With so many renewable technologies vying for support and attention these days, there’s a problem for even the most enterprising enthusiast. How do you whip up a jaded public’s backing for the latest costly scheme? Charles Hendry adopts a novel approach in his just-published official review of tidal energy. The former UK energy minister touts a pioneering project to build a tidal lagoon near Swansea in Wales not on the grounds of efficiency or effectiveness — but because its output would cost only a little bit more than consumers are already paying. He estimates that in the first 15 years, users across the country would have to pay no more than an extra 35p-45p per household a year on top of their existing bills to receive the power this facility would generate. That, he adds helpfully, is rather less than the cost of a pint of milk. Now this may not sound an excessive price to salve one’s environmental conscience. But here’s the rub: it’s also a completely meaningless and misleading comparison. Forget the fact that Mr Hendry doesn’t even tell you the base number to which he’s adding his extra charge for tidal. It is pretty odd to spread the annual subsidy cost of electricity from what would be a pretty tiny quantity of electrical energy across all 26m UK households. Once completed, Swansea will produce 530,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per annum. That’s just 0.2 per cent of the electricity Britain consumes.
FT 15th Jan 2017 read more »