Then, there’s the hard-green option for those who won’t have nukes or coal at all — plan G. “Greenpeace, I know, love wind,” says Mackay, “so plan G is dedicated to them, because it has lots of wind.”
Nudging up the wave contribution … and bumping up wind power by a whopping 24 to 32 kWh per day per person … wind delivers 64 per cent of all the electricity.
Under this plan, world wind power in 2007 is multiplied by four, with all of the increase being placed on or around the British Isles. Roughly one hundred of Britain’s major lakes and lochs would be required for the associated pumped storage systems.
This plan gets 14% of its electricity from other countries.
The immense dependence of plan G on renewables, especially wind, creates difficulties for our main method of balancing supply and demand, namely adjusting the charging rate of millions of rechargeable batteries for transport. So in plan G we have to include substantial additional pumped storage facilities, capable of balancing out the fluctuations in wind on a timescale of days … Most major lochs in Scotland would be part of pumped storage systems.
It’s worth noting that in earlier analysis, MacKay suggested that pumped storage on this scale would be very hard to achieve using existing lakes and lochs. In actuality, vast amounts of seawater would probably get pumped up and down mountains and cliffs routinely to bridge the huge demand swings of a mostly-electric Britain and the massive variations in a mostly-wind powered grid.
MacKay made no effort to cost plan G, but he offers maps and figures indicating the staggering scale of the engineering. Britain would be literally covered with — and girdled by — massive wind farms, tidal barriers and wave barrages, and every sizeable body of water in the land would rise and fall to the strange new tides of the national grid. We would have literally rebuilt the British Isles as a single mighty renewable generator, pouring concrete and erecting steel on a scale so far matched only by human habitation — industrialising the land and sea in a way that would make intensive agribusiness look like a wildlife refuge. And still we’d be importing power.
That’s the reality of the Greenpeace plan for the UK, in hard numbers. You can see why MacKay is worried about their response.
Finally, having done is-it-feasible plans driven by greater or lesser amounts of different agendas, MacKay considers what would happen if you simply dispense with oil and gas, insist that coal must be carbon free, and let the market work within that framework.
E stands for ‘economics’. On a level economic playing field with a strong price signal preventing the emission of CO2, we don’t get a diverse solution, we get an economically optimal solution that delivers the required power at the lowest cost. And when ‘clean coal’ and nuclear go head to head on price, it’s nuclear that wins. (The capital cost of regular dirty coal power stations is £1 billion per GW, about the same as nuclear; but the capital cost of clean coal power, including carbon capture and storage, is roughly £2 billion per GW.) Offshore wind also loses to nuclear, but I’ve assumed that onshore wind costs about the same. My final plan is a rough guess for what would happen in a liberated energy market with a strong carbon price.
This plan has a ten-fold increase in our nuclear power over 2007 levels. 110GW is roughly double France’s nuclear fleet. I included a little tide because I believe a well-designed tidal lagoon facility can compete with nuclear power. In this plan, Britain has no energy imports except for the uranium…
The nice thing about MacKay’s numbers is that you can try out your pet theories with them, and have some confidence in the results. The prof confirmed to The Reg that he’s thinking of an online tool which might let people try out their favourite policies.
In the meantime, you can read his book — even help him finish it, maybe.
No matter what your feelings about MacKay’s results and his politics — just for instance, he’s quite sympathetic to the idea of not paying that part of your taxes which goes to the military (a few per cent, in the UK) — you disregard his maths and physics at your peril. His work is a serious contribution to the energy debate. ®
Need to consider transportation fuel sector separately
Dr. Mackay has done an excellent job at a high level of assessing the possibilities for the world's future energy availability. In particular, I like his assessment of the limitation of land for biofuels and the need to go to breeder reactors if we are to use nuclear.
He has, however, made one assumption about the fungibility of energy. Until we have batteries which can efficiently and economically store energy for transportation, we need to consider the need for liquid transportation fuel (hydrogen has a need for new infrastractures and storage.and I think is a poor bet.
And so I feel the world should be looking for the interim solution of coal-to-liquid to augment oil and serve to keep price under control. Let's stop using coal for electric generation over the next several decades and use it for transportation - until we either have batteries, the algae process is developed or somebody figures out how to use solar energy, air and water to make liquid fuel.
Write to Somarl@msn.com for direct discussion..
@ Michael and anyone else that things CO2 is bad!
"(a) Switching stuff and using low energy light bulbs >does< help. In my (rather high tech) house I brought electricity consumption down by 30% by this technique at essentially no inconvenience to me. Nationally, switching to low energy bulbs means that roughly 1 GWe of installed capacity can be switched off - about 2% o fUK demand or one power station we don't need to build."
Nice to see you've replaced your normal non poluting light bulbs with ones containing lots of nasty chemicals well done there.
"(c) The authors assumed faith in clean coal is endearing. This is a technology which has never been demonstrated at scale, and the scale required is collosal. Taking world numbers of something on the order of 10 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum, this occupies a volume at a minimum 10 cubic kilometres. This volume has to be gas tight with an internal pressure of 50 bar and storage would have to be permanent. This volume would have to be built every year. For the UK the demands are proportionately less, but it makes storing nuclear waste look easy."
Oh that deadly CO2 again, you know we could just feed it to plant life I hear they quiet like it. I see your misconception that it's better we go with a really nasty polutant like nuclear waste or mercury light bulbs.
WAKE UP MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING IS A LIE!!!!
Whats far more important is the amount of real polutants that big business pumps into our air and water supplies things like heavy metals, man made chemicals etc. CO2 is easily dealt with by more vegitation something that more CO2 actually encourages.
@Anne van der Bom again...Re: you're hot water calculation.
1. 15 to 35C. The average human is about 38C, A 35C bath, that's not hot it's tepid. The author was using 10C to 50C, that's a lot more typical, though if we want to skew the numbers I suppose we could be warming Saharan water from say a balmy 45C to 50C and save a whole lot of energy. Makes ther case better!
2. 70L. Based on a typical Canadian Bathtubs internal size (maybe Europe's different) of roughly 142cmx61cmx36cm, 70L gets me 8.1 cm of soaking glory. The author suggests larger dimensions and deeper water, again more realistic.
So the hot bath is now defined as 8cm of lukewarm water. I'd like everyone to go home and try this out tonight.
3. Now we heat it. You assume a 90% gas heater. Why? This gets around the irritating 35% generating efficiency you goose the 2W standy unit with. Nice.
Personally, When I bath I use a small bucket (10L) and limit the temperature to a balmy 25C. I like it brisk. Did I mention I have black solar coils on my thatch roof in my equatorial abode, so I'm pretty efficient.
Tongue in cheek aside, you can manipulate your numbers to make your case, and in your case I think perhaps you're being a bit generous to your case. Again, you're not being skeptical, you're agenda is obvious here. From what I've read of the paper, the author is making ballpark calculations, and it's obvious, he makes no effort to hide this. The values he chooses are general, typical, what the average person uses. Be average, it's what everyone else is, and if you base your case on anything else, your argument doesn't hold much water (hot, tepid or brisk), because it assumes the best of people, that they'll change out of the good of their heart. Perhaps you've noticed, that's not reality.