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.
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