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Avoid the German option

13 Feb 2019 | OP ED Watch

In the Times of London, Tony Lodge of the Centre for Policy Studies draws on the disastrous German example to urge Britain to build more gas-fired power plants. Germany wants to shut down the coal plants that supply 40 percent of its electricity and, to make up the shortfall, close its nuclear reactors too and rely on wind, solar and unicorn-powered treadmills plus imports from other nations with equally absurd policies. Including Britain, which plans ever more undersea cables or “interconnectors” to buy cheap surplus power from European nations without any while closing its own plants. Lodge takes the heretical view that it might be wise to have a plan to generate actual power.

Lodge says “Plans show that the expansion in interconnectors could result in up to a fifth of domestic electricity supply being dependent on them by the end of the next decade, as power plants across Britain close without replacement.” This is what we in the journalism trade call the “passive tense,” and what editors are supposed to cross out with a red pen. Power plants don’t simply “close without replacement”, instead politicians close them and fail to plan for their replacement. Unfortunately stubborn Britons continue to need lots of energy to survive cold winters. “Last Wednesday night, gas-fired plants were supplying 50 per cent of our electricity, coal 16 per cent, nuclear 15 per cent and the country’s 9,400 wind turbines just 4 per cent, with other fuels and imports making up the rest.” Yet Britain will probably eliminate all its coal-fired stations within five years and half its nuclear capacity by 2025. And “None of this is helped by a European Court of Justice ruling just before Christmas which declared that the main flank of UK energy policy, the capacity market which pays companies to generate electricity, is illegal state aid.”

Veteran observers of public policy are not surprised to see idiocy embraced as wisdom. And not just in marginal areas. From national security to health care, governments ignore the obvious even when it is snarling at the door. And demonstrate amazing incompetence; Lodge notes the “collapse of the new nuclear build plan” in Britain even though it was a significant state priority. And the idea that everyone can live by taking in one another’s surplus power they don’t even have is a non-starter.

It started anyway. Now Lodge says it must stop.

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