/ Why are we not building new power stations?

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Blizzard - on 19 Feb 2013
Its all well and good Cameron having a jolly in India, how about sorting out our impending energy crisis?

One answer is for households to start buying log powered stoves.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9879442/Britain-on-the-brink-of-energy-crisis...

Is this news story scaremongering or the truth???
Skip - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

Yea it's true. We've ignored the problem for years.
Wiley Coyote - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

For once it may not be scaremongering. Listening to various talking heads on the radio today, including the energy minister, they all seemed to think it was a bit nip and tuck over the next few years. Consumption has been down in recent years but that is partly because of the recession. Should a miracle happen and the economy pick up we could be short of capacity. There seemed to be agreement that the lights would probably stay on but some big industrial energy users might have to throttle back on useage. Whether that would mean lay offs I could not say because the question was not asked.
dsgarner on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard: Unfortunately, it's true.

A few years ago, I spent a year working at Tilbury power station (a 40 year old coal fired power station), and there were plan to build a new power station on the site.

The station had to make some changes to comply with the EU LCPD (large combustion plant directive), but couldn't make the neccesscary changes to keep open indefinably (hence the plan to build a new power station on the same land), and so had to close. The plan was to build a new generation coal fired power station that would reduce emissions it was planned to have a carbon capture system to remove all CO2. It was planned to be the cleanest and most advanced coal fired power station in the UK at that time.

Not long ago, there was another EU legislation about building new coal fired power stations, (basically saying don't build any new coal fired power stations), and so the plan to build a new power station, that was scheduled to be operational by 2014, was canned.

A lot of people in the industry say that the long term planning was better when it was run by the government under the GEGB (General Electricity Generating Board) as they planned for the future, and built new power stations as they were needed. When it was privatised, businesses focused on bottom line profit more than spending money to protect the long term future so we now in the position that we are in.
John_Hat - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

Also have friend in the engergy industry and they've said the same. Their view is that successive governments have pandered to pressure groups who either don't like nuclear and don't like fossil fuels and hence have put all effort into renewables.

Trouble is, it was too little way too late, and if we were looking for renewables to take over from fossil/nuclear we should have started building the f*ck off dam (or equivilant) years ago.

Of course, no government would have the guts to do that either. Think of the nice green fields they would flood. Insert pressure group here.

We are now in the situation where we've avoided making the decisions until long after the decision had to be made.

Thank gawd for the power line to France and thank god they invested properly in nuclear.



Lord of Starkness - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

I seem to remember that one of the reasons behind privatising the electricity generating was that competition in the market was supposed to drive future investment in generating capacity when older plants were due to be replaced.

As a result there has been no national strategy by successive governments about what to do to ensure continuity and security of supply.

Most of our generating capacity is no longer owned by British institutions, and only the French seem to have any interest in building the new nuclear plants we are going to need - and they are now playing hardball with the UK government over subsidies. So much for market forces being a good thing. They've got us by the proverbial short and curlies and know when to pull and how hard to squeeze!

I'm do dyed in the wool socialist, but I always thought privatising the major nationalised utilities (Gas, Electricity, Water and Rail) was a recipe for disaster in the long term - whilst being a licence to print money for a few in the short term.
Radioactiveman - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

because the government change every 4 yrs and they only really give a sh1t about themselves

You only have to look at the amount of coal plant that is running 24/7 at max load to realise we have very little spare capacity and wind is about as much use as ....... ( substitute in your own words for fun)

In nuclear one f the big problems is that the government want private industry to fund something as important as the country energy supply. Private industry want assurances that the price of electric will not bankrupt them after their massive investment

So currently they are playing monkey tennis all well heading towards the dark at the end of the currently lit tunnel

EDF were building a gas station at west burton last year but as far as energy security goes relying on gas from eastern europe passing through russia doesnt seem sensible.

Then you head into the nuclear,coal,CCGT,gas ,win argument ( btw wind is poo ;) ) Then factor in planning consents,design assessments, environmental pressure,changing governments and the cliff edge gets closer

Offwidth - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

I'd ssy its true and has been known since the CEGB was broken up. As an Electrical and Electronic Engineer by background my view is we always needed a balanced generation capacity with proper planning and thet meant old coal power stations should have been replaced with clean-coal systems and overall this genuine emergency shouldnt have happened.

I've never been convinced on the economics of the nuclear industry. The proponents (a good number of my professional colleagues) just stick their fingers in their ears and sing when people talk about pricing in realistic decomissioning costs. Nuclear technology is changing though and there may be better hope soon... in the long run not putting in nuclear too early may have done us a favour.
mattrm - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

I certainly recall reading about it several years ago, so this can't be shocking to many. I love how the politician's answer seems to be 'Use less electricity' and not 'We'll start building some new power stations tomorrow'.
nufkin - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to mattrm:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> the politician's answer seems to be 'Use less electricity' and not 'We'll start building some new power stations tomorrow'.

There's something in that, isn't there? Maybe a bit dismissive, but surely pandering to people's energy demands can only go so far. Lots of people in the world, all competing ever more for resources. Getting by on less where possible seems like a sensible approach
a lakeland climber on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to mattrm:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> I certainly recall reading about it several years ago, so this can't be shocking to many. I love how the politician's answer seems to be 'Use less electricity' and not 'We'll start building some new power stations tomorrow'.

There are lots of NIMBYs who object to things like windfarms but don't seem to connect that with their personal usage. Once village objected/rejected a handful of wind turbines and then built a floodlit football pitch!

As a society we've moved away from local power generation to a much more centralised system. This isn't particularly secure against failure - if Drax goes out of service then that's a big power gap to fill whereas if a small scheme goes offline then it's easier to deal with.

No easy answers but the problem is that we aren't even asking the questions.

ALC
jkarran - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to mattrm:

> I certainly recall reading about it several years ago, so this can't be shocking to many. I love how the politician's answer seems to be 'Use less electricity' and not 'We'll start building some new power stations tomorrow'.

Using less or at least using less per person and using it more wisely is ultimately what we'll have to do.

There's part of me that thinks that while this is a monumental f***up largely as a result of privatisation and short-term self interest in parliament an energy crisis wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. It's happened before, it'll doubtless happen again and it does rather focus minds on efficiency.

jk
blurty - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to mattrm:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> I certainly recall reading about it several years ago, so this can't be shocking to many. I love how the politician's answer seems to be 'Use less electricity' and not 'We'll start building some new power stations tomorrow'.

I'm in the Construction industry.

It's remarkable how disappointed clients often are with their new Building's energy costs. (I'm thinking offices, schools, hospitals etc, not domestic)

A new building, constructed to current guidance is generally percieved as 'green'. Very often though the clients complain that their energy bills have gone up. The difference is that their new facility will be properly ventialted, lit, and will probably be stuffed full of power consuming ICT. BUT all they really wanted though is opening windows and for staff/ users to be near a radiator.

We've got it wrong I think
EeeByGum - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

> One answer is for households to start buying log powered stoves.

If everyone bough log burning stoves, where would all the logs come from? This is a political hot potato regarding NIBYs to the extent that politicians have preferred to just bury their heads in the sand. I would imagine the short term fix will simply be to halt the closure of existing power generation plants or some other bodge.
Eric9Points - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> [...]
>
> If everyone bough log burning stoves, where would all the logs come from?

Maybe a good time to invest in forestry?

Agreed about privatisation leaving us in the merde but one good thing will be that a doubling of electricity prices will mean that people will start taking energy conservation seriously.
teflonpete - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to dsgarner:
> (In reply to Blizzard) Unfortunately, it's true.

> Not long ago, there was another EU legislation about building new coal fired power stations, (basically saying don't build any new coal fired power stations), and so the plan to build a new power station, that was scheduled to be operational by 2014, was canned.

And from John Hat:

"Thank gawd for the power line to France and thank god they invested properly in nuclear."


Hmm, EU legislation...

woolsack - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to EeeByGum)
> [...]
>
> Maybe a good time to invest in forestry?
>
Just a the same time that larch is being attacked by the phytophthora virus, ash die back and possibly now chestnut too.
Lord of Starkness - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> [...]
>
> If everyone bough log burning stoves, where would all the logs come from?

This is just one of the issues. Burning wood produces CO2, soot, ash -- all have an effect on the environment. Then factor in the fossil fuels used for transporting the logs from where they are felled to the various homes.

My daughter has the ideal solution to having a wood burning stove -- she and her partner live in Canada and they have about 3 acres of their own woodland, plus access to 'crown land' where they can fell as much as they can cut provided it's for their own domestic use. They fell and use about half a dozen 12 metre tall pine trees per year.
Lord of Starkness - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

PS Their electricity is supplied by the local Hydro board ( a regional government monopoly), from whom they also get a natural gas piped supply - even though they are 40km from the nearest town! There are no planning or nimbyism issues over there - or fat cat corporations ripping them off.

No wonder she emigrated!

Jealous!
Irk the Purist - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

Surely, the only carbon it releases is the carbon it's absorbed from the atmosphere in the first place?

EeeByGum - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

> This is just one of the issues. Burning wood produces CO2, soot, ash -- all have an effect on the environment. Then factor in the fossil fuels used for transporting the logs from where they are felled to the various homes.

I hadn't even considered all of that. I was just wondering where all the trees were going to come from to be chopped down.
galpinos - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Eric the Red:
> (In reply to Lord of Starkness)
>
> Surely, the only carbon it releases is the carbon it's absorbed from the atmosphere in the first place?

But if you're burning tress faster than you're replacing them......
Lord of Starkness - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Eric the Red:

Which is also where the carbon in fossil fuels came from. We need more forests not less of them to absorb the CO2 churned out burning fossil and non fossil fuel.

The only 'green' power sources are wind, solar, wave, tidal, and geothermal. Unfortunately too much of the worlds population lives in places that are unable to fully utilise these energy sources economically.

As a nation 'blessed' by rainfall we certainly missed an opportunity to harness the potential of hydro power - even though it may have resulted in the loss of some local environments due to dam and barrage building.
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:
> (In reply to Eric the Red)
> .
>
> The only 'green' power sources are wind, solar, wave, tidal, and geothermal. Unfortunately too much of the worlds population lives in places that are unable to fully utilise these energy sources economically.
>

Reliable wave and tidal are a long way off, no one can manage to design devices robust enough to survive the conditions.

EeeByGum - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Lord of Starkness:

> As a nation 'blessed' by rainfall we certainly missed an opportunity to harness the potential of hydro power - even though it may have resulted in the loss of some local environments due to dam and barrage building.

Unfortunately that argument also plays out very strongly when it comes to building anything in this country.
MargieB - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard: Options for domestic buildings are air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps {vertical, or horizontal if got the room] cause wood wouldn't be available in such quantities for such a large scale change in space and water heating,- plus insulation. Also solar for water heating is an option. I've used a heat pump with underfloor heating-excellent and relatively low bills. Can't see the advatage in wood stoves, agas are highly inefficient. Margie
Offwidth - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:

As an engineer I know that is complete bullshit. Prospects were so good in fact that the nuclear lobby did their level best to prevent research in the subject when I was a little younger as an academic. Problems for Tidal Power in particular really are more of an ecological nature than economic or feasibility one.
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Skip)
>
> As an engineer I know that is complete bullshit. Prospects were so good in fact that the nuclear lobby did their level best to prevent research in the subject when I was a little younger as an academic. Problems for Tidal Power in particular really are more of an ecological nature than economic or feasibility one.

Interesting response. My current regular climbing partner works in the marine renewables industry. I am getting this info from him.
woolsack - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Blizzard: A few blackouts wouldn't be a bad thing to educate some energy users about how much domestic electricity they really actually need (thinking here about lights in particular).
Offwidth - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:

Then either you have misunderstood him or he doesn't know what he is talking about. Big tidal barrages are very damaging to ecology but fully proven in high tidal range regions like the UK and produce a lot of electricity. As you move to more and more speculative research based work things become more and more problematic but that is the same for any speculative research on any section of energy production.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

I/he are not talking about tidal barrages or tidal lagoons, we're talking about marine current turbines and wave power devices, which so far are proving difficult. The only commercial wave farm, using polamis ("sea snake") was destroyed off the coast of Portugal by the force of the ocean. The tidal turbines in the Loch in Ireland are constantly having mechanical problems.

A misunderstanding re types of generation.
itsThere on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip: They did in 1990 but the guy doing the goverment report on it made an error and the cost was increased by 10x. They didnt get any funding and it took a decade for the error to be shown. It was edinburgh uni that did the research.

Cant find the news report but there was a horizon episode on it i think.
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to itsThere:

Decimal point in the wrong place during his calculations. Set research back by years. Plenty of companies and individuals researching and designing at the moment, yet it really is not that easy to engineer a robust device that will stand up to the forces present in the ocean, and the corrosion due to salt water. Add to this problems such as the window of time available to install devices, due to tides.
itsThere on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agu%C3%A7adoura_Wave_Farm
not that i trust wiki but "a technical problem with some of the bearings for which a solution has been found"

The company went into voluntary administration, it also says the first P1 wasnt up to scratch but the next gen(P2) is currently (since 2010) being tested off Orkney.

Just because the first attempt wasnt good enough, is not a reason to scrap the project. Start small and work up from there. We did the same with everything else we made.
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to itsThere:
I ain't saying give up, there is more than enough energy in the seas around this island to provide our needs. It's just not that simple. Plenty of research and testing being done at the present.
woolsack - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:
> it really is not that easy to engineer a robust device that will stand up to the forces present in the ocean, and the corrosion due to salt water. Add to this problems such as the window of time available to install devices, due to tides.

That's why drilling for oil in the North Sea never really took off I suppose
Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to woolsack:

Sinking piles to support oil platforms, or off shore wind turbines is a different matter from installing tidal flow turbines, which are under the water.
Frogger - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to jkarran:
> Using less or at least using less per person and using it more wisely is ultimately what we'll have to do.


I guess this will happen when the situation forces us to change quicker.

I think localised power generation will come back in. It's no good objecting to a wind turbine in your neighbourhood if you still want to use as much energy as you wish. The time for people to take responsibility for themselves will come, I'm sure!

It seems to be happening, slowly. If every home cut back a bit, installed solar panels and had a little turbine on the chimney, it would certainly help solve the energy riddle, even if renewables don't supply all that we currently use.

Skip - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Frogger:

"little turbine on the chimney"

Turbines are no use in built up areas, too much turbulence. Far better one big turbine.

Agree though that people need to be more responsible for their energy use. Few people are really aware of just how close we are to potential blackouts, and probably refuse to believe it anyway. Sadly the only thing likely to change energy consumption is a large rise in utility prices.
Frogger - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:
> Sadly the only thing likely to change energy consumption is a large rise in utility prices.


I guess when that happens everyone will complain.. then you'll get the politicians fighting over it: "The government has failed to provide us with cheap energy etc etc" ;-)
jkarran - on 21 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:

> I ain't saying give up, there is more than enough energy in the seas around this island to provide our needs. It's just not that simple. Plenty of research and testing being done at the present.

No there isn't, not in an exploitable form*, not even close!

*there's a lot of low grade heat I suppose but that's not a lot of use to us as an energy source. It does keep us more comfortable through the winter than or continental cousins though which is nice.

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c14/page_87.shtml the top two lines on the green bar represent an extreme exploitation of the uk's available wave and tide power

That's not to say tide/wave doesn't have a role to play and the low hanging fruit shouldn't be picked but even with really serious investment it's not going to be more than a small part of the solution to our energy problem.

jk
Skip - on 21 Feb 2013
In reply to jkarran:
> (In reply to Skip)
>
> [...]
>
> No there isn't, not in an exploitable form*, not even close!

>
> http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c14/page_87.shtml the top two lines on the green bar represent an extreme exploitation of the uk's available wave and tide power


> jk>

Those bars represent kWh per person per day, as far as i understand. Plenty!

jkarran - on 22 Feb 2013
In reply to Skip:

> Those bars represent kWh per person per day, as far as i understand. Plenty!

Yes but the red bars on the left are also in kWH/person/day showing consumption at the time of writing IIRC. It's not plenty.

Those figures in green are also unrealistically high when you consider what capturing that amount of energy means in terms of infrastructure and investment. Hundreds of miles of barrage, thousands of hectares of storage lagoon, hundreds of miles of wave converters, tens of thousands of tidal flow turbines, thousands of miles of submarine cable. It's a lot of power but it's far from being all we need and it's not at a density where we can afford to capture it on any great scale. The low hanging fruit will no doubt get picked, the loch mouths, maybe the Severn barrage, maybe wave arrays on the Atlantic coast but it'll be scratching the surface of what's available and barely even doing that to what's required.

jk

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