Friday 16 September 2022

Truss' energy package: unintended consequences ahoy!

It's a bit difficult to be definitive on the new PM's 'energy price guarantee' package, because "details are awaited".   The Funeral is the pretext, but actually of course they're making it up as they go along.

So: politics first.  She has to do something extraordinary, or she'll be defenestrated by poll-tax style riots before Xmas.  As has always been the case, announcements like this shut Starmer up immediately - he never knows what to say.  All the commentary has essentially been technical, save for a little peep of "it's not progressive - the wicked rich benefit too": true, but since all eyes are on the Bier, that's not getting any traction.  

We might also note that Truss obviously considers it politically unacceptable to announce any form of rationing.  it's gonna happen anyway (and we know the Grid already has the power to do it unilaterally), so I think this mealy-mouthed cowardice is stupid.   The time to ready the populace for what's to befall is right now, as Macron is doing quite purposefully.

As regards the economics, not that I'm your man here and we look to CU for more; but quite obviously, in the short term the package does almost nothing to increase supply, and not much that I can see to curtail demand (no mention of rationing or compulsory reductions in usage).  So the fundamental issue - i.e. this is a genuine (if artificial, as regards Putin's actions) global supply crisis - is being glossed over:  it's been decided the state will underwrite whatever the energy is going to cost.  So the first big takeaway is: cost-push inflation will go roaring on.

What about spontaneous demand-side response?  Industry will certainly retreat in the face of even the newly capped level of price it's paying: some of this might be in the shape of a bit of efficiency, but mostly it will be outright demand destruction (or 'demand export' - to N.America, which won't be suffering so badly).  Likewise, even at the capped level, which is 'merely' twice last year's rather than three times, residential energy consumers will definitely use less.  I don't think anyone knows by how much domestic demand will fall - some of it has historically been totally inelastic, but we may find that changes.  Again, some of this will be efficiency (and putting on a jumper) but for sure, problems of illness and damp will arise over time.  The housing stock won't benefit at all, and nor will sickly people.   

All that said, my best guess is that rationing will still be required, certainly if anything like the Beast from the East (meteorological beast, that is) comes along, or even its small brother.  This is an outright, absolute energy commodity shortfall, with Europe being as badly affected as any region.

I'm disinclined to bang on about too many of the details just now, because we await so many more.  Likewise, the longer-term aspects (North Sea licensing, fracking, nukes) designed to improve supply are for another day, in every sense**.  I will say, however, that there is to be a 'commercial' strand of activity undertaken, as Truss favours buying out the generating sector windfalls with secure long term offtake contracts (on a voluntary, negotiated basis!) instead of windfall-taxing them.  This is really stupid, in my judgement.  Any ideological resistance to windfall-taxing has long since lost its virginity; and the idea that the civil service is up to this 'commercial' task flies in the face of all experience.

Jury is out: but on this and indeed the whole complex package, I'm not even slightly confident a Truss / Kwarteng government is up to the task either.  It's just so big.  As is the parallel EU effort, by the way (and over there, it's very fraught politically, too: and their grasp of how markets work is really awful).  In both cases, there will turn out to be equally big gaps; and overall, the unintended consequences will be legion.



** ditto the global aspects of the crisis, of which there are many


Jeremy Poynton said...

Looking forward to the cap on heating oil. Lils was talking to someone the other day, heating engineer of some sort; he said he had had to cap off 50 boilers in the previous week; house had run out of oil, could not afford more, and the boilers are very dangerous in this situation it seems.

But then, no government of any hue gives a toss about rural poverty.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pilkington, whose essays in The Critic (an online magazine I regularly frequent, having struck up a friendship with one of their reviewers, one Michael Henderson, whose book on the death of English cricket as folks of our age know it - add to that, he's a Northerner, a Man City & Lancashire CC fan - "And That Will Be England Gone: The Last Summer of Cricket" so delighted me I wrote to him via his publisher and have since struck up an irregular correspondence on matters from Football, Cricket, Classical Music and the Grateful Dead :-)) regularly reviews BBC Radio

Anyway, another short essay from Mr. Pilkington can be found at the Daily Sceptic


Sobers said...

" but quite obviously, in the short term the package does almost nothing to increase supply, and not much that I can see to curtail demand "

seems to be rather at odds with

" Likewise, even at the capped level, which is 'merely' twice last year's rather than three times, residential energy consumers will definitely use less."

There's no great need for the government to worry about curtailing demand, doubling the price of something (especially as basic an item as energy) is going to do that for them. I've already managed to virtually halve my electric consumption, I'm sure I'm not the only one going around my house working out what is necessary and what isn't. And they'll be plenty of demand curtailing in the hospitality sector come winter - no-one's going to have any money to going out eating and drinking so pubs and restaurants will be closing in droves. Ditto many small retail outlets, even larger ones too I suspect. If they manage to stay in business shops won't open all day everyday, shorter hours and days not open at all will be the order of the day.

Caeser Hēméra said...

With businesses, I've already seen a few food spots simply move to working from their domestic kitchen to avoid uncapped prices, and with the cap a lot of places are going to be thrilled to promote WFH again.

On the flip side, businesses that can soak up the energy prices are going to promote the office as the cheaper option. Finding somewhere in a city with lots of empty lower level office space and bringing in a couple of second hand washing machines and dryers could be quite the profitable side hustle...

I reckon cash businesses will do quite well too, a lot of local Chinese chip shops are still cash only, and for good reason. In the 80s, the father of a friend of mine used to buy any big ticket items with bags of cash due the general rule of only every other sale being put on the books.

I've a feeling Truss will luck out too - does it strike any of us that it is skill that has taken her so far? - with a mild winter, and we'll do the Great British Muddle Through.

djm said...

the unintended consequences will be legion......

Governments : can't live with them, maybe its time to live without them

DJK said...

Anon: Thanks for the link to the new piece by Philip Pilkington.

People say that Kwasi Katang is a deep thinker, but the only action he seems to have taken so far, to encourage economic growth, is to propose removing the cap on bankers' bonuses.


Apart from the terrible optics of making the rich even richer during a Winter of power cuts, gas rationing and factory closures, does anybody seriously think that great swathes of the country are being held back because city traders are having limits placed on their bonuses?

Caeser Hēméra said...

On the demand curtailment, agree with Sobers on this one.

We can afford the bump, but, not being stupid, we're being more careful with usage as I'd rather have beer tokens than not.

There've been a couple of articles in the Speccie stating that market forces should just let rip and that'd fix the demand issue. They obviously get paid enough for the articles that inflation is mere detail to their bank accounts.

For the mere mortals, demand across the board is already changing regardless of if they're on bennos or in the upper echelons of the middle classes. My Ocado app, usually fairly quiet, has over the last fortnight been hyperactive in telling me of offers galore, which sounds like a lot of their customers are heading to cheaper alternatives (in many cases, we are)

Nick Drew said...

CH - There've been a couple of articles in the Speccie stating that market forces should just let rip and that'd fix the demand issue. They obviously get paid enough for the articles that inflation is mere detail to their bank accounts

Exactly: "let it rip" in these circumstances is political naivety of an extreme kind. For ordinary folks by the million, 2x price will have them doing everything they can to save energy. 3X is just piling on the agony - with very direct political consequences. They can tip a government out quicker than the supposed new "economic equilibrium" comes into play. See Poll Tax 1990: a crazy 'purist' theory from Speccie-type clubmen Tories, which "could have worked [whatever 'worked' might mean], given time" ... except, errr, in the Real World, it didn't: ask Maggie, or Portillo.

(Rather like saying "don't hedge against extreme prices, because on average you're better off not hedging". Or "it's cheaper to self-insure". These crass arguments only work, if at all, for a putative AAA-rated company. For everyone else, the downside can kill you stone dead quicker than the benefits will come around to "average" things out.

And I'm not sure even the nihilists and Nietzscheans of the Spectator would be comfortable with the industrial fallout of uncapped delivered prices reflecting wholesale prices. Or maybe they would, who knows: some of them are foaming-at-the-mouth loonies (with overseas bolt-holes).


There's always a but. There's also a massive problem if retail prices become fundamentally dislocated from wholesale prices for any length of time: could give many examples. Of course, the laws of gravity can be suspended ... but only for as long as you're willing to throw money at it.

It's resolving massive dilemmas like this that politicians are paid for.

Clive said...

Hmm. It’s impossible to what, if any, demand preemptions will be required without knowing the generation mix.

In a Reasonable Worst Case Scenario — as was rightly cited, this would be a Beast From the East II weather pattern — it would literally depend on which way the wind was blowing. Or, perhaps to be more accurate, how strongly it was blowing.

In the last Beast From the East, there really was absolutely no problem with supply. Everyone was predicting a crunch (rather than supply restrictions because of Ukraine, the issue was U.K. Continental Shelf and Norway produced gas being hampered by distribution network problems but it was still the same scenario, i.e. not enough natural gas). What happened was though 15+GW of wind generation day in, day out. The Beast was indeed an easterly. But it was blowing an easterly gale. Right through and across Dogger Bank (can’t resist here, it always sounds like a lay-by where there’s sordid happenings afoot after dark, but anyhow, I digress). Since then wind generation capacity has only increased, it would be 20GW today.

Of course, it could just as easily be a large, static area of high pressure right over the country which causes a big freeze (although not as severe as one caused by weeks and weeks of northern blocking and low pressure over Siberia). Then, goodbye wind generation.

So, in short, nobody knows for sure and no one can predict with any certainty. Still, there’s always a market in clicks for speculation. And one that I’m always happy to be long in...

John in Cheshire said...

If there is to be a windfall tax; and I don't support them, ever; then they should be imposed on the international drug dealers to recoup some of their ill-gotten gains from the past two years.

Restarting the coal fired power stations that haven't been shut down and demolished would be another sensible idea, together with the repeal of the climate change act and introduction of legislation to prevent future governments from meddling in such matters, letting the market decide what is profitable, and affordable and dependable. But to hell with sustainable anything and everything, that's communism by another name.

E-K said...

Of course. The problem is a gas shortage. How price capping (or windfall taxing) is supposed to help that. Either way it will only increase demand for a resource that is not there.

Also, the fossil fuel industry's reason for excess profiteering is the smaller window that they have to make profit thanks to Boris.

Frederick Forsyth reports that the Putin regime is close to collapse.

I have no love for Putin but how is the fragmentation of the Russian Federation into lots of tin-pot powers with nukes supposed to help the situation ?

As with Iraq, as with Libya ... no good ever comes from Western instigated regime changes.

E-K said...

How quickly could Rolls Royce mini nukes be wired into our system ?

E-K said...

Jeremy (first comment) goodbye rural forests. Though the wood won't be dry in time for this winter.

Clive said...

@ E-K 1:18 pm

Mini-nukes? 10 years, once you factor in certification, build out and commissioning. It would be quicker to restart coal mining in the UK (and there's plenty of diversity of supply in coal from the world market). Proven designs, proven gensets, construction isn't nearly as difficult because small off-specs aren't safety-critical. You might, just, do it in 5 years, if the government got its act together.

But whichever way you cut it, long-term problems with long-term causes need and can't avoid long-term solutions. There's no quick fixes for this year and only slightly fewer quick-ish fixes for next year.

Can't help but think that a cold shower (hopefully only figuratively, not literally) will do the people good. We get the politicians -- and the policies -- we deserve. Way, way too many sashaying around in Teslas thinking they're like the second bloody coming of St. Greta without taking the time and trouble to acquire the vaguest hint of an understanding about how this stuff all works and where it all comes from.

dearieme said...

"goodbye rural forests": if you mean plantations of Sitka Spruce, then goodbyeee, I won't cryee.

AndrewZ said...

"lots of tin-pot powers with nukes"

It's not impossible that Russia might break up, although it's too early to make any definite predictions. But I don't understand the argument about nukes. The Russian state must have a similar command and control system for the use of nuclear weapons as the United States or Britain, but with even more centralisation and paranoia.

If Russia breaks up, surely the central government (or what's left of it) would retain all the codes needed to authorise a launch and get past whatever security measures are built into the weapons and/or launch systems themselves?

Hopefully someone here will have some relevant technical knowledge of how this actually works!

E-K said...

Andrew - Reassuring.

Dearieme - Sitka spruce makes excellent acoustic guitar tops. My heart will bleed.

Caeser Hēméra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - I am incapable of reading a Ross Clark article without mentally hearing Victor Meldrew. And he is, I believe, parked in the South of France usually, so hardly going to be as concerned about his heating bill as the Panicked of Paisley are.

@AndrewZ - I'm not sure on how centralised things are, what level of control did the Ukrainians have over theirs post independence? That should give us an inkling.

Either way, the West has some measure of control, a fair few bits required to make the nukes do anything but be oversized paperweights are dependent on Western imports these days. Those stop, and you're left with a glorified art installation at best, something to mine for dirty bombs at worst.

And, realistically, any break up would be met with Chinese overtures fairly quickly. To Beijing it's just a question of if China has to go through one point of contact (Moscow) or several, and just how overt their control is.

Wildgoose said...

With regards to the Ukrainian nukes, they didn't have any control seeing as the security codes will all have been held in Moscow. Hence the ease of "giving up" their (unusable) nukes. They could possibly have dismantled them for the fissile material but then they would have to get past the self-destruct systems first. Not easy. Better to score the brownie points for "giving them up".

Anonymous said...

E-K said...
Jeremy (first comment) goodbye rural forests. Though the wood won't be dry in time for this winter.

1:19 pm
We usually buy a half load (pretty much fills a maybe 1.5 cubic metre log store) a month. Price of that has gone up from £90 to £105 since last year. So we bought an extra full load at £185. If we can find space to stack another full load, we'll do the same again soon.

Another mild winter like last year and we'll use the CH only when very parky in the morning, and then for 20 mins at most. Save on the oil. No electric or gas heating at all. No gas!

Sooner or later given the Grand Solar Minimum we are in (and they are not characterised just by cooling, though that is the general trend, rather extreme summers. And extreme winters.

Sooner or later.


Wildgoose said...

As for breaking up Russia, again, unlikely. Simply because over 80% of the population is West of the Urals. The huge space East of the Urals is so lightly populated it is heavily reliant on Western Russia just to maintain communication links and vital supplies. With the possible exception of areas immediately bordering China, a "broken-up" Russia would promptly reassemble itself.

rwendland said...

WG: regards to the Ukrainian nukes [good stuff about not having the codes etc] Better to score the brownie points for "giving them up".

Ukraine got just a bit more than brownie points. US gave them $300 million and technical assistance to decommission the nukes (and no doubt have a good look at the internals), plus doubled economic aid to $310 million - about a $billion in today's money. On return of the nukes Russia gave $2.5 billion of gas and oil debt cancellation and many years supply of free nuclear fuel for their electricity generating reactors.

As you say, Ukraine never had operational control of the nukes in their country - de jure initially CIS had control, but in practice Russia. The tactical weapons that didn't need codes had been moved out at the break-up, leaving the strategic weapons that couldn't easily be moved in situ. Ukraine used them as bargaining chips for a good money deal. Nationalists in the Duma kept spouting about keeping the nukes, but the grown-ups knew Ukraine did not have the technical or financial resources to do the maintenance to keep them safely and create a new control system.

If you are really interested, the 40 page story of it was written by Steven Pifer, who was the US deputy assistant secretary of state with responsibility for it at the time, and was later US ambassador to Ukraine, then National Security Council director for Russia & Ukraine under W. Bush:

Jeremy Poynton said...

Plus to Truss for sanctioning fracking at last. Now just add in 10 new clean coal power stations and off we go...

Olg Git Carlisle said...

Could we even build a coal fired thermal station now. Think all our machine tools and skills to use them have gone.

Many years ago went round the steam turbine plant on Tyneside and it was like a tomb all idle machine tools

Clive said...

As if on cue, negative system pricing for electricity on 17th September (settlement period 27, -£52 per MWh)

Ha ha ha ha ha. Won’t last, of course, but shows the perils of taking short-term pricing trends (and in energy, 3-6 months is short term) and extrapolating new paradigms from them.

Jeremy Poynton said...

Olg Git Carlisle said...
Could we even build a coal fired thermal station now. Think all our machine tools and skills to use them have gone.

Many years ago went round the steam turbine plant on Tyneside and it was like a tomb all idle machine tools

10:27 am


"The Moorburg power plant, opened in 2015, was one of the most modern, innovative and efficient coal-fired power plants in Europe. With its two units, it was able to generate 11 terawatt hours of electricity per year, each with an output of 827 megawatts. This was enough for the entire Hamburg region. It was shut down in 2021 after only six years of operation. Now it is to be completely demolished. There is hardly any other example that more impressively illustrates the complete suicidal insanity of German energy policy.

First of all, it is an ultimate MCA in economic and business terms to build by far the most modern, efficient and cleanest coal-fired power plant in Europe at a cost of almost three billion euros – only to demolish it again and dispose of it at great expense."

Clive said...

@ SIGH 2:47 pm

When you consider the frankly bizarre and scarcely explicable policy choices which Germany has made in recent years, you’d have to be Pearl Pureheart to not wonder, cynically, just what exactly has been going on there.

Anonymous said...

A Landrover Discovery sport of 2015+ vintage has emissions of 139g/km
The same as 1.5l Ford Focus.

A nippy Honda Jazz is 1.2l is only marginally less.

The bigger cars went all out to meet the targets. Now they are nearing the pinnacle of their 125 year evolution to efficiency, they will be binned for electric.

Don Cox said...

"The bigger cars went all out to meet the targets. Now they are nearing the pinnacle of their 125 year evolution to efficiency, they will be binned for electric."

Binned unnecessarily.


Jeremy Poynton said...

Excellent (paywalled, hence'ed) on how successive governments have comprehensively and wilfully destroyed our energy base.

"We just paid Belgium 50 times the going rate to keep London's lights on – how did it come to this? We need a public enquiry to get to the bottom of Britain's energy humiliation"

Referenced from

dearieme said...

I've been thinking about heat pumps. Suppose we installed one who sole job was to preheat mains water before it was raised in temperature to 60C (or whatever the storage temperature is) by our Aga (in winter) or immersion heater (in summer). With a large enough government subsidy could that be economic for us? What would be the most sensible heat pump target temperature? 40C; 35C; ...?

Also: it used to be that the hot water for our washing machine and dishwasher came from our hot water tank i.e. it had been heated by gas or (in summer) by off-peak electricity. But our current equipment heats its own water electrically. Surely that was a pretty foolish change? Why did it happen?

lastly I've learnt that you can get tumble dryers that use a heat pump. Does anyone have any experience of them: are they any good?

Don Cox said...

A few months ago I bought a Bosch dishwasher and a Bosch washing machine. They both take in cold water and have "eco" programs that are very slow but very economical. The idea here seems to be to soak the items being washed in warm water (rather than hot) for a long time.

The advantage of heating water in the machine is that it doesn't lose heat in pipes going from a hot tank to the machine (which is quite a long distance in my house).

Of course in cold weather it doesn't much matter if you "waste" heat, because it just means that the central heating thermostat comes on later.


Anonymous said...

I don't see a problem with literal windfall tax for the non-gas generators, because their sale prices are divorced from their production costs, which remain exactly the same if gas is cheap or is gas prices quintuple.

What am I missing that, everyone else including most here AND HMG think its a bad idea?

Anonymous said...

btw - once again NHS dentists are vanishing, once again its hard to get seen by a consultant without going private. What's someone on minimum wage going to do when a filling is £175 and a checkup is £90?

Anonymous said...

Parallels with the 1970's are nonsense. The electricity blackouts, bread shortages, the 3-day week, etc. were caused by trade unions trying to bring down an elected government. They succeeded with Heath, and failed with Thatcher, fortunately for our survival.

However, some of the measures employed then could be useful in the coming winter. For example: street lighting turned off after midnight, the TV closed down at 10.30 p.m. Pubs could be required to bring in licensing hours. Domestic demand itself could be reduced by encouraging people to put on another sweater, and rediscover the hot-water bottle for bed-time.

Many older people keep their homes far too warm, anyway; better to have a rug over the knees and keep their heads cool.

This would mean demand reduction on one side, and supply increase on the other: fracking, new gas and oil-fields, and eventually more nukes. Open-cast mining if things get really desperate.

As for the Truss "energy-cost support plan", people will have to realise that we either pay now for the global increase in costs, or we pay for it in the future through taxes and borrowing charges.

There is no such thing as a free slice of toast. Welcome to the 1980's!

Don Cox said...

Hot water bottles give you chilblains. Not necessary if you have a good quality duvet.


lilith said...

I can hardly breath in Mum's place. It is a sauna. She has a rug over her and a hottie. The only days she went out her front door this summer were when the temps reached the 30s whereupon "It is just right!" When your thyroid has gone you feel cold in your bones and once you're cold it's very hard to get warm without hotties or baths or 35 degree sunshine. An extra jumper doesn't cut it.

dearieme said...

The moment the weather turns cold I get arthritic pain in my left hand. The answer is a hot water bottle. I suppose I could economise by washing my face in the morning using the tepid water from the bottle.

"Many older people keep their homes far too warm, anyway": in our experience everybody else keeps their houses far too warm.

Jeremy Poynton said...

Anonymous said...
btw - once again NHS dentists are vanishing, once again its hard to get seen by a consultant without going private. What's someone on minimum wage going to do when a filling is £175 and a checkup is £90?

4:53 pm
Vanished in Somerset where there has been no new NHS dentistry vacancies for over two years.

dearieme said...

"once again NHS dentists are vanishing": this started with Blair. I never understood what that was about. But I do know that one summer back then my NHS dentist gave me only a fortnight's notice that the practice was going private.

Does anyone know the Blair motive? Or was it all a cock-up like the change in the GPs' contract and pay?

To fully comprehend the Net Zero debacle we need a General Theory of Government Folly.

E-K said...

Mum turned to me and said "I don't want a gun carriage."

Anonymous said...

Diana probs didn't want one either. But if you wanna State Funeral, thats what you get.

She didn't get sailors, though.

DJK said...

Diana didn't have a state funeral. IIRC, the Spencer family were in charge of the arrangements, although there was a large element of royal ceremonial added.

Anonymous said...

Mum turned to me and said "I don't want a gun carriage."

..not the time to choose christmas gifts :)

Elby the Beserk said...

@Dearime, thinking of heat pumps

Don't be a sucker!

"BEIS tells industry that energy saving devices can cost up to £35,000 each and could increase fuel bills

Heat pumps could cost homeowners up to £35,000 each, can emit noise which breaches legal limits and could increase fuel bills, the government has admitted."

Jeremy Poynton said...


"VHeat pumps could cost homeowners up to £35,000 each, can emit noise which breaches legal limits and could increase fuel bills, the government has admitted."

"That, by the way, is likely to only be half the bill that owners of older homes face paying. Because heat pumps work at lower water temperatures than traditional radiator central heating systems it may also be necessary to fork out another £10,000 to insulate the walls of the eight million UK homes with solid walls. "

HEAT TO LOWER THAN THE TEMP NEEDED TO KILL legionella. So you m\y also have to shell out for more water heating

2 years back!

"Electricity is too expensive to make heat pumps worthwhile, MPs have warned, as they urged the government to rethink environmental costs passed onto customers."

Old Git Carlisle said...

Heat pumps is just another in the line of energy cock ups

At onr time we were all going to get home CHP units - expensive and maintenance night mare

The shocking low energy tube lights how many old people hurt as a result of the long ignition time

Condensing boilers many installed with outside drains which froze could have electrical trace heating at £100 plus

The Cardiff Bay Lagoon nonsense - I believe supported by Gummer and Welsh Administration

We have cheapest offshore wind - does anyone else have - smacks of lowest cost deep mined coal when no one else did it

Why all concentration on fickle wind when tide predictable

The bidding process and payments for electricity is a sick joke

Does the import of wood and subsidies generation make sense when the adsorption of co2 and generation not synchronised


Nick Drew said...

OGC - re: tidal, I am not an engineer and am always puzzled that tidal has completely failed to work as you'd obviously think it should, anywhere in the world. Here, we have the best tides and a long tradition of marine engineering, turbines, offshore infrastructure etc. yet despite well over a decade of efforts, mostly offshore Wales, much of it subsidy-supported, there is zippo to show for it. (The Swansea & Cardiff plans and their promoters were very dodgy in several respects, not merely the engineering.)

So I conclude that there's a tech breakthrough that's yet to happen

The wood burning (also subsidised) makes no sense whatever, as you say: in fact it's worse than that, it fails on the very grounds the subsidy is given

Heat pumps - I have heard, first hand, a BEIS-wallah admit (behind closed doors), that another problem with heat pumps is that they require careful, non-stop, relatively 'expert' supervision and monitoring by the user, not just an annual service like a boiler; and that if not so supervised, they can easily result in very high energy bills.

An absolute recipe for disaster

DJK said...

Wikipedia helpfully provides a list of tidal power stations:
I've seen the French one at Rance. The civil engineering there is relatively modest, as the estuary is quite narrow. Not so the Severn estuary, which would require enormous (costly) amounts of concrete. The South Korean barrage was build for land reclamation and flood prevention purposes and the turbines piggy-back on top.

Old Git: Find a wind map of Europe. The British Isles are in the windy part of the continent, surrounded by unwanted continental shelf. That's why ours is the cheapest wind power. I would guess as well, that wind power, which is roughly constant throughout the day (sometimes, becalmed through the day) is more useful than tidal power which comes in a couple of discrete bursts per day.

Heat pumps: Don't! Unless you live in an isolated log cabin in Scandinavia. Really not a solution for the average British house.

Nick Drew said...

DJK - that wiki list makes the point: to the first approximation there is 0.00 tidal power in service.

the first in the list is rated at, errrr, 400 kW! The long-established Rance plant has not found anyone rushing to emulate it; and my understanding is, it's slated for closure quite soon. So much for the 120-year operational life that tidal advocates talk about

and they missed the centuries-old tidal mills in East London (

I like the idea of the "planned" 89 GW plant in Russia ... there will be a few unintended environmental consequences there, I'd guess - on a continental scale

Do any of you engineers out there have an explanation for why tidal doesn't work except on the drawing-board? Coz it really ought to - the attractions are obvious

Don Cox said...

The tidal mill at Bosham is still standing as a building. It's now the sailing club headquarters.

I think steam power and then electrical power replaced all these water and wind mills. A huge advantage of electricity is that electrons are small and light and can be sent through simple copper wires. So it's practical to set up a power station and sell the output to local factories.


Anonymous said...

Not an engineer, but a Severn barrage would stop the wonderful Bore, Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust might vanish, lord knows what will happen to the eels and salmon, and the glorious peace of the estuary would vanish. Sharpness Docks are a bit of a vanished world that miraculously still exists, same with Lydney Harbour on the other side.

Dredging costs? A lot of particles come down the Severn.

On the "plus" side, if it went ahead Sharpness and vicinity would become like Poole, lots of yachties, both sides of the river full of £2 million+ houses with electric gates, bonanza for builders. The Cotswold wealth zone would extend to Severnside, with only a few demographically dodgy areas like Gloucester - of which the great Dalrymple noted

"Gloucester is a small cathedral city of about 100,000, where the city council has conclusively demonstrated that with the right combination of 1960s urban planning and an undiscriminating welfare policy, the degraded inner city conditions of much larger conurbations may be successfully reproduced in small country towns."

Anonymous said...

Industrial price inflation in Germany - 45% !! I keep telling you, this is the third time in a century that the US has conquered Germany, but this time without losing a single American soldier.

DJK said...

> an explanation for why tidal doesn't work ?

I think it's mainly down the difficulty of finding an estuary or lagoon where a barrage can be created, plus the huge cost involved. Not sure why Rance is closing, but maybe the turbines are life expired.

The smaller plants seem to be tidal stream, i.e. something like a wind turbine that just sits in the flowing water. But then there is the difficulty of anchoring the turbine to the sea bed and running a large electrical machine under corrosive salt water. Presumbably, dynamic (rubbing) seals are used to keep the water out, plus pressurised dry air, and lots of technicians on hand to monitor it all.

Really, it's far less trouble to just have the turbine 300' up in the air, on top of a large tower.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - regarding heat pumps, did the boys from BEIS state that for all heat pumps? Or is just air based ones that are finicky?

Was debating a ground based one, but if it's going to be a PITA I may as well just get solar and a diesel genny.

Nick Drew said...

CH - it was ground-based that was under discussion. I can't speak for air-based.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed, it's all a bit of a mess and the govt had to do 'something', politically, this seems to be OK.

Long term, this won't work, of course, but I have very hope that 'long term' (six months? Six years? no idea) that they'll sort out more supplies from elsewhere - India and China are buying more from Russia, so they must be buying less from 'somewhere else'.

So Europe/UK just have to start buying more from 'somewhere else' instead. And keep nukes going, reactivate coal fired, knock up some more turbines, whatever.

It appears that the German taboo about nukes is wavering a bit, coal will be next.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - thank you for that, I'll be avoiding them then!

Anonymous said...

I've just had a flyer from "National" (as in incorporated in HK and Luxembourg) Grid, not featuring the usual happy mixed-race family, but the first happy mixed-race lesbian family I've seen.

Is this a sign that winter will be hard?

Anonymous said...

MW - "knock up some more turbines, whatever"

"In the 2000s the operations at the Heaton works were severely cut to focus mainly on the servicing side of the business, concentrating manufacturing operations at the Siemens factories in Mülheim and Budapest."

Just another tale of things we could make 70 years ago, but not now.

Nick Drew said...

Mark - India and China are buying more from Russia, so they must be buying less from 'somewhere else'. So Europe/UK just have to start buying more from 'somewhere else' instead

Oil yes, gas no. Absolute level of Russian output of gas has reduced, ergo a net shortfall of actual gas molecules. They have switched as much as they can towards China, but owing to very limited pipeline capacity in that direction (plus a bit of LNG), this is a small fraction of what's being withheld from Eu. Some of the surplus is simply being flared.

Eu is indeed "buying from elsewhere", but won't be able to make good the Russian volumes for several years. The result will be Demand Destruction, in Eu and indeed China / Far East, because Eu is bidding up the global LNG price to the point where it can't be afforded elsewhere

a cold winter, either here or in the Far east, or both (Heaven help us) and we're stuffed

Jeremy Poynton said...

Lots on heat pumps here

Jeremy Poynton said...

Paper also doves deep into the financial insanity of NutZero

Anonymous said...

3rd time of trying

Nick Drew said...

a cold winter, either here or in the Far east, or both (Heaven help us) and we're stuffed

2:03 pm


"Good News: 2022 Hurricane Season Mild. Bad News: Pressure Pattern Threatens Europe with Hell Winter"

"Potential killer winter on top of acute energy crisis

On another subject, some forecasters have been projecting a milder than normal winter for Europe, which would be welcome with a red carpet due to the continent’s acute energy crisis.

However, Joe notes there are signs this may not be the case. That would mean the coming winter could become – in the current dire energy situation – the Mother of Nightmares: a bitter cold winter with energy outages. In the event of blackouts, which many experts warn have a high chance of occurring, Europe would then be facing a humanitarian and economic crisis on a scale not seen in a very long time.

“Look at what the surface maps are showing,” Bastardi says. “When you have high pressure over Greenland and Iceland, and low pressure over Spain like that, folks, that is an ugly looking situation for the winter. That is similar to 2010/11.”"

Don Cox said...

If you believe in weather forecasts three weeks ahead, you'll believe in anything.

Don Cox

Caeser Hēméra said...

On the plus side, if Erdogan is to be believed, Putin is now actively desperate for an off ramp.

Presumably Xi had a word, which along with Russian forces folding and the Russian economy having entered the world of a deficit with little way out without switching the gas back on, clarified a few things.

Let us see if that evolves, and how.

Bill Quango MP said...

Very interesting about the Gas price and the oil price.

Russia has the most gas. But EARNS the most export dollars from oil. Hence the seemingly odd western nation decision to ban Russian oil sales now.

The USA is aiming to cut off the volumes of Russian oil sales to force Putin to give up the war.
So without the oil sales their economy goes under. Not everywhere. But in enough places to make it real.

The Russians are doing the same with gas. Europe must give up or their economy goes under.

The problem for Russia is Europe has far deeper pockets. And can outbid the rest of the world for scarce supplies if it has too.
( except the USA.)
European pain will be real. But even on a best case scenario for Russia, withholding the Gas has seen them destroy their main market for decades to come.
India, ( Mr Drew Will know if this is true) already has about all the discount price gas they can store.

The actual largest export products in the Russian Federation, and in the USSR before them, has been military equipment.

How can that continue? Their cheap and cheerful tanks are just cheap tearful. Their advanced missiles aren’t that advanced that they don’t zoom back on the launcher. The losses in Russian equipment is so great that if, say, Syria or Iran, place an order for troop carriers, when could they possibly hope to have them delivered?
And if ordered and produced, maybe they would be outright interned, in case of domestic necessity on the battlefield.

A short, successful, war. With limited aims, was workable. It’s worked before. Many times.
But a long, attritional war, with those long term sanctions slowly eating at the economy, is disastrous for Moscow.

The resilience shown in their economy is remarkable. They were prepared. Sort of. But there must be a point where it unravels.

Suspect Putin will continue into the winter. Hoping Italy or Hungary or Germany break first.
Not very likely.
Not really.

But we shall see.

Anonymous said...

"a long, attritional war, with those long term sanctions slowly eating at the economy, is disastrous for Moscow"

I remember they had a pretty long, attritional war before, and saved our bacon.

"those long term sanctions slowly eating at the economy"

Yes, but whose economy?

Nick Drew said...

BQ: India is indeed sated. China is taking everything Putin (given limited eastbound pipeline capacity) has to sell - at a massive discount - and turning LNG cargos back to Eu at full price, making a very nice turn. (They already decided to use coal themselves for preference.)

the G7 "plan" to cap the Russian export oil price is sheer madness, doomed to miserable failure. Oil is the ultimate fungible product - pipeline, ship, train, truck, old tin can ... It'll be available to any shyster on the planet to be laundered, for the usual "market minus" price, which is what China & India are paying. That's not a cap, it's a deep discount.

(BTW, it's not just Nigeria; the whole of eastern europe has long been based on stolen oil, including tapping into pipelines, courtesy of organised crime. They've even tapped into buried oil pipelines here in the UK, too - though monitoring in this country is sufficiently good, it's detected quite quickly and fixed.

People have been known to wonder why countries like Latvia aren't using much more natural gas in the economy as a whole. The answer is, mafia oil. You don't go round converting factories and housing estates to gas if the Russian mafia says nyet. Exactly the same in New York City ...)

E-K said...

Publicans 'round 'ere say that they will soon be charging £7 a pint. (Up by £3)

That is unsustainable in these parts. Restaurants are reporting similar rises of plus 75%.

What with the loss of our Queen...

This is going to be a very different country by next Spring.

Truss has 20 months.

E-K said...

At the very best she's going to be doing a Thatcher but has to admit that - after 12 years of Tory rule - it was the Tories that were the problem all along. They have now instigated more wars than Blair did.

James Cleverly had the audacity to say "Give us the chance to turn this ship around."

Just who the hell was on the bridge ???

Anonymous said...

The contrast between Britain at the start and end of the Queen's reign is remarkable - one of almost constant and accelerating decline.

Just think, Britain made

nuclear power stations
chemicals - the vast manufactories of Cheshire/Runcorn and Teeside
aircraft carriers with propshafts that worked
precision optics
electronics - including some of the first transistors

we make very little of the above now, outside of the City of London and a few bright spots like RR and BAe, our economy mainly consists of selling houses and coffee to each other, and caring for each others kids and grannies.

Caeser Hēméra said...

My sunny uplands disappeared quickly enough! Exactly what a partial mobilisation will achieve, other than more dead trained Russian troops is anyones guess. Looks to be about 300k already trained reservists.

A winter surrounded by partisans, and the troops watching their food, fuel and ammo be blown to smithereens? Just further weakening of Russia.

Back to Truss... According to Peston, looks like about a third of energy will be subsidised across the board, with tax cuts potentially being brought forward to sweeten the pill for the Tories, and poison it for Labour.