My contribution to the Energy Bill (Lords) in the Public Bill Committee, 14 March 2016

John Redwood (Con) (Wokingham): I rise to support the Government and to urge the rejection of amendments that would delay getting rid of the subsidies for wind power. Our country desperately needs more electrical power to be available, and I am pleased that the Government are now taking action, with capacity auctions, to try to get some more power available. We need more affordable power. We need to tackle fuel poverty and have power at prices where households can afford to purchase. We also need to have affordable power for extra industry, which is one of the Chancellor’s aims. We need reliable power; we want to know that the power is there whether the wind is blowing or not, and whether the sun is shining or not. People expect continuous power, in order to light and power their homes, and industry needs continuous power for its processes. On all those grounds, wind does not cut the mustard, and I am glad that we now have a Government who recognise that.

When the history of the past 15 or 20 years comes to be written, what the European Union is doing and what the previous Labour Government did on energy policy will go down as one of their catastrophic failures. It will be at least as big as the exchange rate mechanism, which destroyed so much activity, jobs and prosperity in our country. It may not be as big as the disaster of the euro, but it will be one of the big, classic disasters of the European Union that Europe as a whole is becoming an area of too-little energy and very high-cost energy, driving industry out of the European Union area and into Asia and America, where more plentiful and affordable energy is available. Far from sparing the planet extra carbon dioxide, all this mad policy is doing is making sure that the carbon dioxide is produced somewhere else, rather than within the European Union itself.

Germany has much more wind power than we do and many Opposition Members admire it in this respect, but what happens when the wind does not blow? I will tell them what happens: Germany relies on a large number of extremely dirty coal power stations to churn out the electricity, producing more carbon dioxide than it would if it had opted for a fleet of modern gas stations in the first place. On average, that would have been better than this strange mixture of intermittent wind, which is very good on carbon dioxide when the wind blows, and back-up power, which in Germany and elsewhere in Europe is often generated from coal, and is extremely bad on carbon dioxide when the wind does not blow.

David Mowat (Con) (Warrington South): Germany uses coal all the time and the wind power is the intermittent stuff. Germany’s carbon emissions are 30% higher than the UK’s per unit of GDP and per capita just because it uses so much coal and fossil fuels, even though its renewables level is quite high as well.

John Redwood: Yes, but, as my hon. Friend will agree, when the wind does not blow, Germany has to use more coal. When there is no wind energy, the replacement must come from fossil fuel. A wind system with fossil fuel back-up does not even work on its own terms, and he is right that the German merit order is somewhat different.

I was going on to point out that from an economic point of view, we in this country have managed to damage every kind of power generation. If we insist on giving priority to dear, interruptible, intermittent sources such as wind, the more reliable, cheaper sources such as gas become intermittent, as they are switched off every time the wind blows and switched back on every time the wind is not blowing, which in itself is difficult and expensive. That undermines the economics of what would otherwise be good-value power. It means that we cannot run the plants flat out. We have higher operating costs because of the complications of switching on and off and managing the furnaces accordingly, with much less revenue coming in because less power is generated and power cannot continuously be sold to the market.

The ham-fisted interventions—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) does not seem to understand the policy that his party put in place and that the European Union supports. The ham-fisted interventions in our energy market mean that we have less reliable energy, because we deliberately subsidise a lot of intermittent and unreliable energy; that we have dearer energy, because, as is commonly accounted, renewables are considerably dearer; and that we have much dearer energy overall, because of the extra cost, which is not included in the way that the cost of renewables is accounted for, which means that non-renewable power becomes a lot dearer per unit as well.

Jonathan Edwards (PC) (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr): Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to reflect on the complete U-turn by Energy UK, which now says that the Government need to promote renewables instead of fossil fuels? Indeed, it says that an energy policy based on fossil fuels is a smartphone equivalent of placing all our bets on Nokia as opposed to Apple and Samsung.

John Redwood: No, I have not had the chance to reflect on that, but it does not seem to be a very interesting observation given the fundamental truth that I have just given him, on which the hon. Gentleman has not reflected at all. The truth of our current energy policy—

Dr Alan Whitehead (Lab) (Southampton Test) rose—

John Redwood: Let me just deal with the hon. Gentleman, and then I will happily deal with the shadow Minister. The truth about our energy policy is that the various interventions have conspired to make less power available at a much higher price and that, unless we start to reverse some of those interventions, we will get those pernicious effects. If he is saying that, yes, the price of energy from fossil fuels is variable, depending on the world market price, that is self-evidently true, but it does not mean that it is a good idea to put in something that is very unreliable and intermittent and is dearer than fossil fuel at more or less any realistic market price that might be commanded in the market by fossil fuel.

Dr Whitehead: Has the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to go to the national balancing services centre, which is in his constituency, as it undertakes a great deal of work balancing the system? There are substantial constraints on non-fossil fuel as well as fossil fuel inputs to the system, which cause shortages in power delivery at various stages, whether non-fossil fuel or fossil fuel delivery. Perhaps he could reflect on that in his comments.

John Redwood: Of course, as Member of Parliament for Wokingham, I have visited the centre on several occasions, and met the dedicated group of people there. The last time I visited was quite recently, and they were saying to me how much more difficult it is to manage a system that relies on wind, which is becoming more and more intermittent. That is self-evidently true. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reinforcing my point, although I am not sure whether that was what he was trying to do.

It used to be much easier when we had baseload power that could be relied upon and that was not interrupted by changes in the weather or the wind, and where the swing factor could be accounted for primarily by the pumped storage systems at Dinorwig. A command could be sent from Wokingham to Dinorwig. The water would come down the hill very quickly, and the kettles could boil in the interval of the big movie or whatever it was that was causing the surge in power demand. It is much more difficult now to call up power if, at the same time, the wind suddenly drops.

That is leading to our having to put in more and more interconnectors with other countries, so we become a net importer of power on a more regular basis, which is not something I value. I want us to have security of energy supply in our own country. We are, after all, an island of coal in a sea of oil and gas, and one would think we could find environmentally acceptable ways of exploiting that and burning it to produce the power we need. As I want an industrial revival in this country, that could well start with us importing less electricity.

Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman talks about security. Does he share the concerns that I have and that have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) about the operation of the capacity market? That is costing us a great deal of money and it is manifestly failing to bring on new gas, which is its central aim.

John Redwood: As I have been trying to explain, the reason we end up with dear gas is all the other subsidised interventions we have been making. We cannot run gas flat out and get the benefits of running it in the most economical way possible. Yes, I would rather have a much simpler market. The market worked a lot better in the 1980s and 1990s when we first set up a pretty open competitive market and power prices came down a lot. We had roughly a 25% margin of extra supply so that we were secure and we never had to worry that, if there was a cold day with the wind not blowing when industry was doing quite well, we would have to tell industry to switch its machines off. We did not get to such a position under that regime.

Now that we have a grossly intervened regime with all sorts of subsidies and priorities that do not reflect the economics of power production, we get to exactly the point that the hon. Gentleman rightly identifies, when we have to bid quite high to get people to provide gas-based power because we cannot guarantee full access to the market on a continuous basis. Of course, the more interventions there have been over the years of Labour and coalition and now the Conservatives, the more changes are needed in that intervention regime as the Government tinker or try to change it to make it work better, and the higher the prices tend to have to be because people become more suspicious if Government have so much power and if Government keep changing their mind.

So it is quite easy to get from a relatively free, successful market to a badly damaged, rigged, subsidised market. It is quite difficult getting from a badly damaged, subsidised market where the interventions are not very helpful to one that works better, because there is suspicion in the minds of investors, and they need longer contracts, bigger guarantees and higher prices to give them some kind of offset as they fear the Government may tinker unnecessarily.

This debate is about the amendment. I support the Government in their view. I want the Government to get on with removing the subsidies to onshore wind, as we said we would do. I hope the Opposition and the other place will not delay that further. We gave plenty of notice of this, and the sooner we do it the sooner we will get a bit closer to having a less damaged energy market.

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58 Comments

  1. bluedog
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Superb comment, Dr JR. A master-class in practical economics for shadow-minister for energy Dr White who clearly believes that because he is ideologically sustainable in energy matters, power will naturally flow. It is of course a permanent failing of the Left that their ideology trumps all other considerations. Of particular merit: ‘ Far from sparing the planet extra carbon dioxide, all this mad policy is doing is making sure that the carbon dioxide is produced somewhere else, rather than within the European Union itself.’

    It cannot be stressed often enough that coal is a very common mineral in the crust of the earth and that it remains the cheapest source of power generation globally. For those not totally inhibited by rising CO2 levels, renovated and upgraded coal fired power stations or new coal-fired power stations are the way to go. With the thermal coal price currently reflecting weak Chinese demand, an opportunity presents for the astute electrical generator to lock in long-term contracts at favourable prices.

    However, economic rationality takes second place to emotion, and we now have a situation where a coal-fired power station is viewed with the same hysterical antipathy that greeted nuclear power-stations only a few decades ago. Meanwhile the troubles of EDF suggest that the new Hinckley Point nuclear installation is somewhere in Never-never Land. In the long-term, nuclear is the only hope, but one has to get to the long-term.

    • Jerry
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      @bluedog; “In the long-term, nuclear is the only hope, but one has to get to the long-term.”

      Not so much needing to get to the long-term, it just needs to get to a point were government(s) will get away from the silly idea that direct public spending/borrowing on such important national infrastructure projects is bad but indirect via a third-party [1] is good, at the end of the day the tax-payer pays anyway…

      Sorry to say but the Tory party having marched up a cul-de-sac with their energy policies in the 1980/90s (privatisation of the CEGB) is unlikely to admit to as big as blunder in their policies as Labours policy between 1997 and 2010 of moving towards unsustainable, unreliable, ‘Green’, so called “renewables”.

      [1] who are looking for a deal that is best for them, not what is best value for the tax-payer

      • NickC
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, You are blaming the market for the government’s rigging of the market to favour renewables?

        • Jerry
          Posted March 18, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

          @NickC; No I am not. Labours rigging of the market to favour renewables has only made a bad pre-existing situation even worse.

  2. Antisthenes
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Even if climate change is not happening there is a case for reduction of CO2 emissions it reduces pollution for one thing. However the strategy for doing so is all wrong. Instead of motivating the energy producing industries to find solutions they have had solutions imposed upon them. So those who know what is best are being told by those who know the least; the politicians and the bureaucrats. Encouraged by those who are eccentric to put it mildly and whose views and behaviour one can be excused for thinking is not overly rational.

    Instead of stating we will have solar and wind power we should have put the onus on the industries by introducing a neutral carbon tax and let them decide how best to reduce CO2. Then perhaps instead of bird mincers and the dogs dinner of a system we are now employing to keep the lights on we would have one that actually works. To our benefit and that does not impoverish the many to enrich the few and to satisfy the green lobby who have mostly outlandish views and beliefs.

    • Jagman84
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      “Even if climate change is not happening there is a case for reduction of CO2 emissions it reduces pollution for one thing.”
      The problem is that nature can wipe out all of the reductions with a bit of volcanic or tectonic activity over and above normal levels. I agree that we should not cause unnecessary pollution but spending huge amounts for marginal gains is simply throwing good money after bad.

  3. Horatio
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Great contribution JR. Last night, on one of the coldest nights of the year; wind produced only 5% of UK energy needs, which was less than the French supplied (sold) us. I find it somewhat ironic that for years we have deliberately dailied over building more nuclear yet we import it from the French who have the most reliable (nuclear based) energy supply in Europe. .

    A conspiracy theorist would suggest that they designed the wretched, loony green EU policy just to profit from it! CMD, Milliband, Hunhe, Rudd and Davey should all go pull sledges in the Arctic with the huskies, plenty of room as there is a record breaking amount of ice there

  4. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Strange how you can easily spot common sense from miles away, even through an internet system. I assume they want that to remain….er…powered? Thank you for your efforts sir!

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    ….at last.
    some sheer common sense.
    Mr Redwood, I am very proud of you, your courage and your oratorical skill.
    Well done!

  6. alan jutson
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Logic does not count for most religions, so called renewable energy policy in particular

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    An excellent contribution, but why are so few of those in power listening how can they be so foolish and innumerate? Driven as they are by an irrational green religion. Wind farm do not even make sense in Carbon terms (after taking into account manufacture, installation, maintenance, and back up – even if you are a greencrap believer.

    Why on earth are we still paying subsidies for absurdly expensive off shore wind which is even more pointless than on shore wind?

    Intermittent power that cost far more than on demand gas is complete economic (and even environmental) lunacy. What drives Cameron and Rudd to such foolishness? It is not even politically popular to have expensive energy and destroy or export jobs.

    • hefner
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      A few figures (Simon Taylor, 2016) Hinkley Point C (originally thought in 2004 to be operational in 2018):
      Construction site: 175 ha.
      Main earthworks: 4 million cubic metres (~1300 Olympic swimming pools).
      3 million tonnees of concrete.
      230,000 tonnes of steel reinforcements.
      25,000 jobs over construction period (8years).
      900 jobs over 60 years of operations.
      should power 5 million homes.
      should avoid 10 million tonnes CO2/year wrt equivalent gas power generation.
      50 years decommissioning (2078-2128).

  8. Richard1
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Excellent speech. Indeed energy policy is one of the most damaging absurdities of the EU. We should recall though that in the case of the UK’s much of this is home grown. Milibands climate change act – supported by the Comservative opposition and still praised by Mr Cameron – is to blame for the direction of energy policy. Would we get rid of it in the event of Brexit?

  9. Ian Wragg
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    John. As I type wind is generating 0.44gw or 1.09% of demand on 41gw.
    As the day progresses that percentage will reduce below 1%.
    It is obvious that 90% of politicians are illiterate when it comes to maths or engineering.
    I see the USA are starting to question the whole Wood chip biomass scam so they could ban export of wood pellets at any time.
    We are sitting on massive coal and gas deposits but we hand over our energy policy to foreigners.

    Utter madness.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Or treachery, which would be treason if that was properly defined in law.

  10. A different Simon
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I’m suspicious of non-medics who uses an academic titles like “Dr” or “Professor” when communicating with a group of people who are not likely to have similar titles .

    People who use their title in an attempt to achieve credibility usually do so because they either hold an indefensible position or can only talk it , not walk it .

    Prizes such as Nobel Laureate can be even worse . Just listen to economic duffer Joseph Stiglitz .

    Reply I agree – I think it is better not to use such titles. Using Dr makes people think you are a medical Dr.

    • Richard1
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely right. It is also irritating to hear highly political agitators such as Prof Stiglitz introduced as some kind of dispassionate & disinterested commentator. No doubt his views are interesting to hear but let him be identified as an ardent leftist.

    • margaret
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      The only True use of the word Dr is Phd. Physicians or surgeons use their title wrongly . Nurses have trained in medicine , but they don’t call us Drs unless we have a Phd.

      • JK
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Nurses have trained in nursing not medicine. The title ‘Dr’ bestowed upon medics is an honorary one and the standard of nursing PhDs is laughable. Nurses calling themselves ‘Dr’ are misleading patients. Surgeons are usually called Mister after they have acquired membership of the royal college of surgeons. Only the title ‘registered medical practitioner’ is protected in law. Surprised a super nurse like you doesn’t know these basic facts.

        • Margaret
          Posted March 18, 2016 at 3:27 am | Permalink

          Excuse me my texts were “Medicine for nurses” My lectures were medical lectures , my certificates say that I am qualified in medicine. You really do make stupid assertions but then perhaps you are not old enough to know how Nurses were trained for State work. Get your facts straight before making snide silly remarks. I really do not want to be called Dr . When a practitioner can complete total patient care and not farm out to every other discipline then they will earn a little respect.

      • Qubus
        Posted March 20, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        You must know that the term “Dr” is purely a courtesy title for 99% of doctors. They invariably have an MB.BCh. This is bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery. Nurses should not be allowed to call themselves “Dr” even with a PhD; it is simply misleading.
        Most scientists and engineers who have the title “Dr” have studied at a university for at least six years and in many cases more; they are the cream of the crop. On the continent, the ambiguity is removed by calling
        scientists Dr rer. nat. and medics Dr med.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 4:57 am | Permalink

      Indeed outside medicine and academia they have little place. If it is not is Physics, Maths, Science, Medicine or Engineering I tend to discount then anyway. Often it means you have wealthy parents and so did not need to go and earn some money too quickly after your first degree. Academia can so often be biased toward the left, magic money tree economics, pro the EU and pro green crap – rather like the BBC and the Cameron/Osborne/Libdem view of the World.

      Then again other titles like Dame/CBE/Sir can even more negative implications perhaps meaning you had espoused green crap and higher taxes for most of your life, were a woman with some minor science background, towed the current lefty political line, have done something to scratch the back of royalty/politicians or sailed round the world on a surf board paddling with a tooth brush or something equally pointless.

      I see that it is:- Camila Batmanghelidjh CBE for example – looking at the lists can be rather depressing, especially I imagine for the few richly deserved ones scattered amongst the others.

      I remember year ago an honoured bomb disposal officer I knew handing his honour back when some minor celebrity was give one many years ago.

      Reply I seem to remember my D.Phil was a lot of work, and my parents were not paying for me!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 18, 2016 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        Will it be Sir Jamie Oliver next?

        For services to Osborne’s totally bonkers sugar tax (thanks for that distraction from my tax borrow and piss down the drain approach to the governments finances) next?

  11. a-tracy
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Bravo – at last a clear statement on this matter that I understand.

  12. turbo terrier
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    One hell of a speech that was John
    First class .

    Some man you are. If I was cmd I would be giving you the energy portfolio. Supported by your fellow 100 believers you could turn this country inside out regarding the way we have let our energy system become such a mess.

    Trouble is non so deaf as those that don’t listen

  13. Bert Young
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Germany is the perfect example of a country that ignores EU dictat and decides for itself . Turning its back on Nuclear Energy , Germany looked to its coal availability to supply its needs ; we should do the same . The present stand off with EDF over its financial capability is another example of why we should take matters into our own hands . We have the technology and the resource to plan build and bring on stream our own nuclear power ; we do not and should not rely on outsiders . The EU’s green energy approach is as disastrous as its migrant policy .

  14. hefner
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Fair points, but how does this square with the UK Government’s February 2016 decision of cancelling the R&D program on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      What are their stated reasons for doing that?

    • Mark
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s in exactly the same line of thinking: don’t waste money on utterly uneconomic sources of energy.

      Whilst CO2 flooding can in rare circumstances be the best option to get the best out of an oilfield, it is the only circumstance in which burying CO2 makes any economic sense. It is not without risk: large volumes pumped underground can cause tremors, and very large volumes (as would be involved with running a good size power plant for several decades) can cause earthquakes. CO2 escaping from underground becomes deadly, suffocating life, as happened in natural circumstances at Lake Nyos.

    • hefner
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      In fact, this had been included but not told in the Chancellor’s Autumn statement. It was discussed in various newspapers on 25 November 2015 (FT, Guardian, …).

  15. Graham
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    You comment about how history will judge this period is correct – and sadly reflects on the ‘limited’ politicians we have at our disposal (yourself clearly excluded from the herd of course).

  16. Edward M
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Thank you again for shining the light of commonsense in the HoC (where in places illumination is in great need) by expounding the realities about the governmental distortions to our energy generation market and the absurdities on relying on unreliable intermittent renewables (that are also very expensive in terms of infrastructure costs per unit of generation even when they are working – and hence a poor allocation of capital resource). Removing a subsidy is a good first step.
    Worryingly so many MPs seem to ignore evidence and through ideology will make energy more expensive and less guaranteed hitting consumers both at home and in industries on which their jobs depend.

  17. Chris
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I see you have some good coverage in the D Express today:
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/653238/John-Redwood-European-Union-EU-referendum-Brexit

  18. formula57
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    The UK needs yet another opt out from an aspect of EU policy! Thank you for pursuing this matter of our weak energy security.

    I read recently the then Cabinet Secretary’s 1979 briefing paper for newly-elected prime minister Thatcher and was suprised to note it identified energy security as the most significant vulnerability facing the State. The more things change….!!!!

  19. Robert Christopher
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    This should be headline news, but it won’t be until we start getting power cuts.

    Better keep a clip of this evidence, ready for when it is allowed!

    • MartinW
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Power cuts have been long-anticipated by governments – hence the introduction and strong promotion of domestic ‘smart’ metering. Neither Labour nor our so-called Conservative government has wanted to actually avoid power cuts by putting in place a system of reliable power – like we had before the deluded climate mob induced an ignorant political class (with lamentable few honourable exceptions) to put their faith in turbines and solar panels to the detriment of all, especially the poor.

  20. oldtimer
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Well said!

  21. fedupsoutherner
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    What a load of common sense you have spoken here John. I wish other ministers (I know there are some) would see the sense in what you are saying. Running gas and coal intermittently is madness. We have a cold morning here in Ayrshire and not a single turbine is turning due to lack of wind. Helpful or what? We also experience many variations in our power experiencing mini cut outs which blow appliances and are in general a nuisance and all since the wind farms were installed in the area. The grid is unstable especially with high winds. I sincerely hope we leave the EU and tell them what to do with their ideological energy policy. What this wind garbage has cost us is immeasurable and to think we could have invested the money in nuclear and new gas stations! Well done John for speaking the obvious.

  22. fedupsoutherner
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Another worrying aspect of wind turbines is that most of the smaller installations have not got financial bonds set in place to offset the cost of decommissioning them when they are finally put to sleep (can’t come soon enough). Does this mean our countryside will be besieged by rusting turbines just like what happened in America and what Trump warned about. I fear, yes. Has any progress been made on how to get rid of all the toxic wasted which will be produced by old blades? What about all these solar panels? Where are we going to dump them?

  23. Shieldsman
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I found the debate on the energy bill all rather confusing. There did not appear to be anything coherent coming from the Government, opposition and least of all the SNP.

    The Government does not have a recognisable policy in place that will guarantee a 24/7 electricity supply at an affordable price.
    Instead at the behest of the Green Blob we have a very heavily subsidised renewable programme designed to create blackouts.
    The one 24/7 renewable – Hinkley Point is fading into the distance and may well end up as another of Cameron’s dreams.

    Oh for some one at the DECC with a technical background. PPE’s and historians filling technical posts are a recipe for disaster.

  24. sky9
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Nice to have some common sense spoken by a politician, so many of them leave their brains behind when they go into parliament.

    We are in danger of being in the same situation as South Africa where they have area load shedding and everyone who can afford it goes out to buy generators. At the same time manufacturing in the UK would become uneconomic.

    What a way to run a country!!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      http://www.stagebeauty.net/plays/th-iola2.html

      “When in that House M.P.’s divide,
      If they’ve a brain and cerebellum, too,
      They’ve got to leave that brain outside,
      And vote just as their leaders tell ’em to.
      But then the prospect of a lot
      Of dull M. P.’s in close proximity,
      All thinking for themselves, is what
      No man can face with equanimity.
      Let’s rejoice with loud Fal la–Fal la la!
      That Nature always does contrive–Fal lal la!
      That every boy and every gal
      That’s born into the world alive
      Is either a little Liberal
      Or else a little Conservative!
      Fal lal la!
      [Enter Fairies, with Celia, Leila, and Fleta. They trip round stage]”

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      “At the same time manufacturing in the UK would become uneconomic. ”

      And what is wrong with that ?

      Don’t you want to live in a big open air museum ?

      The de-industrialisation is not an accident .

      It has been cross party policy for decades .

  25. Excalibur
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    You have my admiration, JR. I simply do not know how you get through all that you do. The clarity and commonsense of your observations are exceptional. If only there were a few more like you.

  26. Phil Richmond
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    John – if you want to change this idiotic policy then go and see Mr Brady and start in motion the removal of the New Labour Blairites who have hijacked the Conservative Party!

  27. A different Simon
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    2008 . The Civil Service and Politicians bet the farm on intermittent renewables and decide to phase coal out and thereafter gas out .

    2011 . Cuadrilla discover areas of the Bowland shale with gas in place volumes of between 0.8 and 2 tcf per square mile continuously distributed over a more than 3,000 ft section .

    The British establishment view it as a threat rather than an opportunity and try and strangle it at birth .

    17/March/2016 Cuadrilla’s largest shareholder , A.J. Lucas announces a rights issue before the outcome of their planning appeal to Lancashire County Council and before the Minister calls it in .

    A.J. Lucas’s share price has been smashed by HM Govt prevarication and UK based small investors have seen 80%+wiped off their investment which has enabled the Chinese to become the largest shareholders in AJ Lucas .

    The issue price is at a 40% discount to the share price of only 1 month ago .

    John , investors have no confidence that the minister will override the local councilors . It is far from a foregone conclusion that the govt will allow shale gas exploration in Lancashire .

    The political risk makes UK energy almost uninvestible . More private money is being invested in Argentinian energy that UK .

    Reply This site does not offer investment advice. The government is being pressed to make some decisions to allow drilling for shale gas.

  28. ale bro
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I very much favour a market based approach to encouraging renewable generation, rather than the existing approach of subsidising generation.

    As JR observes, generation subsidies are distorting wholesale market prices.

    A renewable portfolio standard would compel electricity sellers to purchase a % of their power from renewable sources. This approach would obviate the need for renewable subsidies and green taxes on consumers, and allow the market to set a price for renewable generation.

  29. EForster
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for telling the truth about the need for reliable and economic generation of electricity. Abundant cheap energy has always correlated with every rise in economic prosperity and national wellbeing, however, recent government interference in the energy market is not just hurting our economic prospects, but bringing us ever closer to the brink of a national electricity emergency within a decade.
    May we expect government to urgently and seriously recognise the trouble we are in? The Minister for Energy’s recent statement of pursuing a 0% carbon future must have been an error otherwise we can only conclude that the department is run by the insane.

  30. ian
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Its a deliberated policy to under mine the poor people of this country which has taken away there jobs an left them in a poverty trap and told to get them selves educated and that it is there fault, it not there fault, not everybody mind works the same, these people are manually workers very high productive workers with no jobs or working in low paid jobs that need no skill, everybody is told to go to uni get yourself educated to be a office worker who productive in some cases is nil and in some cases like government office workers is negative.

    The friend of parliament have thrown the life blood of this country on scrap heap because they cannot perform the function they were meant for, high skill manually labour with very high productive with high wages, this is all down to politician bankers and media.
    Your society broken like your tax system, these people turn to crime bad behaviour, living on the streets and will not go to work to pay tax and if force to work in low skill job will do the min they can.
    They were bred for a industrialize world not a wimps world in a office.
    They find themselves scorn a upon and put down and told there useless by politician, bankers and media with most of the public with good jobs joining in because that is what they have been told.
    Some of your best workers discarded and thrown away, the most productive workers, these people know there worth and will not work for peanuts like oversea workers.

  31. Mark
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Killing onshore wind off only goes so far: we also need to call a halt to other absurdly expensive energy sources, including Hinkley Point, Swansea Bay, offshore wind, subsidised biomass and solar and expensive interconnectors. Likewise, the Miliband zero carbon clause needs to be expunged before it consigns us to uncompetitive penury. (I trust JR voted/will vote against that clause).

    We need to reprieve our existing coal stations until we have alternative reliable capacity onstream. Perhaps, like the Koreans and Japanese, we should be looking to expand our coal capacity with modern plant that eliminates much of the undesirable flue gases and particulates via scrubbing while coal is cheap. We should be developing our own shale gas resources, and exploring the possiblities for economic nuclear power: the Koreans seem to be able to build new nuclear stations at a fraction of our cost, and do not appear to have safety issues.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      Mark ,

      I think it would be better to compel Swansea Bay tidal lagoon to go ahead so everyone can see the reality vs the promises .

      Every year after commissioning the actual capex , opex , performance , dredging requirements and environmental impact could be compared to forecast .

      The contract could include an obligation to use energy storage to make the energy dispatchable over 24 hours making comparison with conventional generation possible .

      If it gets built , then the greentards and their apologists in the HOC are not going to have a leg to stand on when the results come in .

      The only way to burst their bubble is a carefully and honestly monitored pilot project .

      • Mark
        Posted March 18, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        If their output forecast is correct at 400 GWh p.a., and taking their £168/MWh + RPI inflation from 2012 , which already adds over £10/MWh compared with current wholesale power prices of around £30/MWh, the subsidy is of the order of £150/MWh or £60 million a year. Still worth it?

        We don’t need any experiments on that basis.

  32. Atlas
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes, John “well said”.

    When it comes to energy, to summarise bluntly “the lunatics have taken over the asylum”

  33. PaulDirac
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Well said Dr JR.

    Nuclear power is another mismanaged energy source, most governments got into a funk after the TMI accident (which caused zero casualties) and at a guess the movie “The China syndrome”.
    Nuclear is associated with the nasty subject of THE BOMB and the left found it easy to scare people off the idea, the costs of dismantling did not help.

    Instead of robust research program into the least polluting and sustainable energy source, successive governments allowed most research in the subject to die out.

    We are now reduced to having a French company (with Chinese funding) (possibly) build an old design which has serious problems.

    The really amazing position is by the Greens, they are against nuclear power.

    • hefner
      Posted March 17, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Wrong, the EPR that is supposed to be built for Hinckley C is a new design. That’s the problem. There is a similar one being built by EDF in Finland, and two others of a similar type also being built in China by one of the two Chinese companies. None of them is likely to be operational before 5 to 10 years.

      Sorry to repeat it: “The fall and rise of nuclear energy in the UK”, by Simon Taylor, makes very interesting reading (and no, I do not have any financial interest in the publishing company …). It covers UK nuclear energy from 1954 to 2015, with interesting details on who supported or not NE, and how financing for HPC has very painfully been put together, the role of public vs. private sector, the interactions with the EU (much more complex than usually quoted on this blog), …

      • PaulDirac
        Posted March 19, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        You are right, it is a new design, but still a PWR and notably 3 times the power output of the current 4 reactors under construction.

        My point is that the UK has not seriously considered new ideas of small local reactors and the more radical Thorium based reactors (I note that the EPR can use a mix of Uranium and plutonium, which is good news)

  34. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Nevertheless, it remains true that, on a WORLDWIDE scale, too much CO2 is being procuced and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising.

    Gross CO2 emissions tend to rise with the world’s population and GDP, although in the last two years gross CO2 emissions have been broadly flat. Unfortunately, processes that absorb CO2, such as planting trees, need land, and increasing world population results in less land being available. So priority number one is zero population growth. We can do our bit by having zero immigration and by trashing the ideas of those religions that preach against family planning.

    Gas is less of a polluter than coal so you are right that for the next 10 to 15 years, electricity production from gas fired power stations should be the main priority. Let’s get fracking.

    EDF have doubts about their ability to finance a massive nuclear power station at Hinckley point. Would it not be a good idea instead to design and build a number of smaller nuclear power stations, co-operating with the Japanese to produce earthquake resistant designs?

    If we are rich in coal, China and India are much more so. Converting coal to clean coal by carbon capture is an expensive process. USA data suggests that energy produced by clean coal costs about the same as nuclear. Very gradually, coal may be replaced by clean coal if a compromise can be reached on which nations fiance the cost.

    Why is renewable energy mainly from wind farms? Why not more tidal power and solar power, which are more predictable?

    • S Matthews
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Tidal power costs a fortune, Solar not very appropriate for a cloudy northern island such as Britain. Our peak demand is during the winter, not much sun around then.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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