Impact of UK’s Climate Change Mitigation Policies 2005 to 2013 – A Guest Blog


Today, I have posted a guest blog from Anthony Thompson…

The BBC and the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons have recently announced that allowing climate sceptics to put their case should be avoided because it gives ‘false’ balance. They say it is like giving airtime to people who think the moon landings were faked.

In doing so they are ignoring the 134 scientists who, in November 2012, wrote to the UN Secretary General, to say: “We the undersigned, qualified in climate-related matters, wish to state that the hypothesis that emissions of CO2 cause dangerous warming is not supported by the evidence”. They are also overlooking scientists as eminent as Freeman Dyson, holder of the Professorial Chair once occupied by Albert Einstein at Princeton University, and even James Lovelock, founding father of the Green movement, who has said: “Take this climate matter. They all talk as if they knew what was happening”.

Scientific truth will survive the efforts of the BBC and the Science and Technology Committee to suppress it. In the meantime we risk being thought contemptible for raising questions about climate science. To be heard, we have to approach the subject from other angles.

One way is to take the ‘consensus’ science at face value and see where it leads. For example, the International Panel on Climate Change says that the earth will warm by 3oC for a doubling of CO2. This is known as climate sensitivity. Rather than challenge this view – pivotal for climate change science – let us assume it to be accurate. We can then use it to see whether our climate change policies make sense.

In the UK we have put up thousands of wind turbines and solar panels to reduce our CO2 emissions. To fund this we spend £2 billion a year in subsidies and, according to the Government’s official estimates, this will rise to £5 billion a year. By 2020 we will have spent £100 billion. Is it worth it?

Since 2005, these turbines and solar panels have increased the share of the UK’s electricity generation from renewable sources from 1.8% to 4.6%. The UK makes up 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, and 20% of that is for electricity generation. In short, we have saved the world an increase of 0.01% in its overall CO2 emissions.

With a climate sensitivity figure of 3oC we can calculate just how much this reduction of CO2 in the UK has slowed down global warming. The result of these calculations is that global temperatures would be 0.0004oC higher had we not put up all those wind turbines and solar panels.

What are we getting for our £100 billion? So far, it would seem, a 0.0004oC reduction in warming.

It’s not difficult to dislike current policies on climate change even if you’re not sceptical of the science. We object to wealthy landowners getting large subsidies, to landscapes disfigured, to property values blighted, to bats and birds slaughtered, to a 50% increase in electricity prices, to widespread fuel poverty, to the exporting of thousands of jobs to countries with lower electricity prices and higher CO2 emissions. But for now, whether we like them or not, we are simply asking whether these expensive policies are successful. The answer is self-evidently, no. They are a disaster.

Are we going to continue down this road? The UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act which is supported by all the political parties in Parliament requires us to reduce carbon emissions by 80% from 1990’s level by 2050. If we go on as now that will mean covering an area the size of the whole of Wales with wind turbines. There has to be another way.

You might have thought that anyone who is genuinely concerned about the dangers of global warming – especially the politicians – would be desperate to abandon polices that are having so little impact. Instead, we find that all of them are continuing to back failure. They have revealed their true colours: Appearing to be ‘green’ matters more than practical solutions.

So what should be done? Apart from fracking (which has enabled the USA to reduce both its COemissions and its energy prices dramatically) the sensible thing is to focus on research into alternative forms of energy. There are two front runners: Thorium and Fusion. China, India and Norway are all developing thorium as a safe alternative to uranium nuclear power; thorium is plentiful throughout the world and it does not entail long term storage issues. Fusion power, which would give us almost limitless electricity free of charge, is under development in the south of France funded by the EU, the US, China, India, South Korea and Russia. For a tiny fraction of the £100 billion we are frittering away on wind turbines and solar panels, scientists could experiment and evaluate many other possible forms of energy.

And, finally, we should not lose sight of the fact that, according to the Met Office statistics, global temperatures did not actually rise at all between 2005 and 2013, and indeed have not risen since 1996, even though the rise in COhas continued unabated.

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Wishful thinking at the CBI

I was struck by an article in The Sunday Telegraph of July 20th, by the CBI’s Deputy Director General Katja Hall.   “Let’s dispel the myth that we have no allies in Brussels”, it’s headlined.  And as an example of wishful thinking, of the triumph of hope over experience, this would be hard to beat.
Ms. Hall was born in Sweden in 1972 (if the internet is to be trusted).  That was the year in which we in the UK were debating the last stages of our application to join the “Common Market”, as we knew it then.  We joined in 1973, though our referendum on Harold Wilson’s nugatory “renegotiation” didn’t happen until 1975.  (We should remind David Cameron of that when he tells us that you can’t possibly have a retrospective referendum).
But this all means that Katja, now presumably forty-two or so, was far too young to be paying attention to those debates, and presumably only came to political awareness when British membership had been an established fact of life for some time.  It shows.
Take the headline: “The myth that we lack allies in Brussels”.  As recently as the last few weeks, PM Dave was assuring us that he had allies in Europe, in his strident campaign to block Jean Claude Juncker form the Presidency of the European Commission.  Angela Merkel had hinted at support.  Italy’s Matteo Renzi was making helpful noises (though only, it now seems, as a negotiating tactic to secure some relaxation of the fiscal rules). We had allies in Brussels.  Dave was confident.  But when push came to shove, we found ourselves in a minority of two, and Juncker got the job.

The plain fact is (as Katja might know if she had followed these issues a little longer) that we find ourselves in a structural “Anglo Saxon” minority, occasionally but uncertainly supported by a few northern EU countries, but not able to call the shots — or even to block Juncker.  And now we find ourselves in a second structural minority — the non-euro-zone countries.  So within the EU, groups of countries that reject key areas of our policies and interests will always outvote us.  We are paying billions a year for membership of a club where we are in a permanent and inevitable disadvantage.
Katja tells us that Lord “Who’s He?” Hill, our British nomination for EU Commissioner, has “a golden opportunity to get the best deal for Britain in Europe”. Nonsense.  I’ve followed EU affairs for many years, and I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been told that we should be confident, we should go in and negotiate, we have politicians and civil servants as good as any in Europe, we have allies in Brussels, we can win for Britain.  Game, Set & Match!  But we have forty years experience to show that it always ends in tears.
The EU bus is on the route to “ever closer union”, to a full unitary state called Europe.  We have a binary choice.  We can carry on to the  centralised European State, or we can get off the bus.  There is no third way.

Many other comments from Katja underscore her naive and misplaced optimism.  We need reform in competition, trade and energy (strange that she misses one of the main problem areas, employment) for Europe to “remain competitive”.  Remain, Katja, remain?  Don’t you understand the disaster of EU energy policy, and energy prices?  Have you listened to our energy-intensive industries?  People like Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS, who says that the chemicals industry in Europe will die in ten years without a change of course?  Out-going Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani says that energy prices are “creating an industrial massacre” in Europe.  Does the CBI have a different view?  Or is it ignoring reality?  Remain competitive?  We need to get competitive first.
The article says that several EU countries have expressed the hope that Britain will remain in the EU.  Indeed they have.  That’s because we’re the last voice of common sense, against the social corporatism of the majority.  It might be good for those countries if Britain stays.  But it won’t be good for us.
Most ironic is Katja’s vain hope that the Commission will heed “the clarion call for change still ringing in the ears if the EU hierarchy after May’s euro-elections”.  But they’ve made their position clear — not least by the appointment of  Juncker.  Their one and only idea for EU reform is “more of the same”.  The EU institutions have a towering contempt for public opinion — as testified by their repeated rejection of referendum results.  They won’t let a little thing like a reverse in the euro-elections stand in their way.

“We need the conviction to win the arguments over EU membership at home, and make the UK’s case in the corridors of Brussels”, says Katja plaintively.  Forty years’ experience for the UK in the EU says it can’t be done.  The EU is beyond reform.  It deserves to be put out of its misery.  The best service we can do for Europe is to leave the EU, and to demonstrate the huge benefits of independence, democracy, freedom and free markets.
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UKIP sets the agenda, …and drives the government re-shuffle

Liz Truss becomes Environment Secretary.  She'll have a tough job challenging entrenched climate alarmism in the media and political establishments.

Liz Truss becomes Environment Secretary. She’ll have a tough job challenging entrenched climate alarmism in the media and political establishments.

Perhaps the most striking feature of David Cameron’s extensive reshuffle is that is largely a defensive response to UKIP.  We are setting the agenda.  We are making the weather.

The three main themes of the reshuffle were:

Presenting a more eurosceptic facade: Philip Hammond, described as “a vociferous eurosceptic”, becomes Foreign Secretary, spun as “The most openly sceptic Foreign Secretary in decades”.  Michael Fallon goes to Defence.  He too has a eurosceptic reputation – though it’s difficult to see how he’ll bring that to bear in the defence rôle.  Priti Patel becomes Secretary to the Treasury, and is a lady of robust opinions.  On the other hand the nomination of Lord “Who’s He?” Hill as EU Commissioner raised some eyebrows – and got Jean-Claude Juncker googling to find out who he was.  He is presented as “a deal-maker”, but apparently he makes his deals very quietly.  He is expected to lead the charge on Cameron’s renegotiation agenda.  It may end up rather like the Charge of the Light Brigade.  “C’est magnifique.  Mais ce n’est pas la guerre”.

Jeremy Wright’s appointment as Attorney General is billed as “paving the way for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights”.  And about time too

Tip-toeing away from Cameron’s climate agenda:  Remember Dave hugging those huskies?  Remember “Vote Blue, Go Green”? (That was the slogan that finally confirmed my decision to leave the Tory Party – they’d lost it).  The realisation is finally dawning that we’ve had enough.  Our green policies on climate and energy are a threat to energy security – and could lead to blackouts next winter.  They are undermining competitiveness, driving industries and jobs and investment out of the UK (and the EU) altogether.  And forcing households and families into fuel poverty.  I’m sure that the government (like the European Commission) has been listening to energy-intensive industry leaders (like Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS) who are very clear about the consequences of current policies.  But I have little doubt that UKIP’s focus on secure and affordable energy, coupled with our opposition to wind farms and our support for protest groups, has played a significant rôle.

So now we see the fragrant Liz Truss, formerly a manager with Shell, appointed Secretary of State for Environment, and likely to bring a new element of hard-headed realism to the debate.  But she has a tough call.  The entrenched climate alarmism of the bien pensant commentariat, and of the media and their cheer-leaders at the institutionally-biased BBC, will be a tough nut to crack.  And behind the failing paradigm of Warmism, and the 2008 Climate Change Act, stand EU legislation and emissions targets.  The government will have to be very serious about its approach to Brussels if it’s to have any hope at all of sorting our energy problems.

A female-friendly approach: The government has been criticised for being “too male”, for having too few women in prominent positions: (To be fair, the same criticism has been levelled to UKIP, with some justification).  So Cameron promoted ten women, including several to the Cabinet.  Cameron seems well-informed on psephological issues (and so he should be, you will say).  He will be aware of UKIP’s traditional weaknesses with women voters, and he will see his emphasis on the fair sex as delivering a vital advantage against UKIP.  Perhaps he hasn’t yet noticed our Magnificent Seven women MEPs, but over the coming months leading up to the General Election they (and other prominent UKIP women) will be an increasingly dominant presence in the media, and will, I believe, lead a breakthrough for our Party with women voters.

In tactical terms, you could see Cameron’s move as a challenge to UKIP, as stealing some of our clear purple water.  But look at it strategically.  We’re driving the agenda.  If you want independence and democracy, if you want secure and affordable energy, if you want Britain to control its borders, do you vote for the people who adopted these ideas under the pressure of public opinion? Wouldn’t you rather choose the people who really believe in these policies, and exist in order to achieve them?



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Watch out for the food police!


As a politician with a broadly libertarian outlook, I’m getting increasingly frustrated by the government’s assumption that it’s entitled to tell us what to eat and drink.  I think it’s a fundamental right of all grown-ups in their right mind to decide for themselves what they choose to put into their mouths.  By all means let the government offer good advice (if it can’t help itself).  But it should stop seeking to persecute those who exercise choices other than those approved by the powers-that-be.

We’ve already seen cigarettes demonised, even though a fifth or more of our fellow citizens choose to smoke.  We have revolting pictures of diseased organs on cigarette packets.  How long will it be before we go on to mandatory illustrations of diseased livers on bottles of Mateus Rosé?  The government’s recommended maximum daily alcohol consumption seems designed by kill-joy puritans and abstainers who might be welcome in Saudi Arabia, but less so in Swadlincote.  Moreover there seems to be little science behind their recommendations — it’s just finger-in-the-air stuff, applying the precautionary principle to achieve the lowest possible recommendation just in case there might be a problem.

The government’s advice is undermined by the constant changes in what’s supposed to be good for you.  One week, red wine (in moderation) is good for the heart.  Next week, it’s not.  We’re told that Omega 3 fatty acids are good for joints, good for the heart, good for the brain (fish is “brain-food”, as my old Mother used to say).  But now, we’re told that new studies suggest otherwise.  Statins are good for you, and we should all take them.  No we shouldn’t.  For many patients the risk of side effects (they now say) exceeds the potential cardiac benefit.  Everyone over forty should take a daily 75mg aspirin to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.  Or should they?  They’re now saying that for patients with no cardiac risk indicators, aspirin may create a risk of haemorrhage that exceeds any potential benefit.  Come on, guys.  Make your minds up.  And get your facts right before you get into mass medication.

When I was a lot younger, carbohydrates caused obesity.  Cut out the bread, the potatoes, the pasta, we were told.  Then the advice changed.  It was fat.  Cut out the fat, and all will be well.  I don’t think they ever got round to pillorying protein, but it so often comes in association with fat (those well-marbled steaks) that it was guilty by association.  First it was all fats.  Then it was some fats.  Then I lost the will to live (though not the will to eat well-marbled steaks).

Refined sugar (“pure, white and deadly”) has been targeted for many years, and certainly the huge amounts of sugar now found in soft drinks and prepared foods are shocking and unhealthy.  Tomato ketchup is virtually custard, and some children’s breakfast “cereals” are more like confectionery.  Then there’s confectionery.

But at least fruit is OK, isn’t it?  We were told to eat five portions a day (or seven) of fruit and veg.  For the whole of my lifetime it’s been an undisputed dietary fact that fruit is good for you.  Of course that doesn’t mean that fruit juice and smoothies are necessarily good.  It might take you a quarter of an hour to eat a pound of apples.  Turn it into purée and you can eat it in five (with custard, if you dare).  Squeeze it into juice, and you can knock it back in seconds.  You get practically all of the sugar, but none of the healthy pith and fibre.  Smoothies, of course, may well contain other bad stuff.

But whole apples and oranges and bananas are good, aren’t they?  Suddenly this fundamental tenet of nutrition policy is being turned on its head.  If you cherished the notion that refined white sugar — sucrose — is bad, but that fruit sugars — fructose — are less bad, they’re now telling us that each is as bad as the other.  To address the current diabetes epidemic, we’re told to stop eating fruit (or at least cut down).  I’m sorry.  I don’t buy it.  I can’t change the habits of a lifetime.  Fresh, whole fruit is good, and stays good in my book.  At least it’s a healthier dessert than sugar-laden sticky toffee pudding, or a Rocky Road.

So what can we eat?  Well bread seems to be OK (so long as you’re not gluten-intolerant).  But don’t put butter or margarine on it (that’s fat).  Or peanut butter.  Don’t put Marmite (salt).  Don’t use jam or Cooper’s Oxford marmalade (sugar — and fruit).  After that, there’s “non-white vegetables”.  I guess they mean spinach and carrots.

I’ve had enough of the nonsense.  I’ll leave the veggies (and the bunnies) to over-dose on carrots.  For myself, I’ll eat the bunnies.








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Surreal in Strasbourg



 Mr. Ferdinando Feroci

Last night I attended a meeting in the Strasbourg parliament of the Industry Committee ITRE, which had been called for a hearing to approve a new Industry Commissioner, Mr. Ferdinando Feroci.  He will be replacing the previous Italian incumbent Antonio Tajani, who has had to step down as Commissioner, having been elected to the European parliament.  But of course a whole new Commission will be sworn in in about four months’ time, so poor Mr. Feroci gets to sit in the seat for a very limited time, in which he will be able to achieve very little, except to keep the ship on course.  The whole thing was a mere formality, and arguably a waste of time.

Mr. Feroci was previously Italy’s Ambassador to the EU, so we know which side his bread is buttered.  As a wise man once said, it’s very difficult to convince a man of something when his job and his income depend upon his not believing it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Feroci treated us to a well-known European parliament tradition: The Ritual Repetition of the Clichés.  Growth.  Jobs.  Economic Recovery.  Sustainable Development (although, as we’re seeing, “sustainable development” is proving to be anything but sustainable).  SMEs.  Youth unemployment.  Innovation.  Research.  Training and education.  Competitiveness.

All these are desiderata devoutly to be wished, but Mr. Feroci had few practical ideas for achieving them, beyond a reference to “instruments”.  This is Brussels-speak for EU funding lines and programmes, as if government borrowing and spending could solve all our problems.

There was at least a welcome hint of realism dawning.  As an example of the Commission’s new-found commitment to deregulation, he mentioned the EU chemicals directive REACH.   It was (he admitted) cumbersome, bureaucratic and expensive – a huge burden on industry, and especially on those SMEs.  It was costing jobs, stifling innovation, restricting growth.  So he was determined to see it streamlined.  Well and good.  But the tragedy is that back in 2006, I and other colleagues were warning the Brussels institutions that this was the inevitable consequence.  If only they’d listened then to the voices of common sense, they could have avoided vast economic damage.  (The same comments also apply, of course, in spades, to the €uro currency, a reckless economic adventure that has caused a great deal more damage than REACH).

Several questions were asked about energy prices.  And Mr. Feroci has a plan. We need more emphasis (he says) on energy efficiency, and on completing the Single Market in energy.

Perhaps he doesn’t realise that competitiveness cannot live in a vacuum.  It is relative. You can only be competitive against someone else.  Has it not crossed his mind that other major economic areas – China, the USA – are also concerned about energy efficiency, and optimising their marketing and distribution arrangements?  So our efforts in Europe, even if successful, will merely maintain our current level of disadvantage.

It’s time to recognise that the huge discrepancy in energy prices arises from our gross over-commitment to expensive, inefficient and intermittent renewables, while our competitors rely largely on cheap coal or (potentially) cheap gas.  Until we address that fundamental point, Europe can never hope to be competitive in energy.  In the UK, only UKIP has a policy to deliver secure and affordable energy.

I’ve said it many times, but it cannot be repeated too often.  We won’t solve Europe’s problems with new initiatives, new instruments, new policies.  We’ll solve Europe’s problems by unwinding the damaging policies of the past.  Energy policy, and REACH, are prime examples.   If you want the grass to grow, first get the rocks off the lawn.

In the format of last night’s meeting I was unable to ask a question.  Had I been able to do so, I would have said: “Mr. Feroci: A few months ago Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that Europe can no longer afford a unilateral climate policy.  And your predecessor Antonio Tajani said that energy prices were creating an Industrial Massacre in Europe.  Do you agree with them?  And what will you do about it?”.



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Beware of “Smart Meters”

They could allow Big Brother to turn off your lights


Pretty soon you’ll be offered a “smart meter”, with all sorts of sales talk about the benefits and savings it will deliver.  But smart meters may not be all good news.  The Mail on Sunday has an interesting article pointing out that there are serious flaws in their design, and that many problems have not been resolved with these expensive systems.

There’s a happy, smiley marketing campaign which advises consumers of the benefits of the system — “helping the consumer” to understand how to reduce electricity use and therefore lower bills, and so on. But they don’t discuss the risks: the wireless system may not be robust; it may be vulnerable to malicious hacking; the programme nationally will cost £11bn; and it indeed may change the way consumers are billed — but not in the way the energy companies and government are selling the idea.

One concern is that demand at times of “peak load” may be “managed”, either by switching supplies off, or by expanding time-of-day pricing beyond the day rate/Economy 7 system which is now in place (and which makes sense, given the spare base-load capacity a night).

Here is the spin that Which put on it, for instance:

“Smart meters also offer the possibility for more flexible energy tariffs in the future – such as improved ‘time-of-day tariffs’

offering cheaper rates at off-peak times to smooth out national energy use through the day.”  

But the corollary of “offering cheaper rates at off-peak times” is of course, “offering more expensive rates at peak times”. That offer is not attractive if you’re elderly and need heat when you’re cold, or if you’re a working family with children that need to be fed and showered before school in the midwinter — peak time.

Steve Holliday, CE of the Grid, that “We need to balance demand for energy with supply. That gets into smart metering, so if we need to interrupt power supply for a few hours during the day when you’re not at home, that’s okay.”

Elsewhere, he said that consumers were going to have to get used to the idea of only using electricity when it was available, and implied that some (poorer) people may be offered deals that would not guarantee continuity of supply, but could be interrupted, as is the case with energy intensive industries currently. At best, the smart meter would force people living on a budget to wander over to the smart meter to see if they can afford to put the kettle/TV on.

A paper by Alex Henney and Ross Anderson suggests that Miliband “cooked the books” when multiple cost-benefit analyses showed that smart meters would produce a net disbenefit to consumers.

As with so many issues we face in the UK, smart meters are driven by an EU directive, as well as by UK energy policy.  The government should come clean and admit that smart meters can be used against the interests of the consumer. The key point here that this expensive way of managing demand was made necessary by the failure to take the need for secure and affordable energy seriously, resulting in the loss of capacity through into the 2020s.  These problems are exacerbated by over-reliance on expensive and intermittent renewables. Now the consumer faces the consequences: demand managed by prices and the energy companies’ ability to switch off the lights.


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“Demand-side management”: Blackouts by another name

..and why “green energy” is economic nonsense

In a recent speech Ed Davey announced that energy intensive companies would be paid to switch off their machinery during times of high demand. As many have noted, this not what happens in healthy energy markets. Although this policy is called ‘demand-side management’, jargon does not disguise what is still a blackout. But simple economics can determine a much better approach to energy policy than the managed decline preferred by the deeply unpopular minority party in the coalition.

The problem of the UK’s diminished capacity is caused by energy policies, (not shortages of fuel), largely but not entirely driven by EU directives to reduce CO2 and other emissions from power stations.  Much of the UK’s generating capacity has been forced to close by the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), followed by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), both of which are intended to reduce the emissions responsible for pollution. Nobody is against clean air, but the combination of these policies has compounded the UK’s energy problems, leaving an energy gap which threatens wide-spread blackouts.

The LCPD and IED force the operators of coal-fired power stations either to shut down within a given time (17,500 operational hours between 2016 and 2023), or to add systems to comply with the standards they set out.  Retro-fitting older but still serviceable plants may not be economically viable, so the operational lifespan of these plants is reduced by a decade or more.  Somewhat late in the day, the Department for Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report on the feasibility of building new gas and coal-fired capacity and extending the life of the UK’s existing power plants by making them compliant with the IED.

The existence of the report demonstrates that the current and previous governments’ plans for a greener energy sector have not materialised, and cannot now be achieved. No amount of wind turbines and domestic solar PV installations can replace the capacity that has already been lost to the LCPD and will be lost to the IED. So the government is now forced to face the consequences: begging energy companies to keep remaining coal and legacy gas plants operational for as long as possible in order to avert a deeper crisis.

Along the way, the report shows some interesting things about the history of the UK’s fleet of power stations. The following graph shows two main periods of building. Approximately 3.3GW a year of coal plant between 1965-75 and 2.5GW a year between 1990 and 2000, under different economic regimes.


This demonstrates that relatively rapid deployment of conventional plant is technically feasible. In contrast, the UK’s onshore wind fleet expanded by an average of just 0.5GW a year between 2004-12, equivalent to just 0.15GW when we take into account the variability of wind energy. At this rate, it would take nearly 80 years for onshore wind to replace the 11.8GW of coal and gas-fired capacity that will have been shut down by 2020, by the LCPD and IED. If we include the 6.1GW of nuclear capacity that will have been closed by 2020, the current rate of onshore wind farm construction will take 120 years to replace what took fewer than 6 years to build in the 1960s. So much for green economic ‘progress’.

And the cost? The report rules out building new coal-fired plants, but more interestingly finds that new gas-fired plants can be built for around £500 per KW of capacity – £500 million per GW at a build rate of up to 6GW a year. This is consistent with DECC’s own estimates, which includes onshore wind at £960 per KWh of capacity, or £3,300, when we take into account wind variability. That’s £3.3 billion per GW.  So to close the energy gap with gas-fired capacity would cost around £9 billion, and take three years. But closing the gap with onshore wind energy would cost £59 billion (not including the cost of extensive changes to the Grid to cope with intermittent sources like wind) and take longer than a century. And we’d still need to spend the £9 billion on gas-fired back-up anyway.

It is remarkable, given these facts, that the government should ever doubt the need to keep the legacy power stations open. According to research by The Tax Payer’s Alliance, green energy subsidies will amount to £5.8 billion a year by 2018-19. That could pay for the energy gap to be closed in just 18 months.

These are of course, rough calculations. And they don’t take into account the cost of fuel. But the cost of financing £59 billion worth of wind farms – interest payments – would be far greater than the cost of fuel for gas plants, which is one reason why wind farms need to be so heavily subsidised. No wonder green campaigners are so violently opposed to fracking, and so resistant to a second ‘dash for gas’. The argument for closing down coal and gas-fired power stations, and replacing them with wind farms and other renewables is factually, empirically and morally bankrupt. And no wonder the government is so worried about keeping the lights on that it is asking factories to shut down. It is policies, not technical, economic or environmental challenges, that have caused the energy gap to open up.


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