So, I'm on a train on my way to London for some meetings and this evening will turn round and come back again. Doing a walkabout with the police tomorrow night, and Ed Balls is coming to visit some schools on Wednesday. (Actually I am no longer on the train... but I was when I wrote that. When are FGW going to get WiFi sorted on their trains? Even a decent phone signal would be a start, especially round Swindon, which is hardly a technological desert. And while I’m on the subject, shouldn’t people who want to talk to each other be banned from the quiet coach too?)
I was in the office this morning for a presentation on the Severn Barrage by a fisheries scientist from the Environment Agency, who is now working on climate change issues. It was fascinating. I now know all about tidal surges -vs- tidal streams, the mechanics of barrages -vs- tidal lagoons, and the breeding habits of shad and salmon, lampreys and elvers. Must admit, I hadn't realised quite how little the barrage would contribute to the UK's energy needs - about 0.6% [CORRECTION - THIS SHOULD BE 6%], though of course that depends on whether we manage to reduce energy consumption significantly over future years, in which case it could be higher. The figure most often cited is that the barrage could provide 90% of the UK's tidal power, which gives a bit of a misleading impression of its overall significance. It's estimated that for far less than the cost of building the barrage (c.£15bn for the most likely location) we could insulate all the homes in the South West and save as much energy as the barrage would provide. But in order to meet our renewables target - 15% by 2020, and we're lagging massively behind most other EU countries on that, except Luxembourg and Malta (which is historical because of our reliance on coal and North Sea oil) and our 60%/ 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 we may need to do both, and much more. (Interesting that both the reps from the EA said that they'd had to rethink their opposition to nuclear power in recent years). Based on today's discussion, I think that the scheme may fall at the first hurdle, in that the planning application won't meet the Habitats Directive criteria. But we'll see.
OK, over to you Glenn, Chris, Paul and the rest! But if you're going to suggest that in the future we'll be able to rely solely on renewables, I want to know what, when and where. Solutions, not slogans! And if you're going to say the solution is a massive reduction in energy consumption (which certainly has to be on the agenda), I want to know how you're going to get people to sign up to it. Carrot or stick? Incentives or regulation?