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Freedom from Inept Civil Servants

Comment 6th July 2010

Freedom from inept Civil Servants – employ good Launch Managers – like AMEC plc.

Freedom from Electricity Blackouts – write clear and concise White papers. Freedom from a worsened Rail Network – start again with trains for electrification.

The Future is bleak. The DTI (or the BERR) published a White Paper in 2007 “Meeting the Energy Challenge” in which all they did was frighten everybody off investing at all, because they would not risk investment or prediction themselves. The White Paper said that we are due to lose 22.5GW of electricity generation through shut-downs of capacity by 2020, and details in para 5.1.13 that a new 25 GW of capacity is needed to be operating by 2020, and a further 10GW by 2030.

I am advised that electricity power supplies will fail in winter in five years time and we will be subject to blackouts and because these will be widespread, it may be that phone lines will also be dead. Thus crime might proliferate, and contact with the Police might be impossible. Traffic lights will not work, so accidents may occur. My freedom to enjoy the opera or the cinema, to contribute to discussion in a town hall, or even just to survive in the cold – you need electricity to open your gas or oil valve, and to light the flame on your central heating. Thus, while this is not a Law freedom, it does affect freedom in other ways, and for the future too.

This Energy White Paper presented 91 pages of waffle in Section 5.1 (Electricity Generation – Investment Framework) of the White Paper, with only one chart – showing minimal renewables growth over the last ten years and no chart at all about the predictable future. The whole section talks endlessly about the need to invest, and the support that investors need over resource prices, and that electricity market prices affect the future, but nothing is said about those prices or investment returns, presumably because there is risk in every prediction and the Government was avoiding commitment itself.

White Papers need to be brought up to Industry Standards – they need clear charts and just a few pages of clear and concise text. It took me a while to construct my simplified Investment Chart described in the Appendix below, because I had to find the data (there was nothing in the totally inadequate Energy White Paper where it should have been of course), and it was easiest to collate and draw it for nuclear power, but its concept is equally applicable to every other Project that anybody is asked to invest in. It is time the Government reduced costs by reviewing White Paper Strategy influencing as they do Law and Policy, and to start by planning for the Country clearly enough. Why is this type of clear Investment Chart NEVER in any UK Government White Paper for any Energy Source, whether coal, gas, oil, fission, wave or wind power?

The cost of a White paper is not just in the paper produced, nor in the investigation and writing time taken by the authors, but primarily in the way it would affect Government Policy for the future. The lack of a credible Energy Policy so far will be extremely expensive in the long run.

To maintain this different sort of personal freedom, we may even have to repeal the Emissions Laws which dictate that we shut down coal fired power stations before they are economically ineffective. And extend the life of any other Power Generation essential to avoiding blackouts.

In “A Review of the Intercity Express Programme” by Sir Andrew Foster published in June 2010, his Conclusion says – “At the end of the earlier section on value for money I asked why a programme which has passed its technical VfM tests is regarded so negatively. I have suggested that there are three types of reason for this: first there are unresolved technical questions, secondly it is not clear that all the potentially viable alternatives to IEP have been adequately assessed, and thirdly there are some issues around DfT’s management approach and its engagement and communication with the railway industry. In short, there is a good deal about the programme as it stands that is unresolved, unproven, uncertain and carries risk. I suggest a pause for reflection and a fresh, detailed VfM analysis including credible alternatives to IEP. This period of reflection should also encompass the wider questions I have raised about aspects of management and overall strategy, and the evolution of a fully fit-for-purpose delivery approach. It should be framed by aims and objectives appropriate to the current fiscal context.”

Lord Tombs carried out a survey of the civil service a couple of years ago, and he found that there were very few professional engineers employed, and none at the highest level. No wonder the Energy and Transport White Papers/Policies are so poorly conceived.

Just how much more expensive can Government make their job? Clearly, to write a White Paper badly can cost a fortune in misinforming Policy, and in delaying the introduction of solutions.

There is therefore a need to sack many senior Civil Servants (those who have overseen such dreadful White Paper and policy shortfalls, and who obviously have no technology understanding at all – how could they possibly have been sycophants to Ministers if they were qualified?), and to recruit more competent qualified people. This is now very much a Technological World, and you must recruit Technologists to understand and control appropriate inputs from Industry. I use the word Technology in its widest sense, so you need big engineers to talk to big engineering industry, in several disciplines. Electrical Engineers for electrical power distribution, Mechanical Engineers for generating that power, and Civil Engineers for building big projects. You do not need Scientists, except for Scientific projects, and Electrical Power Supply is Engineering not Science.

The Civil Servants Government employed in 2007 constructing and writing Energy White Papers were clearly not Engineers. If you saw last night's BBC2 programme "How to Build a Jumbo Jet Engine" for example, you will know how competent Big Industry has become – I think you should ask them to help you reconstruct big chunks of the Civil Service, and thus reduce your costs enormously. It is not just waste you need to tackle, but ability and competence, thus to achieve low cost over the life of a Project.

Importantly, costs hugely escalate if you have to correct thinking later on (eg. correcting already built parts) or to launch something in an emergency, so get it right first time, in time, and right at the start. This has not happened in Government Energy or Transport Policy so far.

I would suggest that you ask AMEC plc to help you start again.

Simplified Investment Chart

The chart helped me to understand why Investment in Energy of any sort is so slow – the returns shown are simply not good enough in comparison with other investments.

I find the "Your Freedom" website will not allow me to add the chart – so I describe it here – the vertical axis is minus six to plus 10 billion pounds, the horizontal axis is zero to twenty five years.
There is a bottom line running from zero pounds at zero years to minus two billion at eight years, which is the build cost investment line. This line continues at a slightly different slope indicating the continuing running cost to about minus six billion at twenty five years.
From the minus two billion eight year point, there is an income (from the consumer) line, rising to plus three billion at twenty five years, and a doubled income line rising from that minus two billion at eight years to plus ten billion at twenty five years. The cruncher is the FTSE 100 Investment Line which rises from zero pounds at zero years to ten billion at twenty five years, based upon investing the 2 billion cost of the Project in other averaged FTSE 100 Stock. Only a DOUBLED income approaches that return.

Why is this type of clear Investment Chart NEVER in any UK Government White Paper for any Energy Source, whether coal, gas, oil, fission, wave or wind power? A few percent change in the data would not make any difference to the conclusions.

Why does this matter?

Why is this type of clear Investment Chart NEVER in any UK Government White Paper for any Energy or Transport Source, whether coal, gas, oil, fission, wave or wind power? A few percent change in the data would not make any difference to the conclusions.

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