Half angel, half bird

My many thousands of devoted readers will recall I have long been sceptical about the practical effects of the government’s Contracts for Difference flagship scheme. All too often it has been a case of the taxpayer generously subsidising electricity generation that would have occurred regardless. So, just nice little earners for supply companies.

The base degrees by which she doth ascend
 
Energy minister Amber Rudd now seems to be seeking primarily to justify her proposed multi-billion subsidies for nuclear power on the grounds that it is a technology that provides reliable base-load power. One glance at the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tables on outages tell me employing this argument is – shall we say – distinctly economical with the truth.

In practice, existing British nuclear power reactors seem to spend more time off line and out of use than those to be found practically anywhere else in the world. According to the IAEA, in 2014 the 16 reactors based in Britain were failing to provide any useful power for no less than 15% of the time. Or to put it another way, there were on average no useful nuclear-based electrons being supplied anywhere in Britain for 3 hours in every 24-hour day.

Even more pertinent are the problems these closures cause to grid reliability. The vast majority of these outages were definitely not pre-planned for maintenance reasons. Instead they were out of use for what were essentially emergency concerns.

Such uncertainties provide the National Grid planners with real headaches. The excuse of  their being elderly doesn’t wash. In the USA, where no new nukes have been opened for even longer than here, its one hundred-strong fleet was out of action for just 1.4% of the time.

I am afraid that energy secretary “Forever” Amber will need to come up with rather better arguments than base-load reliability to justify her infatuation with the Great God Atom.

 

Drop, drop, slow tears
 
The European Union flagship programme to fight the threat of climate change has long been the emissions trading system (ETS). It has always been heavily championed by the European power generators association Eurelectric – even to the extent of actively opposing any other policies seeking to reduce emissions. For instance, Eurelectric is campaigning against strengthening directives designed to increase energy efficiency as having "negative impacts on the functioning of the ETS", presumably because they seek to reduce overall consumption levels.

Of course Eurelectric ‘s continuing championing of the ETS may have nothing to do with the incredibly low prices at which its emission permits are now trading. Ironically the trading price continues to fall further and further, from its original €34 price per tonne of carbon dioxide, to €8.21/t at the time of December’s Paris Climate Change Agreement, now to the current derisory €5.64 price.

The complete ineffectiveness of this scheme regarding altering investment patterns is of course a matter of great distress to all European electricity generators. Their crocodile tears are indeed a wonder to behold.

 

Too much in the Sun?
 
The Sun newspaper’s revelation that EOn is paying Age-UK  £41, for each one of its pensioner members signed up to buy fuel from them, caused quite a stir.  Much of the indignation was focused around the undeniable fact that the relevant tariff rate, whilst at a discount, was no longer the very cheapest rate on offer from EOn.

That this arrangement added £6m each year into the coffers of Age-UK to help fund their good works, got rather lost in the kerfuffle. That was largely because, most unusually, the energy secretary Amber Rudd became instantly involved in hyping it into a scandal. She was quoted in the original Sun story, saying she was instructing the regulator OFGEM to investigate.
 
“People expect a fair deal when it comes to energy bills, not a rough deal,” the Sun reported the indignant “Forever” Amber fulminating. At maximum decibel, she continued: “ I take very seriously this allegation that Britain’s pensioners are being misled.”
 
By any standards, such condemnations are pretty strong stuff coming from any Cabinet member. So why was “Forever” quite so splenetic about the Age-UK deal, even though it was still providing pensioners with a far better price deal than most households are getting?
 
I suspect the primary reason could be that, just a few days beforehand, “Forever” had just created with great fanfare a new entity called the Committee on Fuel Poverty.  This is a statutory body charged with “challenging” the government to deliver on its commitments to remove all poorer, particularly elderly, people from suffering the scourge of fuel poverty.  The chair of the new committee is to be one Tom Wright. Whose daytime job also happens to be acting as the CEO of none other than Age-UK.
 
 

High-reaching Buckingham grows circumspect
 
The University of Buckingham prides itself on being the only tertiary education establishment in Britain independent from the official academic system.  Apparently this proud boast also permits its academic staff to operate independently of any facts.
 
The professor of economics at Buckingham is one Leonard (‘Len’) Shackleton. He was approached by the BBC website, concerning the energy policy implications of the precipitous drop in investment in residential sector energy saving measures, following the government abandonment of its flagship Green Deal programme.
 
Unlike others quoted by the BBC, all of whom expressed alarm that this would lead to more energy being imported into the UK causing security concerns, Professor Shackleton was utterly dismissive of lower rates of energy saving in homes proving any problems at all. In his best professorial style, he pronounced that: “Even quite big cuts in domestic energy would not make much of an impression on total energy use.”
 
Come again?  Around 32% of total UK energy consumption is in the home. Since 2005, overall energy use has fallen by 18%. Much of the fall has been due to changes in energy efficiency in our homes. Electricity usage has dropped by 13%, and the amount of gas burnt by a whopping 37% - both almost entirely due to government programmes designed to stimulate energy saving. Practically all have been recently abandoned. 
 
So, the good Professor’s statement seems to be absolutely inaccurate in every aspect. Not much of an advertisement for the rigours of economics as taught at the independent university of Buckingham, is it?

The Electrical Review PowerOn seminar on building the data centre of the future took place yesterday at the City of London Club. It was a great success. Anyone who attended and has any further questions they would like to be forwarded to one of the presenters, please do email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Following on from yesterday’s event, we are looking forward to the Electrical Review Smart Lighting Summit, taking place 19 April at The Crystal in London, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings.

In the same way LED lighting has taken energy efficiency to a new level smart lighting is now allowing a more sustainable approached to how this lighting is controlled. The huge rise in the number of connected devices has helped raise awareness to the ‘Internet of Things’, but how will the lighting industry deal with the electrical infrastructure behind.  Electrical Review has been covering the latest developments in smart lighting controls over recent years, but our readers are now demanding more understanding of how they can deliver smart lighting and the challenges they need to overcome in a face-to-face environment. This event will be an opportunity to meet and network with senior people in the electrical space who will be meeting to learn and gain insights.

To discuss sponsorship opportunities please contact Philip or Sunny on +44(0)20 7933 8970.

Please don’t forget, Electrical Review’s Philip Woolley is running the London Marathon this year on behalf of the Electrical Industries Charity. If you would like to help those in our industry who have come across hard times please do click here.


Distorting the market

Climate Change. It is intended to reward owners of marginal power stations for keeping them serviceable as possible back-up for peak consumption times.

The first ever auctions under it took place on 16 December: lucky winners are basically getting paid for keeping spare capacity on tap for the next 15 years.

Electrical Review will again host a Data Centre PowerOn seminar for 2016. If you would like to register or require further information please do see the links below.

The even is free-to-attend, an afternoon seminar at the City of London Club on 1 March 2016, focusing on all aspects of power transmission and distribution in the data centre environment.
 
The programme aims to inform delegates how to best maximise energy efficiency in these areas and implement the right infrastructure to complement the evolution of the data centre.
 
Please click here to register for free.
 
You can find more information on the event here.

We hope to see you there!


 

Happy new year from the Electrical Review team and all at SJP Business Media!

We have many projects to share with you this year including our Data Centre PowerOn event on 23 February in London, and our new Lighting Summit in April.

If you are interested in speaking opportunities please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For sponsorship opportunities please contact my colleague Philip Woolley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Philip is also running the London Marathon this year on behalf of the Electrical Industries Charity. If you would like to help those in our industry who have come across hard times please do click here.

We look forward to working with you in 2016.

Electrical Review’s senior sales manager, Philip Woolley, will take place in the 2016 London Marathon to help raise funds for the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC).

The event takes place on 24 April, starting from Greenwich in South East London.

If you would like to sponsor Philip please click here and support those from the electrical industry needing a little extra help.

Tessa Ogle, managing director of the The Electrical Industries Charity, said: "Since the Electrical Trades Benevolent Institution was founded in 1905 the charity has continued to evolve and now provides financial relief and practical support to more people in the electrical related industries than ever before. Two thirds of our current beneficiaries are of working age but the majority are ‘economically inactive’ due to redundancy, illness, injury or caring responsibilities. Our aim as a charity is to reach more working people and provide the support which is essential to them.

The Electrical Review team would like to wish you a very peaceful Christmas and a happy new year. We look forward to working with you in 2016.

Culling at Culham
The Written Parliamentary Answer from the Department of Energy published in Hansard does look stupefyingly boring, listing as it blandly does several columns of anticipated expenditure during each year of this Parliament. But actually it reveals some quite extraordinary plans for future profligate public spending between 2015 and 2020. 

The original Question, from the SNP’s Alan Brown, concerned planned spending on nuclear fusion. For decades Her Majesty’s Government has been funding trials for nuclear fusion under the JET programme at Culham, Oxfordshire. To date, whilst it may have provided lucrative employment for many physicists, this has produced not one single kilowatt-hour of useful electricity (whilst consuming a lot of power itself during the research process).  

 

Effectively this Parliamentary Answer reveals we the taxpayers will be forking out at least £45m during this Parliament towards trying to close down this moribund facility. Think how many older peoples’ homes could be insulated with that money. Except that this government no longer has any dedicated programme (in England at any rate) to deliver such lagging for old lags.

In April 2016 Electrical Review, in response to consistent reader feedback, will be launching the Smart Lighting Summit. In the same way LED lighting has taken energy efficiency to a new level smart lighting is now allowing a more sustainable approached to how this lighting is controlled. The huge rise in the number of connected devices has helped raise awareness to the ‘Internet of Things’, but how will the lighting industry deal with the electrical infrastructure behind.  Electrical Review has been covering the latest developments in smart lighting controls over recent years, but our readers are now demanding more understanding of how they can deliver smart lighting and the challenges they need to overcome in a face-to-face environment.

This event will be an opportunity to meet and network with senior people in the electrical space who will be meeting to learn and gain insights.

The Smart Lighting Summit will be held in the stunning home of the IET at Savoy Place, London. The newly refurbished building already plays host to the global engineering community and supporting technology innovation which makes it an ideal backdrop to this summit.

For further information on what topics the event will cover click here.

If you would be interested in a speaking opportunity please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For commercial opportunities please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A group of senior managers from City Electrical Factors (CEF) will be spending the night of Friday 27 November in a car park in Birmingham, lending its support to St Basils BIG SLEEPOUT, to raise much needed funds for the homeless.

The team hopes to raise £10,000 for St Basils, a charity that works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness across the Midlands. At any one time St Basils could have over 400 young people living in one of their 27 supported accommodation schemes and each year help over 4,000 break the cycle of homelessness by giving them the necessary skills and training.

The charity is striving to raise £750,000 this year to provide intensive support to their young residents for their Learning, Skills and Work service, which is an integral part of helping young people move on successfully.

Hundreds of people take part in the event, spending a cold night with nothing but a sleeping bag, cardboard and team spirit to keep them warm. Every year there is friendly competition to create the best cardboard accommodation. Never ones to turn down a challenge, the CEF team will be keeping busy and warm making their own cardboard creation. You will be able to catch up on how they did at CEF.co.uk/news after the event or follow #bigsleepout on social media.

There is still time to make a donation via the CEF Just Giving page! justgiving.com/cefsleepout/, or you can find out more about the charity at Stbasils.org.uk.

The new electricity market pricing system that came in to effect on Thursday 5 November will place even more responsibility on generators to improve the management of their supply imbalances or face much higher pricing penalties.