In today’s issue:

  • Could treadmills power the UK?
  • Nuclear versus hydrogen
  • Dreaming of 1.5 copper mines per year

It’s been a busy week for the reader mailbox. Hydrogen, copper, nuclear power and more featured. Some of you could be newsletter writers…

This reader has an inspired idea sure to be adopted by Whitehall. One step at a time towards the folly of net zero…


If this grand project cannot be achieved, and those monkeys and interested parties come to realise the whole thing is a total folly, perhaps the requirement for the copper that is yet to be extracted from mother earth in the quantities required would be undermined (fun, isn’t it?)?

The investment case for going long on copper evaporates.

After all, if folk like Bojo and Dave (aided and abetted by a bright and breezy civil service) can push through specious wind farms, solar arrays and HS2, the solution will come from some unexpected inspiration… Now then, I wonder… treadmills!

Treadmills in every home thereby saving the NHS and sending a message out to the world that Blighty still innovates. Also, don’t forget this jewel of inspiration isn’t nuclear!! 😊

What a mess


Speaking of nuclear, it has a competitor:

Hi Nick

I’m all in favour of using nuclear energy, which I think was the hidden message in your article. But I think you are wrong to say the renewable intermittency cannot be solved.

Germany has the capability to store enough natural gas equivalent to 255 TWh of electricity. There is absolutely nothing to stop the UK building an equivalent volume, or bigger, to store hydrogen. On a volumetric basis methane contains about 3 times as much energy as hydrogen so that volume of hydrogen could generate about 85 TWh of electricity.

The UK uses a total of 266 TWh of electricity per year so that volume of hydrogen could provide 116 days total consumption of electricity. Do you have any evidence that the maximum time that no electricity at all is generated by renewables is longer than 116 days? 

In reality, I doubt if renewable energy generation ever falls to zero. It just drops below the demand level. In that case hydrogen could fill in a much bigger gap than 116 days. The solution, therefore, is:

  1. Build wind farms to a scale that exceeds maximum demand by some factor.
  2. At each windfarm instal a hydrogen generator with a feed to the hydrogen storage system.
  3. Install a local automated control system that provides as much electricity as the grid demands if it can. If it can generate more it switches the excess to the hydrogen generator. If it cannot provide the demand it signals that back to the grid.
  4. Convert existing natural gas fired electricity generators to run on hydrogen and feed them from the hydrogen storage system.
  5. If possible the grid satisfies all its demand directly from wind generators. If the generators fall short it supplements it by switching in the gas fired generators.

Overall, such a system is totally sustainable indefinitely. All the energy is effectively solar energy, extracted from the wind. The hydrogen generators split water into hydrogen and oxygen and the gas fired electricity generators recombine hydrogen and oxygen into water so this is completely cyclic. 

There is no fuel cost of any sort, just maintenance of the various parts of the system. It makes maximum use of existing infrastructure such as gas fired generators and the natural gas distribution system. It may be more cost effective to scale up such a system so it can generate far more hydrogen than is needed to run gas fired generators and use it to run home heating system boilers and possibly large scale transport.

I don’t have enough information to predict what the scaling factor would need to be in item 1 above. A similar, but not identical, system is already operational in Orkney. In that case they have scaled the wind generators so that it always satisfies their electricity demand even on calm days so they don’t use gas fired generators. Instead the hydrogen produced is used to heat the school.

If sufficient solar panel generators together with suitable battery storage, e.g sodium-ion batteries, were to be installed on the roofs of peoples’ homes, shops, factories etc, then I think that could reduce the overall demand on the grid, making the wind solution above more viable, and/or also possibly compensating for the increase in demand that electrical transport implies. It would also reduce the variability in the demand on the grid as the local battery storage would smooth that out, at least to some extent.

No new technology is needed to implement the above scheme although work would be needed on scaling up the equipment used and improving efficiency, but that is pretty normal in any new large scale engineering project.



W, you need to see this opportunity.

Hi Nick,

I keep hearing the same thing about the grid upgrades that the Govt just didn’t see coming. I don’t believe this, at all. They would have been told all this from the beginning. So I am of the belief that they just do what always happens; they kicked the can down the road. It’s decades away. Someone else’s issue.

That is why Labour sold our nuclear reactor fleet to the French, to annoy the pro-nuclear Conservatives. Though it was good news to read today that the UK is going to build a facility to produce HALEU for our next-gen SMR fleet. Let’s just hope Labour don’t sell them all to the French too!

As for, ‘Of course, none of this is politically popular enough to survive an election. Which implies sudden change is coming. The question is, in which direction? I would point to the polls. Labour are promising to go after net-zero at all costs by 2050 and they are ahead in the polls. They are even promising to ban domestically produced hydrocarbons. Unless new licences are given out consistently we will run out by around 2030.

The UK still gets circa 72% of its entire energy from hydrocarbons, which means we will need to import at least this much energy soon. How’s that for energy security?

This is actually quite worrying as Labour are still first and foremost pro-wind turbine. More specifically this time, floating wind. How much damage will this do to our energy security, again?

Last time they put the North Sea into managed decline, sold our nuclear reactor fleet, said we didn’t need nuclear so didn’t bother building anything new and turned us from being net energy exporters to net energy importers. Can’t wait to see what nonsense they come up with this time and how much long term damage it does to us.



I’m more worried about repeating the other “last time”. The one when Britain faced blackouts, energy rationing and the three-day work week.

That’s because we haven’t built the grid needed to make renewables look viable. This reader picks up on that story…

Good morning, Nick,

Actually, goodness knows what time it is with you, if this gets routed direct to you? I should probably wish you sweet dreams.

Dreams seems rather an apposite word to use because, the deeper one mines the topic of grids, the greater seems to be the whole – the extent encompassed by the word ‘grid’.

Also, unless one is using the word ‘grid’ in the ‘whole’, i.e., pretty much every issue, it requires the use of the indefinite and not definite article…

This note is address as much to James, Eoin and John as it is to you (and honourable mention to Dominic F) because you have all had a hand in analysing the concept of ‘going electric’.

I watched a podcast/vid involving Teo Dechev over the weekend, which reinforces the issue you have already covered. A lot of copper will be required. Her conclusion is that 1.5 mines need to be opened per annum for the foreseeable future.

I’m afraid that I can’t help grinning a little. What a wonderful opportunity.

But it isn’t going to happen, is it? She pointed out that, let alone the chances of opening the mines in friendly territories where there is a sympathetic approach to the development of mines, there’s an equally if not more important issue: expertise. There are more geologists retiring than there are new ones joining up at a time when there should be more mines being developed than at any time in human history. The irony of humanity.

As both James and you outlined, there is a bottleneck. Your article states that $600bn needs to be spent per annum in order to meet the requirements of a complete upgrade to worldwide grid system. Is that figure an inflation/resources available adjusted figure or a rather speculative ‘finger in the air’ we hope figure?

If, and we know she’s got to be right, Dechev’s prediction is demand for copper ore outstrips supply, what is the actual cost going to be?

She isn’t interested in the downstream side of things: the industrial infrastructure to produce the copper cabling. I suspect that, as far as she is concerned, aside from an understandable focus on the mining industry and its own inherent bottlenecks, she probably takes the attitude that, if sufficient mines are made to be opened, the effort to move mountains will be easily complimented by a much smaller effort to convert smelted copper into millions of miles of wire.

I ask, therefore, whether any figure can be put on the cost of bringing on an upgraded grid? I suspect that the estimate of USD600bn is wide of the mark because the problems presented with delivering unimaginable miles of copper is actually an infinite cost – it isn’t calculable. Putting a figure on it is misleading.

Given the delusional folk who play at leading most Western countries, we will witness continued boisterous energy being expended, morphing into superficially plausible excuses for ever greater taxation in order to solve energy crisis; this need is naturally reshaped into a ‘war’ on Energy Needs.

I’d like to suggest that the figure put forward of $600bn isn’t the cost of creating a modern grid system, it’s the money frittered away in an attempt to get there. I remind you (giggling as I do) of Thurrock; a meaningful percentage of the $600bn and that’s just one country. 😊 I laugh uncontrollably. Then I realise that I should be weeping.

I wish you joy in inspiration, insight and writing,

The editorial team have been discussing the copper theme heavily. It’s weirdly ironic to see the copper price surging just when the energy transition is falling apart.

Perhaps the markets see something coming?

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom