17 September 2021   

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Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Energy prices:

We’re living through a fossil fuel shock, but make no mistake – net zero is the solution, not the problem. See the (surprisingto me) article below.

From which . . . Spain is in the eye of the storm because it relies heavily on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would have been available in normal times but this year the pandemic has played havoc with the market. 

Cosas de España/Galiza

A global house price index of 55 countries compiled by the property company Knight Frank shows Spain in bottom place and missing out on a real estate price boom in developed economies. More here on this.

The driving tests just got more difficult, says the VdG here. Aptly enough, I’m conducting a survey of what percentage of drivers makes the correct signal at roundabouts. So far, nil. But it’s early days . . .

Another of my odd cultural wonderings . . . Are Spanish men more prone than others to use the toilet bowl in preference to a urinal? And then leave the seat up? Has anyone researched this? That might sound like a daft question but a few years ago, I met a ‘pilgrim’ who told me she was doing a survey of all the toilets on the camino. Like me, she’d been unimpressed by some/many of them.

Talking of culture . . . Surnames: Did I already say that María has explained that some prominent Spaniards choose the least common of their 2 surnames for public – if not bureaucratic – purposes. So, the Galician president, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, and the Madrid president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, both disregard convention and use their 2nd surname for public consumption.  

The UK

As if things weren’t bad enough already . . . Fears of a winter energy crunch have deepened after a fire forced the shutdown of a subsea power cable link to France. Gas and electricity prices surged yesterday after it was confirmed that the blaze had caused the closure of the IFA interconnector, leaving Britain even more reliant on burning expensive gas to generate electricity. So, as in Spain, over-reliance on LNG.

The USA/Religious Nutters 

Covid jabs: 90% of atheists have been vaccinated, but only 57% of white evangelicals. God is clearly on their side, I imagine. As they do.

The victory of the incumbent Democratic governor of California a depressing reminder of the calcification of American politics in the face of social and economic crises and escalating partisanship. Newsom won because he managed to scare enough Californians into seeing his removal as a victory for Trump, who is widely despised on the west coast. Trigger warning – A right-wing view coming: Meanwhile, California continues to be a model of modern progressive Democratic misrule, a dystopian anti-fantasyland where woke politicians talk up their identitarian credentials, promote increasingly ruinous environmental and regulatory policies and preside over a dysfunctional state where soaring taxes, endless energy crises, and the unshakeable grip of public-sector unions produce rising inequality, diminishing opportunity, surging homelessness and a steady exodus of those who have the means to leave. . . .  The contest captured in microcosm the larger strife that has redefined politics in America and much of the West.

The Way of the World 

Energy: From that article: The right conclusion to draw from spiralling gas, coal and electricity prices in Europe is that fossil fuels are dangerously volatile. Supply can be manipulated at critical moments by hostile powers playing geostrategic games. The wrong conclusion is that this month’s energy shock is an indictment of renewable power, or chiefly caused by carbon prices, or that it is the first cruel taste of what awaits us as net-zero tightens, and therefore that decarbonisation should be abandoned. 

Quote of the Day 

Institutional cowardice is killing free speech. Self-censorship has become a creeping menace as companies and arts bodies capitulate to every strident demand. The solution is not unenforceable laws in our universities. The transformative answer is a robust agreement that freedom of expression and speech — and a genuine and pluralist commitment to them — are the essential underpinnings of a creative and dynamic society.

I’m reminded of 2 things during my early days in the Shah’s Iran:-

1. The reply I got when I asked someone a question about the government: “Mr Davies, on matters of politics I am completely ignorant”.

2. An Iranian friend telling me there were subjects off the agenda in his house because his 4 year old daughter might say something that a teacher would report and he’d then get a visit from the notorious secret police, Savak

English

Let me introduce you to a new acronym: TWaTs – Those who only go to the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Modern American usage: ‘To reach out’: To speak/write to others. Will surely cease to be fashionable one day.

Spanish 

Rezagado: Straggler, laggard, latecomer. As in Covid jabbing.

Finally  . . . 

In Tehran, Evin Prison has long been a byword for torture and illegal killings. And still is under the mullahs. Oddly enough, it faces a picnic area, where people can see coins appearing to run upwards. An optical illusion but I never knew what caused it. 

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

THE ARTICLE 

Europe’s energy crisis queers the pitch horribly for COP26: We are living through a fossil fuel shock, but make no mistake: net zero is the solution – not the problem: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph

The right conclusion to draw from spiralling gas, coal, and electricity prices in Europe is that fossil fuels are dangerously volatile. Supply can be manipulated at critical moments by hostile powers playing geostrategic games. The wrong conclusion is that this month’s energy shock is an indictment of renewable power, or chiefly caused by carbon prices, or that it is the first cruel taste of what awaits us as net-zero tightens, and therefore that decarbonisation should be abandoned. This is not to deny that the green switch will cause plenty of headaches before we get over the hump and reap the runaway benefits of better technology and the much cheaper energy than fossil combustion could ever achieve – and in Britain’s case, before this country again becomes a net exporter of North Sea energy. 

The UK’s energy deficit is 2% of GDP – or nearer 5pc annualised, this quarter – and is the core component of our chronic structural trade gap. It is beyond me why anybody thinks that transferring so much national income to despotic foreign states is acceptable. We are living through the gas equivalent of the Opec oil shock of 1973, when the cartel restricted crude supplies to punish America over the Yom Kippur War. The Saudis choose their moment well. Oil prices were already stretched by inflationary monetary policy in the US. This time the manipulator is Vladimir Putin, the target is Europe, and the pressure tool is pipeline gas. The Kremlin is limiting the normal top-up flows through Ukrainian and Polish pipelines needed to replenish European inventories before winter. It is not the only reason why UK natural gas prices have risen five-fold in a year, this week hitting an outlandish 192 pence per therm for October contracts. But it is the crucial element that has turned shortage into panic. Goldman Sachs says the futures market is pricing in a “growing winter risk premium” as people brace for potential blackouts and power rationing for European industry. Mr Putin’s objective is no secret. It is openly discussed in the Moscow media citing official sources. He aims to force Europe to certify the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on his abusive terms – in violation of EU energy law – giving him a greater stranglehold over Eastern Europe. 

Britain is a collateral casualty but is nevertheless acutely vulnerable because it closed the Rough gas storage cavern, breaking the unwritten rule that every country must have reserve capacity to cover 20pc of annual demand. It would struggle to cover 4%. We rely on Dutch and German storage, at 52pc and 63pc capacity respectively, when they should be nearer 90pc as we approach the Equinox. Nor can the cross-channel interconnectors be entirely relied on when push comes to shove. Ireland’s operator has cut off the Moyle electricity interconnector across the Irish Sea twice over the last week to avert blackouts at home, invoking “operational security”. Who in their right mind thinks that Germany would allow its precious gas stocks to reach Britain this winter if the industries of the Ruhr are facing blackouts?   

Spain is also in the eye of the storm because it relies heavily on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would have been available in normal times but this year the pandemic has played havoc with the market. It has to compete with China, Japan, and Korea for scarce global supply. Europe’s LNG spot price has tripled since April to a record $22 (MMBtu) – if you can get it – with a rise in Spanish power prices to match. The Socialist government and its neo-Marxist allies in Podemos have responded in character, raiding utilities to pay for subsidised home electricity bills. The nuclear industry said the extortionary terms could lead to the “total closure of the Spanish nuclear park”. Economy minister Nadia Calviño has warned that fuel poverty could trigger “social unrest” and undermine democratic consent for the Green Deal. In that she is right, whether in Europe, or the UK, or the US. The gilets jaunes spectre haunts each of our countries, which is why free marketeers advocate a “carbon tax and dividend” (such as HR 763 in the US Congress) that redistributes the revenue to households, with a progressive bias towards the poorest. The higher the carbon price money the fatter the dividend. That would end the fuel poverty debate at a stroke. Mrs Calviño blamed Spain’s travails on the parabolic rise in EU carbon prices this year to €60 a tonne as well as gas costs, a way of lobbying the Commission to relax its emissions trading scheme. Frans Timmermans, the EU’s climate chief, says rising carbon prices accounts for a fifth of Europe’s electricity price spike this year and is being falsely fingered, but he also acknowledged the political perils of this episode. “One thing we cannot afford is for the social side to be opposed to the climate side: I see this threat very clearly now,” he told MEPs.

The protests are getting louder. Poland’s premier Mateusz Morawiecki says Europe’s green deal is out of control and has ordered Polish utilities to itemise the exact cost of EU climate policies in household energy bills. Lawson Steele from Berenberg Bank says there is no obvious legal way for Brussels to relax the emissions trading scheme, and it would be fatal to try: “If they panic at the first real test they will destroy their credibility and kill the green deal instantly.” It would not solve the core problem in any case, and would play to the perversely-false narrative that green policies are at the root of the current crunch. Logic compels to the opposite conclusion: the answer to spiralling gas and coal prices is to use less of the stuff.

In the case of Britain, where frequency problems caused baseload electricity prices to go berserk this week, the authorities are clearly struggling to manage renewable power in an old-fashioned grid built for a former world. What is not true, and cannot be true, is that a lull in offshore wind is today’s culprit. The energy nexus ought to cover UK power needs in the depths of winter during a doldrum, let alone in September when daily demand is peaking at barely 36 gigawatts, and gas home heating is minimal. What is missing is contingency back-up. “The capacity mechanisms should have been able to deliver but there are no penalties to enforce it and the system only exists in theory. Now we’ve been hit with a perfect storm,” said Adam Lewis from energy traders Hartree Solutions. The assumption that LNG gas would always be there at tolerable prices was wishful-thinking. Planners neglected to keep enough coal capacity in reserve, and nuclear output is down to five gigawatts. It is a sorry state of affairs where the nation cannot endure a few days of calm in the North Sea at a time of low seasonal demand. The roots of this debacle go back a decade or more but the consequences have fallen to this Government. By twist of timing it could reach a crescendo just as the COP26 delegates arrive in Glasgow, and become conflated in the British public mind with net zero. 

But let us not muddle matters. This is a fossil fuel shock. Net zero is the solution and not the problem. It will happen because brown energy cannot compete with the rapidly descending cost-curve of green tech. The process is by now unstoppable for pure cost reasons regardless of climate change imperatives. Any major country that resists this will play itself out of the global economic game. The Government must hold its nerve.

2 comments

  1. As mentioned previously, I went for a fixed prices contract for gas & electricity until September 2022. I saw this WUWT article before reading today’s post & am chortling up my sleeve.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/09/16/renewable-britain-undersea-cable-failure-sends-electricity-prices-soaring/

    As for AEP, he knows sweet Fanny Adams about the human cost of Nett Zero. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cobalt-children-mining-democratic-republic-congo-cbs-news-investigation/

    Afghanistan’s rare earths & Lithium ores have been gifted to China by the most stupid president in the history of the USA, even more than Johnson & Carter & that’s very telling.

    Craig Mackinlay MP: Did Boris Johnson tell the truth about Net Zero? Fact-checking Boris Johnson’s answer to my Parliamentary Question

    It is critical that Britain’s decarbonisation policies are both affordable and technologically feasible. If the adoption of technologies such as wind and solar “farms”, square miles of batteries, hydrogen and widespread adoption of air source heat pumps leaves people colder and poorer, no-one is going to want to copy our example, and it won’t be very popular at home either. But is our example economically compelling? Is it even doable?

    In response to my question on this topic at PMQs, the PM said that we were experiencing “vertiginous” falls in the prices of batteries as well as wind and solar power. It is all going to be OK if we adopt a spirit of “promethean technological optimism”. But what’s the truth about the PM’s claims?

    As a matter of fact, renewable energy in Britain has not, as the Prime Minister suggests, been getting cheaper. Subsidies to renewable electricity generators cost consumers over £10 billion a year at present, and the average subsidy on top of the wholesale price can be conservatively calculated at about £80/MWh, making it extremely expensive by any standard.

    The Prime Minister specifically claims that the cost of offshore wind power has dropped by 70 per cent in the last decade. That is untrue. Actual subsidies paid per MWh generated have not fallen, but as a matter of public record costs have increased sharply since their introduction in 2002, when they stood at just over £40/MWh, right up to the present when they stand at just over £110/MWh.

    Perhaps the Prime Minister has been misled by his officials by the low offshore wind bids for non-binding “Contracts for Difference”. Most of these low-price contracts have not yet been taken up, and few if any seem likely to survive since, again as a matter of fact, there is no evidence that the underlying cost of offshore wind has fallen sharply. The real-life experience of offshore wind companies has been of higher maintenance costs and a shorter working life of equipment than the original business models planned for.

    Audited accounts show clearly that offshore wind capital costs remain high and that their operation and maintenance costs are rising rapidly.

    The PM also believes that the costs of solar have fallen sharply, but once again government estimates of these are inconsistent with data in audited accounts. Research in progress and shortly to be published shows that the total capex of solar “farms” in the UK fell by only 10 per cent in the period 2012 to 2018, and averaged about £1m per megawatt installed. Bizarrely, the government cost estimates are only about 60 per cent of that figure. Similarly, solar industry sources claim operating expenditure at about £20,000/MW per year while audited accounts record that it is 50 per cent higher. So they cost more to build and cost more to operate than the government has been led to believe.

    And then on top of all this, we have the network and system costs of connecting and managing uncontrollable renewables, which are high and have already affected consumers. In 2002, before renewables, the cost of National Grid’s “Balancing Services” were about £400m per year. They now stand at about £1.8 billion a year with gas and, just this week, coal powered traditional power stations stepping in to keep the lights on, and the trend is upwards, very largely due to renewables.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/09/16/craig-mackinlay-mp-did-boris-johnson-tell-the-truth-about-net-zero/

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  2. Just found this:

    Curiouser and curiouser
    Jun 7, 2019
    Energy: wind

    While looking for something else, I came across an article in the Mail about the recent report on Net Zero from the Committee on Climate Change. Apparently, in order to reach that target, we are going to need to quadruple the offshore wind fleet to 7500 turbines.

    This took me aback somewhat because 7500 is a much smaller figure than I had assumed would be necessary. Reading on, these 7500 turbines were supposed to produce 75 GW of output, implying that they are all 10MW machines. (This also caused me to raise an eyebrow, because it’s quite a lot larger than anything in operation today, but that’s by the by.)

    The problem is that 75GW of output at a load factor of 40% will produce only 261 TWh, or 22,466 kilotonnes of oil equivalent, which is about 15% of current energy demand.

    This raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions. How much energy are we going to be allowed to use in this brave new world? And where is it going to come from if not from offshore wind?

    A little further digging reveals the CCC’s illustrative scenarios for power generation in 2050. Item 2.5 gives us the CCC’s idea of total energy use: a figure of 645 TWh, around 40% (!) of current levels. (Update – this is electricity not energy – they have 270TWh of hydrogen too) Of this, 369 TWh is “variable renewables (largely offshore wind)”.

    Which causes my eyebrows to raise again. How are you going to get 75 GW of offshore turbines to generate 369 TWh of electricity? That implies a load factor of 55% averaged over the lifetime of the turbine. This is entirely implausible. The best, biggest, newest turbines start out at around 40% and decline from there.

    Incidentally, the cost of 75GW of offshore wind turbines, at an optimistic £3m/GW, is £0.2 trillion.

    Update:
    The CCC seems to be using a figure of 58% for offshore wind load factor (see p.27 here). They cite as their source a BEIS report, which can be found here. BEIS do not explain how they arrived at this figure.

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/

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