Saturday, April 22, 2006

Three cheers for Lembit

Great piece in this weeks Lib Dem News by Lembit Opik on the issue of how we supply our energy needs in the future. For me he hits the nail on the head with his three key points although I am willing to admit that I was not aware of his second point (see below)

His key points were

1. We need to use less and a carbon tax would help. He also rightly points out that we are all guilty of this and need to be vigilant in switching things off

2. Power needs to be generated and delivered locally. Apparently two thirds of the energy we generate is lost through transportation before it reaches the consumer. That figure is absolutely stunning. If we could generate and deliver power more locally we would need a hell of a lot less of it.

3. Switch to renewables. He also points out that we need to explore the full range of renewable options and stop focusing on wind turbines

Finally he mentions the Centre for Alternative Technology. Ok ok it is in his constituency. But this place is amazing. I have visited myself and can highly recommend it to anyone who is in the area. Otherwise visit their website by clicking here

Tag Politics Lib Dems Environment


Joe Otten said...

The figure here
for transmission losses is 7.4%

Two-thirds is closer to the loss due to the inefficiency of thermal plant - the process of boiling water to make steam to drive turbines.

Luckily thermal plant is more efficient the bigger it is, so there is a simple tradeoff between transmission losses and thermal losses. Except of course when you are supplying big cities that need a lot of power in one place anyway.

The CAAT I expect would have got their facts right, but these things always get worse in the retelling.

The time is long gone when there are simple idiocies all around us that can be reversed to save the planet. The electricity industry isn't throwing away 2/3 of its energy out of indifference to the environment because it would be throwing away profits if it did.

Microgeneration has an important future in the energy mix, but intermittent renewables benefit from large grids because aggregation evens out the bumps and dips in supply. Attacking the transmission grid is a huge mistake.

James said...

Agree regarding the article. You might also want to check out this week's New Scientist which has a great piece on the economics of nuclear power.

Tony Ferguson said...

Joe thanks for that information. That is a huge discepancy between the figures that Lembit quoted. we certainly need to have our facts straight before presenting to the governments energy commission.

James thanks for the not about the economics of nuclear power - I will see if I can get a copy

Nicola said...

Changed your lightbulbs yet ?

Tony Ferguson said...

No although I have saved the link and I have done an energy audit on the house and we are waiting for the results to come back

Nicola said...

Not sure I have the courage for a full audit! Given the vagaries of where we live and the ancient systems in place.

The CAT was quite interesting and I got some good ideas from there.

James said...

"Luckily thermal plant is more efficient the bigger it is, so there is a simple tradeoff between transmission losses and thermal losses."

It isn't quite that simple because CHP is viable with smaller plants and completely impractical with larger plants in the middle of nowhere.

tom midgley said...

There seems to be considerable confusion about the inefficiency of conversion.
The inefficiencies are principally in converting the energy in the steam into rotation of the generators.
There are fundamental limitations to this efficiency, set by the ratio of the temperature (relative to absolute zero) & pressure at the input to the turbines to the output.
This is a physical limitation, there is no getting around it. For the temperatures & pressures which can be achieved with available materials the maximum conversion efficiency is around 30-40%.

The energy not converted to electricity is released as heat, which can be used locally in other ways of course.

There are also losses in transmission, but they are comparatively small, and there are no fundamental physical limitations