Thursday, March 31, 2022

How Solar Power Hurts People And The Planet

False beliefs about renewable energy are harming the environment. I say this as someone who championed renewable energy for over two decades—first as executive director of a green building non-profit, then as CEO of a consulting firm specializing in clean energy, and most recently as founder of a cleantech startup. I thought my efforts were helping to protect the environment. But I was wrong.

Like many people, I believed the worst harm to the environment came from ‘fossil fuels’—and greedy companies exploiting the land, polluting the air, and destroying ecosystems to get them. It took me many years to realize that this viewpoint is distorted and to admit that many of my beliefs about renewable energy were false.

And now I’m ready to talk about what we really need to do to save the environment.

The Truth About Energy

The truth is this: every source of energy has costs and benefits that have to be carefully weighed. Wind and solar are no different. Most people are familiar with the benefits of wind and solar: reduced air pollution, reduced ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions, and reduced reliance on ‘fossil fuels’. But not as many recognize the costs of wind and solar or understand how those costs hurt both the environment and people—especially people with lower incomes.

Looking At Life Cycles

To fully evaluate how solar and wind energy hurt people and the environment, we must consider the lifecycle of renewable energy systems. Every artifact has a lifecycle that includes manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, and disposal. Every stage in that lifecycle requires energy and materials, so we need to tally up the energy and materials used at every stage of the cycle to fully understand the environmental impact of an object.

Think of a car. To understand its full impact on the environment, we must consider more than simply how many miles it gets per gallon of gas. Gas consumption measures only the cost of operating the car, but it doesn’t measure all the energy and materials that go into manufacturing, transporting, maintaining, and ultimately disposing of the car. Tally up the costs at each stage of the car’s lifecycle to get a more complete picture of its environmental impact.

The same is true of solar panels. To fully understand the environmental impact of solar panels, we need to consider more than simply how much energy and emissions the panels produce during operation. We also need to tally up the expenditure of energy and materials that go into manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining, and ultimately disposing of the panels.

Once we tally up those costs, we see that solar power leaves a larger ecological footprint than advocates like to admit.

The Environmental Costs Of Manufacturing And Installing Solar
Solar advocates often gloss over the solar-panel manufacturing process. They just say, “We turn sand, glass, and metal into solar panels.” This oversimplification masks the real environmental costs of the manufacturing process.

Solar panels are manufactured using minerals, toxic chemicals, and fossil fuels. In fact, solar panels require 10 times the minerals to deliver the same quantity of energy as a natural gas plant.[1]Quartz, copper, silver, zinc, aluminum, and other rare earth minerals are mined with heavy diesel-powered machinery. In fact, 38 percent of the world’s industrial energy and 11 percent of total energy currently go into mining operations.[2]

Once the materials are mined, the quartz and other materials get melted down in electric-arc furnaces at temperatures over 3,450°F (1,900°C) to make silicon—the key ingredient in solar cells. The furnaces take an enormous amount of energy to operate, and that energy typically comes from fossil fuels.[3] Nearly 80% of solar cells are manufactured in China, for instance, where weak environmental regulations prevail and lower production costs are fueled by coal.[4]

There are also environmental costs to installing the panels. Solar panels are primarily installed in two ways: in solar farms and on rooftops. Most U.S. solar farms are sited in the southwestern U.S. where sunshine is abundant. The now-canceled Mormon Mesa project, for instance, was proposed for a site about 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It was slated to cover 14 square miles (the equivalent of 7,000 football fields) with upwards of a million solar panels, each 10-20 feet tall.

It would have involved bulldozing plants and wildlife habitat on a massive scale to replace them with concrete and steel. Environmentalists and local community groups opposed the project because it threatened views of the landscape and endangered species like the desert tortoise, and the proposed project was eventually withdrawn.[5]

Placing massive solar farms far from populated areas presents additional challenges as their remote locations require new power lines to carry energy to people who use it. Environmentalists and local community groups often fiercely oppose the construction of ugly power lines, which also have to get approval from multiple regulatory agencies. Those factors make it almost impossible to build new transmission lines in the U.S.[6] If approval is granted, installing those lines takes a further toll on the environment.

In addition, the farther the electricity has to travel, the more energy is lost as heat in the transmission process. The cost-effective limit for electricity transmission is roughly 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers.) So you can’t power New York or Chicago from solar energy farms in Arizona.

Limitations To Rooftop Solar

Rooftop solar installations could sidestep some of the problems of solar farms, but they have problems of their own.

First, many buildings are not suitable for rooftop solar panels. Rooftop installations are typically exposed to less direct sunlight due to local weather patterns, shade from surrounding trees, the orientation of a building (which are often not angled toward the sun), or the pitch of the roof.

Second, the average cost to buy and install rooftop solar panels on a home as of July 2021 is $20,474.[7] This makes rooftop installations cost-prohibitive—especially for lower-income families.

Finally, even if we installed solar panels on all suitable buildings in the U.S. we could generate only 39 percent of the electricity the country needs according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.[8]

Solar panels also have a shorter lifespan[9] than other power sources (about half as long as natural gas[10] and nuclear plants[11]), and they’re difficult and expensive to recycle because they’re made with toxic chemicals. When solar panels reach the end of their usable life, their fate will most likely be the same as most of our toxic electronic waste: They will be dumped in poorer nations. It is estimated that global solar panel waste will reach around 78 million metric tons by 2050[12]–the equivalent of throwing away nearly 60 million Honda Civic cars.[13]

More here:


Incon­veni­ent truths about energy

The energy trans­ition is not hap­pen­ing. Or not nearly at the pace that every­one believes or wishes. At cur­rent rates, the “trans­ition” is set to fin­ish in the mid-2600s.

The Kyoto Pro­tocol launched the energy trans­ition drive in 1992. Global energy con­sump­tion from hydro­car­bons has grown massively since then, with mar­ket share only declin­ing by 4 per­cent­age points over the past 30 years from 87% in 1992 to 83% today.

I am not cel­eb­rat­ing this fact as I have spent years work­ing on energy trans­ition tech­no­lo­gies.

The energy trans­ition isn’t fail­ing for lack of earn­est effort. It is fail­ing because energy is hard, and 3 bil­lion people liv­ing in energy poverty are des­per­ate for reli­able and scal­able energy sources. Mean­while, 1 bil­lion energy-rich people are res­ist­ant to dimin­ish­ing their stand­ard of liv­ing with higher cost and an increas­ingly unre­li­able energy diet.

There is no “cli­mate crisis,” either. If there is a term more at odds with the painstak­ing work of the Inter­gov­ern­mental Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) than “cli­mate crisis,” I have not heard it.

Cli­mate change is a real global chal­lenge that is extens­ively stud­ied. Unfor­tu­nately, the facts and rational dia­logue about the myriad tradeoffs aren’t reach­ing poli­cy­makers, the media or act­iv­ist groups. Or are they are simply ignor­ing these incon­veni­ent truths?

For example, we hear end­lessly about the rise in fre­quency and intens­ity of extreme weather. This nar­rat­ive is highly effect­ive at scar­ing people and driv­ing polit­ical action. It is also false. The real­ity is detailed in count­less pub­lic­a­tions and sum­mar­ized in the IPCC reports.

Deaths from extreme weather have plunged over the past cen­tury, reach­ing new all-time lows last year, an out­come to be cel­eb­rated. This is not because extreme weather has declined. In fact, extreme weather shows no mean­ing­ful trend at all. Deaths from extreme weather events have declined because highly ener­gized, wealth­ier soci­et­ies are much bet­ter pre­pared to sur­vive nature’s wrath.

Recog­niz­ing real­ity

You are not sup­posed to say out loud that there is no cli­mate crisis or that the energy trans­ition is pro­ceed­ing at a gla­cial pace. These are unfash­ion­able and, to many, offens­ive facts. But let’s be hon­est. Energy trans­ition ambi­tions must recog­nize real­ity. Oth­er­wise, poor invest­ment decisions and reg­u­lat­ory frame­works will lead to sur­ging global-energy and food prices. This is exactly what is hap­pen­ing.

We are here today in large part because energy trans­ition efforts that pre­vi­ously encom­passed solely aggress­ive sup­port of altern­at­ive energy policies, eco­nom­ics be damned, have recently sup­ple­men­ted this strategy with grow­ing efforts to obstruct fossil fuel devel­op­ment. Fossil fuels make the mod­ern world pos­sible.

The real crisis today is an energy crisis. It began to reveal itself last fall with a severe short­age in glob­ally traded Liquified Nat­ural Gas (LNG). The LNG crisis has not abated and it gives Rus­sia’s Vladi­mir Putin tre­mend­ous lever­age over Europe. Without Rus­sian gas, the lights in Europe go out. Amid war, pub­lic out­rage, and intense sanc­tions, Rus­sian gas flows to Europe remain unchanged. Rus­sian oil exports have con­tin­ued with min­imal inter­rup­tion. The world can talk tough about sanc­tion­ing Rus­sian energy exports, but those exports are vitally needed; hence they con­tinue. Energy secur­ity equals national secur­ity.

The world energy sys­tem, crit­ical to human well­being, requires mean­ing­ful spare capa­city to handle inev­it­able bumps in the road. In the elec­tri­city sec­tor, which rep­res­ents only 20% of global energy but 40% in wealthy coun­tries, this is called reserve capa­city. In the oil mar­ket, spare pro­duc­tion capa­city today is shrink­ing and con­cen­trated in OPEC nations like Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emir­ates. Also, there is a massive global stor­age net­work in both sur­face tanks and under­ground cav­erns. In nat­ural gas mar­kets, there are both extens­ive under­ground stor­age reser­voirs and typ­ic­ally spare export capa­city through pipelines and large indus­trial LNG export and import facil­it­ies.

The past sev­eral years have seen this spare capa­city whittled away due partly to lower com­mod­ity prices and poor cor­por­ate returns shrink­ing the appet­ite to invest. Excess capa­city has also shrunk due to reg­u­lat­ory block­age of crit­ical energy infra­struc­ture like pipelines and export ter­min­als. Road­b­locks for well per­mit­ting and leas­ing on fed­eral lands, together with a mass pub­lic mise­du­ca­tion cam­paign on energy and cli­mate alarmism, are also sty­mie­ing hydro­car­bon devel­op­ment. Invest­ment cap­ital is fur­ther con­strained by a cor­por­ate Envir­on­ment, Social and Gov­ernance (ESG) move­ment, and divest­ment cam­paigns. These factors are shrink­ing hydro­car­bon invest­ment below what it oth­er­wise would be in response to price sig­nals and out­look for sup­ply and demand. The net res­ult is a con­strained sup­ply of oil, nat­ural gas, and coal, which means higher prices and greater risk of mar­ket dis­lo­ca­tions like the one unfold­ing today.

High energy and food price infla­tion is the cruelest form of tax on the poor. After a few spe­cific examples, I’ll return to what we should do now to reverse these dam­aging and deeply inequit­able trends.

In denial about demand

Why does the world today suf­fer from a severe short­age of LNG? Demand for nat­ural gas has been grow­ing strongly for dec­ades. It provides a much cleaner sub­sti­tute for coal in elec­tri­city pro­duc­tion, home heat­ing, and a myriad of indus­trial and pet­ro­chem­ical uses. Rising dis­place­ment of coal by nat­ural gas has been the largest source of GHG emis­sion reduc­tions. Unfor­tu­nately, the afore­men­tioned factors have pre­ven­ted sup­ply from keep­ing pace with rising demand. Energy short­ages drive rapid prices rises and have cas­cad­ing impacts on everything else. Energy is found­a­tional to everything humans do. Everything.

Per­haps the most crit­ical use of nat­ural gas is nitro­gen fer­til­izer pro­duc­tion. Roughly a cen­tury ago, two Ger­man chem­ists, both sub­sequently awar­ded Nobel Prizes, developed a pro­cess to pro­duce nitro­gen fer­til­izer on an indus­trial scale. Before the Haber-Bosch pro­cess innov­a­tion, nitro­gen con­tent in soil was a major con­straint on crop pro­ductiv­ity. Exist­ing nitro­gen sources from bird guano, manure, and rotat­ing cul­tiv­a­tion of pea crops were lim­ited. Today, elim­in­a­tion of nat­ural gas-syn­thes­ized nitro­gen fer­til­izer would cut global food pro­duc­tion in half.

The now 6-months-long LNG crisis trans­lates into a world­wide food crisis as skyrock­et­ing fer­til­izer prices are cas­cad­ing into much higher food prices. Wheat prices are already at a record high and will likely head higher as spring plant­ings suf­fer from under fer­til­iz­a­tion.

Global LNG mar­kets are tight because rising demand has out­run the growth in LNG export capa­city in the United States, now the largest LNG exporter. We have an abund­ance of nat­ural gas in the United States. Unfor­tu­nately, we have a short­age of pipelines to trans­port this gas and LNG export ter­min­als, pre­vent­ing us from reliev­ing the energy crisis in Europe and around the world. These pipeline and export ter­minal short­ages are due in large part to reg­u­lat­ory block­age.

The res­ult is that nat­ural gas prices in the United States and Canada are five to ten times lower than in Asia and Europe. This deeply dis­ad­vant­ages con­sumers and factor­ies (like fer­til­izer factor­ies) in Europe and Asia that rely on LNG imports to ful­fill their needs.

Failed energy policies

Rus­sia’s inva­sion of Ukraine did not cause today’s energy crisis. Quite the reverse. Today’s energy crisis is likely an import­ant factor in why Rus­sia chose to invade Ukraine now. Europe’s energy situ­ation is both tenu­ous and highly depend­ent on Rus­sian imports. Rus­sia is the second-largest oil and nat­ural gas pro­du­cer after the United States. Rus­sia is the largest exporter of nat­ural gas, sup­ply­ing over 40% of Europe’s total demand. Addi­tion­ally, Rus­sia is the largest source of impor­ted oil and coal to Europe. Europe put itself in this unen­vi­able pos­i­tion by pur­su­ing unreal­istic, polit­ic­ally-driven policies attempt­ing to rap­idly trans­ition its energy sources to com­bat cli­mate change. Europe’s energy pivot has been a massive fail­ure on all fronts: higher energy costs, grave energy insec­ur­ity, and neg­li­gible cli­mate impacts.

Ger­many is the poster child of this fail­ure. In 2000, Ger­many set out to decar­bon­ize its energy sys­tem, spend­ing hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars on this effort over the past 20 years. Ger­many only mar­gin­ally reduced its depend­ence on hydro­car­bons from 84% in 2000 to 78% today.

The United States matched this 6% decline in hydro­car­bon mar­ket share from 86% in 2000 to 80% today. Unlike in the U.S., Ger­many more than doubled its elec­tri­city prices — before the recent massive addi­tional price increases — by cre­at­ing a second elec­tric grid. This second grid is com­prised of massive wind and solar elec­tric gen­er­at­ing sources that only deliver 20% of name­plate capa­city on aver­age, and often less than 5% for days at a time.

The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Hence, Ger­many could only shrink leg­acy coal, gas and nuc­lear capa­city by 15%. It now must pay to main­tain both grids. The leg­acy grid must always be flex­ing up and down in a wildly inef­fi­cient man­ner to keep the lights on, hos­pit­als func­tion­ing, homes heated, and factor­ies powered.

Out­side of the elec­tri­city sec­tor, Ger­many’s energy sys­tem is largely unchanged. It has long had high taxes on gas­ol­ine and diesel for trans­port­a­tion, and lower energy taxes on industry. Ger­many sub­sid­izes indus­trial energy prices attempt­ing to avoid the near-com­plete dein­dus­tri­al­iz­a­tion that the U.K. has suffered due to expens­ive energy policies across the board.

Over the past 20 years, the United States has seen two shale revolu­tions, first in nat­ural gas and then in oil. The net res­ult has been the U.S. pro­du­cing greater total energy than con­sumed in 2019 and 2020 for the first time since the 1950s.

The U.S. went from the largest importer of nat­ural gas to the second-largest exporter in less than fif­teen years, all with private cap­ital and innov­a­tion. The shale revolu­tion lowered domestic and global energy prices due to sur­ging growth in U.S. pro­duc­tion.

Sur­ging U.S. pro­pane exports are redu­cing the cost and rais­ing the avail­ab­il­ity of clean cook­ing and heat­ing fuels for those in dire energy poverty still burn­ing wood, dung, and agri­cul­tural waste to cook their daily meals. U.S. GHG emis­sions also plunged to the low­est level on a per cap­ita basis since 1960.

We are start­ing to ham­string and squander the enorm­ous bene­fits of the shale revolu­tion. The same mis­in­formed anti-hydro­car­bon cru­sade that impov­er­ished Europe and made it heav­ily depend­ent on Rus­sia is now sweep­ing the U.S. Cali­for­nia and New Eng­land had already adop­ted European-style energy policies driv­ing up elec­tri­city prices, redu­cing grid reli­ab­il­ity, and driv­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing and other energy-intens­ive, blue-col­lar jobs out of their states. Col­or­ado is not far behind.

Cali­for­nia, a state with a plentitude of bless­ings, man­aged to cre­ate the highest adjus­ted poverty rate in the nation with an expens­ive, unstable power grid increas­ingly reli­ant on coal-powered elec­tri­city imports from Nevada and Utah.

New Eng­land’s prox­im­ity to Pennsylvania’s clean low-cost nat­ural gas resources was a stroke of luck. But it refused to expand the nat­ural gas pipelines run­ning from Pennsylvania, leav­ing it chron­ic­ally short of nat­ural gas, its largest source of elec­tri­city and clean­est option for home heat­ing.

Instead, it remains heav­ily reli­ant on fuel oil for home heat­ing and occa­sion­ally imports LNG from Rus­sia to keep the lights on. Last winter New Eng­land burned copi­ous amounts of fuel oil to pro­duce elec­tri­city which went out of fash­ion in the 1970s else­where in the U.S.

Texas has not been immune from energy illit­er­acy and col­lat­eral dam­age. Texas’ poorly designed elec­tric grid, struc­tured to encour­age invest­ment in renew­ables, led to hun­dreds dying last year in the Uri cold spell. No one would pay the same price for an Uber that showed up whenever con­veni­ent for the driver and dropped you off wherever they desired.

But that is what Texas does with elec­tri­city: pay­ing the same price for reli­able elec­tri­city that bal­ances the grid as they do for unre­li­able, unpre­dict­able elec­tri­city. No won­der the reli­ab­il­ity of the Texas grid has declined and is headed for more trouble.


The People Promising Us "Net Zero" Have No Clue About The Energy Storage Problem

If you are even a semi-regular reader of this blog, you know about the energy storage problem that is inherent in the effort to eliminate dispatchable fossil fuels from the electricity generation system and replace them with wind and solar. As discussed here many times, other than with nuclear power, the storage problem is the critical issue that must be addressed if there is ever going to be “net zero” electricity generation, let alone a “net zero” economy based on all energy usage having been electrified. For a sample of my prior posts on this subject just in the last few months, go here, here and here.

The problems of trying to provide enough storage to back up a fully wind and solar system without fossil fuels are so huge and so costly that you would think that everyone pushing the “net zero” agenda would be completely focused on these issues. And given that the issues are quite obvious, you would think that such people would be well down the curve with feasibility studies, cost studies, and demonstration projects to make their case on how their plans could be accomplished. Remarkably, that is not the case at all. Instead, if you read about the plans and proposals in various quarters for “net zero” in some short period of years, you quickly realize that the people pushing this agenda have no clue. No clue whatsoever.

Today, I am going to look at discussions of the storage situation coming out of three jurisdictions with ambitious “net zero” plans: California, Australia and New York. First a very brief summary of the problem. It is (or certainly should be) obvious that wind and solar generators have substantial periods when they generate nothing (e.g., calm nights), and other times when they generate far less than users demand. Get out a spreadsheet to do some calculations based on actual historical patterns of usage and generation from wind and solar sources, and you will find that to have a fully wind/solar generation system and make it through a year without a catastrophic failure, you will need approximately a three-times overbuild (based on rated capacity) of the wind/solar system, plus storage for something in the range of 24 - 30 days of average usage. For these purposes “usage” at any given moment is measured in gigawatts, but usage for some period of time is measured in gigawatt hours, not gigawatts. California’s average electricity usage for 2020 was about 31 GW; Australia’s was about 26 GW ; and New York’s was about 18 GW.

To calculate how much storage you need in gigawatt hours, multiply average usage in GW by 30 days and 24 hours per day. So California will need about 22,302 GWH of storage, Australia about 18,720 GWH, and New York about 12,960 GWH. That is to supply current levels of demand. For the “everything electrified” case, triple all of these numbers: 66,906 GWH for California, 56,160 GWH for Australia, and 38,880 GWH for New York. Price that out at current costs of Tesla-type lithium-ion batters (~$150/KWH) and you will get around $10 trillion for California, $8.4 trillion for Australia, and $5.8 trillion for New York. These figures are in the range of triple total annual GDP for each of these jurisdictions, before you even get to the cost of the three-times overbuild of the generations system to account for charging of the batteries when the sun is shining and wind blowing. Nor can Tesla-style batteries hold charge for months on end as would be necessary for this system, but at this point, that seems like a minor quibble.

With that, let’s consider some recent discussion of the march toward “net zero” in each of these jurisdictions:

California. On March 14, PV Magazine (I think that stands for “Photo Voltaic”) had a piece by Christian Roselund with the title “California’s solar market is now a battery market.” The gist is that California’s solar developers have now caught on to the need to pair batteries with their projects, and that therefore new projects going forward are as much battery projects as solar panel projects. Here’s a sample of the cheerleading:

No US state has led the energy transition like California has. . . . As a result California has been a pioneer for a range of clean energy technologies. . . . California is on the cusp of no longer being a solar market where batteries are being added – instead, it is becoming a battery market that (sometimes) includes solar.

So how much battery capacity is being added by the new projects?:

According to the American Clean Power Association, California had only 256MW of utility-scale batteries before 2020, but had reached 2.1GW by the end of 2021 – an eightfold increase. . . . The 256 solar-plus-storage projects representing 72GW of solar and 64GW of batteries make up the vast majority of hybrid projects in the CAISO queue. . . . California will need all the energy storage it can get its hands on; a recent analysis suggests that the state needs 37GW of batteries over the next 20 years, as well as 53.2GW of utility-scale solar.

It’s all GW, GW, GW. But guys, how about the amount of GWH that California will need? You will not find any mention of that unit in this piece. Sorry, but if those 64 GW of batteries you are planning to buy only store energy for one hour, then you will need to multiply your purchase by about a factor of a thousand. If they store energy for about four hours (typical of what you might be able to buy today), then multiply your purchase by a factor of 250.

Could they really be so far off from the actual problem? I’m afraid that the answer is yes.

Australia. Over in Australia, it appears that they have people who have figured out that they need to measure the storage requirements for wind/solar backup in GWH rather than GW. Here is a piece from March 25 from Energy Storage News, headline “Australia surpassed 1GWh of annual battery storage deployments during 2021.” That’s huge progress. But one GWH?

Read the article, and again it’s all cheerleading for the great progress being made:

[F]or Victoria it was a record-breaking year, while NSW has already recorded strong installation volumes and its tally of 7,377 installations was in line with figures in recent years. . . . Victoria hosts a 48% share of the commercial and grid-scale operating capacity today, with South Australia the next biggest at 24%, Queensland on 14% and NSW on 9%. Last year, the Victorian Big Battery came online, which at 300MW/450MWh made a big contribution to the state’s total.

And how much is in the pipeline?:

There is around 1,000MWh of grid-scale energy storage currently under construction, but the development pipeline of projects is a massive 57GWh.

“A massive” 57 GWH. Really? Has anyone told them that they are going to need more like 56,160 GWH to fulfill their “net zero” fantasies? Like California, they are off by about a factor of 1000. Here is a picture from the article of what a Tesla-type battery installation for a mere 150 MWH looks like. That’s well less than 1/6 of one GWH.

Looks like they’re going to need 400,000 +/- of these installations. And by the way, these Tesla-style batteries have no ability to store energy without loss for months on end. Good luck trying to find anyone addressing these issues.

New York. In crazy New York, we have a statute passed in 2019 that requires state-wide greenhouse gas emissions to be cut to 60% of 1990 levels by 2030. Since electricity is less than 1/3 of final energy consumption, this would necessarily mean that all fossil fuel electricity generation will be gone in 8 years.

How to do that? A collection of panels and advisory bodies have been putting out reams of reports, thousands of pages in the aggregate. Nobody could possibly keep up. On the other hand, it is obvious that essentially no batteries are yet under construction.


A globetrotting carpenter and Sussex University professor are among 117 Insulate Britain activists charged over road-blocking protests between September and November last year

Charges have been issued by the Metropolitan Police, Kent Police and Essex Police in recent weeks.

They include 146 charges of causing a public nuisance, 137 of wilful obstruction of the highway, and 10 of criminal damage.

Among those charged are Cameron Ford, 31, a carpenter from Cambridge, who appeared at several protests despite going on globetrotting trips abroad on two occasions.

He went on a 10,000 mile four month trip across the Atlantic and around Canada - then just months later on a 2,000 mile plus jaunt across much of Europe in an old diesel van.

Also charged is Nick Till, 66, a Sussex University professor from London.

Insulate Britain said it is 'likely these numbers will rise as we understand that further charges are still being issued'.

At least 25 plea hearings are scheduled to take place at magistrates' courts in Crawley, Chelmsford and Stratford in April and May.

Some 174 people were arrested a total of 857 times during the protests.

Insulate Britain said some who repeatedly returned to the roads were arrested '10-15 times during 18 days of roadblocks'.

How Insulate Britain made a mockery of the law over two months
September 13 - 78 Insulate Britain protesters arrested after blocking junctions 3, 6, 14, 20 and 31 of the M25

September 15 - More than 50 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 1, 8, 9 and 23 of the M25

September 17 - 48 protesters arrested after targeting junctions 3, 9 and 28 of the M25, as well as the M3

September 20 - 29 protesters are arrested after blocking the M25 at junctions 4 and 18, as well as the A1

September 21 - Protesters risk death by running into moving traffic to block the carriageway near Junction 10. Some 38 arrests are made. National Highways obtains an injunction against further protests on the M25

September 22 - Protesters burn copies of the injunction outside the Home Office, blocking the road outside the ministry. No arrests are made

September 24 - 39 protesters arrested after blocking roads at three locations in Dover. They are all released under investigation. National Highways obtains a second injunction covering Dover.

September 27 - 53 protesters are arrested for blocking a slip road at Junction 14 of the M25. They are all released under investigation.

September 28 - National Highways says it is taking 'legal advice' over how to enforce its injunction

September 29 - 27 protesters are arrested for blocking a roundabout at Junction 3 of the M25 on two occasions

September 30 - Protesters return to junction 30 at Thurrock in Essex, and nine are arrested

October 1: The group block the M4 at junction 3, the M1 at junction 1 and M25 at junction 25. Some 39 arrests

October 2: Third injunction bans them from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A roads in and around London

October 4: 38 arrests after protesters block three major roads in London - the Blackwall Tunnel, Wandsworth Bridge and A40 and North Circular at Hanger Lane.

October 8: 19 arrested over protest at Old Street roundabout and a further 16 on the M25 at junction 24. Transport for London gets a High Court injunction to ban them from obstructing traffic in 14 locations in London.

October 13: Protesters return to the M25 at junction 31 and a nearby industrial estate, with 35 people arrested.

October 25: Activists target areas around Southwark Bridge, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street station. Some 53 are arrested.

October 27: Protesters blockade the A40 in North Acton, West London, and a major roundabout next to the Dartford Crossing in Kent. Kent Police arrested 32 protesters, while the Metropolitan Police detained 17.

October 29: 10 activists are arrested after walking onto the M25 between junctions 28 and 29 in Essex

November 2: Police arrest 20 activists before they can even get onto the M25 at junction 23 for South Mimms, but other actions take place on the M56 in Manchester, with 11 arrests, and the A4400 in Birmingham

November 4: Some 62 protesters sit down at Parliament Square in Westminster

November 17: Nine of the protesters are jailed at the High Court for between three and six months

Prior to the wave of charges, activists had only faced civil action. Fourteen were jailed for breaking injunctions banning protests on the M25.

Insulate Britain said public nuisance prosecutions can result in a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Cameron Ford, 31, a carpenter from Cambridge who is summoned to appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on April 4, said: 'The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) undertaking these mass prosecutions is an attempt by our Government to ignore and avoid addressing the biggest dangers facing people right now.

'By not insulating Britain's leaky homes they are knowingly condemning millions more families to live in fuel poverty and thousands and thousands of our elderly to die in frozen homes next winter.'

Nick Till, 66, a university professor from London who is due to appear at the same court on April 6, said: 'As an academic, my duty is to find and tell the truth, and civil disobedience is now the only way of getting the truth out there.

'I do not regret my actions. Even though I regret the inconvenience caused to many of my fellow citizens by my actions, it is nothing compared to what is coming down the line for those same people and their loved ones if we fail to do anything.'

Insulate Britain began a wave of demonstrations last September which included blocking the M25 and other roads in London, including around Parliament, as well as roads in Birmingham, Manchester and Dover in Kent.

A series of High Court injunctions against its road blockades were granted to National Highways and Transport for London to prevent their disruptive protests.

Those who breach them could now be found in contempt of court and face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine as well as seizure of assets.

The offshoot from the Extinction Rebellion is calling on the UK Government to implement policy and funding for a national home insulation programme starting with all social housing.

The group wants the UK government to promise to fully fund and take responsibility for the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025.

It is demanding 'a legally binding national plan to fully fund and take responsibility for the full low energy and low carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030 as part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy'.

It comes as Insulate Britain, and a number of other protest groups, threatened to conduct raves around the M25 last month - before postponing the planned chaos until April 2.

There are four demos planned at unknown locations, which are set to take aim at the cost of living crisis as well as the country's reliance on fossil fuel energy.

One party named 'Staying Alive on the M25' has been organised by campaigner Gabriella Ditton, 27, from Norwich, with more than 500 already signed up to attend.

Ms Ditton already received a suspended sentence in February after blocking part of the M25 in a protest.

Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis said last month: 'Yet again, a minority of the crusty Wokerati are willing to endanger others. 'These middle class hippies are hell-bent on imposing green extremist ideals on people regardless of how hard-up that will make working people.' \




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