Letters: How can Britain be weaned off gas with no reliable alternatives in place?

The Christmas lights on Oxford Street will use two-thirds less energy this year by reducing operating times to eight hours a day - Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg
The Christmas lights on Oxford Street will use two-thirds less energy this year by reducing operating times to eight hours a day - Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg

SIR – As a retired chartered engineer who spent his life working in the energy sector, I often look to see where Britain’s electricity is coming from.

At 19.13 on November 28, Britain was consuming 38.3 gigawatts. Of this, 0.6 were being supplied by wind (Letters, November 29) and, it being dark, nothing at all came from solar. Gas- fired power stations were providing 22.1, and nuclear 4. The bulk of the rest was imported from Europe.

Given that there is no economically viable gigawatt-scale solution to electricity storage even on the horizon, would somebody in the Government please explain how, if the country is to wean itself off fossil fuels for electricity generation, it intends to keep the lights on without massive investment in nuclear power?

Bruce C F Gawler
Chippenham, Wiltshire

SIR – Adair Anderson (Letters, November 29) lauds the fact that grid-scale batteries can supply 300,000 houses for up to two hours. But what they won’t do is store solar energy from summer through to winter, which is why hydrogen is being proposed as a form of energy storage. The enormous cost of that storage will not be carried by the solar or wind farm owners, but by the consumer and taxpayer.

Mr Anderson also suggests that our actions will allow big emitters to close coal-fired power stations. In 12 days China emits as much carbon dioxide as Britain does in a year, and it is building more coal-fired stations than the rest of the world. No doubt Xi Jinping will be impressed with our taking a lead.

Roger J Arthur
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – Promoters of offshore wind farms never mention their vulnerability. In a war, the first thing the likes of Putin and Xi would do is take them all out.

Stephen Harris
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – The estimated life of a wind turbine is 25 years, so we will forever be replacing them – and at what cost to the environment?

R E Jones
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – Britain’s ability to deliver enough electricity at Christmas is not a new issue (Leading Article, November 29). Fears in the autumn have often alarmed energy ministers. I can recall, years ago, being invited to provide a view from electricity producers.

There was one small consolation for the minister. The press painted pictures of power cuts during lunch on Christmas Day. But that was always unlikely because, with most of industry and commerce on holiday, electricity demand at Christmas tends to be low. It is early in the new year, when factories and offices resume work and the weather is likely to be cold, that the balance between supply and demand becomes critical.

David Porter
Chief Executive, Association of Electricity Producers, 1991-2012
Plymouth, Devon

Winter aid for Ukraine

SIR – The West cannot allow Putin to obliterate the Ukrainian people this winter (report, November 29). He has been allowed to set his hostile agenda and the West has been too slow to respond to his murderous intent. But Putin and his cronies are gangsters, who have robbed their own people of their wealth and freedom.

The West’s first priority is to help the Ukrainian people through this coming winter. We cannot sit by and watch men, women and children be wantonly murdered. The UN and Nato need to work together to launch and protect humanitarian aid convoys. We must also offer experts who can reconnect Ukraine’s energy supplies and distribute emergency generators where needed.

We must ignore Putin’s nuclear threats. He understands the value of propaganda and despises weakness, but Nato is our overarching security umbrella and Putin knows how powerful it is.

It is time Western nations set the “future of Ukraine” agenda and called Putin’s bluff in order to provide desperately needed aid as soon as possible. Many lives depend on it. Any Russian retaliation against UN- declared, and published, humanitarian convoy movements into Ukraine should be logged as war crimes.

Putin and his cronies have, in addition, sold off Russian state enterprises and spread this stolen money around world banks. Many of these accounts have been legally frozen but the world must decide if this money should be returned to the Russian people, from whom it was stolen, or donated to Ukraine to help rebuild the country. This question should be addressed by the UN as soon as possible.

John McRae

Police escort

SIR – Your report, “Horsebox found carrying 20 black-tie party guests” (November 28), may not record the first unlikely travel arrangement for party guests in Warwickshire.

My father was a police inspector. At his funeral the story was told of how, in 1967, he had to enforce the new drink-driving laws. So at 2.30am on New Year’s Day, on leaving a smart Coventry address, guests climbed into the back of a Black Maria, which delivered them safely to their homes.

My father completed his 30 years’ service and received a commendation from the watch committee.

Lesley Boardman
Rustington, West Sussex

An automated NHS

SIR – I am in my 53rd year of working for the NHS. Has Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, ever visited a busy hospital (“NHS ‘should not be afraid of using AI to fill workforce’”, report, November 29)? If so, I don’t think he paid much attention.

Patients are not like items on a factory production line. They are frequently anxious and in pain, and need to talk to a human being – which often elicits vital details that are not immediately obvious.

I don’t think patients being interviewed by a robot, let alone washed and dressed by one, will really work. But some tasks are possible to automate: for instance, a patient came to the emergency clinic with a badly inflamed eye. He needed steroid drops to be administered by a nurse every 15 minutes for the next few hours. While being treated, he contrasted the NHS service with how it was dealt with when he had an episode in Japan.

There, the treatment was the same, but he was strapped to a couch for several hours, with his eye kept open with a speculum. Above his eye was a device to administer the drops at preset intervals. I think most people would prefer the human touch.

Innovation is happening in many areas, but robots won’t fix staff shortages. Getting rid of time-wasting bureaucracy would be more useful.

Colin Clements
Bromley, Kent

SIR – My GP recently advised me to have a CT angiogram but said there was a five-month wait on the NHS, so I decided to pay for the test. I received an appointment within three days, had the procedure, the cardiologist rang me the next Sunday morning to give me the results and a follow-up letter arrived on the Monday.

The NHS must start working for its living – seven days a week.

Jeremy Parr
Suckley, Worcestershire

Unwelcome guests

SIR – I spent nearly 30 years at the BBC, mainly in the radio newsroom, then in news management. If “guest editors” had been suggested (report, November 28), especially when I was deputy editor on Today, I would have had to resign or take time off. It is an insult to staff, especially those on the lower levels who may hope to edit one day.

Many of us would love to be a guest Speaker of the House of Commons, guest Chancellor of the Exchequer or guest manager of Arsenal. Fortunately, however, these posts are left to the professionals. Why not at the BBC?

Alan Ashton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

Sherry stare

SIR – Like George Adams (Letters, November 29), I enjoy sherry, but if I ask for it in a private house or a hotel bar I am often met with a stare, as though I had asked for hemlock.

Felicity Ogilvy
Bruton, Somerset

SIR – My family usually wait until 6pm before our first drink is served, but I recently noticed my 94-year-old mother with a glass of sherry at 4pm.

When questioned, she said she could not see the clock.

Peter Davies
Bank, Hampshire

SIR – Alfred Lord Tennyson got it right in “Will Waterproof’s Lyrical Monologue”:

O plump head-waiter at The Cock,

To which I most resort,

How goes the time? ’Tis five o’ clock.

Go fetch a pint of port.

Ben Howkins
Staverton, Northamptonshire

A wooden plane that confounded the Luftwaffe

Air Chief Marshal Portal and a de Havilland Mosquito on a postage stamp from 1986 - Alamy
Air Chief Marshal Portal and a de Havilland Mosquito on a postage stamp from 1986 - Alamy

SIR – Your article on the restoration of a Lancaster bomber (Magazine, November 28) brings to mind the equally impressive Mosquito.

My dad loaded bombs for the last raid of the war against Germany, undertaken by Mosquitoes from Norfolk. Sadly this remarkable wooden fighter-bomber – so fast it confounded the Luftwaffe – no longer graces British skies. Being made of plywood, very few survived.

Were just one flying here, younger generations could look to it to see that novel thinking and technical brilliance can achieve wonders.

Brian Emsley
Kennett, Cambridgeshire

Let ‘The Cricketers’ travel home to America

SIR – I was bowled over to read of the ban on exporting The Cricketers to America (report, November 25).

It was painted when cricket had become colonial America’s first organised sport and national game. Benjamin Franklin codified America’s cricket rules based on a copy of the 1744 Laws of Cricket he brought back from England. George Washington played “wicket” with his officers at Valley Forge. In 1844 the first ever international game was played in New York between America and Canada.

A Test match between the United States and England took place in 1859 in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1893, when the Philadelphia cricket club defeated an Australian touring team, the gracious Australian captain said: “You have better players here than we have been led to believe. They class with England’s best.” This was proved true in 1897, when Philadelphia, on tour in England, beat Sussex by eight wickets.

By the turn of the 20th century baseball had become the national sport, but cricket is back on the front foot, its growing popularity due mainly to America’s South Asian community. The first professional T20 league in the US starts next year, and the 2024 men’s T20 World Cup is scheduled to be shared by Jamaica and America.

The figures in The Cricketers are Americans and it was painted by an American. It should be allowed to go “home” as a gesture of goodwill and support for the renaissance of cricket in America.

John Coen
Cheam, Surrey

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