Investing in renewable energy has already cost the UK taxpayer dearly. Roger Arthur urges it's time to peer through the political hot air and see the issues clearly.
Massive investment in so-called ‘renewable energy’ has already cost the taxpayer dearly and has meant more expensive energy too.
We must maintain a mix of energy sources, ranging from nuclear to gas, striking a balance between energy security, affordability and emissions.
Majoring on further rapid expansion of solar and wind power to reduce UK CO2 emissions, without identifying the overall cost and global impact, is wrong.
Many £ billions have been spent on solar and wind power in the UK. In 2010, our industrial electricity prices were about average for a western economy but now they are around 28 per cent more expensive. They have increased by more than 160 per cent since 2004 and are becoming increasingly uncompetitive.
And let’s not forget, the UK has already cut CO2 emissions by more than most other G7 countries - to around 43% of 1990 levels – with a ‘cleaner’ electricity mix based on gas instead of coal, plus renewables, and a falling demand for energy.
The rated capacity of UK solar and wind electrical generators totals around 22,000 MW, but that is rarely available. Indeed, on some winter days their output is only around 1 to 2% of U.K. maximum demand (60,000 MW).
Conventional power and energy storage plant, plus smart grid control equipment has to meet the other 98 to 99% of power demand, when there is no sun or wind.
Expenditure on energy storage, smart controls and fast standby plant will have to be expanded many times if the net zero CO2 emissions target is brought forward.
But before committing that expenditure, we need to know the impact on fuel poverty and on the loss of businesses (and jobs) overseas, where they are likely to emit even more CO2.
We must also focus on cost effective means to minimise energy wastage and pollution, while seeking to better understand the extent to which humans affect climate change.
The rate of climate change may be influenced by the intensity of solar radiation for instance, plus natural greenhouse emissions. The models used to predict the interaction between those factors need to be further refined.
Then we must ask if the associated cost and human impact in the UK is acceptable, when we are only influencing around 2% of human CO2 emissions?
If the U.K. consumer is expected to shoulder most of the extra cost then more companies (and jobs) will go to China, India and the like, thereby increasing global CO2 emissions while putting more UK citizens into fuel poverty.
It simply doesn’t make sense to throw even more money at solar and wind – without a full impact analysis.
Realistic options for reducing emissions, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), should also not be ignored.
That could have a far bigger impact on global CO2 emissions, while limiting fuel poverty in the UK, rather than another un-costed dash for solar and wind at home.
Roger Arthur is UKIP’s Energy spokesman