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Under The Radar – 11 February

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

This week we discuss:

  1. Last one out turns off the lights

  2. Argentina finds a chum in China

  3. Things go from bad to worse for Meta

Last one out turns off the lights

What happened?

Thousands of UK homes could be paid to ration their electricity usage during peak hours under a new scheme being trialled to reduce pressure on Britain’s energy infrastructure. What does it mean?

Octopus Energy and the National Grid’s trial program aims to both reduce pressure on energy supplies whilst putting money back into the pockets of Brits – a win-win?

Up to 1.4m households have the chance to earn money by cutting their power use by between 40% and 60% during two-hour peak periods. If consumers meet their electricity reduction targets, they could earn up to 35p for every kilowatt-hour of electricity saved.

Demand for electricity is set to soar in the coming decades as millions ditch their gas-guzzling cars to go electric whilst swapping gas-fired boilers for models that run on renewable electricity.

At the same time, coal and gas-fired power stations, which are currently used in accordance with demand, are being replaced with wind and solar power. The issue remains that these energy sources can be sporadic, and as such, greater management of the grid will be required to ensure that demand and supply are matched.

The pilot scheme will therefore serve as a data collecting exercise for consumers’ electricity habits, as well as whether incentives can be deployed to change these habits. This experiment in frugality is just the start of a broader overhaul of the grid system as we look ahead to a fossil fuel free future. 

Argentina finds a chum in China

What happened?

With all eyes on Ukraine, the Falklands is flying under the radar. China has backed Argentina’s long held belief that the Falkland Islands (aka Islas Malvinas) is theirs, rather than an overseas British territory.

What does it mean?

The two nations traded expansionist compliments earlier this week as China voiced its support for Argentina’s desire for the Falklands and Argentina backed China’s claims over Taiwan.

Any history buffs reading may remember that the Argentines have tried their luck once before against the British in the 1980s, and no, I’m not talking about Maradona’s ‘hand of God’.

The fruitful meeting between China’s President Xi and Argentine President Alberto Fernández also saw Argentina sign up for the Eastern superpower’s Belt and Road initiative. The initiative initially began as a strategy to connect China with other countries in Asia through large scale infrastructure projects, but it has now branched into Europe and Africa with both land and sea routes being pursued.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who was already performing her best Thatcher tribute act with eyes on a leadership election, has since reaffirmed the sovereignty of the South Atlantic islands.

China is causing quite the headache for the Foreign Secretary, with this being the latest in a series of inflammatory statements. A meeting between President Xi and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin saw criticism of Western “interference in the internal affairs” of other states. By buddying up with peripheral nations such as Argentina, China is looking to further its anti-Western sentiment, gaining support on the international stage.

The potential for Chinese involvement in the Falklands would make things far more complicated for the UK were Argentina to ever sound the bell for round two.

Things go from bad to worse for Meta

What happened?

Meta has warned politicians that it could suspend its services in Europe if they are no longer able to store European user data on its US servers. The warning has seemingly backfired as French and German leaders told reporters at a meeting in Paris that ‘life would be very good’ without the tech giant’s services. What does it mean?

Meta previously relied on a transatlantic data transfer framework called Privacy Shield, but this was annulled by the European Court of Justice in 2020 citing data protection violations. Following the ECJ’s decision, an Irish data protection watchdog warned Meta that its legal mechanisms may not be considered legal after all. Both sides are flexing their muscles but are unlikely to deliver on their threats. Should Meta withdraw from Europe, it could lose out on as much as $29 billion per year – around 25% of its total turnover. After having $200 billion wiped out from its market capitalization last week, Meta simply cannot afford to take such a drastic measure. On the other hand, if the Instagram and Facebook servers suddenly went down across Europe, millions of businesses would be imperilled.

The dispute over data protection isn’t the only front Meta is fighting legislators on. This year started with more bad news: in January it was revealed that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is pushing for new legislation that would force tech firms to pay for the news generated by traditional media companies in the UK.

With politicians around the world breathing down their necks, Meta may already have played their best hand and been found bluffing. 

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “We cannot take democracy for granted – this government’s failings imperil us all” by John Major for The Guardian

  2. “Special advisers mustn’t become too special” by Charles Moore for The Daily Telegraph

  3. “The toxic culture of the Met threatens policing by consent” by Stephen Otter for The Financial Times

  4. “Keir Starmer the Nato hawk goes on the offensive” by Steven Swinford and Larisa Brown for The Times

Chart of the Week

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/02/10/ageing-population-will-turn-britains-economy-germanys/?li_source=LI&li_medium=liftigniter-rhr

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