is much more cosmopolitan – a pop-up newspaper for a zeitgeist moment in British political and social history … with an enthusiasm and love for Europe … that gives voice to the values of the 48%.

Now this first European did get good initial support; reaching a circulation of over 200,000 by early 1991. But sales started to slide as interest in matters across the Channel faded. Then by the end of that year Maxwell was dead and his empire in tatters. New owners took it on-board in 1992 but by December 1996 it had accumulated reported losses of £50m. It struggled on until December 1998 when its last issue carried the ironic front page leader – Europe aims to be superpower of the 21st century.

The first time around many who are now Grandads thought that One money for Europe was a good idea, along with customs-free travel, unrestricted trade and common standards. But seeing how a federalist clique has taken the reigns of political power since then has changed enough minds for them now to be in the 52% majority.

It will be interesting to see how long the New European survives beyond the ripples from its zeitgeist moment. But it seems unlikely to attract much in the way of subscriptions from those with memories of that, much more appealing, earlier European dream.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Trust me. Neither me nor my French and Chinese colleagues have ever considered putting personal gain before public service and Britain’s best strategic interests. TrustMeNuclear2These stories that our proposed nuclear power plant is unproved, vastly over-priced and will never reach its claimed capacity are just scare stories put out by aging hippies with scrambled brains.

These stupid people are making all sorts of ridiculous claims – such as the company is in a very precarious financial situation with €37 billion of debt. This figure may be correct but the company has the total support of the French Government. And, yes, the fall in energy prices has reduced our revenues – but luckily for our bonuses there are no falls in prices on this one. We got the naive customer to agree a high fixed price contract before the market tanked. Sure the company will be spending €50 billion upgrading its old reactors- but with Chinese cash and smart meters in UK homes the money will be rolling in.

In fact the biggest problem with UK government’s delay in signing the nuclear power deal is that I have had to put my yacht order on hold and may now miss that extended winter break in the Caribbean. It’s just so inconvenient …

News Selections

It’s summer – the schools are closed, families are on holiday, politics is off the boil, artists and critics are in Edinburgh and, this year, the top sports personalities and their followers are in Rio. All of this is reflected in the stories that made it through the selection process and into the mass media this week.

From today, for example, we have the BBC handling multiple, live Olympic sports streams from Rio (on a four hour time difference) while also covering the hundreds of events that make up the ever-growing Edinburgh Arts Festival. And it is hard to work out if the BBC sports reporter from the Look North studios is in Rio because there is a shortage of BBC staff available for Brazil – or because money is still no object for the corporation.

DExpress_Heatwave1In politics time is ticking away since the surprise Brexit vote and it looks like August will pass without any meaningful progress. That could be a good sign that more planning is taking place. However it could also mean that we are simply seeing a political replay of the Battle of the Somme. With the opposing sides making no headway for month after month while both suffering massive losses. Others say this is just a phoney war – a lull before the real conflict where nothing much changes. Either way it seems that the destiny of the nation still hangs in the balance.

At least the Daily Express maintained a degree of normality by today publishing yet another one of its wildly-unscientific weather forecasts …