UK Energy Supply

I the thread about Dyson abandoning his e-car programme, I asked if anybody could do the simple arithmetic involved in estimating the power station requirements in the UK assuming we all eventually convert our polluting diesels etc to e-cars. And also our HGV’s and buses. And our North Sea gas supplies for domestic heating and industrial factories etc etc. I appreciated these estimates might be a bit tenuous. More like a wild guess.

But our younger generation seem to think us oldies have let them down. So I consider we should start with a broad picture of what might be needed. Hinkley Point C is a start, I suppose, but the rest of the UK’s investment in new power seems to be on hold at the moment.

Let’s start with the first wild guess. Let’s use a middle of the range Tesla Model 3 as our “typical” e-car. I’m guessing at a full charge of say 70 kWh gives it a range of 250 miles.

Average annual mileage of a typical car ? let’s say 10,000 miles. So our Tesla needs the equivalent of 40 full charges each year making that 2,800 kWh per annum.

32 million vehicles in the UK so we need 89,600,000,000 kWh per year.
Let’s assume that a power station runs 24/7, that’s 8,760 hours each year
So we need about 3 additional power stations, each the size of Hincley C (3,200 MW) running full blast, all year.

At present, UK generating capacity is about 90 GW, but peak demand is about 60 GW. So there is a 50 % safety margin to allow for downtime. That suggests about 4 additional power stations, rather than 3, each capable of delivering 3,200 MW.

Next, perhaps we could look at converting our HGVs and buses to electricity.
Then replacing our ageing existing Nuclear sets (9 GW i think)
Oh, and then the biggest remaining culprit, those gas-fired stations (18 GW or thereabouts)

I suppose we should stop using North Sea gas for heating, but I don’t have a number ready to hand at the moment !

As I said at the start, the above figures are a bit of a wild guess, not even a “starter for ten” and I would be delighted to have verifiable contributions such that those figures could be adjusted and be more meaningful.

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You have identified exactly why we need fusion reactors as a priority.


Can’t disagree with your numbers Don, maybe debatable, but your posts underlying message is spot on. Yes we need more power, & despite what the extinction rebellion peeps say, when the wind don’t blow on a cold frosty night, the large capacity (high GW) power comes from nuclear or gas.
Nuclear can’t respond quickly, it takes hours to change power output.
Gas (CCGT) is the only major power source we have that can be bought on line quickly.
Hydro does not have enough capacity
Pumped Hydro is limited capacity & only good for its primary purpose of capacity demand top up boost.

Interesting times ahead for the planners.

The one factor in electric vehicles that has to be considered is that a lot of the charging times will be overnight when demand load is lower & off peak vehicle charging schemes will be one way forward.

Re your suggestion of restricting North Sea gas, dare I mention fracking, no maybe not, but we are sitting on top of one of the planets largest gas reserves.

How many extra solar panels and/or wind turbines does that equate to?
Indeed @Xanthe where is the fusion?

… as good as a chocolate fire guard on a long frosty windless night

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I heard somewhere that we need an extra 20% elec. supply for all cars (I think it was only cars) to switch to electric.

So when London was hosting the Olympics (2012) ISTR the cost to host the olympics was estimated at twice the projected R&D bill to get fusion sorted. Okay you could argue that the estimate to get fusion power finally working is probably under the real cost BUT the estimate to host the olympics was also revised several times :wink:


Fusion was not mentioned, t’would be nice to have but it’s a long way off in real world commercial terms.

Fusion needs proper commitment - money. Last time I looked (2012) it needed 10 billion pounds which was the cost to host the London Olympics. tbh if we were the country that could offer a commercially viable fusion solution it would be a lot better for the countries coffers and prestige.

I have neighbours who work at CCFE (JET) Culham, one is a lead research mngr.
They have a lot of concerns re post brexit funding.
Its not something the UK has any chance of going alone on, its far far more complex in cost & research terms, it is a truly global project.
The world’s most advanced fusion experiment is with China, India, Japan, South Korea, EU, Russian & USA. This is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Tokamak located in France. The concept is designed to achieve a power gain of at least 10 and produce 500MW.
Another fusion initiative is the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (IFMIF), a joint European-Japanese project that will be constructed in Japan and is planned to operate in parallel with ITER. IFMIF will test and select materials that can withstand the extreme conditions produced by high-energy fusion neutrons of future fusion reactors.
Don’t hold yer breath, but we will all be long gone before the world has viable commercial fusion generators actually producing power for the masses.

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Remember over 50% of the UK population voted for Brexit and the consequences of leaving the single EU market, the ability to benefit from EU Research funding, EU wide Research projects, pan EU Education programs, etc.
The current UK Govt is just implementing the wishes of the eligible population at that time.

That might well have been winky in the Dyson thread. Possibly not the most reliable source of information, on which to base our long term energy needs.

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Solar and wind with additional storage. Have one car battery charging during sunny/windy time whilst using the other.

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So, is it better that we all look after ourselves (where’s maggie when you need her ?) or do we chip in as a group (call it the UK and Tax) and build a central power supply system ?

32x10E6 cars all wanting a charge would represent a huge hit on the grid network. Ok, not all cars will be plugged in at the same time, but a significant number would. If, as an extreme example all cars were to plug in simultaneoulsy then that would be a 2E5MW demand (at a peak charging rate of 7kW), or about 10 new HPCs. Without management of when people can charge the impact on the grid would be unacceptable. As it is spinning reserve is needed for the adverts breaks in such mindless inanities as SCD, BGT and XF etc. We will need a smart network and differential pricing in order to help manage peak demands.

I am glad I still run ICE cars.

The most suitable form of renewable power generation would be tidal. The environmental cost of the initial build would be high, but once built, their capacity is highly predictable and reliable. The UK is well placed to benefit from this, with quite a few locations where strong tides are found close to the shore.

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The spare batteries could be owned by a cooperative or a business or a local authority. Take your pick.

Battery’s are the problem in car’s what about hydrogen fuel cell,yes i know it costs to get the hydrogen of what it’s stuck too and the BIG BANG stuff but it is the most most abundant element in the universe.

Not from what I know of it: some schemes have adverse effects on the marine environments & biodiversity. All have very high installation costs followed by regular & annually increasing cost of maintenance.

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Everything has its own set of problems. Choosing the right course of action is always going to be fraught.

But I would be very happy to let the planet and the pestilential human race burn