Don’t stress the grid

While Prof Nigel Brandon is considering the big issues in a pro-active, scientific manner his comments that we can afford losses in our energy transmission, provided the energy was low carbon, are interesting.


While Prof Nigel Brandon is considering the big issues in a pro-active, scientific manner his comments (Interview, 12 January ) that we can afford losses in our energy transmission, provided the energy was low carbon, are interesting. I would not support this view if wasted via the National Grid.

This is not efficient by any standard and local grid networks would not be able to support the energy required to heat every home. The National Grid is vulnerable to inclement weather.

Gas is hugely efficient if burnt in condensing boilers. The gas network is already in place to serve large centres of population and robust. Even if the source is not carbon-neutral, it can be used very efficiently.

What about injecting some ‘clean’ hydrogen into the mix? The cost of converting gas burners in the home to a greener gas mix would be more efficient than adding storage heaters.

A noted problem with renewable energy is intermittent supply. A problem with hydrogen is storage.

We should have put a barrage across the Severn years ago. Do it now but use to it to make hydrogen, inject it into the existing gas network as an enrichment gas to store the energy.

Now the efficiency argument makes more sense — losses creating hydrogen from an abundant source are valid if the subsequent use is efficient and does not mothball an entire infrastructure of gas supply and boilers. Use local combined heat and power (sterling engine) boilers and the argument has more weight.

Multiple local, small-scale renewable electricity supplies and efficiency savings, where appropriate backed up by an efficient gas supply, would be my transition method. Surplus local energy supply is dumped into car batteries or water tanks, not necessarily the National Grid.

Dare I even suggest burning more coal and wood in modern solid fuel stoves — 80 per cent plus efficient at point of use, soot-free burning, existing supply base, more efficient than burning the same coal in a power station, passing it down the National Grid and using it in a storage heater.

Please let us not put more load on the National Grid for gross heating.

Andrew Codd, senior design engineer (robotics)
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk