Britain’s Green Zeal

We’re in for a rough ride. The Guardian reports an agreement in the Cabinet for:

“a far-reaching, legally binding “green deal” that will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions.”

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne* appears to have won over colleagues despite concerns over the cost.  A new carbon budget announcement, expected on Tuesday, will commit the UK to a costly pathway of carbon reduction ahead of any other country. [*cartoon from the excellent Fenbeagle which is unfortunately too long to post. More here.]

Here’s the thinking:

“Ministers believe that major companies involved in developing offshore wind technology … will now be keener to invest in Britain, knowing it is committed to a huge expansion in renewable energy. It is also hoped that the commitment to renewable energy – the committee says 40% of the UK’s power should come from wind, wave and tide sources by 2030 – will stimulate new industries.

These would include the development of tidal power plants, wave generators and carbon capture and storage technology – which would extract carbon dioxide from coal and oil plants and pump it into underground chambers. All three technologies, if developed in Britain, could be major currency earners.”

Really? (/sarc) And the cost?

“Experts say a total of £16bn of investment will be needed every year to meet the commitment. Some of this money will be raised through increases in electricity prices.” Full story here

I’m horrified. However, I also realise the UK is in desperate need of new energy infrastructure.  The cost is worrying; the issues are complex and there are so many with vested interests that it is hard to know who or what to believe.

One thing is simple and this is something many people don’t think about – we used to export energy – now we import it.  That costs – a lot now, and even more as prices rise: oil for road transport, domestic heating and industrial use; gas for electricity production and domestic and industrial use.

Source US Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/united_kingdom/Full.html

Coal still accounts for 32% (2007) of electricity production, however, due to cheap imports we are a net importer of that too – coal imports are now (2o10) at 9-10% of primary energy supply. Overall, we’re screwed.

That net import in 2008 cost us £14 billion and is only set to increase. We are in ‘fuel deficit’ to add to the budget deficit. This is the difference between owning and controlling an energy source, and buying it and seeing the money leave the country. This, my friends, is the argument for developing renewables as part of our energy supply.

Green thinking means that indigenous coal (regardless of cost) is off the agenda, and there seems to be an equal determination to strangle the shale gas industry at birth. Renewable and nuclear energy are one thing, but carbon tax and carbon capture and storage are another entirely. Worrying as the future energy gap is, the spectre and cost of futile ‘decarbonisation’ of the economy is terrifying.

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7 Responses to Britain’s Green Zeal

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    Having worked in countries where the power goes out for at least an hour each day it will be interesting to see what happens in a country that has an elected government.

    One would like to think that you Brits have enough spine to vote people out of office when they try to commit national economic suicide.

    • Verity Jones says:

      Voting these days if you are at all concerned with the parties’ green agendas means that you have a choice between a rock and a hard place. One can only hope that economics starts to win through.

  2. tonyb says:

    Verity said;

    “I’m horrified. However, I also realise the UK is in desperate need of new energy infrastructure. The cost is worrying; the issues are complex and there are so many with vested interests that it is hard to know who or what to believe.”

    This is at the crux of the matter. Because of the ideological distate of nuclear by the previous Govt-continued under this current one-our energy infrastructure is alarmingly fragile. Add to this that proven sources of power (such as coal) are to be sacrificed for inefficient and intermittent sources from renewables-such as wind-and you have an unholy mess.

    Cheap reliable sources of energy helped create Western democracies and properity. Changing to fragile and expensive sources must have consequences.

    Another component is the need for enery security-I’m uncomfortable relying on states who don’ like us for our energy imports so in that respect perhaps the long awaited carbon budget today will at least tackle that aspect.

    Whilst Expensive and intermittent power seems to be the formula it will be interesting to see what becomes of the much rumoured 10 or 11 nuclear plants that were touted as part of the energy policy.

    Tonyb

  3. Pascvaks says:

    I get the feeling from all that I’ve heard and seen, that this is another “Bridge Too Far” and will have a far more detrimental impact on GB, and her allies. Fools always learn, but at what cost?

  4. gallopingcamel says:

    The windmills are destined to be a spectacular failure. If you follow this mirage your electric power will become unreliable. When that happens, what will follow?

    Nuclear power? Probably not. More likely there will be more fossil fuel power plants or daily black outs. You choose when you vote for your “M.P.”.

  5. j ferguson says:

    Verity,
    isn’t the implementation of this thing contingent on actions of governments outside the UK?

  6. Verity Jones says:

    @TonyB
    Will they go nuclear or not? I guess that’s a £64 million question 😉

    @Pascvaks
    Yes it is a worry – is there sufficient opposition and ability to reign in these runaway horses?

    @gallopingcamel
    It is not always down to what they say they believe. When it comes to an important issue it depends whether your MP is prepared to vote against the party line.

    @j ferguson
    The whole thing is contingent on ‘what everyone else’ will do. UK as ever seems to want to be first. Leading from the front is not a good idea when you cannot be sure that others will follow you.

    The whole renewables game is a big gamble based on the myth that we are running out of fossil energy. Some have tried getting us worried about peak oil, but as costs have risen and technology has advanced, new reserves are accessible; also now shale gas is on the scene and it is way too big to ignore.

    Renewables are a great idea, but they have to be reliable and competitive, which they are currently not. Wind power is, at best, opportunistic. It cannot be the mainstay of our energy supply.

    The CO2 /AGW catastrophic warming myth is stopping the goverment from taking the sensible course of investing in high efficency fossil plant if they do not want to go down the nuclear route. If they want to have (sensible) renewables in the future, then the issue is how to pay for the development.

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