This is what happens when countries confront the real costs of nuclear and fossil fuels.

by The Science Blog, with Dr Beau Webber Monday, November 18 2013

Well they made my little digital camera, but this is their latest piece of light sensitive kit :

Japan :

"The Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, built by the electronics manufacturer Kyocera, boasts postcard views of Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima volcano. It’s also Japan’s largest, with a capacity of 70 megawatts. That’s enough to power some 22,000 Japanese homes. The $280 million project is part of a national effort to invest in clean, renewable energy as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The country’s new feed-in tariffs have made it one of the world’s fastest-growing solar markets." 

But America is also going full ahead, building solar powered electricity generating plants, to help reduce CO2 induced global warming :

USA - Arizona :

APS - 750 MW installed solar power by the end of 2013 :

"With as much sunshine as we enjoy in Arizona, we believe solar power can and should have a bright, long future in our state. APS is spending $1 billion on solar projects statewide. By the end of 2013, APS will have enough solar capacity to power more than 185,000 homes."

But there are a number more, such as :

USA - Mojave Solar Project, California :

"Abengoa Solar received a federal loan guarantee from the U.S Government to the amount of $1.2 billion.

The Mojave Solar Project will produce 28O MW gross,  the equivalent of energy needed to serve 54,000 households and will prevent 350,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, as compared to a natural gas plant."

In Kent, we have a more modest installation, but we are not left out of the CO2 reduction picture :

UK - Kent :

"Ebbsfleet Solar Farm is situated on the site of the former Richborough Power Station. It has a capacity of 4.9 MWp and became operational in August 2011. The solar farm is part of a larger ongoing project, Richborough Energy Park.""

"3 Aug 2011 - The first large-scale solar park in the South East began supplying electricity to local homes and businesses."

The cooling towers from the old coal-fired power station were demolished in 2012

"The £13m project, is capable of supplying 1,300 homes. It is likely to be the only solar farm of its kind in the region, following a reduction in government subsidies for such projects."

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Categories: Economy | National Grid | Regeneration | Energy | Solar | CO2 Reduction

Huts on pier could be the start of something big for sleeping seaside town

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, July 4 2013

The opening of the beach hut village in Herne Bay will be a big moment for the seaside town.

It could mark the beginning of a shift in fortunes when the ribbon is cut by Sandi Toksvig, much-loved back in the day as a captain on Call My Bluff with the late Kent broadcaster Bob Holness.

It will be the first step in regenerating a town which has suffered a series of false starts.

Sometimes, it’s seemed like Herne Bay will never get a break. Independent shops continue to struggle in a tough economy; Pressure groups argue over the future of the pier; Morrisons pulled the plug on a lucrative bigger store in the town centre.

This week, the Gazette revealed how the mini-golf course will not go-ahead on the pier platform until next year at the earliest, prompting a wave of eye-rolling from those who say nothing changes in Herne Bay.

Yet the first shoots of a new start are appearing.

Lottery money for renovating the clock tower looks to be on the way and independent businesses will host a showcase of their wares on Saturday, July 13.

And the pier will come to life again with the beach hut village.

So turn up for the launch this weekend. You could be in at the start of something big.

Categories: Economy | Entertainment | Tourism

East Kent's failed bid - were we not confident enough in what we've got?

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, June 19 2013

It was never going to happen.

East Kent’s bid to become the UK’s city of culture in 2017 was as likely as Dover Athletic becoming Roman Abramovich's next project to squander his millions.

Why the negative attitude? Well for the same reason you had a negative attitude. East Kent is not a place.

Imagine for a moment you heard that north Scotland or west Cornwall or south east Norfolk were making a bid. You would scoff.

“That is not even a place” you would say. Have Inverness, Plymouth and Norwich not got enough to offer on their own? Are they are so culturally lacking that they need to invite their smaller, provincial buddies in to the party because they are too scared to step onto the dancefloor of the artistically-enriched on their tod.

That is how your average Joe anywhere else in the country would have viewed East Kent’s bid.

It just sounds daft and is somewhat detrimental, surely, to Kent’s only official city, Canterbury. Why are its quirky streets, fascinating museums, glorious Marlowe Theatre and traditional pubs not deemed suitably cultural to impress the judges at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

At least then, the decision-makers would have been able to identify with the ‘city’ they were supposed to be assessing. And would it not have been ok anyway to shoehorn in a mention of Margate’s Turner Contemporary, Folkestone’s Triennial art installations and Whitstable’s oysters, as was surely the aim of lumping together a series of towns which, on the whole, are not really that bothered about each other.

Of course, credit where it is due to Kent County Council for being ambitious enough to put together a bid which, ultimately, did make the longlist.

But are Dundee, Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay really all that superior culturally to the towns and cities we are already proud of in the county?

Perhaps next time, we should go with what we know and resist trying to reinvent the wheel.

Categories: Business | Economy | Entertainment | Leisure

Bill Kenwright puts his faith in provincial theatres

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Monday, January 14 2013

If there is anyone who knows how to help theatres up and down the country as they try to weather the dire economic outlook this year, it is Bill Kenwright.

The man at the top of the UK’s largest independent theatre company and the Everton FC chairman – a bit random in many people’s eyes – launches his latest jukebox musical Save the Last Dance For Me in Kent this week.

He gave me a long, in-depth interview earlier this month, in which he stated he loves provincial theatres and actively chose Dartford’s Orchard Theatre to debut his new show.

Here he talks about why he is launching a new production when others are closing – he closed Blood Brothers after 24 years in the West End last year because it was not making any money – and what troubles face theatres at the moment.

Why did you choose to launch Save the Last Dance For Me in Dartford rather than a big West End theatre or one in a larger city?

“I started off 40 years ago as a provincial theatre producer and that is not a derogatory term in my book.

“[I see myself as] a provincial theatre producer who has big Broadway and West End successes. I love the audiences out there.

“The letters and warmth I get are amazing. They seem to appreciate what I am about and they let me know when it’s bad, too, believe me. They let me know when I’ve got something wrong – and so they should.”

When do you know whether a show is going to be a success?

“You know whether it is going to be a flop about 20 seconds after the curtain goes up and you know pretty quickly if you got it right from the audience.”

So after the success of Dreamboats and Petticoats, is a similar type of musical like Save the Last Dance For Me not too much of a risk?

“You never see a show that does not cost half a million, so that is a bit of a risk.”

And how quick do you get the money back?

“It can be very quick but I’ve got some shows that have been out there two years which still haven’t recouped. It can be forever.”

So why do you stick with them?

“Because I think they will recoup one day. It is called a nervous hit. When it is not quite a flop and not quite a hit and just, is there. The audience are enjoying it but you are not making a lot of money and you decide you are going to live with it for a little while.

Was that what happened with Blood Brothers in the end?

“No. Blood Brothers was losing money in the last year but it had made so much money over the years that I didn’t mind.”

Are people stuggling to go out to the theatre now?

“Yes I do think times are very tough financially and now you have got all the colossal distractions of what you can see on your TV, your DVD and you iPads. It is extraordinary what is out there.

For people to go and see shows is an effort. That is why you have got to try to find something that an audience responds to.”

Save the Last Dance For Me runs at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre from Wednesday, January 16 to Saturday, January 26. Visit

Categories: Celebrities | Economy | Entertainment | Leisure | Local Businesses | Showbiz

Future looks bleak for the Hop Farm Music Festival as administrators called in

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Tuesday, September 25 2012

As Vince Power calls in the administrators for his company Music Festivals PLC, it almost certainly spells the end for the Hop Farm Music Festival.

Another outing at the venue near Paddock Wood next year looks near on impossible after the fiery Irish promoter suspended shares on his company on Friday.

Its last share price left the company worth a little over 3% of its value when it debuted on the stock market last June. It had gone from a valuation of £10 million to just £310,000.

It seems the weather, the Olympics and a crowded market all conspired against the event, which was headlined by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Suede earlier this year.

Power, pictured above, is also less likely to save the Hop Farm, which ran for five years, now that he stands to lose a lot from the company's failure, owning 23% of the company and about 40% including the stakes of his family.

He has been bitten like this before, losing nearly £8 million in 2010, when his music promotions business, Power Music Group, went under. He is unlikely to allow lightening to strike thrice.

It is a bitter blow for the man described as the father of the commercial British festival, whose Mean Fiddler company turned Reading and Glastonbury into the mega bucks money machines they are today.

He sold that company for £38 million in 2005 but he must now be on the verge of putting his festival management days behind him after a superb, but ultimately costly, swansong with the Hop Farm Music Festival and Valencia-based Benicassim.

The Hop Farm put on the likes of Neil Young, Paul Weller, Florence + The Machine, Mumford and Sons, Morrissey and Prince, pictured. It attracted criticism from some corners for its crowd being on the reserved side at times but no one can deny that every improving line up put it among the country's top music events.

Arguably this year's line up was its least impressive so far, bringing Bob Dylan back to headline two years after his first appearance in the county.

It suggests Mr Power was hoping to weather a tough year with a safe line up and then pull out all the stops once again for 2013.

The freezing of Music Festival PLC's shares also sheds some light on the bizarre move to switch the location of Leonard Cohen's two UK gigs from the Hop Farm to Wembley Arena.

AEG Live came in to jointly promote the event at the eleventh hour and a statement at the time said the move was a precautionary measure against the "unseasonal cold and wet weather this summer."

Now speculation must focus on how much the move was about AEG minimising outlay as its fellow promoter stared at the writing on the wall, rather than maximising potential revenues for the struggling Music Festivals PLC, in case of rain or otherwise.

Ultimately, it is a sorry tale typical of these tough economic times.

Mr Power was lured back into the festival market after interest in live music peaked about five years ago and must now pay the price for operating in an unstable, saturated market.

With the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, mushrooming petrol prices and pay freezes, many festival goers could not afford a £100 weekend ticket and opted to take a year off from muddy fields and overpriced beer.

Like the banking sector before it, it seems the festival market assumed the good times would never end.

Unless an unlikely benefactor appears from somewhere, it seems the Hop Farm Music Festival will become another brilliant but brief part of musical history.

Categories: Business | Celebrities | Economy | Entertainment | music | Olympics | Showbiz

Don't let the mud stick on the Kent County Show

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Sunday, July 15 2012

Spare a thought for the trade stands at the Kent County Show.

The inclement weather made Friday, July 13 and Saturday, July 14 something of a washout, with crowds much smaller than the 80,000 normally expected.

The Kent Showground at Detling was covered in mud and the rain was lashing down at some points, making it something of a chore rather than a joy for those who had attended.

To make matters worse, the car parks were closed at about 11am on Friday and 11.30am on Saturday, meaning many visitors had to risk leaving their cars on the side of the A249 or simply drove home.

It made for a miserable day for the Kentish food sellers and craftsmen, who use the Kent County Show as an important chance to show off their goods to the wider public and make a tidy profit.

As always with us British facing adverse weather conditions, spirits remained high and visitors enjoyed getting close to falconry displays, the Wye Beagles and Equestrian events.

With the weather brightening up for Sunday, July 15, do something worthwhile with the day. Soak up the rays and support the Kent economy by buying some Biddenden cider or Kentish Blue cheese at the Kent Showground.

You also might get to see Countryfile and Newsround legend John Craven. He'll be wandering around all day.

Categories: Celebrities | Economy | Entertainment

Workplace woes - from wealthy to 'wrinkly'

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Wednesday, January 12 2011

Heroine and villain.

The contrast in the news coverage of Miriam O’Reilly, the ex-BBC presenter axed allegedly on age grounds, and Bob Diamond, the fabulously wealthy Barclays boss, could hardly be more stark.

Backing for Miriam was of course a good way of getting at the BBC, never much liked by other media. But the welcome verdict underlines the perception, maybe even the reality, that Auntie has dumped women – and men - of a certain age far too quickly.

Moira Stuart and Arlene Philips top the list. There was no good reason to get rid of any of them. They were doing a perfectly good job and with an ageing population, many viewers relate to them. Closer to home, BBC South East axed popular presenters Beverley Thompson and Geoff Clark and replaced them with the younger pairing of Rob Smith and Polly Evans.

The Beeb always denied accusations that the decision was made on age grounds, but the suspicion remains that wrinklies are not welcome on the box. Yet ITV Meridian is happy to keep lovable Fred Dinenage.

Esther Rantzen struggled to get a word in edgeways in a Newsnight debate last night (11), perhaps illustrating further subliminal prejudice. Yet, she was the ideal person to speak for the older person. Dame Joan Bakewell would have been another.

Youth is not everything but media businesses are desperate to pander to an audience that watches less television than most. It’s high time that a few grey hairs were not a quick route to the television graveyard.

As for Bob Diamond, he did banking no favours during his MP grilling yesterday (11), reinforcing the image of a select clique of greedy vastly over-paid bankers. “Shameless” was one stark - and pretty accurate - headline.

I know investment specialists are a minority who create wealth for the bank and nation, but their bonus levels tarnish their colleagues in humble branch operations. They can never live down their apparent culpability in the global financial crisis and, especially in bailed-out banks, should expect little if any bonus.

Diamond no doubt gets fed up being asked to apologise and thank the taxpayer, but like other senior bankers he has done nothing to show he is in touch with other folk who are lucky to get a Marks & Spencer voucher. Let alone a £5 million cheque. Many only receive a P45 and all are squeezed by higher taxes and food inflation.

Diamond exists in a culture where vast sums of money are the norm.

If only the bankers would show they “got it,” slashed bonus levels for a year or two, just to show they are in the real world, they would earn more respect from a wider population who now despise their apparent greed in a time of austerity. 

But every time they defend the bonus culture, they shoot themselves in the foot. They are a PR disaster that tarnishes an otherwise decent profession. Bank managers and counter staff across Kent must be fuming.

Banks and the BBC are in the firing line because they have not squared reality with perception. They may feel hard done by, but they need to recognise that perception is often more important than reality.

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Categories: Economy | Work

KCC begins wielding the axe but starts at the top

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 8 2010

County Hall has often been portrayed as a rather profligate authority when it comes to management and executive pay.  It's been treated to plenty of damaging headlines in the past over the pay, perks and pay-offs of its top officers in recent years.

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians, as the saying goes. But ahead of the much-feared Comprehensive Spending Review and the era of austerity, plans are afoot to curb the number of bosses at KCC and to scrap bonuses that in the past have seemed rather inflated when those getting them are on six-figure salaries.

KCC sets out plans to curb number of bosses>>>

KCC says that reducing managers is a necessary part of its wider drive to find savings of £340m over the next four years. But clearly council chiefs are acutely conscious that they will come in for conisderable flak if they fail to take steps to reduce the costs of executive pay, especially as it is very clear that plenty of other jobs among the hard-pressed Indians will have to go.

One interesting part of the report setting out the plans was the reference to the need for the overall organisation "to embrace an ethic of collective cost-effectiveness" - which might be taken to implying that there hasn't been much of one in the past.  


The on-going debate over whether KCC's plans to team up with its counterpart in Essex to form a partnership to boost jobs and investment continues. Kent Tory MPs oppose the idea and have fired off a letter to Eric Pickles saying it won't be good for jobs and business.

That's not gone down well at County Hall which has tried to smooth over the MPs' intervention. But I hear that a meeting arranged to thrash out the differences of opinion over the Local Enterprsise Partnership at the Conservative party conference was not well attended by the 12 MPs who signed the letter. Meanwhile, Medway council is capitalising on the fallout by declaring that a number of high-profile businesses have come out in favour of its option for a Kent and Medway LEP.

It has rushed out a press release which details the support it has had and pointedly refers to why its option for a LEP covering Kent and Medway would chime with the government's avowed policy of "localism."

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Categories: Economy | KCC | Politics

Well done Vince!

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, September 24 2010

Two cheers for Vince Cable.

The Business Secretary has come under fire for his controversial comments at the Liberal Democrat Conference.

But he was right to point out the flaws in capitalism, the spiv mentality of city traders, the murky world of some enterprise, and greed.  Competition takes no prisoners and, yes, it often drives out the good.

It needs to be said because in some instances, it is true.

He does not have to be a robotic flagwaver for business. But a note of caution. He must beware of tarring all private enterprise with the same brush. Much of it, and many good people working hard in firms across the country, have made life a lot better for all and created the wealth that pays for public services. Public servants should look at our MegaGrowth 50 supplement to see where some of their pay comes from.

And for all its faults capitalism sure beats alternative forms of governance.

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Categories: Business | National Politics | Economy

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