Utility Week

Utility Week 8th February 2019

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Community Pushing the boundaries It was a certain Mr Michael Gove who infamously declared that we'd "had enough of experts". That's not an attitude Disconnector can endorse. Firmly embedded in the world of utilities, the great man knows that expertise is pretty much a prerequisite for a seat at the table. Opinion can only get you so far when you're dealing with high voltages or combustible gases. That said, sometimes the eggheads really don't help themselves. Take those boys down at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT as it is more commonly known. You have to be one of the chosen few in the brains department to study at MIT. You have to be o- the scale to get a job there. So what's the latest inven- tion to emerge from the Depart- ment of Mechanical Engineer- ing there? You guessed it, a robot that plays Jenga. Who would have thought it would be easier to build a com- puter that could beat a grand- master at chess than to build a robot to beat a child at Jenga, but apparently that is indeed the case. The robot needs accu- rate tactile feedback in order to choose the right brick, and the technology required for that is super cutting edge. But in case you think the best brains in the world are wasting their talents on frip- peries, fear not, dear reader. Professor Alberto Rodriguez explains: "Playing the game of Jenga requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces. "It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks." So, then: cyborg slaves or terminator overlords? It all depends on whether you're a glass-half-empty sort of guy. Whichever you choose, though, we're one step closer to it. When the wind blows – or not While the robots are getting cleverer, we seem to be intent on getting dumber. Or so it seems in the counter-factual new world order. Last week Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson railed against a Democrat initiative to phase out fossil fuels, with the headline-grabbing claim that wind generation is a "scam", just "an elaborate rip-o- perpetrated on rural America". "How the hell is wind going to heat your home when it's 30 below?" he thundered. This news would have puz- zled any Alaskans watching, especially those who could glance out their windows to observe the many wind turbines that pepper the state. Regardless, Tucker declared it was "liberals" who were ignoring science in the pursuit of politics. He o- ered no hard evidence to support the wind- doesn't-blow-when-it's-cold theorem, but hell, when you know you're right, you know you're right. Right? Secrets and lies The campaign against wind power by sections of the media in this country is more subtle than the one run by Fox News, but not by much. The Sunday Telegraph recently ran an exclusive story – later picked up by the Daily Mail – revealing "secret plans" to line the route of HS2 with wind turbines, which would make the rail link the "most expensive in the world" and entail more land appropriation. If you're wondering why the story didn't get wider coverage, it's because it's not true. The people building HS2 are looking at signing supply deals with existing windfarms along the route – if the price is competitive. They're not in the business of building new ones. As for those "secret plans", they were published under a Freedom of Information request. Last June. So not that secret either. Disconnector Publishing director, Utilities: Ellen Bennett, t: 01342 332084, e: ellenbennett@fav-house.com; Acting editor: Suzanne Heneghan, t: 01342 332106, e: suzanneheneghan@fav-house.com Acting content director: Denise Chevin, 01342 332087, denisechevin@fav-house.com; Deputy editor: Jane Gray (maternity leave); Features editor: Lois Vallely, t: 01342 332080, e: loisvallely@fav-house.com; News editor: Katey Pigden, t: 01342 332082, e: kateypigden@ fav-house.com; Energy correspondent: Tom Grimwood, t: 01342 332061, e: tomgrimwood@ fav-house.com; Policy correspondent: David Blackman, e: davidblackman@fav-house.com; Reporter: Adam John, t: 01342 332069, e: adamjohn@fav-house.com; Production editor: Paul Newton, t: 01342 332085, e: paulnewton@fav-house.com; Business development manager: Ben Hammond, e: benhammond@fav-house.com. t: 01342 332116; Business development executive: Sarah Wood, e: sarahwood@ fav-house.com. t: 01342 332117 Conference sponsorship manager: Sophie Abbott, t: 01342 332062, e: sophieabbott@ fav-house.com; General enquiries: 01342 332000; Membership enquiries: Peter Bissell, t: 01342 332057, e: peterbissell@fav-house.com. ISSN: 1356-5532. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Offi ce. 2,500 Average circulation Jan–Dec 2018 Membership subscriptions: UK £769+VAT per year. Overseas £781 per year. Contact Peter Bissell on: 01342 332057 Utility Week is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK's magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors' Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards and want to make a complaint please contact the publishing director, Ellen Bennett, at ellenbennett@fav-house.com. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors' Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit www.ipso.co.uk UTILITY WEEK | 8TH - 14TH FEBRUARY 2019 | 31 William Marchant @richonlyinname Story of the day has got to be the claims that Swansea lagoon could possibly now go ahead on a fully merchant basis. Given the off the chart insanity of the subsidised package it previously wanted, that's quite the turnaround. Richard Nourse @RichardHCNourse Interesting if it can now compete with other renewables at around £40 infl ating per MWh. Why did it need such a big – and long – CfD? Richard Howard @UKenergywonk I'd be fascinated to know how the numbers stack up with a PPA instead of a CfD. Is there now a direct wire element to local end users? Some optimisation of grid connection with the fl oating solar? Welsh Government investment? Or simply driving down costs? Thomas Edwards @NotionalGrid And Swansea Bay would need rock-solid counterparties to get the fi nance necessary to build on the back of a PPA. Iain Turner @IainTurner5 UK beats second carbon budget by 383m tonnes – nearly a year's worth of emissions across a fi ve-year budget. David Richardson @David_AB_Rich Virgin Media planning on using street cabinets for #EV #chargepoints. Another good example of using existing street furniture for the electric vehicle transition. Rebecca Long-Bailey @RLong_Bailey Today Npower cuts 900 jobs. Last week Our Power went into admin. Yet energy bills are expected to rise £100 this year. The energy supply market is failing, and households and energy workers are picking up the tab. Rebecca Willis @Bankfi eldbecky Something the @LowCarbonHub has done consistently – and I love them for it – is to link the positive amazingness of community energy with the need to end reliance on, and investment in, fossil fuels. Exactly the right message and strategy. Top Tweets

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