The UK authorities’s new internet zero plan may very well be its most idiotic but • Do you agree?

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By Paul Homewood

h/t Me GrimNasty

I don’t know if Grant Shapps ever subscribed to Look and Learn when he was young, but circumstantial evidence suggests he may well have done so. I vaguely remember first reading about the idea of ​​transporting solar-generated electricity out of space in the long-defunct children’s magazine. Shapps is now so enthusiastic about the idea that he has just approved a £4.3million grant to UK universities to support the development. A quarter of Britain’s energy, he claims, could someday be generated this way.

I don’t begrudge technologists their public money. It is a perfectly appropriate task for government to fund the development of science and promising technologies that would otherwise have difficulty attracting private funding in their early years. And who knows, maybe one day it will prove to be a practical means of generating energy. It’s always sunny up in space, of course—and the sunlight is much stronger because it doesn’t have to travel through Earth’s atmosphere.

But a quarter of Britain’s energy and in time to help Britain reach its net-zero target for 2050? Dream On. There’s a reason harnessing solar energy from space has remained a pipe dream for the last 50 years. It’s incredibly difficult. First you have to construct solar panels that are light enough to be launched into space and that will generate vast amounts of electricity for many years without maintenance – not just generate enough electricity to power a few instruments for a few months , as is the case with a solar panel on a spacecraft launched into space, might suffice. But the far bigger question is: How do you then transfer the energy to the earth so that it can be used? The Californian Institute of Technology has succeeded in transmitting a small amount of energy wirelessly from a satellite to Earth. But there is still a long way to go before commercial operation.

Shapps’ enthusiasm can be very endearing. “People thought it was impossible to land a man on the moon or to split the atom. If you follow science, the impossible becomes possible,” he said, supporting Britain’s efforts to harness solar power from space. What he didn’t do, of course, was to enumerate the many miracle technologies that are still a long way off. Everyone remembers President Kennedy’s promise in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of this decade.

Few remember NASA’s promise to put a human on Mars by 1980. The promised tourist excursions to the moon have also not materialized so far. What is possible and what makes economic sense are two very different things. Nobody knows yet what the price of solar power generated in space will be – if it ever comes to fruition. Incidentally, we also don’t yet have the fusion-generated electricity that the head of the US nuclear power industry told us in 1954 would be “too cheap to measure” by the days of his grandchildren. In fact, we still don’t have a single working nuclear fusion power plant.

I’m not a luddit. Let’s try it all once. The problem, however, is that the government has committed Britain to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within 27 years, on the assumption that several untested technologies will miraculously arrive in time. There’s a fine line between optimism and panglossian stupidity, and I’m afraid Grant Shapps is on the wrong side.

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