Auntie Beeb is not what she was

The BBC seems to be in decline.

Here is an edited copy of an email I sent to a very good friend of
mine about a recent article on the BBC web site:
Heat pumps extract warmth from ice cold water.

Almost the first thing the article says is that Drammen is 40 miles
west of Oslo.

This makes me a little disinclined to take the article seriously. For
a start Drammen is slightly less than 40 kilometre from Oslo and the
direction from Oslo is roughly west by south west. 40 miles due west
of Oslo is in the middle of nowhere and there is no road. Nearest
town is Prestfoss about 10km away through the woods then by road it’s
over a hundred kilometre to Oslo.

It used to be that if the BBC said something then I just believed it.

And it gets worse. The article claims that the price of electricity
here is a penny per kWhr. While this is strictly true, in fact today
it is even less, in January I paid a total of NOK 2100 for 2579 kWhr
or NOK 0.81 per kWhr which is 7 pence today. My latest bill is NOK
863 for 1329 kWhr or NOK 0.64 per kWhr or fivepence.

The difference is of course because the price of electricity in Norway
varies wildly depending on the time of year and the water level in the
lakes. However to the basic price one must add the cost of
transporting that electricity. Here I can buy the electricity itself
from anywhere in the country but I always have to pay the local
company rent for the cables and pylons plus a per kWhr charge for
transport plus tax, etc. In fact right now the cost of transport is
higher than the cost of production.

So, much of the article is what they call here ‘en sannhet med
modifikasjoner’, a partial truth.

And then there is a paragraph about using gas boilers to heat water.
Well, there is no mains gas here so most people who use gas must buy
propane in 11kg canisters like I do for cooking. Now that’s fine for
cooking and one lasts five months but it costs NOK 200 and has a
calorific value of about 200 kWhr so it would not be a sensible
proposition for water heating even in the winter. I presume that the
author meant it to apply to the UK and some witless sub editor chopped
the article incompetently.

And then we have the suggestion that the Thames could heat half a
million homes with 1.25GW. That’s 2.5kW per home. That’s insane,
there is no way a properly insulated house in the south of England can
need an average of 2.5 kW to keep it warm, not even if you include
water heating. My total energy budget here is about 24MWhr per year
(18 from electricity plus 6 from paraffin) which is about 2.7kW
average for a house that is 40% bigger than the average for the UK and
where this January the night time temperatures were down to -15C
(unusually warm). And you have to remember that about 800W in this
house is the base load because of all the computers that are running
winter and summer.

Everyone should read David McKay’s Sustainable Energy – without the
hot air http://www.withouthotair.com/Electronic.html . He has some
pithy remarks on the subject of ground and water source heat pumps in
densely populated areas such as the UK. Perhaps I should declare an
interest, I provided one of the ebook versions that you can download
to read on a mobile :-).

One could say a lot more about the article (mostly negative) and the
district heating system it purports to describe (mostly positive) but
I think that’s enough ranting for now.

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