Kathryn Porter is the founder of Watt-Logic, an energy consulting firm based in the U.K. In this podcast, Porter talks about a new report she wrote for the Global Warming Policy Foundation titled “Prospects For Nuclear Energy In the U.K.,” why Britain’s approach to nuclear has been “too slow and too timid,” how the electricity market has been “overloaded with interventions,” and why energy security has become a top issue in Britain. (Recorded November 17, 2023.)
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I'm Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I'm pleased to welcome Catherine Porter. She is a British energy consultant and the founder of what logic a energy consulting firm based in London, Catherine. Welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Kathryn Porter 0:21
Robert Bryce 0:24
Good evening. Now, I think I want to know, I didn't warn you. So guests on this podcast introduce themselves. So this is the ambush has already started. Now, I can introduce you, but on this podcast, guests introduce themselves. So imagine you've arrived somewhere you have 60 seconds or so to introduce yourself, please do so.
Kathryn Porter 0:44
Yes, well, as you said, I'm an energy consultants, I work with firms across the value chain in gas and electricity markets, primarily, whether that's on the generation side, the retail side, on assets, investment opportunities, risk management, and anything in between.
Robert Bryce 1:00
And how's business?
Kathryn Porter 1:02
It's been pretty busy, actually. And it's very varied. So one minute, I'm working on contracts for power stations or gas supply agreements, for suppliers or solar projects. And then more recently, I wrote this nuclear report that was published just a week ago. It's, yeah, it's all over the market. But very interesting. Good. Well,
Robert Bryce 1:23
that's what caught my attention. Now, I mentioned before we started recording, we have a mutual friend in Meredith Angwin, who said, who committed your work to me. But I came across you again, because of your new report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It's called prospects for nuclear energy in the UK. And in that report, I, several things jumped out. But there was one line there where you talked about Britain's approach to nuclear and you said, the approach has been, quote, too slow and too timid. Now, it's a very well written report, it's long, you really went in depth on a whole lot of different issues. I think it's 40 or 50 pages. Walk me through the key points in your report, if you don't mind, because I think the US has I look at where the US and UK are. They're both in kind of a similar situation, even though they've just recently you probably saw committed to triple nuclear energy output by 2050. So tell us the conclusions of your report, if you don't mind?
Kathryn Porter 2:21
Yeah, so I think you're right, USA and UK have been on pretty similar journeys here. And we've got two elements. One is what's happening with the existing fleet, which in both countries is aging, we've only got four of our advanced gas cooled reactors left and one pressurized water reactor, and the gap, the ADRs are all due to close by March 2028, based on the current schedule, so if that happens, we'll have only one power station running. Now roughly around 2028. We're expecting a new pressurized water reactor to open. It's at Hinkley Point. But that is EDF technology has been very troubled. It's all the projects have been delayed big cost overruns, I think it's quite likely that will be further delayed. So you really have the prospect of one power station left. And obviously at some point that has to refuel, sometimes it's going to have maintenance, in which case we'd have no nuclear on the British system. And so there's there's a huge challenge there. And in fact, some of those AGR closure dates probably are in the diary first sooner than they need to be the the approach that the regulator is taking on that sort of aging is, I think, very conservative, I think on a on a rational sort of standalone basis, when you understand the position the regulator's taking, it's hard to justify. And so there's that issue with what happens with the legacy assets. And then there's the other question about building new reactors. Now, the British government has had now for eight years, maybe a commitment to restart the nuclear program. But it's been very slow in getting anywhere. It signed the deal for Hinkley points back in 2016 2017. And that's been just slowly now going through it's you're in the construction process, it keeps getting delayed. But there's really nothing else in the pipeline. There's one other project that potentially will take fid in the next year before the next general election. That's the government's ambition, but it's a pretty sort of feeble ambition. And again, that's another European pressurized water reactor with at least a decade of build time. So I think there are other options. There were other options back in 2016 2017. They didn't have to choose this route. I am there are other technologies that can be delivered faster and I still think should be nice. I think there are there are options that we can take that will bring nuclear reactors into the market quicker.
Robert Bryce 4:49
So let's talk about that. You talked about Hinkley points are you referring there to size we'll see is that in my writes, right? Yes. So I thought that that size we'll see I thought that fid had our Have you been achieved on that? But as I read your report, maybe I'm mistaken I thought it had been approved and was underway. No,
Kathryn Porter 5:05
no, not Yes, I am there are still various approvals that need to be obtained. Um, so that hasn't been it's still an intention to
Robert Bryce 5:15
take up moving so they're not moving dirt and on sighs we'll say okay, well, I'm Miss apprehended that I thought that that was underway and was actually some good news. But so effectively, what you're telling me and I think that I know that the similar situation in the US, the UK today there are no nuclear reactors under construction.
Kathryn Porter 5:35
There is one yes, Hinkley Point is under construction.
Robert Bryce 5:37
Hinkley Point so that's not sizewell C. Forgive me I'm confused as well. C
Kathryn Porter 5:41
is the second new project that's that everyone's talking about. So Hinkley Point was approved back in 2017. That construction has started and it's expected to open. So the latest guidance from EDF was it thinks 2027 but could be September 2028. There's going to be new guidance, I think q1 Next year, but the expectation is there'll be a further slippage in that time. That's
Robert Bryce 6:07
being built by EDF. And is that the is that the European pressurized reactor? What is that design?
Kathryn Porter 6:13
That's correct. Yes, that's the European pressurized water reactor is essentially the same design that just opened in Olkiluoto a few minutes back and is also being built at flamanville. And then there are two at Tai Shan. But you can't really draw a comparison with the Chinese reactors. Because you know, that whole context is different, they can throw a lot more people into the construction process. They don't necessarily have the same health and safety rules that we do. Even before you get into sort of Nuclear Regulation. That sort of site safety isn't necessarily the same standard that we would have
Robert Bryce 6:47
to imagine one reactor then at Hinkley Point then it's two units and two units. Okay. And so what is going to be the output there to then to E PW RS then that are under construction there. That's right. Yes. So
Kathryn Porter 6:59
for three gigawatts, so the whole site,
Robert Bryce 7:01
Okay, gotcha. Well, good. Well, I'm, I've been through your report, but I get confused by the different projects. And so, so that's three gigawatts. So they're two reactors under construction. They're now none under construction. I'm counting Vogel for Vogel unit for Plant, plant, Vogel Unit Four is being done. It's not quite online
Kathryn Porter 7:20
yet. q1 next year as well, I think q1 Right,
Robert Bryce 7:23
March of 24. But so we're not moving dirt on any new projects here in the US. So we're actually and I see no foot this with no joy, the US is actually behind the UK. But so but you take Hinkley Point off of the the the board for the moment or ignore it for the moment, then there's nothing that is in the queue after
Kathryn Porter 7:42
that. Well, the slides well, but that's not committed yet. Right. So
Robert Bryce 7:47
nothing, no firm commitments on anything. And then you have the the SMR competition, which includes Rolls Royce, which I think their design is interesting. And as I look at it from wait way over here, I'm thinking well, is does Rolls Royce have the inside track on this new SMR potential in Britain or handicap that for me if you can look at the because there's been bad news here in the US on the SMR, front, new scale power had their contract that they terminated their contract with us. So there's, there's really, there are a lot of paper reactors that are pending in the US, but none that are, are actually going to be have solid contracts. The new scale project was the one that was most promising handicapped the SMR market then for me in Britain,
Kathryn Porter 8:29
well, but new scale still has the benefit, because it's also nice, and I'll see certification, which designs have yet yeah, and one of the things I argue for in my report is more cooperation between trusted country regulators. I think if the technology is good enough for the NRC, it should be good enough for the onr. And vice versa. You know, and I think that our governments should be putting their heads together to say, can we develop a shared framework for our regulations when it comes to certifying new technology, so we're not all reinventing the wheel. Obviously, site specific stuff has to be dealt with on a case by case basis. But you know, if you look at Canada, UK, France, I'm South Korea, Finland, you know, you've got you've got countries where they're building projects where they've got, you know, sensible, rational, trustworthy regulators. You know, if the Finnish regulators sign something off, are we really going to sit there and say, We don't believe any of it, we should be leveraging that work. We shouldn't all just go and reinvent the wheel. And if you look, new scale said they spent something like half a billion dollars, getting their certification, and
Robert Bryce 9:37
similar amount, six years and 500. Exactly.
Kathryn Porter 9:40
And hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation. It's, you don't want to be duplicating that in every market. And it's not efficient for anyone. So you know, apart from employing more people in the regulator, it's not efficient for anyone. So we should really be trying to streamline those processes and get some kind of a shared framework where you leverage each other's work. And so one country might take the lead on one technology and another country takes the lead on something else. And then you do a much lighter process in the other jurisdictions. And so
Robert Bryce 10:14
if I can point out you make that point in your paper you wrote it was one of your the recommendations, recommendations create a streamlined regulatory framework for new technology certification, incorporating international cooperation, certification processes, Western countries brings for the present a major barrier to the delivery of new nuclear technologies, both in terms of cost and time taken. And then you say the British government should engage with trusted countries have their nuclear regulatory regulators to develop shared certification processes, minimizing duplication across nations. So is, I've written about this, and I'm adamantly pro nuclear been adamantly pro nuclear for a long time. I put three things, the three key barriers, regulation, capital and fuel, if you are going to enforce rank those is regulation, the biggest hurdle What do you I mean, we're not trying to prompt you on that. But is, if you if you look at the hurdles for new nuclear, what what's the most, what's the biggest hurdle that you see? I
Kathryn Porter 11:09
actually think it says regulation, I think capital problem you can solve. And
Robert Bryce 11:14
with regulatory certainty, that could be so
Kathryn Porter 11:17
easy, that goes a long way towards it. But I think, you know, here in the UK, we've seen the government really messing around with different kinds of incentive schemes to get private capital into this market. without really any success. There's one project in a quarter of a century, it's not exactly sort of a dramatic success stories, though.
Robert Bryce 11:37
British understatement of this far, one project and a quarter century is not a big achievement. Okay. Well, I will stipulate Thank you. Thank you.
Kathryn Porter 11:48
Yes. With great British nuclear, which is a new entity, the government is set up to try and progress nuclear projects, they're talking about CO funding with private investors, for small modular reactors. Now, I would say go further than that, when you're looking at gigawatt scale projects, just buy them right, just as the government tender out for five new reactors, you know, go out to some like KEPCO, or someone and say, right, we want five of your APR 1400s. Here at the sites, we want to have them and, you know, give us you know, give us your best offer or whatever, and then go to, you know, Hitachi and ask them the same question for advanced boiling water reactors and just see, you know, I think if you if you had that commitment to fund, then the government shouldn't be operating and building, you know, they should be getting someone else to build it, they should be contracted out as well, they should be paying for it, then I think that one, the capital costs will be cheaper, because the government's cost of borrowing is lower than anyone else's is going to be, too, I think that provides a means of rebuilding supply chains and workforce skills that's really needed. That's been one of the hurdles that we've seen at Hinkley, three, there's a really strong chance that by the time you've gone through the construction phase, the project sufficiently de risked that you could sell some of that down anyway to private investors. And for you then proved a pipeline and a commitment that would actually provide a certain amount of comfort and de risking for new projects anyway, for the private sector. So I think that really to get the ball rolling, instead of coming with all these different incentive schemes, the government should just put its money on the table. And I don't see that that story is really different in the US, you know, not seeing that private equity is queuing up to put money into nuclear reactors there. Now, it's interesting, though, that I am seeing a different tone from from private investors now than in the past, they are starting to be asking questions about all nuclear, what's the what are the opportunities, what's, but still a bit scared of it? And it's funny, but they have these blind spots, they're scared of AI as well. And you know, my answer to that is like, you guys are risk professional. So work the problem, you know, this is just look, do a risk analysis the way you would for any other risk class. And just work the problem, forget that it's called nuclear or AI or any other scary label, just, you know, work the problem from a risk perspective. And, and I wrote a blog, actually, last week talking about this issue, I think that we have a disproportionate fear of nuclear. And I think that probably has its origins in all of those public safety campaigns in the 50s to 80s. Around You know what to do if there's a nuclear attack, right, and somebody's dropping nuclear bombs on you and you had pretty frightening public information campaigns going on there and people building nuclear shelters and all of that stuff. I think it really became embedded in people's consciousness is something to be feared. But actually, if you look at the data, I'm the most I think significant accidents ever actually was the Bhopal chemical disaster. And that had multigenerational impact. So when people think about nuclear, they worry, it'll have a multi generational impact that isn't unique to nuclear. And in fact, no nuclear disaster hasn't had anything like that impact. And only Chernobyl had any fatalities. So for nuclear radiation related fatalities, right. So this whole picture is very skewed by this, I think, unreasonable fear of nuclear ion. And so people need to kind of look at this from the true risk and get past the sort of the fear, particularly when you're talking to the investment community when that whole job is about evaluating risk and how to manage it. Yeah, no,
Robert Bryce 15:37
that will state it. I completely agree. And I visited Fukushima Daiichi earlier this year, and to be at the plant and see what happened there and but to realize there were no fatalities, they evacuated the entire prefecture for out of excessive fear of radiation. And it was a it was a huge mistake and visible now how badly that they handled that, but in retrospect, enormous mistake to move all those people out. But let's return a couple
Kathryn Porter 16:04
of people died at the plants. But that was kind of things falling on them. Like drowning? Yeah, it wasn't to do with radiation, right? And people don't really realize that.
Robert Bryce 16:14
Sure. So let's go back to what you said there, because this is one of the issues that I think is foremost as I've thought about how to turbocharge or even you know, just catalyze new nuclear in the US. And your contention is that government is just going to have to step down and it's going to government is going to have to lead here. And I have no I can't argue that at all. I think that that's exactly right. And that the the challenge is going to be making getting that political commitment from the policymakers from the from the legislators from the government, because they're loathe to do it. And you've seen this effort to deregulate the electricity market in the UK, we've seen it the same in the US. And Enron was part of that story from way back to, you know, in the in the 20, some years ago. But is it true? Can you categorically say that it's only the countries where the government is the strong leader that we're going to see new nuclear coming? Right, we see it in Russia, France, China, South Korea, where they have national champions is, I'll ask the question directly, is it? Is it essential both in the US and UK for the government to just say, we're gonna get in this, and we're gonna get into in a big way?
Kathryn Porter 17:28
I think I think it I think, Well, I think that's where we've got to, I don't think it necessarily always had to be that way. But I think that's where we've got to, I think, partly the regulatory environment, and just the excessive conservative conservatism of some of the regulation is pushing costs up to an extent that it's really hard to finance these projects, privately, and, and then the fear of regulatory change adds to that uncertainty. So I think we've kind of got to this point that we do need government intervention. But I'm not a huge fan of governments intervening in markets. And I'm not actually a huge fan of government ownership of assets in general. I prefer that to be done by the private sector. I think normally, it's more efficient. But there are some exceptions to that. We do not expect the private sector to fund physical national security. You know, we don't have privately funded armies or police forces, we see that as the job of the government. So why do we live with energy security in a different way? Is there not an argument to say that in order to ensure energy security, the government, governments can and should intervene in the energy markets to provide that security and in the context of decarbonisation, and because otherwise, we could just say, we'll all build lots of gas power stations, and they're quick and easy to build and don't cost a lot. But if we don't want to go down that road for for other reasons, those are non energy market related reasons, then, yes, you're going to need the government to step in and intervene, you cannot get to that energy security using intermittent renewables. And so countries like the US and the UK, and Germany and Netherlands and all these places that are building that energy transition, using intermittent renewables, they're going to need to do something else as well. And at the moment, the only something else that actually works is nuclear. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 19:19
I liked the way you put that, Catherine that why do we look at energy security in a different way? And I think that that's a very good way to think about it that. Now I'm going to tell you, you know, I see a lot of opposition to the government in the in the US trying to do that. But with the UK and the US just making this big pronouncement ahead of the COP meeting and Dubai and saying, Oh, well, we're going to triple nuclear output. I just given all the friction points that you lay out in your report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. I don't see that happening without a very muscular government involvement in several different layers, whether it's the fuel cycle, waste, waste fuel handling But also I think the financing that it's going to simply has to come from a more robust government intervention, more government, more robust government role, if it's going to happen at all. So I think that that's, that's a great point. A quick station break my guests. My guest is Catherine Porter. She's a British energy consultant. Her firm is called What logic you can find her at watt hyphen logic.com, she wrote a terrific report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation titled prospects for nuclear energy in the UK. And you can find that on her website, what hyphen logic.com, or on a GWP f.org. Let's talk about we talked about capital we've talked in that capital will flow if we have the right regulatory environment. What about the fuel part of it? Because as I told you, you know, I see the three key things is capital, as far as regulation, capital and fuel. And you talk about the fuel issue and what the EU said, I'm quoting from your report, Britain's quote, should accelerate research into advanced technologies, particularly in the sphere of alternative nuclear fuels to address concerns over uranium supplies. Where's Britain getting its nuclear fuel right now?
Kathryn Porter 21:10
Well, it's all been sourced by the French by EDF. And, yeah, we need to be conscious of the fact that Russia has 10% of the world's uranium supplies and about 40% of the processing capacity worldwide. So it's very difficult to cut Russia out of that supply chain. And then when you look at all the other countries that have big deposits of uranium, that are actively exploiting them, a lot of them are not in not necessarily people that you'd want to be relying on in the long term from a geopolitical perspective. So I think there are countries that that might be more stable and trusted, Australia has good deposits. But there are other alternatives. So you don't have to go down uranium. If you look back into the 50s. And 60s, the reason we went down this road was because of the interest in the plutonium cycle for military applications, we now have more than enough plutonium for all the sorts of weapons we could ever want to build. So that's not a consideration anymore. There's no, I'm imperative to stay with the uranium plutonium cycle, we could look at different things like thorium, for example. Although there are challenges around the corrosion with the cooling, but that you know, that all of those research projects should be restarted. But then the other area that really it was a great shame that was dropped in the West is fast breeder reactors. Now I think India pushing that forward quite strongly at the moment. Again, that's something that we should restart, there's a little bit of work going on. I'm in Europe, a little bit of work going on in the US. But that should be really picked up much more strongly, because that is a if that can be made to work, then it would be a game changer, really from the fuel perspective.
Robert Bryce 23:00
Well, so So the French are handling the nuclear fuel supply so far, but it seems unlikely that we're going to back out the Russians anytime soon. I think the US is getting a quarter of its enriched fuel from the Russians now, memory serves there, they have something like 46 47% of the global enriched uranium market, including for high assay low enriched uranium. So you mentioned that you mentioned Halo in your report as well. But again, this is going as I reading what you've written here, another indicator of how the government is going to have to be much more forceful in that in that part of the supply chain. Is that a fair? No, no, we're going back over some of that same ground. But it seems to me that's an obvious conclusion from your report. Do you agree?
Kathryn Porter 23:44
I do. Yes, I think that's I, it's important. And it's important that the governments that governments are taking a multi pronged approach to this. So at securing access to Uranium, securing access to the refined fuels, and then also looking at alternatives for the future. I'm so that we're looking at a long term stable supply chain, and not just looking at meeting shorter term needs. So
Robert Bryce 24:12
how is this affecting Britain today? I was in London a few weeks ago, and my sense of the vibe was there was a pretty sober feeling among the Brits that I met write about the prospects in the economy. I saw I noticed that when I was there, the the electricity demand in the third quarter fell by something like 3%, which is a bad indicator in terms of economic growth and activity. What is the sense in Britain today? And well, let me ask this question. First. You issued this report on nuclear sector, but and I've watched what Rishi Sunak has done and I want to come back and talk about him but how do you assess Britain's energy the urgency of the energy questions in Britain today? How do you assess what you know what the Tories what labour is saying? How How is Central are the energy policy questions today in Britain,
Kathryn Porter 25:04
though I think we're at, I would say something of a tipping point in a way, because as we started talking about the energy transition really around the turn of the century, and we came up with this notion that we were going to develop an awful lot of wind capacity, and that was going to be our main route to decarbonisation. And it took a long time really for that to start making a difference on the grid. But now we've got to the point where we're actually struggling to accommodate the renewables we've built, so we're having to curtail it quite a lot, because we don't have enough transmission capacity, where it's still being subsidized massively, somewhere around 10 and a half 11 billion pounds a year is being paid on on renewable subsidies, we're having to keep subsidizing. So every year we're having new subsidy rounds, the government that the last round that took place a couple of months ago, had has no bids whatsoever, zero bids for offshore wind, I am completely derailing the government's ambitions for building lots more offshore wind. So now for the next auction, they've had to increase the price. But that goes counter to the whole narrative of a declining subsidy profile. So we're starting to come to this point. And then at the same time, the war in Ukraine, and the gas crisis that that prompted forced people start thinking about energy security. So we went from the beginning of the transition, talking about the energy trilemma and needing to balance the sort of mutually competing interests of decarbonisation affordability and security of supply. But really, the focus was all on decarbonisation, security of supply and affordability are essentially taken for granted. And that worked for quite a long time because gas prices were pretty benign for an unusually long period, as we came out of COVID, because during COVID, gas supplies globally had actually been cut back more than demand. And that demand recovered much faster, coming out of COVID in the back of tooth 2021 than supply did that really pushed up prices, we essentially had a pretty tight global gas market in that period that made gas a lot more expensive. And then, you know, we were still digesting that situation when Russia invaded Ukraine, and disrupted the entire gas supply picture in Europe. So that suddenly really concentrated people's minds on affordability and security of supply. And in fact, something I've been saying ever since I started writing my blog about seven years ago, is that you can talk about decarbonisation as much as you want. But actually, when push comes to shove, the thing you care the most about is energy security. And that's the thing that you will pay the most for. Because as soon as it really realistically starts to be at risk, it will go to the top of the priority list and you will do almost anything to ensure energy security, you will run whatever you have available. And we've seen that so in India over the summer, for example, they couldn't shovel coal in their power stations quickly enough in order to run that AC. Right. You know, they weren't sitting there worrying about climate change. They're just like, we've got a cool, we've got to call, you know, more coal, more coal. So it's and I think that's just true everywhere. If you've got it, you'll run it to avoid blackouts, and you're not really going to care what it is.
Robert Bryce 28:26
Right. So I call that by the way, interject the iron law of electricity when when forced to choose between blackouts and you know, burning people will I put it this way people will do whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need. Right, you know that they're not going to sit in the dark. I've seen it myself. And I think the India situation is clearly that the Germany burnt burning more lignite. Another example of this, that this is just the reality. Yeah. And
Kathryn Porter 28:49
I point out to people that if you had blackouts here in Britain in the winter, I'm in the evening, you would almost certainly have fatalities, because we're just, we're just not set up for it. You'd have traffic accidents, you'd have accidents in the home, your elderly people falling down stairs and things like that, you know, we're just, we're just not geared up for it. And then people say, Oh, yes. But in Nigeria, they have rolling blackouts. And like you can't compare the two, you know, we're not accustomed to rolling blackouts. And we
Robert Bryce 29:18
want to be we don't want to be Nigeria. Yeah,
Kathryn Porter 29:20
there's that too, you know, nothing against Nigeria. But it's, you know, over time, yes, of course, we could adapt, but that, you know, we can people will die in the meantime, you know, that isn't that wouldn't be without consequences. And the other thing is that energy expense, expensive energy also results in deaths, between six and 8000 people every year on average in the UK die as a result of fuel poverty. And this is because they can't heat the homes. And they used to come to fatal respiratory illnesses. And that's a pretty shocking statistic for a developed country. If you make energy more expensive, which is actually what a lot of environmentalists want, then you harm people. All right. And I always come back to this, like, Why do you care? I care about climate action. You care because you worry that climate change can harm lives and livelihoods. So it's a pretty incoherent thing to do to actually go and deliberately harm people's lives and livelihoods in order through expensive or unreliable energy, in order to avoid potential harms from climate change. There was no, there's no logical consistency to that.
Robert Bryce 30:26
That's a, that's a really good point. So you're gonna the there's a long term concern, and it's long term may be you know, in a year or two may, you know, may be effective now, but people will die in the near term like soon in the next few months, if your expensive energy policies go through, will then while you worry about something that may happen in the in the years ahead. So I think that's a that's a that's a good point. But six to 8000 in the UK alone, because I saw the economist headline that estimated there was something like 60,000 in Europe, died last year because of energy poverty, and because of the cold. So I mean, these are both
Kathryn Porter 31:00
I lost, I was talking in an average year. I haven't seen the numbers for last winter, I would expect it to be higher. We actually had literal hypothermia deaths last year, at least one I know off because the inquest was quite well publicized. It's unusual for people to die from hypothermia in Britain, because we don't typically have cold enough weather for that. You know, when people say dying for as a result of the cold in Britain, that doesn't mean they, you know, froze to death from exposure outside, it means that they couldn't heat their homes and they contracted a fatal respiratory illness.
Robert Bryce 31:36
But what about So what about the energy bills in general in Britain, this is another thing that when I was in London, I had met a guy who was at the conference at the Alliance for responsible citizenship. And he told me, his his energy bill has more than doubled his electricity and gas bill. He lives in London, he said, I'm in a one bedroom flat in London, and I'm paying 350 pounds a month. Is that common? Is that Is that does that sound right to you?
Kathryn Porter 32:02
Unfortunately, yes. And the other downside is there's a lot of flats and modern flats have a particularly expensive form of electric heating. And electricity is more expensive than gas. So they kind of, they get sort of shafted in both ways. But fundamentally, if you look at what the bills are, you've had a big impact with gas prices increasing, and that's increased the wholesale component of bills. But over the past few decades, we've had a huge impact on bills with subsidy costs. And also with network costs. There's been two effects on network costs from the energy transition. One is that you've got to build more network capacity to connect up all of these renewables that are being built. But also now because you're introducing intermittency onto your supply side, as well as the demand side is a lot harder and more expensive to balance the system in real time. So we've seen our balancing costs go up by billions of pounds a year. And of course, in addition, because we've got so many renewables, now, we're also having to subsidize a conventional generation, because their utilization rates have fallen to a point that it's not necessarily economic for them to stay in the market. So they're also now being subsidized. So almost everything on the generation side is receiving or has received a subsidy, pretty much solar now is the exception. But a lot of the solar projects that are actually existing had a subsidy at some point. But so new solar projects don't get a subsidy. But that's pretty much it. Everything else generally has or is entitled to or has received at some point a subsidy. And it's actually also destroyed market liquidity, it's now very difficult to offload risk in the market. And this comes back to this whole question of getting private investments into the sector. Unless you have a subsidy of one form or another, you pretty much can't get a new build projects over the line. Because there's no way of de risking these projects, absent government support. The the UK power market never was particularly liquid. But now because of the subsidy mechanisms, and the CFT. In particular, the government's effectively the buyer of electricity is essentially providing a hedge to the market. It's removed the need for liquidity. And then on the other side, you have a retail price cap for domestic consumers, which is forcing suppliers into a roll month or rolling three month hedging strategy, which also obviously destroys term liquidity. So pretty much the only people interested in term liquidity or industrial consumers, and you know, and they don't have a particularly long horizon. And with high prices, a lot of them were just going on rolling one month anyway. So liquidity in the market has been absolutely destroyed.
Robert Bryce 34:44
If I can interrupt that, so you mentioned CFD, that's contract for difference is what So, if you don't mind, just give us a brief rundown of what you mean when you're talking about that because, you know, well as you know, electricity markets are incredibly complicated and as you've laid this out, What I repeat back to what you what I heard you say was, you have all these subsidies that are being in that are distorting the market. And then because of those distortions, you have then subsidies from the government to the generators to stay online, so they don't shut down because otherwise they're not economic. So you have all of these different factors coming into the marketplace that are making it, essentially not a market unless the government, it's not a market. It's a government controlled system that's getting complexified more and more, is that a fair way to think about it?
Kathryn Porter 35:33
It is, and you can say, well, I don't know that I've used complexified before.
Robert Bryce 35:41
You know what I'm talking about. I
Kathryn Porter 35:43
mean, if you go back to the late 1980s, the UK actually led the world in privatizing its gas and electricity markets. We had a very famous marketing campaign called, if you see said, tell him when for the IPO of British Gas in 1986. And it actually revolutionized retail equity investments in this country, suddenly, millions of people are literally queued up to buy these shares when British Gas had its IPO. So before that, we had a centrally planned market. But actually the market was centrally planned. The central Electricity Generating board sat there thinking about what was the demand going to be what what power stations did we need? Now, it didn't do a particularly good job in the sense that it's incentives drove it to overbuilding capacity. But it was you know, that was a choice that they had this whole framework they were looking at, they wanted to, you know, they knew the look at the demand, they looked at what generation was available, I had some my view on the coal market. And you know, they built power stations. And we had lots of security of supply too much, in fact, but now we're having the government's planning stuff, but in notic, is not in a coherent way. They're making all these market interventions which is destroyed the markets aspect of the market. But we don't have the benefit of the planning part. It's the worst of both worlds. It's there's the market overloaded with interventions, but there is no overarching guiding hand, that's making sure that actually, we can meet demand at all times. Everyone's just keeping their fingers crossed, that that will happen. There's no There's no plan for it. And nobody's in charge or responsible for energy security. And so it's what
Robert Bryce 37:39
you're saying is Kevin, I'm sorry to interrupt, but it's almost like you're talking about Texas. The market overloaded with interventions, and what did we just have here in Texas, we had a statewide ballot initiative to fund the building of new natural gas fired power plants to help balance the ERCOT grid. And I'm thinking we'll wait, what,
Kathryn Porter 38:04
but there's one really, really big difference between Britain and Texas. And that's that our planners have decided, the policymakers and our system, operator National Grid, have decided that our route to energy security isn't build more power stations, it's have interconnection. And so they've connected us with France, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, there's a new interconnection with Denmark that's opening. Now, they think that this gives us security supply. And it's a standard sort of portfolio diversification arguments. The problem is, in the same way this in financial markets, you might talk about dynamic conditional correlation. And you saw this with the failure when Lehman, the failure of Lehman failure happened, that otherwise very uncorrelated assets all suddenly lost value at the same time, their price all suddenly became correlated. And the reason for that was nothing to do with the assets themselves. It was due to the need by the owners of those assets to liquidate their positions and have cash, right. And so effectively, you had this, where we're what looked to begin with like diversified portfolios, suddenly, were not diversified at all, because of dynamic conditional correlation. And actually, you get the same effect in the energy market. If you're connected with a bunch of places, and you're going to connect with the places that are nearest to you. If they're near to you, they probably have similar weather to you. If they also have the same generation mix that you do and that generation mix relies on the weather, then guess what, you're all going to be long or short at the same time. So you're not actually diversified. We have two markets that we linked to that that are genuinely different to US, France and Norway, but the French market is essentially depending on a very old asset base. And we've seen two instances in six years where If they had to take large amounts of their capacity offline because of systemic concerns, and with an ageing asset base, where you have lots of the same types of assets, that's going to be a risk that will not go away until they refresh the asset base.
Robert Bryce 40:16
And you're talking about France's nuclear fleet Rio, yes,
Kathryn Porter 40:19
and that's a decade's long conversation, because they only maybe have a handful of different reactor types. Sure, they identify a problem with one and then the regulator, ASN pretty much says, Okay, now you have to inspect all of the reactors in that class to make sure they don't have the same problem. And that means you have to take them offline to do the inspection. So even that process of inspections, removes a lot of capacity. And then chances are, because a lot of these questions can be age related, and they all have the same design, then all of those assets in that class will then have to undergo a period of remediation. Right. And we've had that twice in six years. So you know, an ASN has even said it expects it to happen again. Now, it's not saying that because it knows of any specific issues, so my understanding anyway, but it's just stands to reason. Then in Norway, Norway, obviously has a very different mix. It's primarily hydro. But last year, they had 20 year lows on their reservoir levels. And the Norwegian government introduced legislation to allow it to restrict exports in order to protect domestic suppliers. Now, lots of people said, oh, no, but that's not allowed and international trade agreements will actually it is but I'm because most trade agreements will allow you to restrict exports if you have a domestic shortage. But they explicitly legislated for this. Other countries, their system operators were saying privately, we don't care about the rules, if we have a shortage, forget about us exporting. Sure. And, and that's what you'd expect. So really, if you're going to connect your markets or other markets that look like your markets, and they're close by and likely to experience the same conditions. And you know, Texas has recently experienced a wind drought across most of the state. We had that in Europe last summer, across most of Northwest Europe, we had a high pressure system brought a heatwave, there's about six weeks for most of that six weeks, we had almost no wind output. And that wasn't just in Britain, it was all across northern Europe. So that actually brings some really interesting questions around how capacity markets work. Because capacity markets work on an assumption that your thermal assets will do maintenance in the summer. But if your summer might end up being stressed as well as winter, then you're going to have a real challenge. And of course, if you're if you're unavailable when there's a system stress event, you have a penalty. So my expectation is that we'll start seeing capacity prices increasing to compensate for that risk.
Robert Bryce 42:45
Well, if I could jump in here for a minute, because one of the as you're talking about this, it reminds me we've mentioned our mutual friend, Meredith Angwin. Before and she calls this a fatal trifecta, which is over reliance on renewables over reliance on just in time gas for generation, and then over reliance on imports. But if you're renewables and your imports don't work, right, and your your point about, you know, interconnection is, is is an important one. And I like this idea, that dynamic conditional correlation term I've never heard before. But yeah, but if you're you can't rely on and Meritus just says if the chips are down, you cannot rely on imports, because they're going to take care of their own needs first. And then you have the renewables go out. And then if you have problems with with with natural gas, well, then there's your fatal part of the trifecta. So it just, it's interesting as you talk about that, because I'm thinking, well, this is what we're seeing here in the US in California, in Texas with these ideas around deregulated markets where it and the value, I mean, going back to what we talked, you talked about, oh, we're privatizing the electricity business. And this is what Margaret Thatcher did. And this is what rained here in the US with with Enron, back in the late 90s. But it goes back to the is, is it better? Well, let me ask the questions. And I've talked for a minute. Should the electricity market electricity is different? It's not a commodity, I think I think it's a service. Right. But it has, but if we sell it like a commodity, should we go back to a more centrally planned planning system for electricity? I mean, we've talked about this with nuclear. How do you favor that? Do you favor a more robust government hand on the nuclear side? But is it going to be needed with these market overloaded with interventions? Which seems like we're there already,
Kathryn Porter 44:35
are we not? Well, so we're kind of moving there in the back through the back door, but actually, in a really, really poor way. So my first preference is I prefer free markets, right? I'm a natural sort of free market ear. I think markets will deliver better than then governments will in general, and
Robert Bryce 44:55
I sense a big but coming here.
Kathryn Porter 44:58
You have to let the market be free. If you're going to say you're a free market, but then you wrap it in red tape and stick it in jail effectively and put balls in front of it and barriers and hurdles, then it's not free anymore. And what we have now, and and this is also true in the US, the markets are distorted to an extent that they're not free, and therefore, they can't deliver the outcomes that a free market would be expected to deliver, because it's just not free. And so I think that if you're going to have a huge level of intervention in a market, then you really need to rethink whether you want to have a market. Because you're, you're basically just lying to yourselves and everyone else that it's a market because it's not because you keep intervening in it, and you're distorting it, and you're never going to get it right. Because the whole time, you're kidding yourself that you're not, you're not actually planning it, you sort of lurching from one intervention to the next. And there's no overarching strategy, or you have a strategy, but you can't deliver it because you're trying to rely on the market and the market won't do it. So the capacity market here was designed to bring in to keep thermal generation on the system, but also to get more thermal generation. When the government expected that combined cycle gas turbines would be built because of the capacity market. And almost non word, I think we've maybe had two and the first one was actually took fit before it got a capacity contract. So so that didn't require the capacity contract to get its project finance. So why is this the why so the government had its ambition more CCGs. But that wasn't delivered, why wasn't it delivered? Two reasons. One, the amount of capacity bream being procured was consistently too low, because National Grid was setting capacity targets. And it basically thinks the market is longer than it is. And I think we're going to get a squeeze because those chickens will come home to roost, they're starting to roost already, in the next few years. And as we move through this decade, we're getting to the point where our only option to guarantee security of supply is to build more gas power stations, because they can be built quickly and at scale. Right. But
Robert Bryce 47:12
the price is going to be a problem there. Because the you're you're going to have high price gas for a long time. And if I can just quickly and if I can quickly intervene because you used a couple of for, I know a lot of my listeners would know know these acronyms you're using but fid is final investment decision and CCGs combined cycle gas turbines, right. So just your your I know you know what you're talking about. But I'm just going to slow down and make sure everyone's coming along with us. So
Kathryn Porter 47:38
we had here was we got no almost no combined cycle gas turbines, what we ended up with were a lot of small open cycle gas turbines and diesel engines and gas engines. And the reason for that is that the way the capacity market works is it really favored things that had a low startup cost, right. And so these simpler turbines have a cheaper, it's cheaper to ramp them up. But then once they're running, they are less efficient, right. But in the capacity markets that ramping is a more important components of the economics. And so the government had in mind, we want more big power stations, and we won't combine cycle because it has a better energy efficiency. And so you have fewer emissions for the same amount of megawatt hours. But they got set up, but they because of E rules. They couldn't they couldn't show technology favoritism, it had to be technology neutral. And so they designed this market to be technology neutral. And the economics didn't work to give them what they wanted. So they ended up with a whole load of stuff they didn't want. And in the end, they had to introduce environmental legislation to limit to the operation of these diesel engines. So it's like the government wanted combined cycle gas turbines when instead of just you know, building reminds us that Oh, asking somebody to build them or whatever it creates in this capacity markets. It set up some rules, the rules didn't it didn't live what they wanted. So then they went and got some new rules in a different parts of the economy to try and you know, make.
Robert Bryce 49:10
It's like, it sounds like it sounds like it sounds like it sounds like California to what's happened there right where the government has announced oh, we're going to build more gas turbines because the grid is unreliable, even though there's a stated policy of encouraging renewables. But just to be clear, what you're one of the things that what I've heard, what I think I heard you say was that they got a lot of these fast ramping assets of generation capacity. And the reason that they were built was because they had lower capital costs, right that take They not only could they rent more quickly diesel gensets and open cycle gas gas engines whether they were reciprocating or turbines, but they could be built quickly at lower cost. They may be more polluting or not as thermally efficient, but they got built, but part of that reason was the lower capital commitment. Is that Is that a fair assumption? It's
Kathryn Porter 49:56
a lower capital commitment because it's a smaller plant. Okay. IANA pounds per megawatts. But you're not going to build a 10 megawatt CCD combined cycle gas turbine. If you can build an 800 megawatts combined cycle gas turbine, you'd be, we did actually get a couple of really big open cycle turbines, you know, a few, they were two, I think there's something like 350 megawatt units, but that's pretty unusual. Most of the stuff was kind of fixed 50 megawatts. But, but in the end, you know, you got it, it was, it was inefficient from an emissions perspective. But it was also an emission from inefficient from a capital perspective, although that was spread around lots of different people. And in terms of your bang for your buck, it was, you know, from a generation perspective, it wasn't as good. So if you were going to plan, the markets, and the government had the ambition, more large combined cycle gas turbines, and tried to set up a scenario where that would happen, it failed, then it brought in other interventions. So my point is that I prefer to have a free market. But if you're going to start intervening to that degree, you may as well just go back to planning, because then at least you can plan directly and directly control the outcome that you get, would
Robert Bryce 51:15
ultimately be the next headline. And that would ultimately be more efficient, both from a capital standpoint, from the rate payer standpoint, from the fuel standpoint, from the emission standpoint, that was so let me ask this question. I hinted I mentioned this before, is electricity a commodity or service?
Kathryn Porter 51:33
Oh, that's, that's a good question. I mean, there's a debate here around whether energy as a service should emerge as a thing, if you like. And I think that it can. So if we look at the other end of the spectrum, the retail market, I advocate quite strongly for the retailers in this country to be regulated by the financial regulator, rather than the energy regulator, partly because I don't think the energy regulator is doing a very good job. And it has a huge remit. And essentially, the energy regulator was originally set up to regulate a conventional regulated utility that's earning at all RPI plus X type of return. And the retailer's don't they they earn, they earn their returns and their income, just like any other type of retail, like a shop or something, right. So and in fact, because the retailers don't engage in anything physical is literally an artificial construct. Because a little bit like a telephone operator. So if you've got a mobile phone contract, so that mobile phone provider doesn't own the telephone infrastructure, it just kind of rents the ability to me, you know, have the phone calls over it? Well, this is, this is analogous to that. So our retailers, they don't own any wires or pipes. They just do some accounting effectively, to make sure that when they receive gas and electricity over those pipes and wires, they pay for it. But they don't deal with the actual physical delivery. And so, and they take and so the main thing that they do is they take money off people, because we spread the cost that typically people pay the same amount every month, but they don't consume the same amount every month. So you build up a big credit balance in the summer when your consumption is lower, and then you pay less than you consume in the winter. And this is really reflecting the fact that most people, their wages are the same every month. So if their energy bills were really variable on a seasonal basis, then it might, it'll be harder for people to manage their finances. perfectly sensible and rational reason for doing this. But a lot of suppliers they started to, and so we called retailers, suppliers. That's our jargon here in the UK, they started to use those credit balances that were building up in the summer for working capital. And then they went bankrupt, and then taking a
Robert Bryce 53:56
bunch of them with a bunch of them went bust in the early days, right after the Russian invasion, right. I mean, it was
Kathryn Porter 54:02
just actually before, as we had that, as we had that market imbalance created by COVID. That's actually so the autumn of 2021, most of them failed. And so and so now off to Mr. Energy regulators, introducing prudential regulation into the energy retail sector. But we have a Prudential Financial regulator already the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Prudential regulatory authority, they are the regulators that regulate the banking sector. This activity looks a lot like retail banking, you take somebody's money, you hold it on deposit, and if they want it back, you have to give it back to them.
Robert Bryce 54:43
Okay, so But back to the question, is it a service or a commodity?
Kathryn Porter 54:46
Well, so it's it's a commodity in one sense, but I don't believe it's commoditized. So we have this we have this huge I'm concern and the regulators had this big concern about price discrimination, and whether you should have price discrimination in a commoditized market. And I argue that you can because you have, you have differentiation around service levels. So, some people will be willing to pay for a private banking style service where you pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated account manager, who will sort out your problems on a personal way. Instead of if you don't have private banking, you have to just go through the regular call center and wait for four hours to some for some, you know, some guy in like India to answer the phone, and you know what I mean. So that's, that's kind of, you can, you can differentiate on that basis. But then as you start, as more people start having flexible energy assets in their homes, you can start to look at, again, phone style arrangements, when you buy a mobile phone handset, you have an option to go on a contract where the value of that handset is amortized over normally two years with a phone contract. And so you pay a fixed monthly amount, which covers partly this, the cost of the handset, and partly the usage of data and all the rest of it, and you'll have a certain amount of data that's included in the package. And then when you go beyond that, you pay a unit unit additional fee. You could do the same with energy assets, you know, if you're the government wants a lot of people to install heat pumps, you could the supplier could provide the heat pump, amortize that over, say five or 10 years. And the householder has a contract that combines the the assets, the heat pump along with the supply of electricity to run it. And then so instead of having a big upfront capital cost, it gets smoothed out over time,
Robert Bryce 56:51
right. And there is there's your energy as a service, then you've got exactly you've gotten with an asset inside your home, and you're paying a subscription fee effectively for that. So that that looks more like a service, but
Kathryn Porter 57:04
then also with Time Of Use tariffs. So if you have an electric car, and so on, then if you allow the this the the energy provider to optimize the charging of that, to provide a service back to the grid, then you can get paid for that as well. And that's, you know, they can aggregate these across different households in different portfolios. So with heat pumps as well, you can turn off your heat pump during the highest demand hours and not effectively turn off your heating for an hour or two before you feel cold because the thermal property of your building will maintain the temperature. So that so that's a surface, right, because most people are not going to do that themselves. Right? Now you've got someone providing you in an optimization service on your energy assets and your energy needs. And you say, my comfort, My desire is I maintain a comfort level of 20 degrees Celsius in my home, and you just do what's in that, you know, between these hours, and you just, you haven't.
Robert Bryce 58:04
So it's a closer a closer relationship between the customer and that provider than that. And that would be the put it under the rubric of more of closer to banking. So I see where you're going with that. But let's move on, if you don't mind. And again, my guest is Catherine Porter. She's an energy consultant and independent energy consultant. She's based in the UK she wrote a great report called prospects for nuclear energy in the UK. And I say great, because I think it's a very sober look. And I think it's a very honest look at the challenges facing nuclear. I think we're both I'm speaking for you here, Catherine. We're both pro nuclear, but we both recognize the challenges ahead. That report you can find on the Global Warming Policy Foundation's website gwpf.org. And you can find Catherine at what hyphen logic.com. So just a couple of other quick questions here because we're coming up on an hour. And I want to honor your time and also keep these podcasts right about an hour. Let me ask you this question very directly what the hell with Rishi Sunak and fracking? What the hell Catherine? He's a Tory. He supposedly would be sober about energy. He replaces Liz truss who said we're going to repeal the ban on fracking. Sunak is a Tory as well. He comes into the office and repeals the will says oh no, we don't want to do fracking. If Britain is going to be sober and serious about its energy future, you're gonna have to produce more oil and gas what what the hell with Rishi Sunak and fracking?
Kathryn Porter 59:33
Okay. So slightly in his defense, the government is doing is trying to produce more oil and gas. They don't belong in the North Sea. Right? Well, exactly in the North Sea. And so I disagree with the position on fracking. I think we should be exploring fracking as an option, but it's not a guarantee. So we have not yet done the work. To know that we have commercially viable shale resources in Britain. Now I think we should be doing the work and lose trust wanted to. And then Rishi Sunak reverse that decision. That was a political choice I don't. So I didn't see Rishi Sunak really has a strong ideology one way or another. He's never really expressed any strong views or positions on anything within the energy sector. I think this was a political calculation, that he felt more people opposed to the idea of shale gas than supported it. And given that he has lots of different battles to deal with, he felt that wasn't a battle he wanted to fight. So that's why I think he made that choice. And we've seen other politically motivated choices as well. More recently, he's softened the requirements for stopping production of conventional cars and push back on the boiler replacement. Right. So there's, as people are becoming more concerned with the costs of the energy transition, he's pushing those costs out further into the future effectively. Now, he's discovered and I think the expert by election, so I'm not sure if you're familiar with this, but in we had a situation in London where a member of parliament had stepped down, and there was a there was an elected local election to replace that Member of Parliament, and that was in the Oxbridge constituency. And the Labour Party had been expected to do very well, in all of these, there have been a number of these interim elections if you like. And the Conservative Party is actually pretty unpopular at the moment. It's trailing in the polls. And so normally, you would expect labour to do pretty well. And London is more labour leaning than anything else. We have a labour mayor in London, for example. Right. So the seats had been a conservative seat, and it was expected to turn labour in this by election. Now, the Labour Mayor of London has introduced a congestion charging Well, there is a congestion charging mechanism. And there is a emissions charging mechanism in London. And they were both covering generally just the centre of London. And in the last few months, he's expanded that congestion charging zone to be more or less the most broad geographic definition of London that you could have. So it's actually captures a lot of really pretty rural and semi rural areas where public transport links are very low. And so now people are paying 12 pounds 50 a day to drive their cars. In those areas. If you're driving to work, if you're in nursing and night shift, you have to pay it twice, because you're going to pay it over the one day on the next. Wow. So people this is a significant cost for people. And that by election happened just shortly before this expansion occurred. And it's extremely unpopular in London, it's caused a huge amount of political tension. And in fact, the Labour Party itself has distanced itself from the mayor's actions. Other cities that were planning to bring in similar charges have put those plans on ice. The expansion has gone ahead in in London, but there's all sorts of issues local councils are, you know, refusing to put up signage which undermines the ability of the mayor's office to actually charge people because you can't charge people if they don't know about the charges. There's a huge amount of vandalism going on with the cameras that are detecting people entering the zone. People have been going round reporting. So some of the people started using mobile detection vans. And people have been reporting these vans for illegally parking. So then the vans are getting charged penalties. I mean, it's created a huge amount of stress and tension. And the Labour Party did not win that by election. expecting to so
Robert Bryce 1:03:50
a miniature yellow vest, miniature yellow vest movement in one minute
Kathryn Porter 1:03:54
effectively. Yeah, and it's sort of polite a version if you like. But it's so and the Labour Party did not win that by election. Right. And so that sends a really strong message that the public has a limit in what it's going to accept when it comes to the cost and inconvenience of climate related policies. And the congestion, the emissions charge expansion in London was really a step too far. And on the back of that we've seen the Conservative government taking a more a softer and more pragmatic view on energy policy to try and mitigate those cost concerns. And actually, it's so it's one way of opening up some difference between itself and labor. Yeah, I think that, you know, most people would read the next election, which is probably going to happen in the next year, that labor will win, and that we would be expected to be by a large margin. We've now had a Conservative government for 13 years. It's getting tired, and it's not usual. you really go with one party for much longer than that in this country anyway, there are two issues, I think that could change that. One is this energy issue. And the other one is, I think on times, where, you know, you've seen the Labour Party really struggling to like, and define what a woman is. And that plays badly to a lot of the electorate. And a lot of people that would normally be labour voters don't really want to get into that whole thing. They want to talk about the economy and energy and all the rest of it. That's not a core issue for them. And so the more it looks like a core issue for the Labour Party, the more that can threaten their potential success at the polls. So if the Conservatives can kind of secure and make a big difference between themselves and labour on those two issues, that actually does open up a route for them to win the next election. It's still a long shot. But I think that's what's driving some of these policy changes that we've been seeing.
Robert Bryce 1:05:53
So woke ism in general and woke ism on energy, to put it to paraphrase I guess, another way to think about it? Yeah,
Kathryn Porter 1:06:00
I think so. But on the energy side, it's because it's directly converting into higher costs and higher inconvenience for people. So it's not so much of an ideology, it's more of a direct impact. But
Robert Bryce 1:06:16
this is the this is the trend all across Europe, too. I mean, the issues around higher costs, you know, their impact on based on consumers. And, you know, I see I've seen it all over across Europe, just by the leaders backpedaling as fast as they can on a lot of this climate related stuff.
Kathryn Porter 1:06:31
ties in with election cycles. So because we're coming towards the general election, then you start it starts to matter more, because if you can make that, that space between you and your rivals, and really give people a clear choice, then you know, that's an election strategy that obviously you're not going to do a midterm, for example.
Robert Bryce 1:06:50
Sure. So last two questions, Katherine. And this has been great fun, you know, obviously, a very conversion and all these issues and like you obviously care a lot about them. So my last two questions, what are you reading? What are the on your books book stack? What is it the top of the stack of books that you're things that you're reading?
Kathryn Porter 1:07:09
So I'm just between books, because I spent the whole of this week reading deal contracts. But I just finished a really good book about Wayfinding. And how people navigate, which is absolutely fascinating actually looking at the the cultural aspects, how different cultures have navigated through time, you know, when before you had maps even. And now how the differences between people's innate ability to navigate
Robert Bryce 1:07:36
because that was a common thing
Kathryn Porter 1:07:39
is called Wayfinding. And that was really interesting. I can, I can send you the details on email later, if you like. And then I next on my list that I haven't started yet is a book called The Bone chests, which so I live in Winchester, and they have these chests of bones in Winchester cathedral. They didn't really know what was in them. And, you know, not long ago, so they opened the boxes and started looking at these bones to find out what they were. And this book is about that. So I'm going to be quite interested to find out more in
Robert Bryce 1:08:15
what's it called again, this one, this book, the bone chests, the bone chests, so I found it, I think it's called Wayfinding. The science and mystery of how humans navigate the world by Mr. O'Connor. Okay, published in 2019. Good, well, so last question, Catherine. What gives you hope?
Kathryn Porter 1:08:33
Oh, well, I'm kind of an optimist. So lots of things give me hope. Yeah, I don't think there's any one specific thing I generally think that problems have solutions. And that with enough, you know, smart people and goodwill, you can find those solutions.
Robert Bryce 1:08:51
Well, I agree with and that will be a good place to stop then. My guest has been Catherine Porter. You can find more about her at watt hyphen logic.com. And check out her report a very sober report on nuclear energy in the UK called prospects for nuclear energy in the UK. It's on her website, but also on GWP f.org. Catherine has been a pleasure. Thanks for coming on the power hungry podcast.
Kathryn Porter 1:09:16
Robert Bryce 1:09:17
you. And all of you out there in podcast land tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. It might be as good as this one. But you're gonna have to take your chances until then. See you