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But net zero’s so cheap, save us all fortunes

Hundreds of thousands of homes across Britain will be in view of electricity pylons under a massive net zero expansion of the energy grid.

Three hundred towns and villages across rural England and Wales could be impacted by the thousands of electricity pylons needed to expand the National Grid to meet net zero targets, a government report has warned.

Oh Aye?

28 thoughts on “But net zero’s so cheap, save us all fortunes”

  1. I’d still argue that if you’re going to spend all that money, it might as well be spent on nukes.

    At least that way, the murderous Muzzies and other foul fiendish foreigners can’t cut off your energy supply at a moments notice.

    Of course you might find it cheaper just to frack everything within sight and hearing.

  2. Electricity pylons bad.

    Massed ranks of enormous bird choppers good.

    And how about those of us on the South Coast whose sea views have been permanently blighted by ever expanding offshore wind farms with short working lives – destined to remain forever as rusting hulks littering the horizon (and if anyone seriously believes half-hearted claims they will be removed once they stop working they really need to get out more).

  3. Vote Conservative for a pylon over every home, and a mosque on every street corner.

    National Grid has so far not released estimates of the lengths of new cabling and pylons it plans, nor of the numbers of people and properties potentially affected. A National Grid spokesman said it was too early to give actual numbers

    Net Zero has only been enshrined in ‘law’ for the last 15 years. But just like senior civil servants appear before Parliament to snigger that they couldn’t be bothered bringing immigration statistics with them, the National Grid feels perfectly safe in trolling you by refusing to say where the pylons are going.

    Government by gaslighting. It becomes increasingly humiliating for you to pretend this is all normal, or that you have a stake in the process.

  4. @rhoda…

    Electricity supplies about 20% of the total energy usage in the UK, so going 100% electric in the fulfilment of “Net Zero” will involve increasing capacity by an additional 400%, so we’re going to end up with four times as many pylons… So 4 x “millions” of us will have pylons to look at. 🙂

    Do you sometimes think that TPTB haven’t actually done the sums?

  5. And 13 pylons in Wessex that we’ve already got are to be removed and buried.
    Another cost which will show up in bills somewhere, and divert human resources away from building infrastructure elsewhere.

  6. Between those pilons will be copper wire – made of copper – extracted from copper ore.

    But… investment in copper ore mining rather than increasing to scale up production to provide the copper to provide the wires, has eased off.

    Given that the Net Zero lunacy is global and as a recent report indicated 50 million miles (more than half way to the Sun) of transmission lines will be required before 2025, it is likely those pylons won’t have any wires between them.

    Those extra transmission lines will be to connect up all the scattered wind and solar, not actually to upgrade the main grid trunk routes. All local distribution will have to be replaced/upgraded to carry and distribute the load to all those chargers, heat pumps, electric cookers. So not just pylons but constant roadworks digging up the streets.

    The fact there is no signs of increases copper ore production should indicate, Net Zero isn’t expected to happen, and even if investment were forthcoming, scaling up ore production to the extent required and within the time frame is physically impossible – unless it means zero forms of energy other than electricity and zero supply of that except to the rich.

  7. There might be some disruption during the construction phase of these pylons. Oxy-acetylene torches are quite cheap and pylons are often sited in out of the way places that are difficult to police.

  8. “Between those pilons will be copper wire…”

    Um, no. It’s mostly Aluminium. Better conductor, you see, when considered by weight instead of volume – which is important when you want to string them up in the air.

  9. “supporting thousands of jobs and reducing bills in the long-term for families.”

    One or the other, but not both.

  10. @John B

    That’s a very long thing to write when you could just have googled to check whether transmission lines are made of copper….

    They’re aluminium, but can be reinforced with steel (“ACSR”).

  11. Yes, the high voltage overhead stuff (400kV) is Al conductors surrounding a steel core. That may be the case for 132kV too. 33kV and down seems to be copper as the relatively higher currents mean the conductivity is more important than the weight.

    Of course since both the HV and LV stuff needs augmenting the copper mines and the Al smelters should both shortly be going gangbusters. I await with bated breath…

  12. When we bought our current house part of the inspection was to check if the wiring was aluminium as apparently there had been a fad for doing this around the time it was built. Had subsequently been banned for new builds due to safety issues as the expansion/contraction causes deterioration of connections and increased fire risk.

  13. @TG

    Yeah, and to be fair, there’s also going to be underground transmission cables, where again copper is preferred as the weight is irrelevant.

    Continental grid systems are facing a similar transition to the National Grid here, and the likes of TenneT (NL/Germany) are placing very large multi-year orders for new cables. So I shouldn’t be too sceptical about it ever happening, the politicians seems to have boxed themselves too much into a corner now for anything else.

    On the general subject, here’s an absolutely brutal skewering of the idea that Net Zero is going to make life cheaper for consumers/voters, by Prof Dieter Helm.

  14. Who on earth is looking at homes from electricity pylons? I’m more worried about the pylons in view of hundreds of thousands of homes.

  15. Bloke in Bloke Dorset

    “ Yes, the high voltage overhead stuff (400kV) is Al conductors surrounding a steel core. That may be the case for 132kV too. 33kV and down seems to be copper as the relatively higher currents mean the conductivity is more important than the weight.”

    If I remember my electrical engineering modules from 40 years ago correctly it’s about I^2R losses the diameter of the cable needs to increase which is what drives up the weight.

  16. The problems with the A380 were legion.

    Not inter-compatibilty between software is a common thing in engineering, especially big companies like this and wasn’t a major contributor to the 380 failure. It’s just something to be aware of.
    In fact with some of them, you can be using the same software, CATIA V5 for example and if you use a newer version and save a file, it doesn’t have backwards compatibility so your client can’t then open the file because they’re running R28 and you’re running R32. No prizes for guessing how I know that….

    The main problem is that it was just too big. It could only fly out of a few hub airports, with Airbus betting that the future of air travel was people going to these big airports, then catching smaller planes to their final destination.
    What actually happened was that engine tech improved to the point where smaller planes could fly a fair bit further and people could fly direct except for a few long haul routes.
    See the 737-800 Max faceplant edition.
    Airbus had similar improvements but kept the redundancy when it comes to airspeed sensors.
    The 380 also had tech problems regarding the use of carbon fibre in ribs with the feet cracking before they realised that ribs aren’t a good thing to make out of carbon fibre. Panels and spars can be, but ribs need to be ally. See the 350.

    Changing the wiring from copper to ally is a small problem in the grand scheme of things in that project.

  17. There’s a piece of mine out there from decades back. Pointing out that the Airbus to Boeing thing was point to point or hub and spoke to hub and spoke. Gonna be interesting to see which wins…..

  18. Unusables are intermittent and diffuse. The primary source of energy itself – in principle extremely large – has to be concentrated into usable, reliable power. It can’t be of course, hence the need for a pretty well 100% duplication of the advertised unusable capacity on 24 hour standby.

    The useless unusables themselves come in the form of thousands of individual, unrecyclable bird mincers/spurious noise generator/fire hazards, each one of which essentially requires an connection.

    There must be literally thousands of miles of unnecessary extra power lines in this country alone.

    A black hole of otherwise productive resource that Goldstein himself would be in awe of!

  19. Aluminium cables and Al smelters

    We don’t have any Al smelters, last one closed years ago due to high electricity prices

    Steel Pylons

    Pylons need virgin steel. We’re closing our blast furnaces to be green

  20. @CD/Tim

    Not disputing A380 had all kinds of problems and in retrospect the really big call, which it’s now obvious hasn’t panned out as hoped, was the entire economic model of the thing. So not just wrong in design, wrong (at least in retrospect) in its entire conception. But back in the day – and I linked to a 2006 news article for a reason, if you thought it was weird it didn’t mention those other big problems it’s because that wasn’t the focus of the A380 story back then – before it had entered service or the economic realities became clear, it was more notorious for the delays in getting the thing into the air in the first place. A lot of reportage at the time said the mind-changing re aluminium/copper cables contributed materially (sorry) to the ever-delayed timescales – along with other issues which brought their own delays, naturally. Maybe journos just so happened to like picking out the wiring example because it was something they felt their readership would understand. But there are engineering eggheads out there who back up the aluminium cable problems (thicker wires being harder to stuff into tight spaces, as far as I understand it) and the tale does have a certain notoriety in aerospace engineering.

  21. @Pcar

    “Pylons need virgin steel”

    Citation needed?

    It’s true that BF-BOF (Blast Furnace-Basic Oxygen Furnace) and EAF (Electric Arc Furnace) steel can end up being preferentially used for different products. But you can and do get structural steel from EAF. Hot-rolled sections in the UK can come from either route, the main problem for EAF is producing flat plates because the input quality matters more for thin products like that. This isn’t to say you can only make steel plate by BF-BOF, but having to vet the quality of the steel you’re recycling more carefully means it gets more expensive to do it via EAF. In the USA, EAF is becoming quite widely used to make steel plate, but for Americans its cost disadvantage is reduced by the greater availability of high-quality steel for recycling.

    Scroll up a bit in that document and you can see (as Tim has said repeatedly about the UK steel industry, including on the radio from time to time) the UK is behind the rest of the world in adopting EAF. The 2019 figures put us about 80:20 for BF-BOF vs EAF, compared to the global figure of 70:30 and the European 60:40 . There’s a lot of economic forces behind the BF-BOF percentage falling and the EAF percentage rising, and it was inevitable the UK was going to follow that trend. For most steel products of a specified quality, EAF is simply the cheaper way to do it.

    I don’t know much about pylon construction and if you can dig out a reputable source explaining why they must be made from BF-BOF steel, I’ll believe you. But I did have a quick google for those new T-pylon designs that are being put up at the moment – look very different to the conventional lattice design. Turns out they use S355 steel plate, curved and welded to make cylindrical sections. There is S355 steel plate available in the UK that’s made by EAF, but I’ll leave it to the engineers to sort if it’s suitable for this application. But I don’t think there are many use cases where steel absolutely has to be BF-BOF: recycled steel is still steel, and you can still control the metallurgy and quality, albeit at a cost that may hand the advantage back to BF-BOF if you need to be particularly fussy about the inputs.

  22. Oh, those pylons are a serious problem…

    They will either carry ‘leccy juice to places not in view of those pylons with the viewers shivering in the cold and dark, or they will be there, but carry no ‘leccy juice to speak of at all.

    Both options quite real, and with… predictable repercussions…

    The solution, of course, is to bury those conduits underground, so that the hoi-polli aren’t visually reminded about their plight every time they look out of the window…

  23. Former El Reg Andrew Orlowski in Telegraph:

    Whitehall mandarins are stalling Britain’s nuclear power revolution

    If successive governments had done their job, our energy systems would not be close to breaking point

    Green elec requires an astonishing 370,000 miles of cable must be laid or upgraded

    And we keep finding new uses for our nuclear heritage, as the Adam Smith Institute reported last week, by tapping our existing radioactive stockpiles

    “Pylons need virgin steel” – Citation needed?

    iirc It was Ross Clark in Speccie/Tele last week

  24. @Pcar

    Cheers. Was hoping for something more technical but can’t find another source making the same claim – think this might just be an example of a journo getting the facts wrong.

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