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Renewable energy: The tide turns

Geoffrey Lean and Tim Webb, The Independant UK
Senior cabinet ministers are pushing for Britain to be the first nation in the world to get much of its power from the tides, as part of a massive new expansion for renewable energy. The Environment Secretary, David Miliband, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain and Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling want a giant £14bn barrage to be built across the Severn.

This would generate about 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity without producing any of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Their move is not meeting any serious opposition within the Cabinet but will spark off a furious row with environmental bodies, which say that the barrage would devastate the estuary’s wildlife. ..

Mr Miliband said: “Generating 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity from a reliable renewable source is a huge prize, so a tidal barrage across the Severn has to be worth very serious consideration. Other environmental impacts need to be weighed in the balance but we will not be protecting biodiversity unless we tackle climate change.”

The 10-mile barrage – which is proposed by the Severn Tidal Power Group, a consortium of six major companies – would stretch across the Severn estuary from south of Cardiff to south of Weston-super-Mare. Only one such barrage exists anywhere in the world – at La Rance, Brittany – and it is less than a 30th of the size. ..
(20 May 2007)

Spend, spend, spend is costing the Earth

Larry Elliot, The Guardian
…Both the big white papers out this week encapsulate the dilemma; the planning blueprint out today will make it easier to build new runways at airports while insisting that reducing carbon emissions must be taken seriously; Wednesday’s energy white paper will say that the only way Britain can cope with rising demand for power is to build a new generation of nuclear power plants.

Ministers would be better off if they levelled with us. The foundation stone of the new frugality is to admit to ourselves that we can continue to breeze off to Riga for the weekend courtesy of Michael O’Leary or take action to stop temperatures rising. We can’t do both.

A second necessity is for a reappraisal of what constitutes the good life. Economic success is judged by what happens to gross domestic product. If GDP goes up by 4% that is twice as good as it going up by 2%, but not quite as good as if it went up by 5%. In a country where the population is living on the edge of starvation this crude measure has relevance; in the Britain of 2007 it does not. The measure of domestic progress published by the New Economics Foundation is just one piece of work showing that the link between economic growth and wellbeing is tenuous once a modest level of prosperity is reached. That, though, is not the way the economic system works. It operates on the basis that there is no such thing as enough.

Third, the government has to be more serious about incentives for households to go green. The pitiful amount allocated for grants to install renewable energy into the home is one example of a lack of real commitment; ministers should be providing tax breaks for households to generate their own energy and insulate homes.
(21 May 2007)

Grant cuts anger renewable energy industry

Ashley Seager and Fiona Walsh, The Guardian
The government drew sharp criticism from the country’s fledgling renewables industry yesterday as it relaunched a controversial grant system but slashed the funds available for some technologies.

Electricity generating systems such as solar photovoltaics and small wind turbines will now be uneconomic for households, even though the government has pledged a big rise in the use of renewables over the coming decade, experts said.

Britain generates 2% of its power from renewables but has pledged to raise this to an EU target of 20% by 2020.

Having suspended its grant system, called the low carbon buildings programme (LCBP), in March, the Department of Trade and Industry said yesterday it would restart it at the end of May. Key changes are the abolition of monthly allocations of funds, which embarrassed the DTI by running out on the first day of each month, a shortening of grant claim periods and huge reductions in grant money for solar PV and wind turbines.
(10 May 2007)