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“The house of delusions is cheap to build but drafty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall” – A.E. Houseman
The last time I wrote a post on this quote from one of my favorite poets was in August 2021. It was on a completely different subject, but I ended it thus:
Sometimes, actually, the house of delusions is quite expensive in terms of both blood and treasure on all sides. One thing we can be sure of however, just as day follows night, is that we know who’ll feel the draft and who, when the house does come tumbling down, will pay the price.
And we know who won’t.
I thought of that post this morning, when I read a headline in today’s Telegraph: “Relying on wind power means Britons must get used to cutting energy use, says National Grid.”
No [expletive], Sherlock. Can Britain be waking up at last?
First, let’s clarify: Britain’s “National Grid” is the umbrella company into which several regional transmission companies feed their electricity, and which distributes it to the very great majority of the UK and Northern Ireland. So it’s safe to assume that this edict will apply to almost all Britons.
And, indeed, the first attempt to cut the population’s use of electricity starts this afternoon, when ‘National Grid’ has announced that it will ‘pay’ its customers to ‘cut’ their electricity usage between five and six PM. (Britain is currently experiencing what it regards as Arctic conditions, with temperatures in most of the country plummeting to just below the freezing point.) Presumably, the smart meters now installed in most UK homes will be used to monitor the electricity consumption, and will be in charge (see what I did there?) of reporting those who comply and–presumably–the miscreants who don’t, and both groups will probably appear on a “T” chart somewhere for follow-up in the social-credit scheme at some point.
Apparently–underlying National Grid’s radical decision–is the fact that someone, somewhere, has realized that increasing dependence of wind and solar power, the shutting down of coal and oil, the ambivalence about nuclear, the mounting war on gas, and the difficulties of importing from parts of Europe all adds up to a wobbly energy supply. On top of that, there seems to be light dawning that–wind and solar–the shaky foundation on which Britain is basing its net-zero policy, are least effective and productive in the winter, when it’s even cloudier and darker than usual in the UK, and the winds drop relative to the rest of the year. Couple that with cold weather, and the country is tobogganing willy-nilly (mostly willy) toward a catastrophe.
And all the above doesn’t factor in the rush to electric cars–as of 2030, Britain has committed to ban the sale of fossil-fuel vehicles. So one can assume an exponential increase in electrical demand, demand which the country can’t meet, even today. (With spectacularly bad timing, the country’s so-far only lithium car battery manufacturer, Britishvolt, has just announced bankruptcy and is hoping for a government bailout. (It’s the first attempt at a UK factory manufacturing lithium car batteries. The government expects (in yet another delusion) to have ten such manufacturing facilities located near car manufacturing plants in the next ten years. Glory be.)
The Financial Times article tells the tale of a company living beyond its means, greasing the wheels for its top executives, communicating poorly (to say the least) with its investors, and ultimately–doomed to fail. No doubt, because of the reckless rush towards net-zero, the unfortunate British taxpayer will soon be paying for those hubristic mistakes, and many more, as well.
Britain’s already in the grip of a self-inflicted energy crisis many times that of the one in the United States, and people are being aggressively nagged by the nanny state and told how to dress in layers for cold weather, told to move their dinner times around to avoid peak energy use times,** and told to turn their thermostats down to no higher than 18 Celsius (64 Fahrenheit) and to reduce their boiler-flow temperatures as well. The private sector has started advertising “warm spaces” where people–especially the elderly–can go and warm up and be given a cup of tea and a biscuit, if they can’t afford to heat their homes adequately. People are forming co-ops where they visit each others houses on certain days of the week, and the host has the heating on for the one or two days a week he can afford to, so they can all be warm. The government has ‘capped’ private residence energy costs this year and is rebating the public hand over fist–what Mr. She used to call “bribing people with their own money.” (Saddest of all, when it comes to this sort of thing, is to watch people bleating gratitude that their government is “helping” them out of a situation which that same government has put them into.)
And while the Davoisie fly their private jets into Switzerland to congregate, pontificate, party, and–at least some of them–enjoy rampant and very expensive sex (I’ll bet their bedrooms are warmer than 18C/64F too–the weather channel says it’s -11C, +11F in Davos this morning, probably colder than it is anywhere in the UK at the moment), my countrymen struggle to pay their bills and stay warm.
Perhaps a glimmer of hope.
From the Telegraph article:
The push to net zero means that electricity demand will rise as households switch to electric cars and heat pumps.
Meanwhile, more electricity is coming from wind turbines and solar plants, which are intermittent.
This makes power supplies more complicated to manage compared to the historic system dominated by large coal-fired and gas-fired power plants which can easily adapt to demand.
With less control over electricity supplies, National Grid hopes therefore to have more control over electricity demand.
This means greater efforts to incentivise households to use electricity at different times if needed to help balance supply and demand.
One way of doing this is through time-of-use tariffs which enable customers to take advantage of times when electricity is abundant and cheap, such as charging the car during a windy period overnight.
Yeah. Remind me to set my alarm for every couple of hours between 10PM and 4AM each day, so that I can wake up, look outside, and see if it’s windy enough that there might be enough electricity to support plugging my car into the ‘National Grid’ so that I have enough oomph to get myself to work in the morning.
I don’t know if the public is yet ready to take to heart the statement buried in there that “National Grid hopes therefore to have more control over electricity demand” and to understand the implication. But it better start paying attention, as it should to the rather obvious, but much under-reported fact that wind and solar are “intermittent.” These are, to be sure, rather gentle peeks under the hood at the lunatic system that’s emerging in the UK, but perhaps it’s a start.
The house of delusions is cheap to build but drafty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall.
And fall it will. And we know, once again, who’ll pay the price. And who won’t.
**While I may not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree when it comes right down to it, I can’t help wondering about all these “suggestions” that people should move their peak energy use to different times of the day or night. Doesn’t that just move the times at which the grid is most stressed? And how, in the long run, does that actually help? I can see where telling people to dress like Nanook of the North, inside, after they’ve shut off their gas fireplaces, their oil or coal stoves and their woodburners, turned their electric down, and they’re freezing their asses off because there isn’t enough power to heat their homes at the same time as they charge their now-mandatory electric car–now that would actually reduce consumption. But how does it help if five million people run their dishwashers at 5AM, rather than at four in the afternoon? Or if everybody switches their dinnertime to 4PM or 9PM? Doesn’t that just create a new “peak-use” time?Published in