The Lights Will Go Out

I’ve just been involved in a discussion about Smart Meter technology in Germany. I wrote about Smart Meters some time ago, but this discussion led to the discovery of some stark differences between the progress made in Germany (who leads Europe in green energy and smart meters) and the UK.

The UK Government has mandated that the roll-out of smart meters should start in 2014 and completed by 2020, yet no decision has yet been made as to the technology to be used, or the funding. The most likely solution will simply be that the cost of these new meters will be borne by additions to consumer’s bills. And what benefit will these meters provide? Well, they will probably be able to read the meters by driving down the street rather than sending someone to look at the meter, reading the meters by a radio data system (like Bluetooth, but possibly M-Wave or similar). The other possibility is that there will be a form of data that will be transmitted down the power lines – but this requires co-operation between the gas and electricity companies. With all our independent, profit focused companies, it’s likely to be a dog’s breakfast of mixed standards, or at least time delaying arguments. The consumer will also be able to look at their consumption online.

These meters will only provide meter reading benefits, no peak power controls or appliance controls. This will require a second generation of meters, making these (that we still haven’t decided about anyway) obsolete. So why bother rolling these first generation smart meters out at all?

Wind farm in the Thames Estuary

Then, there’s renewable energy generation – about 25% of Germany’s power is already from renewable energy, while less than 6% is from this in the UK. New German houses must have solar panels fitted, there is no such requirement in the UK.

£6,000 subsidies for so called “green cars’, which I have already argued are not green, UNLESS they are charged from renewable energy. Most, if not all of the 1,700 electric cars in the UK that the government has spent an additional £11M to provide infrastructure (charging points) for, are charged from electricity generated by fossil fuels, making them clearly less “green” that their fossil fuel counterparts.

In the UK, we do not have the initiatives to make a difference like our German counterparts have, worse still, we have little provision for our future energy requirements. We need to know where our future electricity will come from. Consumption of power is increasing, maybe due to the illusion that our electricity is green, but plans for generation are not increasing in line.

Renewable sources of energy are OK, but not good for on-demand power. Wind power can be used to pump water that can later be used to generate hydro-electric power, but there are no plans for these sources either.

We currently have nine nuclear power plants, after 2019, this will be just three, and none by 2035. So, the options in 2035 are renewable energy and fossil fuel generation. Or maybe buy electricity from France?

To make sure that the lights don’t go out over the UK, we need tangible plans now. Solar, wind and wave generation is not the answer, these don’t give us power 100% of the time, and certainly not on those long, dark & still winter nights.

While everyone is arguing about shooting badgers, the clock is ticking, I certainly can’t see what our medium to long term plans for power are. I can only assume that the subsidies for “green” cars, requirements for smart meters and obsession with windmills are borne from EU directives that don’t take into account how far behind with renewable energy we are in the UK.

Time to buy candles and wait for a return to the rolling power cuts of the 1970s.


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