UK blackouts countdown – year 10 of 13

What was it that Cambridge professor David McKay said in 2009?

Oh yes, he warned that unless Planet Great Britain pulled its head from its arse and got on with it, we’d be facing blackouts during seasonal demand peaks by 2016.

Well, he put it more politely than that. And it was a brave move for someone who’d just been appointed as the government’s energy advisor.

The prof was doubtless rewarded for his honesty with a swift, if metaphorical, kicking by his new masters. Meanwhile, then energy minister Ed Miliband rushed into the arms of the BBC’s Andrew Marr, declaring that the public love wind farms and there would be loadsa power on tap. Not that the one necessarily follows from the other.

The ever-balanced Catholic Church BBC added: “The Conservatives say the government has been complacent over energy security and that ministers have dithered over policy.”

How right they were. And black pot, meet kettle. Now the Conservatives are the government and they’re being told the same thing. Only this time it’s by someone they can’t shut up (Ofgem, the energy regulator). In the meantime, they’ve wasted another two years.

They urgently need someone to blame, So the right-wing-puppet-mess – sorry, muppet-press – was immediately on song with the usual ‘it’s all the fault of EU regulations’ cant. As if the government will give a toss about those when keeping the lights on is at stake.

And it’s ‘will’ rather than ‘would’. Having finally got off the pot over nuclear, Westminster is having a hard time finding anyone who’ll risk building new plants in a country whose economy could start flickering on and off in a few winters’ time.

So they’re making a dash for gas (“Put on stout pants chaps and keep an eye over your shoulder for Mr Putin”). Then it’ll be an about-turn on closing coal plants in a couple of years and possibly even going for some new ones.

How strange is the world where ERoEI is inexorably declining. And how smart it would be of Mr Miliband to do more than simply kick the can down the road the next time he runs into an energy expert who actually knows how many beans tons of coal make five.

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