Politics, energy, wind and hot air

I’ve got to check the proofs of the typeset book before printing so this will be a brief post but I couldn’t let today’s announcement on wind go without comment. It looks like the UK chancellor’s interference in the energy debate has been to an extent seen off, but possibly at some cost in the future.  A cut in onshore wind subsidies was perfectly reasonable – just not 25%.  I look forward to the day when wind/solar etc. requires no subsidy and that day is getting closer.  I have some qualms about onshore wind – not its efficacy but some aspects of sighting.  Nevertheless I’m glad the chancellor has not managed to kill it off.

What is more worrying though is the chancellor’s fixation with gas.  I don’t understand the reasoning behind the ‘if gas stays cheap we should use it to make electricity’ statements that have been apparently been flying around.  Gas has (almost) never been as expensive (here (UK)).  I say almost since the price I paid (along with everyone else’s) went up 30% last year but has come down a bit since.  The reason it went up was not pesky environmental regulations but due to its link with oil price and the fact that we having to buy more gas on world markets (non UK readers can wake up now after ignoring the last point).  If gas is so plentiful why are starting to use unconventional gas?  This takes a lot more effort, energy and therefore cost to extract.  It puts a floor under prices.  If we stay dependent on gas we will face higher heating and electricity bills as we make ourselves dependent on a declining resource.  And we will fail to meet our carbon targets.  Targets we ourselves have made legally binding.  Something that still makes me proud to be British.  It has to be said that the UK is not the only country facing a backlash against renewables from its government the same is happening in Germany.  As some of the other articles on the same website show and as I have blogged about before, fixed price renewables are cutting the price wholesale electricity, since conventional plant is not required.  I thought this government got energy security even if it didn’t get climate change, it seems it may get neither…

Back to checking the book.


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One Response to Politics, energy, wind and hot air

  1. Byron Smith says:

    I assume you mean “siting”, rather than “sighting”, though the latter is often the main complaint about the former.

    And I assume the “cheap” gas claim is based on the expectation of an expansion of shale gas via fracking. It may turn out to lower prices briefly. The energy involved in extraction is far from the only cost involved in bringing gas to market. When unconventional gas is local it could well be cheaper to exploit (and less prone to political instability) than conventional reserves half a continent away.

    Having said that, I think the exploitation of shale gas is lunacy, for all kinds of reasons, but mainly because we need to leave at least 80% of known fossil hydrocarbon reserves underground if we want to have an 80% chance of staying below 2ºC (using very optimistic assumptions). So anything that expands the pool of available carbon is a pointless exercise. We already can’t afford to burn all the conventional supplies that we can economically exploit, so adding more is suicidal.

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