Saturday, July 29, 2006

Power Cuts Are a National Embarrassment

One of my first childhood memories was the power cuts of 1973-4. For a child they were rather fun - eating by candlelight, imagining what the blackout must have been like during the war. But thirtty years on power cuts may be returning. This week parts of central london were subjected to power rationing - which means they had their power turned off for four hours at a time. Businesses had to close, shops had to shut. All this is twenty first century Britain. It's something you might expect in a third world banana republic, not the world's fifth largest economy.

Apparently it is all to do with the power companies failing to anticipate the demand for energy during the hot weather. Obviously they don't look at weather forecasts. The Daily Telegraph tells us this morning that instead of 42,000 megawatts we will have used 44,000 megawatts of energy during July. That's a 5 per cent increase. Surely to God electricity companies ought to be able to cope with an unpredicted 5 per cent increase in demand? Have they not heard of the words 'spare' and capacity'? We're told that power stations sometimes go off line during the summer months for 'planned maintenance'. It's quite obvious that too many of them have been allowed to do so by whoever makes that sort of decision. And whoever that is ought to be fired. It's a national embarrassment.

PS And before we get the predictable comments in the Comments section about how privatisation must be to blame, save your breath. It's not. Two things have failed here - planning and regulation.

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its only a power cut, i dunno why its got so much coverage on the news etc..its hardly a big deal.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, you've quite clearly never run a business. For a shop in the areas affected it is very serious indeed. They will have lost half a day's takings. Restaurants couldn't serve lunch. But they still have to pay their sky high rents. Get it now?

Harry Basset said...

As London is portrayed as a vibrant multicultural city it is only fair to replicate the conditions many of its new citizens areused to. It is a nice touch to remind of how things are at home. I can remember when this country used to work. Having 10% of the population non native hass not improved matters.

oop norf said...

It's Tony Blair's fault - the Americans do something and he just has to follow along....

Colin D. said...

With each passing day the thought of third world england is here now! "Summer = water shortage & now electricity" I dunno who is to blame, but it will all come back to the man in the street anyway. Use less, pay more. daily we become more like a bananna state. Corruption & incompetence is everywhere. From "hutton" for Blair & caulfield for Archer".
How about a revolution, most of the present cabinet are revolting anyway. Replace the LOT with proper honorable englishmen, all five of us!!

William said...

I can see where you're coming from but I disagree with some of your comments.

"It's quite obvious that too many of them [power plants] have been allowed to do so [shut down for maintenance] by whoever makes that sort of decision."

Part of the problem is I'm not convinced anyone is making a decision - the electricity system operates on a market, its up to individual companies to decide whether they want to generate it, and if the demand is high, they get paid more.

National Grid issue - in my opinion - very accurate and considered forecasts several days in advance, all of them publicly available, which warn if more power is needed, and its up to the market to react.

I note however that we hear sod all from OFGEM - who it seems should have some responsibility in this - its always left to the NG press office to carry the can.

Please note I don't have shares in National Grid or any other affiliation, but I have always been hugely impressed with how they manage the network with such precision and take account of so many different factors when predicting the demand.

I actually think our grid system and the management of it is one of the UK's biggest technological achievements and one of the most taken for granted.

Its worth remembering here that you can't just produce the maximum amount of electricity in times of hot weather etc, generating too much power can produce all sorts of damage and the excess has to be discharged/drained.

G Eagle said...

Sehr geEhrte Iain

Until there is a fundamental change in our Political & Public Service Culture towards real accountability, our Economy will continue to degrade and unemployment (however well-concealed) will rise

Whoever heard of anyone in State Employment ever losing their job even for breath-taking incompetence or neglect, apart from the unfortunate & solitary Mr Clarke

eg Mrs Becket's DEFRA relentlessly failed to make long-overdue payments to increasingly frantic Farmers (how many Farmers became bankrupt or had to have medical treatment for stress ?)

but have any of the Civil Servants lost their jobs over this ?

and Senora Becket has not been sacked for her failure to ensure that DEFRA is fit for purpose ,,,, no, she has been promoted to be Foreign Secretary to deal with a Middle East potentially descending into a General War

- come back, Mr Frost (or even David Owen), all is forgiven - they would seem to afford a safe pair of hands, in comparison

eg Foreign rapists/murderers have been unleashed onto our Community, with entirely predictable Murders/Rapes of Children & Young Women, whom we have failed to protect

but again has there to date been any dismissal of any Public Servant :

(1) in the Immigration Service for failing to protect the Community by deporting these serious Criminals; or

(2) in the Prison Service for making so little effort to ensure (eg) that the Immigration Service should address the issue adequately

eg Feldwebel Pre$cott'$ conduct - perhaps further comment is best deferred

Your obedient servant etc

G Eagle

tapestry said...

If it was a free market the electricity would be there. Electricity companies make money by supplying electricity after all.

No doubt some H & E official has insisted a plant had to be closed, or the plant owners have got fed up with Brown's windfall taxes and invested elsewhere.

If you let markets do their job, they work. If you mess with them endlessly, they stop working.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Ahh, the simple solution to this is for all Southerners to move Up North to experience our wonderful technological paradise! No water shortages, no power cuts and fewer transport problems...

Beau Bo D'Or said...

Calm down Iain.

The power cut was a one-off caused by someone accidentally switching on all the slot machines currently being installed in The Dome.

I'm sure they'll have have a proper contingency plan in place in time for the official opening.

ian said...

Criticisms of privatisation are predictable because they're the obvious cause. The power firms are private companies. It's their responsibility. You can't blame the government.

pmd said...

harry basset said I can remember when this country used to work. Having 10% of the population non native hass not improved matters.

10% of the population "non-native"? Where do you get this? At the last census, 92% were white. Are you "non-native" if you're not white? Someone better tell FIFA then, cos the England football team in Germany was clearly full of foreign ringers.

And how, exactly, do you reach the conclusion that a 10% "non-native" population has contributed to a power cut in soho?

bnp.com is that way >>>>>

Inamicus said...

It's somewhat foolish to criticise the power generators for scheduling maintenance in the summer - traditionally the time of lowest demand (at least it was til air conditioning came into vogue).

Assuming generators can decide not to carry out maintenance is barmy - this would mean they either had to carry out maintenance in higher demand times of the year, or not maintain at all, increasing the risk of failure and increasing the number of blackouts.

Manhattan is currently experiencing considerable blackout problems, incidentally, so it's not just here (although there doesn't seem to have been any problems at all in this part of the country).

james higham said...

That's what happens when you get the teeming millions and an infrastructure to support them which is allowed to fall into disrepair. Being from the north originally, the problem is a London problem.

Johnny K said...

Iain,

the trains don't work
the electricity is f*cked
the gas prices are ridiculous
there is a water shortage

and all those industries have been privatised.

We sold the family silver and we're paying the price.

Hughes Views said...

Wait until the Greens take over and replace all the power stations with windmills. That'll slow your business down......

Chris Doidge said...

It's not embarrassing. We still have far fewer than most other civilised countries. If people are going to ignore warnings and turn their air-con up the max, it's their own fault.

Neil Craig said...

Its not only a power cut but the first cloud on the horizon. The problem is not a failure to forecast electricity demand but a failure of government to allow the building of new generating capacity. While politicians have been fannying about on windmills & suchlike useless rubbish & demand has been increasing in tandem with economic growth they have allowed the closure of nuclear plants without replacement.

We are facing a massive electricity crunch. If we can't keep the lights on in midsummer imagine what midwinter will be like. & then imagine what it will be like in 5 years when we have lost more reactors. & in 10 years.
Then remember that 24,000 pensioners a year die, at least partly, because of fuel poverty now.

We could & should have unlimited quantities of electricity available produced at 1.5p a unit (French price) if politicians of all parties had done their duty to their electors rather than cringing before Luddite propaganda.

Even Blair's conversion isn't that useful. The nuclear Installations Inspectorate are still intending to spend 5 years checking if French & Canadian reactors work before licencing them & if sites, often the same sites currently in use, can be licensed as suitable for nuclear power stations. It takes 4 years to build a reactor in Japan but it is likely we won't be able to have any new ones in use for a dozen. Meanwhile a lot of people are going to die unnecessarily.

I said all this at conference (you may guess which conference but it would have been the same at any of them) in 2001 & the only difference is that we have accelerated that much closer to the precipice.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Ofgem for a while, then run by the NuLab jobsworth Mr (now Sir) Callum McCarthy. The most notable thing about his otherwise bare office was a huge picture of him with Bliar in New York shaking hands, both with the same gormless grin on their faces. It was the first thing you saw when you went into his room. I wonder how he got his lucrative and important job at Ofgem and recent knighthood and appointment as head of the FSA?

Anyway, despite Sir Callum's attentions, Britain's grid is good shape compared to many other countries and the current difficulties are I think exceptional. Under the CEGB before privatisation in 1990, Britain's grid (both national and the Area Electricity Boards) was undoubtedly "gold-plated" - i.e. standards were too high resulting in a grid that was horribly expensive but would never ever fail - but under the privatised regime I think we've got things about right.

Anonymous said...

Love that one G eagle. Farmers going bankrupt because they aren't getting their 'bung' from the taxpayer. They shouldn.t be getting any payments. The parasites should be in the free market. Sixty five percent of all farm incomes come from the taxpayer. Why, let the bastards go to the wall, they deserve it. As Sean Rickard one time chief economist to the NFU said 'The way we support British agriculture, is the greatest conspiracy to defraude the British taxpayer ever devised' Still there's nothing you Tories like better than 'Socialism for the rich' No wonder you've lost three elections on the trot, and your going to lose a fourth' That arse 'Hug a Hoodie' Cameron isn't goint to save you. Oh congratulations the Tory party has just completed the longest period in opposition in 200 years: wonder why!

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

Johnny K said...
the trains don't work
the electricity is f*cked
the gas prices are ridiculous
there is a water shortage

and all those industries have been privatised.

1.Remember British rail running like a swiss watch? -NO?
2. Air Con wouldn't be allowed if electricity was nationalised?
3.Sharply higher Gas prices are a world-wide phenomenon.
4.1976 - nationalised water coped well with that drought did it?

The Lib Dem site is that way >>>>

Yak40 said...

Oop norf - what are you talking about ? You must be one of those who drag Yanks or Bush into every topic. The power cuts in America are, except perhaps NY (same reason as UK I suspect), St Louis (tornado), California (lefty state gov screwed up the delivery years ago). We're in 35+ temps with nary a flicker, as usual, and that goes for 99.9% of the country.

Anonymous said...

Althought the two issues which you raise are a problem ian, there are two others - conservation and pricing(tarif) policy.

With so little serious efforts on conservation (I bet thousands of empty homes and offices were wasting GigaWatts at the time the cuts cut in) and a pricing policy which does not penalise peole for turnoing on devices even at the times of peak demand) we are our own worst enemies. Wasn't that Tony Blair a shadow energy minister once?

Anonymous said...

tapestry is wrong. california had a free market and enron made sure there were black-outs because it meant they got more money. a free market is regulated by supply and demand, when demand is greater than supply the cost goes up so it is in the generators interests to make sure there is less than people need. the electricity and water shortages are disasterous for businesses who are basically forced to run at a loss so that a utility company can make extra money at the expense of everyone else. at the heart of the matter isnt whether a service is public or private but on the ethos of whether it exists simply to make money for the shareholders or has overall responsibilities to society in a wider sense. nationalised utilities normally have this by default but just because they do, that doesn't mean that private ones can't have regulation to make sure they have to provide a service rather than provide profit no matter what cost. like the railways or water, the regulatory system is broken and needs fixing.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why the private sector is more cost efficient than the public sector is exactly because they cut out 'spare capacity'. Their aim is to cut every cost they can, not to provide a 'safety net' in the way a public body has a duty to do.

These electricity cuts are not down to a failure of the system, they are an inevitability of a private market system - it doesn't make commercial sense for private electricity companies to maintain enough spare capacity to cope with occasional peaks of demand.

Anonymous said...

the trains don't work

- I have taken a number of trains in the last few months and not had a problem with any of them.

the electricity is f*cked

- I assume you were typing that on a computer powered by electricity? Doesn't that contradict you to some extent?

the gas prices are ridiculous

- because of high oil prices, not because of the inefficiency of the transportation or supply industries

there is a water shortage

- because of low rainfall

and all those industries have been privatised.

- Somebody doesn't know very much about regulated industries. There was a water shortage in '76 when the industry was nationalised because of low rainfall, as there is now, and that was before everybody started to get dishwashers. The odd power cut happened during the days of the CEGB too. And had nationalised rail been asked to transport the number of passengers we have today, it couldn't have coped.

strapworld said...

Iain, I am sorry but one can blame the governments. Privatisation was supported at the time but in almost all the area's we, the punters, have lost out. Railways and local corporation run bus companies were very good BUT now please do not tell me things are better they are not.

The buying of one's council house was a great idea but we are now saddled with a major problem of affordable homes. The only real solution, I believe, is for a Macmillan type building programme of NEW Council homes throughout the land! For the young and especially the Key workers.

Key workers. In London in the 60's when I started work there Nurses, Police etc had their own accomodation...all sold off. Teachers would get Council Houses/ Flats.

The Conservatives should rally start thinking and see if they can create a new scheme for Council Housing. Local Government Transport schemes and Nationalise the water, gas, electricity and rail companies. Now THAT would get people thinking!

But you, Iain, in your Metropolitan bubble I doubt that you can see the necessity for a really radical approach to the problems.

Big Business has proved a failure they have just lined their own pockets and fleeced the punters! Time to go back.

Will the Tories have the guts???

2br02b said...

Well, there 's no need to worry because when Green Dave takes over all the windmills he and his friend Zak* believe in will solve all our prower demand problems... for the 30% of the time when the wind is not too weak or too strong (all over the country at the same time, a feature of wind) to generate elictricty at all.

But that's all right. As national productivity falls to about 25% of what it is now and unemployment soars to something like 60%, mortgage defaults climb to several millions per year, and the receivers are having to ask bankrupt businesses to form an orderly queue, it will all seem so worthwhile to save the environemt.

According to Green Dave.

Alternatively he could grow up, get rid of Zak, and immediately announce a crash programme to build nuclear power plants.

-----
*The man who imagines he can repeal the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

oop norf said...

yak40 - Touchy. it was mainly a Blair joke, but on a practical note maybe you've forgotten the cascade failures that took out so much of the US grid?

Chuck Unsworth said...

The real issue here is 'Peak Energy'. It's been clear for a long time that Summer Peak (electricity consumption) in the USA is now much higher than Winter Peak. This is because vast amounts of air-conditioning have been installed, ambient temperatures are generally higher, general affluence has increased and so on.

Summer Peak is contributing to Global Warming very substantially. Most generating facilities in the USA, India, Australia and many other countries are coal-fired power stations. Increased demand equals burning of coal, contributing CO2 and other pollutants to the atmosphere.

So it can be seen that this is a cycle - increased CO2 contributing to Global Warming, higher temperatures leading to increased demand for air-conditioning etc etc.

There are solutions - notably other effective ways of cooling buildings and people. Evaporative Coolers, for example, use about one tenth of the equivalent air-conditioners. But it needs a change of mindset on the part of individuals and of such organisations as the Carbon Trust.

Anonymous said...

2Br02B,

"*The man who imagines he can repeal the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics."

If you're a proper Conservative, you believe that if you have enough money you can do anything you want.

Cllr. Gavin Ayling said...

As Iain said, privatisation is not to blame. The problem is, though, equally not the generating companies' faults.

The lines can only cope with a certain amount and it's not like flicking a switch -- we cannot suddenly pump more power out without previously having wasted loads. And if there's extra summer-time maintenance going on then there's even less flexibility left.

The solution to this problem requires investment in infrastructure that would rarely be used in the forms of energy pools. I couldn't advocate that, frankly.

garypowell said...

Strapworld
Privatisation is in my opinion, and I am sure in the minds of rational people (ie most present day Conservatives), is the only reason why Britain is still funtioning at all.

The paragons of still exsisting socialism in this country, the NHS state education and local and national government are an expensive joke. As well as inefficient unaccountable and corrupt. Nationalised companies were simply used by postwar governments to mop up uneducated and otherwise unemployable working class voters. A part of the nation that no government could then ignor and get elected.

This thank god/Thatcher/NLab has changed, for the benifit of all the people. Not now for minority of trade union officials, authoritarian Con/Lab MPs and their past socialist megleomanic ideology.

I built run and own a manufactuing company. If I had ever run it like a nationised business, the cost of my goods would be compleatly out of the reach of ordinary people, and I would still be getting subsidies from the ever impoverished tax payer.

I can only imagine that your perception of reality is based on either you having zero experience of how things work, or a cronic brain disorder.

BTW the CAP is a disgace on par with the worst excesses of the Labour movement and should be radicaly reformed or scraped ASAP.

billy said...

"Somebody doesn't know very much about regulated industries. There was a water shortage in '76 when the industry was nationalised because of low rainfall, as there is now, and that was before everybody started to get dishwashers."

I read that the japanese have started using dishwashers and consumption of water has gone down. Now this infers that dishwashers cause consumption to go up. What do do now? Switch the dishwasher off and get the wife back on doing them by hand, or let her carry on resting? It's hard to be green.

Verity said...

chuck unsworth - I thought we were going to get through this entire comments thread with no mention of ... gobal warming! ... but no.

Oh, well ...

FishFork said...

Tapestry said
"No doubt some H & E official has insisted a plant had to be closed..."

Well yes, Radcliffe in Notts is offline at the moment due to a serious industrial accident resulting in serious scalding of staff. Are you suggesting we ignore H&S issues so that you have enough power for your electric fondue set?

Peter from Putney said...

Machiavelli's Understudy said...
"Ahh, the simple solution to this is for all Southerners to move Up North to experience our wonderful technological paradise! No water shortages, no power cuts and fewer transport problems..."

Thanks, but no thanks!

Rick said...

Have they not heard of the words 'spare' and capacity'?

The CEGB was run by Engineers. Engineers build in Spare Capacity.

Privatised Electricity companies are run by Aaccountants. Accountants cut costs by shedding spare capacity.

Capacity costs money; if it is Spare Capacity it is not revenue-producing. Why should any one private company maintain spare capacity to balance the system ?

The Voice of Reason said...

'Restaurants couldn't serve lunch'

Gazpacho & some old crusty bread,
A bottle of wine, a plate of olives, some cheeses, tomatoes, oil and basil. Some cake to help you sleep through the afternoon.

It's a piss poor restaurant that can't feed its customers with Eleki, I'd never dream of actually cooking in 30C heat.

Verity said...

fishfork, you are a preening, preachy, self-righteous twerp of a type fortunately only rarely found outside England. The chance, eagerly seized, to rap the knuckles of one of your fellow citizens must have set you up for the entire weekend.

Too bad your post makes no sense. You introduce the scalded worker as a piece of new information. Then you accuse posters here of cynically wishing to party madly on with their electronic fondues regardless. Yet you were aware that you were introducing this information to people who weren't aware of it, otherwise, you wouldn't have introduced it with such a prissy air of revelation.

Don't tell me! Let me guess! You work in government, don't you? Local council perhaps?

By the way, what's an electric fondue? Does anyone outside your circle use them?

strapworld said...

garypowell. I do not know what planet you are living on BUT utopia this country most certainly is not.

But in the words of your favourite New Labout anthem 'things can only get better'

what did you say?
" The paragons of still exsisting socialism in this country, the NHS state education and local and national government are an expensive joke. As well as inefficient unaccountable and corrupt. Nationalised companies were simply used by postwar governments to mop up uneducated and otherwise unemployable working class voters. A part of the nation that no government could then ignor and get elected."

Gosh with such a low opinion of your fellow man
and such a high opinion of yourself and your ilk, you obviously are unaware of the corrupt business people, bankers and politicians under your land fit for businessmen!

I am pleased, under your criteria that I am suffering from a cronic brain disorder.Rather than your dislusions of madness.

In your case sir, the lunatic has taken over running the country.

Benedict White said...

As a boy I only remember power cuts due to war.

However the power cuts are due in may ways to the alteration of the privaisation that Labour carried out after it came into power.

When electiricity was privatised the then Conservative government introduced a "capacity payment" to make sure that providers were paid to have capacity available at times like these. (Though to be fair at the time they were thinking of winter). One of Labours first acts was to abolish them. So there, its all Tony's fault.

It is nice to be agreeing with Iain again, after some disagreements on other subjetc areas.

Anonymous said...

STRAPWORLD,

Dont be offended by 'garypowell'his facist
views are quite disgraceful.

However I do feel that whilst there is a problem of affordable homes, when the crash comes everything will even out and the garypowells of this world will begin to live in the real world.

Perhaps a new labour leader will help to bring your vision to reality. We shall see. But on this conservative blog your views, and mine, are never considered with an open mind.

Garypowell is just another ranting facist

Anonymous said...

The paragons of still exsisting socialism in this country, the NHS state education and local and national government are an expensive joke. As well as inefficient unaccountable and corrupt. Nationalised companies were simply used by postwar governments to mop up uneducated and otherwise unemployable working class voters. A part of the nation that no government could then ignor and get elected.

Were these not the same people that WON the wars?

garypowell you are a disgrace. You should emigrate alongwith your one man business to Russia, they would like such a charming man.
God, how on earth can this man get away with writing such bilge?
Iain BAN this garypowell and his ghastly views he will advocate gas chambers for the working class next!

Benedict White said...

Umm.. Having just read some comments.

Universal primary education was first provided by a Conservative Government in the 19th Century. Universal secondary education by Winston Churchil's war government, which although a unity government was led by a Conservative prime minister.

The NHS has many faults, but by comparison wit the USA it costs a lot less and people seem to be healthier. However I am not sure why a GP needs to be paid £250,000.

The Conservatives built far more "social housing" than this government have, and our housing policy last time would have invested more to better effect in terms of providing affordable housing.

Lastly selling council housing to the person who lives in it and may be able to pass on the tenancy to the next generation makes very little difference to housing availability as people in council houses don't generaly move so are there for life anyway.

garypowell said...

Anonymous
Oh dear did a bit of the real world upset you.

BTW my family are all working class. I was educated in the worst comprehensive school in southeast london, and started my business with no money straight from school. Mainly to get away from authoritarian socialists like yourself, telling me what to think or believe.

I am not a socialist because I know from first hand personal experience that the poorest people suffer the most from it. Not just in education but in their liberty,and FREEDOM OF SPEACH. I have never tried to ban anyones opinion however much I disagree with it. You can now never say this, and should be ashamed of yourself.

garypowell said...

Benidict white
All very true. However this was 60 years ago. If private industry had not learnt to adapt and change something that clearly is not working well for the benifit of the people it was intended to help. WE would all be eating grass by now.

I did not say or imply that the state should not help poor people. It has been doing it long before the labour party was invented, and will be doing it long after the Labour party finally becomes exstinct.

The state is tottaly crap at owning and running anything for the benifit of the people. This should, by the year 2006 be selfevident. The Labour movement has no interest in serving the interests of public service customers. It serves only politicians and the LABOUR it employs. THAT IS WHY IT IS A LABOUR MOVEMENT.

Rick said...

Universal primary education was first provided by a Conservative Government in the 19th Century.

William Gladstone was Prime Minister in 1870; William Forster passed an education Act in 1870; he was a Liberal MP.

Manfarang said...

harry basset
Not too many power cuts in this part of the Third World (Thailand) or in many other parts of the Third World I have lived in or visited.I do remember reading about some bad power cuts in NZ a few years ago(the power companies there having just been privatised).
Don't believe everything you read in the Daily Mail harry.

Anonymous said...

The lack of technical understanding in some of these posts is rather worrying. The problems lies not in generating capacity (although getting planning permission for a new non-renewable power station is incredibly hard these days) but with local grid capacity - otherwise the whole of the UK would be suffering "rolling brownouts". The local supply company, EdF, has been busily selling off many of its "redundant" London transformer sites over the last few years and clearing many millions of pounds from the sales thanks to high property prices. Now that we have peak demand the remaining network is insufficient to transfer the power into Central London. EdF is, of course, Electricite de France and therefore we can reestablish the natural order of things and blame the French.

Anonymous said...

Tapestry - US has a free market in electricity. Power cuts across America are a pretty much routine part of life there, especially during high summer. Reason is that the various competing companies on the whole resent the sort of centralised planning which is the only thing that can solve and deliver something like the British National Grid. Iain is unfortunately mistaken when he says that privatisation is nothing to do with it; prior to privatisation, the Grid was planned to operate with 20-30% spare capacity and huge "rapid burst" spike-demand meeting plants like Dinorwic in North Wales were constructed at taxpayers expense to ensure the lights didn't go out in extreme circumstances. Since privatisation, capacity excess has been reduced (it has been regarded after all by the accountants as "wasteful and uneconomic surplus units") and the grid itself has not been maintained as well as it should have been. (shades of the railway privatisation there!) In addition, the Thatherite "dash for gas" to remove the power of the coal unions meant that the original Grid plan was destabilised since it focused on the huge coal-burning power blocks on the Trent. The overall result has been mismanagement, excessive focus on profits and a chronic inability to serve customers at all times, exactly like the scenario in the US. The real issue is that on key national resources like power, water, gas and so on, only a "one-supplier" backed by govt can really work. Iain you are right to comment on the regulation side of it, but the public sector ethos also matters, as does the willingness of the taxpayer to fund the huge projects needed. And in global warming times, should we really be running all those air-cons anyway?!

Anonymous said...

Chuck Unsworth - evaporative coolers don't work well in humid climates, they are arid-climate alternatives to air con. Britain in July/August heat waves is staggeringly humid, almost as bad as the tropics. One of the main things that makes hot summers here unpleasant! And I heard yesterday on the radio that the developers are planning new "costa del sol" style mega tourist developments along our once-beautiful coasts to take advantage of the New Warm. God knows what Britain will be like. Kind of almost makes you wish the ice age will come on, to sweep away all the money-grabbing lunacy that has infected us.

griswold said...

garypowell don't piss in the wind by engaging in dialogue with strapworld and anon. You are from different worlds and never twain shall meet. Doers and drones. Trust your biz is making millions.

Cinnamon said...

In my case, powercuts at the wrong time can cost me serious money (I work from home and interrupting the process spoils the product), and I presume I have to make a point of calling the power company every time now before I start to do things that depend on an uninterrupted powersupply.

I also take offense to the simple turning off without prior warning, at least when you know that this will happen, it is possible to plan.[1]

It is not too hard to get a callcenter to set up an automated tapemessage that warns people a few hours prior to the powercut that this has to happen.

About dishwashers: A modern dishwasher is more economical than the old handmethod nowadays as it uses less water.
Plus, it doesn't get p*ssed off at lazy bastids. ;-D

[1] Losing an expensive dinner in the electric oven also isn't fun if you have a big family get togethers or party. Especially when planning could have smoothly worked around this all without loss of continuity...!

Anonymous said...

First let's get global warming out of the way. Read long term past history. It's cyclical.
Power cuts are certainly an embarrassment and are the direct result of not (correctly) assessing future development.
Increasing affluence means a larger need for all types of energy. If the affluence was predictable, why not the needs to sustain it?
The Septic Isle is traditionally a 'head-in-the-sand' animal with a hoodathortit reaction...the attitude to radical Islam is a classic example....Can anyone remember a single project in which the costs have not been grossly underestimated?
Frankly, power cuts are our own stupid fault...and that surely is an embarrassment.

FishFork said...

From the witty mind of Verity...

fishfork, you are a preening, preachy, self-righteous twerp of a type fortunately only rarely found outside England. The chance, eagerly seized, to rap the knuckles of one of your fellow citizens must have set you up for the entire weekend

So your contribution to the debate is to flame and insult me? Your 'disproportionate response' (to coin a phrase) says more about you than it does about me. My comment was a challenge to Tapestry's post which seemed to trivialise safety issues as getting in the way of the "free market" doing its job. My half-joking, flippant reference to an electric fondue set was to suggest the possibility of the priorities not being quite right in the original post.
I am not pretentious enough to refer to the people in my life as my "circle", but I can confirm that none of them have the said utensil.

I may well be the "type fortunately only rarely found outside England", the real problem, for the rest of us, is your "type" is not rare enough, anywhere. If you can't post without flaming, then I suggest you turn of the computer and go play with your circle.

Anonymous said...

Verity can upset people. The folk who really should be upset from time to time always rise to the bait.
Energy: From those of you who have experience in this field, I would like to know why, given the vast expanses of sun-bleached desert on this planet, no effort has been made to cover some of it with solar panels. Big capital outlay I realize but it should then be hay all the way....& would provide income for those now miserable countries who have nothing to offer exportwise. I confess that I have no degree in Economics & the question may appear naïve. With current energy prices that won't fall in the forseeable future is it not a viable 'solution'?

Chuck Unsworth said...

Anonymous 9.52 am. I'm sorry, you're wrong. I can provide adequate proof of the effectiveness of evaporative coolers in Northern European climates, both in scientific and practical terms. But I really don't want to bore everyone here with that, so - if you're serious about your statement - contact me via www.mastercool.eu.com and we can continue the dialogue.

Thanks

Verity said...

fishfork - yes, I think we all got your leaden attempt at flippancy.

Again: My point was, you introduced new information about the scalded worker. Then lectured people for being so cynical about Health and Safety, when clearly, you knew that the people posting did not know about this worker. In other words, an eagerly seized little chance for oneupmanship.

You post in response to my post "If you can't post without flaming, then I suggest you turn of the computer and go play with your circle."

Surely you have intuited by this point that I don't care what you suggest?

BTW, a flaming takes several, or preferably, many, people. Wrong usage, fishfork.

FishFork said...

You should really do your research Verity, I'm sure even you could stop being smug long enough to check Dictionary.com or Wikipedia;

"Flaming is the act of posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting, usually in the social context of a discussion board on the Internet..."
Be sure to read the bit about the flamer (singular) trying to "establish a position of superiority". Correct usage, Verity. And very apt.

Your definition of lecturing could also do with a refesh - I made a specific comment to a specific post, with an example to illustrate my point. Hardly a lecture.

My point still stands despite your insults. H&S issues are, generally, not trivial and have little to do with the topic of discussion.

Tim Almond said...

The information I heard from EdF was that there were 4 unrelated faults around Soho, something that is quite an extreme event.

Extreme events will happen in any system, and unless human life is at risk, are not worth building in further redundancy.

When was the last time this happened?

The problem is that much of the media don't address things from a sensible risk point of view. If something has only happened for 1 day in 10 years, is it really worth spending more money (which the customers will have to pay) on extra levels of redundancy?

Verity said...

fishfork - You're a pedantic little oneupmanshipper and I'm not engaging with you further. "Flaming" is many people targetting one blogger, but I don't care if you don't accept this.

Emma F shares the wealth said...

Anonymous 3.53, "global warming is cyclical". Yes, there is ample evidence that the world has been through warming and cooling phases in the past, but it has never in the geological and environmental records warmed as rapidly and as worldwide as it is right now. The only possible reason for that can be human activity. To take one example, the oceans are warming faster than they have at any point during the last 35 million years. That is a hell of a trend-bucker! I can suggest some good books on climate change if you are interested to find out more, James Lovelock "The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back - and How We Can Still Save Humanity" is a good start.

Neil Craig said...

The Earth was warmer in the late Roman period when they grew grapes in York & the medieval warming period when there were dairy farms in Greenland. The Hockeystick theory that warming is suddenly rapidly taking off has been proven arithmetically wrong.

The Industrial revolution was not a cause, solar variablity almost certainly was. The Sun is still variable.

While Professor Lovelock believes in catastrophic global warming & therefore accepts the need for nuclear power to ameliotate it most Greens claim to believe in GW but oppose the only practical metod om amelioration. This calls into question whether they are sincere or only Luddites flying false colours.

Anonymous said...

Neil Craig repeats the lines of the Petro-companies in the US. "The hockey stick is arithmetically wrong." Baloney. Can you show us one authoritative source that proves that. "Grapes were grown in Scotland". Yes they were, but the _rate_ of change was much slower and there were deep cold spells and warm spells alongside each other then and _nothing like_ as much warming as fast as during the last 50 years. "Nothing to do with industrialisation" - crap. In Greenland ice cores, the delayed CO2 signal of various phases of the industrial revolution is clearly visible and is having a bigger and bigger impact. Craig belongs to the same category as the holocaust-deniar - too horrible to consider, so best dig head into the sand and ignore. Sorry, but it's real, and it's here. As the hurricanes grow more severe and the heat spells hotter, you will be forced to believe it.

Emma F shares the wealth said...

People who doubt the existence of the "hockeystick" (graph showing the sudden leap in temperatures during the last 50 years) can do worse than check out the Wikipedia entries on it:

Large image of the hockeystick.
Discussion page

Neil Craig said...

Mous
Try Professor Singer's SEPP http://www.sepp.org/ or http://www.junkscience.com/jan05/breaking_the_hockey_stick.html. The Hockeystick is so clearly baloney that most semi-sensible enviros are backing away from it. This does not, obviously, include wikipedia where weight of popular but vociferous ignorance deletes actual information.

I actually said grapes grew in York which is not a town in Scotland. The reason why the Industrial Revolution could not be a cause of the late Roman & medieval warm periods, which is what I said, should be apparent if you a apply a little thought.

I have not been a Holocaust denier (quite the contrary as regulars here will know) & if you are going to make such a silly comparison perhaps I may say that you bear a startling resemblance to those "environmentalists" of the 1970s who assured us we should destroy our industrial society to avoid a new ice age & assured us we would all recognise this when the glaciers started heading down the M6 about now.

I note you both have nothing to say about the necessity for nuclear power to stop your putative catastrophe which shows my point.

I assure you that I have never received any payment from the petro-chemical industry.

Neil Craig said...

Mous
Try Professor Singer's http://www.sepp.org/Archive/NewSEPP/Kyoto-Patterson.htm

While the Hockey Stick graph was the cornerstone of the IPCC report on warming the more sensible enviros are rapidly backing away from it. This, obviously, doesn't include wikipedia where weight of vociferous ignorance can always delete actual information.

York, where grapes grew in the late Roman period is not in Scotland. The reason why the Industrial revolution could not be reasponsible for the late Roman & Medieval warming, as i said, should be obvious with a little thought.

Regulars here will know I am not a Holocaust denier, quite the opposite. If you insist on such a silly comparison may I suggest that you bear an uncanny resemblance the the 1970s environmentalists who assured us that we must dismantle our industrial civilisation to avert a new ice age - glaciers coming down the M6 being forecast for about now.

I note neither of you had anything to say about the need for more nuclear to reduce CO2 release - which verifies the other point I made.

I assure you that I am in receipt of no payments from the petro-chemical industry.

Verity said...

Yes, there were vineyards in York, and the Anglo-Saxon toffs who mixed around with the Roman conquerors were wearing fashionable togas. You can see paintings of them. England was hot.

Then it cooled rapidly to the Mini-Ice Age as it is called and became violently cold by about, I believe, the year 800 for a couple of hundred years. Then it gradually, slowly, slowly, began to warm up again. It is still on this warming path.

Emma F Shares The Wealth - the universe is very large. One hundred million extra cars, three million more flights, 30 million more cows farting are not going to make a whit of difference. You people think too small and tend to personalise things too much. The cosmos can take care of itself.

Emma F shares the wealth said...

Congress asked the National Research Council, the most respected scientific body in the US, to investigate the "hockey stick" graph and they reported back today. They overwhelmingly confirmed the original work and defended the scientists involved, who have been personally attacked and villified by corporatist forces in the US.

Full story.

Quote from the report:
"The new report, carried out by a panel of the US-based National Research Council (NRC), largely vindicates the researchers' work, first published in 1998.

The review looked at large-scale surface temperature reconstructions from different research groups, together with instrumental records, to try to establish the Earth's surface temperature over the last 2,000 years.

Because thermometer records extend no further back than 150 years ago, scientists have to rely on "proxy data" to glean information about Earth's climate prior to that time.

Tree rings, corals, ocean and lake sediments, cave deposits, ice cores, bore holes, and glaciers are all used to infer the climate of the distant past.

The NRC report concludes: "Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th Century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium."

Neil Craig said...

Emma
I am very happy to have the Hockey Stick graph held up as the very highest standard of Green science & of the honesty of the the media report who it. You will see, even from the slanted report you reprint that in fact the graph which claimed to show a flatlined climate for the last 20 centuries (ie the Medieval & Roman warmings were airbrushed out of existence) has now been retroactively cut to 150 years.

Not coinidentally 150 years ago represents the end of the Maunder Minimum - the period when sunspot activity was virtually non-existent & the sun is therefore believed to have been cooler.

I note also that you have not replied to my question about whether your alleged belief in catastrophic warming leads you to support nuclear being the only way of generating large scale power without serious CO2.

garypowell said...

Maybe this might clear a few minds, that make claims to understand the entire electricity industry, while claiming that others are missinformed.

You can have your state system if you want but it costs more money to run, and the TAX payer has to come up with the investment.

Governments have shown that they are unable to provide adiquate investment or management far to often. Not just because they are not experienced investers or managers, but because they will always find more emidiate things to spend the cash on.

Money is very important because most people have to live in the real econemy, whether they like it or not.

The airline industry gives a good example of what happens when you have to much spare capacity. It costs a lot more to fly anywhere. Have you ever compared the cost of scedual with charter flights? This is most important for the poorest people. The poor people the likes of anonymous claim they care about so much.

Please remember that their is hardly a non Marxist econemist in the world that has not worked this out. Whether governments have the political will or confidence to change things is another matter. China is privatiseing at a rate of knots. Does anyone think they are doing this because they think it is a generaly bad idear?

squodgy said...

The forthcoming 'energy vacuum' forwarned by Blair in one of his last speeches before handing over, is quite upsetting for a country which led the way for so long. How did it happen? I've heard that Margaret Beckett stonewalled the Nuclear lobby for five years during her reign as Environment Minister. Is there any truth that the 'vacuum' can be allocated to her???

squodgy said...

The forthcoming 'energy vacuum' forwarned by Blair in one of his last speeches before handing over, is quite upsetting for a country which led the way for so long. How did it happen? I've heard that Margaret Beckett stonewalled the Nuclear lobby for five years during her reign as Environment Minister. Is there any truth that the 'vacuum' and its resultant chaos can be allocated to her and recorded thus in the history books???