13 May 2016

Less coal – more salt!

A few weeks ago we returned to a minor tragedy at home. A power outage had tripped a switch in our fuse box and the freezer had therefore failed to come back on when the power returned.  Several years of fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, bread, pizza and ice cream had combined into one stinking sloppy mass in the bottom of the chest freezer and I had several less-than enjoyable hours disposing of it all.

Power outages are soon going to be a more frequent feature of UK life. Back in 1950s the electricity demands of post-war Britain necessitated the creation of the Central Electricity Generating Board which built coal-fired and nuclear power stations. So effective were they in their role that in the 1980s we had a power surplus of around 20% - a rather different story from today where margins have dropped below 1%. But worse is yet to come; there would be more sympathy for a bout of flatulence at a christening than a suggestion to open new (or extend the life of old) coal-fired power stations. Anti-coal policies mean that we are closing the few remaining coal-fired power stations long before the gas or nuclear replacements are ready to take their place.

Next April, after the anticipated early closure of three big coal plants, the available electricity capacity will be 52,360 megawatts compared to National Grid's 2015/16 winter electricity forecast of 54200 MW. Green taxes have nearly doubled since 2010 to nearly £4.6 billion whilst prices of household electricity have risen 25%. Clearly there are some significant technical issues with the new design of nuclear powers station from France hence these can only be anticipated in the very distant future - if at all. We may soon need to revert back to traditional methods of food preservation last utilised in the Middle Ages - So ship in the salt - and you had better throw in a few candles in for good measure!

 

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