Suddenly, renewable energy is important, say the Government

There have been many new “green energy” policies announced recently; we have heard about £100 billion that will be spent on green energy in the next ten years, the forests of wind farms that will be built in the United Kingdom and solar thermal systems for seven million UK homes by 2020.

Suddenly we are faced with so many Government proposals to build up a UK wide renewable energy network that we do not know where to start. I can barely believe it to be true because this is some of what I have been urging for ten years.

The proposals contrast vividly to the actuality of Government policy over the past ten years. You will remember that the Government has allowed 650 Members of Parliament to spend more on their expenses than the Government has spent on renewable energy generation.  

At the same time we have seen Britain, or more accurately England, being touted as the new world leader in nuclear energy as well as a world nuclear dustbin. Mr Hutton is courting any large multinational firm that will listen to him in the hope of finding lots of them that will provide the UK with plenty of those nuclear power stations which we seek to deny nations like Iran from using.

That might be the key to the Government’s volte face on renewables; it has more to do with energy security than it has to do with reducing carbon emissions. Mr Brown has admitted in a recent speech that the North Sea oil had passed its peak. A few weeks ago he said he would talk to the oil producing countries to get the price of oil down. They listened most politely to him but the price of oil still races ahead.

Mr Brown also talked to the oil producers in the hope of persuading them to find more oil. They must have explained to him the facts of oil production. Every oil producer wants to find large oil fields in places that are easy to access. The fact that oil producers are finding smaller and smaller oil fields in places that are hard to access is not due to the oil explorers being obtuse or some gross conspiracy to keep the oil price high.

Mr Brown has given a very large green light to nuclear energy but he has been told that he should have made the decision ten years ago. It will take ten years for any significant extra nuclear energy to come on stream in the United Kingdom.  

After eleven years of an energy policy that comprised of “it will be all right on the night” the rubber chickens are now swiftly coming home to roost. China, India and Brazil are soaking up fossil fuel like it is some finite resource, the UK has no more than a few days worth of coal oil and gas stocks from which to generate power and heat, prices will continue to rise and we have very little fuel under our won direct control. Oops; this was supposed no problem because it can be safely governed by the market, according to the 2003 Energy White Paper. Oops; this is how the market is actually handling it.

The last resort for the Government is to turn to the renewable industry. Suddenly renewables are becoming an essential part of energy policy, not just, as the Energy Savings Trust designated them a few short months ago, a lifestyle choice.

Thousands of wind farms will make a difference, although precisely what difference we will not know because to get the best out of wind we need to reorganise our electrical grid. Seven million homes using solar heating will make a noticeable difference, especially as heat, unlike electricity can be stored, and all the other renewables will also have their place in the new grand scheme of things, chipping away at our fossil fuel requirements.

Will it really happen? I cannot say. I know that the Government’s stop start householder grant scheme for solar actually shrunk the size of the UK solar industry last year and closed down the solar side of many heating firms. I also know that the Government has invested unwisely in pursuing the alchemist’s stone of a zero carbon home so we have to wait and hope that this time they mean it with real proposals and not empty words.

We owe the future generations no less.

One Response

  1. […] Suddenly, renewable energy is important, say the Government There have been many new “green energy” policies announced recently; […]

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