More (again) on Swire’s pal Lord Barker

A comment on EDW’s recent articles on Swire and his business pal Lord Barker:

throws more light on Barker’s past and recent dealings:

“Of course, as you report above, Oleg Deripaska has not only courted Conservative parliamentarians: he famously wined and dined Peter Mandelson on his yacht (together with George Osbourne):


That was over a decade ago – but the lobbying continues:

Last October, the UK’s security minister turned down a request to meet up with Lord Barker, “requesting government assistance for Russian associates”:

And in July last year, looked at ‘In Whose Interest’ this lobbying is conducted – as “corrupt and repressive regimes seek influence and legitimacy through engagement with UK Parliamentarians.”

Now, I’m not of course suggesting that Hugo Swire is involved in any such lobbying – but what is disturbing is how the ‘networking’ by Russian oligarchs and others with very close connections to the Kremlin is not being questioned more readily here in the UK.

Not only is this very creepy, but it undermines (the vestiges of) our democratic system.

Well done the EDW for continuing to poke at this.”

What happens when you don’t invest in renewable energy?

“Britain’s nuclear power stations recorded a 12% decline in their contributions to the country’s energy system over the past month, as outages raised concerns over how long the ageing plants will be able to keep operating.

A temporary closure of two of the country’s eight nuclear plants resulted in a double-digit drop in nuclear generation in January, compared to the same period last year.

Prospects for new nuclear projects have commanded headlines and government attention in recent weeks, with Hitachi and Toshiba scrapping their plans for major new plants.

But the fate of the existing plants, which usually provide about a fifth of the UK’s electricity supplies, has been pulled into focus by outages due to safety checks and engineering works running over schedule. Nuclear outages also push up carbon emissions because any capacity shortfall will typically be replaced by fossil fuel power stations.

Seven of the power stations use an advanced gas reactor (AGR) design, the oldest of which is 43 years old and the youngest 30 years.

Most were built with a lifetime of about 35 years in mind. All are due to be closed in the 2020s after owner EDF Energy extended their lives, but there are now fears that ageing infrastructure may reduce their output or even lead them to shut early.

Iain Staffell, lecturer in sustainable energy at Imperial College, which compiled the nuclear output data, said: “Just as Toshiba and Hitachi have pulled out of building new reactors, we have one third of the existing nuclear capacity unavailable either for maintenance or because their maximum power has been reduced as they get older.

“Many of our reactors were built in the late 70s, and like your typical 40-year-old they aren’t in peak physical condition anymore.” …

Martin Freer, head of nuclear physics at the University of Birmingham and director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, said: “It is clear they are showing their age. When they were originally built they weren’t built to operate as long as they will.”

The issue is not one of safety because of tight regulation of the plants, he said, but it showed the UK’s need to get on and build new nuclear power stations.

By the time Dungeness is hoped to return, another old plant, Hinkley B in Somerset, will have been taken offline for graphite inspections. Any unexpected rate of cracking found there could lead to a longer outage.

Francis Livens, director at the University of Manchester’s Dalton Institute, said the struggle to green-light new nuclear projects had made the need to keep the old ones on more acute.

Freer said he hoped the plants would make it to their planned closure dates rather than retiring early – Hunterston is officially meant to last until 2023 – but feared some would not. “It may just be a run of unfortunate incidents, or it might be a trend of reducing reliability,” he said. “My suspicion is not all of them will make it through to the end.”

EDF said its investments meant the old plants were performing well and it had spent more than £100m over the past six years on the issue of graphite cracking. The company’s figures show generation from the company’s eight plants, including the newer one at Sizewell, growing after it bought them in 2008 before peaking in 2016 and declining since.

Brian Cowell, managing director of generation, said: “EDF Energy’s seven advanced gas-cooled and one pressurised water nuclear power stations [Sizewell C] are delivering at ever better levels thanks to sustained investment and the expertise accumulated over more than 40 years of operation.”

Several of the old plants are also undergoing safety reviews by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. Heysham 1 and Hartlepool both had a periodic safety review in January, with Heysham 2 and Torness to follow next January.”

Investing in buses is better than building HS2 rail line

” …Improving the bus system would bring about significant productivity gains. If, for example, journey times became as reliable at peak hours as they are off-peak, the effective size of Birmingham would increase from 900,000 to 1.3 million people. Assuming UK cities would enjoy the same agglomeration benefits as those in France, Forth calculates that would mean an increase in output per head of 7%. …”

Fight for Flybe

“Former Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler has made a capital injection offer for ailing airline Flybe as it prepares to complete a proposed sale to a group led by Virgin Atlantic.

The Flybe board today confirmed it had received a “very preliminary, short and highly conditional outline contingency proposal” from Tinkler, who was fired from the Stobart board last summer amid a row with incumbent chairman Ian Ferguson.

Flybe said the proposal “envisages a capital injection and replacement of the funding provided by Connect Airways”, the Virgin-led group which offered to provide a £20m liquidity injection to keep the carrier afloat last month/ It will also make up to £80m available in further funding.

Flybe said Connect Airways had provided the first £15m of the £20m credit facility it announced in January.

“Flybe confirms that its advisers have held an initial discussion with Mr Tinkler’s advisers in relation to the preliminary proposal and that no formal proposal was made,” it said. “For the avoidance of doubt, the preliminary proposal does not contemplate an offer for the whole of Flybe or any other acquisition structure.”

Flybe said the capital injection proposed by Tinkler would only be provided if the the airline’s sale to Connect Airways did not go through. …”