In today’s issue:

  • Energy shortages are on the menu
  • Time to make a big prediction?
  • Did blackouts give us Thatcher?

One year ago, Bloomberg published the strangest article. It reported delightful news: “South Africa is ahead of its target for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.”


If they can do it, so can we!

But then came the titbit of detail you might’ve guessed at:

Regular breakdowns of the coal-fired power plants that supply more than 80% of South Africa’s electricity mean that less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere and daily rotational cuts of more than 10 hours a day are further limiting emissions from factories.

In other words, “South Africa Beats Climate Goal as Blackouts Slash Emissions.”

You can imagine what fun social media had with that!

But recent news has put our cackling and sniggering back where it belongs. After all, aren’t our own leaders pursuing emission-cutting targets too? Isn’t our energy transition far from being on track too?

Then are we next to experience blackouts to reach emission targets?

It’s not so funny anymore…

Not when a German government minister suggested banning driving on the weekend to reach emissions targets.

Not when combustion engine car sales were going to be phased out over emissions targets.

Not when the FIRES group of universities pointed out that net zero would mean no more flights and no more meat.

Not when the National Grid is working with customers to cut electricity usage at peak demand times. It calls the program The Demand Flexibility Service. I’m calling it DeFex for short.

Not when the head of a German power company declares the German economy will never fully recover from the energy crisis of the last few years.

Not when the Texan electricity regulator is warning of “a catastrophic failure” due to the fragility of the flawed electricity storage systems needed to make renewables viable.

And not when Texan’s power prices surge almost 100-fold because of unusually warm weather – precisely the prediction that caused them to pursue the renewables which have made their grid so vulnerable.

Not when 15-minute cities enforced by fines are on the agenda at Davos.

Not when a German town is already calling a halt to all electrification projects because the local grid can’t handle it. And when a government minister declares, “This is just the beginning.”

Not when, as the Express reports, “British Gas and E.On bosses call for ‘progressive social tariff’ on energy bills.” Not to mention forcing every household to have a smart meter. Not to mention the disastrous consequences for those who have the all-too-common faulty ones.

Not when we’re on the cusp of “time of day charging” in the UK in order to cut our energy usage when it can’t be met by renewables.

Not when we know such tariffs failed to change consumer behaviour in Canada. Which implies our energy demand won’t be induced to fall at peak times by higher prices when renewables can’t keep up.

Not when the German government’s Court of Auditors is warning the country’s electricity supply is not secured.

Suddenly, we’re throwing bricks from glass houses. It’s not funny to laugh at South Africa reaching emissions goals by blackouts.

We might be next.

Time to make a big call?

Yesterday we looked into a startling prediction I made in January 2019. It was about immigration. How it would surge and what that would trigger in response.

Today, I’m on the cusp of making another alarming prediction. This time about blackouts. But first, it’s time to ask you…

What would blackouts do to UK politics?

If we experience frequent brownouts, blackouts, energy rationing, energy bill price spikes, or any combination of the above, how will this change things in the UK?

How would voters and political parties respond?

Did the blackouts of the early 70s, the three-day work week, and energy rationing give us Thatcher?

History is certainly rhyming. Green jobs are touted as though using a lot of your workforce to produce electricity is a good thing. Inflation is high. Power supplies are insecure. There’s talk of a four-day work week while we got a three-day in the 70s.

Energy rationing is here under DeFex, although voluntary for now. We recently had a UK government debt crisis. Government is trying to keep a lid on wages. There’s been geopolitical trouble in oil markets leading to higher oil prices. The Bank of England’s attempts to stop inflation are half-hearted.

Backouts are one of the few things missing from all this. Are we going to get them?

And if you’re in a more optimistic mood, consider this instead. Was Thatcher’s victory over the coal miners the key moment of political sea change in the country?

Are blackouts precisely the wakeup call Britain needs, again?

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I’m trying to figure out what to expect from a future without reliable electricity. The first order effects are fairly obvious. We would hit our emissions targets a lot faster, for example. If the grid goes down, nobody can use fossil fuels from coal power stations.

But what would the response be to such a crisis?

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom