The odious energy minister Chris Huhne calling people names again

Students of irony don’t need to pull me up on the reflexive irony in the title 🙂 The reason it’s okay for me to call Chris names is because this is my blog and my opinon, and Chris isn’t one of the people whose wishes I represent as a politician. So I get away with being an opinionated twat. Whereas he doesn’t, and gets to take flack for it. Apparently all those NIMBYs who don’t like onshore wind farms need to sort themselves out, an in the immortal words of Nicholas Sarkozy to David Cameron, “you have lost the opportunity to STFU”:

“I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables. The climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.”

Now our Chris has got previous, as they’d say in the East End of London, after all even his mates counsel discretion before defending him.

I’m not actually a million miles away from Chris – we are going to have shocking problems with energy supply. The big boost of North Sea oil that allowed Thatcher to do her privatisations of the power industry has run out. However, I note that even such armchair engineers and curmudgeons such as David “sustainable energy without the hot air” McKay doesn’t have wind as a major part of most of his future UK wind scenarios, and the one that does, Plan G, is probably best described as ‘rabid Green Party scenario’. David McKay described the rationale as “I call this “plan
G,”  because I guess the Green Party don’t want nuclear or coal, though I
think not all Greens would like the rest of the plan. Greenpeace, I know,
love wind, so plan G is dedicated to them too, because it has lots of wind.”

There doesn’t seem to be significant political support for that approach otherwise it would be the Green Party, not the Liberal Democrats who would be in coalition with somebody and the odious Mr Huhne would be out of a job.

McKay also raised several serious technical issues to do with the high peak to mean ratio of having a lot of wind, and unlike most of Huhne’s curmudgeons and the usual wing-nuts he cites the issues, sources, and possible solutions. Oh and he knows what he’s talking about, probably more than our Chris does…

The big PR trouble with wind is that it’s big, it’s tall, it sticks out for miles, and it moves, all of which draw attention, in the “What the heck is THAT doing there” sort of way. It’s got some place in the mix, but what I want the Government to do with it’s power strategy is to have a vision of which, if any, of David McKay’s scenarios it thinks is right for the UK, and make a reasoned case for that on a cost-benefit basis. I don’t currently see that, we seem to have a emotive “we need a load of Wind, now, to be seen to be doing something”.

Wind is a great way to be seen to be doing something precisely because it’s not shy and retiring on the PR front. I know that being seen to be doing something is often considered almost as good as doing it properly, but when you are up against physics you actually have to do it, faking it doesn’t work 😦

It’s possible I’ve missed that analysis, but it doesn’t seem to be promoted much. After all, the UK government isn’t unaware of Peak Oil , with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas.

So, Chris, can we have less of the name-calling and adverse briefing, and more about what the wind target is, how much of the total mix it is going to represent, and how it will work with all the other future energy sources your department is promoting as well as wind? Even in scenario G it isn’t a one-horse race. Other stuff has to happen too, indeed the Other Stuff is needed to smooth the peak-to-mean ratio of the wind component.


We need Energy price transparency, don’t just tell us to switch, Dave

Not content to let the odious Chris “need for speed” Huhne to tell the proletariat to switch suppliers, Cameron weighs in on the same theme too.

The trouble with the UK energy market is that the Big Six do their damnedest to make their pricing conditional, obscure and impenetrable, they’ve also put in perverse misincentives to save energy.

Forget switching. You want to know the cheapest way to save on the electricity bill? It would be to join forces with your adjacent contiguous neighbours and have two drop service and share the remaining connection. No I haven’t told you how to implement it because though it’s easy enough to do this sort of information is highly dangerous in the wrong hands. And do bear in mind that adjacent houses are often fed from alternate phases, which might give you concern on maintaining earth integrity with PME installs, among all the other things that could go wrong 😉 The energy companies Ts & Cs usually disallow this sort of thing explicitly, by the way.

The reason this would work is that you are charged a standing charge per connection, either explicitly or obfuscated as a higher cost for the first few hundred units you use. Not only is that ripping you off, it is a major disincentive to reducing energy costs. I get charged a standing charge of over one unit of electricity a day – my usage is about three a day so a quarter of my bill is standing charge.

There are other perversities in the energy market. For no good reason suppliers churn the rates every year, with the aim of shifting their customers onto the expensive standard rate while being able to offer new customers incentives. Combining the two fuels gives them more freedom to hike prices without being too obvious. Sometime they will tell you they have heroically held one fuel price, in which case you can be pretty damn sure the other fuel has been jacked up to compensate. And check the standing charge, or the usage breakpoints, all good places to hide bad news.

I have used EDF for a year. They wrote me they are going to hike charges, so I entered my usage into uswitch, and lo and behold I could save £80 relative to the new cost with a bunch of suppliers. One of which was EDF, surprise. So I rang them up, lost half an hour of my life to get through to switch to the quoted tariff. Punks. It’s like with insurance, every damn year you have to go to something like just to get the price back to what it was last year.

Sharing services across households would work with broadband service, and Sky (using the second box option, though both have to be connected to the same phone line) which are easier to share with your neighbours 😉

Anyway, back to Mr Need for Speed, who tells use we should switch more. Well, yes, maybe, but perhaps it is the job of Government to regulate so that all providers have to couch their offers in comparable language, and not churn their prices? You have to give an equivalent APR for loans, so how about all firms having to give an equivalent annual cost for electricity and gas for low, average and high usages, as defined by Ofgem?

While we’re on the subject of transparency, Mr Huhne, it is disingenuous to say

No government can control volatile world energy prices

without adding

But the government has decided to add 7% to your bill in green energy taxes

Now green energy may well be a good thing, after all Peak Oil may make that 7% a worthwhile investment. However, blaming the price rises on the devaluation of the pound and world energy prices without acknowledging that a fair amount of the hike was the result of deliberate government policy is disingenuous. Our Chris then goes for the cuddle factor to soften the blow, telling us

We have also increased the electricity bill discounts available for the fuel poor by two-thirds, guaranteeing £120 off their bills to more than 600,000 of our most vulnerable pensioners.

Well, yes, Chris, but since you were part of making some of these guys fuel poor by adding to their bills, and these discounts don’t come from your back pocket or the Fairness Fairy, I get to take a second shafting as my bills go up proportionally more to pay for the discounts, and for other people’s solar panels and feed in tariffs. Cheers, Chris, have one on me, mate.

multifuel log burner

Now energy is going to be a major pain in future, and I’m happy to tell Chris that I am not paying proportionally anywhere near my fair share for his impoverished pensioners, feed in tariffs and damned wind turbines because I have attacked my power usage and I am in the process of reducing my heating bill by using the low-tech alternative of wood, so he can take his renewables tax and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Energy costs are going to keep an awful lot of people in wage slavery in the years to come, and reducing costs by gaining control of the means of production is my preferred approach to independence, from rapacious energy suppliers, misguided Liberal Democrats with a disdain for the proletariat and Russian gas disputes.

I might as well save some of my ire for Dave CamerHuhne, who delivers himself of this priceless quote

We can’t control volatile world energy prices. But we can still help people get their bills down.

No you can’t mate. The best they can do is keep the bills about the same. Not only has your buddy Mervyn King devalued the currency with extreme prejudice and intent to do more, which makes imports dearer, but gas and electricity have more than doubled in unit cost in recent times. I have dropped my usage by a third, but I can’t reduce my gas bills of late. All that is happening is mine goes up by less than most people’s. I’ve managed to press my case a lot better with electricity, but there is more you can change there.