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the watcher

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« on: February 12, 2013, 09:06:50 PM »

H/T Edward Spalton & Sonya.

Way back in 2010 I had this published in The Lantern but as I see
that Christopher Booker has mentioned in his column today (10.2.13)
 that five major coal-powered power stations are due to close down next
month due, of course, to the EU, the information might still be of
use, so I'm sending it around again.


First published Feb 2010

In a few years' time your lights may go out.

Offgem, the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, has recently
warned of power blackouts and spiraling consumer prices in the coming
years thanks largely to the EU's Directive requiring the closure of
perfectly good coal-fired power stations by 2015 in order to meet
their pollution laws, a move which will scrap almost a third of UK
generating capacity. In addition to that, due to the squandering of
supplies from our North Sea fields, Britain now has to import an
increasing percentage of gas from overseas, meaning that we are at
their mercy as to amount these countries are willing to supply and,
of course, the price.

But in recent years the Government has allowed numerous gas-fired
power plants to be built and has blocked or delayed vital new coal
and nuclear plants, which means that the country has become
over-dependent on these gas-fired power stations. Only in December
2009 did the Government give permission for four power plants,
equipped with facilities to capture and store carbon, to be built in
the UK under government plans unveiled as part of the pre-budget
report. But bearing in mind that the plan to build a clean-coal power
station at Kingsnorth was scuppered in October 2009 by environmental
campaigners, even this could be doubted, especially in view of the
fact that just how to store carbon has not yet been fully worked out.

Nuclear power might have been an answer, but the eco warriors are not
in favour of that either, and in any case, back in September 2008 the
Government sold our nuclear power industry to the French This means
that if we are ever allowed to build nuclear plants in Britain -- and
they take many years to complete -- it will be at a time and price
set by France.

Of course, there is still the Government's favourite: renewable
energy, i.e. wind farms. But during this last cold winter
(2009/2010), it is estimated that the 2,8000 wind turbines which now
spread far and wide across the countryside, have provided around 0.7
percent of our electricity and the further 10,000 which the
Government proposes, both onshore and offshore, are hardly going to
fill the power gap.

It has to be remembered that computers run on electricity, and the
country -- and, indeed, the world -- runs on computers. The list of
equipment which could not work without electricity is too long to
mention, but it ranges from defence equipment down to the humble
check-out machine: when there is an electricity cut at the
supermarket, the place has to close.

So -- how are we ordinary people going to cope when we're powerless?
Just a few suggestions.

For most of us there is the possibility of a portable generator of
electricity which can be carried or pushed on wheels and connected to
a home through a professionally installed transfer switch*. They
operate on a variety of fuels but can only run for a short time. Or
there is a home generator which provides backup power to a home when
commercial power fails but as a major appliance it is attached to the
power input in the home and must be connected by a qualified
electrician or contractor. Or there is the small wind mill which
David Cameron added to his home -- but this will provide very little
in the way of electricity when the wind blows and nothing when it

For those of us who live in a house, one partial answer is to cover
the roof with solar panels which will provide some of the electricity
we need. One objection to solar panels until recently has been that
you spend years recouping the cost incurred by installing them, but
you won't be worrying about that when you need the light on -- it
will have been worth every penny. However, one warning. In a sunny
climate, you only get enough power from one square metre of solar
panel to run a 100w light bulb. And Britain is not known for having a
particularly sunny climate.

On the other hand, solar power can produce light -- if nothing else --
by powering up an indoor solar lamp. Like the outdoor solar lights
which have lined garden paths over the past few years, these lamps
can be 'charged' by placing them where sunlight can fall on them and
they then give out the stored light when brought into rooms after
dark from gardens or window sills.

So to date, solar power will not be sufficient to operate our central
heating, hot water supply, kitchen equipment, computer and allied
gadgets or TV but there is a way we can get the entertainment and,
above all, the news we shall need and that is by clockwork.

Some years ago Trevor Bayliss, and English 'garden shed' inventor,
produced a wind-up radio with added solar panel, designed for
operation in parts of under-developed countries which lacked a
constant electricity supply. Twenty-five winds of the handle and it
will produce 25 minutes of play. There are now a number of other
wind-up and/or solar products, including lamps, lanterns, torches and
battery chargers. Batteries will run such equipment on their own, of
course, but batteries are now quite expensive and might well become
more so in a case of supply and demand. Wind-up is free.

When it comes to heating and cooking, those of us with a gas supply
will be in a better position than those whose homes are only equipped
with electricity. It would be extremely difficult for gas companies
to cut off supplies completely -- each house would have to be visited
for cut-off and re-start -- so at least there would be the
possibility of cooking, water-heating and central heating even if the
price, due once again to supply and demand, became very high.

At least those of us with homes which have a working chimney will be
able to provide warmth room by room, and even the possibility of
boiling a kettle, with wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves or even a
basic open fire. Coal and logs might be expensive but since there are
only a limited number of homes these days which are able to have such
fires, these supplies should remain available. Another possibility is
that of creating paper bricks, using a 'paper log maker' packed with
shredded newspaper. Time-consuming but almost free.

Unfortunately, those of us with accommodation powered exclusively by
electricity are going to be the worst off, as the portable or home
generator will be the only help when the lights go out.

The most fortunate are those who have a choice of power supplies: gas,
electricity, a working fireplace, a large stock of candles -- and
don't forget the matches!

* PF adds a footnote regarding generators.

If you are moderately confident around electrical devices and wiring
and have a generator, you don't need a complicated switching
arrangement (though they are nice!).

If you have a garage with a power socket, then place the generator in
the garage - making sure that the door is open so that the exhaust
doesn't accumulate in the garage; very nasty!

Switch off your supply at the main fuse box (so you are totally
isolated from the mains), then plug the output of the generator into
the garage socket: you may need to wire up a suitable lead for this
(plug to plug lead).

Start the generator and you will have a complete PS for the house.

Make a call to your local electricity supply people and they should
have a service to ring you back when mains power is restored (you
could also check around other houses to see if the lights come back

Obviously be careful about how much you switch on - this will depend
on the generator's output.
Rev Philip Foster MA


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