29 July 2022: Bloody tourists; Galiza Day v Yorkshire Day; Modelo 720 relief; Corruption; Orwell on ‘lonely heart’ ads; & Other stuff

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Awake! For, Morning, in the Bowl of Night, has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight
And, Lo, has caught the Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Life in Spain 

It’s happened in Oporto, Lisbon and Santiago de Compostela over the last 10 years or so and now it’s happening in Pv city. Sometimes, in a narrow medieval street, you just can’t weave your way through a throng of tourists. Here’s an example – 30+ folk on a guided tour plus 20 or more young visitors in Hi-Viz jackets*, from – of all places – Ukraine:-

It can only get worse. Even if it’s merely a gnat bite now


This week we had the Día de Galiza, with numerous celebrations of Galician-ness. Last evening I wrote that: Galiza has a population of 2.8m, compared with Yorkshire’s 5.3m. But I just can’t imagine even the proud and independently-minded denizens of this county having a ‘Yorkshire Day’. Perhaps because they don’t have their own language and can’t claim to be Celts. Though they do have their own language. Or dialect, at least. And they are mostly of Viking descent. So maybe they should have a special day. I sent this to a Yorkshire friend who replied: But we DO have a Yorkshire, day and it’s next Monday! When, he says, I should wear my flat cap all day. Given the reputation of Yorkshire folk for economic ‘sense’, I wasn’t surprised to read in Wiki that, in 1991, The Times noted that In its early years, the day was not widely acknowledged. And that: Not many people know that today is Yorkshire Day and probably not many Yorkshiremen either know or care. It is almost as artificial as Father’s Day, which, as all thrifty northerners know, was created to sell more greetings cards. So I wan’t completely wrong. It turns out that there’s also a Lancashire day in November, another commercial – not nationalist – event.

En passant, I noted high-street dental practice No. 6 yesterday, logically enough close to the city hospital. 

Cosas de España/Galiza

Mark Stücklin has confirmed the good news re Modelo 720 fines here. But no mention of whether I’ll get back the €1,500 fine for a submission that was a day late. Lovely folk the Hacienda.

Reports of corruption cases are not exactly rare in Spain and I regularly surprise my visitors by claiming that corporate-political skullduggery here is higher than in, say, Greece or Italy. Right now we have cases involving 2 ex-presidents (and 16 officials) of the Andalucian region, the footballer Neymar, and the singer Shakira. The former presided over a humungous multi-billion fraud around EU funds and both the latter are accused of tax fraud on a massive scale. In Neymar’s case, 2 ex presidents of Barcelona FC are also implicated. I don’t know about the others but it’s claimed that the Spanish PM is preparing to pardon the Andalucan politicians. Something else that’s not uncommon here.

The Spanish Equalities Minister has launched a campaign to persuade non-slim women to brave and enjoy the beaches this summer. As I (ungallantly) wrote recently, this seems to me to be happening already. . .  The BBC on this here and The Guardian here.

The UK

The UK, says Richard North here, is an increasingly fractured nation. Not the least effect of a growing income divide, he avers, is probably to rule out Rishi Sunak as prime minister. Because: A head of government who boasts a multi-million family fortune simply lacks the moral authority to unify the country. And any call for us all to “pull together” from him would simply inflame public feelings. But will the Brits ever revolt?

There’s an unexpected note of optimism in the AEP article below, entitled: Britain will soon have a glut of cheap power, and world-leading batteries to store it. It is, says, AEP, the UK’s greatest economic and diplomatic success story this century.


Energy: The South fights back. It’s time, it says here, that Germany gives a decent response to the concerns of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. All of whom have suffered from Germany’s control of EU finances in the last 20 years.


From Private Eye . . .

The Way of the World  

How times change, to some extent at least . . . In a 1944 (wartime) article George Orwell took a look at the lonely hearts ads in Matrimonial Post. This one he regards as run-of-the-mill:  Bachelor, age 25, height 6’1″, slim, fond of horticulture, animals, children, cinema, etc. Would like to meet Lady, aged 2 to 35, with love of flowers, nature, children. Must be tall, medium build, Church of England.

But occasionally,  he says, a more unusual note is struck. For example: I am  29, single, 5’ 10″, English, large build, kind, quiet, very intellectual interests, firm moral background, progressive, creative, literary inclinations. A dealer in a rare stamps, income variable but quite adequate. Strong swimmer, cyclist, slight stammer occasionally. Looking for the following rarity: amiable, adaptable, educated girl, easy on eye and ear, under 30, secretary type or similar, mentally adventurous, immune to mercenary and social incentives, bright sense of genuine humour, a reliable working partner. Capital unimportant, character vital.

Finally, here’s one from a female ‘paragon of virtue’. Adventurous young woman, left-wing opinions, modern outlook with fairly full but shapely figure, medium colour curly hair, grey blue eyes, fair skin, natural colouring, health exceptionally good, interested in music, art, literature, cinema, theatre, fond of walking, cycling, tennis, skating and rowing.

Orwell pointed put that: The thing that is and always has been striking in these advertisements is that nearly all the applicants are remarkably eligible. It is not only that most of them are ‘broadminded, intelligent, home-loving, musical, loyal, sincere and affectionate, with a keen sense of humour and, in the case of women, a good figure; in the majority of cases they are financially OK as well.  When you consider how fatally easy it is to get married, you would not imagine that a ’36 year old bachelor, dark hair, fair complexion, slim build, height 6 foot, well educated and of considerate, jolly and intelligent disposition, income £1000 per annum and capital’  would need to find himself a bride to the columns of newspaper. And who would gainsay that? Orwell put it down to the loneliness of living in a big city. Ditto. Plus ça change.


Caco. Probably not what you guessed it means . . . A crook..

Caca. Probably what you were thinking of.

For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


Britain will soon have a glut of cheap power, and world-leading batteries to store it. Trailblazing Britain is leading the most ambitious rollout of offshore wind in the world: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: The Telegraph

Today’s electricity price shock is the last crisis of the old order. Britain will soon have far more power at times of peak production than it can absorb. The logistical headache will be abundance.

Wind and solar provided almost 60% of the UK’s power for substantial stretches last weekend, briefly peaking at 66%. This is not to make a propaganda point about green energy, although this home-made power is self-evidently displacing liquefied natural gas (LNG) imported right now at nosebleed prices. 

It is a point about the mathematical implications of the UK’s gargantuan push for renewables. Offshore wind capacity is going to increase from 11 to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 under the Government’s latest fast-track plans.

RenewableUK says this country currently has a total of 86GW in the project pipeline. This the most ambitious rollout of offshore wind in the world, ahead of China at 78GW, and the US at 48GW.

The giant hi-tech turbines to be erected on the Dogger Bank, where wind conditions are superb, bear no resemblance to the low-tech, low-yield dwarves of yesteryear. The “capacity factor” is approaching 60pc, which entirely changes the energy equation.

There will be a further rise in onshore wind and solar as well, leaving aside nuclear expansion. The scale is breathtaking. So what will be done at night or at weekends when renewable power generation is 200% or more of UK demand? 

Much can be exported to the Continent through interconnectors for a fat revenue stream, helping to plug the UK’s trade deficit, and helping to rescue Germany from the double folly of nuclear closures and the Putin pact. But there are limits since weather patterns in Britain and Northwest Europe overlap – partially.

Some of the power can be turned into green hydrogen: either to replace fossil-based “grey” hydrogen in fertilisers, chemicals, and refineries, and to make steel. It can also be used to store in salt caverns as an alternative to natural gas or to turn into green ammonia for fuels, trains and shipping. But this will not be competitive at scale until the cost of electrolysis is slashed (circa 2030).

Much of the power will have to be stored for days or weeks at a time. Lithium batteries cannot do the job: their sweet spot is two hours, and they are expensive. You need “long duration” storage at a cost that must ultimately fall below $100 (£82) per megawatt hour (MWh), the global benchmark of commercial viability.

That is now in sight, and one of the world leaders is a British start-up. Highview Power has refined a beautifully simple technology using liquid air stored in insulated steel towers at low pressure. 

This cryogenic process cools air to minus 196 degrees using the standard kit for LNG. It compresses the volume 700-fold. The liquid re-expands with a blast of force when heated and drives a turbine, providing dispatchable power with the help of a flywheel. Fresh tanks can be added to cover several days or even weeks of energy storage. The efficiency loss or “boil off” rate from storage vats is 0.1% each day, and much of this is recaptured by the closed system. “Think of us as pumped-hydro in a box. We can store for very long periods, and discharge over long periods,” said Rupert Pearce, Highview’s chief executive and ex-head of the satellite company Inmarsat. “We can take power when the grid can’t handle it, and fill our tanks with wasted wind (curtailment). At the moment the grid has to pay companies £1bn a year not to produce, which is grotesque.”

Highview is well beyond the pilot phase and is developing its first large UK plant in Humberside, today Britain’s top hub for North Sea wind. It will offer 2.5GW for over 12 hours, or 0.5GW for over 60 hours, and so forth, and should be up and running by late 2024.

Further projects will be built at a breakneck speed of 2 to 3 a year during the 2020s, with a target of 20 sites able to provide almost 6GW of back-up electricity for 4 days at a time, or whatever time/power mix is optimal.

Most North Sea wind lulls last less than 24 hours. Research by Delft University found that the longer Dunkelflaute events – caused by cold high-pressure weather systems – tend to range from 50-100 hours. They typically occur in November, December, and January. Occasionally they can be longer. Every 20 years or so there is a giant Dunkelflaute. Obviously you need other forms of power for safety of supply, and that too is coming. The Xlinks wind and solar project from the Sahara should provide a tenth of the UK’s electricity demand with baseload consistency at a strike of £48 per MWh as soon as 2028, and that is just for starters.

Small modular reactors being developed by Rolls Royce promise further ballast. The Government has pencilled in 5GW of green hydrogen by 2030 in its Energy Security Strategy. Some of that can be burnt in peaker plants for back-up power, if need be – not a good way to use it.

Mr Pearce said Highview’s levelised cost of energy (LCOE) would start at $140-$150, below lithium, and then slide on a “glide path” to $100 with over time. The company has parallel projects in Spain and Australia but Britain is the showroom. “The UK is a fantastic place to do this. It has one of the most innovative grids in the world and an open, fair, liquid, market mechanism with absolute visibility,” he said. 

The latest wind auctions in the UK came in at a low of £37.35 MWh, and averaged £48. Carbon Brief calculates that this is a quarter of the cost of running a gas-powered plant at current prices in the gas spot market – admittedly an anomaly. New wind married with sub-$100 (£82) storage will win the horse race even when gas returns to normal.

Battery technology is in global ferment. The US Energy Department is all over it, working with the likes of Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. It is the new darling of Big Money and the hedge funds, and they are pulling forward the process.

Form Energy in Boston – backed by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates – is working on an iron-air “rust” battery based on the reversible oxidation of iron pellets. It does not require rare and polluting minerals such as vanadium, and will have a 100-hour range. “The modules will produce electricity for one-tenth the cost of any technology available today for grid storage,” the company told Recharge. 

Form Energy has been working with National Grid to map out the economics of UK renewables with storage, and how to cope with future curtailment. And it too praises the UK as a global trailblazer, though its pilot project next year will be in Minnesota. The company is making large claims, and there is many a slip twixt cup and lip. But what is clear is that some of the countless moonshot ventures under development – be they iron-air, zinc-air, molten salts, or organic flow-batteries (using rhubarb) – are going to cut storage costs low enough to shatter outdated Treasury models. 

They will combine with solar and wind to produce quasi-baseload power locally for most of mankind at a cost that progressively renders the energy infrastructure of the 20th Century obsolete on pure economics.

It is irrelevant where you stand on the hypothesis of man-made global warming. It is free market capitalism that is solving the energy problem, though neither Extinction Rebels nor denialists seem to have noticed. In that respect they are twins. It does require political support and the right signals from governments. The UK has managed this mix surprisingly well. It has done better than most in resisting capture by vested interests.

This country stands to enjoy the first rewards as the 2020s unfold, and probably a surplus in the energy balance of payments by the 2030s. It is the UK’s greatest economic and diplomatic success story this century. It would be nice if the Tory candidates celebrated the achievement rather than looking embarrassed.

The Telegraph’s latest poll found that 71% of Tory members back the expansion of renewable power. They are not the stupid party that some seem to think.


  1. Ref: The beach campaign poster. It appears at least one of the featured ladies photos was used without permission from the lady herself. The artist has apologised. Will the Equalities Minister apologise?


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