Thursday, 22 October 2009

Climate change Thursday #12

Climate change erupted onto the political stage this week with ferocious sparring between the two main parties on renewable energy.

The Conservatives were severely hindered by comments made by their business spokesperson, Kenneth Clarke, that:
"My view is that those few wild and open spaces that we have left in Britain should not be used for wind turbines."
He was quickly put in his place by Greg Clark, the shadow energy and climate change secretary. The Conservatives are keen to portray themselves as being just as committed to renewable energy as Labour. Indeed, their idea that communities that permit new wind turbines can keep the Business Rates from them for six years is positive. But it will not be enough simply to pursue clever 'nudge-esque' tinkering.

Greg Clark's clarification of the Conservative position came after Ed Miliband, never slow to take a new media campaigning opportunity, had dashed off a letter to David Cameron signed by 3000+ (including myself) to seek clarification of the Tory position and insist that they acknowledge the importance of on-shore wind generation.

The problem with the Tories' position, it would seem, is that they are very deeply divided so, despite good intentions, will not be able to use the full muscle of government to create market conditions that lever in major investment so that the UK meets its renewable energy commitments (15% of electricity generated to be renewable by 2020.) David Cameron's anti-government rhetoric in his conference speech suggests that ideologically they are quite simply in the wrong place to make a big difference. Can the UK afford to lose four to five years of the next ten in pursuing a laggardly approach to climate change?

The reality is that Greg Clark's rhetoric and micro-incentives are fine but Kenneth Clarke's attitude is closer to the Tory mainstream.

A report by SERA (note to self: must remember to join), shows that Tory Councils:

- Only approve 40% of applications for wind turbines.
- Have only approved wind capacity of 44.7MW of electricity from wind power.

It's all very well imploring us to 'Vote Blue, Go Green' but the reality is very different to that it would seem.

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with Clark on this.

    If we should have industrial scale turbines, in industrial scale deevlopements - and I think it is necessary - then we should have them off-shore, and connect them by a supergrid to enable load balancing across regions.

    For onshore turbines, I would prefer thousands of smaller - max 2 MW - turbines singly, and in two's, threes and small clusters. ie the Danish decentralised approach.