The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #168430   Message #4113854
Posted By: DMcG
20-Jul-21 - 02:26 AM
Thread Name: BS: Brexit & other UK political topics
Subject: RE: BS: Brexit & other UK political topics
Two disturbing stories were in the Guardian today. One concerned a consultation under way about secrecy and the document is claimed to contain the proposal than the penalties ought to “be imposed by the executive rather than the courts”.

I am not aware of any existing UK law where punishments on individuals are at the whim of a minister without involving the courts. If this is actually what is being proposed, it should be dropped immediately. Arbitrary powers of fines and imprisonment vested in an individual? That is more like an absolute monarchy than a democracy.

The second is a reorganisation of the National Grid (the company, not the physical infrastructure) :

The government plans to strip National Grid of its role keeping Great Britain’s lights on as part of a proposed “revolution’” in the electricity network driven by smart digital technologies.

I hold no particular view on the structure and role of National Grid, but unless someone has the explicit responsibility to 'keep the lights on' we are heading straight for the problems Texas has had recently, where it could not meet the demand for electricity.

As it happens, I have a little knowledge of this area, via my now-deceased father-in-law who had a role in the design of the UK national grid, and similar grids for other countries. Without going into any details, the essential idea behind the grid that you need generating capacity in excess of the demand, in the form of power stations you can turn on if needed, but almost 100% of the time they are not in use.

Which was always a bone of contention with people who saw this as simply waste. They took the view that this is just a supply-and-demand problem, and rather than being able to increase supply, what you should do is reduce demand. At the time, the idea was entirely about profit, so reducing costs (by having less generators to maintain) while increasing income (by charging more to reduce demand) was far more attractive. So there is a decades-long argument between those who think a reliable power source is fundamental to the ability of UK business generally to fulfil their role and increase GDP that way, and those who see electricity as just another business with no special UK-wide responsibility.

These days, however, green thinking adds a further layer of complication: reducing demand is desirable for other reasons, not just the balance sheet of the generating companies. You do need to avoid what is called 'the diesel dilemma', though, which is where companies and businesses which need a reliable supply install diesel generators as backup, because these, while relatively cheap individually, in aggregate are far more expensive and resource-intensive than the centralised standby generators, and far more polluting as well.

So to summarise: I care little about what happens to National Grid as a company. I do care about what, if anything, happens to the remit to ensure continuity of supply.