Let us test a Ritchie assertion

First, there is oil. That is yesterday’s news. Have they not heard of the fact renewables are now the story? And it just so happens Scotland has more renewable energy per head of population than any other country in Europe. It is already 97% renewable in electricity. It will become well over 100%. So, first, it will export to a desperate England, and second, it will become an absolute hub for businesses with high energy consumption who need to make that green which can only be done in a location with an excess of renewable energy.

OK, cool. So, we have a test industry available for us here, aluminium smelting. The embedded electricity inside one tonne of aluminium metal is perhaps $800 worth. The production method is – largely, and just to be simplistic about it – to run electricity through aluminium oxide until you’ve got aluminium metal.

The global aluminium industry does in fact operate according to Ritchie’s assumption. You do place the smelter right by the cheap electricity supply. You make the aluminium oxide (alumina) where you like, nowadays usually near the bauxite source. The you ship that alumina to where the electricity is nice and cheap. Quebec for example, or Iceland, or the Russians used vast plants out in bits of Siberia and so on, the Pacific Northwest for the Americans. Or, in the UK case, Scotland – although we also went a bit odd and did it a bit on Anglesey by building a nuclear plant there.

In fact, the industry generally works on the idea that you figure out where ‘leccie can be generated cheap, you build the cheap ‘leccie generator then you build the aluminium smelter. Which is why Gupta now owns one near Lochaber or somewhere.

So far the P³ posit is entirely correct. Except – and there’s always an except, isn’t there? – you do this with hydro plants. Because they’re continuous.

If you use an intermittent ‘leccie source to do this then when it mitts then you have some very expensive pots of half melted aluminium that you have to throw away. The pots themselves that is, the things you do it in, not just the oxide to metal transition that is half done.

Scotland’s vast renewables resource is wind and possibly wave and or tidal – intermittent sources. The Greens aren’t going to allow dams all over the place.

This is not absolutely true of every high ‘leccie usage process but it is more broadly true. The very fact that you want lots of it leads to requiring continuous, not intermittent, supply. Which is a bit of a bugger for those expecting high usage industry to turn up in a windy Scotland….

19 thoughts on “Let us test a Ritchie assertion”

  1. View from the Solent

    “It is already 97% renewable in electricity.”
    So when the sun don’t shine and the wind ain’t blowing at the right speed, Scotland goes dark?

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    Why would England be desperate to import it? Does he think we’re going to copy Germany’s idiotic Energiewende policy?

    I know Boris et al have swallowed some of the climate change kool aid, but they can’t be that stupid they’d commit political suicide?

  3. Is there any topic where Spud’s opinions are worthy of more than a nanosecond of consideration. This post is perhaps the most unintendedly comical this week. He will probably surpass it tomorrow

  4. ‘Iceland too, if I recall? All that cheap geothermal?’

    Actually I understand most of Iceland’s cheap energy for aluminium smelting comes from hydro.

    The geothermal is mostly used for heating buildings. Indeed I remember reading that those who couldn’t be connected up to the district heating system were whinging and demanding that the oil they used be subsidised.

  5. Windwank elec is about putting poverty and a downward spiral on –first–the plebs and then all non-“elite”. Same as elec cars =no-cars-for=plebs –FIRST. Later no cars for non-elite at all.

    As vax pass=stage one of CCP-style Social Credit system.

  6. I thought that we had already lost our alu smelting industry, because leccie prices were so high.

    BiND – do not assume the stupidity or otherwise of this govt. Their belief is probably that “a real Energiwende has never been tried.’

  7. I wish all of those who bang on about ‘green energy’ would show they really, really mean what they say by actually not using fossil fuels or anything derived from them.

    Until they do, they are just a bunch of virtue signalling, hypocritical c*nts.

    Oh yeah, regarding all this ‘renewables provided x amount of energy’ crap – When are they going to tell us the ‘actual’ output rather than the ‘nameplate capacity’?
    My local windfarm has a capacity of 170mW but actually only delivers 53mW (the capacity factor of wind is 31%).

  8. The statement that Scotland’s electricity comes 97% from renewables jars with reality. At this instant of writing GB electricity demand is 31.72GW of which wind is contributing 3.42GW. It’s immediately apparent that a basic con trick is being applied to produce Scotlands numbers.

    This is how it works. Scotland has a moderate amount of hydroelectric power and a couple of big nuclear reactors that can supply the base load. When demand is low, particularly during the night, and if the wind is blowing the surplus electricity flows over the border and is consumed in England facilitated by turning off English gas power stations. When the wind blows poorly and Scotland’s electricity demand is high electricity is generated by gas fired power stations in Scotland and this can be supplemented by electricity generated in England.
    They are 97% or 100% renewable energy only on paper. They have very little pumped storage capacity so if they weren’t able to export their surplus in times of low demand they would have to reduce their renewable generation output so their numbers would drop probably to about 60% (at a guess). As the installation of wind power in England grows the more England will also have a power surplus in times of high wind and low demand. This will correspond fairly closely to Scotland’s times of excess power so Scotland will no longer be able to cook the books and hide the fact that they get 40% of their electricity from non renewable sources.

  9. Is there any significant industry that can still work well with a variable electricity supply? Even bitcoin mining demands it to keep up with the other miners.

  10. Bathroom Moose: “Could you not put your smelter next to a pumped hydro dam?”

    Consider what’s needed for a pumped hydro setup, and imagine proposing putting a big, ugly, industrial complex there… Greens Tied To Trees in 3…2…1…

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    Talking of Spud’s assertions, didn’t he make some rather outlandish Covid ones recently that we could probably check up on now?

  12. If you were electrolysing water to make hydrogen, would intermittency be a problem?

    If you were using tidal power, I suspect not.

  13. Look at British Columbia, the electricity supplier is called BC Hydro (confusing to newcomers), they have been fighting for years over building a new hydro-electric dam to meet the current and increased future demand

  14. @CJ Nerd: ?

    Why in all the heavens would you ever consider making and storing hydrogen if you got lots-of-water-and-gravity as an option?
    The total energy needed to make and store hydrogen at scale makes an aluminium factory look like a tepid lightbulb on a lazy sunday morning…

    If you want to go that route for long-term storage, you may as well go full hog and set up for methane. Especially since you’d get the CO2 you need for that for free as a by-product from cooling the H2 enough for storage anyway.
    We know how to store LNG safely and in bulk, and at least that stuff is already solidly entrenched in our current technology and infrastructure.

    The fact that producing a Really Evil Greenhouse Gas that produces another Really Evil Greenhouse Gas when used is one of the few ways you can actually sort-of-economically store and use Green Energy in bulk in any way that makes logical sense and does not break the laws of physics always makes me grin.

    Then again.. I’ve yet to meet a Greenie who can actually handle the laws of thermodynamics.
    In my Uni days the ones who couldn’t dropped out of Biology, and switched to “Environmental Sciences” , which “needn’t all that Difficult Stuff”.
    Which may explain a lot about the current crop of madcaps in the various NGO’s pushing for Green….

  15. @CJNerd “If you were electrolysing water to make hydrogen, would intermittency be a problem?”

    The problem is guessing how long the intermittency will be. At the beginning of last month there was very little wind with only one reasonable day in the first ten. You often see spells when the wind is pretty insignificant for 3 weeks. Just how much intermittency do you need to allow for? If you want to cover intermittency you need a lot of it and a solid plan of what to do when your store runs out. That’s why going the extra step from hydrogen to methane appeals. We already have vast amount of storage and distribution infrastructure and can (if we need to) top it up with fossil natural gas should the wind stubbornly refuse to blow for a longer period.

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