Renewables: A tale of two countries

Another day, another UK government energy shambles. Or as one of my Twitter followers put it, a ‘whirlyshambles’.

John Hayes the Tory minister, who is in charge of “renewable energy deployment”, wanted to announce a moratorium on new wind farms in a speech on Tuesday evening, but was prevented from doing so by his bos, Energy Secretary Ed Davey. Instead, he told newspapers,  “We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.”

As the BBC’s Roger Harrabin explained, “John Hayes is a long-standing opponent of onshore wind farms, so this row was waiting to happen. I understand that he wrote an anti-wind speech which Ed Davey decreed to be against government policy. He then penned a more emollient version, but shared his original views with journalists.”

So the PM was forced to defend the policy, not very convincingly, at question time. With 100 Tory MPs, who have written opposing the policy, looking on. Again Harrabin, in a very concise paragraph explains why, “Of the alternatives, offshore wind is very expensive; nuclear is controversial and expensive; wave power is in its infancy; energy efficiency is hard to achieve; coal is deemed too dirty and gas leaves the UK vulnerable to price spikes on the global market.”

Meanwhile the industry looks on, wondering if there is any certainty in government policy on which to base investment decisions.

Move north of the border and we have the First Minister gushing that, “The expansion of green power is essential for Scotland’s energy security, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability”. He told the RenewableUK conference in Glasgow that a refreshed Renewables Routemap aims to see 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand met from green power by 2015. The new target comes after DECC statistics showed that Scotland met 35 per cent of its electricity demand from renewables in 2011 – beating the previous interim target of 31 per cent by the end of 2011. He also said “In total, 11,000 people are now employed in the renewable energy sector. That number will grow still further – indeed, we have estimated that offshore wind alone could support up to 28,000 direct jobs by 2020.”

So far so good. He then outlined the benefits this new target would bring to Scotland as part of “the broader energy mix”. Sorry, I though we had abandoned a broader energy mix in favour of a 100% renewables strategy.  Then we are told that the new target will allow “Scotland to meet its own power needs while producing a surplus that will be vital for supply across the United Kingdom”. Only vital if the UK has a renewable friendly energy policy, something that now seems less than certain. Not to mention a willingness to continue to subsidise this form of energy if it comes from another country, should we vote for independence.

Indeed a tale of two countries.

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