Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The dire threat to the European renewables industry

I don't often quote other peoples' blogs, but this is vital, as it's about the heart of the battle for control of UK and European energy policy.

A few of days ago I was talking about feed-in tarriffs. Defra press office's little joke at BERR's expense was the tip of the iceberg of a bitter dispute at the heart of UK energy policy development.

This battle sees support for new nuclear build, gas and carbon capture pitted against support for renewables, in which a feed-in law should have a rightful place.

As we're going to miss our renewables targets, the UK (BERR) is pushing in Europe for a grossly inefficient use of voluntary credit purchases to make up its renewables shortfall.

It works, according to Miguel Mendonca, a policy officer for the World Future Council and author of Earthscan title 'Feed-in Tariffs: Accelerating the Deployment of Renewable Energy' (May 2007), like this:

The Government will be resurrecting civil nuclear power — just as seven of the UK's 16 nuclear power plants are currently off-line for repairs and maintenance.

Support will also be given to carbon capture and gas infrastructure.

(NB: British unions are well represented in the conventional energy industry, with coal and nuclear carrying significant union membership. The UK renewables industry has no union.)

A harmonised set of certificates of origin (guarantees of origin, or GOs) will be designed; for each kWh of green electricity produced, the producer can ask a competent national body to issue a green certificate.

This can be traded and will be counted towards the national target in the country into which the certificate is sold.

The country from which the certificate originates will not be able to count it under its own national target achievement plan.

The opposition to feed-in is entrenched in the conventional energy industry.

They (Eurelectric et al) have mobilised a fresh campaign against feed-in.

The UK's energy companies are mostly owned by German and French utilities (such as E-ON, RWE and EDF) — who all oppose feed-in, but some welcome the opportunity for large profits from wind farms.

They vigorously defend a domestic system which blocks out everyone except the biggest investors, themselves — the reverse of what a feed-in system achieves — and lobby in Europe for a system which will undermine everyone else's renewables systems.

The only winner can be the conventional energy industry.

Miguel concludes: "It seems clear that the renewables industry here is still far from safe, with national governments and energy giants working behind the scenes to keep the industry in check, or worse."

Until the new draft Directive emerges in January, we won't know the fate of renewables here.

> Read Miguel's full article here


neil craig said...

This hoax is not nearly so well produced.

Instead of going into it in pseudo detail you merely pluck a few figures out of the air.

PS Since 1 nuclear reactor equals about 1,300 windmills (except when it isn't windy or when it is) & each windmill takes up to 1,000 tons of poured concrete it seems windmills, using orders of magnitude more concrete than nuclear, must be far & away the most CO2 heavy way of producing power.

Low Carbon Kid said...


1. You commented on the wrong piece I think.
2. It's no hoax. The article is clearly by David Fleming and you can Google him.
3. The article is heavily footnoted. Figures are not plucked from the air.
4. The main source is a heavily researched and commented on paper in its third edition (havin been extensively reviewed and revised) at I suggest you read it before coming back with comments
5. The carbon LCA of a 1.5MW turbine is about 7gmCO2/kWh. The concrete weighs about 800 tons. Some do weigh up to 1500 tons, it's true, depending on the size (up to 5MW). But:
6. The fuel is free for all renewable energy, and delivered on site for free. Unlike nuclear there is no carbon-intensive supply chain.
7. The site can be cleared very quickly when the turbne is decommissioned leaving no residue to take cxare of for tens of thousands of years.
8. I do concede that when situated on peat bogs turbines produce climate-heating gas methane and so this should be avoided.
9. There's also little work done on the carbon LCA of all energy sources. I refer you to a source used by HMG:
This also quotes the above figure for wind power, which comes from an independently verified study for turbine manufacturer Vestas (I am looking for other studies). However it falsely quotes a similar figure for nuclear, because the work done in Netherlands hadn't been made available to the Government.