COP21: Institutionalised lunacy



The recent Paris climate conference urged electrification on a scale that would require at least three Terawatts of extra generating capacity in the UK.  That’s 750 Drax-sized power stations, or 1½ million wind turbines.  Lunacy, or what?  The following analysis was undertaken by climate warrior Philip Foster, who organised the fringe meeting which I attended in Paris alongside COP21.

The Paris climate conference urged that all home heating should move away from gas to be all electric. Just how realistic is this for the UK?

There are around 16 million (16 × 10^6) households connected to the gas grid network in the UK. The average household boiler is rated at 60 kiloWatt. To replace that with electric home heating would still require about the same electrical capacity.  (Remember even a single electric shower is 7 kW, and an oven approaching 10 kW).

Here‘s the arithmetic: 16 × 10^6 × 60 kW = 96 × 10^7 =~ 100 × 10^7 = 10^9  kW = 10^6 MegaW = 10^3 GigaW or about 1 TeraW of extra power.

Drax (which was our biggest and most efficient coal fired power station) generates about 4 GW, therefore to generate this extra 1 TW we would need to build about 250 Drax sized power stations, or erect half a million 5 MW (in reality, 2 MW) wind turbines [for reference: current average requirement in the UK is a mere 40 GW, that is 0.04 TW].

Now let‘s go to COP21‘s second idea that all cars should be electric. In the UK there are about 35 million cars (just over double the number of households). 1 Horsepower is about 750 W. So an average 100 HP car engine = 75 kW (marginally more than the average household boiler).

This means we need, not just 1 TW extra electric power to charge up these vehicles, but more than 2 TW. That is 500 Drax sized power stations or one million wind turbines.

Combining household heating with electric cars the UK would need an extra 3 TW of generating power.

Although, arguably, the 3 TW are not always needed, they will be, frequently so, around 5-6pm on a weekday. People return home, plug their cars, switch on their heating, and start cooking – all on electric.

So COP21 is asking the UK to build 750 more Drax sized power stations (think of the US forests this would require now that Drax has gone bio-mass), or 1.5 million more wind turbines. And, of course, we would need to completely rebuild the electricity Grid to take this nearly 75 fold increase in load. Also every street in the UK will need to be dug up to install much higher capacity cabling.

I‘m not sure the English language has a word strong enough to describe this. It‘s beyond insanity.

See also Booker:



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27 Responses to COP21: Institutionalised lunacy

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    “The average household boiler is rated at 60 kiloWatt”

    Is that right Roger. Mine in a 3 bed small house is 18Kw (system boiler) and one in my 2 bed flat is 22Kw (combi). Didn’t think domestics were much different to that?

    I understand a 22mm pipe will run 42Kw. I tend to see 15mm in most places that I have closely viewed.

    • ian wragg says:

      My gas boiler is 35 KW in a 4 bed house and is rated 70% efficient. Thus it uses 50 KW equiv. of gas. The combi boilers fitted to some of the houses are 45KW and 88% efficient requiring 51 KW equiv of gas. Rogers figures are not that far out when you include industrial installations.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Sounds like a car performance figure(s) thing. Have succumbed to much sales and Govt propaganda (Prescott). Knock the manufacturers figures back a bit (10% – ish) it would be very, very close to 60Kw.

        Needs an EU ban I think…lunch(es) anyone?

  2. Ian Terry says:

    Wonderful entry Roger

    As an ex BGC worker anyone who understands the business even those who can count boiler flues will realise that what Ms Rudd has signed us up for is totally undeliverable. This is the price one has to pay for not putting properly qualified people in charge of quangos.

    She must be planning for future elevation to the House of Lords as it seems that most leaders that fail big time trying to run government departments that is where they are put out to grass to still be enabled to live off of the gravy train

  3. kim Terry says:

    I just wish I could stop laughing at the insanity of it all. When the stupid coalition ended I thought sanity would prevail once more but it would seem I was wrong. This bunch of numpties are just as bad as Ed Davey and co. When is someone with any brains going to be in charge of our energy because at this rate it will be too late?!!

  4. Edward M says:

    As already pointed out, the average boiler is perhaps 60000 Btu/h which is 17.6 KW. We’d still need 280 GW for heating alone, which is many times our current generating and grid capacity, and your argument is still correct about the technical unreality of all this.
    When they try implementing their ideas they’ll run into the impracticality of it all – but unfortunately not until they have caused unnecessary devastation of forests. Not so long ago environmentalists were wanting to preserve forests. (Now a national organisation near me have cut down extensive mature bluebell woods – supposedly to support birdlife ! – our forests need protecting from the supposed guardians).
    The fundamental problem as I see it is that we elect a majority of politicians who follow groupthink over technical evidence. The question is how do we convince the electorate to vote for more sensible representatives. If only we knew the answer.

  5. catalanbrian says:

    60 Kw? I think not, but there why let the facts get in the way of making a point?

  6. catweazle666 says:

    I pay 12.545p per kWh for electricity and 3.817p per kWh for gas used for heating and hot water, so electricity is 3.286 times as expensive as gas..

    Over the last year I used 9,727 kWh of gas, costing £371.12.

    So if I had to use purely electricity, last year would cost me an extra £848,90.

    My house is fairly well insulated with three foot thick walls and relatively small double glazed windows, so once warmed up holds its temperature well, and I consider my heating bill to be well below average.

    Presumably the theory is that the new “Green” electricity will cost less than the old “dirty” fossil fuel variety. If you believe that you will believe anything (or possibly you’re called “Brian”).

    Incidentally, it appears that whoever dreamed up this crackpot scheme has entirely overlooked that the conversion of fossil fuel into electricity and the transport of that electricity to the point of use is a massively less efficient process than burning the gas at that point, but hey, who expects logic and reason from “Greens”?

    • ian wragg says:

      Exactly 666. Has anyone factored in transmission losses of electricity whereas gas losses are minimal.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      Elect cost impacts severely on those who have to live in flats and other smart(?) builds with no gas supplied. Many of them of course can’t really afford the continual crank up rate for electricity. Just think…drying clothes for one. Doubt the N. London brain dead greens live in any of those though. Now hard at work on the removal of gas use for domestic. Its hard frost, no wind here in the W. Mids now and is not a windmill place.

      Redwood spoke yesterday in the HoC on the subject…its where the no contingency plan reveals if it hadn’t already. Need to have a good few EU lunches before a dumb decision is made.

    • catalanbrian says:

      Clearly nasty little people like you, Weazel, cannot avoid making offensive personal insults, but I guess that is your problem. I have to say that if Mr Helmer’s arithmetic is correct then of course it would be a ludicrous idea to make the changes reportedly proposed by COP21, so I am in general agreement with what he says in this piece. However there are good arguments for not installing gas at domestic level in new builds, given the additional costs of infrastructure etc.

      And Weazel, in your final paragraph you blither on about the “massively less efficient process” of the central conversion of gas into electricity but you do not seem to have taken into account that these small boilers (for it is heating that we are dealing with) are substantially (or should I say “massively”) less efficient than the large boilers used in electricity generating power stations. That difference may well outweigh the losses arising during transmission of the electricity through the grid.

      • catalanbrian says:

        Just noted Weazle not Weazel. Apologies

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Time for your medicine?

      • ian wragg says:

        Rubbish, all newly fitted gas boilers have to be a minimum 0f 88% efficient. Power station boilers may reach a similar figure but when turned into generation you are lucky to get 40% efficiency.
        Combined cycle gas powered plants can reach 70% but only if running on maximum load.
        Using them for frequency control against wind turbines brings them down below 50%.
        Ian Wragg, Shift manager …………..Power Station.

      • If producing energy at the point of supply by gas is to be considered ‘inefficient’, then why have we encouraged home generation of electricity by solar panels, or wind?

      • catalanbrian says:

        What on earth has that got to do with it?

      • catweazle666 says:

        “but you do not seem to have taken into account that these small boilers (for it is heating that we are dealing with) are substantially (or should I say “massively”) less efficient than the large boilers used in electricity generating power stations”

        Oh dear, making a fool of yourself again, Brian?

        More utterly uninformed drivel.

        The maximum efficiency of CCGT thermal generating plant is of the order of 50% and of coal 33% to 40% – before the transmission losses between the generating station and the end user – 5% to 10% – are taken into account.

        Domestic boilers burning gas for heating purposes are legally required to have a minimum efficiency of 86% (see table 1 here):

        Click to access CE30%20-%20Domestic%20heating%20by%20gas.pdf

        So to a reasonable approximation, burning gas for end user heating is around twice as efficient as burning fuel at the power station and using electricity for domestic heatinh.

        You just can’t help it, can you?

  7. Jane Davies says:

    Shaking my head yet again…..I am doing this a lot lately. You really could not make this stuff up. and it would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, are these stupid politicians actually living in La La Land? Sorry this comment seems to be full of cliches but it really does beggar belief that not only was this plan even discussed but it was given a green light….no pun intended. The cost for this harebrained idea is going to be stratospheric…beam me up Scotty I need to get off this crazy world!

  8. catalanbrian says:

    Can I re-emphasise, for those of you who could not be bothered to read my earlier post that I agree that If Mr Helmer’s arithmetic is correct (and I assume that, being a mathematician he is more likely than me to get such things right) then the whole COP21 proposal is ludicrous. We don’t all have to be anti green wonks to agree with matters that are sensible, whereas many writers on here would seem to want to disagree with anything that benefits the environment, regardless as to whether it may be sensible or not. Fortunately many of you are, like me, too old to have any major influence on what happens.

    • catweazle666 says:

      “Can I re-emphasise, for those of you who could not be bothered to read my earlier post that I agree that If Mr Helmer’s arithmetic is correct (and I assume that, being a mathematician he is more likely than me to get such things right)…”

      So what was all this about?

      “60 Kw? I think not, but there why let the facts get in the way of making a point?”

  9. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Heavy plant isn’t efficient and anybody attempting high efficiency is going to loose money and fail. What general power stations themselves consume in performing energy conversion(s) is well known, Wind and Solar have to be massively subsidised because anybody who knows/knew anything about energy conversion(s) and wanted to hold on to their livelihood wouldn’t spend a penny on them….or a thought!

    Greens are wonks along with Govt wonks and are costing UK tax payers dearly. Make the wonks pay and see how quickly their limp ideas disappear and which brings me round to ultimate reparations.

    Anyway, it was simple arithmetic…hardly mathematics

  10. catalanbrian says:

    I think that, if you bothered to check, you will find that I did use the term “arithmetic”

  11. manicbeancounter says:

    Whilst replacement of gas boilers with electrical heating might cause huge extra demands on the grid it would be somewhat less than replacing internal combustion engines with electric in transport. To achieve the 80% emissions reduction by 2050 compared with 1990 that the Climate Change Act most cars, lorries and buses would have to electric.
    For what purpose? Britain produces less than 1.5% of global emissions. That share is falling as the majority of the population rapidly develop economically (SE Asia, Africa, South America).
    Even worse. the claims that policy proposals leading up to COP21 Paris, if fully enacted, will make a significant difference to future global emissions are flawed on two fronts.
    First is that the non-policy “forecasts” are flawed. They assume that in the developed countries per capita emissions will rise massively. In the USA they have been falling since 1973 and in the EU since 1980. So most of the claimed policy benefit of cutting emissions is actually replacing a silly forecast with a sensible one. At the other extreme is Africa & India. In 2100 any realistic forecast will have their emissions almost on a par with the EU today. These countries are forecast to be economic basket cases for the rest of the century in clear contradiction to trends since 2000. Their lack of policy is nullified. In between in China. Its emissions will peak in the near future as it reaches economic maturity, like the US and EU in the past. An extreme case is Climate Interactive, where the non-policy forecast China is for emissions to peak at 43GtCO2e in 2090 (out of a global total of 130GtCO2e), compared to 11GtCO2e in 2010. Per capita emissions will be more than twice the level of USA in 1973, despite all the technological advances since then.
    Second is that the climate alarmists (e.g. Bob Ward of Grantham Institute @ LSE) assume that further, more onerous, policies will be enacted after 2030. So the impact of COP21 on emissions in 2100 are vastly exaggerated by falsely pinning modelled impact of hypothetical policies enacted in the period 2030-2100 onto the assumption that policies proposed for the period 2015-2030 will be fully enacted and targets met. The reality is that without further policy, post 2030 emissions will return to their long term path without policy as the artificial suppression of emissions will always be at great cost and inconvenience.

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