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Monday, May 15, 2006


I ran across this article, with lots of coloured illustrations, showing how much electricity & other power scotland produces & uses.

Figure 18 shows that we import the equivalent of 29.46TWh coal & export 39.50. the explanation for this apparently wasteful situation is (previous page) because "Scottish coal has a sulphur content of approximately 1% and so fits within England's 'bubble', but not Scotland's. Because of this, only a proportion ( e.g. for Longannet about 23%) of Scottish coal is used for generation within Scotland. The remainder is sent to power stations south of the border. At the same time, Scottish Power imports coal from as far afield as Russia, Colombia and South Africa". This also shows how cheap the transport of what amounts to millions of tons of material really is.

Figures 21 & 20 show that we are producing 44.74 TWh of power annually split 33% by coal, 11.3% renewables (it isn't further divided but my understanding is that hydro traditionaly produces 10% which would leave under 1.5% for wind), 35.4% nuclear (rather lower than I thought), 20.6% gas & 1.2% oil.

We bused 76.4%, exported 17.9% of which 13.3% goes to England & 4.6% to Ireland both North & South (this is a Jan 2006 publication & Soputhern Ireland's electricity is recently in a bit of a mess because their windmills aren't providing as expected) & 5.6% lost in transmission.

Thus if we close down our nuclear stations but also stop exporting (assuming we don't have long term contracts which I think doubtful) we would still have a (35.4% less 17.9%) 17.6% shortfall.

In 2015 when new emission standards come in we will have to close much of our coal generation - I'd guess about half but that is purely a guess & anyway depends on how much can successfully be updated. Asuming 1/2 the coal is lost that would be a 51.9% production shortfall when Torness closes about 2025.

It is only when we are using peak production (ie winter evenings) that we would see blackouts. Fig 22 shows only 36% of use is for domestic, 31% is industrial & 33% is public services (including trains). However this fluctuates with the time of day. During winter evenings much more of the use is for domestic & less for industrial. Thus cutting off industry first (as happened recently in Spain when there was no wind) wouldn't have that much effect in stopping blackouts then.

Except that things are much worse than that. Electricity demand rises, uaually, rather faster than GNP. Thus, assuming current growth of 1.5% annually by 2025 we will need 1/3rd more than now. As the current windmill percentage (1.3) shows we will need something else in massive quantities. If we get the SNP's preferred growth rate of 4% we will need at least 211% of current power. At my suggested growth of 9% our economy would have grow to 560% of current in 2025!

Without nuclear & only half our coal we will be producing only 51.9% of what we currently do & requiring between 130% & 211% (assuming I don't become first minister) - a shortfall of between 78-159%. With our 2 big reactors now producing 18% that means between 4 & 9 new reactors. This is very much a seat of the pants figure taking no account of differential changes in English/Irish demand or of new technology being more efficient & thus using somewhat less, or of the fact that, since nuclear delivers at a flat rate you need a bit extra to cover peaks, but it gives a general idea.

The way to build these is just to put them beside the ones we are closing down. A nuclear reactor takes very little space so at worst all you have to do is push back the security fence a bit & thus get Hunterson I, II,III,IV & V. The infrastructure & workforce are, after all, already there. Being really innovative instead of decommissioning our current reactors you just seal them off (they are already in the security zone) & leave them 50 years till they are no longer hot - this gives you a big pile from the decommissioning fund to pay for it (nuclear is a semi-nationalised industry already & could, if we paid for it that way be an overwhelmingly profitable one).

Our current production is 44.74tWh (Terrawatthours). 1TWh equals 1000 Gigawatt hours which is a million Megawatts or a billion Kilowatthours each of which is one unit or what a 1 bar electric fire uses in an hour. Thus run a 1 bar fire 3 hours a night all year & you use a millionth of a TWh. Another way of calculating this is that at 1.5p a unit (the cost of French nuclear) this costs £670 million, at 3p (roughly the current cost) it is £1.3 billion & if it was all being produced by onshore wind or similar costing renewables £2.5 billion. This differential is just under all Scots corporation tax, 45 times the cost of all machine tools purchased annually by what remains of Scottish manufacturing industry or £370 per head. If we got it right this could be the difference between Scotland's economic failure & success.

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