Tag Archives: energy

Electric Avenue

On Friday the man behind electric vehicle maker Tesla, Elon Musk, launched the long-awaited Model 3 – the zero-carbon economy car for the masses. Tesla-3A-300And it looks good from the publicity shots even if the stark dashboard – just a single screen – may not appeal to all the target buyers. With a starting price of $35,000 it should sell well in states like California especially since Tesla claim to have over 500,000 advance orders already.

Meanwhile in the UK the Government announced that they intend to stop the sales of diesel and petrol motor cars by 2040. So giving the UK’s motorists 23 years to change the habits of several lifetimes. This story made the headlines in the news bulletins yet few in the media (or the Government) seem to thought through what such a change would mean in reality.

When the issue was raised of where all the electricity would come from to power the vehicles the studio expert said it was not such a big problem as most people would want to recharge their cars overnight when other demand was low. Then the issue of where to plug-in was raised and the suggestion was that lamp posts could be equipped as charging points.

Now both of these answers are totally impractical yet they are just a couple of superficial issues. The bigger issues include – what tax will replace the millions-per-day in duty and VAT on petrol and diesel that funds so much Government spending? Who will fund the upgrading of the power distribution network that runs to every street sub-station and home? With at least forty cars just in Grandad’s short street the overnight charging load would be too great for the existing cabling to handle. Digging up roads and erecting more pylons seems unavoidable.

Renault-TwizyOf course the Government will attempt to use legislation to make the ill-considered plan work – with their usual limited effectiveness. They may, for example, limit the size of the electric vehicle we can own according to perceived need – with singles being limited a micro-car and four-seaters being reserved for families of four, etc. Anyone with unused seats in their vehicle will be surcharged.

Even our public services will not be exempt with police, fire and ambulance vehicles included in the fossil-fuel ban.

Renault-Twizy17And some enterprising car makers are already on the case … as you can see in this shot of a Renault ambulance [This is a real vehicle – not a Photoshop creation!]

The only bright spot for anyone who believes that switching to a more economical petrol car now would be just as effective, cheaper and quicker to implement is knowledge of politicians’ previous track records. Take, for example the Government plan to make all new homes zero-carbon by 2016. It turned out to be totally ineffective .. like the various carbon-trading schemes and misguided incentives in Northern Ireland.

Best to leave engineering to engineers and for politicians to stick to politics …

Are We There Yet?

This year was going to be the year of the smart meter for energy suppliers. And as Grandad reported in August the Smart Data Communications network was due to be declared live last Friday. However no announcement has appeared on the company’s website and Which? are exclusively reporting that the live date has slipped again.

Newsman1_160Now Grandad is not recommending that anyone opts for a smart meter anytime soon. So this delay should not cause any direct concerns. In fact each delay gives the top level policy makers that extra bit of time to reconsider the scope of the EU-directed grand plan.

But the network will surely go live soon and then the energy companies will renew their efforts to convince us that smart meters are good for us. Even if the current Mark 1 meters do not allow you to switch suppliers later. But one thing that the Which? report did not say is that this network live date is only for Version 1.2 of the network. It really needs to have the extra functionality of Version 1.3 and that is not promised until the end of November 2016. Or rather it was promised for then before the latest slippage. So it looks like 2016 will slip away before the network is actually fully functional .. no surprises there I guess.

Monster Vac

Spotted on Smart Energy GB website – Case study: Ian Roberts, Crook, County Durham … We had our smart meter fitted in August 2015. It was really straightforward – done within an hour. Since we both work from home, we saw that our kettle, which we used to boil up to 20 times a day, caused a clear spike on our usage graph.
I did a bit of research and invested in a thermal hot water boiler, which insulates your water once it’s hot. It uses a fraction of the wattage, so there are no more spikes, and we have hot water waiting for us when we get up!
The vacuum cleaner was next. We discovered that our old one used 22,000 watts and would have been banned under EU regulations. So we replaced it with a new hoover that uses just 485 watts – it barely makes a mark on our graph …

Cunning_Plan_160Dear Smart Energy Marketing Team – Are really sure about that 22 kilowatt figure? Domestic power points normally have no higher than 30 amp rating – so have an absolute maximum of 7.2 kilowatt (or 7,200 watts) for powering anything. But then being energy experts you would know that already.
Now if that old vac really did consume 22,000 watts then the house wiring must have been glowing red hot and the meter would be off the scale. More likely your blurb has exaggerated Mr Roberts’ usage by a factor of 10. Or was that just a part in some cunning plan?

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.

Back Again

With all our correspondents in winter hibernation nothing has appeared here for weeks. But now the first signs of Spring mean there is some renewed activity.

Heckerslyke_160First up the benefits of last year’s reduction in petrol prices have worked through to the national inflation figures – providing headlines such as UK inflation rate falls to record low of 0.3% in January. That’s good news – but perhaps not quite as good as it could have been. Take our cousins in Australia. They have seen a similar reduction in pump prices. And they buy their oil on the world market just like the UK. However today the typical Australian unleaded fill-up costs around $1.20/litre (62.8p/litre). And this is a big increase over the sub $1 prices they had in January. Just imagine how similar prices here in the Uk would boost the local economy. And give the rest of the world one less reason to think we’re all stupid to pay so much ..

Man1Sticking with fuel costs it seems strange that we are still paying high prices for domestic gas despite cost reductions at source. But these continued high prices may make switching away from gas into a viable choice – even for cooking and central heating. Now it’s doubtful that serious foodies would volunteer to stop using gas for cooking but all fans of burning hydrocarbons do face trouble ahead.

As you may have noticed the massive amounts being spent on green energy are almost exclusively aimed at producing electricity. Few, if any, are trying to provide gas for the domestic grid. The obvious conclusion is that one day our domestic gas supply will cease – either to meet green energy targets or when there are too few gas consumers to cover the costs of supporting the grid. With the government being keen to promote their green credentials, and signing up to some difficult targets, the writing is on the wall for CO2 creators like fossil fuels. In other words the question has become when rather than if. You have been warned.

ps The slow-witted politicians and public service will, most likely, press ahead with replacing all our working gas meters with smart meters even if domestic gas supplies are to be phased out before the project is complete.

Not So Smart

TSomeMothers1his month has seen a renewed media prominence for the UK Government’s smart energy metering plans – for example the BBC giving another news slot for the body charged with its introduction. And so far these plans seem to be taking the normal route of a poor analysis of the costs / benefits followed by a total blanking of anyone that does accept the Ministry’s conclusions.

But where did this mad scheme to scrap millions of working gas and electricity meters for no guaranteed benefit come from? It would be easy to blame Ed Miliband – since it was he that produced the UK plans in 2010 when Energy Secretary.

However it was not entirely his own idea. It actually came from the EU. Under their Third Energy Package (2009) member states (we prefer to call them countries) were required to undertake a cost benefit analysis of smart meter roll-out and submit the results to the EU Commission by 2012.

Countries that have actually done this analysis found insufficient benefits in around one third of the studies covering electricity metering and two-thirds of those covering gas metering. The big undecided was Germany. However they have now given a maybe response with Germany officials stating that the EU proposal would be inadvisable. Because installation costs would be greater than achievable energy savings for those users with low power consumption – in other words the typical Grandad. And this is exactly the same conclusion reached by many in Britain who are already very careful with their energy usage.

No amount of tariff searching and supplier swapping will avoid the fact that the cost of smart meters will be added to everyones’ bills. The careful user – who probably already has an electricity usage monitor and submits regular readings online – will see their efforts to reduce bills reversed by tariff increases they did not want, need or deserve.

There are, of course, plenty of opponents of the scheme – for example Stopsmartmeters.org.uk – but there is a danger that their arguments will drift away from the failures in the cost / benefit analysis onto less certain issues such as the possible health effects of wi-fi radiation.

So does the muddled mind of Frank Spencer live on in our esteemed Government and its civil servants? Yes, Minister.

For a more see the 2013 article at The Register.


Go Fast .. Go Slow We’ve had plans to make our motorways to go faster, then to go slower and now to go neither faster nor slower. Today press reports lead with – Controversial ‘green’ plans to lower motorway speed limits to 96km/h [our conversion from mph] in a bid to cut pollution levels from cars are to be scrapped by ministers. Grandad’s previous comment that our civil servants and politicians don’t know what they are doing almost all of the time still applies.

Juncker To Lead The Euroreich No Matter What? Grandad was wrong. The EU does not have two presidents – it has three. We missed out the lower-profile President of the European Parliament. A post that was held by Germany’s Martin Schulz up to last month. But as a result of the recent EU protest vote the newly appointed president for the next term is .. Martin Schulz. And it almost goes without saying that J-C Junker did get the top job after a nominal vote.

Smart Meters It is now a year since British Gas launched its advertising campaign to convince customers that their new smart meters were a big consumer benefit. And today the BBC were giving air time to the MD of the organisation promoting their national rollout. Another We know what’s best for you scheme that is due to be pushed out by the government this week. This time the cost is quoted as being £200 per household – rather than the estimated £390 before. But somehow the national total is still around £11,000 million.

Looking beyond the headlines you find that the meters will be at least £200 per household. For anyone with both gas and electricity and with existing meters in separate cabinets then they will clearly need two smart meters – even if one is only a slave to the main unit. So then the cost may well double up. Also the new meters need electrical power to operate, unlike current gas meters, so will need a water-proofed mains supply to be installed.

A former electricity company director was quoted today as saying: the smart meter rollout bears all the hallmarks of the next great government IT crash. But the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change [snappy job title] gave the view that smart meters will give consumers control over their energy use and help them reduce their bills. Which is the key justification for this mad scheme to go ahead.

Civil servants claim that there will be £17,100 million in benefits for consumers and suppliers. Clearly there are savings for the suppliers when they make their meter reading staff redundant. But the soft savings from getting consumers to use less energy are totally wishful thinking. And so far out of the 19 countries that have done gas meter trials 12 have failed to make any overall savings. So shooting are rather large hole in the scheme’s economic case.

However smart meters could become more acceptable now that Sir Bob Give-Us-Your-Money Geldof has been hired to push the scheme. And his fee should certainly pay all his energy bills for years to come – so that’s at least one satisfied customer. Only another 30 million households to go …

Bright Sparks

StreetLightCouncils are complaining about their street lighting electricity bills  – with one claiming an increase from around £1m in 2004/05 to an estimated £6m in 2015/16. Meantime the UK government has a mandatory “Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme” [great title!] that forces large-scale energy users to purchase CO2 allowances [who said you can’t tax the air that we breathe?].

For councils this is, of course, a charge by one taxpayer-funded body on another taxpayer-funded body. In this example it means that the council expects to buy around £400,000 of allowances from the Treasury; probably the source of the council money originally. Perhaps politicians can now create an even more complicated scheme to rebate these charges for any needy councils? It all helps keep the paper pushers – and politicians – employed after all.

However some councils seem less concerned about doing anything practical. For example, turning off the daytime street lighting in Grandad’s local area.

Now it could be that the lights are expensive to re-programme – but if the council are happy to consume this electricity 24 hours per day then perhaps they should let our local electrician divert it into some senior’s homes instead.