Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A low carbon future?

The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan may not be the most exciting or attention-grabbing title but the statement today from Ed Miliband had some excellent stuff in it.

As I've mentioned before I have a company in my constituency, Garrad Hassan, which lays claim to being the world's leading wind energy consultancy. They will welcome this, I'm sure, as it's what they've been lobbying for:

"To deliver the changes in our energy supplies between now and 2020, we must make it easier for investors to turn low-carbon projects into reality. Having tackled the planning rules, I believe we now need to do more to deal with the issue of grid connection, so I am today announcing that I will exercise the reserve powers provided under the Energy Act 2008 for Government, rather than the regulator, to set the grid access regime. The new rules should be in place within 12 months, so that instead of waiting for more than a decade for grid connection, as can happen now, we can get the fast access to the grid that renewable projects need."

And this:

"We also need to nurture the offshore wind industry, in which we have a unique resource, so I am making available up to £120 million to support the growth of a world-leading offshore wind industry in Britain. As well as supporting the demonstration and testing of offshore wind, the money will be used to attract offshore wind manufacturers to the UK. We estimate that those investments will help to nurture industries that can support hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country. We can make that investment today only because, even in the tough times, we made the choice to invest in the economy of the future."

More good stuff on feed-in tariffs, rail electrification, moving forward on the Severn barrage. I'll be spending the next few weeks trying to find out more about what this means for Bristol and what more we need to do to ensure we can be part of this. We're obviously well-placed, with Forum for the Future's Sustainable City work (e.g. the home insulation scheme), and with a host of SMEs in the 'green economy' sector, and what could simply be characterised as the right mindset - people and businesses who care about the environment, who are prepared to make adjustments to their own behaviour and lifestyles and indeed are keen to do so, but look to Government to provide encouragement and incentives, and to remove the obstacles which prevent progress being made.


Bristol Dave said...

I blogged about this but I'll, ahem, clean it up a bit for a comment on your blog.

I can quite confidently say wind power is the biggest waste of time and it irritates me that the government are even considering it.

Wind turbines might look nice, but they are incredibly expensive to install in the first place, incredibly expensive to maintain, only generates power some of the time (when it's windy) and give utterly piss-poor value for money in the amount of energy that they generate. Still, since when has value for money ever been the slightest consideration for environmentalists? The sole consideration they have is "carbon footprint" and any other considerations as far as cost, actual effectiveness, etc can be damned.

Wind power is fine for installing on a remote farm in the middle of nowhere (although they can whistle for running a kettle, iron, microwave, oven etc off it) but no good for actually making a dint in meeting the UK's power needs. The government is going to piss away millions, possibly billions on wind power and it'll all be a complete waste of time as they realise they can't get enough from it.

The answer has been, is, and always will be nuclear power. Unfortunately, the French don't have much time for environmentalists totally misguided handwringing about nuclear, which means that they're world leaders in the manufacturer of nuclear facilities and we've missed the boat. We even buy electricity into the national grid from the French, and guess how they generate it? Nuclear. Once nuclear fusion is cracked then the idea of using any other form of power generation is frankly barmy.

Don't get me wrong, SOME renewables have their place (tidal power looks interesting) but we really need to consider other factors as well as carbon emissions. What is the point in low carbon power generation if it can't meet the demands of the country? Or if it turns out (as I suspect it will) to be cripplingly expensive?

Kerry said...

Didn't know you had a blog - you can advertise yourself if you want, give us the link.

This isn't at all what I was told by GH, but all my info is in Bristol so I don't feel quite equipped to respond. We are of course pursuing the nuclear option too, but renewables must be part of the mix.

Harriet said...

I believe that nuclear is absolutely not a solution. There are so many other advanced technologies, which the government is putting funding into but that seems to ignore. Take ground source heat pumps, they are now around 80-90% efficient, don't need maintenance, don't give off any emissions. Yes they use electricity to run, but with a coefficient of 4, can't complain really. And if you use PV to generate your electricity, then you have zero carbon.

Tony Blair has just released a report on renewables, it is well worth a look. In it he estimates the future contribution different technologies will make, and the funding needed to get them used widespread.

Forget nuclear, or wind power. Go for ground source heat pumps and good old insulation.

Kerry - if you want Bristol specific information about grants available, check out your local Energy Savings Trust advice centre, they are not for profit.