Without the hot air: the energy numbers

Posted by Kevin Rennie

Thanks to openDemocracy, I found and downloaded Numbers, not adjectives, the first part of David MacKay’s book Sustainable Energy – without the hot air.

If the rest is as interesting and readable as Chapter 1 Motivations, it could prove to be a real gem. His take on the debate about renewables versus nuclear as energy alternatives:

This heated debate is fundamentally about numbers. How much energy could each source deliver, at what economic and social cost, and with what risks? But actual numbers are rarely mentioned. In public debates, people just say “Nuclear is a money pit” or “We have a huge amount of wave and wind.” The trouble with this sort of language is that it’s not sufficient to know that something is huge: we need to know how the one “huge” compares with another “huge,” namely our huge energy consumption. To make this comparison, we need numbers, not adjectives.

Later on he claims:

I don’t want to feed you my own conclusions. Convictions are stronger if they are self-generated, rather than taught. Understanding is a creative process. When you’ve read this book I hope you’ll have reinforced the confidence that you can figure anything out.

… Debates about energy policy are often confusing and emotional because people mix together factual assertions and ethical assertions.

The rest of the book can be downloaded from his website above.

Good reading!

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks Kevin – will have a read.

    As you may be aware we are about to have a solar power system installed that will feed into the grid. (Queensland Government Solar Power Programme)

    This exercise has highlighted some of the practical hurdles people aren’t generally aware of.

    We are only fitting a 1Kw system (we use about 2.3KW pa) but it will use all of the available North facing roof space (’cause we have a solar hot water system as well – that saves us a bout 25-30% of our power bill)….and the panel array will have to be split onto two roofs (we have some on a single storey and a double storey)…extra cost

    Our house is not small by any standards (not a mansion either) but roof space is an issue ….and will be for for many people… and our house has the perfect aspect at one degree off facing South…many homes will need a tailor made stand for the array…

    With regard to the solar HWS our plumbing was installed twenty five years ago when we built the house – if people convert they will have additional costs for re-plumbing.

    If people want to “store” thier generated power in batteries (that cost a fortune BTW) they need a shed (or some other facility) that is correctly ventilated and not close to the house (because of the possibility of fumes – most batteries these days are sealed – or explosion)…

    I am a firm believer in “local” alternative energy (the more self sufficient my family is the better) but there are some practical issues that often make it impractical to apply…

    …that said we shall have an $10000+ system (assett) fitted to our home that will reduce the power bills quite a bit – cost with rebates around $800 – we estimate that should amortise over about 18 months to 2 years – then we should be saving another 25-30% on our power…

    …and no I am not a believer of the Global Warming Climate Change Church – its deeper than that – I don’t trust any government, at any level, these days to deliver reliable services of any kind…eg water, power…

    …the $8000 grant was appreciated – thank you fellow taxpayers…

  2. TB, I’ve got my eye on an area in the north west ranges not too far from Brisbane and all I want is a decent speed Internet connection…I will self power the house that I build and make the property drought proof and of course I will rehabilitate the surrounding area.

    I believe that there has to be a transition to alternate power sources but this has been handled badly and suspect there will be opposition because of this.

    The more people that use alternate power the better as it is like cutting the strings and the powers that be do not like this.

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