Parliament makes another statement on Microgeneration!

Parliament sits in the Palace of Westminster, which is a series of neo gothic buildings with courtyards and of course the famous clock known as Big Ben, that is at the top of a clock tower. This group of buildings are also known as the Houses of Parliament and comprises many meeting rooms offices and chambers where the elected 646 members of the House of Commons and unelected 731 members of the House of Lords carry out their work of writing the laws of our democracy.

I have been urging Parliament for years to show some environmental leadership by example, and a good place to start would be with the Palace of Westminster itself. Today a plan has been announced to shrink Parliament’s carbon footprint by using microgeneration at a cost of £20 million, which is only £5 million more than the government allotted for microgeneration for the whole of England and Wales for two years.

The centrepiece of these microgeneration plans is a 35 metre high wind turbine. Politicians like wind turbines because they are obvious; the 1.65mW turbine would be visible on nearby Victoria Gardens sticking out like a sore thumb but it would, we are told,“make a bold statement to the nation on government commitment to renewable energy”. Oh dear, here we go again. We are told that this is a bold statement. The environment of our legislature is full of bold statements; we need some real life measures offering reasonable value for money instead.

This present bold wind turbine statement will be located, if plans go ahead, in a place where wind speeds are usually right at the edge of what makes a turbine work and the turbine will only reduce the electric bill and carbon footprint modestly. I wonder what bold statement will be made when the blades are not turning. I think that the turbine plan will be a foolish waste of money. Let us put the money into a turbine where it will generate more electricity, rather than where it will make another untrue boast for the government.

There are also plans for rainwater harvesting and for boiler upgrades. These are cheap and easy to do, but I guess they don’t make bold statements. There are also plans to sink some underwater turbines alongside parliament to take advantage of a six metre tidal difference. This might work, provided the tides are not too strong; if they are too strong the blades might shear off on the turbines.

This plan for the pseudo greening of Westminster largely ignores heat. Electricity usage has increased by 86% in the last ten years according to Norman Baker MP (and he knows his stuff on this) and I imagine that the authors of the plan thought that there is quite enough hot air produced in the Palace of Westminster already.

A far better use for the £20 million would be to write a new law requiring every new building in the country to have thermal solar panels installed and provide a £20 million fund for house buyers to top up a mortgage (for those who needed it) to pay the additional costs of the solar panels on the new build. These green loans could be interest free and £20 million a year would more than cover what is needed for interest free loans for solar panels on new build. The carbon dioxide savings would be at least 37,500 tonnes a year, which is about 37 times more than the estimated the carbon dioxide savings  for the Palace of Westminster’s grandiose scheme.