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Government puts wind at the heart of sustainable power

The UK Government have announced plans to quadruple the number of wind turbines in the UK and will force through planning applications in order to meet planned CO2 emission cuts of 34% by 2020. The move, which has been criticised by the business community for being economically inefficient and by some environmentalists for blighting landscapes and communities, will see more than 4,000 onshore turbines built by 2020 (many in beauty spots or highhly visible on high land) with a further 3,000 turbines offshore. Energy experts point out that wind is an intermittent source of power and Environmental groups have asked the Government consider that windfarms need to be sensitively sited. The CBI have argued that the cost of turbines can be three or four times as much as other power sources and if fossil fuels are to be slowly phased out then the cleanest and cheapest alternative is nuclear power – with coal powered generator plants with carbon capture as an alternative.

Climate Change minister Ed Millband has said that the move to sustainable power will create thousands of ‘green collar’ jobs as the UK’s use of renewable energy moves from the current 2% to 15% by 2020 although as we previously reported, the UK’s only wind turbine manufacturing factory in the Isle of Wight is due to close this week.  In fact there is a lamentable lack of joined up thinking within the UK Government on climate change – with a host of recent stories pointing to the Government’s good intentions and rhetoric – and then  just plain stupid behaviour.  On this Sunday alone (19 July) the press reported; that large parts of the Government were ignoring the Government’s own ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme; That now only four of Labour’s ‘eco towns’ will be built; That Indian giant Tata will ditch plans to build electric cars because of red tape and delays in securing a loan of £10 million from the Goverments£2.3 billion car assistance scheme; And that the Government’s plans for the UK to be a leader in wave and tidal power are in tatters and that not one pnenny of the £50 million put aside in 2004 as a marine development development fund has been allocated. Against a background of Lord Mandelson championing a third runway at Heathrow, a lack of focus on clean energy generation for the future, at least Ed Milliband’s Carbon Transition Plan is a start – but it is a very limited start and if other parts of Government simply ignore climate change one that will have little impact on reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Its not all bad news – a move to improve home insulation should cut energy use (and household bills) as will smart meters for househol power and the Government have also announced that home owners who install solar power  or wind turbines at home will be paid a ‘feed in tariff’ if they provide energy back to the National Grid by next April. The tariff will be subsidised by a government subsidy or higher fuel bills for other home owners (which is already causing concern). But it may be too little – and it may already be too late.

See Battle of wind farms to be fought on land and sea by Ben Webster and Robin Pagnamenta, the Times page 5 13th July 2009 and see http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/21/scotland-windpower-lewis-morrisons-macaulays

See A fine green start, but Milliband must go further,  and Government admits marine power fund has run aground and Labour shuns its own bike scheme and Tata to ditch electric car scheme if £10 million loan delayed: All in the Observer, 19th July 2009.