Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tories preparing onshore wind power massacre as Labour misses another Scottish opportunity

Nearly 5GWe of onshore wind power schemes already given planning permission and a further 5 GWe awaiting planning consent face the prospect of not having the finance to be installed  if the Conservatives win the election in May. The Tories are promising that onshore wind and solar projects will not be funded after 2020. They will only support some offshore wind projects and solar pv on rooftops.

Some of the 10 GWe of wind power schemes under threat will not gain planning consent, and some will be awarded so-called 'contracts for difference' (CfDs) under the Government's current programme of awarding contracts through auctions under electricity market reform (see previous blog post). But I estimate that at least 5GWe of already planned onshore wind projects that have or will get planning consent will be left stranded with no premium price contracts - and won't be implemented. This represents on its own around 3 per cent of UK electricity consumption - no doubt much  more would be forthcoming if it were not for the threat of the Tory axe. No wonder the accountants are writing down the UK as an investment possibility for renewables. See report at http://mailcampaigns.lumasweb.co.uk/t/ViewEmail/r/A7BCA7396FC302402540EF23F30FEDED/66DF1788DB094D20948D468F162BC46E

Labour's Tom Greatrex has missed a prime opportunity to outflank the SNP when he talked about how Scotland needed nuclear power. What he should have done is called for a bigger renewable energy target for Scotland. Labour says it wants to decarbonise the electricity sector by 2030. See http://www.utilityweek.co.uk/news/labour-to-decarbonise-electricity-sector-by-2030-miliband-says/1054562#.VPSd-PmsVZ8 and for Greatex's nuclear focus see http://www.thenational.scot/news/new-nuclear-is-a-burning-issue-again-as-politicians-clash-over-energy-plans.660

So don't we need some new, more radical targets for Scotland? 150 per cent by 2025 would seem moderate (perhaps even puny) in this scenario. Actually Scotland is making rapid progress towards its current 2020 target of 100 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2020. 150 per cent by 2025 is certainly plausible, and with onshore and offshore renewable energy prices falling, quite cheap.

The Danes, as usual the trailblazers in wind power, have just announced a contract for what will be the world's cheapest offshore wind park, at just £75 a MWh, for just a 12 years premium price contract. Compare this with the Hinkley C deal of £92.50 for a staggering 35 years and £10 billion of loan guarantees that offshore wind does not usually receive (and a nuclear scheme that is unlikely to be built even on these terms!). See http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/27/us-vattenfall-windfarm-denmark-idUSKBN0LV1F520150227

The time to increase the Scottish target is now. Instead Tom goes on about nuclear power, a technology whose credibility ebbs away as the prospect of the Hinkley C project, and any other major nuclear project, gradually wilts away. So decarbonisation depends on renewables. Greatex could also try to outflank the SNP by arguing that after 2020 that the Scots need English money to pay for more renewables north of the border. Instead, as usual, Labour is grabbing defeat from the jaws of its 'no' vote referendum victory, in this case by focussing on failing nuclear technology rather than pointing the way forward to renewables.

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