Keith Barnham, emeritus professor of physics at Imperial College London and author of The Burning Answer: a User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution: Onshore wind has higher public approval than nuclear and fracking, so why are Tories expanding unpopular industries with higher carbon footprints? Renewable power expanded exponentially under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition elected in 2010 and by 2015 the renewable industries had a turnover of £14.9bn and had reduced wholesale electricity prices. If this expansion had continued under the next government, an all-renewable UK electricity supply was achievable by 2025. Though the 2015 Tory manifesto claimed onshore wind farms “often fail to win public support”, the government’s own surveys demonstrate widespread approval. Support remains high even for a large-scale local wind farm. Onshore wind has far higher public approval than the Conservative party’s top priorities for energy: nuclear and fracking. These have higher carbon footprints and enjoy higher subsidies than renewables. Their low popularity would doubtless fall further if the surveys asked about local reactors or fracking. The Tory manifesto mentioned cuts only to onshore wind, but all renewables have suffered since May 2015. At least six incentives to highly popular solar photovoltaic (PV) power have been cut. According to the Solar Trade Association, 32% of jobs were lost by last summer. In November 2015, government scenarios for future electricity generation all showed renewable power, which had expanded 10 times in the nine years to 2015, hardly expanding at all over the next two decades. Most of the small renewable expansion permitted in the 2020s is expected to be offshore wind. Apparently the government intends there to be no new PV or onshore wind after 2020. Why cull such popular and successful industries? The UK has more than 32 gigawatts of renewable power, 10 times the power the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant may achieve in 2030. Hinkley’s power is not only almost irrelevant; its inflexible nature will make it redundant. Once operating, a nuclear reactor should run with constant output, 24/7, month to month, but power that complements wind and PV has to vary in less than one hour. China, where wind and PV are booming, already has too many nuclear reactors. Its government wants nuclear output varied day to night – an inherently unsafe procedure. The operators at Chernobyl were trying to vary output when the reactor exploded. Renewable expansion has reduced the wholesale price of UK electricity. The rate of fall is consistent with the lower prices in Germany, which has more renewable power. All the government scenarios assume the wholesale electricity price will increase in the 2020s. This is because they hope the electricity price will rise close to the ridiculously high value guaranteed for nuclear power. If it falls, the nuclear levy on household electricity bills will rise dramatically. One low-carbon renewable technology already provides flexible power to the electricity grid: the anaerobic digestion (AD) of farm and food waste to bio-methane. AD provides extremely low-carbon electricity because it avoids greenhouse gas emission from waste rotting on farms or in landfill. The party that restores renewable subsidies (paid from taxation rather than levies), cancels Hinkley Point C and fracking subsidies while incentivising bio-methane will get my vote and, the graphic above suggests, such policies could win them a lot more votes.
Guardian 10th May 2017 read more »
As the Conservatives confirmed plans for a price cap for energy bills, RenewableUK has launched its manifesto for the General Election and called on the next Government to embrace renewables and flexible energy to match the needs of the UK economy. RenewableUK has urged the new Government to focus on energy efficiency as a means to lower costs, rather than a price cap. The trade association released its Powering Britain manifesto in the run-up to the election, and is calling on the policymakers to set a long-term, low-carbon vision for the energy system. “The next Government has a clear opportunity to ensure that the renewable energy sector can continue to grow and deliver even cheaper electricity to UK homes and businesses,” RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said. “The first steps to achieving this include confirming existing investment commitments, and ensuring a competitive process is in place to secure cheap new generation. We need a transparent procurement system which is fair to all technologies. Stable policy will allow industry to keep delivering. Government should be at the heart of building our strong energy future.”
Renew Economy 9th May 2017 read more »
Commenting on today’s (9th May 2017) news that Theresa May is to press ahead with her promised cap on energy prices, Stop Hinkley Campaign spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “If Theresa May wants to cut energy prices, the first thing she should do is cancel Hinkley Point C.”
No2 Nuclear Power 9th May 2017 read more »