ENERGY SUPPLIES IN 21st CENTURY               Latest entry OCT 14th 2011

It appears that the discovery and application of Ionic Liquids
will be the most decisive factor in energy conservation and the
efficiency of the production of materials in the coming century.
They are not covered here because I am ignorant of them.

Preface Update January 2008
Craig Venter in his Richard Dimbleby Lecture introduced the
public to the prospect of new man-made bacteria that can produce
fuels from waste and even directly from the Carbon Dioxide
that is causing climate change. This is also not covered here.

See also news of Sept 18th 2005

See April 2009 for battery technology breakthrough
and and
for non-rotary wind microgeneration

(File starts Dec 2002 - updated down the page)

First, some news:
Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working with crystal-growing teams at Cornell University and Japan's Ritsumeikan University, have learned that the band gap of the semiconductor indium nitride is not 2 electron volts (2 eV) as previously thought, but instead is a much lower 0.7 eV. The serendipitous discovery means that a single system of alloys incorporating indium, gallium, and nitrogen can convert virtually the full spectrum of sunlight - from the near infrared to the far ultraviolet - to electrical current. [For further information on the new full-spectrum photovoltaic materials, visit the web at]

What began as a basic research question points to a practical application of great potential value. For if solar cells can be made with this alloy, they promise to be rugged, relatively inexpensive - and the most efficient ever created.
"It's as if nature designed this material on purpose to match the solar spectrum," says Wladek Walukiewicz, a staff scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division (MSD) who led the collaborators in making the discovery.

Very interesting indeed. But first to deal with this part:

> "It's as if nature designed this material on purpose to match the solar spectrum,"

This astonishment should rationally apply to everything we observe in nature. "How clever of the planetary design parameters that the highest mountain on a naturally inhabitable planet has a summit JUST below the lethal x-ray limits and is JUST climbable by oxygen breathing mammals (if they train for it) without artificial support". "How extraordinary that the Sun and the Moon appear the same size, and that the moon has so many multiple uses and all this on a planet where every other impossibly improbable coincidence, concerning the interlocking exceptions to every rule - consider the properties of Water for example - is necessary for life as we know it."

Getting a grip on this is one of the biggest steps in imagination and understanding that is possible for humans. Due to the size of the 'known' universe there are two orthodox ways of resolving the puzzle. Both are extreme, forced to the extremes by applying logic to a model based on the type of observation we are familiar with in every day life. I happen to think that enlightenment on this issue lies in neither of these, or perhaps it would be more correct to say both. The resolution, once understood, satisfies the evidence which proponents of both camps believe to be mutually exclusive, and is more astonishing, more simple, more complex, more everything, in fact just MORE than they have bargained for. [SEE NOTE ADDED 20th February 2004]

But in the meantime, we shall continue to discover what look like prearranged possibilities and should be guided by their arrival, rather than decide arbitrarily what this planet needs and spend a fortune forcing ahead in directions that nature is indicating are NOT a solution to a natural problem at this time.

I have always had my doubts about FUSION (hot, large scale) as a local energy source worth pursuing at huge cost. My reason for this is that if we had achieved it by the year 2000, it would have been a social disaster for Western and Global civilisation. Far from being a solution to a hurdle on the way of planetary development, it would have allowed us to continue on our muddled way without coming to grips with political issues which would have emerged later with devastating force. Massive expansion based on fusion energy and dependent on it and the political powers that controlled it would be a very unstable future. Moreover, the energy and expense consumed in building the generators and distribution networks of a centralised Fusion Future would probably mean we were in deficit for ever, even if it worked, and would have wrecked our environment in a different way into the bargain. It may well come later, but the amount of money spent so far on forcing its early emergence in an attempt to build a national lead has been counterproductive. Huge sums which should have been invested in the transport infrastructure and reducing energy waste have been squandered. On the energy front, we should have been doing something else - see the 'killer application' later on this page.

Solar power (using an existing Fusion source 91 million miles offshore) is a different proposition. At the moment, the energy output of solar cells in any meaningful lifetime is less than that required to create, market and install them, no matter how cheap the components may appear to be as raw materials. This does not mean that they do not have rational applications. The value of energy is no a simple value. It has two components, one thermodynamic, the other the distance of its availability to do work from the site where work is required by the economic model in question. The true value is a product of the first, inversely proportional to the second, divided by a constant. Other variables are need to make fine adjustments in comparisons with alternate energy sources.

When it comes to space applications, there is no contest. This latest news will be good news for solar powered devices in space as they will be smaller and lighter and that means big bucks saved on the launch pad, which is the choke/crisis point for all developments beyond our atmosphere. It should also eventually have advantages for ground based applications but there again this will depend on whether we can bootstrap the production of solar cells by using solar energy to produce them. This can be done by basing the manufacture in areas of very strong sunlight, making the acquisition and transport of all the raw materials energy efficient, using renewable and non-polluting sources, and doing it on a massive scale. What is a bad idea for agriculture (extreme economy of scale, removal of humans from the process and thereby also from the rural economy) is exactly what should be applied to the production of solar cell units for local power generation world wide.

The final piece in the energy jigsaw (apart from fuel cells, hydrogen etc) is the storage of electrical power.

In the UK, the dangers of Grid Instability in the future are very real.  [see update Aug 15 2003 below]

We will need all sources of supply, nuclear, renewable and classical fossil fuels, plus new technologies, but the killer application has to be electricity storage, and this must be combined with water storage on a distributed, local level. This can be achieved by starting now to build these water storage facilities, into which water would be pumped when excess water is available, by using excess electricity when this is available from wind or solar or any of the other sources if renewables lacking at the time.

Obviously the mountainous areas are most suitable for large scale storage at altitudes that will give maximum energy/volume ratios, but the water/electricity storage facilities can be on a whole range of scales, and the security of the system will be assured by have a great number of these, feeding into the grid at the nearest point. The stability will be assured by the fact that their operation will always be on demand of the controlling authority, whether this be for storage or release.

The cost of all this is well within sensible limits providing we start now and spend each year, because the investment will be in constructions and hardware that are very long lasting and low maintenance, guaranteed to be useful for the foreseeable future, and defendable against vandalism because they can be enclosed in secure structures and decentralized as a system. The reserves of water will be as valuable as those of power, though they will not always be used to produce power. A time of drought may well coincide with a lack of output from wind power sources, but this does not have to be the case to make the water or power reserves available when they are required. Hydroelectric power can be drawn off and the water channeled to lower, conventional reserves or to waste if not required. Water reserves can be drawn on generating only the power actually required to balance the grid at the time.

James Baring
December 2002

UPDATE Jan 1st 2003
In view of the fact that the management of our inland waterways and drainage has been inadequate and extensive areas of habitation and farmland are now flooded on a regular basis, parts of the storage system could be designed and used as electrically powered balancing reservoirs. High speed, high volume pumps could be used to extract water from rivers and low lying lakes. A system of wide-bore pipes and existing and restored canals could be used to transfer water that cannot be discharged by rivers to areas where it could be stored with gravitational potential.

Obviously, there would need to be a careful financial integration of generation and storage interests, so that the funds invested in electricity storage and flood prevention would not be to the detriment of investment in generation technology and companies that are essential to the volume and  security of supply. Market forces alone are not sufficient to plan for the national interest, as it is now clear that short term forces engage short term interests only, with catastrophic long term results. A study of successes and failures in other countries removes the need to speculate on this.

UPDATE Feb 24th
The Government White Paper on energy is encouraging. The move to renewable (Wind, Tide, Solar) and the hold on Nuclear until demand is established is wise. The requirement for electricity storage is even more clear if wind and solar are to play there full part. Although tide generation will be more regular and very reliable, it will have rhythmical peaks that will not coincide with demand other than by chance, so storage as advocated in this document will be very effective in increasing the efficiency of all these renewable sources. Increased efficiency by better insulation, distributed sources, local sources, energy storage is the sure and certain way to meet the emission reduction targets and reach a secure and stable energy supply.

UPDATE Aug 15th 2003
The major blackout in North America should serve to bring home the obvious fact that the interdependence of different geographical areas through grid systems has snags as well as advantages. A wider decentralisation of generation, storage and energy sources is the only sensible way to prepare for a future which is bound to be highly dependent on electricity for command and control as well as energy for heating, cooling and transport.

UPDATE DEC 10th 2003
The low level of water reserves in the UK is now clarifying minds wonderfully. We need to look 20 years ahead and start now on building the combined water storage and transport, electricity storage and transport system. It will have to grow gradually over the coming century.

UPDATE DEC 20th 2003
Today is decision day for the giant international fusion project to build a pilot fusion generation plant. The decision has to be made between two possible sites, one in France, one in Japan. There is little possibility that this project can be stopped, even though I believe it to be a colossal waste of funds and resources and skills. It has to be done, and in a certain sense it will not all be a waste. It may possibly succeed in a plant that produces some electricity on a sustainable basis and will form a part of our technological future. It will employ some very talented people and keep them off the streets or from doing anything worse. There will be some interesting spin-off technology. But in reality the people making the decisions are just safeguarding their own jobs. We must remember the money goes round and round and in the end gets spent on beer, wine and spirits from which the tax goes to governments providing the boot-leggers are kept adequately in check. The big risk to the world is the black economy on the one hand and the wrong choices made by governments in their spending on the other. The funds being spent on this project should instead be being spent on the water and power projects advocated in these pages (see above, start again at the beginning).  If we can do both, then I have nothing against going ahead with this fusion project, though it will consume a huge amount if energy doing it and thereby bring nearer the need for alternative sources.

[Not that all government decisions are bad or ministers and their advisors incompetent. I used to think Jack Straw was a bit of a bumbler but he has consistently shown a powerful grasp of the realities of his job and a choice of words that makes this crystal clear. His replacing of Robin Cook has probably been the most important appointment of this Labour government, on a par with that of Gordon Brown as Chancellor.]

UPDATE DEC 31st 2003
That decision on fusion generation has been postponed. Very wise. Too much politics in the wind at the moment. In the mean time it is good to see a growing realisation that in future we should be using the 50% wasted by power stations via their cooling towers, and of course setting and enforcing new standards of insulation on dwellings, subsidising where appropriate. Then we might look at the quantities of hot air pumped out of buildings where our growing farms of computer equipment are cooled day and night. If the world economy does recover, and China gets into growth mode, we will need more than the Kyoto Protocol to keep global warming from going ballistic. We will need technology and we will need to apply it. [update July 2005: France has been chosen as the host country for the fusion project, on a site west of Marseille. Good choice].

UPDATE FEB 05 2004 introduces a new material that will store and release hydrogen. If we can produce hydrogen by non-pollutive and economical means, this new development in the storage (and presumably transport in certain circumstances) could complete the formula for the opening of the hydrogen economy. Hydrogen can be considered here as an energy store, rather than an existing (stored) source. As such, it could be an additional means of storing electricity produced by irregular natural energy sources such as wind and solar. Maybe we shall even see Concorde flying again one day with hydrogen fuelled engines....

UPDATE FEB 10 2004
BBC's excellent Home Planet programme as drawn our attention (Feb 10) to Anaerobic Digestion as a means of reducing the landfill problem while producing methane. This falls into the same category as the other ideas promoted on these pages. Instead of accepting a trade-off, it is possible to go for a technology that is not zero-sum but uses the energy already entered in the equation in the production of our food and household materials and recycles it. Plentiful supplies of gas have up till now meant there was no financial incentive to produce methane by this method. For it to be efficient in its overall operation, it is also true that plants and turbines must be of a certain size. But in a few years time when landfill reaches crisis point and gas supplies are sourced abroad, it will make sense to separate what is recyclable from household waste leaving what is biodigestable. The product is methane and compost - both will be in demand. The technology has been developed and applied already in developing countries where the raw materials and the need have been more available and more obvious.  If properly worked out, savings in transport of waste can make sure that there is a true gain in the gas production, its use, and the recycling of the non digestible material.

This link shows some guys doing what looks like a good job with landfill. There is a good animated explanation of the process

NOTES - FEB 20th 2004   - Read the first few paragraphs of this page before reading these notes.
Today on Channel 4 TV, a 2 hour programme The Day the Earth was Born gave a very useful summary of what we know with some certainty and with strong probability about the formation of planet earth. It was brilliantly made and the material and science well selected. Astonishingly, at the end, it was apparent that the makers of this excellent compendium of current scientific theories had not understood its meaning at all. The message they left the viewer with was that only a series of accidents had been the cause of the development of animal and subsequently human life on earth.

The probability of the formation of stars of the size and constituency of our sun means that there are certainly very many of them in our galaxy. Given one exactly like ours, at the position it is in our galaxy and its age, it will almost certainly be shown in a few more years of research that it is likely that a planet the size of earth will form at the distance from the sun that we find it, made up of the same materials. Out of a selection of such planets, it is likely that most will in the last stages of their formation produce (through collision between the last two major masses in their orbit) a satellite or 'moon'.  It will be shown through  physics and mathematics that are already well understood, that a satellite such as the moon when associate with a planet such as earth, made of the material already decided by is distance from the sun, will automatically adjust its orbit until it has the effect and appearance of a moon such as ours.

By now, you should be getting an understanding as to how these things work. What starts off as a rare but nevertheless inevitable statistical happening becomes progressively channelled into increasingly determined environmental states which transfer the developmental probabilities to the next level where they again become, despite the randomness or later 'choice' of the components, part of the inevitable development of life, animal life and finally human life.

The development of human life in the universe is therefore paradoxically as far from being an accident as it is possible to envisage, even though it may be very rare that it succeeds. Life could of course start on a planet that did not turn out to permit its development to human, but when one set of parameters are suitable they tend to cause the others to fall progressively into place. What many 'western' scientists seem to be unable to handle, however, is an understanding of universal logic. They fail to understand the way the GEOMETRY of space-time works to create masses and surfaces which tend towards environments and possibilities and probabilities. Nothing has been discovered in my lifetime to advance a proper understanding of these issues one iota for those to whom it was already clear beforehand, and although everything that is discovered confirms such an understanding, none of it appears to relieve the insistent blindness of those who do not understand it in the first place. Theologians have as many amongst their ranks as scientist who just 'don't get it'. The ultimate irony is the opposition of humanists to Christianity, and some Christians who fail to understand that Jesus was the founder of humanism.
UPDATE JUNE 13th 2004
It has been pointed out by serious students of energy and climate control that Nuclear Fusion (sorry that was a typo, I meant FISSION. Fusion is yet to come) Energy is still likely to be a essential part of any global energy solution. The concerns of the anti-nuclear lobby are safety of the nuclear piles, security of nuclear materials, security of the storage of waste materials. None of these is a problem in a well regulated, stable society. The waste storage problem has been much exaggerated. There is  no need to bury it below ground. The volumes are very small. It can be encased in extremely secure surroundings. However it is still true to say that nuclear power is only safe in the hands of stable, well educated societies not suffering from delusions of national destiny or religious fundamentalism, and capable of self defense and controlling proliferation. The global elements of the nuclear debate are the most complex. There is an element of catch-22 about nuclear power. It may well be that a way must be found to manage it successfully. However there are other energy sources that may yet come to light. Cold fusion on a small scale is still not a completely dead duck. Geothermal can play a part. What is certain is that we will be forced to find ways of not wasting energy they way we do now, and that is all to the good. To proceed without learning this lesson would lead to certain disaster.

NOVEMBER 21st 2005
It looks increasingly likely that two sources of energy will play a significant part in UK supplies for the future. I will call them NEW COAL and NEW NUCLEAR. The closing down of the Coal Mines was a painful necessity, for health and safety reasons as well as economic. The hold-off on nuclear power was necessary for the same reasons. We are now in a position where we have to make a decision on NEW NUCLEAR if it is to play any serious part in the UK's efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. The waste problem is not as serious as has been claimed. New processes and designs can ensure that the waste is not broadcast as it was accidentally in the past. I can be stored safely on or near the surface in massively but cheaply protected sites, where it can await later decisions and techniques. But the question for NEW NUCLEAR is (a) the cost, (b) what could be done by spending this money on renewables (c) could renwables absorb this expenditure (d) how it affects the balance of payments of the UK in view of the fact that many other supplies will be important.

As more cars will have an electric component and more and more machinery electrically powered, nuclear generated electricity will be increasingly important. There are many comples issues to examine. The simplistic question "Is Nuclear Power the Future?" is as off target as "Should the Police be armed". The balance of payments problem has been ignored by the UK and the US recently for different reasons. It has to be taken seriously. So has security of sources of which the cost will rise as non-renewables run out.

NEW COAL is a runner. It depends on developments in mining that must bring about a revolution in health, safety and economy compared to OLD COAL, and developments in coal combustion and the recuperation of waste gases. UK coal is highly sulfuorus, unfortunately, which presents more of a problem in this. However the new technology will be essential if we are to help China and the rest of the world to avoid catastrophic atmospheric pollution in the future.

NOV 30th
Recent objections that the mining of uranium is energy intensive and carbon producing ignore the fact that new technology and locally solar-generated energy for the uranium mines could improve this progressively. We need to think short, medium, long and very long term. It would be very unwise not to foster nationally the technology and training of engineers, physicists and economists in nuclear power.
There is nothing to stop factories, blocks and homes being turned into small generating stations, according to the appropriate available resources, for self-supply and return to the grid. This does not need to be given government supported nuclear funding to be put into effect, it will be a profitable investment in the long term. We just need to balance the funding with imaginative formulae and pricing.

JANUARY 02 2006
While I have no doubt that the dispute over the price of Gas between Russia and the Ukraine will eventually be sorted, it highlights the vulnerability of remote supply lines that pass through territories over which we have little or no control. This is an aspect of Globalisation which is truly fascinating to students of the phenomenon. We should in a way be grateful for the opportunity to witness some of the moves. President Putin is exacting what he considers the proper economic penalties for the Ukraine choosing to join a sphere of western influence in this stage of political evolution. One of the advantages of staying in the Russian sphere is withdrawn. He did offer to do this in two stages, but that was rejected by The Ukraine; whereupon Putin reacted by withdrawing that offer and going for a one stage, immediate implementation. A lesson for us in the UK is that we need to plan future supplies on a belt-and-braces, many-eggs-in-many-baskets basis. Quite so. There will be a nuclear basket. Of course Iran needs a nuclear basket like a fish needs a bicycle, but that will not stop some people for saying they can justify it. We have to work out deals on both water and energy in a globalised economy. If we succeed, we can go on without too much conflict; If not not, it will get dangerous. That's just as it should be.

JANUARY 05 2005
Here is a welcome statement about the inefficiency of certain biofuels. It is important to understand it and I am at a loss as to why the government has not ensured earlier that it is understood.

Thu Jan 5, 6:47 AM ET

OXFORD (Reuters) - Waste products make a better biofuel than traditional British crops such as rapeseed and grain because of the energy it takes to grow them, a former chairman of Shell Trading and Transport said on Thursday.

"The attractive thing about waste is that it represents a problem," Lord Oxburgh told reporters at the annual Oxford Farming Conference.

He said rapeseed and grain required fertiliser inputs, effectively negating much of the savings they might otherwise provide when changed into biofuels.

"You really have got to think very hard about the amount the energy that goes into producing your biofuel," he said.

"I think if they (British farmers) grow the same crops in the same way, it probably won't work," he told reporters.

Lord Oxburgh pointed to the production of ethanol from waste straw in Canada as one example of a project which was energy efficient and had environmental benefits.

By way of contrast, he said the most expensive method was being employed in the United States using maize, which consumes an enormous amount of energy before being turned into fuel.

"You put in nearly as much energy into producing energy as you get out of it. It doesn't actually make a lot of sense," he said.

Britain announced late last year plans to increase use of biofuels over the next few years and British farmers hope that domestic rapeseed oil will be used to produce biodiesel and surplus wheat to make bioethanol.

Lord Oxburgh said if Britain imported biofuels from palm oil produced in recently cleared rainforests in southeast Asia there could be adverse environmental impacts.

"There isn't one solution for the whole world," he said.

Quite so.......

France to cut oil use by 2020 with new reactor

By Marguerita Choy  Jan 05 2006

PARIS (Reuters)
President Jacques Chirac announced plans on Thursday to cut oil consumption in France, including the launch of the latest nuclear reactor prototype so that French trains will not use a drop of oil in 20 years' time.

Chirac sealed France's commitment to nuclear power by announcing the launch of a fourth generation prototype reactor to be in use by 2020.

France has become the world's second largest nuclear power producer after it decided after the 1970s oil shocks to reduce its oil dependence by building a fleet of 58 nuclear reactors.

Chirac also said in a New year's speech that France had to develop solar energy, electronic and hybrid diesel cars, and increase production of biomass fuels five times over the next two years.

"I hope that the agency for industrial innovation will contribute from this year to the launching of these projects. The (railway firms) RATP and the SNCF should no longer consume a drop of petrol in 20 years time," Chirac said.

State-owned nuclear operator Electricite de France has already launched plans to start up a new 1,600 megawatt (MW) European pressurized water reactor (EPR) in 2012, the so-called third generation reactor.

But no new large power plants have been built since 1993 and France still needs to build more new power stations to meet growing demand and to compensate for aging units, according to a study by the French grid RTE.

The more sophisticated and supposedly safer fourth generation reactors, that have a pebble-bed reactor, where graphite pebbles are filled with particles of uranium dioxide fuel, are still being developed.

"We will tie up with industrial or international partners who wish to join the project," Chirac said.

Italy's biggest utility Enel has plans to take a stake in the third generation EPR project, but a deal has been delayed as it has yet to iron out the details of the framework agreement with EDF.

(Additional reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich)

FEBRUARY 28th 2006 - I should have put this in a long time ago

WOKING - Decentralised Energy
This next paragraph is an exract from RED Future Currents: Designing for a changing climate - work in progress

Waking up and smelling the coffee
Beyond the growing debate about decentralised energy, its potential has actually been demonstrated in the Surrey town of Woking.40 The pioneering borough council has constructed a series of 60 local energy generation systems, including gas-fired combined heat and power, micro-wind turbines and photo-voltaic arrays. These systems serve the council itself, but also local hotels, a shopping centre, a doctor's surgery and some social housing. Woking even has the UK’s first hydrogen fuel cell, which powers the local sports centre and swimming pool.

To read the full PDF file go to

See also

MARCH 3rd 2006
There is much debate about the refusal after an inquiry to allow a major wind farm near a particular National Park. I think the decision is correct. There is no doubt that wind farms can and should make a serious contribution to energy supplies and climate control, but the most beautiful national parks are not the place to put them if there are alternatives. Logic must be applied. We know we do not intend to cover the entire country in wind turbines. Significant areas of natural beauty serve not just nearby residents but the whole country and the tourism economy. If we destroy these, we don't just upset the locals. That is not to say there might not be a national park where a wind farm could be a planned feature. The way forward is not to be found by hiding behind so-called principles that absolve us from making appropriate decisions after dialogue, information sharing and negotiation. Every principle in the hands of rigid and frightened thinkers contains the seeds of its own destruction.

MARCH 7th 2006
The Government's advisory committee on sustainable energy - The Sustainable Energy Commission - has reported negatively on the proposition of nuclear power. However the report relied for its negative judgement on disadvantages of cost (uncertainty), security (uncertainty) and waste disposal (uncertainty). If that is the best case against nuclear power, for which the report acknowledges many certain advantages (national independence of supply, reliability, controllability, scalability, balance of payments advantage, then Sir JP, whose work I have greatly admired, has made the case for nuclear much easier to establish. At the very least the renewal of the existing nuclear power stations will be hard to resist, if the sites and the connection to the grids can be used into the next century. The cost should be manageable and the uncertainties mentioned are subject to intelligent efforts to reduce them continually. The most serious risks could very likely be eliminated to well below that from many other uncontrollable possible events.

FEBRUARY 1st 2007
The ITER project for the generation of energy by Nuclear Fusion is nw said to be about 1 years away from a sustainable pilot project at its new site in the South of France. Wikipedia entry extract:

On November 21, 2006, the seven participants formally agreed to fund the project.[1] The program is anticipated to last for 30 years—10 years for construction, and 20 years of operation—and cost approximately 10 billion (US$12.1 billion), making it the third most expensive scientific megaproject project after the Manhattan Project and the International Space Station. It will be based in Cadarache, France. It is technically ready to start construction and the first plasma operation is expected in 2016.

ITER is designed to produce approximately 500 MW (500,000,000 watts) of fusion power sustained for up to 500 seconds (compared to JET's peak of 16 MW for less than a second). A future fusion power plant would generate about 3000-4000 MW of thermal power. Although ITER will produce net power in the form of heat, the generated heat will not be used to generate any electricity.

That's all very well, electrical generation is a later stage, and I agree that Nuclear Fission is best considered as a temporary fix. But I still maintain that while we need an energy supply commensurate with the consumption demanded by the developing populations of the world community, it does not follow that we should leave the growth of population and its needs to the unconsidered selfish desires of individuals.

The density of population on the planet can of course be considered as limitless. We can live in ever more congested proximity, We can, with sufficient energy, turn sea-water into drinking water. With sufficient energy we can not only stop global warming, we could reverse it and even control it. But I believe we are making a serious mistake in thinking that this will be achieved before nature brings about its next big change in the development of life on earth. The way forward in my view is to realise that we already have the best Nuclear Fusion generation system
for this era in the sun. We should control our population numbers or Nature will do it for us, and we should control our consumption of fossil and even contemporary vegetable energy or again Nature will bring about circumstances which will bring this about.

While it seems that the ITER developers have finally solved the containment problem (the fusion plasma had a tendency to diffuse through the magnetic containment field) there is another project which may also reach the critical proof-of-concept stage within 10 years, at rather less expenditure. Here's the publicity:

HiPER is a proposed European High Power laser Energy
Research facility dedicated to demonstrating the feasibility of laser driven fusion as a future energy source. HiPER is being designed to enable a broad array of new science including extreme material studies, astrophysics in the laboratory, miniaturised particle accelerators and a wide range of fundamental physics research.

Hiper image

Fusion energy is an attractive, environmentally clean power source using sea water as its principal source of fuel. No greenhouse gases and long-lived radioactive waste are produced. Demonstration of the scientific proof of principle is expected between 2010 and 2012 as part of an ongoing international program. What is now needed is to move from the scientific proof of principle stage to a commercial reactor. HiPER provides the critical next step along this route.

But neither of these overcome my philosophic objection that we already have a free energy supply, appropriate for the appropriate population and activity levels of a human race that can live without destroying the planet. The natural systems will not allow us to become a disease of planet Earth. So by all means continue but don't spend money that could control our wasteful ways today.

DECEMBER 2nd 2007   This is the sort of thing I was looking for when I started this file in 2002.

How Africa's desert sun can bring Europe power

A £5bn solar power plan, backed by a Jordanian prince, could provide the EU with a sixth of its electricity needs - and cut carbon emissions

Solar panels like these near Munich could do t the heat zones on the Mediterranean under the plan proposed by Prince Hassan bin Talal Solar panels like these near Munich could capture heat in areas of the Mediterranean under the plan proposed by Prince Hassan bin Talal. Photograph: Alamy Europe is considering plans to spend more than £5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East.

More than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union member nations, including Britain.

Billions of watts of power could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in its carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed supplies of fresh water.

Last week Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan presented details of the scheme - named Desertec - to the European Parliament. 'Countries with deserts, countries with high energy demand, and countries with technology competence must co-operate,' he told MEPs.

The project has been developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation and is supported by engineers and politicians in Europe as well as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan and other nations in the Middle East and Africa.

Europe would provide initial funds for developing the solar technology that will be needed to run plants as well as money for constructing prototype stations. After that, banks and financial institutions, as well as national governments, would take over the construction programme, which could cost more than £200bn over the next 30 years.

'We don't make enough use of deserts,' said physicist Gerhard Knies, co-founder of the scheme. 'The sun beats down on them mercilessly during the day and heats the ground to tremendous temperatures. Then at night that heat is radiated back into the atmosphere. In other words, it is completely wasted. We need to stop that waste and exploit the vast amounts of energy that the sun beams down to us.'

Scientists estimate that sunlight could provide 10,000 times the amount of energy needed to fulfil humanity's current energy needs. Transforming that solar radiation into a form to be exploited by humanity is difficult, however.

One solution proposed by the scheme's engineers is to use large areas of land on which to construct their solar plants. In Europe, land is costly. But in nations such as Morocco, Algeria, and Libya it is cheap, mainly because they are scorched by the sun. The project aims to exploit that cheap land by use of a technique known as 'concentrating solar power'.

A CSP station consists of banks of several hundred giant mirrors that cover large areas of land, around a square kilometre. Each mirror's position can be carefully controlled to focus the sun's rays onto a central metal pillar that is filled with water. Prototype stations using this technique have already been tested in Spain and Algeria.

Once the sun's rays are focused on the pillar, temperatures inside start to soar to 800C. The water inside the pillar is vaporised into superhot steam which is channelled off and used to drive turbines which in turn generate electricity. 'It is proven technology,' added Knies. 'We have shown it works in our test plants.'

Only small stations have been tested, but soon plants capable of generating 100 megawatts of power could be built, enough to provide the needs of a town. The Desertec project envisages a ring of a thousand of these stations being built along the coast of northern Africa and round into the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. In this way up to 100 billion watts of power could be generated: two thirds of it would be kept for local needs, the rest - around 30 billion watts - would be exported to Europe.

An idea of how much power this represents is revealed through Britain's electricity generating capacity, which totals 12 billion watts.

But there is an added twist to the system. The superheated steam, after it has driven the plant's turbines, would then be piped through tanks of sea water which would boil and evaporate. Steam from the sea water would piped away and condensed and stored as fresh water.

'Essentially you get electricity and fresh water,' said Knies. 'The latter is going to be crucial for developing countries round the southern Mediterranean and in north Africa. Their populations are rising rapidly, but they have limited supplies of fresh water. Our solar power plants will not only generate electricity that they can sell to Europe, they will supply drinkable water that will sustain their thirsty populations.'

There are drawbacks, however. At present electricity generated this way would cost around 15-20 eurocents (11 to 14p) a kilowatt-hour - almost twice the cost of power generated by coal. At such prices, few nations would be tempted to switch to solar. 'Unless it is extremely cheap, it won't stop people using easy-to-get fossil fuels,' John Gibbins, an energy engineer at Imperial College London, told Nature magazine last week.

However, Desertec's backers say improvements over the next decade should bring the cost of power from its plants to less than 10 eurocents a kilowatt-hour, making it competitive with traditionally generated power.

Other critics say the the plants would be built in several unstable states which could cut their supplies to Europe. Again, Knies dismisses the danger. 'It's not like oil. Solar power is gone once it hits your mirrors. It would simply be lost income.' The European Parliament has asked Desertec to propose short-term demonstration projects.

MARCH 6th 2008    
We do seem to be agreed on this.  Although all sorts of other energy sources will be tapped and decentralisation will play a vital part of energy security, Nuclear will play a vital part in giving us the energy to get there. We have to move fast now because of the great delay in coming to this decision, although much of the delay was justified.

Nuclear 'is energy future'

Press Assoc. 

Britain will become increasingly reliant on nuclear power for its energy needs over the next two decades, Business Secretary John Hutton said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, he said that he had been "very encouraged" by the response from investors to the Government's plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.

He said that as the new stations came on stream, he expected that they would supply "significantly" more than the 19% of Britain's energy which comes from nuclear sources.

"We need the maximum contribution from nuclear sources in the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "I'd be very disappointed if it's not significantly above the current level."

Mr Hutton said the Government was now keen to fast-track the replacement of the UK's 10 current nuclear power stations, all but one of which is due to close by 2023.

The first of the new plants could be operational in 2017, he said, a year ahead of the target set in the Government's energy white paper published in January.

"If we can accelerate the timescale we should. We've got to be completely serious about this. We should keep the foot down on the pedal," he said.

"I've been very encouraged by the reaction (from investors). It's completely confounded all those people who said it's not going to happen.

"It's going to happen and in a shorter timescale than our critics predicted."

MAY 6th 2008
The Reuters report below underlines the obvious truth that in the next 50 years nuclear power and its application as distributed, reliable electrical power is an essential element in the global energy equation for technologically dependent countries. If the lights go out we are all fucked (to use the vernacular of an eminent UK civil servant), and GWB has belatedly understood that getting energy from growing crops on agricultural land is equivalent to shooting oneself in the foot.

Russia, U.S. to sign civilian nuclear pact: source

By Guy Faulconbridge - Reuters

Russia and the United States will sign a long awaited civilian nuclear cooperation pact on Tuesday that will allow firms from the world's two biggest atomic powers to expand bilateral nuclear trade significantly.

The deal will be signed in Moscow on the last full day of Vladimir Putin's presidency, a Russian official said on condition his name was not used.

The deal will open up the booming U.S. nuclear market and Russia's vast uranium fields to firms from both countries. Without a deal cooperation was severely limited and required official consent.

"The potential value of this agreement is the value of all the contracts which could be signed between the two countries' firms in the nuclear sphere, which is obviously billions of dollars," a Russian source said.

At the 2006 Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg, U.S. President George W. Bush and Putin asked their governments to move forward on the deal but it has faced opposition from some U.S. congressmen because of Russia's cooperation with Iran.

"It is symbolic that it will be signed on the last day of Vladimir Putin's presidential term," the Russian official said.

The Russian source said the deal would be signed by Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, and U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns, who is leaving Moscow to take up the No. 3 post in the State Department.


A 123 agreement, so-called because it falls under section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, is required before countries can cooperate on nuclear materials.

Some U.S. politicians have said nuclear cooperation with Russia should be shunned because Russia is helping Iran build an atomic power station in Iran, but the Bush administration is keen to have the pact approved this year.

Once the agreement is signed Bush will have to send it to Congress, which has 90 days to act. If Congress does nothing, the agreement goes into effect. If lawmakers want to block it, they must pass a resolution of disapproval.

Russia's parliament, which is controlled by Putin's party, must also ratify the Treaty.

Russia, one of the world's biggest sellers of enrichment services, has been trying to break into the prosperous nuclear markets of the United States and European Union.

Tuesday's deal creates a legal base that will allow companies to make agreements themselves on trade in nuclear materials.

"You cannot overestimate the importance of this agreement because it opens up the giant north American market for nuclear materials to Russian companies," Vladimir Yevseyev, a senior researcher at the Moscow Centre For International Security.

Putin, who steps down on Wednesday, has reformed Russia's nuclear sector to boost competition and open it up to world atomic firms such as Japan's Toshiba Corp, which owns U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric.

Russia has crafted a nuclear behemoth called Atomenergoprom -- which officials say is an atomic version of Russian gas giant Gazprom -- to compete with the biggest nuclear companies on the world market.

Competitors include the partnership between France's Areva and Germany's Siemens AG; Japan's Toshiba; and GE Hitachi, the nuclear venture of General Electric and Japan's Hitachi.

Russia has about 870,000 tonnes of uranium in reserves and more than 1 million tonnes if joint ventures abroad are included. That excludes a strategic reserve of highly enriched uranium and plutonium whose size is a state secret.

Russia already sells to the United States only uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons under a program known as megatons to megawatts. Sales are made through USEC Inc..

(Editing by Christian Lowe and Charles Dick)

MAY 22nd 2008
The general subject of Climate Change is covered elsewhere on this website: see CLIMATE CHANGE.
But today as the price of crude moves towards $150 per barrel and
he average UK price for a litre of unleaded petrol is now about 114p, while diesel costs, on average, 126.4p.

That the price to the consumer should rise is realistic, but it must be understood that this price is not related to the current or immediate future cost of production. There is rather more profit being made by oil traders and producers together than is necessary. It is being inflated by restrictions on the supply by OPEC members who hold most of the world's reserves. This would be OK if the profit being made was being invested in revolutionary technologies to replace oil, to develop energy economy, to research carbon capture, and in general to enabke the world to stop global warming. The problem is it is not, or at least not enough. It is being used to expand economies that are globally malign from the point of view of the survival of life on this planet

There will be pressure on the government to abandon the fuel tax escalator, and this they may have to do temporarily, as the correct approach right now is to restrict our energy use but NOT to add to our energy costs. Let me be clear: a tax on energy of all forms is essential, but if the raw price is being inflated this is not sensible unless very significant cuts in other taxes are introduced to balance these. This is not easy to arrange in a fair way. A great deal of imagination will be needed.

We should realise that the deterrent force is now already there thanks to OPEC and the growing demand from China, India and elswhere, not to mention the internal consumption of the oil-priducing countries themselves and speculators in the oil futures market. Unfortunately the developing oil-producing countries are giving it away cheap to their own citizens. It is therefore up to the developed consuming countries without sufficient energy sources of their own to come up with the technology and to economise drastically. The price of oil will drop if we just learn not to waste it. That is fair and right. That we do not appear to have seen this coming is entirely the fault of our ourselves - by that I mean our own citizens and not particularly the government, which as ever is in the hands of its citizens and the media.

MAY 28th 2008
Yesterday the situation discussed in the first entry in this file came to pass.

Power Set To Return After UK Blackouts

By Sky News SkyNews - Wednesday, May 28 03:34 pm

Electricity supplies should return to normal today after the countrywide blackouts, the National Grid has said.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across London, Cheshire, Merseyside and East Anglia were affected between 11am and 1pm on Tuesday.

The blackouts happened when the Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk and the Longanett coal-fired power station in Fife both went off-line within several minutes of each other.

In total, nine generating units across the country became unavailable.

Stuart Larque, spokesman for the National Grid, said: "We think it will be a case of business as usual.

"We have a very robust system in the UK. It rarely fails and that's why everybody is talking about it so much."

The blackouts were caused by the opposite of a power surge as the National Grid deactivated local stations to maintain the required 50hz frequency.

When demand is greater than generation, the system fails.

The Government has come under pressure from the largest independent energy consultancy, McKinnon Clarke, to build new power stations or face further power cuts.

David Hunter, energy analyst at McKinnon Clarke, said: "The Government's inability to make long-term energy security decisions over the last decade is coming home to roost.

"Since the 'dash for gas' in the 1990s, the lack of political will to make tough decisions has left Britain short of power."

MAY 31st 2008
The UK energy markets have previously been thought of as a jewel in the crown of de-monoplised and competitive industries. Now, our consumers are suffering more that other EU countries. We considered that any temporary advantage for European consumers that derived from cosy relationships or even identity of producers, suppliers and distributors would give way in time to inefficiency and featherbedding of such protected monopolies. However it seems that Europe is getting the best of both worlds, with increasing confidence in free EU markets. What none of our politicians has the courage to point out is that it is the full monetary union, the adoption of the Euro, that has allowed those EU members to move forward in confidence. We gained unfairly from our opt out from the Euro. Now the British public is going to pay the price, and it is going to hurt, hard and long. The strength of the Euro has a downside too for its members, but it is its own protection against many elements of this downside and the advantages are huge.

JUNE 8th 2008

The IEA said coal-fired power plants like this one in Shanxi, China, needed to be equipped with equipment for capturing and storing emissions of carbon dioxide. (Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News)

$45 trillion urged in battling carbon emissions

By James Kanter
Published: June 6, 2008

BRUSSELS: In one of the strongest warnings so far about the world's thirst for energy, the International Energy Agency said Friday that investment totaling $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from undermining global economic growth.

The executive director of the agency, Nobuo Tanaka, called for "immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale." Tanaka said the world needed to "completely transform the way we produce and use energy."

The IEA report said that the combination of growing demand for energy, especially in countries like China and India, the dangers of climate change and the scarcity of resources was going to require huge shifts in the way the global economy was organized. To meet those challenges, it said, nations would have to overcome objections to building nuclear power plants and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide underground or beneath the ocean floor.

"I am very pleased the International Energy Agency has put such a high figure on the cost of making this transition," said Pierre Noël, an energy expert and senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "It is high time we got rid of the myth that we can decarbonize our economies on the cheap," he said.

In its report, the IEA, which gives advice on energy policy to its 27 member nations, which include the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and most of Europe, described emissions-cutting measures that broadly match the advice of some leading scientists, who have recommended cutting emissions in half by 2050 as a way of avoiding devastating climate change. Environment ministers from the Group of 8 have backed this target, and they have said governments should officially endorse the goal at a G-8 summit meeting in July in Japan.

The report did not say how such large sums of money should be raised. The IEA said member nations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or Unfccc, the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol, must negotiate ways of encouraging governments and businesses to lower emissions.

John Hay, a spokesman for the convention, said markets operating under the Kyoto treaty that put a price on carbon pollution, like Europe's Emissions Trading System, were already playing an important role in driving investment, but could not be solely relied on to raise the sums described by the IEA. Two years ago, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the Unfccc, estimated that carbon trading could generate investments in climate-friendly technology in the developing world worth about $100 billion annually - a fraction of the amounts the IEA said was required.

The IEA report foresees "a dramatic transformation of the energy industry, and how that level of investment can be achieved is a major question," said Robert LaCount, head of climate change and clean energy research at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Governments at all levels will need to help and support the emergence of new technologies so that they can reach commercialization," he said.

Among the energy agency's chief messages is that current energy policies are unsustainable, with emissions of carbon dioxide expected to climb 130 percent and demand for oil to rise by 70 percent by 2050. Tanaka warned that oil demand could be five times the current production of Saudi Arabia by that time, and that carbon emissions of such a magnitude could raise global average temperatures by 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit), changing all aspects of life and creating irreversible changes in the natural environment.

A major problem for the planet is that the rising cost of oil and natural gas is prompting a switch to coal, particularly in India and China. Coal is inexpensive and plentiful but highly polluting, and its increasing use is contributing to the accelerating growth in emissions of carbon dioxide. But Noël, of the foreign relations council, said the rising cost of fossil fuels should be a cause for optimism, because they would be the main factor driving large-scale investments.

"It's not primarily a global agreement between heads of state that will make technologies like nuclear power or like carbon capture reach take off," Noël said. "It's primarily expectations about energy prices," he said.

The IEA recommended taking measures now that would ensure that carbon emissions were down to at least present-day levels by mid-century by using technologies that already exist, including steps for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from power generation. Such measures would cost $17 trillion between now and 2050, or 0.4 percent of global output, costing about $400 billion a year.

The agency also mapped out a second, more ambitious plan aimed at reducing emissions to half their current levels by mid-century by emphasizing technologies and strategies for "weaning the world off oil." The agency estimated the cost of that process at $45 trillion, or 1.1 percent of annual global output, over the period to 2050. Investments of $100 billion to $200 billion would be needed each year over the next 10 years, rising to $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year in the coming decades.

To reach the goal of halving emissions, the agency said, among the most important measures would be equipping more than 50 natural gas and coal power plants each year with equipment to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. Such measures would double the generating costs of a coal power station not equipped with capture and storage, and many plants that could not be converted to the new technology would have to close before the end of their useful lives.

"It is recognized that this will be a large step for countries heavily reliant on coal, but a necessary step requiring careful management," the report said.

There would also be a need for 32 new nuclear plants each year, while the number of wind turbines would need to increase by 17,500 annually. Other strategies included accelerating the development of solar electricity and so-called second-generation biofuels, made from sources that do not compete with food for farmland.

The report acknowledged that numerous objections to these technologies would need to be overcome, in particular local opposition to building new nuclear power stations and to long-term nuclear waste repositories. Geologically stable sites also would need to be found for storing carbon dioxide.

But the most difficult and costly step, it said, would be reducing carbon emissions from transportation at a time when the use of cars, airplanes and ships would still be growing rapidly but few technologies would exist to limit emissions from those sources.

JULY 14th 2008

'Lights will go out' by 2015 if Lords rejects Planning Bill

By Nick Clark
The Independent - Monday, 14 July 2008

The lights will go out across the UK in seven years if the Planning Bill coming up for review this week is rejected in the House of Lords, according to a leading business trade body. It estimates the country needs £100bn of investment in major energy plants by 2020.

The CBI has urged the House of Lords to pass the Planning Bill, under consideration tomorrow, to help secure the nation's energy and infrastructure needs.

It also accused the Conservatives of playing politics in opposing the Bill, with potentially damaging ramifications for the UK's future.

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said: "To keep the lights on, heat our homes and meet climate change targets, approximately £100bn needs to be invested in major energy infrastructure projects by 2020."

To avoid the power outages that have dogged South Africa and California in the past few years, the UK needs dozens of individual infrastructure projects from gas and coal-fired plants to wind and nuclear. The CBI said that with current complicated planning, legislation was "not fit for purpose", adding the Government's Planning Bill was crucial to speed up the process of approving these projects.

"The current planning system has always struggled with such projects and there is no way the number of projects necessary would come through the current system in time. The reforms ... in the Planning Bill are essential if business is to commit to the necessary investment," Mr Cridland said.

The UK needs seven new gas and coal-fired stations, 12 new nuclear stations and 40 wind farms, as well as 12 major gas storage plants, according to the CBI.

The second reading of the Bill is in the Lords tomorrow, before it goes to committee. It should be voted on before the end of the year.

The Bill was first proposed in a White Paper in May last year and is based around the creation of an independent body to oversee the planning applications for major energy infrastructure projects. The CBI supports the move, pointing to major infrastructure planning permission, such as Sizewell B, taking five years. It hopes a streamlined process would take as little as nine months.

Currently, the final decision sits with ministers and politicians fear that by handing the power to an independent body they are stripping democratic accountability out of the planning process, and taking power away from local officials.

The CBI disagreed. It said the Independent Planning Commission, which would comprise up to 30 experts, would act in a similar way to the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England, with the final decision taken by a body of experts rather than politicians.

AUGUST 2nd 2008
I do not know if this is bad news or good but either way it is a fact and is unlikely to speed up the building of new Nuclear power stations. If that delay is significant it is bad news. We need to proceed, EDF is certain to be involved one way or another. [See September 24 2008]

UK nuclear energy deal collapses

Talks which would have seen eight of the UK's nuclear power stations sold to a French state-owned energy firm have broken down without agreement.

EDF had been expected to announce a £12bn deal to buy British Energy.

However, it is understood that shareholders argued that the soaring price of energy meant they should be able to command a higher offer.

The rejection is a major setback to the UK's plans to cut greenhouse gases by relying more on nuclear energy.

The government holds a 35% stake in British Energy and is believed to have backed the deal, which would have raised as much as £4bn for the chancellor.

But Invesco and Prudential, who together own about 22% of the firm, felt that that the 765 pence-per-share offer was too low, said the BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston.

Arguably all of this mess could have been avoided if BERR last year hadn't sold part of its British Energy stake
Robert Peston
BBC Business Editor

On Friday, British Energy shares closed 4% lower at 700 pence.

EDF said that it still hoped "to be a major actor in the nuclear rebirth of Britain".


Although the deal could yet be revived, the latest development was bound to be a disappointment for the government which wants to get the building of new nuclear power stations under way as soon as possible to replace the ageing Magnox reactors, our business editor said.

He added it was an "embarrassment" to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) which has responsibility for energy policy and controls.

"The department was planning to hail the deal as facilitating plans to fill the gap between our energy needs and generating capacity that will yawn open in the coming decade."

In a statement, BERR said that it would continue to watch developments closely, but closing the deal was a matter for the private sector.

But it reaffirmed the UK government's commitment to nuclear power, and it said that the rise in oil prices had only made the case for new nuclear plants even stronger.

Both companies issued terse statements about the breakdown of the talks.

EDF said that conditions were not right for it to proceed with the deal.

The level of interest in nuclear new build remains high... there are strong signals of an appetite for this from the market
Department for Business spokesman

British Energy said "advanced discussions" had continued but that no agreement had been made to date.

It added that there could be no certainty that the talks would lead to an offer being made.

'In-depth discussions'

The chairman of the Commons Business and Enterprise Committee, Conservative MP Peter Luff, said the collapse of the deal was not necessarily a bad thing.

The French firm buying BE would have meant "a massive concentration of power in the electricity sector in the hands of EDF", he said.

"They'd have had over a quarter of all electricity generation and the competition effect would've been very serious."

EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government, is the biggest nuclear power generator in the world.

"After in-depth discussions, EDF considers that the conditions for a major development in Great Britain are not met to date," the Paris-based company said in a statement.

The announcement came shortly before the firm was due to release its half-year earnings.

British Energy, which generates about 20% of the UK's electricity, is part-owned by the British government which wants to sell its stake.

The firm was privatised in 1996 but ended up being bailed out in 2002 by the government after running into severe financial difficulties.

Centrica was negotiating with EDF to be its minority partner in the acquisition, and was expected to pay around £3bn for a 25% stake.

'Interest high'

British Energy's sites are considered prime locations for the government's proposed new generation of nuclear power plants.

EDF has other options for developing nuclear facilities in the UK, having bought land adjacent to two existing nuclear plants.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform said: "Our commitment to nuclear power is clear.

"The go ahead for new nuclear power, alongside our action to promote energy saving and renewables is in Britain's long term national interest.

"The level of interest in nuclear new build remains high and recent months have shown there are strong signals of an appetite for this from the market."

Correction: In earlier versions of this story, the name of one of the shareholding companies was incorrectly given as Investec.

AUGUST 10th 2008
A radical breakthrough in solar power from MIT. Decentralised electrical energy, beamed wirelessly from our own nuclear fusion generator (Sol), should be able to convert sea water to drinking as well as all the uses mentioned in the ENS report
click above for the full article
Solar Power Breakthrough Stores Energy for Later Use
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, August 2, 2008 (ENS) - Within 10 years, homeowners could power their homes in daylight with solar photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water to power a household fuel cell. If the new process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds acceptance in the marketplace, electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

"This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, senior author of a paper describing the simple, inexpensive, and efficient process for storing solar energy in the July 31 issue of the journal "Science."

"Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon," Nocera said.

SEPTEMBER 3rd 2008
As time passes it becomes more and more obvious that our energy supplies will come as ever from our own global nuclear fusion furnace, Sol. Here is just another example.

Making ice while the sun shines

By Duncan Geere Tech Digest - Wednesday, September 3 11:13 am

This is quite nifty. A team of scientists from San Jose University have worked out a way to make ice with zero carbon footprint and no moving parts. There's no electricity involved either. All you've got to do is keep the machine clean.

Here's the science: A big mirror focuses the sun's rays on a tube of coolant. The coolant evaporates and travels through pipes into a chamber where it's absorbed by an unnamed material. When the sun goes down, this material slowly cools until it hits 40°C. At that point, the coolant turns to a liquid and due to pressure differences, it rapidly cools to below 0°C. You then put some water next to it, and voila, it'll freeze. The next day, you just do exactly the same thing all over again.

This could be incredibly useful in tropical countries, or in places where the electricity supply is iffy, like war zones. The ice produced could be crucial for medical uses, or even for food storage and refrigeration. The whole system is completely sealed too, so if it doesn't leak then you'll never need to top it up.

The scientists reckon it can make 14 pounds of ice each day - but obviously, the bigger you make the machine, the more ice you'll be able to get out. I'm sure that time will also produce more efficient models. You can't get it yet because it's just a prototype, but based on the brief science description above and a bit of knowledge of coolants, you might be able to put your own version together. If you do give it a shot, then be sure to let us know.

University of San Jose (via DVice)

Related posts: IFA 2008: Portable Solar Panels from Onlink | Turning roads into solar collectors - why has no-one thought of this before?

SEPTEMBER 24th 2008
EDF made a better offer, and the UK shareholders have seen sense. It was a no-brainer
EDF set to buy British Energy

French energy firm EDF is expected to announce a £12.4bn deal to buy British Energy, the firm which operates the UK's eight nuclear power plants.

In addition, Centrica, which owns British Gas, will take 25% of all power generated by British Energy once it is in French hands, the BBC has learnt.

It will also take a 25% stake in all new nuclear plants built by EDF.

The deal with EDF is seen by Centrica as vital to reducing its dependence on imported gas.

The cost to Centrica of this investment will be around £3bn.

EDF's acquisition of British Energy is due to be announced on Wednesday.

The deal will be controversial, BBC business editor Robert Peston says, because it will be seen by some as handing the UK's nuclear future to a company owned by the French state.

Centrica's investment may placate some critics.

The involvement of Centrica also helped to persuade British Energy's recalcitrant shareholders to back the sale to EDF, since they are also holders of Centrica shares, our correspondent adds.

Second time around

British Energy owns the UK's eight nuclear power stations and generates an estimated 14% of its electricity supply.

Sizewell B
Dungeness B
Hinkley Point B
Heysham 1
Heysham 2
Hunterston B

EDF is expected to build four new nuclear plants on existing British Energy sites and sell-on the remaining ones.

The UK government, which owns 35% of British Energy, is keen to ensure more than one company is involved in building the next generation of nuclear plants.

EDF was set to buy British Energy in July, but the deal was called off on the eve of the announcement when shareholders protested that it was being sold too cheaply.

Talks continued and EDF returned with an improved offer which has been accepted.

EDF is understood to have offered 774 pence a share for British Energy, nine pence more than its initial offer.

SEPTEMBER 25th 2008
It is time to remind people that although a new series of coal fired electricity generating stations should be avoided unless really effective and economically sustainable carbon capture is mastered, we need to build at least ONE modern coal-fired plant in order to develop the carbon-capture technology. This technology will be a global requirement regardless of the balance of generation technology used in the UK. The development of nuclear fission plants by EDF does not prejudice the development of any other power sources.

Solar generated hydrogen is the long term future for energy storage for transport and domestic and much industrial use. Generation can be localised as well as centralised. Centralised nuclear fusion development can be stopped now in my view as it is absorbing funds that are needed on other energy projects. It is not even a desirable goal if it were to work right now.

APRIL 08 2009
The awkwardness and bulkiness of hydrogen energy torage is enough to make my hasty generalisation of last year seem now to be only applicable in certain cases. Technological advances in all other areas will as usual ensure there is no one answer or methodology but a judicious mix. The new developments in battery technology are the most important for our electric cars providing battery life and recycling/renewing fall into the right frame. These last considerations are all-important.

JULY 28th 2009

US breakthrough promises "solar panels" that work in the dark

Research team predicts commercially available products within five to 10 years

James Murray, BusinessGreen, 13 Aug 2008

SEPTEMBER 21st 2009
There have been quite a few developments on plans for solar and wind farms in the Sahara as suggested a few years back on this web site. The proposal of a DC Grid to transport alternative energy may confuse readers. You may wonder why, if DC transmission is so efficient, why we went to AC. The reason is AC could be easily changed from one voltage to another by transformers with no moving parts. High voltage transmission needs far less current flow in amps to carry the same amount of energy. AC, pioneered by Tesla in the face of Edison's opposition, was the secret to electrifying the world and powering all our appliances at voltages that were not dangerous or incendiary. But DC could have its use now to transmit wholesale energy over long distances to distribution centres.

NOVEMBER 10th 2009
At last the government has approved 10 sites for new nuclear power stations. Objectors are now concentrating on economic arguments and waste disposal. They base both on past experience, on the assumption that we cannot learn and improve. They could be proved right, and they could be proved wrong. Of course many of them will try to ensure they are proved right by adding to the cost through their actions. As for safety, it is not necessary to bury the waste from new nuclear until an agreed place and method is found. It can be safely stored above ground and may well remain there is there is not a better solution. Once again it is illogical to assume we need make the same mistakes as last time that rendered the waste unmanageable.

It has been said that it would only take one more nuclear accident, anywhere, that caused fall-out or deaths to yet scupper the UK nuclear plans. Why? When an airline crashes a time-expired plane piloted by poor pilots, we don't stop UK commercial aviation. What is required is the employment of well trained and selected personnel to build and run new nuclear stations that are not necessarily the cutting edge of new technology but based on the best and using genuine fail-safe design. Fully fail-safe design is not possible in aviation. For a nuclear power station, it can be, up to a point where a significant failure would require circumstances that would render the failure itself not the main problem or cause for concern. Ensuring a good, clean power supply is part of the means of avoiding such circumstances. Those who are still puzzled by the chicken-and-egg riddle will not understand this of course. There are still some around.

I used the BBC calculator to work out how a mix of nuclear, fossil and renewables could enable us to meet the targets we are committed to to mitigate carbon emissions. Unless the BBC calculator is wrong, it looks possible. This is assuming no success in reducing demand through insulation and other sensible methods. 2020 is only a check-point. This process will continue and sophisticated energy storage systems must be developed to allow demand and supply to have a big buffer.
Power Supplies 2020

DECEMBER 1st 2010
It has been a year since I added anything to this file. That helps to give some perspective and see what we should be panicking about next. It seems we have accepted that nuclear power is an essential part of the energy mix for the UK and some other countries, with solar, wind, tidal and lean coal all to be necessary where appropriate globally. However, efficiency is going to be the real key and that is where the big problem lies. The inexorable growth in a world where growth has been the only way forward causes congestion in key areas (a major cause of inefficiency) and many efficient solutions cause unemployment. All soloutions that rely on growth demand natural resources.

The growing global demand for natural resources risks undermining Europe's economy, a report has warned.

The outlook, produced by the European Environment Agency, said the increases were driven by a need to satisfy changes in global consumption patterns.

The agency said there were no "quick fixes" but called on businesses, individuals and policymakers to work together to become more efficient.

It added that Europe had made progress on emissions, but more had to be done.

"We are consuming more natural resources than is ecologically stable," said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade ahead of the formal launch of the fourth Environment State and Outlook Report (SOER 2010).

JANUARY 13th 2011
While many countries are showing new reservations on wind-farms, the North Sea offshore environment is being taken more seriously. It is an asset we can exploit with benefits to all.

What we now have to attend to is the security of the national grid which is computer controlled minute by minute through digital networks that are not independent from the Internet that is accessible to hackers. Its means of security against failure is also a source of vulnerability, so some very careful planning is required to put in place mitigation measures to deal with possible problems.

MAY 11th 2011
As noted often above, the key to energy supply and climate control is the storage and timely release of electrical energy from renewable, sustainable resources. The Falkland Islands are on the right page here:

In the UK, wireless charging points should be made available in all appropriate car parks, to charge parked cars automatically on a need basis balanced between individual and collective supply and demand values, so that no renewable-source energy is wasted.

MAY 31st 2011
The news that Germany is to shut down its nuclear power plants early, rather than extend there life according to the plans in place before the Japanese disaster caused by the quake/sunami, was greeted at first with scepticism, and then criticised. It is said they will end up buying nuclear generated electricity from France and Poland.

Well, that may be true. But look at it from Germany's point of view. Upgrading their current plants to new safety levels and extending their life would cost billions. At the end of that extended life they would still end up with out of date plants, making nuclear waste, and not the most efficient to run. They would then have to be replaced UNLESS (!!!).... instead of that, their life was not extended in the first place, and all these billions were instead spent on ensuring a home market for every renewable energy device and exploitable resource that could play a part in the renewable energy mix, along with all the systems to control and integrate them.

By creating a home market to lead the way, Germany will have the economy of scale to justify the investment in the technology, manufacturing and human resources to build an export market to supply the world competitively. I seem to remember many years ago the then West Germany passed a law that decreed all new domestic plumbing must be in stainless steel. The result was they became the chosen suppliers of stainless steel plumbing (and other stuff) to most other countries.

So France will go MORE nuclear, because they EXPORT NUCLEAR POWER, and can develop renewable as well from their huge coastline (wave and tide), wind, solar and hydro. Germany will do it differently, and both will be right.

AUGUST 18th 2011
The unfolding revelations of the events in Japan following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami are disturbing.

If the following is true, it is not surprising that they would like to shut other plants down for major refurbishing.
It is suggested that:
1. The cooling system was shut down by the quake. Recirculation and cooling pipes in poor repair were broken, large amounts of coolant lost and from that moment overheating was inevitable.
2. The emergency cooling system kicks in but due to broken pipes cannot be effective.
3. Nearly an hour after the quake the tsunami washes out the back-up generator that powers the cooling system when the main is down, but it couldn't have worked anyway.

So what happened was as if there had been no safety system at all other than 'shutting down' the core from its fully active state and expecting it to be OK with no coolant. That is ridiculous.

SEPTEMBER 9th 2011
New claims of a nuclear fusion break through using lasers. Budgetary restraints have hit the  JET and ITER projects (I am glad to say) and I have reservations about this one (NIF  or Nif- The National Ignition Facility) also, in principle, theory and (I estimate) practice.


Meanwhile I return to the theme throughout this file from its first pages - if we don't wake up the lights can go out. Grid instability is a growing danger.

Lack of infrastructure investment could leave Britain in the dark

By Tom Bawden

Friday, 9 September 2011

Britain faces a very real chance that the lights could go out in the next five to 10 years, as its ailing energy infrastructure struggles to attract the massive investment needed to ensure

In my view, local nodes of renewable-energy 'islands', that may sometimes start by using the grid as storage and reserve, can evolve in some cases to develop their own energy storage and 'portable energy produce' (e.g. hydrogen but not exclusively). This is what can synergystically solve the world's energy, financial and global warming issues for a period until we again abuse nature and cause a new problem - as we do!

OCTOBER 14th 2011
I need to have a think about some of these.

Comments welcomed at: