We are informed by the National Grid that, in order to stopthe lights going out all over the UK next winter, shops and offices and the oneor two factories left in the country will be asked to ration electricity use inthe afternoon and evening.
The problem is that the UK government has done more or less nothing to ensure that their old power stations, which are declining, are renewed. Clearly this was not important enough for them to put any effort into and I can only assume that anyone who matters has a private generator and will not be cold if, or rather when, the lights (and fires) do go off.
Not only, it would seem, do we have the most expensive fuel in Europe, we also have the least efficient generators.
The problem seems to stem from England where, I am informed by a correspondent in the Independent (Peter Thomson), they import 11% of their base load and 15% peak load from us, from Scotland, on a daily basis.
Additionally, to keep London running the French High Voltage Direct Current is going full blast. Eire is building an HVDC line to Holyhead to export reusables to England while the Dutch HVDC link is stalled off the Essex coast because of objections to its landing point by environmentalists. Further lines are proposed from Iceland to Scotland and Norway to England.
Apparently in 2008 one Scottish base load generator failed to come on line in time, causing blackouts across London and the Home Counties. According to the correspondent, this is not a UK problem, nor even an English problem; it is a London problem… and it is a failure of successive UK Governments to create a strategy to secure the energy needs of London.
Scotland has sufficient energy for itself and enough to export considerable amounts to England, as it is obliged to by virtue of the national grid.
We are told that fracking is the answer. Fracking will save the English government. But how safe is it? How will it affect the water table, the aquifers? Some places in America have found that the water is poisoned and the crops will not grow in areas where fracking is employed.
How will it affect the geological stability of the area? It has already been blamed for earthquakes in tests in North West England.
I've encountered situations where the supply of electricity was not completely reliable but never in a first world, European country, and never in a big city. In a small town in Morocco or in Sierra Leone, it may be expected. In Edinburgh it is not.
It seems that selling off the power companies lock stock and barrel and putting in place a toothless watchdog,
Ofcom Offgen (thanks Arbroath) in this case, to keep
them in line wasn't the best of ideas.
|Michael Fallon: He's in charge of keeping the lights on, so get your torch and some candles. It's going to be a long dark winter.|
The English Energy Minister Michael Fallon has told us all not to panic. The power will not go off says the minister. But then, who in their right mind would believe anything he said? He doesn't in all honestly look overwhelmingly or reassuringly bright.
Of course, if successive Westminster governments hadn't spent so much of their energies and a great deal of our money playing at being big shots, striding the world stage like...erm whatever the opposite is of colossus, they might have found time to run the country, the job we pay them generously to do.