1. Early warnings tell of the risk of blackouts as gas imports are over-stretched (Appendix 1).
2. New nuclear power station for Scotland (Appendix 2).
3. More on the developing picture for nuclear power, in UK and around the world (Appendix 3).
4. New safer type of nuclear reactor (Appendix 4).
5. NG acquire telecoms mast business (Appendix 5).
6. Another example of northern windfarm proposals and objections (Appendix 6).
7. Some progress at the meeting with government departments on EMF (Appendix 7).
8. Notes on NGT Annual Report (Appendix 8). The statement on EMF is disappointing spin and somewhat in contrast to the more constructive approach taken by NGT at the stakeholder meeting (item 7 above).
9. Ofgem report criticises NGT over blackouts last year (Appendix 9).
10. Editorial overview:
Revolt is FOR rational energy distribution policy (in the wider sense of distribution) and against unnecessary and excessive overhead powerline development. Revolt is FOR an efficient and reliable public electricity service. Revolt has no position on nuclear power per se. Revolt has criticised aspects of government energy policy, not least its over- reliance on remote wind power and the ineffectiveness and insecurity problems that would bring. Revolt generally favours energy efficiency, distributed generation, CHP and regional balance of generation and demand, which tend to support each other.
Without prejudice, we have called for a feasibility study into the possibility of using distributed small-scale nuclear generators based on nuclear submarine engines (news162.9 and 156.7). Perhaps the political force of climate change arguments, together with improving government awareness of the limitations of wind power, is beginning to show in more positive attitudes to nuclear generation. Without necessarily supporting nuclear power, it is important that proper scrutiny and consideration is given to nuclear options. Revolt would naturally incline to small distributed generation rather than giant remote nuclear power stations with their transmission implications, but at least let's have the discussion opened up.
APPENDIX 1 Bad winter 'will test gas supply'
Ceefax, # 112, 24.06.2004
The gas market may not be able to meet demand for supplies if temperatures drop in severe winter conditions, say an all-party committee of peers.
The Lords Committee on the EU says in a report that pipelines bringing gas into Britain have little spare capacity.
By 2010, it says, the UK will import around 50% of its gas and this is likely to rise to around 70% in 2020.
France, Germany, and Italy have storage capacity equal to 20% of annual demand or more.
In the UK, the figure is 4%.
APPENDIX 2. New nuclear power station for Scotland Scotland on Sunday 11-7-04:
MURDO MACLEOD and EDDIE BARNES
IN A major U-turn on energy policy, Scotland is in line to have a new nuclear power station built in order make sure that Britain can reduce its output of greenhouse gases without Californian-style massive power cuts.
The two front-runners for the new stations are the current nuclear power station sites of Hunterston in Ayrshire and Chapelcross, at Annan, in Dumfries and Galloway, with Torness in East Lothian as the outsider.
The move has come in the wake of Tony Blair admitting to MPs that Britain is likely to need a new generation of nuclear power stations in order to meet the challenge of climate change.
Previous energy policy had targeted renewables such as wind farms to make up the shortfall in supply caused by the need to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
The move could result in a clash between Labour ministers in the south who see no alternative to a nuclear programme, and the Scottish Executive Labour- Lib-Dem coalition whose Liberal Democrat ministers have threatened to veto planning permission for new nuclear power stations.
A senior nuclear industry source last night confirmed that Scotland was set to have a nuclear power station built, but that the location was still to be decided.
He said: "It's a toss-up between a new unit at Hunterston or one at Chapelcross, with Torness being an outsider, but still having a chance."
"Hunterston and Chapelcross both have their good points, but it is still to be decided which it will be. The final decision will be for the government, although they will take our recommendations into account."
The source said that the government could not hope to meet ambitious targets to reduce the nation's output of polluting gases such as carbon dioxide, the main gas which is linked to global warming.
The move marks a major rethink by ministers. Last year's Energy White Paper in February 2003 came down firmly in favour of energy efficiency and renewables being given priority as the best option for Britain's future. Nuclear energy was not ruled out forever but put on hold for at least five years.
Blair last week signalled to the Commons that the government believed it had no option but to commission a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Blair said the evidence was now overwhelming that climate change was the biggest long-term problem facing the country, and conceded the world was nowhere near finding a mechanism to cut carbon dioxide emissions by the government's target of 60% by 2050.
Over the next 20 years, all but one of the UK's 16 nuclear power stations will close, leaving the British energy market looking to find a substitute for the 23% of the country's electricity which is generated by nuclear power. Scotland relies even more on atomic power, with a third of power north of the Border being nuclear generated.
In Scotland the Chapelcross power station was closed last week and the Hunterston B plant will close in 2011. The Torness station will close by 2023.
The main advantage of the Hunterston site is its closeness to a deep- water port, meaning it has a readily available supply of water for cooling. Chapelcross is better situated to be able to supply power to England when needed.
Brian Wilson, the former energy minister, said: "I very much welcome Tony Blair's comments and it might well be a significant landmark in the whole debate. My view is that this issues will have to re-visited sooner rather than later.
"If we are going to keep the emphasis on carbon reduction then this is the only reliable source of carbon free energy that we have. Over the next few years, thinking environmentalists would start to recognise that fact."
Wilson, who is also an enthusiastic backer of wind energy, said: "It is very silly to think renewables can fill the gap. I am pro-renewables but the worst thing we can do is to exaggerate what they can deliver."
Bill Tynan, the chairman of the House of Commons all-party group on the nuclear industry last night welcomed the signals that a new station would be built north of the Border, and said that he believed Hunterston was the best option for the new plant.
Tynan said: "Scotland needs a new nuclear power station.
We face becoming increasingly reliant on imported energy which comes from countries which are not always very stable."
But the Labour MP warned that the biggest hurdle the power station may face may be Scotland's Labour-Lib Dem coalition executive. The anti-nuclear Liberal Democrats have threatened to use their position in the Executive to veto any planning permission for new nuclear plants.
And the Scottish Green Party reacted with fury to the suggestion that Scotland was in line for a new nuclear plant.
A spokesman said: "It is a stupid idea. The answer is renewables and a focus on saving energy. It is utterly illogical to try and substitute one kind of pollution for another. Nuclear power is hugely expensive in addition to being environmentally disastrous."
A spokesman for the Nuclear Industry Association said: "The existing stations have been looked at (for future development). You would not want to be building a new station on a green field site. There is enough land on the existing sites to expand. There is also a degree of local support in these areas because they are employers."
A Scottish Executive spokesman said that nuclear power was a reserved matter and each planning application would be decided on its own merits.
APPENDIX 3 More on nuclear power (Sunday Telegraph 11.7.04)
Time for Blair to go nuclear? (Filed: 11/07/04)
As demand for power soars, even 'green' nations are building nuclear plants. Britain faces an energy crisis unless it follows suit, says Andrew Murray-Watson.
On a quiet outcrop of land on the windswept Somerset coastline, an old power plant is slowly, and very carefully, being taken apart.
Hinkley Point A, a nuclear power station owned by BNFL, came to the end of its working life in 2000. A few hundred workers, where once there were thousands, are decommissioning the plant. Its radioactive fuel rods are being dismantled and the s ite will be used to store spent radioactive material in a safe environment.
Hinkley A is a symbol of the state of the UK nuclear power industry. The plant, which once generated 470MW of electricity, is one of 12 older Magnox nuclear plants owned by BNFL, which will all be decommissioned by 2011.
British Energy, the UK's other nuclear power company, owns eight nuclear plants. The company is nearly wholly owned by its bondholders and would have collapsed entirely had it not been for a Government handout < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2003/02/15/cnben1 5.xml > . The British nuclear industry appears to be on its last legs.
The Government, while not completely abandoning the nuclear power industry, appears to have decided that other forms of renewable energy such as wind and tidal power < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2004/02/16/cnwind 16.xml > are to be encouraged at all costs.
Although renewables generate clean energy, they cause a different sort of pollution. Wind farms in particular are increasingly running into opposition from local pressure groups, who claim that they are a visual blight on the landscape. Environmentalists also claim that thousands of birds are killed every year by the turbine blades.
But last Wednesday, supporters of the UK nuclear industry were heartened by Tony Blair's appearance before a committee of senior MPs. He admitted that America was pressing Britain to re-examine the case for building a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Blair said that he had "fought long and hard . . . to make sure that the nuclear option is not closed off". He told MPs that there was no way nuclear power could be removed from the agenda "if you are serious about the issue of climate change".
Blair stressed, however, that no decision had been made in Government and the nuclear industry had to do more to meet the public's concerns about safety and costs.
Yet while the UK has now only just started to reignite the nuclear debate, nuclear power, for so long haunted by the ghosts of Chernobyl, has been making a comeback throughout the rest of the world.
Its recovery is being led by countries that do not have historical hang- ups about the dangers of harnessing the power of the atom, and which need reliable sources of electricty to drive their power-hungry industries.
In total, there are 30 nuclear power stations currently under construction around the globe to add to the 438 already in existence. Together they will generate 2610TWh of power without emitting greenhouse gases. Coal-powered stations generating the same amount of power would spew 2.4bn tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year.
Asia is leading the way in building new nuclear plants. Of the 30 under construction, nine are in India, four are in China, three in in Japan and one is in South Korea.
Why is new generating capacity required? According to the World Nuclear Association, global energy use has grown by 50 per cent since 1980. The United Nations predicts that with the world's population growing from 6bn to 7.5bn by 2020, demand for energy will continue to increase, probably by 85 per cent.
And it is fears of global warming that are turning the tide in favour of the nuclear industry. Even in parts of Europe dominated by "green" interests, nuclear power is again being increasingly viewed as a realistic option.
Sweden, for example, has 11 nuclear power plants, generating half the country's electricity. The bulk of the remainder is generated by hydro plants.
However, the Three Mile Island accident in the US prompted a referendum in Sweden to phase out nuclear energy and no new stations have been built since 1985. And in 1988 the government decided to begin the phasing-out of nuclear stations.
But this decision was overturned three years later following pressure from trade unions. Since then, faced with the prospect of importing expensive natural gas to meet domestic demand, the Swedes have grown increasingly fond of the country's nuclear power stations.
In 1996 a survey conducted by the Confederation of Swedish Industries found that 80 per cent of the public were in favour of nuclear power. A third of those questioned said that they favoured replacing older nuclear stations with new plants.
In December last year a poll of Swedes found that 75 per cent gave top environmental priority to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Only 10 per cent wanted nuclear to be phased out.
An official of the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate said: "Attitudes towards nuclear are changing dramatically. A proportion in government want to build new nuclear stations - but they are still in a minority."
In neighbouring Finland, a new nuclear station, financed by the country's business community, is being built to safeguard supplies of electricity. A coalition of about 60 Finnish heavy industrial firms have formed a group called TVO and believe the 1,000MW plant is vital.
Even in Germany, where the Green Party still hold the balance of power in government, an increasing number of voices are questioning whether the country is wise to phase out its nuclear generating capacity.
John Ritch, the former US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), believes the change in public attitudes in Scandinavia could be replicated in the UK if there were a sensible debate.
Ritch, who is now the director general of the World Nuclear Association, says: "When you force the general public to face facts, the case for nuclear becomes very persuasive. In Sweden you have a classic case of public debate leading to public enlightenment."
Ritch describes this process as the "immunisation effect", where a populace grows to like nuclear power after seeing at first hand the benefits it can provide over a long period.
Ritch argues that the public opposition to nuclear power is irrational. "Current nuclear generation is enormously safe. Year after year it churns out electricity without incident. There has not been one instance in history where civil nuclear plants have been used as a means of getting nuclear weapons," he says.
Ritch also believes that the UK is heading for an energy crisis if it does not embrace the nuclear option again. "This Government will take the UK from being completely energy autonomous to completely energy dependent within a generation," he says.
Opponents of the nuclear industry in the UK do not believe the public will ever accept the prospect of new nuclear stations.
Friends of the Earth, among others, claims that other forms of renewable energy can provide all the power the country needs and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.
But the Government's target of generating more than 10 per cent of all electricty from renewable sources by 2010 is under threat. The power industry is already lagging well behind the 4.3 per cent target for 2004.
The growth in renewables is not cutting carbon emissions in the UK - it is merely replacing nuclear plants as they are decommissioned.
Meanwhile, a Government White Paper on energy last year found that deep- rooted fears about atomic energy remained etched into the public consiousness.
That said, the technical issues facing the industry, such as how to deal with nuclear waste, are being tackled. A spokesman for BNFL says: "These issues are not insurmountable by any means, and indeed are being solved around the world at this very minute.
"In the US, Yucca Mountain, an underground geological repository for nuclear waste, is under construction. Work on a similar facility in Sweden is about to begin."
Supporters of nuclear power concede that the fear of terrorists getting hold of nuclear waste is prevalent, but highlight the fact that more radioactive material exists from the Cold War arms race than will ever be created by civil nuclear power stations.
Any decision about the future of the nuclear industry in the UK is unlikely to be taken until after the next general election. But even if the next administration decides in 2006 to build new nuclear stations, the planning and contruction process means that new plants could not come on line until 2015 at the earliest.
But with renewables unable to provide security of supply and the reserves of gas and oil running out, nuclear appears to some to be the only viable option. It may remain unpopular, but it could become the least undesirable option to fulfilling the UK's energy needs while meeting its commitments on reducing greenhouse gases.
APPENDIX 4 New safer type of nuclear reactor (Sunday Telegraph 11.7.04)
Nobel prize-winner's reactor offers safer, cleaner nuclear power By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent (Filed: 11/07/2004) A revolutionary nuclear reactor that can recycle its own waste is being studied by the Government as a future source of energy for Britain.
The reactor, which is being developed by a Nobel prize-winning Italian scientist, is said to eliminate the risk of disasters of the type that devastated Chernobyl in 1986. It can also use radioactive waste from other reactors - as well as from its own - as a source of fuel, minimising any environmental problems and reducing the cost of generating electricity.
By offering these benefits, scientists believe that the reactor will ensure that nuclear power plays a greater role in future energy policy. Conviction is growing among governments and some environmentalists that without nuclear power the world will face an energy crisis.
Last week Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, indicated that Britain might have to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. Mr Blair said that the aim would be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions - as required by the Kyoto convention - produced by other forms of electricity generation and declared that the only obstacles to nuclear power were the issues of safety and cost. The reactor, which is being assembled near Rome by Prof Carlo Rubbia < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/htmlContent.jhtml?html=/archive/1997/05/19/wn uk19.html > , an Italian physicist who won a Nobel Prize in 1984, addresses both concerns.
In a conventional reactor, radioactive fuel - uranium - is used to trigger a chain reaction, in which atoms of the fuel break apart, releasing energy and particles that in turn break apart further atoms, sustaining the reaction. The challenge has been to prevent the chain reaction getting out of control and producing an atomic explosion. This has led to complex and expensive safety systems, which do not always work, as the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union demonstrated.
Prof Rubbia's reactor, by contrast, can use other radioactive fuels - such as plutonium, neptunium and other high-level waste products from conventional nuclear reactors - that do not produce enough particles to sustain a chain reaction.
Instead, the reactor has to be fed with particles from an external source. If the supply of particles is cut off - through a mistake or sabotage - the reactor reverts to its natural state, and switches off.
Since the start of nuclear power generation 50 years ago, thousands of tons of hot and toxic radioactive waste have accumulated, awaiting the discovery of some long-term disposal method. In Britain, it is turned into a glassy material and kept in huge, heavily protected cooling ponds.
Dr Kadi said that the new reactor, which is known as an "energy amplifier", would be able to dispose of waste produced by five conventional reactors, as well as its own. "With this reactor you can put in any type of radioactive waste, as long as you can get it into the right form," he said.
The first live test on the reactor will be conducted soon at the Casaccia Research Centre. Once the performance of the test reactor has been assessed, the team plans to upgrade to a bigger reactor and particle accelerator and attempt the first "incineration" of radioactive waste.
Nuclear power has had a chequered history since the opening of Britain's Calderhall, the world's first nuclear power station, in 1956. Incidents such as the Windscale reactor fire of 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl led many countries to halt their nuclear power programmes. Within 20 years Britain will have just one nuclear power station.
Despite its reputation, nuclear power is seen by many scientists as offering environmental advantages because it generates no carbon dioxide. Other forms of non-fossil fuel-burning energy generation - such as wind turbines - do not produce enough power to meet Britain's requirement to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, while electricity produced by nuclear power is likely to be less than half as expensive as that from offshore windfarms.
APPENDIX 5 NG acquire telecoms mast business (news kindly passed on by Chris Maile of Planning Sanity)
http://money.guardian.co.uk/businessnews/story/0,1265,-1249617,00.html NGT climbs to top of phone and television mast ownership league
David Gow Tuesday June 29, 2004 The Guardian
National Grid Transco yesterday became Britain's biggest operator of mobile phone towers and TV transmission masts after paying £1.1bn in cash for the UK operations of US group Crown Castle. The American group paid £244m for the BBC's transmission infrastructure and services when these were privatised in 1997.
The acquisition adds 3,500 phone towers to NGT's existing 1,400 operated by Gridcom and attached to electricity pylons and gas-holders.
The business, to be known as Crown Castle UK, also owns 750 TV transmission towers and two of the six digital licences, providing infrastructure services for the BBC, Freeview and Sky.
Crown Castle's UK operations made £101m profit last year on turnover of £233m and NGT said the acquisition would enhance earnings in the full year after completion, due by September 30.
Gridcom, the NGT business which was forged after the merger of the National Grid with Transco, the monopoly gas pipeline operator, last year made underlying profits of £6m, compared with a loss of £23m in 2002. It employs about 400 people.
It is seeking savings of £18m a year in the combined mobile infrastructure business, which is expected to expand rapidly through the shift to 3G networks. These require up to four times the number of sites used by earlier networks. Phone operators such as Vodafone and T-Mobile are said to be keen to bypass the onerous planning control system, a process eased by NGT's ownership of thousands of sites, many of them in rural areas with poor mobile coverage.
The combined business will be headed by Peter Abery, chief executive of Crown Castle UK, while Steven Marshall, Gridcom's chief executive, becomes chief operating officer.
It is understood that NGT plans to finance the acquisition out of existing facilities rather than raid the £5bn it is expected to raise from the sale of several local gas distribution zones. This is predominantly earmarked for shareholders.
John Kelly, chief executive of Crown Castle International, the world's biggest operator of mobile phone towers, said the group saw this as the right time to realise the value it had created in the UK and concentrate on the US.
It is understood to be planning to use the sale proceeds to reduce debt in advance of investment in America's explosive and belated expansion of digital mobile telephony.
-- Planning Sanity (CfPS) Local Community Support for Adverse Planning and Development Applications http://www.planningsanity.co.uk Helpline 0161 278 3355 - 11am to 8pm Mon to Fri
For none planning related mast inquiries please contact Mast Sanity http://www.mastsanity.org - email@example.com or call their helpline 08704 322377 - 1pm to 8pm Mon to Fri
APPENDIX 6 Another example of northern windfarm proposals and objections.
Storm of protest over planned windfarm
David Ward and Vikram Dodd Monday July 5, 2004
Up to 400 people protested yesterday against plans for one of the biggest windfarms and some of the tallest turbines ever planned for England, staging walks to show how the scheme will blight views from two national parks.
If a planning inspector agrees at an inquiry due next year, 27 wind turbines, each 115 metres (337ft) high, will rise on a ridge close to the M6 near Tebay, between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.
Opponents of the planned Whinash windfarm claim the turbines will be clearly visible from both High Street, the breezy ridge south of Ullswater, and the Calf, the summit of the Howgill Fells.
Kyle Blue, a chartered surveyor involved in the protests, said 400 people had attended a meeting opposed to the plans while 350 trudged across Cumbria's hills to protest.
"The point is to show what a precious gem this is and that we should be looking after it, and not building on it," Mr Blue said. Speaking from on top of a hill, he added: "This is one of the most exquisite views. To imagine a 350ft turbine could be swishing around is unthinkable."
The protesters say each structure will be three-quarters of the height of Blackpool Tower with a blade diameter wider than the wingspan of a jumbo jet. They claim the farm could inflict heavy damage on Cumbria's tourism economy, now healthy after a spectacular recovery from the ravages of foot and mouth disease.
"It would be an absolute folly to destroy some of this country's most precious landscape to meet government targets for renewable energy," said John Dunning, a businessman who established the service area at Tebay on the M6.
But Stephen Molloy, project manager for Renewable Development Company Ltd, which is promoting the scheme, said something had to be done to create new sources of cleaner energy.
"To do nothing is to cause more damage than any windfarm will do," he said.
"The wind resource in the region is in the national parks and the Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty and we cannot build there. There is not much wind in the Eden Valley so we have to go to these foothills."
Mr Molloy argues that Whinash will produce one and a half times the power of the 11 windfarms and 77 turbines that already turn in Cumbria. "You can have a big one that produces a lot of electricity or lots of little ones."
Steve Connor, the managing director of Creative Concern, a Manchester-based communications agency specialising in renewable energy, said: "We need big schemes. It's either that or we go for nuclear power."
The row in Cumbria - home of Sellafield - echoes the debate across the country as the government considers new energy policies.
The Lake District national park authority, Cumbria county council and Eden district council have all objected to the Whinash scheme.
Sir Bernard Ingham, who opposes all windfarms, is against it but has kept out of the fray. The Cumbrian peer Lord Bragg, the mountaineer Chris Bonnington and the environmentalist David Bellamy all support the campaigners.
The television gardener Alan Titchmarsh said: "Now, more than ever before, we need to stand up for the beauty of our landscape which others would be all too ready to destroy in the name of [the] economy."
The Rt Rev John Oliver, the former bishop of Hereford and now the church's environment spokesman, denounced the "deplorable plan" as "utter folly".
"Visual impact is a subjective thing," Mr Molloy added. "Personally, I like wind turbines. We have had 1,000 letters of support, many of them from people who find them quite attractive."
He accuses protesters of guerrilla tactics, "throwing out mischievous facts" and signing up 5,000 objectors through misinformation.
One battle has raged over the photomontages each side produced to give an impression of the completed windfarm. Mr Molloy claimed his company's picture, required for the environmental impact assessment of the scheme and subject to an independent check, showed the development in its proper scale. By contrast, the one (since modified) produced by opponents showed "41 turbines, twice the real size and in the wrong place".
Mr Molloy said the company had taken its case to the Advertising Standards Authority and all its complaints had been upheld.
The battle continues. "I have sympathy with the developers, because this is a windy area and it is also easy to tap into main powerlines," Mr Blue said. "But the quality of the countryside here makes it a totally inappropriate site. This is offshore technology brought onshore."
APPENDIX 7 Some progress at the meeting with government departments on EMF.
EMF Workshop 29.6.04 - personal summary (MJOC)
Following the meeting 2.3.04 (news160.5), the stakeholder group met again on 29.6.04 to consider the future shape and role of the group.
There was general support for keeping the group going, for establishing it on a firmer footing through DH, and for it to provide advice to government on precautionary measures relating to ELF EMF.
There was general support for the principle of inclusiveness, implying the group might number 20 to 50 members, and for one or more smaller executive subgroups to carry forward more detailed work which would come back to the large group for acceptance. A name for the group was found: SAGE (stakeholder advisory group on ELF EMFs), so BOB will be dropped.
While the DH basis for the group is explored, the existing group will meet again around November. In the meantime work will be pursued through a small steering group as nominated on the 29th June, including government officials, Prof Denis Henshaw and myself, and John Swanson from NGT.
In my report of the March meeting I highlighted the principle of stake- holder agreement: if all the stake-holders accepted a process or conclusion then this would be an effective test of its independence from bias through interest. This could be a powerful tool, and perhaps easier to achieve than agreement on scientific assessment.
There were short presentations on cost-benefit considerations, potential health impacts other than childhood leukaemia, the role of NRPB, practical cases of high EMF and wiring faults, and powerlines issues.
There was no dissent from the general aim of seeking to reduce exposures to EMF by the ALARA approach (as low as reasonably achievable), at levels below those officially recognised as hazardous and without any particular lower limit. The word "reasonably" would imply that in considering particular measures, reason would be applied, for example by taking potential costs and benefits into account.
APPENDIX 8 NGT Annual Report 2003/04
NGT <www.ngtgroup.com> has produced its Annual report and Accounts 2003/04 ready for its AGM Monday 26.7.04 at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham.
The ordinary resolutions are as normal except for one to authorise the directors to issue more shares, to allot securities up to a hundred million pounds. The explanation says that the directors currently have no intention of issuing new shares, other than in connection with the exercise of options under the company's share schemes.
There are three special resolutions. One of them, with long wording, following on from the ordinary resolution to authorise directors to issue shares, authorises directors to issue a limited number of shares without offering them to shareholders first. Another special resolution authorises directors to use company funds to buy back shares in the market. The third special resolution is to amend the articles of association, to tidy them up following the redemption of the Special Share by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 5.5.04. The SoS no longer has a veto over the sale of the company.
NGT has a group turnover of just over nine billion pounds, including its gas and electricity businesses in UK and overseas. Adjusted operating profit last year was 2.238 billion pounds.
The Chairman's statement includes the following on security: "2003 saw an unprecedented series of major blackouts in the US and continental Europe and, while each of these occurrences involved unique and specific factors, it is clear that all parties in the electricity industry can learn lessons for the reliability of supply in the future. Although on a much smaller scale, we deeply regret the two power cuts that occurred during last summer, affecting parts of South London, causing disruption to rail services, and separately parts of the West Midlands. We continue to work with Ofgem on its investigation which is expected to conclude this summer. Despite these incidents, our UK electricity reliability performance remains at world class levels - delivering 99.9997% of the energy demanded during the year."
The Chief Executive's review also mentions it has been 11 years since NG had a power cut of similar extent to that experienced in London. Its electricity transmission system in England and Wales consists of approximately 4,500 miles of overhead line, 410 miles of underground cables, and 341 substations.
The new BETTA trading arrangements (scheduled for April 2005) place NGT as designated Great Britain System Operator, which means they will operate the market for buying power for the grid in Scotland as well as in England and Wales, although NGT will own the transmission grid only in England and Wales.
The report continues to see a trend towards greater use of gas in power generation, although it notes that the UK will become a net importer of gas. That points up the message of former Energy Minister Brian Wilson (revolt news164.3) that "the real debate could be between imports and indigenous".
On EMFs the report says: "The balance of scientific evidence is against EMFs resulting in adverse health effects and, in our view, the benefits vastly outweigh any potential risk. However the perception that EMFs may do so is evident in parts of society, and we take this very seriously."
Let's examine that quote. The initial claim (the balance of evidence is against) is made as an absolute assertion, distinguished from opinion by the construction of the rest of the sentence. The quote suggests that the company is being reasonable with its qualification "in our view" applied to risk-benefit, but it also suggests surreptitiously that the first part of the sentence is unchallenged and a universal assertion. This conceals the fact that some respectable scientists take a very different view, for example the most careful and thorough study by the California DOH.
Now look at the reference to perception. It plays the "perception" card, i.e. suggesting that there is nothing real to worry about, there are a few misguided people with groundless fears and the company nevertheless takes them very seriously. The construction of the quote does this quite exquisitely, if only too obviously to those of us who are familiar with this technique of spin. The reference to "parts of society" is particularly disparaging to the competent and serious scientists who take a different view, well grounded in the scientific evidence and thoroughly reported.
The report goes on to say "We look to government and regulators to identify any precaution measures that may be necessary, as they can evaluate the science and weigh costs and benefits on behalf of society as a whole. We continue to facilitate constructive dialogue between parties that have an interest in EMFs."
That last quote would appear to refer to the stakeholder dialogue pursued in the UK through the Environment Council and potentially through the DOH. I welcome that constructive dialogue, and NGT's part in it, but it is not helped by such a misleading public statement as appears in the Annual Report.
APPENDIX 9 Ofgem critices NGC over blackouts last year.
Ofgem press release R45 of 25.6.04 describes the formal Statement on NGC's role in the blackouts in London and Birmingham last year. The Statement and a report by consultants PB Power can be obtained from <www.ofgem.gov.uk>.
Press Release headline: "Ofgem finds NGC not in breach of legal obligations but company not given clean bill of health over blackouts".
The London power cut on 28.8.03 lasted 37 minutes. The Birmingham power cut on5.9.04 lasted 42 minutes. Cuts due to transmission failure are very rare and cause widespread problems. For example, the London tube service was stopped and took a long time to resume operation. Most blackouts are local, due to faults in the lower voltage distribution system. The Press release says the national grid network in this country is between 99.9997 and 99.9999 % reliable (meaning it delivers that percentage of power demanded) and compares very well with other industrialised countries.
The blackouts occurred in the summer period when, not unusually, some parts of the system are out of action for maintenance. There is enough grid to cope with that. But then there were technical errors made which caused the failures. In the London case, an oil leak was incorrectly interpreted and a protection relay was wrongly installed. In the Birmingham case, a fault was caused by wiring being cut incorrectly and wrongly installed protection equipment then caused the system to shut down.
NGC's response includes checking all 41,000 other protection relays, some 50,000 alarm descriptions, 108 shunt reactor alarms and 560 multi- function relays (of the type incorrectly set in Birmingham). Further, procedures have been tightened and overhauled. No other faults seem to have been found.
Ofgem's proposed new incentive scheme would penalise NGC automatically in the event of similar power failures. Should similar blackouts be repeated, the scheme would penalise NGC to the order of millions of pounds.
On the face of it, Ofgem has dealt with the situation, and NGC are reported as taking reasonable measures to avoid a repetition.
Having said that, the longer term view is more worrying. Government policy is driving forward escalation of wind power, which is intrinsically intermittent as well as being remote. The result is considerable extra stress on the grid system, which will require reinforcement to the cost of some billions of pounds (ofgem's main estimate was 2 billion, but there are others). Apart from the cost to consumers, such reinforcement brings additional environmental impacts and property devaluation (with extra costs borne by the public, not in their role as consumers, but as residents unfortunate enough to be affected). Then there is the added risk to consumers of power failure, particularly because of the intermittence and rapid variability of wind power. Reports by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Civil Engineers are examples of respectable sources expressing concern.