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Building a Failsafe Energy Grid post-Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Last week, a rare but significant event occurred in the United Kingdom when a minor glitch at a national grid substation plunged hundreds of thousands of Britons into darkness and caused chaos throughout UK transportation networks.

Although unusual for the UK, such an occurrence could be exactly what it appears to be, or it could signify a larger problem.

Nevertheless, at every juncture in life and business, we have the opportunity to stop, examine, question, and propose new and better ways to (in this case) manage the UK grid and just because the UK electrical grid has evolved into what it is today, it doesn’t mean that it must remain that way indefinitely.

In fact, odd things can happen when anything is allowed to simply ‘evolve’ without an overriding vision to guide it. Besides the UK electrical grid, some examples of this are: the platypus (a funny-looking but diligent burrowing animal), the roadrunner (a comical-looking bird that can’t fly and seems to spend most of its time running beside cars on the freeway), and er, well, communism.

Yes! Things can evolve unpredictably and that’s why some animals and dinosaurs have become extinct over the eons.

Random genetic mutation can only get you so far without an overriding vision to get you past the challenging parts.


UK power cut - National Grid promises to learn lessons from blackout

It turns out that the Little Barford power station failed, and so the national grid wouldn’t be overloaded, the Hornsea offshore wind farm curtailed its power delivery to the UK until the problem was fixed.


Creating an Electricity Grid for the 21st-century: Clean, ‘Islanded’ and Locally-Owned

No one in their right mind would’ve created the UK energy grid the way it presently sits were an intelligent species to land on Earth some 5000-years ago and begin to populate the landmass we now call the UK.

Major cities would’ve been located far inland near mountains and large water sources, not where they are located now.

Port cities would’ve been located far upriver with ease of defence in mind — not with the cannons of the Spanish Armada in mind. (The maximum range of Spanish Armada cannons were less than a mile which is why the UK’s present port cities sit about one mile back from the breakwater barrier)

All Britons would’ve served 2-years in the military after completing their academic schooling so they could instantly assist in the defence of the realm any time it was threatened from the sea or air.

And most of all, the UK wouldn’t have built humongous power plants with thousands of miles of powerlines and pylons crisscrossing the island if they wanted the highest level of security for the UK’s energy infrastructure.

Alas, these things evolved instead of being overseen by an intelligent designer with deep knowledge in regards to helping nation-states add energy security to the network.

From a security standpoint, using the OBF model is practically asking your enemies to bomb your power plants.

The OBF, or ‘One Big Factory’ model is what the former Soviet Union employed for factories — which was extremely efficient from the ‘economies of scale’ perspective — but was horribly flawed from the security perspective, as one bomb could destroy the country’s entire tractor production, or entire automobile production, or entire footwear production, etc., for a decade or longer.

In short, when economists design your economy, you build one gigantic factory to produce tractors (for example) to assist in the ‘economies of scale’ and to simplify the distribution system (all good there!) but it allows the possibility that an enemy could destroy your country’s entire tractor production with one bomb.

Or one bomb per year, should you ever decide to rebuild the facility, because that’s about how long it would take to rebuild after a successful attack.

Alarmingly, this is the model the UK has employed over past decades in relation to Britain’s electricity grid.

Nuclear power plants located close to the ocean, easy-to-access hydroelectric dams, large coal-fired power plants with a wire fence that can barely keep curious dogs out, and large natural gas power plants are easily found and accessed by anyone visiting or living in the UK — and all of them are huge and tempting targets in time of war or terrorism. Dangerously so.

No one person or group is responsible for this concerning state of affairs. The situation has ‘evolved’ instead of being led by security professionals and by the people tasked to defend the UK the police, the security services, and profoundly, the UK military. To those folks, thank you again for protecting the United Kingdom.

It does no good to affix blame nor to scoff at energy experts. Since 1933 when the UK’s first electrical grid came online (on-time and on-budget!) utility companies have done exactly as instructed by government regulators. And it was all good, in its time. But that was then and this is now.

I’m saying that the present energy grid has evolved logically — but now needs to be ‘hardened’ — that is, to be made more secure and be made to be easier to secure.

A non-OBF model, if you take my meaning.


More, and Smaller, Power Producers Placed Closer to Demand Centres

Instead of OBF-model power plants located hundreds of miles away from demand centres complete with thousands of miles of hideously-expensive powerlines and pylons transferring energy across the UK, what the country needs is many, smaller power producers located nearer to demand centres.

Renewable energy gives us the opportunity to create a brand new energy grid — a decentralized grid — to better serve UK energy consumers.

The case I want to make is that ‘islanding’ electricity grids on a per-county basis is the way to go here, although such grid ‘islands’ are ultimately connected to a national grid for convenience and for failsafe/backup protection thereby allowing electrons to flow uninterrupted to energy consumers during fluctuations in the power supply (from any source).

For just one example of this, in the town of Güssing, Austria, a town that was dying economically, residents got together and decided to become ‘part of the solution instead of part of the problem’ and built a biomass burner that produced electricity — whereupon it suddenly became affordable to pay formerly unemployed residents to collect wood and decades of accumulated waste from the surrounding forest which created dozens of local jobs and initiated a badly needed forest cleanup!


‘Dead-end’ Austrian town blossoms with green energy (New York Times)


So, Let’s Compare Somerset UK, to Güssing Austria

The costs to deliver electricity from disparate power generation facilities located across the UK to Somerset’s 250,000 households 24/7/365 are astronomical. Also, powerline current losses in humid weather over such long distances can result in fugitive energy losses in the tens of per cent. Few or even zero jobs were created for Somerset in meeting the county’s electrical needs. And the thousands of miles of national grid powerlines and pylons required to deliver elecricity to Somerset adds vulnerability to Somerset’s energy paradigm.

Compare that to Güssing, Austria where residents are part-owners in that ‘islanded’ and profitable electrical grid where many residents work directly for the various community-owned power plants, or work indirectly for them by collecting and delivering feedstock to the local biomass facility, or they lease their land to the local grid for solar panel or wind turbine installations, or they gain other benefits (such as dividend cheques) from Güssing’s energy paradigm.

See the difference?


Self-Sufficient (‘Islanded’) Grids for Each UK County

There’s no reason in the world why Somerset couldn’t create its own ‘islanded’ grid sufficient to meet 100 per cent of the maximum demand of Somerset and reap the rewards thereof. Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! And profits for local Somerset shareholders, especially when that (hypothetical at this point) islanded Somerset grid would have the opportunity to sell surplus electricity to the national grid operator 24/7/365 except for the very coldest winter days when electrical demand hits its maximum annual peak in Somerset.

Be an Owner, Not a Renter!

If you live in Somerset, you might even lease some of your farmland to the Somerset energy co-op so they can install wind turbines on your land (which pays farmers about £4000/yr, per wind turbine) or you could rent the rooftop of your home or business for a solar panel installation.

Or you could own the solar panels yourself and sell your surplus electricity directly to the Somerset grid.

Video: Almost-bankrupt Boulder City, Nevada (now, rich Boulder City!) collects $20 million per year leasing city land to solar power companies (CNN)

In California (admittedly a sunnier location than Somerset, England) some residents are selling approx. $3000. worth of surplus solar energy to their local utility company annually. Under California law, energy companies must ‘square-up’ with homeowners by February 1 of each year or they lose their business licence.

When energy is local, the benefits are too.


How to Produce That Much Energy in Somerset

There are a few jargon words when we talk about energy and you can ignore all of them.

Leave terms like ‘baseload power’, ‘load-following’ power, and ‘peaking power plants’ to the experts. You don’t need to know those terms in order to support a local islanded energy grid based on the community-ownership model.

All you need to know is that it’s been done in many jurisdictions around the world, and that it can be done in your county.

Again, using Somerset as an example, let’s assume that 20,000,000 MWh/yr is the hypothetical grand total of MegaWatt hours of electricity used by all electricity consumers in Somerset County over the course of a year.

All that would need doing in order to ‘island’ Somerset’s grid, is to install a commensurate amount of electrical power generation in the county to meet 100 per cent of Somerset’s peak energy demand which occurs during the highest demand months of December and January.

During the rest of the year when Somerset isn’t using the peak energy demand amount, all surplus electricity generated by the locally-owned and operated Somerset grid could be sold to the national grid operator at the wholesale electricity price, thereby creating profit for Somerset community owners approximately 300-days of the year.

There are some generalities to discuss when setting up such a grid:

  • Some regulations might need to be amended to allow cooperative ownership, although this model is currently in use in many countries.
  • You’ll want to be an ‘islanded’ grid yet still connected to the national grid to enhance grid stability in Somerset and in the rest of the UK. If the national grid goes down, an automatic switch would instantaneously flip Somerset back to 100% Somerset grid power only and you wouldn’t realize that the rest of the UK had been plunged into darkness until you read it in the newspaper the next day.
  • Energy sold to the national grid would receive only the wholesale rate, not the retail rate. Still, that represents serious export revenue (profit) over the course of a year.
  • Somerset could reasonably provide 10% of its electricity demand from burning local biomass. But trucking it in from other counties wouldn’t make economic sense.
  • Somerset could install some so-called ‘run-of-river’ power producers — some of which fit inside a water main and produce electricity as water flows downhill through the turbine (or downstream, if the pipe is submerged in a river). See video here: Lucid Energy
  • Huge opportunities await farmers and owners of other large properties for wind turbine installations, and at approx. £4000./yr to rent the land for each wind turbine, some farmers might find that ‘growing electricity’ pays better than growing crops. Really. Farmers that sell lots of wind won’t need agricultural subsidies. Ever.
  • Reasonable opportunities await those with large rooftops that face the Sun and who are willing to install solar arrays allowing those homeowners to sell their surplus electricity to the community-based grid operator at the wholesale electricity price.
  • Wave and tidal power plants could be a massive business for the local Somerset grid and although initial investment costs are high, they’re already doing this in Scotland and Wales.
  • Small Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plants (CCGT) could be placed much closer to demand centres like towns or factories. The smaller the unit is, the easier it is to get site approval for a natural gas CCGT power plant. Small units are a simple modular unit that produce 31 MegaWatts (enough to power approx. 30-thousand homes) and they take up surprisingly little space.
  • Natural gas is expensive, so CCGT burners switch-on only when demand can’t be met by all the other producers on that grid working together, yet CCGT turbines are the most important part of any grid, islanded or not.
  • Only natural gas generation can produce instant, on-demand power to deal with the frequent demand spikes during the day and General Electric (for example) has CCGT models that arrive in a shipping container and are instantly ready to produce electricity once you connect the gas and attach them to the grid. See short video here: GE TM2500 Gas Turbine. Impressive! This is called a ‘peaking power plant’ as it supplies huge blocks of power to the grid only during peak daytime demand, or when another electricity producer is offline for a few hours or days due to maintenance or unforeseen incident.
  • Further, total CCGT capacity needs to be 20% of total islanded grid capacity. That’s not to say the CCGT will be running all day. Some CCGT units switch-on for as little as one hour per day to meet the sudden increase in electricity demand around suppertime. Demand spikes can be big and sudden, or small and intermittent, and you need the ability to instantly and automatically ramp-up electricity generation to meet those demand bursts. And only CCGT can do that. OK, burning oil can do that too, but it’s environmentally wrong.
  • If Somerset employed a number of small coal-fired burners but limited their output to less than 2.5% of Somerset’s maximum islanded grid capacity, the county would still meet their per capita Paris Accord emission targets. Easily.
  • Some amount of storage capacity is a must for all grids, especially in the ‘island’ grid scenario. In Scotland, hydroelectric dams store energy and create electricity by directing water to fall through spinning turbines in the normal way, but some of that water is pumped back up to the reservoir at night when electricity rates are low to be run through the turbine again the next day. This process is called pumped storage.
  • As Somerset has no major hydroelectric dams, it would need a giant battery such as the TESLA mega battery recently installed in Australia to help regulate energy flows and stabilize the grid. See: Tesla’s Record-Breaking Mega Battery Saves Australia $40 Million in Its First Year

Now that’s an energy future that could work for every county in the UK and provide opportunities to dispatch clean energy to other counties on an as-needed basis, thereby allowing Somerset’s grid ownership group to profit on every kilowatt dispatched, but also retain their ability to export massive blocks of clean renewable energy through the existing national grid operator infrastructure to the Republic of Ireland and the European continent in exchange for cold, hard, cash. (Thank you, national grid operator!)

Which should be the primary goal of the UK national grid operator anyway — managing electron flows between the UK’s (then) self-sufficient county grids, and to manage the (then) profitable energy exports to the continent and the Republic of Ireland.


9-Point Plan to Meet the UK’s COP22 Clean Air Commitments by 2022


  1. Coal generation to meet 2.5% (or less) of total UK demand.
  2. Biomass generation to meet 7.5% (or less) of total UK demand.
  3. Natural Gas generation to meet 20% (or less) of total UK demand.
  4. Nuclear power generation to meet 10% (or less) of total UK demand.
  5. Hydropower generation to meet 2.5% of total UK demand up from .5%.
  6. Pumped Storage generation to meet 2.5% of total UK demand, up from .5%.
  7. Wind power generation to meet 40% of total UK demand, up from 2019’s 20%.
  8. Solar power generation to meet 15% of total UK demand, up from 2019’s 5%.
  9. Mega Battery installations sufficient to stabilize the entire UK electricity grid.

Notes

A) Before coal, natural gas & nuclear generation can be decreased, renewable energy additions must be fully online before they can help to meet total UK demand.
B) Lower CO2 emissions via a 30% decrease in non-renewable energy generation compared to 2019.
C) Lower CO2 emissions via a 34% increase in renewable energy generation compared to 2019.
D) Mega-Battery installations sized appropriate to each UK county grid.
E) Surplus UK generation would be exported as electricity or hydrogen.


Benefits of Moving to an 85% Renewable Energy Grid by 2022

All of this necessary change would increase Britain’s GDP, help the UK environment, it would allow the community-based owners of county grids to lower their own energy costs and earn profit by supplementing other county grids and by exporting clean energy. And even non-owner Britons will enjoy lower electricity prices in a more secure primary energy paradigm.


Related Information

  • Want realtime energy information on the UK grid? (GridWatch.co.uk)
  • UK power cut: National Grid promises to learn lessons from blackout (BBC)
  • How Utility Companies Select from a Myriad of Power Producers in Realtime (LetterToBritain.com)

A Vision of Manufacturing in Post-Brexit Britain

by John Brian Shannon

post-Brexit British manufacturing model

McLaren celebrates their 5000th supercar on February 2, 2015. File photo courtesy of compositestoday.com

Yes folks, it really does take that many people to build a McLaren supercar!

In fact, it takes many thousands of people combining forces to build any car, aircraft, or other modern and/or technologically advanced vehicle.

And the point of this blog post is to show that the UK can add one million manufacturing jobs in the automotive sector alone, just by adopting the right policies — policies that help foreign automakers become ‘part of the solution instead of part of the problem.’

So, please bear with me while I show you how the UK could emerge a winner in the post-Brexit timeframe, create millions of homegrown jobs, boost the economy like never before, and supercharge UK manufacturing exports.

If you like the sound of that, then you’re a British patriot and you want the best for your country. I salute you!

(If you’re a foreign car manufacturer, don’t panic, it’ll work out for you too in the post-Brexit era. Just keep reading ’til the end)


UK Slaps a £25,000 Tariff on any Car or Truck (New or Used) That’s Imported After Brexit

WOW! That got your attention, didn’t it?

It’s not as bad as it sounds, because every auto manufacturer would be invited to establish their headquarters for all Commonwealth of Nations countries (and this blogger suggests) that the UK government should provide brand-new, free-of-charge, turnkey factories to every auto manufacturer that wants to build cars and trucks in the UK and sell them to every Commonwealth of Nations country including the UK, sans tariffs, simply by manufacturing those vehicles in the UK.

Remember, The Commonwealth comprises 53 countries with a combined population of 2.5 billion people by 2020 and a combined GDP that nearly matches the U.S.A.

The UK alone, is the 5th-largest economy in the world by GDP (6th by PPP) and India is the 6th-largest economy in the world by GDP (5th by PPP) and other countries in the Commonwealth include Canada (10th) Australia (13th) Nigeria (30th) South Africa (33rd) and Pakistan (40th) and many others whose economies are rocketing upwards in this young century.

Nigeria alone will have more citizens than the United States by 2060. Maybe sooner.

How many auto manufacturers want enhanced access to 2.5 billion consumers, most of whom live in rapidly growing economies with upward disposable income?

The Commonwealth consumers not living in those burgeoning economies live in developed nations with high per capita incomes like the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Brand-new, ‘build to suit’ factories, paid for and owned by the UK government, leased to each manufacturer for £1 per year — with the benefit of zero UK or Commonwealth tariffs for those auto manufacturers, and streamlined access to 2.5 billion Commonwealth of Nations consumers.

If you’re a global auto manufacturer, you can’t lose!


Why Would Commonwealth Nations Agree to This Plan?

The UK unemployment rate is low at present, and falling each year.

In 2019, the UK unemployment rate sits at 3.8% and you’ll remember from your economics class that 2.5% unemployment is functionally a 0% unemployment rate — as exactly that many people are in some kind of transitory employment state without being actually unemployed.

Which means the UK is 1.3% away from zero functional unemployment even with all the Brexit uncertainty due to the overly-long negotiating period. (3.8% – 2.5% = 1.3%)

Q: In the immediate Post-Brexit era and assuming a (functional) 0% unemployment rate in the UK, who will the UK call-on to fill perhaps a million new manufacturing jobs?

A: The Commonwealth of Nations countries, that’s who.

And that’s the benefit of being a member of a large and diverse bloc such as the Commonwealth. For the UK, membership in that group means a huge pool of highly motivated workers ready to jump on a plane and begin working in the UK immediately.

For Commonwealth countries, it means hundreds of thousands of their young people will have good paying jobs waiting for them in the UK at the end of their schooling, and good kids will send some money home to Mom and Dad — who after all, probably paid for their child’s entire education and the airfare to the UK.

Workers who show up on-time and do a good job will of course be invited to stay on where the manufacturing continues year ’round, or find themselves invited to return to the UK by their company at the beginning of the next production cycle.

For the UK, this plan would reduce UK unemployment to zero, then allow any additional labour to be sourced from Commonwealth of Nations countries.

For foreign auto manufacturers, this plan would provide a specially-built for them factory at a cost of £1 per year, and guarantee them no automotive tariffs in the UK and other Commonwealth of Nations countries.


Saving Money, Streamlining Production, Centralizing Administration

Let’s pretend at present that Ford Motor Company builds the F-150 pickup truck in different Commonwealth nations and earns low profit per vehicle because the sales numbers in each country don’t quite support one factory per country. And all of its vehicles are subject to a plethora of different tariffs and fees in the various Commonwealth countries, depending upon where those F-150’s are built and where Ford is shipping them. Very inefficient!

But if Ford decides to build all of its UK and Commonwealth-destined F-150’s in the UK, it means that one humongous factory in Britain could build all of them. There are economies of scale in that approach! And to have the land and building built and paid for by the UK government guarantees the economics work for Ford.

All Ford must decide is where in the UK it wants the factory, which car lines or trucks to build in the factory, and pay an annual £1 rent payment to the UK government.

And no automotive tariffs for Ford in any Commonwealth nation, including the UK. Ever!


But This is An Expensive Plan!

No, not really. Especially when you factor-in some of the possible alternatives.

Such as the entire auto manufacturing sector in the UK dying completely. Which is happening in slow-motion anyway. (Rolls-Royce, Bentley, JLR, Mini, Lotus, Triumph, MG, Rover cars, BSA motorcycles, etc. are almost gone, or already gone)

There go a million existing UK jobs! (For just one example of it going wrong) And there go the additional one million UK jobs I’ve proposed.

But if UK unemployment hits 0% in the UK as I expect AND if one million new auto manufacturing jobs are created via this proposal, that means (on average) each of those additional one million auto workers will pay an average £20,000. income tax annually, and thousands of pounds in other taxes on their discretionary spending because almost every time you buy something in the UK you pay some kind of tax on it. New house, new car, new baby pram, you get the idea.

What is one million times £20,000. anyway? That’s £20 billion annually in income tax revenue HM government isn’t presently earning.

It’s even better if those one million additional workers spend every pound sterling they earn on taxable items in the UK. Maybe twice as good as the calculation above shows.

  • Check the math: 1,000,000 x £20,000. = £20,000,000,000. annual income tax revenue alone.
  • Over 10-years, that equals ‭£200 billion in tax revenue alone for HMG.
  • Yes, some of the £200 billion would be spent to build turnkey factories over that decade, but nowhere near all of it.

Remember: This is Just One Example of Why Britons Shouldn’t be Shrinking Back from Brexit!

Whether we’re talking Volkswagen Golf, BMW 5 Series, Audi A8, or whatever car you want to buy in the UK — if they don’t build them in the UK after Brexit — each vehicle imported into the UK would be subject to a £25,000 tariff.

Because at present, those cars are built in the EU, by EU companies, by EU workers who pay EU income taxes, in EU-subsidized factories — and the UK is getting no benefit whatsoever — other than UK drivers are encouraged by slick advertising to hand over their hard earned money to EU car manufacturers.

However, if they build them in the UK — a no automobile tariff regime for those auto manufacturers would apply anywhere in the Commonwealth of Nations, under this proposal.

I posit that vehicles destined for the UK and Commonwealth market could and should be built in Britain, and by adopting better policies, UK manufacturing will succeed as never before!

A Day in London: 2020

by John Brian Shannon

Welcome to London, 2020. You’re in the former Battersea Power Station where the British International Motor Show is being held this week!

Artist rendering of the renovated Battersea Power Station in London, UK that will be home to Apple Inc.

Artist rendering of the renovated Battersea Power Station in London, UK — Apple’s UK & Commonwealth HQ. Business Insider

Apple Inc’s new UK & Commonwealth HQ is full of Alan Turing-esqe brilliant people glad to be hosting the show in their auric new building — and for the first time anywhere, iDrive (Apple’s shiny new hydrogen powered car) is on public display.

Aside from its obviously stunning design, the best thing about this car is that it can’t be stolen because unless the owner of the car is within a few feet of the car with his/her iPhone on and logged-in to the iDrive app, it is just a piece of aluminum, glass and plastic that can’t go anywhere. There’s no computer or operating system to allow the car do anything at all, save for the iDrive app in your iPhone or iPad.

apple icar concept car in london, uk

Early Apple iCar concept.

No iPhone or iPad? Then you’re not the owner of the car. Because a matching serial number iPhone & iPad is provided with each Apple Car, with thumbprint security and as many passwords or login captchas as you want. It’s up to you.

Even if someone steals your iPhone and manages to locate your car, you can always “Log out of all devices and apps” remotely from any computer or smart phone on the planet — including the app that drives your beautiful new Apple Car. (Stolen car coasts to side of road, wholly inactive)

Now, that’s what I call a user-friendly car ownership experience.


And Brexit, You Ask? Pshaw!

Brexit came and went a long time ago. Neither Project Fear or the extreme Brexiteers were right; The UK coasted through 2019, Brexiting on March 29 as scheduled and other than a temporary blip in the markets things continued as normal. Yes, even the Sun rose in the sky the next day. Astonishing!

But not really. For all the hype, compared to other events taking place in the world Brexit turned out to be a sideshow. Only hyperventilating European politicians on both sides of the English Channel noticed Brexit.

After dipping to 1.2% GDP growth in 2019, the UK recovered and is now looking at 2% growth for 2021 — not due to Brexit — but due to the fact that Remainers are no longer sabotaging the UK economy hoping for it to fail so they could get their way.

Since the summer of 2019, the UK joined the USMCA (the new NAFTA agreement) and the CPTPP, and the new Commonwealth of Nations Free Trade Accord (CNFTA). In 2020, the UK has signed trade agreements with countries that have a combined population of 5 billion+ people.

A free trade deal with the EU (based on the excellent CETA agreement the EU has with Canada) is expected to be signed by the end of 2020 and go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Food shortages, rioting, family strife, civil war? Not a bit of it.

Every politician who tried to make a career out of Brexit is gone. Whether extreme Brexiteer, extreme Remainer, whether continental European or Briton; Every politician who held an extreme Brexit position was invited by their respective parties (and voters, hehehe) to leave politics.

Enjoy the day Britons, legal migrants to the UK, and visitors! You’ve earned it.

Oh, and the UK and the EU signed a modified Withdrawal Agreement on the 11th-hour of March 28th, 2019. But you knew that.