Is Ed Miliband Christopher Booker in disguise?

I’ll get to the headline eventually but to do so I must first explain something. There are two forms of solar energy. Photovoltaic panels (PV) converts daylight into electricity. Solar panels convert daylight into heat. Generally PV is more expensive than solar panels and electricity is hard to store, unlike heat that is easily stored. Electricity generated by fossil fuel is more carbon intensive that heat generated by fossil fuel. In the UK about a quarter of the electricity is generated by low carbon nuclear energy. PV is more costly, in unit energy terms, than solar panels.

These differences between PV and solar thermal panels show that each technology has advantages and disadvantages. Thermal solar panels, usually used for water heating is by far the most popular form of microgeneration in the United Kingdom and in the rest of the world. However, popularity of a product does not ensure Government support.

For reasons best know to themselves the United Kingdom has traditionally concentrated on encouraging PV, rather than thermal solar panels. PV grants and subsidies in the UK are more generous, despite the lack of an ability to store electricity and despite problems in feeding renewable power into the national grid, which does not always want or need the power at the times that PV generates it. A few years ago the Government introduced a “Low Carbon Building programme” to help support microgeneration.

Phase 1 of the programme provide subsidies for householders; Phase 2 provided subsidies for not for profit organisations. The subsidies awarded for PV were always much higher than those offered for thermal solar. The rationale for this has never been satisfactorily explained.

Because the PV subsidies were more generous PV has proved popular with the not for profit organisations under Phase 2. The PV market has been thriving as a result. The popularity was augmented by a Government promise to introduce feed in tariffs for electricity in April 2010. Similar tariffs for thermal solar would have to wait until 2011.

A couple of days ago the Government department in charge of this – Mr Ed Miliband’s Department of Energy & Climate Change, announced that owing to “unprecedented demand” Phase 2 for PV would be closed immediately. A spokeswoman for DECC was reported in the Financial Times as having said

“It’s very encouraging that there’s been an unprecedented demand for this technology but we have to be fair to all renewable technologies.” It must be the first time that DECC or its predecessors has thought about being “fair” to all renewable technologies; Thermal Solar, despite its popularity has always been treated less favourably than PV.

In the London Evening Standard Mr Miliband has written about the importance of tackling climate change and rather unfairly and inappropriately compared climate change sceptic, who have a logical point of view (but one I find wrong) as being “today’s flat earth brigade”. Those who do not believe in climate change include Christopher Booker, Melanie Philips and David Bellamy, hardly intellectual pigmies. I think that they are mistaken, but i would hardly compare them to the flat earth brigade.

Mr Miliband wrote in the Evening Standard

“The unprecedented nature of the challenge across the world may seem daunting. It will require difficult choices, including here at home as we transform our energy systems, our housing stock and our transport system.Difficult it may be but just as we should be candid about the challenges, so we must not forget the potential benefits.If the world sends a decisive signal at Copenhagen that it is shifting to low carbon, we can unleash a green revolution.”

So we see how Mr Miliband unleashes his green revolution; he cuts out important PV subsidies and fails to implement even more important solar thermal subsidies. The green revolutionaries are certainly not to be found in the corridors of Whitehall or in the House of Parliament. There live the counter revolutionaries who insult the climate change deniers, but act like climate change deniers. This is why the United Kingdom gets proportionally less clean renewable energy than any other state in the European Union.

It doesn’t quite scan as a football chant but it’s nevertheless worth chanting to the tune of “Bread of Heaven ”

“Ed Miliband, Ed Miliband, are you Christopher Booker in disguise?

Are you Booker in disguise””

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