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Power point


Recent correspondents on the subject of energy each champion their pet technology while it is the energy mix that counts. Jackie Whitelaw, in her excellent comment last week, encourages us to focus on the big picture. Try this for size.

Blackouts are due more to grid failings than shortage of generating capacity, so let us reduce dependence on the grid.

We will assume that hydrogen fuel cell technology will be commercially viable in 20 years time. Referring to final energy consumption figures by sector for 2002 quoted in the government's 2003 Energy White Paper, Chart 1.5, I suggest the following energy mix: 1. Domestic sector (30%): Homes - solar and wind micro generation combined with community wind, hydro and small-scale biomass generators.

Fuel cells augment heat and power in homes in winter.

2. Transport sector (36%):Private and commercial vehicles - choice of fuel cells or bio-fuel. Public transport in cities - fuel cells in buses, electric light rail. Heavy rail - nuclear electricity, rail corridors carry high voltage transmission lines linking cities and providing back-up for sector 4. Inland waterways - fuel cell powered freight barges. Maritime - nuclear powered bulk carriers. Air - phase out short haul in favour of subsidised high-speed rail.

3. Industry (21%): Local combined heat and power (CHP) plants using bio-mass, waste incineration or fossil fuels where locally viable, linked directly to industrial sites. Nuclear for heavy energy consumers such as steel and cement manufacture.

4. Other (13%): Hospitals, schools, street lighting, and other utilities including light rail, mainly in cities. Medium to large scale local CHP plants using bio-mass or waste incineration backed up by nuclear from sector 2.

Surplus/off peak power plus offshore wind farms generate hydrogen for fuel cells.

All of this to be kick-started by the engineering institutions holding a conference for national and local government.

James Tod (M) tods@malham.

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