Amy Suarez


Grid On The Skids

The UK national grid is in danger of total collapse during national emergencies according to government tests carried out to prepare for a national emergency.

Meanwhile some of the UK’s biggest power firms have been caught out ripping off households by over half a billion pounds by gaming National Grid’s systems. The power regulator Ofgem has been shown up as hopelessly out of touch in both cases.

Alarming gaps in the UK’s ability to cope with a national power outage included “inconsistencies” in plans to manage impacts across society.

Government analysis of last year’s “war game” trial — named Mighty Oak — found “different levels in the readiness to respond to an outage” both locally and nationally.

Now, a second nationwide three-day Mighty Oak exercise has been ordered, beginning next week, involving hundreds of participants across the country.

A report said: “The aim is to fully test . . . the impacts this catastrophic risk would cause were it to occur.”

The Cabinet Office will be involved in meetings to deal with the staged crisis.

The war-gamer civil servants involved cannot use mobiles or online communication.

The tests comes amid growing fears over security of energy supply.

Documents warn in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” sectors including food, water supply and energy could be “severely disrupted” for up to a week. Sources say the exercises have taken on a new urgency since the war in Ukraine.

Vitol VPI, Uniper and SSE have been manipulating the electricity market by saying they will power down their generators at peak times, only to then demand a much higher price from the Grid to keep running.

It is claimed that a trio of Britain’s biggest energy firms are gaming the National Grid to rip off customers
Energy supplies are most under pressure in the evenings. The Grid sends out requests to power firms for more electricity when its supplies are under pressure and offers a higher payment to generators to step in to the gap.

But some have been announcing they will switch off, often with just a few hours’ notice ahead of the peak times.

Then they earn four times as much by switching back on just hours later to meet the Grid’s anticipated shortfalls.

The grid had to pay £42million on just one cold day last November to traders using their off-on technique.

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John Berger of Sunnova on Bloomberg TV

Judge halts Sunnova bid to power new homes off-grid

A California regulatory judge preliminarily rejected a move by Sunnova Energy, one of America’s biggest rooftop-solar companies, to serve as a micro-utility to new residential communities in the state.  The company was trying to use an obscure law relating to a 1920s ski resort to force its way into the highly regulated electricity Utility business.

A formal rejection would be a blow to residential solar and battery providers that have begun eating into the customer base of California’s big three privately-owned utilities — PG&E Corp., Edison International and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric. All three have fought to protect their territories as new technologies have eroded their monopolies.

Texas-based Sunnova, in September submitted an application to the California Public Utilities Commission to build and operate microgrids as part of new master-planned residential communities. But an administrative law judge said in a proposed decision issued Tuesday that Sunnova had failed to provide the information required for a so-called certificate of public convenience and necessity.

Sunnova is one of the biggest US corporations at the forefront of the struggle for more rights for off-grid energy producers.  It supplies solar rooftops under a variety of innovative financing arrangements, allowing property owners to install now and pay later.

Extreme weather and higher electricity prices are leading American households to bolt a record number of solar panels to their rooftops, loosening ties to the power grid and the utilities that run it. About 5.3 gigawatts of residential solar power capacity were installed in 2022, the biggest year for new installations and roughly equivalent to total rooftop solar capacity nationwide in 2015, the US Energy Information Administration has said. Installations jumped about 40 per cent year on year with about 180,000 US homes adding systems in the second quarter, according to data compiled by consultancy Wood Mackenzie. Home electricity prices rose only 7.5 per cent in 2022 – compared to much steeper rises in Europe,  and 4.3 per cent in 2021.

Rates have climbed largely because of higher prices for natural gas used to fuel power plants. “You’re going to continue to see some pretty big increases in monopoly utility bills over the next few months and quarters and we’re seeing growth because of that,” said John Berger, chief executive of Sunnova.

Berger said the utilities were defending a “Soviet-style” system that prevents competition in the power sector because they worry that the growth of home solar will eat into their market. “Consumers don’t have choices. They don’t get to choose their power provider, and I think they should be able to and I think more and more people are demanding that,” he said.

Executives and analysts also point to the numerous storms, heatwaves and fires across the country that have exposed deep vulnerabilities in the reliability of power grids across the US. Hurricane Ian last month knocked out power to 2.6mn customers in …

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Compound for sale – because the kids aren’t interested

In Michigan, a Home surrounded by serenity and nature is for sale because the long-time owner is getting old and his kids want the Internet not the wilderness.

The four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is completely off-grid but ironically the price of $6.3 MILLION includes the rights to income from 48 natural gas and oil wells spread around the property.

Henry B. Joy IV grew up on this 2,000-acre property in Atlanta, Mich., in the northern part of the state’s lower peninsula.

Joy, 52, returned to the idyllic nature retreat in 1994. Joy’s parents moved the family there full-time in the 1970s, he said. His grandfather purchased in the 1940s for between $35,000 and $45,000, according to Mr. Joy. He recalls a childhood centered on nature and learning to appreciate the outdoors. ‘Life wasn’t about going to the mall,’ he said. ‘All we had was a Kmart 35 miles away.’

The family has used some of the income from oil and gas to pay for roughly $2.5 million in improvements and additions to multiple structures on the property, and land maintenance over the past 40 years, Joy said.

The 4,000 square-foot main house is the centerpiece, surrounded by multiple additional buildings including a boat house, a horse barn, a woodworking shop and a log cabin on a private lake.

The property is on the market with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. KoenigRubloff Realty Group has the listing.

Joy, who is in the film industry, has a primary residence in Harbor Springs, Mich., and primarily uses the house as a place to spend time off-the-grid with his family. ‘One of the coolest things was teaching them how to fish and how to clean a fish,’ he said.

The property encompasses about 20 miles of roads, and has hosted events for the American Rally Association, according to Joy, who used to drive rally cars.

Joy is looking to sell as his children get older. They’re no longer as interested in spending time in the wilderness – without internet – to do the work necessary to maintain the land, he said. ‘I can’t do it all myself,’ he said.

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Stars of “America Unplugged” are modern MacGyvers

Building a tiny homeRyan Lapinski always wanted to be MacGyver, the TV character solving problems with a bit of candle wax and a plastic bag.

“I watched that show religiously … that pretty much got me interested in outdoors. Blame it all on MacGyver, I guess,” he said.

The 26 June show in the new series “America Unplugged,” on the Sportsman Channel, will feature. Lapinski and his wife, Adda Lamon, as they build an off-grid home in East Brady, Pennsylvania.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I just preferred camping over being in a structure,” said Lapinski, 38, a native of the South. (“Pick a Southern state and chances are, I’ve lived there for a little bit.”)

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Shop the bunker

prepperposhThe Spectator newspaper reports that an architect who usually designs Manhattan skyscrapers was recently asked to pitch for a far more interesting project. The client, a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, wanted him to design a family house in upstate New York with a difference. It wouldn’t just be completely ‘off the grid’, with its own power and water supplies, but — and there isn’t yet an architectural term for this — it would be post-apocalypse. The conventional house would be mirrored below ground with pretty much identical living quarters that would be completely secure and so self-contained that there would be facilities to hydroponically grow plants and vegetables without soil.

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Solar Flares set to strike Friday

Three solar flares in the past 48 hours let forth a giant spray of particles from Earth’s sun. There is a risk that the particles will KO a large number of the planet’s satellites and communication systems.

A ‘coronal mass ejection’ (CME), a huge cloud of irradiated particles and a magnetic shockwave, could strike on Friday.
The flares already caused brief disruptions to high frequency communications, such as radio broadcasts and aircraft communications, disrupting military radio and aircraft control towers.

The X-grade solar flares were on Tuesday morning at 7.42am and 8.52am – X being the most powerful kind of solar flare – and a third X-class flare early yesterday.

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British Gas owned by Centrica gives staff bonuses for ripping off old people

British Gas customer ripoffs – more info

British Gas workers who doubled bills ‘were treated like celebrities and given free helicopter rides for ripping off customers’ say Whistleblowers.

Those producing high profits went to Monaco and Rome. Other rewards included 3D TVs, laptops, theatre tickets and Playstations

Energy regulator Ofgem has said it will investigate after Daily Mail exposé. Last month it emerged staff have monthly targets to bring in £120k profits.

The rewards included luxury all-expenses paid trips including limousine and helicopter rides, whistleblowers claimed.
Employees who made the highest profits by ensuring customers were sold the most expensive deals possible were sent on holidays to places such as Monaco, Rome and Iceland.

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Willand Devin couple win court battle - go off the grid

Devon smallholders win right to build home

A young family has won the right to live off the grid on their smallholding after a battle to get planning permission.

Dinah and Stig Mason were refused permission to build a house on the four-acre site in Willand, classified as open countryside.

Changes to planning laws mean the Masons can now convert an old barn on the site.

Mrs Mason said: “We’re ecstatic. We can finally live the life that we choose.”

We are going to have to spend a lot more money, but we have got our dream”

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More Brown-outs coming soon say boffins

Electrical blackouts that cause disruption to millions are a looming threat to society, argue Hugh Byrd and Steve Matthewman

Hugh Byrd is a professor of architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK. Steve Matthewman is an associate professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. This is adapted from their paper in the journal Social Space:

ON 14 August 2003, the north-eastern US and Ontario, Canada, were crippled by an enormous electrical blackout that affected 50 million people. Commuters struggled to get to work, ATMs failed, 36 car manufacturing plants were closed and hundreds of flights were cancelled, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in economic losses. The cause was later found to be a software bug in a control room in Ohio.

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China’s housing crash may topple global economy soon

So now we know what China’s biggest property developer really thinks about the Chinese housing boom and its consequences for the rest of the economy.
A leaked recording of a dinner speech by Vanke Group’s vice-chairman Mao Daqing more or less confirms what the bears have been saying for months. It is a dangerous bubble, and already deflating. In the year when China’s economy was set to overtake the USA in size, China may instead decide to get the trauma over and done with sooner rather than later. But the rest of the world should be under no illusions as to what this means.

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100 things to do on British Waterways

1x1placeholderThe Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways) is publishing details of 100 readymade waterway days out (canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit) to give individuals, couples and families a simple and affordable chance to spend quality time.

Half the UK population lives within five miles of one of the Canal & River Trust’s waterways and canals. And there are now 34,000 licensed boats and thousands more unlicensed ones where off-gridders can leave cheap or free lives.

British Waterways were unable to say how fast the numbers are growing, but they do say there are now more boats on the waterways “than at the height of the Industrial Revolution” in the C19th.

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