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Having looked over Webcraft’s post, I cannot see …

Comment posted Question: How can we license fracking when we have permanent drought? by Dr Douglas McKenzie.

Having looked over Webcraft’s post, I cannot see anything in it you. could possibly take exception to Malcolm.

New nuclear reactors will be privately owned; the subsidy regime will probably be along the lines Webcraft suggests: different technologies have different subsidy levels based (supposedly) on the stage of development of the technology. From memory, the order is hydro, wind, solar.

I suspect it was Webcraft’s comment that nuclear’s subsidy will be more expensive you are objecting to but in this he is quite correct. The cost of new nuclear plants is being touted as £5 billion each. Let’s say that is for a 2500 MW plant (which would be two reactors but let’s just say they are on a 2 for 1 offer and the cost is 5 billion and not 10 billion).

Onshore turbines of 5 MW will cost around £3 million each so you would need 500 turbines to match the notional capacity of the nuclear station so £2.5 billion. Of course the wind farms aren’t as efficient as the nuclear plant so you will need more plant to match the nuclear plant. So let’s double the number of wind turbines and we end up with the same capital costs and both technologies cost the same for the same power output (these figures are all very rough so don’t pick me up on the detail – it is the rough comparison we are interested in).

However, that’s just the construction costs. The running costs of the wind turbines are a fraction of that associated with a nuclear plant (fuel, security, technicians, reprocessing of spent fuel etc). I don’t know what the insurance costs of a wind turbine are but I would guess it is a lot less than for a nuclear plant (which has a limited liability then the Government has to cover the excess). Then we have the decomissioning costs. Wind turbines are probably very low decommisioning costs (because of the scrap value and ease of dismantling the structure). Best guess estimates for a nuclear plant is around £3 – £4 billion (based on the UK estimate of 70 billion to decommision all 19 of the UK’s existing sites.

Nuclear plants have a longer life than wind turbines so they may claw back some of their commercial advantage. However, it looks as if nuclear plants would be about 2x the cost of an equivalent amount of wind turbines. If there was ever a serious accident (God forbid) then the costs are of course much, much higher.

So, on balance I would expect that nuclear plants would require a higher subsidy per MWh than for wind. Rubbing salt in the wounds is the fact that we the consumers have already paid out huge subsidies on nuclear for the last generation of reactors.

However, as I said posted previously, this is probably just a cost we are going to have to pay for carbon neutral generation as we will always require a thermal base load for those times when high pressure dominates the UK in winter.

Dr Douglas McKenzie also commented

  • Yes, important to distinguish between demand and production. Renewables presumably about half again of total production (as production is about twice demand from memory). But still an impressive growth.
  • I haven’t read the NS article yet but I did read elsewhere that fracking companies MUST keep drilling to maintain their licences: hence the glut. This might seem a good thing as consumers get cheaper gas (though I also noticed that the reduction to the consumer was only a couple of cents per therm), however, it is likely that lower costs just mean that consumers use more.

    Ignoring Malcolm for a second and addressing this to the non-ostriches: is anyone else surprised at just how much of our electricity is now being produced by wind?? Looking at the daily figures, it is clear that wind is now much more important than hydro (including PS) and that surprises me given how new the technology is.

  • I’m afraid you are degenerating into talking what might be politely termed rubbish.

    There are advanced prototype wave generators being deployed world wide as we speak. Salther’s ducks were commercialised. What has slowed renewables down was not technological difficulties but political will. During the Thatcher era renewables were not favoured so very little R&D spend came their way. Progress was thus slow.

    Advanced technologies take time to create, refine and finally commercialise. We have been working on fusion reactors for over 40 years now and still don’t have a working model. Fission reactors only developed to the point they have because of massive initial investment into their development for military purposes.

    20 years is in fact a fairly short time for engineering: if you look at “new” techniques in the oil and gas industry you will find that virtually all of them take at least a decade of research before they are deployed (sometimes longer).

    Wave power works, wind power works, algal biodiesel works. What you are moaning about is that they don’t have price parity with fossil fuels but coal has been with us for over 200 years now and oil 100. It takes time and money to catch up.

  • Not me who is being disingenuous here. There were two surveys: the IPSOS MORI survey asked solely about wind power. The first question was: to what extent are you in favour of or opposed to the use of wind powert in the UK?
    28% strongly in favour of; 38% tend to favour; 22% neutral; 5% tend to oppose; 3% strongly opposed and 4% didn’t know.
    Hardly a resounding cry against wind power.

    Taking the second survey, I see you are doing the same thing you did with support for the SNP: you interpret everyone who does not vote for whatever it is you don’t like as being against it.

    I haven’t been able to find the actual survey yet but here is what the Scotsman actually says:

    The YouGov survey showed that while 65 per cent believe wind should be part of the mix, this was down from 78 per cent seen in a similar survey by Scottish Renewables in 2010.
    Instead the preferred choice in Scotland is for tidal and wave energy to become the main supplier with 32 per cent backing the option, even though it is still in its early development stage.

    If I am reading this correctly, there was a question asking the polled people what ORDER they would put their FIRST preference for electricity generation. We see that the largest category went for wave and tidal then 18% went for wind. This is not the same thing as saying only 18% backed wind – indeed the first paragraph indicates that 65% wanted to see it as part of the mix. Another You Gov survey looking at specifically Scottish attitudes found that 88% were in favour of wind.

    Turning to your other points: It was Salter’s Ducks that were being developed as wave power generators. The reason that they didn’t flourish is that Thatcher pulled the plug on support for their development to focus UK energy efforts on nuclear. Had the same support that went into nuclear gone to wave energy I suspect we would not only have excellent wave generators but the UK would lead the world in this technology.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salter’s_duck

    More reading, less bias.

  • Same survey, different interpretation.
    I suppose most of us would back wave over wind if it was equally affordable and available. But it isn’t (not yet at least). I say most, as other marine users might not be as keen.

    Salient point though is that support for renewables is high with the public willing to absorb the higher costs. It will be interesting to see if they are as keen on nuclear under the same premise.

Recent comments by Dr Douglas McKenzie

  • Rustle with Russell
    More utter rubbish from Lynda Henderson. Have you actually spoken to Bob Allen? Whoever told you the story sold you a pup and in your arrogance you cannot admit to be wrong so you make up this story that he was persuaded not to resign.

    Your position is completely untenable.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    I’m afraid you condemn yourself by your own words. I don’t think that anyone reading what you have written here and the language you have used would conclude anything other than that you have a deep dislike for Mr Russell and that dislike is leading you to basically lose all sense of either proportion or impartiality. It doesn’t matter how well (or otherwise) you know Mr Russell you are clearly exercised by your interpretation of his actions and it is leading you well beyond the pale in what I would consider fair comment.

    This vendetta against Mr Russell and the SNP is destroying FA’s credibility and I have to confess that I’m seriously considering whether or not to continue reading FA (which will cheer Malcolm up if nothing else). I for one am becoming increasingly disenchanted by the constant negativity and sheer nastiness that has crept into this blog. I say that with a lot more sorrow than anger because I think that FA could have been great and indeed still could but there has to be a degree of balance, civility and indeed humour. All we are getting here is bile and it is causing me heartburn.

  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    To be honest, this post clearly shows that you are speaking from your personal dislike of Mr Russell rather than an unbiased analysis of the man. Phrases such as “publicity hungry coward” are well beyond what is reasonable comment.
  • Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat
    You don’t seem to understand the separation of a MSP’s duty to his or her constituency and their responsibilities as a Government Minister.

    Yet again, this is another instance where a member of the Government can do no right: speak up and be condemned as “desperate” or stay silent and be accused of not serving your constituents’ interests.

    It is just as well that Mr Russell has broad shoulders!

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