Vision of the Future?

! This post hasn't been updated in over a year. A lot can change in a year including my opinion and the amount of naughty words I use. There's a good chance that there's something in what's written below that someone will find objectionable. That's fine, if I tried to please everybody all of the time then I'd be a Lib Dem (remember them?) and I'm certainly not one of those. The point is, I'm not the kind of person to try and alter history in case I said something in the past that someone can use against me in the future but just remember that the person I was then isn't the person I am now nor the person I'll be in a year's time.

We went to Tesco today to do a bit of shopping. It was unusually quiet, devoid of the crowds of bargain hunters I would have expected this close after Christmas.

Vision of the Future?

That wasn’t the only strange thing about the shop today – half of the store was in darkness. On some aisles, they had even put lamps on the shelves to give some light because it was that dark. As I was pushing the trolley around the half empty aisles in the dark I started wondering if this is what it’s going to be like in a decade when we’re relying on windmills for 60% of our electricity supply.

It might sound like an exaggeration but it’s really not. In a few years we need to have replaced some of our power stations to be able to provide enough electricity to meet demand. The British government intends to replace them with windmills that will cost billions of pounds and won’t provide anywhere near enough electricity or the consistent, affordable supply we need. There is a very real risk of electricity being rationed, street lights going off in the night and factories time-sharing electricity supplies with their neighbours.

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  1. Karl (40 comments) says:

    And more power stations is the way to go? tosh.

    We EAT electricity – how many homes have ridiculous plasma/240000inch multi-kilowatt room heater TVs, hundreds of gadgets and vampire electronic devices in their houses running 24/7, several PCs running 24/7 needlessly, incandescent lighting which is laughably inefficient and so on?

    We need to curb our addiction to the crap, flash and useless gadgetry. We need to lose “soft-off”, standby modes, all that junk – it’s not hard to do, it’s hardly a step down from “luxury”, and THEN, when we’ve brought our power consumption back down to a level more like that of 25-30 years back, we might find we’ve not got such a challenge!

    Buy a power meter..plug in job/owl/whatever – look at your “idle” power usage. It’s an eye opener. I live “old tech” for the majority – 21″ CRT TV (will be replaced with a 17″ TFT when it dies – even less power), no video, DVD player with a “hard off” switch, Digibox etc, all on a multiway – when I’m finished with the TV, it all goes off at the main switch. Same with everything here except the heating/fridge (of course). Even my router is on a timeswitch. If I buy something new, it’s basic and as “A Rated” as I can afford to do without spending silly. If it has a “hard off” switch, even better..standby is evil, and so bloody wasteful it makes my blood boil.

    All the lights in this house with one exception are £1 9/11 watt CFL or LED, on only when we’re in the rooms.

    My weekly power bill (prepay meter) is £5 (with a big standing charge in that, thankyou NPower). Even my PIR lamp outside is a solar charged great. I’m also rebuilding my small solar battery bank setup for 2009 that I use to charge batteries/phones and hopefully will be equipping it with an inverter and bigger battery to run mains appliances when needed. Even in the UK winter, it’s working quite nicely.

    I HATE the way everything is floodlit 24/7 nowadays – it’s not big. not clever, and not needed. We have the tech to do motion activated street/site lighting we use it? no. Same as 24 hour shop opening etc – 30 years ago that was rare, and it did no harm. I think we’ve got stupid, wasteful. greedy and accustomed to convenience and laziness in that time. Bring it back, by hard means if needed. I’d welcome a return to it.

    Build offices or retrofit with the technology to be “self managing” in power and light/heat terms, take out the human controls – that’d be a good start. I’ll be fascinated to see our new “intelligent” school building, with heatpumps, automated power management, wind and solar power “on site” tie-ins etc. I’ve long held the opinion that giving humans any say in how to control their environmental artificial light systems etc is the most counterproductive thing anyone can do. Working in schools only reinforced it…lights on in the day, everything left on at end of day no matter how many times or how harshly they get told..makes me despair.

    In so many ways, we’ve been encouraged to waste and live beyond our use/gadgets..we really do need to be cut down to size – what hardship we’re in and heading for, we made ourselves through sheer idiocy. It won’t be nice, but by gods, we’ll reap what we’ve sowed..and god help us.

    I’d love, really love to live “off grid” – We did it before on a school trip to CAT for 2 weeks..that was the biggest amount of fun, satisfaction and inspiration I’d had in ages. I think I could move over to it 100% again tomorrow with only minor changes to the way I live.

    Power provision second, power economy and application of intelligence’s the only way it’ll work.

  2. steve (38 comments) says:

    Wellington Tesco was like that yesterday as well – we popped in at around 1pm or just after (after walking up the Wrekin), and the fruit and veg aisles were in darkness then…

  3. axel (1214 comments) says:

    what was their reason?

    A good solution would be to connect the National Grid to the north of scotland, up there wind power is a very viable proposition, along with other such tasties as Hydro electric too.

  4. wonkotsane (1133 comments) says:

    Karl, it’s one thing to reduce our reliance on electricity and technology by choice and another to reduce our ability to generate electricity to the point where we can’t satisfy current demand, let alone future demand. As with everything the British government does, it’s a case of too much stick and not enough carrot.

    Axel, the wilds of Scotland aren’t viable for connecting to the national grid because too much energy is lost through heat, noise and electromagnetic radiation over long distances.

    Steve, it was the one in Wellington that I was at. They should have handed out torches on the door!

  5. Charlie Marks (365 comments) says:

    “In a few years we need to have replaced some of our power stations to be able to provide enough electricity to meet demand. The British government intends to replace them with windmills that will cost billions of pounds and won’t provide anywhere near enough electricity or the consistent, affordable supply we need.”

    The UK government is committed to subsidizing the construction of new nuclear power stations on existing sites. If you’re going to attack the govt on energy policy, at least get it right!

  6. wonkotsane (1133 comments) says:

    Charlie, they’ve not committed to replacing them all with nuclear facilities, the EU target for renewables is 60% by 2020 and nuclear isn’t renewable energy. In fact, there won’t be any nuclear plants if they can’t find the money to pay the French to build them for us. The only good thing about the renewables policy is that England should get any nuclear power stations they can afford to build and Scotland and Wales will get windmills so when the union breaks up we’ll stand a chance of still being able to keep the lights on.

  7. Karl (40 comments) says:

    I see what you’re saying, but it’s still chicken and egg…at the rate we’re inventing ways to waste power to achieve no net increase in useability, merely a “new age look”, we’re NEVER going to be in a “need less power” situation.

    As long as people can afford needless gadgetry, crap and hundreds of underutilised and over-provided multiples of every device in a home, we’re in a spiral of being screwed.

    I think regulations need bringing in to curb the electronic “waste power”’s all gone a LOT “convenience over cold sense” in the last 15-20 years. There’s NO NEED for 3/4 of the “modern” huge, energy eating’s just people wanting to “keep up”.

    The Mother-in-law has a christknowswhat plasma TV – horrible thing, nasty picture, eyeaching to watch, draws the same as a 2 bar electric fire to run – I have a 60 watt MAX 21″ CRT TV with a far superior picture..she has at least 4, maybe 5 or 6 PCs in there running 24/7..and she puts £30/40+ per week in the meter..and complains.

    I use common sense, sensible older kit, stuff the gadgets and the convenience, have a similar “quality of life”, have all the same facilities at my disposal and use £5 tops…is that the governments fault? Should they offer her incentives to use less? I think not.

    You know me – I’m a gadget and tech fiend…i’m not anti-tech at all, but manufacturers should be made to bring all the “A rated” guff into EVERYTHING…I could point at Dell TFTs here that use the same when the “on” button is off as they do when actively running because of the godawful way that they implement the “screen soft off”, but I won’t. Oh wait…

    Energy star, my arse. If people were forced to look at their usage and say “Do I need this?”, and did the sums..we’d be in much less of a bind, IMO.

    As to keeping the lights on…incandescents are only about 10% efficient…I wish they’d stop bottling it and bring in the bloody legislation to sack them right off. Come on – 1802 base technology has no base at all in 2000+. Bring in a wholesale switch to CFL/CCFL and LED – lets see how big an impact that’d make. As for Halogens, sack them off too..if I want to boil water on something, I’ll use a damn kettle.

    If you ever want to borrow my power monitor, let me know..;)

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