After years of misinformation and delusion, it is good to report that the enviro-energy lobby has essentially given up pretending the UK can meet its fatuous renewables targets. Formerly, the wind lobby in particular was keen to assert that wind farms could bridge the gap between where we are heading on current trends, and keeping the lights on post 2015. But now, Miliband has
“...asked officials to draw up a new coal plan to meet conflicting warnings about global warming emissions and a looming gap in Britain's energy supplies when old coal and nuclear plants are closed in the next decade”
This is because he has been advised, correctly, that otherwise the lights will indeed frequently be flickering, and periodically going out altogether. (It is to his credit that he even cares about this, because the chances of his being in power at the time – pun intended - don’t seem terribly good.)
He’ll discover – if anyone’s willing to tell him the truth - that renewables cannot, in any circumstances (even with the precipitate collapse in industrial electricity demand), fit the bill. This means, inter alia, there is no chance whatever of the UK meeting its ‘obligations’ either on GHG emissions or on renewables as an end in themselves. Even George Monbiot now recognises this. Of course, this will not stop the renewables lobby redoubling its demands for ever greater subsidy, but it ought to stop them getting it.
All over Europe the same penny is dropping. In Germany, as soon as the next election is safely over and Merkel no longer needs a coalition, she will be ditching their accelerated decommissioning programme for old nukes. This, incidentally, offers hilarious prospects: the old generation of lib-lefties consider the Atomkraft? Nein, Danke! campaign their major achievement in life – and they are all coming up to retirement age, with nothing better to occupy their days than reprising their finest hours on the picket-lines.
This gives Germany a very cheap way out of the bind, because their nukes really can have their lives prolonged at relatively low cost. Ours can’t. But the same thought-process raises the interesting question as to whether some of the old coal plants across the whole of Europe, currently scheduled to be closed under the EC’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (hence the looming shortfall in capacity), can have their lives extended.
My hunch is that it wouldn’t be particularly cheap, because the plants earmarked several years ago for closure under the LPCD won’t have had much more than essential maintenance carried out on them for quite a while. This tends to have a self-fulfilling result. But it could be quicker and cheaper than new-build – and very much so versus the timetable and cost for carbon-capturing plant, the latest fantasy-fiction.
Look forward to a decade of vehement, probably violent anti-coal protests. Arthur Scargill, eat your heart out.