Sunday, 19 April 2015

Tories plan huge waste of UK renewable energy resources - and UKIP want to scrap acid rain as well as carbon laws

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 will not be funded after 2020. Their manifesto proclaims a desire 'to halt the spread of onshore windfarms'. But they will back nuclear power and gas fired power stations. Yet the Conservative manifesto pronounces that; 'We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible'. The contrast between the pledge to give local people a say over proposed windfarms and a refusal to allow the same for fracking is breathtaking.

So, how can nuclear power, whose already expensive Hinkley C government price tag is proving an underestimate as the scheme falters, be 'cost-effective', even when the government claims for its cost are a lot more than onshore renewables? And how can more gas fired power stations cut carbon emissions when the average amount of carbon per kWh of electricity consumed is already down to the level of power from a gas fired power station? There is no mention at all of solar power in the Conservative manifesto, and the only specific renewables that appear in the manifesto are offshore wind and the Swansea tidal power scheme, for which, as mentioned in a recent blog post, there is no prospect of necessary government support.

So, the Conservatives, even on paper, are heading for a more expensive carbon reduction strategy. Given the likely failure of the nuclear new build programme, even the claimed carbon reductions from that will not happen.

As I said earlier, what is really happening is a massacre of the UK's currently consented wind power portfolio, which the Lib Dems have failed to prevent within the coalition. 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 over 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. Very few solar farms are being awarded CfDs. No wonder the accountants are writing down the UK as an investment possibility for renewables. See report at

The Lib Dems are promising in their manifesto a 60 per cent 'indicative' target for renewable energy as a share of electricity by 2030. But, given the Tory manifesto such a pledge seems dead in the water if there is another Tory-Lib Dem coalition, or even a Tory minority government where influence on the specifics of energy policy would be even weaker. The Lib Dems could gain a specific target only in a coalition or deal with Labour who have pledged complete electricity decarbonisation by 2030. A specific target for renewable energy is important, for otherwise Labour may rely on fantasy nuclear power stations and CCS projects that usually don't happen to provide the bulk of the target. Labour is promising to give the task of deciding the content of their decarbonisation programme to a committee, I assume of the great and the good in the increasingly out-of-date centralised power station industry. But of course, do not get me wrong, a Labour-led Government is much, much, preferable to the increasingly energy-atavistic Tories whose biggest concern seems to be placating stone-age UKIP leaders.

The Green Party is the most specific about targets for renewable energy, and also the most realistic since they do not rely on nuclear power to achieve carbon reduction targets. They don't specify complete decarbonisation of electricity but would set a regulation so that, in effect, carbon emissions would be reduced to 10 per cent or less of what they are now by 2030. The Green party set ambitious targets from offshore wind and solar pv to be achieved by 2020.

The SNP manifesto is generally supportive of renewable energy, focussing particularly on offshore wind and also connecting up Scottish islands to the mainland so that they can develop renewable energy more efficiently and economically. That is one issue where they can be reasonably confident of achieving concessions from a Labour Government, and presumably the Lib Dems would not object. It is a pity that the SNP manifesto did not also mention solar pv, however. In the past, at least, some SNP people have mistakenly seen solar pv as a 'southern Tory' resource. In fact the difference between Surrey and Scotland in terms of solar pv output and economics is much more marginal than many people assume.

As for UKIP, well, oh dear. I'm surprised that this 'back to the 50s' party are not demanding a return to steam powered trains! They have, perhaps predictably, opposed subsidies for wind and solar power, demanded the repeal of the Climate Change Act, but more curiously highlight a wish to scrap the 'Large Combustion Plant Directive'. For the uninitiated the LCPD is an EU Directive issued originally way back in the 1980s designed to curb acid emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Not content with wishing to promote carbon emissions, UKIP appears to want to promote acid rain as well. I mean why worry about a few fish swimming around in the rivers, or Norwigian's who used to complain about us dumping acid rain into their rivers?



  1. Yes the Tories are incoherent and the Lib Dems marginal. The Green's manifesto is wonderful on political analysis, but weak on energy numbers. How is it even conceivable to get 42GW of offshore wind installed by 2020- in 5 years time? And where on earth did they get the the figure of 360 times more jobs if investment went to PV solar rather than nuclear? If that was true then maybe Labour's '1 million new green jobs' would all be in PV!