Thursday 4 March 2010

Keeping The Lights On: Where Will The Investment Come From ?

Over the last two years or so we've commented several times on just how much £££ (and €€€) will need to be spent on new power plants and other energy infrastructure over the next couple of decades, assuming we don't want the lights to go out. It'll need to be even more - infeasible sums, in fact - if "full de-carbonisation" is to take place by 2050 (© Little Ed Miliband 2009).

Where will it come from ?

In recent days I've been spending time with groups of eager would-be investors. They are dead keen to find ways of investing their large amounts of money that aren't dollar denominated: and they are enthusiastic about the idea of European steel'n'concrete assets in essential sectors like electricity.
They are Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Indian. Some of them are already quietly setting up shop here and staking us out.

There's one problem. They all say they don't like political risk ... and they don't like
unions ! Can't be doing with them.

Unions or electricity ? Electricity or unions ? I wonder what we will decide. How very different the 21st C is going to be.



Mark Wadsworth said...

Hmm. Maybe our benevolent government will magic the money out of thin air?

Anyways, things have come to a pretty pass when we can't even afford to build our own power stations, seeing as it's us lot ultimately paying for them (and rightly so, seeing as we will be using the electricity).

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with unions. Look how they helped moderate pay in Germany to make their country leap ahead in the competitivity stakes.

Even in France we see the bolshy displays in public sector monopoly but union membership runs at one third of the level in the UK and wages have been on hold for years, staff have had to settle for non-wage perks like shorter hours.

It's only in Britain that unions rhyme with chaos, where short termism from unions matches similar behaviour from government and industry alike. Britain is held back by weak institutions, unions are only the reflection of this.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

All too often it's the management who are morons. The unions merely respond in kind.

Bill Quango MP said...

A comrade of Arthur's on R5 yesterday was livid when a caller, another ex mineworker, called Arthur dogmatic.
"He was not. He was a very mild man. He had a very calm temperament and never raised his voice. He was actually very shy. You only see what the media made you see."

"I'm completely convinced that victory is only achieved by militancy... You only get what you are prepared to go and take."

Scargil as a junior union official in 1970.

Anon. It was declining market share and rising inflation that gave the UK its special problems.

Electro-Kevin said...

Here the unions - and politicians -can be unpatriotic. The French and Germans are very proud and defensive of their culture (Though why they are and we are not beats the hell out of me !)

This is because our union leaders are ideologically driven rather than functionally driven. This shows in respective pay packets. There are exceptions such as Aslef (railways) but believe me - where the geographical supply/demand variations kick in wages in the same grade vary by up to 40%.

Anonymous said...

Tilting at windmills:

Demetrius said...

The deadlines have been missed, the lights will be going out. The chap you pictured I believe went into property after his ventures into energy. He was able to use the income streams generated during his time in energy to make his first investments in property.

Nick Drew said...

German unions were specifically cited !

potential Far Eastern investors look at the situation facing the Swedish co Vattenfall, which is now the third largest player in Germany - and under attack from all quarters ...

maybe this is them being "proud and defensive of their culture" but it doesn't encourage inward investment !

rwendland said...

With RWE reporting 2009 electricity generated 10% less than in 2008 due to the recession, and France stuffed to the gills on nuc power, do they really need much more generation capacity in Euroland right now?

Do they have a lot of EU Large Combustion Plant Directive limited coal plant to be replaced?

RWE also says gas sales are 7% down in 2009 on a like-for-like basis.

Maybe Keeping The Lights On won't be as big a new gas plant deal as we think?

Nick Drew said...

Mr W - that would be to overlook the (ostensible) commitment to de-carbonisation, which requires massive electrification of transport (= a big increase in generation required), and complete phasing out of non CC'd coal and gas

and that requires a lot of €€€ of anyone's money !

rwendland said...

ND I don't know much about EU leccy generation, other than the load-following French nucs, so I take your word for it.

But on electrification of transport, assuming you are talking about battery cars, hopefully this will be almost entirely off-peak, possibly at remote controlled times. So won't this mostly increase utilisation of existing plant? Good for base-load profit and possibly tide and wind.

NB I'd hazard a guess you aren't a George Monbiot fan. But read this (and the follow up) for a pleasent surprise. The current feed-in fest does seem to go beyond valid pump-priming into lobbyist power-lunching territory!

Nick Drew said...

Mr W - it's not just transportation, of course, and the modeling shows it will require absolute increases in capacity (though load-factors do increase, as you say)

Monbiot is at least an honest man - see this fairly recent post of mine giving him credit for it !

and on a good day, he's right on the money

(another favourable citing in this venerable oldie that you may recall ...)

Anonymous said...

By the way, South Korea has a very strong union movement and being a democracy it can't simply gun demonstrators down like it did in the 70s and 80s.


rwendland said...

Sorry ND, don't know how I missed that March 2nd post of yours on exactly this. Guess it is to do with two family birhdays last week distracting me from the blogs!