Producing lots of electricity – the components

To make lots of electricity, each plan uses some amount of onshore and off-
shore wind; some solar photovoltaics; possibly some solar power bought
from countries with deserts; waste incineration (including refuse and agri-
cultural waste); hydroelectricity (the same amount as we get today); perhaps
wave power; tidal barrages, tidal lagoons, and tidal stream power;
perhaps nuclear power; and perhaps some “clean fossil fuel,” that is, coal
burnt in power stations that do carbon capture and storage. Each plan
aims for a total electricity production of 50 kWh/d/p on average – I got
this figure by rounding up the 48 kWh/d/p of average demand, allowing
for some loss in the distribution network.

Some of the plans that follow will import power from other countries.
For comparison, it may be helpful to know how much of our current
power is imported today. The answer is that, in 2006, the UK imported
28 kWh/d/p of fuel – 23% of its primary consumption. These imports are
dominated by coal (18 kWh/d/p), crude oil (5 kWh/d/p), and natural gas
(6 kWh/d/p). Nuclear fuel (uranium) is not usually counted as an import
since it’s easily stored.

In all five plans I will assume that we scale up municipal waste in-
cineration so that almost all waste that can’t usefully be recycled is in-
cinerated rather than landfilled. Incinerating 1 kg per day per person
of waste yields roughly 0.5 kWh/d per person of electricity. I’ll assume
that a similar amount of agricultural waste is also incinerated, yielding
0.6 kWh/d/p. Incinerating this waste requires roughly 3 GW of waste-to-
energy capacity, a ten-fold increase over the incinerating power stations of
2008 (figure 27.2). London (7 million people) would have twelve 30-MW
waste-to-energy plants like the SELCHP plant in South London (see p 287).
Birmingham (1 million people) would have two of them. Every town of
200 000 people would have a 10 MW waste-to-energy plant. Any fears
that waste incineration at this scale would be difficult, dirty, or dangerous
should be allayed by figure 27.3, which shows that many countries in Europe
incinerate far more waste per person than the UK; these incineration-loving
countries include Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands,
and Switzerland – not usually nations associated with hygiene problems!
One good side-effect of this waste incineration plan is that it eliminates
future methane emissions from landfill sites.

In all five plans, hydroelectricity contributes 0.2 kWh/d/p, the same as

Electric vehicles are used as a dynamically-adjustable load on the elec-
tricity network. The average power required to charge the electric vehicles
is 45 GW (18 kWh/d/p). So fluctuations in renewables such as solar and
wind can be balanced by turning up and down this load, as long as the
fluctuations are not too big or lengthy. Daily swings in electricity demand
are going to be bigger than they are today because of the replacement of

Figure 27.2. Waste-to-energy facilities in Britain. The line shows the average power production assuming 1 kg of waste → 0.5 kWh of electricity.