Article in the Times (18/02/09) by Carl Mortishead
If you flick a switch today, the light goes on because of coal. Almost half the power generated in Britain on Tuesday came from coal and a bit more than a third from natural gas. Nuclear power stations were contributing 17 per cent and windmills provided 0.6 per cent.
It’s a day’s work in the power industry and it is 16 years since the Kyoto conference on climate change, when this country signed up to a process that would seek to avert global warming by weaning the world off the combustion of oil, gas and coal. Since then we have had two Energy White Papers, one Energy Review, the launch of European carbon trading, the decline of North Sea gas, the promotion of wind farms and the eleventh-hour rescue of Britain’s nuclear industry. After all the politics, we are breathless as our bright new whirligigs stand motionless on a beach horizon.
The wind has failed, as it does during periods of intense heat and cold, and although we have built, with enormous subsidy, enough wind turbines to generate 5 per cent of our electricity, no more than 1 per cent is operational when we need it. Like Coleridge’s ancient mariner, the nation is becalmed, a painted ship on a painted ocean and we have gone back a century, hewing the same coal that first put Britain on the fast track to the Industrial Revolution.
The reason why we are still stuffing black lumps of carbon into furnaces is simple: it makes economic sense and the financial markets are shouting this message louder than ever before.
Everyone loves to hate financial markets — casinos operated by spivs, jungles filled with rapacious speculators — but they provide warnings when things are about to go wrong and the carbon market is no exception.
Also see Energy Companies need more help if they are exploit offshore options by Patrick Loughran, also in the Times 18/02/09
The future of the energy industry in Britain could be poking out of a sandbank in the Solway Firth near Dumfries. The offshore wind farm’s oddly quaint name is Robin Rigg – taken from the seafloor shelf that supports its 60 wind turbines.
“The Rigg” should start providing the UK with 180 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy this year (enough to power 120,000 homes) and there are hopes to go further, particularly with the 1,000MW London Array proposal that would put 341 turbines in the Thames Estuary.
But the future is getting mired in the sandbanks. Britain is losing its appeal to renewable energy investors, which in turn is putting the growth in alternative energy jobs at risk.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Environment Agency, recently cited Shell’s withdrawal from the London Array last summer as an example of the “green drain” out of Britain. Shell’s rival, BP, also abandoned plans for UK offshore wind farms last year in favour of onshore projects in the United States. Lord Smith said that he wants to take a “long serious look” at why companies are doing this.