IT’S mid-summer, mild and largely calm. As a result, the UK windfleet both
onshore and offshore has been in near total collapse over the last four days.
To keep the UK lights on we are today (July 10) importing 4000MW from
Europe which is the maximum possible. Scotland is today also importing from
England to the same purpose.
At lunchtime today wind is providing us with 3.8 per cent of our needs and
gas almost 52 per cent.
A problem at the heart of this is that keeping the lights on
post-privatisation became the responsibility only of our politicians. They
of course almost exclusively have not undertaken an engineering education
and therefore have, with some accuracy, been described as technologically
illiterate: this while mankind is progressing through its fourth industrial
revolution. The result therefore is that engineers can write about
technical challenges and solutions, even in their simplest terms, but
politicians cannot read it.
It is also the case that the “Big Six” are predominantly lead by managers,
not engineers, largely following Government subsidy policies plus there is
no independent, empowered, UK organisation determining the future form of
our electricity supply that best serves the interests of the country.
One result is that several of the Big Six now have falling share prices.
One contributing factor is that corporate pensions investors feel they can
no longer expect steady annual dividends from the present electricity
market to support their typically up-to-40-year policy payment commitments
and are reducing their portfolios.
The Centrica share price has halved in a year and it was recently paying a
dividend that was greater than the earnings/share in order to support it.
The SSE share price too is seen as volatile – recently improving slightly
from a fall of 40 per cent during the last year and they have been
attempting to sell off part of the company.
We can speculate at length as to whether the UK electricity grid or major
electricity companies might fail first. Either way the result would need a
public purse bail-out.
Then we have all of the apparently increasingly influential quangos and
single-interest groups plus industry-funded support groups who seem to lack
any serious electrical engineering representation yet have apparently easy
access to our politicians’ ears, some peddling pseudo-science.
Some appear significantly populated by, at best, seriously under-read
autodidacts and our politicians need to realise this.
DB Watson, Cumbernauld.