Log in

Friday 31 October 2014

000a YouGov-30 Poll.jpg

Only a month ago we were confronting an Ipsos Mori EU referendum poll which had 56 percent wanting to stay in the EU, compared with 36 percent who would vote to get out; eight percent did not know how they would vote.

This translated to 61 percent support for Britain's EU membership and 39 percent opposing after excluding "don't knows", creating a worrying 22 percent shortfall in the support for the "out" proposition.

But now, from the YouGov stable, we get another poll which transforms the position. From a week ago, when 41 percent said they would vote to stay in, against 40 percent "outers", we now have 35 percent and 44 percent, respectively, giving a nine percent lead for "out".

If we take out the "don't knows" and the "would not vote", we're looking at 56 against 44 percent, giving a 12 percent lead to the outers – effectively a 34-point swing in the space of three weeks.

There can be little doubt as to the cause of this swing – the £1.7bn demand from the Commission has self-evidently had a dramatic effect on sentiment, and driven huge swathes of voters into the "out camp".

But, as they say in the small print, what goes up can go down. And if sentiment is that volatile, then it would seem that any carefully structured campaign can easily be knocked off course by events.

And that is another point to draw from this sudden change – it has been event-driven rather than the effect of any specific intervention by campaigners. The commission action has been a gift to the outers, but it is nothing that we worked for or brought to the fore. We are simply the unwitting beneficiaries of events outside our control.

Looking at the detailed results, though, YouGov's Stephan Shakespeare notes that the swing is consistent across supporters of Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives.

The Ukipites, on the other hand, can't swing as much, with only two percent wanting to stay in, they are pretty rock solid about wanting to leave. Thus, it is entirely unnecessary to bolster the UKIP vote. We need to be expending out energies elsewhere.

Here, there is an interesting correlation between age and sentiment. The older the voter, the more likely they are to want to get out. And with only 22 percent of 18-24 year olds wanting to get out, as opposed to 57 percent of the 60+ group, it would seem that the growth in the "out" vote will come from the younger-aged groups.

Appearances, though, can be deceptive. The UKIP vote shows that a block can be almost solid in one direction, which thus illustrates that there is plenty of scope for growth in the 60+ group. And, given that the over-60s are far more likely to vote than the young (three or more times), their votes are much more valuable.

With The Times also recording that net payments to EU funds have doubled, from £4 billion since 2007 to £8.5 billion on the current account, there is plenty of material to work on.

When it finally dawns that the UK is going to have to pay the £1.7bn surcharge, some of the movement towards the "out" camp might firm up, with the vote solidifying in the outers' favour.

Nevertheless, the volatility remains worrying, so we will have to watch closely to see which way the next few poll results take us. If we have just experienced a turning point, then the game is on for the next election to push hard for a referendum. 

On the other hand, I remain to be convinced that the cost of EU contributions is the pivotal issue. After all, with a deficit growing at £100bn a year, even £1.7bn is less than two week's borrowing, and if we're into serious money, then we need to be looking at the £1.3 trillion which the government wants us to spend on meeting the 2050 emissions target.


Richard North 31/10/2014 link

Thursday 30 October 2014

000a Guardian-030 immig.jpg

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has made serious news through yesterday and the day previously with its report, "Reforming the UK border and immigration system". Covered by the usual suspects in the media, such as the Guardian, it tells us of waste and poor management within Britain's immigration system.

Not least, failed IT systems have cost up to £1bn, officials can't find 50,000 rejected asylum seekers and 11,000 asylum seekers have been waiting for at least seven years to hear whether they can stay. Officials have still not resolved 29,000 asylum applications dating back to at least 2007.

Alongside the media though, the report is prominently flagged up on the UKIP website, illustrating the party's concern about immigration – albeit somewhat distant from the EU issue.

The point, of course, is that unless someone can point me to the "EU Directive on handling immigration affairs with staggering incompetence", there is no direct (or even indirect) link between our EU membership and the tales of chaos that have unfolded. This is entirely a homemade disaster.

As such, one struggles to see why UKIP is so interested in this particular report. It has neither policies nor plans to deal with such incompetence, and has never demonstrated any insight into public policy that might indicate that the party is capable of fixing problems that have eluded several administrations.

Less visible though has been UKIP's response to the government's new immigration strategy of "control by drowning" – one of the outraged responses to the UK refusal to support the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, picking up migrants making a dash for Europe in leaky boats.

This, according to Suzanne Moore in the Guardian is the "politics of denial" which is feeding a "growing inhumanity". This is after Theresa May's remarks about saving the lives of drowning immigrants was a "pull factor" in illegal immigration.

Sadly, that is indeed the case, as we hear of people traffickers who dump refugees in the sea in Italian territorial waters, and then call the coastguard to tell them of the location.

It is germane to ask how many migrants must be allowed to die at sea before the message gets through to desperate people that this is not a successful way of entering Europe, but as to the alternatives, UKIP so far has been silent.

If by whatever means, these migrants manage to land on mainland Europe, it is the receiving countries that must bear the expense and disturbance of dealing with them.

In Italy, we are told, they are given food and water, allowed to wash and sent on their way. "I was told that I could go anywhere I liked when I landed in Italy", said one migrant. "There weren't any checks; they know we don't want to stay in Italy as there is no work there and we don't speak the language so they just tell us to get on our way".

Some travel by train up to France, others by truck. None experienced problems or were told to turn around and go back. But by no means all are headed for the UK. By far the majority gravitate to Germany, where 76,000 asylum application were recorded in 2013. France took 61,000 and Sweden 45,000.

Of those who gravitated to Calais, only a relatively modest 22,000 made their way to the UK in 2013, aided as we now learn, by organised gangs of people traffickers.

But, with over 300,000 illegal immigrants landing in Europe last year, and significantly more expected to land this year, is it any wonder that the front-line countries such as Greece and Italy pass the buck, and send the migrants on their ways? They get little help from the rest of Europe, yet cannot afford to be the dumping grounds for the rest of the continent.

When the immigrants finally arrive in the UK, however, the simplistic Steven Woolfe, UKIP's immigration spokesman, has an easy answer. "It comes down to someone having the guts to say to these people, 'sorry, you're going home'", he says.

But these migrants have already destroyed their papers and are effectively stateless. France does not want them back, and if the individuals could be prevailed upon to admit their counties of origin, those countries mostly will not accept them back without papers proving who they are.

Thus, is not as simple as sending them home, which means they end up occupying a legal no-man's land, about which the Public Accounts Committee is now complaining. But with no leadership from the politicians, officials are being asked to do the impossible, leaving the problem to accumulate over the years.

None of this, though, is specifically related to EU membership. Leaving the EU will not stop migrants collecting at Calais and taking their chances of getting to the UK. And as regards immigrants to the UK generally, it is still the case that the majority come from outside the EU.

In fact, Britain admits almost three times more migrants from outside the EU than any other member state. Nearly 2.4 million resident permits were issued by EU countries last year, 30.7 percent of them to people heading for Britain. A total of 724,200 people from outside the EU were given permission to remain in the UK, a 15 percent rise on the previous year.

Even when illegal immigrants are caught out, though, and the employers fined, the fines are not collected, with the government thus failing to create a "hostile environment" for illegal workers.

Then, once resident in the UK, they are allowed to aggregate in squalid, over-crowded housing, with the local authorities rarely taking action, thereby creating conditions where immigrants, willing (or forced) to tolerate substandard conditions, are able to undercut the settled population, often then being paid – illegally – less than the minimum wage.

When proceedings against those responsible for sham marriages are also collapsing as a result of Home Office blunders, what price shallow fools such as Conservative MP Nick Boles jumping on the UKIP bandwagon, saying that Britain will never be able to "entirely" control its borders while it stays in the European Union?

Short of repealing that mythical EU "incompetence directive", leaving the EU is not going to make much of a dent in the problem. As with so many other issues, the UK does not need the EU to assist it in creating its own policy train-wrecks. It is quite capable of doing that unaided.


Richard North 30/10/2014 link

Wednesday 29 October 2014

000a Mail-029 wrong.jpg

An intriguing piece in the Mail highlights an Ipsos Mori poll which compares public perception with reality. And of each of a number of high profile issues, from teen pregnancies to jobs and immigration, the poll shows public perception is at odds with reality.

Details are on the poll website and also given a treatment in the Independent, which has the British people being "ignorant" about "almost everything". Two comparisons stand out: the proportion of immigrants is put at 24 percent, when the reality is 13 percent, and the proportion of Muslims is put at 21 percent, when the real figure is five percent.

Interestingly, we are not alone in this. Says Ipsos Mori, diplomatically, the rest of the world is just as wrong. Across the 14 countries where the poll was conducted, the public thought immigration was over twice the actual level. The average guess was that 24 percent of the population was born abroad, when the actual figure is 11 percent.

That overall figure includes some massive overestimates: the US public thinks 32 percent of the population are immigrants when the actual is 13 percent. In Italy the public think 30 percent are immigrants when it's actually seven percent. In Belgium the public think it's 29 percent, when it's actually ten percent.

What is not discussed so far, though, is the political implications of this survey. It would be interesting, for instance, to carry out the same poll amongst MPs and then compare the differences. Possibly, there would a significant difference in relative perceptions, which could account for the charge that politicians are "out of touch".

Certainly, if perceptions are markedly different, and representatives are closer to the reality than their voters, this would mean that the antagonism towards the "political class" is being fuelled by ignorance.

In this scenario, the greater the ignorance, the more strident the antagonism, which may explain the "shouty, ranty" behaviour of UKIP supporters (or "kiptoids", as some are suggesting they should be called).

In writing history, one of the greater difficulties in assessing the reactions of key characters is not so much trying to work out what they knew, but in understanding what they didn't know.

Maybe we're dealing with the same phenomenon here, in that MPs and others have vastly under-estimated the ignorance – and thus the distortion in the perception – of the British public. After all, if they are unaware that the public sees a problem as twice as serious as it actually is, then their responses are going to be seen to be inadequate.

From this, though, devolves an interesting quandary. Should policy-makers seek to educate voters – and thereby correct their perceptions – or respond to public perception, even though it is wrong? And, if they don't do the latter, how do they avoid the charge that they are ignoring public opinion?


Richard North 29/10/2014 link

Wednesday 29 October 2014

000a BBC-028 power.jpg

I suppose that, if the BBC was retailing something that no one wanted to hear, it would be accused in some quarters of "bias". But when this report, and others, such as from The Guardian and the Telegraph all tell roughly the same story, those who feel so inclined rush to believe what they want to believe - that we are close to suffering blackouts this winter .

The essence of the story, as retailed by the media, is that the National Grid has warned that its capacity to supply electricity this winter will be at a seven-year low due to generator closures and breakdowns. Spare electricity capacity, we are told, which ran at about five percent over the winter months last year, will be nearer four percent this year. And this compares with 17 percent three years ago.

Why this news is so welcome to some, I would hazard, is that there is a constituency which wants the system to fail, simply to demonstrate the failure of the green-driven energy policy. This is perhaps typified by this Bishop Hillite comment:
Personally I'm hoping for a few powercuts hitting London. Sorry London, but if you are affected the media are far more interested than if it happens in Bradford or Bristol. Only if this happens might MPs start to look at what their policies have done.
But while one can sympathise with the general sentiment, it actually looks as if the doom-mongers are crying "wolf!" – in the short-term at least. The quadruped is still over the horizon - as Booker pointed out last year.

Despite this, the short-term power cut narrative has become firmly lodged in the media, which means that the current reports bear no relation to the reality and in no way do the headlines reflect what the National Grid is trying to say.

To get the full picture, one has to venture past the press releases and lurid headlines, and look at the full 66-page Winter Outlook Report. This tells anyone interested enough to find out exactly what the situation is.

First of all, despite the media stressing that the mid-winter peak demand could hit 55GW, with a capacity available of 58.2GW – hence bringing the margin down to its slender level – this figures are based on a series of assumptions which make the declared margin an impossibly pessimistic worst case scenario.

Looking at the actual report then, we find that the mid-winter generation capacity is assumed to be 71.2GW while the forecast peak electricity demand  is 53.6GW. Therefore, the expected margin is actually 17.6GW. However, what the Grid is doing is, for planning purposes, it is creating a worse-case scenario.

Thus, to be on the safe side, it creates a pessimistic demand scenario, using a more arduous "Average Cold Spell" (ACS) electricity demand assumtion. This, the Grid says, has a 50 percent chance of being exceeded, bringing peak demand to a notional 55.0GW.  On the supply side, the assumed capacity of 71.2GW is then purposefully de-rated, to take into account availability and historic performance of the plant declared available.

So cautious is this estimate that, even though we have interconnectors from France and Holland (plus Ireland) capable of supplying 3.7GW, the assumption is that we are able to import only 750MW, while exporting rather than importing a full 3GW through the remaining interconnectors. Typically, though, we tend to import 3GW.

By this means, we end up with the 58.2GW, which really is a worst case scenario. But this is not a figure which represents any expected real-life situation. It is a working figure, used for margin analysis, from which is calculated the "operational de-rated margin" of 4.1 percent across the winter - the headline figure that the media have used.

This figure, though, is not a forecast. It is used simply as the basis for reserve planning, and even then it is not the base figure. This margin does not take into account Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) or Supplementary Balancing Reserve (SBR), two new balancing services which collectively increase the de-rated margin to 6.1 percent. That is the true figure, not the 4.1 figure quoted in the media, taking account of real additional capacity.

As an indication of how relaxed the National Grid is about the supply situation, it has taken a mere 319MW as DSBR and, of the 5.4GW bids it received for SBR (bringing back redundant and mothballed plants back into service), it contracted only 1.1GW. And even then, the 6.1 percent margin remains the figure for planning the additional  short-term reserve requirement.

The reserve itself includes STOR and, from the 3GW available last year, 3.5GW is contracted for this winter – a capacity in excess of that expected from Hinckley C. To this is added another 1.9 GW (approximately) of frequency response reserve – up a full GW from last year. On top of that, there is the "maximum generation" emergency reserve of 740MW.

All of this adds up a total reserve of about 7.5GW, which includes about 5GW of operating reserve, and an expected overall gap of about 25GW between the likely peaks and the possibility of a blackout.

The way the system works is that predictable problems (such as wind dropping out of the system) are accommodated by the de-rated margin process. That leaves the net (de-rated) margin and the operational reserve to cope with the unexpected: the unusual peak demands and plant breakdowns or other outages (grid failures, etc). This "hidden reserve" is more than enough to protect the system and prevent failure, yet the media acts as if its doesn't exist.

Nevertheless, we have Cordi O'Hara, Director of Market Operation, National Grid, in the actual report, telling us that the NG report is not a prediction of what could or will happen. Based on the work done, she says, "it's clear the country has the ability to meet its energy needs".

On this, Ofgem concurs. Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem's senior partner for markets, says: "The message … is that there is no increased risk of blackouts", adding to industry sources which are offering the same message.

In other words, there are substantial reserves in the system, giving it far more resilience that the media allow. Despite the wishes of the doom-mongers, it is extremely unlikely that we will see any power cuts this winter. But that is not the game the media wants to play. The narrative requires that the public is misled, and misled it shall be, fortified by those who willingly believe the fiction.


Richard North 29/10/2014 link

Tuesday 28 October 2014

000a Cameron-028.jpg

Very much obscured by the row over the EU budget is the deal Mr Cameron made over the 2030 targets on climate change, on which he elaborated in parliament yesterday.

"One problem we have faced in the past [with the EU] ", said Cameron, "is that instead of just setting a binding target on carbon emissions, the EU has set binding national targets on things like renewables and energy efficiency".

"These diktats on how each country should reach its commitments can pile up costs on our industries, consumers and families who do not want to pay more on their energy bills than they have to", he added, "and they create an unnecessary trade-off between cutting carbon emissions and promoting economic growth".

Thus said Mr Cameron, "At this Council, we have chosen a different path. We have reached a landmark commitment to deliver at least 40 percent reductions in greenhouse gases by 2030, but we have rejected any new binding national targets for renewables or energy efficiency, giving us full flexibility over how we reduce our carbon allowing us to do so at the lowest possible cost for businesses and consumers".

"This", he said, "is another example of where British leadership has helped the EU to step up and meet its international obligations, while at the same time protecting our national interest by keeping energy bills down for businesses and Britain's hard-working families".

I wonder, though, how many people realise how dishonest this statement is. The prime minister glibly talks about a 40 percent target for CO2 emission reductions by 2030, and talks of the "flexibility", which allows us to meet this target allowing us to do so at the lowest possible cost for businesses and consumers "at the lowest possible cost for businesses and consumers".

But what he doesn't say is that the UK has already committed via the Climate Change Act to the 80 percent reduction target by 2050, which is already driving our energy policy. Thus, the 2030 target for Britain is an irrelevance when we have already adopted one which is far more severe. And the "flexibility" is of very little importance, when we are already saddled with this impossible target.


Richard North 28/10/2014 link

Tuesday 28 October 2014

000a Immigration-027 euref.jpg

If EU migration is the problem, Switzerland and Norway are not the answer Since both Switzerland and Norway accept far more immigrants per capita than the UK, why do so many people look to them as the answer to Britain's immigration worries?

So writes the great sage Mats Perrson of the Europhile Open Europe, once again trailing behind this blog. We did it on 28 September and several times thereafter, including here.

These people are so far up their own fundamentals, they have no idea what is happening in the world around them.


Richard North 28/10/2014 link

Monday 27 October 2014

000a Truss-027 BBC.jpg

This woman doesn't have the first idea of what the 2050 emissions target really means. Watch this video for the bit when she claims that it doesn't involve complete decarbonisation of electricity because the target is seeking only an 80 percent emissions reduction.

Yet this creature is Secretary of State for the Environment, a person supposedly in charge of our response to "climate change". Could a Secretary of State be so ignorant? Need you ask?

Another own goal for Mr Cameron.


Richard North 27/10/2014 link

Monday 27 October 2014

000a Telegraph-026 Pressure.jpg

Something of the story behind the story on Mr Cameron's £1.7bn began to emerge in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, with lead writer Tim Ross kindly adding my by-line to the copy. The Mail on Sunday, however, went for a fictional version of events, going for Mr Gove's incredible theory that the Barroso personally dumped a £1.7 bill on the UK as an act of revenge.

The Financial Times though, is coming up with a completely different version of events. The £1.7bn figure, it tells us, is a one-off payment which accounts for less than 0.1 percent of UK GNI, representing a top-up to UK contributions covering 11 years. Thus, the paper says, Britain is being asked to pay a "modest" adjustment of an extra £150m a year over the period, a sum that would barely deserve a footnote in the UK's annual accounts.

Now, the Mail is saying much the same thing, that "the European Commission issued the demand to the UK after using rules dating back to 1995 and finding Britain's economy has grown faster than expected, so must pay a greater share to Brussels".

This, one assumes, is based on the Commission Q&A on the revision of Member States's GNI, which I only saw last night. Contradicting completely my report on the application of ESA 2010, it states that this year's technical adjustment does NOT take into account the new method of calculating member states' GNIs. This new method, it says, will have no impact on their GNI contributions to the EU budget until the new own resources decision comes into effect, which is probably 2016.

To the question of why this year's technical adjustment sees such big increases of contributions to the EU budget for some member states, the Commission tells us that this year's adjustment includes GNI re-calculation dating back to 2002 for most member states and to 1995 for one.

There were, we are told, a number of unresolved issues that had accumulated over the last years. The decision to resolve these historic issues now results from a joint effort of member states in cooperation with Eurostat. With all these issues now cleared, future such corrections will again be rather minor, as they were in recent years. 

This seems to be borne out by sight of an (undated) information note to member states, which sets out the sums involved, on which much of the media publicity has been based. It sets out in detail the adjustments for the different members states for the years 1995-2013.

As to the legal authority to apply retrospective adjustments, the Commission cites Council Regulation No 1150/2000 of 22 May 2000 implementing Decision 94/728/EC on the system of the Communities' own resources. It would seem that Article 10(8) applies, referring to Article 3(2) of Directive 89/130/EEC on the harmonization of the compilation of gross national product at market prices.

There is nevertheless something very odd about the Commission Q&A, because it cites Council Decision 2007/436/EC on the system of the European Communities' own resources, as being the basis for calculating the Members' contributions. Yet, as we see here, that Decision has been repealed and replaced by Council Decision 2014/335/EU on the system of own resources of the European Union. It takes effect from 1 January of this year.

The crucial thing about this updated Decsion is that it tells us that Member States' GNIs "shall mean an annual GNI at market price, as provided by the Commission in application of Regulation (EU) No 549/2013 (ESA 2010)" - thereby installing the new European System of Accounts, except that pro temp contributions were to be based on ESA 95 because ESA 2010 had not been available at the time of the adoption of the 2013 Decision.

But, the Decision went on, "the contributions should be adapted as soon as all Member States have transmitted their data on the basis of ESA 2010". "In the event that there are any amendments to ESA 2010 which entail a significant change in the level of GNI", it then said, "the ceilings for own resources and for commitment appropriations should be adapted again". A method of recalculation was then set out.

On this basis, it would appear that the Commission is wrong in claiming that ESA 2010 does not apply. Its own legislation says it does, and unless there is an unknown factor here, the new standard applies to the current figures and the adjustments.

Therefore, what I think has happened is that, guided by Directive 89/130/EEC and Decision 2014/335, the UK and other Member States have revised their GNIs retrospectively using ESA 2010, which has given rise to the adjustments recorded. But it must also be remembered that the procedure requires Member States to calculate their own GNIs, and send the results to the Commission. This is not something the Commission does for us – we do it for ourselves.

Thus, as far as the awareness and the advance notice goes, my previous report would seem to be accurate (unless or until we see further developments).  The UK was informed that changes were in progress. It is unlikely that Mr Cameron can claim that the Commissions was not entitled to the money it is claiming, as the sum is based on data provided by the UK – presumably calculated by the ONS - in accordance with well-established procedures.

Since the ESA 2010 changes have been flagged up continuously, the UK government – and therefore Mr Cameron – can have no justification for saying they didn't know what was coming.

Seldom though have I met a more complex scenario – where the Commission also seems to be getting it wrong. Even Mr Barroso didn't seem to know what was going on. And that may just provide a small window of opportunity for Mr Cameron. It the Commission itself is all at sea, he could claim that it is unfair to expect him to know better.

Of course, his "Rolls-Royce" civil service could have told him, except that Rolls-Royce cars is now owned by the Germans. That is perhaps why Mrs Merkel was in the know and Mr Cameron wasn't.


Richard North 27/10/2014 link

Sunday 26 October 2014

000a Mail-025 Blob.jpg

As always, one can only smile indulgently at the self-regarding pomposity of The Mail on Sunday which today "exposes" how a "Green Blob" financed by a shadowy group of hugely wealthy foreign donors is driving Britain towards economically ruinous eco targets.

In particular, writer David Rose preens himself on his investigations that "reveal the Blob is not just an abstract concept", then outing the European Climate Foundation (ECF), "at the heart of the Blob", with offices in London, Brussels, The Hague, Berlin and Warsaw.

Of course, if Mr Rose had climbed off his high horse and actually read this blog, he would have already known that the "Green Blob" was not an abstract concept, and would also have seen the ECF outed in January 2010.

It was then that we bumped into it, when it was bankrolling Pachauri's TERI. But we saw it again in the same month, when it was making equally dubious donations. It popped up again in more detail once again in the same month, and then again in March 2010 in February 2012, in August 2013 and then again in July of this year.

We did the global governance bit in June 2014, but we've been at this since June 2007, when we drew attention to the payments received by Friends of the Earth Europe. 

But, in common with the rest of the legacy media, nothing exists until they have "exposed" it in that self-important style that they have. As always, though, they only get a fraction of the story, before moving on to their next exposure, reliant of course on their claque top tell them how wonderful they are.

Meanwhile, the data that led to the ordinal blob article emerged from here, without any assistance from the legacy media. Thus, nothing really changes. If you want to be entertained, I suppose you can read the legacy media, but if you want to be informed – and sometimes years ahead – read the blogs.


Richard North 26/10/2014 link

Sunday 26 October 2014

000a Booker-026 CHP.jpg

No pictures last week were more spectacular, writes Booker, than those showing flames and smoke engulfing the large gas-fired Didcot B power station in Oxfordshire. In fact, the damage done to one of the plant's cooling towers was relatively minor. Its owners tell us that by next week it will again be able to supply the grid with 750MW of power, equivalent to the average output of 1,300 wind turbines.

But the really interesting story behind that fire was what it tells us about arguably the most extraordinary fact of all to do with our energy policy – the astonishing way in which more than half of the energy we use to make electricity is wasted.

When the BBC website last week reported the EU's latest wholly unrealisable plan to achieve a 40 percent cut in our CO2 emissions within 16 years – Ed Davey actually wanted 50 percent – it was inevitably illustrated with one of those pictures of cooling towers.

They were belching what readers might imagine were clouds of smoke and nasty, "polluting" CO2. But in reality, what emerges from those cooling towers is steam, given off by heat from the gas that drives the turbines – and all that colossal amount of heat literally goes up the chimney.

But what also emerged last week from an as yet unpublished study was the startling fact that the heat we waste in this way is "very significantly" more than all the heat we get from the gas used to warm Britain's 25 million homes.

So why don't we save billions of pounds a year by following the example of the countries that use that heat to warm buildings? In Denmark nearly half of its buildings are kept warm by "combined heat and power", or CHP, piping heat from power stations to whole districts of towns and cities.

To a very limited extent, we do this already. When David Cameron sits at the Cabinet table, or Mr Davey in his office at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, they are among the beneficiaries of the "Whitehall CHP scheme", using a 4.9MW gas-fired turbine in the bowels of the Ministry of Defence, not only to provide Whitehall's ministries with a secure supply of electricity, but also heating for a large surrounding area.

There was a time when governments produced reports suggesting that a major extension of CHP across the urban areas of Britain could not only contribute up to 17GW of electricity – nearly half of our average needs – but also supply heat to millions of homes.

By this means, as Owen Paterson pointed out in his recent speech on energy, we could more than double the efficiency of our energy use, from 40 to 90 percent. Already the NHS has seen the light, as in its CHP scheme in Leeds, which provides both electricity and heating to the city's main hospital and university complex. Didcot B, between a housing estate and a technology park, would be equally ideal.

But astonishingly, despite earlier official enthusiasm, our government's new energy policy seems to offer no long-term place for CHP, because powering such schemes by gas would prevent us reaching our statutory requirement under Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act to cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Instead, Mr Davey fondly imagines that, by 2030, we can rely for almost all of our heating on electricity, produced by tens of thousands of wind turbines and huge nuclear plants too far from population centres to use their heat.

The overwhelmingly sensible answer, as Mr Paterson explained in his seminal speech, would be to return to smaller, more local power stations, putting their heat to good use rather than wasting it.

When the Combined Heat and Power Association next month publishes the study mentioned earlier, it will include those devastating figures showing how we waste much more heat than that we currently pay for to heat our homes.

But there is no way we can switch to such a policy until we have repealed that crazy Climate Change Act. Meanwhile, Mr Cameron and Mr Davey continue to enjoy the heat provided by a system that they would deny to the rest of us.


Richard North 26/10/2014 link