When will Government live up to green promise?

First published in Letters

WHAT kind of a world do we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? An end to war and poverty? Desirable aims but difficult to achieve.

What about a world with a safe and secure energy supply? This is both achievable and urgently needed and yet to look in the papers our politicians at all levels seem determined to prevent this happening.

This Government, when elected, claimed it would be the ‘greenest’ government ever and yet it has precipitated a crisis in the growing solar PV industry and looks set to make this worse by gradually reducing tariffs even further. This will cause considerable job losses and do nothing to halt our growing CO2 emissions. But the situation is just as bad for wind generation.

MPs are calling for large cuts in funding for on-shore windfarms and there is the prospect of our own MP Anne McIntosh heading a select committee in reviewing wind energy production. Considering that she has consistently expressed her opposition to wind energy it would seem inappropriate to chair what should be a balanced and unbiased assessment of the industry.

At a local level, councils are rejecting wind turbines basically because they think they are unsightly. This is a very subjective reason and takes no consideration of the wider implications.

There is also a lot of misinformation put out regarding wind energy:

• “It consumes more energy than it generates”. Studies have shown that it will pay back its energy input within 12 months.

• “It is very inefficient”. Wind generators are slightly less efficient than other power stations, but over its 25-year lifetime, a wind generator will produce a large amount of electricity. And let us not forget that its basic operating resource (ie the wind) is free compared to the constantly rising costs for gas and coal power stations.

• “We can’t rely on the wind to blow”. No properly-integrated supply system relies on just one form of generation. This country has a large wind resource but wind energy will only ever be one part of that mix.

• “It is too expensive”. Wind energy is a fairly new industry but already the cost/kWh in generation is comparable with other suppliers.

This will get even more competitive as innovation and scale of production reduces wind energy costs while the cost of coal and gas will increase.

• “There is too much subsidy”.

Wind and other renewables are funded through the ‘Renewables Obligation’ system, which is effectively a tax. However, other power industries also receive (hidden) subsidies in the form of tax breaks for exploration and extraction and, of course, the huge cost to the nuclear industry for the de-commissioning of their reactors (recently estimated by the Government to be a massive £56 billion). Compare that to the modest costs that will be involved in removing a wind generator, recycling the metal, and reinstating the ground.

There is an urgency for us to take measures to ensure that we have a sustainable energy system for the future. Oil production has already peaked and will decline; coal and gas, while still extensive, is not limitless and has its own problems of extraction and its contribution to CO2 production.

Energy conservation and renewable energy could create many new jobs and help us build a safe and secure energy system for our children.

The present financial situation is tight but it is not too late for the Government to live up to its green promises. A failure to do so now could cost us a lot more in the future.

GLYN WILD, Swinton

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