1. The 2004 Revolt AGM will be at Sowerby Methodist Hall, Thirsk, at 7.30 p.m. on Thu 28 Oct. A chairman's annual report and agenda will be circulated by email nearer the time.
2. The unashamed DTI-funded PR campaign for wind farms is hitting the press with the label "Embrace the revolution", with its "surveys" designed to support the PR. Defra mentioned a cost of 200,000 pounds (news161.2e), Country Guardian reported 2 million pounds to Peter Novelli (news167.7), and a BBC reporter is said to have said 20 million. Whichever, it's a big deal fronted by Chris Tarrant and other celebrities. Capturing public support for renewable energy is great. Government funded partisan campaigning for ill-planned wind farms is not. A campaign for open-mindedness and appraisal of nuclear options and for better energy saving would be welcome. Sadly, the otherwise good service news@all-energy is overtly campaigning rather than issuing impartial information.
3. Tony Blair now describes global warming as the world's "greatest environmental challenge". That's better spin than some earlier versions. We have remarked before about hyperbole (news 161.2c, 162.8a, 166.6a). To recap: The 2003 annual report of the Environmental Audit Committee (of MPs) claims "combating climate change remains the single most urgent priority facing mankind"? That seemed a bit rash. Now here's a different spin: There is "no bigger long-term question facing the global community" than the threat of climate change, Tony Blair said at the launch of the Climate Group in May. See also APPENDIX 1 (snips from news@all-energy, including a range of views on nuclear power).
4. My very short response to Ofgem's current report on security of supply (electricity and gas) is at APPENDIX 2. Thankfully we can take some assurance for the coming winter, but the longer term security remains uncertain and risky.
5. Interesting letter to the Times (APPENDIX 3) from Lord Lawson et al questions the economics, rather than the science, of climate change measures, particularly for failing to recognise uncertainty. Scientific uncertainty, and precautionary policy, figure largely in public health considerations of interest to Revolt, and the latest IPCC report (Third Assessment Report 2001) is thorough in consideration of scientific uncertainty. Economic uncertainty is another thing, but crucial to the measures and policies adopted, not least in responses to the Kyoto protocols. Windfarms are a case in point - we have argued their technical limitations. It is widely thought now that the government's reliance on wind power is misplaced in that it will not deliver the targets, perhaps for a combination of technical and economic reasons.
6. Another moderate report from a delegate (additional to that at news167.12) at that Moscow conference on global warming appears in Telegraph letters (APPENDIX 4).
7. Do windfarms reduce CO2 emissions? No, according to Dr John Etherington, former Reader in Ecology, University of Wales, who passes on a statement from a powerpoint presentation from Flemming Nissen, Head of Development at West Danish generating company, ELSAM, saying (translated) "Increased development of wind turbines does not reduce Danish CO2 emissions". Here is my personal view (Mike O'Carroll). There are CO2 costs to windfarms, from the infrastructure and the back-up generation. I have been in touch with DTI and Ofgem about the CO2 cost of back-up generation and have some helpful technical responses, although they are principally about financial costs. Surprisingly the unit price of reserve is considerably higher than actual generation. Reserve takes many forms, typically by a conventional power station operating at, say, 80% of capacity to provide a reserve of its remaining 20%. This unused reserve is not then using fuel in itself, although efficiency rates do depend on operating levels. The energy cost (and CO2 cost) of maintaining unused reserve is not transparent, but I would expect that it would be very small compared with the wind energy it "covers". In my view therefore, while a wind farm is producing power at or near its design level, the energy consumption and CO2 cost of back-up would be very small, and there would be a net gain of energy and a net saving of CO2, and a net loss of money because of the high cost of reserve. That is while the wind farm is working properly. While the wind farm is out of action, the back up must be used and it is pollution as usual. The saving of CO2 which is achieved during wind farm operation will however be offset by the carbon cost of manufacture (concrete) and infrastructure (roads, pylons and tree-felling) and increased transmission losses of electricity (which can be considerable). It is by no means clear that all this adds up to a net CO2 emissions saving. The answer is likely to depend on the market penetration of intermittent wind power, and that may be the problem in Denmark.
APPENDIX 1 Snips from news@all-energy issue 42 (Sep 04)
1.1.PM gives warning on climate
Urgent action is needed now to combat the world's "greatest environmental challenge" - global warming, said Prime Minister Tony Blair http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3656812.stm "Our renewables obligation has provided a major stimulus for the development of renewable energy in the UK. It has been extended to achieve a 15.4% contribution from renewables to the UK's electricity needs by 2015, on a path to our aspiration of a 20% contribution by 2020. In the short term, wind energy - in future increasingly offshore - is expected to be the primary source of smart, renewable power. Our position on nuclear energy has not changed." Speech in full - www.number- 10.gov.uk/output/Page6333.asp
1.3.Reshuffle brings new energy minister
In the government reshuffle Mike O'Brien MP has been appointed Minister of State for e-Commerce, Energy & Competitiveness on Stephen Timms' move to The Treasury as Financial Secretary http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_pol itics/3642038.stm
1.9.UK homes could feature rooftop mini-power stations
A mini-power station on the roof of many UK homes will soon be possible and affordable. The Green Alliance says micropower schemes have come of age. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3650208.stm
3.1.Prime Minister looking into grid issue
PM Tony Blair stepped into the row over plans to impose a huge surcharge on windfarms in the north and north-east of Scotland, agreeing to examine the issue after SNP leader Alex Salmond said Talisman believe the proposal to charge £20 per kW of generating capacity to connect to the grid is "the greatest single threat" to its Beatrice windfarm project www.pressandjournal.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=149235&command= displayContent&sourceNode=149218&contentPK=10961428 See also www.sundayherald.com/44796 with more views on the subject at www.timeson line.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1247631,00.html
12.1.No need for more nuclear yet says Beckett
Building nuclear power stations would risk landing future generations with 'difficult' legacies, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, warns, in a clear rebuff to the nuclear industry http://politics.guardia n.co.uk/green/story/0,9061,1308066,00.html
12.2.A range of views
>Climate change demands Britain consider building new nuclear power plants, says Lord May, the Royal Society president. The government's former chief scientist told the Daily Telegraph that the UK would struggle to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide without nuclear http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3658802.stm
>Nuclear power will have to provide half of Britain's electricity needs if the Government is to have any hope of meeting its Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gases, a top DTI official told ministers www.timeson line.co.uk/article/0,,2-1261215,00.html
>"To present nuclear power as one of the main ways of combating climate change is short-sighted. While it is absolutely necessary that scientists, government departments and experts continue to look for ways to slow global warming, nuclear power simply does not represent a viable option at present" Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust. www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1264441,00.html
>Professor Ian Fells, chairman of NaREC, which is developing renewable energy technology that can be used commercially, made the call for "realism" towards nuclear power in a European Union journal www.timesonl ine.co.uk/article/0,,2-1261215,00.html
APPENDIX 2 Response to Ofgem
In response to the 6-month retrospective report and considering electricity in particular, I feel consumers can take reasonable assurance for short term security and particularly for winter 2004-5, noting improved advance information and increased capacity and plant margin largely arising from price increase and de-mothballing.
The longer term position is less reassuring, noting international market uncertainties for gas and increased remote wind generation and its impact on grid stability and security. Accepting that longer term energy policy is a matter for government, and noting the energy white paper and Ofgem's advice on the likely cost of grid reinforcement to accommodate wind power, and noting the investment incentives in the current DPCR, I would be pleased to hear more of how Ofgem considers and advises on longer term security for electricity supply.
APPENDIX 3 Letters to the Editor Times online. Lord Lawson et al.
September 24, 2004
Political action on climate change >From Lord Lawson of Blaby abd others (sic)
Sir, Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made major speeches last week on climate change and the policies that are supposedly required to deal with it (reports, September 14 and 15). It appears that, in this area, Tony Blair and Michael Howard are of one mind. They hold the same alarmist view of the world, and call for much the same radical - and costly - programme of action. Both leaders assert that prospective climate change, arising from human activity, clearly poses a grave and imminent threat to the world. Such statements give too much credence to some current sombre assessments and dark scenarios, and pay no heed to the great uncertainties which still prevail in relation to the causes and consequences of climate change. There are no solid grounds for assuming, as Messrs Blair and Howard do, that global warming demands immediate and far-reach ing action.
The actions that they call for chiefly comprise a range of higher targeted subsidies, and of stricter controls and regulations, to limit CO2 emissions. These measures would raise costs for enterprises and households, both directly as consumers and as taxpayers. They would make all of us significantly and increasingly worse off. There are no worthwhile gains to set against these costs. It is absurd to argue, as the Prime Minister did in his speech (and Howard took a similar line), that such policies can "unleash a new and benign commercial force". The new opportunities created for high-cost ventures come as the direct result of suppressing opportunities for their lower-cost rivals: this is already happening in power generation.
It is not only the Prime Minister and Mr Howard who are advancing questionable economic arguments. We consider that the treatment of economic issues by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not up to the mark. It is time for finance and economics ministries everywhere, including HM Treasury, to wake up to this situation and take action.
Yours faithfully, LAWSON of BLABY, WILFRED BECKERMAN (Emeritus Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford), IAN BYATT (Director-General of Water Services, 1989-2000), DAVID HENDERSON (Visiting Professor, Westminster Business School), JULIAN MORRIS (Executive Director, International PolicyNetwork), ALAN PEACOCK (David Hume Institute, Edinburgh), COLIN ROBINSON (Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Surrey), c/o Westminster Business School, 35 Marylebone Road, NW1 5LS. September 22.
APPENDIX 4 Letter to the Daily Telegraph 25.9.04 re. Moscow conference.
Re: Alternative views need to be recognised Date: 25 September 2004
Sir - I was invited by the Russian Academy of Sciences to take part in the Moscow climate change and Kyoto Protocol seminar held in July and to present my work on global warming and extreme weather (Letter, Sept 23, Opinion, Sept 20). I am a retired research scientist from Environment Canada and am on the editorial board of two international journals. The British delegation, led by Sir David King, behaved in a most peculiar fashion throughout the event. On the day of the symposium, Sir David objected to the presence of several dissenting scientists (myself included), submitting a hand-writte n revision of the academy's programme that would have reduced it from two days to one, omitting all but one of the "undesirable" scientists. The academy did not accept it. My own presentation was repeatedly interrupted. During it, I demonstrated that a careful analysis shows no increase in worldwide extreme weather events at present and the likelihood of escalation of such events in the next 10 to 25 years remains very small at this time. Professor Nils- Axel Morner from Stockholm University, an internationally renowned sea-level expert, demolished the myth that islands in the Maldives will be under water if greenhouse gases are not curbed. Despite his previous leading role in the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change and his status as past-president of the International Union for Quaternary Research (Inqua) commission on sea-level rise, his work has been routinely discarded by the IPCC. Many other scientists, including those present at the symposium, have experienced similar treatment from the international scientific community. With the exception of the behaviour of some of the British delegation, the Moscow seminar was the kind of open debate and public reassessment of climate science that is long overdue. Sir David and his compatriots ought to recognise the importance of alternative views of the rapidly evolving, yet still immature, field of global warming and climate change. Only then can we hope to understand this complex scientific issue, possibly the most important of our time.
From: Dr Madhav Khandekar, Ontario, Canada
-- Mike O'Carroll