October 8, 2008

Prejudice Won’t Find the Right Energy Mix

Your headline article and editorial on September 16 ("No merit in wind energy - report") would give the reader the impression that the REF/CPRE "report" (actually entitled UK Renewables Subsidies: A Simple Description and Commentary) is a comprehensive review producing new evidence that wind power is not a realistic proposition.

In fact it is very short (15 pages), half of which is an explanation of the renewables obligation and climate change levy and how these distort the market and are not necessarily the best value for the money whatever technology is used. There is nothing new in this - energy regulator Ofgem made submissions to the Government on the subject in January 2007 and the Commons narrowly defeated a vote to amend the forthcoming Energy Bill on April 30, 2008.

This would have required the Government to consider the Feed In Tariff system for renewables - widespread in Europe and much more cost effective, while providing certainty to the developer on the value of the power he generates.

Although we are therefore stuck with the renewable obligation for reasons of Labour Party loyalty, when the Energy Bill gets Royal Assent this autumn it will still implement the proposed banding of the renewable obligation. This will provide a substantial differential between established and developing renewable technologies, answering at least in part the other concern of REF/ CPRE.

What the REF/CPRE article does not do is justify why it considers wind power to be of low merit compared with technologies like tidal power. The nearest it might think it gets to this is to quote the off-the-cuff remark by Baroness Vadera about back-up generation that is just plain wrong; maybe some enterprising MP would like to ask a Parliamentary question to confirm that, as far as government policy goes, her ill-informed statement is incorrect?

None of the other references quoted actually supports the REF/ CPRE contentions. I can only assume REF/CPRE believes its own propaganda so much that it cannot recognise when it needs to justify its assumptions.

All energy technologies have good and bad points and it needs an objective and systematic approach to work through the many complex issues that surround the subject before we can hope to achieve secure and sustainable provision of energy in the future. Wind energy has a part to play, but can never be the complete solution. Blind prejudice will not help establish what is the right mix.

Francis McNaughton

South Brent

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