Tag Archive | Renewable Energy

The real contribution of renewables

Wind Farm (colour)Lyn Jenkins (South Wales Evening Post, Letters, 13 October) gives a very partial view of the contribution of renewables to our energy needs by focusing solely on wind and on one particular day.

In October 2014, on the day that Didcot B Power Station went up in flames, three of our nuclear power stations also had to be taken off line for urgent maintenance. The lights did not go out and nobody among the general public noticed. Reason: it was a windy day and wind-generated electricity filled the gap.

That was the first occasion on which renewables generated over 25% of the electricity consumed on a single day – but it was not the last.

In the second quarter of this year renewable energy produced 25.3% of the country’s electricity – more than either nuclear power (21.5%) or coal (20.5%).

Far from being “petty” and “unreliable”, renewables are now an essential part of the UK energy mix, and Lyn Jenkins and friends are just going to have to get used to it!

A truly “common sense energy policy from British politicians” would see them throwing their full weight behind renewables and reducing support for the multi-national corporations currently making huge profits from the heavily subsidised, over-priced electricity being generated by fossil fuels and nuclear.

The International Monetary Fund estimates UK subsidies to the fossil industries in Britain at £30 billion annually – more than £1,000 per household per year.

In contrast, support for all renewable energy amounted to £2.6 billion last year, about £100 per household per year, with onshore wind adding just £10 to household energy bills.

Renewable energy receives one-tenth of the support that fossil fuels do, yet powers 25% of the country.

Ecologist article ‘UK rigging power market against clean energy


No place for fracking in Wales

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

Something seems to have gone awry with Lawrence Bailey’s usually excellent column this week.

His piece ‘Fast track to digging deeper’ (Evening Post, 25 August, page 10) appears to have been edited to the point where it’s difficult to understand just what his point is.

UK Methane Ltd has applied to Swansea Council for Planning Permission to test drill for Coal Bed Methane in Llangyfelach. As the company has made very clear, the proposed development does not involve the controversial process of Hydraulic Fracturing (or “fracking”).

The current moratorium in Wales applies to “unconventional extraction techniques, including hydraulic fracturing … but does not include the making of exploratory boreholes.”

So this application does not fall within the terms of the moratorium, nor is it a way of getting around the moratorium.

Quite how this could be seen as curtailing “Celebrations in Cardiff Bay” is difficult to see.

On 14 August Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant AM wrote to all local councils in Wales to assure them that measures to fast track fracking were applicable to English councils only and reiterated the Welsh Government’s preference for renewable forms of generation over oil and gas exploration.

The Minister said, “We continue to believe that the technologies behind hydraulic fracturing are unproven …” and, “Our vision for future energy generation is based on embracing Wales’ abundant renewable energy resources which provide exciting and immediate opportunities.”

He added, “Wales is a green and clever land and we want to ensure … that we address the issue of climate change immediately through the effective deployment of renewable energy technologies.”

Methinks it will be the frackers whose celebrations may yet be short-lived!

The real beauty of renewable energy

It is axiomatic to say that developers exaggerate the benefits of their products. (‘Solar panel output only 10 per cent‘, South Wales Evening Post, 22 May 2015). ‘Twas ever thus.

Readers of my age will no doubt remember the promises made in the 1950s that nuclear power would provide us with electricity that was too cheap to meter. And let’s not get started on broadband speeds!

When the National Grid was first established in the 1930s, over 50% of the energy produced was wasted through inefficiencies. It has taken us 80 years to get to the current state where transmission losses are below 10%.

These days technology moves a lot faster, and we are seeing improvements in the efficiency of renewable energy systems almost daily.

But the real beauty of renewable energy is that we can all do it. We no longer need to rely on multi-national big business to provide our energy needs.

Even with the current state of the technology it is possible for individuals and community groups to get a net benefit from renewables.

And if we were to develop small scale renewables to the maximum extent, with solar panels on all our houses, schools, public buildings and businesses, that would be an awful lot of 10 percents; an awful lot of clean, safe energy generated; an awful lot of carbon footprints reduced; an awful lot of domestic energy bills cut.

As the Scots say, “Many a mickle maks a muckle” – a lot of little things add up to a big thing.

The simple logic of renewables

It baffles me that seemingly intelligent people like Dave Lees (‘We need right energy answers’. Evening Post Letters, 4 December) cannot see the simple logic of renewable energy.

The fuel is free, it doesn’t have to be dug out of the ground, it doesn’t need to be processed, it doesn’t need to be transported, and there’s no waste.

Granted the sun doesn’t shine all the time, and the wind doesn’t always blow, so renewables may be less efficient than fossil fuels (although that’s debatable) – but surely, pound for pound, renewables has to be our first choice when it comes to generating electricity.

The more we generate from renewables, the less carbon emissions we produce, the better for all of us and the planet.

Exploiting these relatively free forms of energy that are all around us makes perfect sense from both an environmental and economic point of view.

Domestic Wind TurbineSolar PanelsOf course, the problem for evangelical supporters of “business as usual” big energy, is that given the right encouragement and support from government at all levels, it would be possible for most of us to be producing at least some of our electricity from renewable resources, thus reducing our energy bills and lifting millions out of fuel poverty.

Unfortunately that would do serious damage to the ability of the big energy companies to make obscene profits and pay excessive bonuses while at the same time raking in massive public subsidies.

Facts and Mathematics

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

It is Dave Lees (‘Energy policy is just lunacy’, Letters, 10 November) who stands “in total disregard of the facts and the mathematics” – the facts of climate change and the mathematics of energy subsidies.

As the latest IPCC report has made clear, we need to be drastically reducing carbon emissions as a matter of urgency rather than burning more fossil fuels.

Whilst gas may be “a relatively low pollutant” when compared to coal, it is still a pollutant that emits greenhouse gases.

Producing natural gas using fracking carries a significant risk of methane leakage to atmosphere, which can only add to the problem.

Energy companies have enjoyed many a Christmas at the expense of British taxpayers.  All forms of energy production in the UK are subsidised from the public purse, with nuclear being the most heavily subsidised of all.  Yet the power companies continue to make massive profits and pay their executives obscene salaries and bonuses.

David Cameron promised us “the greenest government ever”, but from the moment they came to power the Coalition government began cutting subsidies to renewable forms of energy and offering even more incentives to the nuclear and fracking industries – the very opposite of what we ought to be doing if we are to play an active part in dealing with climate change.

Whilst I would prefer that we were building a wind farm or solar array on the Felindre site, using the gas fired power station in order to back up renewable energy production is at least a step in the right direction.

A more positive vision

It’s easy to dismiss those who disagree with you with fatuous labels such as “Nimbys” or  “the no-no brigade” (‘We must tackle energy issues’, South Wales Evening Post, Letters, 15 October).  Far better to engage with your opponents to find a solution that suits all.

Vic Collier is quite right in that we need to tackle the question of how to provide our future energy needs, but we need to do so in a way that protects future generations rather than adding to their woes.

The solutions proposed by former Energy Secretary Owen Patterson amount to nothing more than continuing along the road that has brought us to the sorry state in which we find ourselves; rising carbon emissions, accelerating climate change, and increasing levels of highly toxic waste that will plague our descendants for centuries.

Far from objecting “to any and all projects”, those who oppose fracking and nuclear power share a positive vision of the future with many of our political and business leaders.

A vision of a carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance.

I would urge Vic Collier and others of his ilk to develop and encourage an attitude of how that can be achieved rather than why it must not be done.


Footnote: The “vision” in the penultimate paragraph above is an extract from a recent e-mail from my friend Donal Whelan.  The full quote is:

“I’ve been working with some fantastic people recently while campaigning against fracking, from NGOs to community groups, with people at workshops, protests, renewable energy conferences and village hall meetings. Out of all of these places there’s a shared vision emerging, one of a future carbon neutral Wales, powered by renewable energy, tapping in to the tide, sun, wind, knowledge, talent, academic excellence and business expertise that Wales has in abundance. People feel really passionate about this!
It’s not rocket science – tidal lagoons like Swansea dotted discreetly around the coast; ranks of majestic wind turbines miles out to sea, like sentinels against the coming storms of climate change; every house in Wales fully insulated and solar panels on every east and west facing roof (for a more balanced load than south-facing, we learn from Germany); half a dozen pumped water energy storage systems like Dinorwig evening out the load; a cutting-edge smart electricity grid called back into public ownership; community owned projects feeding benefits back in to local people; enough surplus energy to sell to other countries, earning enough to maintain the national energy system and keep it up-to-date.”

Misquoted – again!

Reporter, Rachel Moses-Lloyd, seriously misquotes me in her article ‘Divide over plans to tap into gases” (South Wales Evening Post, Tuesday 12 August). 

I did not say, “They are not likely to be fracking in Wales, because that’s what they do for shale gas, and South Wales hasn’t got any”. 

What I did say was that there isn’t much shale in South Wales, so extraction of Coal Bed Methane is likely to have more of an impact in this area.  I also pointed out that Coal Bed Methane extraction could involve fracking in certain circumstances. 

The presence of shale in South Wales is borne out by the fact that companies are now applying for permission to test drill in order to ascertain where the shale is and how much gas it might contain.  This is certainly the case at Pontrhydyfen in the Afan Valley, where UK Methane has recently applied to extend the depth of their drilling in Foel Fynyddau Forest in order to explore for shale. 

But even if they don’t find suitable shale beds, and even if they can extract the Coal Bed Methane without using fracking, we would still be presented with significant industrialisation of the countryside bringing with it the risks of water pollution, air pollution and hundreds of extra vehicle movements creating noise, dust and damage in rural areas. 

If Councillor Ioan Richard is so intent on reducing our reliance on imported gas, then he should be supporting the development of renewable energy rather than unconventional gas, which will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales. 

Fracking Subsidies!

Byron Davies AM calls for an end to public subsidies for onshore wind farms and uses Welsh Government support for wind farms as a stick with which to beat the Labour Government in Cardiff. (‘Byron Davies AM calls for change over turbines’, South Wales Evening Post, 26 April)

His claim that “Conservatives in government want to protect the natural environment and are committed to giving local people a say …” might hold good for wind farms, but goes straight out of the window when it comes to Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane development.

Not only are Mr Davies’ Conservative colleagues at Westminster gleefully offering tax breaks and other incentives to Shale Gas developers, they are now planning to change the law so that companies can frack below our houses without needing to get our permission or even inform us.

Perhaps Mr Davies can explain how cutting subsidies for renewables at the same time as offering subsidies for fracking is going to help Welsh Conservatives honour their 2011 Manifesto Commitments to, “Tackle Climate Change”, “Generate More Renewable Energy” and “Protect the Environment”?

Fracking will do far more damage to the communities and environment of South Wales than any wind farm ever could.

Wind Farm (colour)fracking shale gas analysisVS






Sun, sea and wind are there to be used

Like Dave Lees (‘Gas is there to be used’, South Wales Evening Post, 7 April) I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see yet another climate change sceptic accusing greens of scaremongering when there is worldwide scientific consensus that we need to do something about global warming and we need to do it urgently.

I would indeed “have us believe this great industrial and scientific nation is incapable of exploiting any of it (the gas) safely”. I base this assessment on experience within those other great nations, the USA and Australia, where there is now overwhelming evidence, some of it from government sources, of the risks involved with shale gas, “fracking” and the like.

Solar PanelsDomestic Wind TurbineMr Lees’ implication that simply because there is so much gas beneath our feet we should use it applies equally to the sun, the wind and the waves all around us. Only in the case of renewables there will be significantly less pollution, significantly less industrialisation of our countryside, and significantly less chance of things going wrong. And we have the added benefit that the fuel is essentially free and available to all – individuals and communities as well as big business.

It’s not dithering about nuclear power that has brought us to this sorry pass where there is a real risk of energy shortages in the coming years. It is the failure of successive governments to keep their promises on carbon reduction and investment in renewables. Fortunately it is much quicker and easier to bring renewables online than it is to plan for new nuclear or new gas.

Investment in renewables will save us from sitting in the cold and dark on winter nights, not the grand schemes of multi-national corporations whose real interest is harvesting public subsidies to increase their already obscene profits.

Fracking – an energy bonanza, but for whom?

Test DrillingCouncillor Ioan Richard’s personal dislike for “the green brigade” appears to be clouding his judgement when it comes to proposals to extract Coal Bed Methane from the former South Wales coalfields (‘Fracking could boost south west Wales’, South Wales Evening Post, 7 December).

In comparing these new technologies to coal mining, he fails to appreciate that we are not talking about a few mines, but about hundreds, possibly thousands of well-heads spread across the valleys, including his home ward of Mawr.

Methane may be “the cleanest of all fossil fuels”, but it is still a fossil fuel and a potent greenhouse gas.  Its global warming potential is less than carbon dioxide when it is burned, but significantly greater if it leaks into the atmosphere.

Evidence from the USA and Australia shows that all gas wells leak eventually, and that many of them leak methane into the atmosphere from day one.

Added to the very real risk of methane leaks are issues around water usage, water pollution, air pollution, industrialisation of the countryside, and infrastructure requirements on a scale that will dwarf the disruption caused by wind-farm development.  All for very little benefit to local communities.

The drive to exploit shale gas, Coal Bed Methane and Underground Coal Gasification has nothing to do with energy security.  It is purely about profit, with little regard for the environment or for the communities that will suffer as a result.

The best way to bring about a “home developed energy bonanza” is wholesale development of renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency.  This would create far more jobs than the proposed “new dash for gas”; sustainable, long term jobs.

It would also provide us with energy security for as long as the sun, the wind and the waves might last.

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