Renew On Line (UK) number 72

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 172 Mar/Apr2008
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Big UK wind push

2. Zero Carbon Buildings

3. Nuclear Decision

4. Energy Policy developments

5. Tory Green Energy Promises

6. Brown on Energy...and Climate

7. Biofuels and biomass get going

8. EU News: REFIT spreads

9. Global News: Climate High, Bali Low

10. World Round up: Oz, NZ, Canada try

11. Nuclear news: US and UK plans

6. Brown on Energy...

Last November Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined his views on climate and energy policy at a WWF conference. He said that ‘over the coming decades we must move from a largely fossil fuel based economy to an economy primarily powered by low carbon energy: renewables; potentially nuclear- subject to the outcome of our consultation; and the emerging technology of carbon capture and storage’. He noted that ‘at present around 9% of total energy in Britain is from low carbon sources: 2% from renewables, and 7.5% from nuclear’.
On nuclear he commented ‘having concluded the full public consultation we held on this issue, we are considering the results and will announce our decision in the new year’. Well it came (see earlier ), and so now it is up to the private sector...

On Carbon Capture and Storage he re-announced the competition ‘to build in Britain one of the world’s first commercial CCS coal projects’ and added ‘we will also consider whether, if we can show that carbon capture and storage is technologically and commercially viable, it should be made mandatory in some form for all new British fossil fuel plants’.
On renewables, he mentioned new offshore wind, wave and tidal programmes, including support for tidal current turbines and allowing tidal lagoons and small barrages to get support from the Renewables Obligation, as part of the proposed new technology banding arrangements. The Sustainable Development Commission had suggested that one or more lagoon project be supported. DBERR said that ‘Work is currently underway to identify the level of support that tidal lagoons and barrages up to 1GW should receive through the Renewables Obligation. The detail will be included in the response to consultation on the RO. It will be higher than the current level of 1 ROC.’ It added ‘This announcement does not apply to a Severn Barrage, which would almost certainly be above 1GW capacity. It’s unlikely that the RO in its current format would support a Severn Barrage.’

Heat and Power
Brown also made a commitment to renewable heat: ‘Meeting our target will also require greater use of renewables to heat our homes and buildings. So we will introduce new measures to bring forward renewable heat, with a call for evidence in January prior to a full consultation. And as we expand renewable heat we will need to ensure that, wherever feasible and economic, we generate electricity and heat together. So instead of all our energy being generated remotely, more can be supplied locally- making more efficient use of our energy resources.’ He also noted that ‘meeting our renewables target will also require greater use of energy derived from waste; a major expansion of energy from biomass; and greater use of microgeneration, including, as costs come down, more solar power’.

More Consultations
And finally- yet more consultations and reports. Brown said he recognised that ‘windfarms and other new energy installations are often seen as a burden to the local communities living near them, while their benefits go to society at large. So I want to explore how local communities can themselves benefit from the economic opportunities they create’, and, more generally, he said the government ‘will launch a consultation inviting a serious national debate about how we are to achieve our targets’. And after that he reported that ‘we will publish our full Renewable Energy Strategy the following spring- once the EU Directive is passed and we know what the UK’s contribution will be’. So that’s now a year away. But, ‘in the meantime we will legislate, as promised, in our Energy Bill to reform the Renewables Obligation to bring forward newer technologies. And we will introduce in our Planning Bill new measures to speed up the planning system for major infrastructure projects, whilst ensuring the public are properly consulted.’

...and on Climate action
‘Our mission is, in truth, historic and world changing- to build, over the next fifty years and beyond, a global low carbon economy. And it is not overdramatic to say that the character and course of the coming century will be set by how we measure up to this challenge. The climate change crisis is the product of many generations, but overcoming it must be the great project of this generation.’
While some of the media focussed on the short term practical measures- the new ‘green hotline’ to advise people on how to cut their impact on the environment, the ‘green retailer’ initiative, and the proposed ban on one-use plastic bags- rhetoric like that above and lofty phrases about making a radical ‘technological transformation’ akin to the industrial revolution, certainly earnt him some wider credits amongst greens.
Even so, in the Guardian (21/11) Polly Toynbee asked ‘does Brown realise this can't be done by consulting committees or just by markets and trading systems? He promised thousands of green jobs and environmental apprenticeships to upskill the workforce, but Germany only achieved 10 times our windpower and 300 times our solar power by direct intervention, including guaranteeing electricity prices for secure investment in new technologies. Brown resists intervention in markets, but industry needs a kickstart. So far Labour’s record has been dismal, letting carbon emissions rise by 2%. Renewable energy reached just a pathetic 2%: in the EU, only Malta has less.’
Browns proposals for more offshore wind, and for backing wave and tidal power more effectively, although welcome, still don’t seem likely to be enough to get the UK out of the bottom end of the league table. We’re still stuck with the Renewables Obligation.
However, although the means of achieving it are not clear, Brown does seem to have made more of a commitment, at least in the longer term, to responding to climate change. He indicated that the proposal in the Climate Bill that the UK cut carbon dioxide emissions of at least 60% through domestic and international measures by 2050, might need revision since ‘the evidence now suggests that, as part of an international agreement, developed countries may have to reduce their emissions by up to 80%. So we will put this evidence to the committee on climate change and ask it to advise us, as it begins to consider the first three five-year budgets, on whether our own domestic target should be tightened up to 80%.’
That will of course take time to agree- FoE et al had wanted it to be set now and to be buttressed by annual targets. But at least some things seem to be moving the right way. Although not everything- unless there is a sudden profound change of view, we are still likely to be faced with a new nuclear power programme which diverts funding and resource from renewables.

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