Sunday, December 09, 2007

UK off-shore wind energy

Debate on wind energy on "The Politics Show" - BBC1 mid-day Sunday 9th December

I'm interested (like everyone else on the planet) in the renewable energy debate, so when I saw a special report on tomorrow's announcement on new planning laws to facilitate the implementation of off-shore wind farms around the coast of Great Britain, I was interested, and took a few (very brief) brief notes, which are reproduced below. Being "The Politics Show", all the arguments naturally revolved around political and public opinion issues, with no mention of technical issues - the closest they got to that was a (perfectly valid, in my view) question regarding an over-reliance of the national grid on wind-energy: what happens if the wind stops for a long period of time (e.g. a week)?? Interesting nonetheless...

Report on off-shore wind power:
- Expansion of offshore wind farms - new planning laws to be announced tomorrow.
- 20% EU target for renewable energy production by 2020.
- Significant obstacles to this happening.
- However, very expensive for the amount of energy produced.
- Consumers will pick up the tab for offshore wind for subsidies - in addition to the already existing subsidies for on-land wind farms.
- RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) also has concerns regarding sea-birds and migration routes.

Interview with John Hutton (Government business minister):
- Must facilitate shift to low-carbon use, and ability for Britain to supply own energy (and in a clean way.
- How much will be generated: all electricity used by households in the UK if all of the resources round the coast is used.
- 1GW from offshore at moment => want 34GW in 12 years (!)
- No single technology will solve energy problems, but wind power will be a major part.
- The choices can't be postponed - decision must be made now.
- The planning laws are changed with announcement tomorrow- at end of day, it will be private companies who will actually build the turbines.
- There will mean increases in costs for the consumer.
- What about over-reliance on wind: stressed need for a balanced approach to energy production.
- Will 20% target be met? No - not by 2020.

Interview with Alan Duncan (Conservative energy brief):
- Largely agrees with announcement. The coastline should be used.
- Electricity prices will go up: yes, but stability of carbon based fuels not guaranteed in the future, and it the difference in cost between renewables and carbon-based energy production which is of importance.
- Both bottom-up and top-down energy policies needed: both - Nuclear energy needs to be part of the energy mixture - though without subsidies.

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