UK could face power blackouts in winter 2014/15 – engineers
Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble LONDON | Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:53am BST LONDON (Reuters) – Britain could see widespread power blackouts during next year’s winter if a series of unforeseen events such as a cold snap or unplanned station outages occurs simultaneously, a report for an advisory body to the prime minister warned on Thursday. Britain’s power capacity margin, which is the production capacity available above demand levels, is expected to be dangerously low in the winter of 2014/15, an engineering report for the Council for Science and Technology said. Britain’s energy regulator Ofgem and network operator National Grid have also warned of shrinking margins and in response are creating tools aimed at reducing peak demand. “Although the electricity supply is expected to be sufficient to cover predicted levels of demand, it is likely to stretch the system close to its limits, notably during the winter of 2014-15, increasing the chances of power outages,” the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement accompanying its report. Over the coming year, Britain faces further closures of coal- and oil-fired power plants to comply with pollution laws. Additionally, several operators of gas-fired power stations have taken plants offline because high gas prices created losses for older facilities. The report said the government should speed up its electricity market reform (EMR) programme, which foresees paying generators of standby capacity to keep plants running. “Government will set the market conditions but it is private industry that will invest the necessary money,” said John Roberts, chair of the study’s working group. “Most of the energy companies operating in this country are international organisations that will invest in the UK only if it proves to be an attractive market.” The EMR is expected to be passed into law next year. (Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Dale Hudson)
UK surveillance probe goes public — sort of
The two people had phoned in the same name based on the sketches, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said during the BBC’s “Crimewatch” program, which aired an appeal Monday night for information about a man police want to track down. The man was seen carrying a child matching McCann’s description on the night she vanished in 2007 around the resort town of Praia da Luz in Portugal. Police hope for new leads in McCann case New evidence in McCann case The man is described as white, between 20 and 40 years old, with short brown hair and a medium build. He was seen carrying a blond child, who might have been in pajamas and who was estimated to be 3 to 4 years old, around the time Madeleine disappeared, police had said. The sketches are based on descriptions from separate witnesses, investigators said. Since the program aired, British police said they have received more than 300 phoned tips and 170 e-mailed ones. “We will now take the time to follow up these lines of enquiry,” Redwood said. Police target 38 ‘people of interest’ in Madeleine McCann’s ’07 disappearance The latest revelation is critical in reconstructing what exactly happened more than six years ago on the night of May 3, 2007,when McCann disappeared from her family’s villa while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. The girl was just days shy of her fourth birthday. Computer-generated sketch Computer-generated sketch Computer-generated sketch Neither her parents nor the detectives investigating her case have given up on one day finding the little girl from Leicestershire, England. “There may be an entirely innocent explanation of this man, but we need to establish who he is to assist with our inquiries,” Redwood said earlier. Additionally, investigators believe they have a better understanding of when Madeleine may have been abducted, Redwood added. “The timeline we have now established has given new significance to sightings and movements of people in and around Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.” John Walsh: Madeleine McCann could be alive Police announced in July that they have identified 38 “people of interest” in connection with the case. Twelve of them are UK nationals who police say they think were in Portugal at the time the girl went missing. All the others are European nationals.
In July, a month after the PRISM scandal broke, the British Parliaments intelligence oversight committee announced that the countrys spy services had not illegally used the American program to access the content of private communications of UK citizens they knew this because the spy services, namely NSA counterpart GCHQ, told them so. Not the end of the story That said, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) conceded that the laws it was talking about were a tad fuzzy and perhaps out-of-date, so the investigation quietly continued. Now, after months of further surveillance revelations that point to GCHQ itself as a major data-hoover , that inquiry is set to widen: on Thursday, the ISC said it would also look into the impact on peoples privacy, and would even hear evidence from the public. Even more astonishingly, some of its evidence-gathering sessions may be held in public, rather than in secret as is the norm. According to Malcolm Rifkind, the ISC chairman and a former UK defence secretary and foreign secretary (pictured above): In recent months concern has been expressed at the suggested extent of the capabilities available to the intelligence agencies and the impact upon peoples privacy as the agencies seek to find the needles in the haystacks that might be crucial to safeguarding national security. There is a balance to be found between our individual right to privacy and our collective right to security. The reaction from privacy activists has been cautious , and understandably so this is the same Malcolm Rifkind who last month downplayed the significance of Edward Snowdens revelations regarding the UKs own Tempora program, a partner program to PRISM, writing : On Tempora, it has been well known that the fibre optic cables that carry a significant proportion of the worlds communications pass close to the British coastline and could provide intelligence opportunities. The reality is that the British public are well aware that its intelligence agencies have neither the time nor the remotest interest in the emails or telephone conversations of well over 99% of the population who are neither potential terrorists nor serious criminals. Modern computer technologies do permit the separation of those that are of interest from the vast majority that are not. Shooting the messenger The announcement of limited public involvement in the ISC inquiry follows an extraordinary two weeks in which the Guardian, the British newspaper that has carried much of the Snowden material, has come under sustained attack from the new head of the UK Security Service (a.k.a. MI5), leading right-wing newspaper the Daily Mail and even fellow left-wing newspaper The Independent, whose former editor penned the immortal line: If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them? The attacks from other journalists led editors from around the world to defend the Guardians journalism last week, but this week Prime Minister David Cameron piled on, urging MPs to investigate the publication because what theyre dealing with is dangerous for national security. Conservative MP Julian Smith also asked police to investigate the Guardian over terrorism offences . However, this official attitude is not unanimous. Late last week, business secretary Vince Cable said the Guardian was entirely correct and right even courageous to publish the Snowden material. Former Home Office minister Lord Blencathra also said the public had a right to know whether they were being spied upon, especially as proposed laws that would have allowed greater domestic surveillance had been repeatedly shot down. He said that, when his committee had been examining the last such proposal, the intelligence services had not told MPs that they already had mass surveillance capabilities. Of course, whatever the outcome of this inquiry, one thing it is not concerned with is the surveillance of the rest of the world by British intelligence services.