Unless you have studied the Second World War it is becoming increasingly unlikely that you will have even heard of Martin Bormann. In summary he was a dedicated Nazi party member who worked his way up the ranks until by 1933 he was chief of staff to Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess. By 1935 he had become Hitler’s personal secretary. When Hess flew to Britain he became the Deputy with control of all areas of government. He stayed in Hitler’s inner circle until bitter end. It was not until 1972 that his remains were uncovered during construction work near Berlin’s Lehrter station. He has since been called the secret administrator of the Third Reich.
Now we have another Martin that has gained great political influence though insider dealing with the party in power. Except this time it was through being first campaign manager and then chief of staff to the European Commission president, J-C Juncker. A post which enabled him to exercise control over his leader. However Juncker’s term as president will end in June 2019. In response Selmayr positioned himself as the sole candidate for the post of secretary-general. A position that he gained after performing so well as deputy secretary-general. Not too difficult – since he had only been appointed to that post less than ten minutes before.
Initially this blatant nepotism was deemed valid by the Commission but in recent weeks there has been growing pressure to rerun the entire appointment process. However the chances are that this will lead to the same result – with Juncker and Selmayr being absolved of any malpractice. And so us commoners will be given another large squirt of air freshener to hide the stink coming from the Brussels swamp. But one day the monster will have to be slayed ..
Apparently we are braced for chilling temperatures and heavy snowfall … as the so-called Beast from the East batters the UK. Even though there were few signs today that any of the local supermarkets were experiencing a run on provisions. And few seemed to think anything special was needed to tide us through the possible travel disruptions and power cuts.
Being Britain there will of course be some extreme reactions in both directions; with shorts still being seen outside in tough areas and airlines being forced to cancel flights at airports with no snow. Meanwhile the media will be getting their reporters to the regular vantage points so that they can paint as black a picture as possible for their next edition.
For those Grandads that have seen all this – and worse – before the plan will be to be make the best of the situation – stay warm and have a nice cup of tea. Assuming that the country still has enough working power stations to keep the home fires burning …
Anyone involved in commercial computer systems will be familiar with the use of batteries to protect against power cuts. But today sees an agreement to provide stand-by battery power on a much bigger scale.
The city of Adelaide and indeed the whole state of South Australia is confirmed as going ahead with a scheme to install an array of lithium ion batteries linked to wind turbines.
This 100MW Tesla system is the world’s largest battery backup installation to date and should provide the state with some much needed reliability of supply. The hope is that the system will add some stability to the state’s famously temperamental electricity supplies before the expected peak demands around Christmas and New Year.
South Australia has plenty of sunshine and millions of hectares of land with little commercial or residential value so wind and solar farms face few obstacles. Which are much needed given that the state’s coal-fuelled power station stopped generation last year and is now being demolished.
So what does that tell us in the UK? Well even a 100MW system would not cover much of the UK’s daily demand and its $A33 million cost would not have any obvious savings elsewhere. However our lack of new power sources plus an increasing population means that the UK is likely to face power cuts eventually – even allowing for the promised savings of smart meters. Consumers in Adelaide already know that smart meters do little to reduce demand but do add to the total cost of the service. But here planners seem to have a strategy based upon hopes rather than reliable forecasts. And if the French Government changes its mind about funding British nuclear power stations then it may well be lights out for all of us.
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.
Well 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.
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. These 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 …
In a classic piece of bad timing last week saw several announcements that were not intended to be connected. First came the announcement that Eggborough Power Station would close – due to the effects of the UK’s carbon tax. You may not have heard of Eggborough but it produces around 4% of the UK’s electricity. This is not the first power station to close, of course. Blowing up power station cooling towers has been a popular attraction in Britain for decades. But Eggborough does come very soon after the closures of Longannet in Fife and Ferrybridge C in Yorkshire. [And the closure of the last deep coal mine due to a lack of UK contracts.]
Then, just one day later, came the announcement that the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point would not meet its 2023 target start date. The fact that no other nuclear power stations will come on stream this decade makes the UK look very vulnerable for years ahead.
Also last week Drax and Infinis Energy announced they had initiated judicial review proceedings against the Treasury over its decision to end certain subsidies to renewable energy firms. Since these are worth around £5 million per month to Drax that could become a critical case. Drax is another major generator providing around 7% of the UK capacity. Making it uneconomical to run would be a big loss.
But further checking around reveals that our lack of electricity is not just a longer-term problem. There is a real prospect that the winter of 2016-17 will see UK demand exceed the total available supply. And not just the normal daily supply but our maximum generating capacity with all power stations running at their peak output. Parts of Britain would then become, quite literally, powerless.
So the prospect of Grandads moving somewhere warm for the winter may switch from a nice-to-have to essential for survival … in just over one year’s time!
Back in October 2012 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU for creating peace in Europe. A prestigious accolade that somehow seemed to blank out the estimated 100,000 Europeans that died in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990’s.
Then in February 2014 the German Foreign Minister warned that the rise of Eurosceptic parties was a worrying development threatening the EU – an organisation that had helped keep peace for the past 50 years. He equated those against the gradual federation of Europe as supporters of the type of nationalism which caused the First World War. [A bit rich coming from Germany!]
Now we have the 70th anniversary of America and Britain risking all by fighting to free France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, etc from their German overlords. They fought and died to re-establish the freedom of the European nation states. And since 1945 well over a million British and American service personnel have kept serving in mainland Europe. Clearly they have provided the basis for peace in Europe for decades. Decades before the EU was even created. In fact it was only after the EU arrived, in 1992, that the mass slaughter in the former states of the Yugoslavia occurred. All observed but not prevented by a totally inept EU administration.
But the big problem is not so much that this EU spin is trying to re-write history but that is setting the direction of future policies and actions. If you believe the myth that the EU is the only guarantor of everlasting peace in Europe then you will act on it. Hence EU politicians are pushing ahead with plans to expand into Eastern Europe in order to bring their peace and prosperity to more countries. Yet this is the same line that was used in Third Reich propaganda to bring peace and prosperity to Europe in 1939.
Perhaps nationalism is not such a bad idea – given the alternative on offer.
There is still no announcement yet from the government on whether to scrap FM radio in favour of outdated DAB technology. Something that has been planned by our political masters for some time – but purely in our own best interests you understand (Pull the other one!). So instead we have another improvement for us plebs from those that function on a higher state of consciousness – smart meters.
The plan is to replace every gas and electricity meter with ones that will monitor – and control – how much you use; at what cost. This idea will end up costing someone around £11,700 million – since the idea is to convert all the 30 million or so homes in the UK. Your existing meters will, of course, be redundant but there may be a few million pounds to be made from the mountain of scrap metal produced (so much for green policies). Even so that still works out at around £390 per household – and guess who will be paying directly or indirectly (clue – it’s not the energy company shareholders).
So what will you get for your £390 non-optional extra? A nice little display that shows you how much money you are spending. According to the government’s advisors this display will then change your behaviour so that you use less energy. In fact they have calculated that smart meters will enable families to save as much as £3 per household in 2015; possibly rising to £40 per year by 2030. Yes that’s the deal – spend £390 now and save £3 or more in future years. However even some of the politicians doubt that there will be any savings for the public – especially when many families already have energy monitors and regularly supply their meter readings online. [ps these energy monitors cost more like £39 rather than £390]
Now many Grandads will know from past experiences that any scheme that wants a large up-front payment on the promise of possible savings later is best avoided – if given a choice.
|Germany Does It Better
|Following on from two new coal-fuelled power stations in 2012, six more are due to open in Germany this year. They will have a combined capacity of 5800MW, enough to provide 7% of all Germany’s electricity needs.
When you include the plants coming on stream this year, 12 coal power stations are due to be generating by 2020. Along with the two opened last year in Neurath and Boxberg, they will be capable of supplying 19% of the country’s power.
So who actually wants this – and why? Well, poor national planning means that the UK is facing the prospect of energy shortages not far in the future. With no new nuclear power stations under construction and a Government obsessed with stopping all coal powered electricity generation, the future does indeed look bleak.
So the planned meters will make it possible for the energy suppliers to charge variable hourly rates – and any power shortages could (certainly would) be used to justify much higher prices at peak times. A bit like rail tickets. Cheap gas at 3am on Wednesdays in July or expensive electricity for cooking the Christmas turkey – no problem. And if you don’t pay up the meter will be able to cut-off your supply without anyone even having visit. Plus the energy companies will, of course, also avoid having to employ meter readers. That’s another saving for them – and an extra bill for us through extra tax to cover the unemployment created.
There is, of course, that much hyped illusion of choice – where you can switch to another energy supply if you are not happy. But when all retailers are using smart meters and getting their gas / electricity from the same producers that won’t make more than a marginal difference.
So what are the alternatives for cash-strapped pensioners (or indeed anyone without a city trader salary)? Move to Germany. If not there then to anywhere warm that is not corrupt / facing financial collapse. Finally go north – since if Alex Salmond is to be believed there will be an abundance of energy in an independent Scotland after a Yes vote in 2014.
It’s nearly two months since the previous energy generation posting – and it’s still snowing here – so our consumption of gas and electricity is unabated. And even though the government seems prepared to spend £34,000 million on high-speed railway lines – there are still no firm plans to build the power stations needed to keep the nation’s lights on; or even power the proposed high-speed trains.
Back down at Grandad level the idea of a community wind generator has been shot-down by a combination of cost, risk and a lack of belief. So with wind, water and solar all dismissed what’s left? The only remaining option seems to be – use less energy. And for the average home this, most likely, leaves just the option of improving insulation and using lower energy appliances.
Moving to a more efficient home is the alternative. And, ideally, all new homes now on the market should have a low, or even zero, carbon footprint. Back in 2006 the UK Government announced plans to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016. The plans aimed to encourage property developers to improve the energy efficiency of buildings as well as providing designs that minimised energy consumption. And Gordon Brown stated that it would eventually become compulsory for new buildings to be zero carbon and that the UK would be leading the way in the take-up of green homes.
But six years into this ten year plan and a trip around any new housing development will show little sign of homes being any nearer to zero than in 2006. In fact developers seem obsessed by reducing the physical footprint of our homes rather than taking steps to improve their carbon footprint. Instead they have directed their energies into lobbying the government for watered down targets.
We are not, it seems, waiting for any new technology to make low-energy homes available to the mass market – but it does seem that developers consider energy-efficiency not to be a good enough selling point. So it’s likely that the government’s lofty ideals will get no further than to a few more regional conferences – and lots more hot air.