Friday, 30 September 2011

Real Life. Ish.

It's just about possible that someone reads this blog to find out what I am up to. Seems rather unlikely but not outside the bounds of possibility.

So, Kate, Fergus and I are living on Columbia Road in Shoreditch. It's a great spot, offering easy access to the Flower Market, Brick Lane, Broadway Market & London Field (inc. lido), Kingsland Road (yum yum Viet Grill yum yum), Hoxton Square (including The White Cube) and the city.

I am working at DECC, in a vaguely scienceish role. I no longer travel the world and engage in fruitless negotiations. At work I am particularly interested how the electricity system fits together, and how it will fit together in future. Precisely what will the mix of carbon capture (if any), nuclear (if any) and renewables be, how will it all be balanced, will electricity storage (how do you do this at scale - we don't know) play a role, what will that role be, and how will smart meters, smart grid and, well, a smart system work? And what should government be doing (both in terms of innovation support, and policy) to make it happen.

It's one thing to come up with a successful pathway using the 2050 calculator (and you really should do this), it's quite another to make that pathway happen. Particular as you don't know what technologies will be available and what they will cost in 2020, let alone 2050. The answer probably is not to build very large amounts of wind power as this might turn out to be a very expensive and unreliable way of decarbonising the electricity sector. On the other hand, if wind becomes significantly cheaper, and a reliable (and cheap) way of dealing with times when the wind doesn't blow (or blows less than needed) then wind could produce a very large fraction of the UK's electricity demand. Indeed, if you are pretty bullish you can find a route to zero-carbon electricity in the UK that relies almost entirely on wind and foregoes the need to build any nuclear or carbon capture (CCS) plant. However, the question remains (and here you have to read the small print - If there are five cold, almost windless, winter days in 2050, then up to 56 GW of backup generation capacity will be required to ensure that electricity is always available. ) - how do you back it up?

There are no simple answers to these questions. Or if there are, I'm not aware of them.

So that's me.

Kate is working for an NGO that blackmails big companies into reporting their GHG emissions.

Fergus is one (and 6 days), in a nursery 3 days a week, is growing rapidly and is beginning to talk. He can say "yum yum", "bye bye", "no" and "daddy" though his pronunciation is a little off. And he refuses to address Kate as anything other than "daddy". He does this deliberately and then laughs when we try to correct him.

You are welcome to visit. We have 5 kinds of tea in the house and a new coffee machine.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Second story

It had taken Gordon a long time to realise the voices were in his head, and not part of some public address system. At first it had been the Tube trains.

"The next station is Old Street. Change at Old Street for Moorfields Eye Hospital."
"This is Canary Wharf. Change here for Docklands Light Railway. This train terminates at Canning Town"
"Stand clear of the doors"

Then it was the buses. He'd assumed this was part of some TfL technology upgrade.

"172 to Brockley Rise"
"Newling Estate. Change here for London Overground Services"

It was all slightly irritating, but Gordon rationalised it. "Probably for the benefit of blind people", he thought to himself, "And tourists."

But eventually things began to get a bit odd. He'd first noticed it when he was cycling along Clerkenwell Road.

"This is the Fryers Delight. Change here for fish and chips."
"Farringdon Road. No right turn."

Before long he'd get an announcement every time he entered the newsagent, alerting him to the presence of newspapers and pints of milk. After spending a few days glancing furiously around for hidden loudspeakers, he'd come to the conclusion that he needed serious medical help. Thankfully, while not too keen on the Doctor's surgery and sitting around in a waiting room with people who smelled slightly of wee, Gordon wasn't the type to avoid the Doc altogether. If there was something wrong (and voices in your head saying "Next stop the sandwich shop" definitely counted as "something wrong") he would head, trepidatiously, to the surgery.

The Doctor was sanguine. "Probably nothing to worry about." He didn't prescribe anything. "Just so long as the voices don't tell you anything ... upsetting."

Gordon was slightly confused. "Upsetting?"

"Violent, I should say. I mean, voices in your head telling you to 'Alight here for Buckingham Palace' are one thing. Voices telling you to kill everyone are quite another thing"

Gordon was relived. "Oh, they never say anything like that."

"Well", said the Doctor, "I wouldn't worry too much about it then."

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011