Thursday, May 24, 2007

UK Energy Policy - the Key points and Counter-Points

The BBC has assembled a brief summary of the Government's latest paper on energy policy. Here I add (in italics) my counter-points where appropriate:

Mr Darling said the government had reached a preliminary view that it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies to invest in nuclear power. Preliminary? Plenty of weasel room there for a sea change in policy!

He said the government would consult further, in a process which will run until October, before making the final decision. More of the above. . .

He said the government wanted low-carbon sources of energy and would do everything it could to encourage renewables. But Mr Darling added they alone would not be enough to minimise the "cost and risks". Because renewables are not reliable, does he actually mean the costs and risks associated with that unreliability? Probably not.

The government would consult on the "significant role" new nuclear power stations could play in cutting emissions and diversifying power supplies. Again, enough weasel language here to stall the anti-nuclear lobby into thinking they actually will have a say.

Mr Darling said it would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, and construct and operate new nuclear plants. There were also important issues to consider, including waste. New Labour's way of saying, someone else can carry the can should things go wrong.

The amount of electricity from renewable energy will triple to 15% by the year 2015, he told MPs as he published the Energy White Paper. But the back up generating capability will have to be increased to compensate for potential black outs, he didn't mention.

Mr Darling said a decision was required this year because new nuclear stations took a long time to build. Duh!

New electricity meters will come with a real-time displays showing energy use from 2008 and there will be a short term offer of free displays from energy suppliers for households to 2010. Short term? Oh, yes, just like the short-lived subsidy on energy saving lightbulbs while they were being made mandatory in new homes. Oh, such political BS!

The government says it expects everyone to have a smart meter within 10 years. And they expect we will continually monitor them, hidden as they are under the stairs or wherever.

A mandatory carbon trading scheme for large organisations such as banks, supermarkets and central government departments. The new Carbon Reduction Commitment "will be a cost-effective scheme that will save over a million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020". But will it save money? If not, it is the consumer who will pay.

More support for wind, wave, tidal and other emerging technologies. Support?

Legislation to allow storage of natural gas under the seabed and the "unloading of liquefied natural gas at sea. Out of sight, out of mind?

Mr Darling said the government was in talks with a "half a dozen" companies about Carbon Capture and Storage technology. He said it would "take time" to set up a CCS system but Britain was at the "forefront" of developing such technology. The use of quotation marks here signifies that neither the Government nor the BBC actually means any of this to be factually true.

White Paper gives more details on competition to build the first CCS plant to be up and running by 2014. By which time the plant will be under water due to sea level rise?

£20m for public procurement of low carbon vehicles and extra £235m for green transport research. Peanuts. But come to think of it, why not use peanut oil?

He said he had changed his mind on nuclear power, saying "I used to be sceptical" but had been persuaded by the need to cut carbon emissions as "nuclear is low carbon". It was also needed as Britain was running out of oil and gas, he said. Convenient changes of mind here.

He said he was reluctant to say "let's abandon nuclear" because Carbon Capture and Storage "may never work" or be available. But he also said the first CCS plant should be up and running by 2014!

He said tidal power was "in its infancy" but the government wanted to encourage its development. The Morecombe Bay Barrage was already in the planning stage in 1968 and will be a 40 year old concept next year. Some infant!

He said there had not been enough research done on the benefits of reducing carbon emissions using tidal power, with all the emphasis placed on the negative impact on the immediate environment on the River Severn and other areas where wave power could be harnessed. An honest assessment. Wow!

He said "there is a lot coal still available to me mined" in the UK but he could not force energy suppliers to buy it instead of imported coal. Strange in that the population is being forced into using other forms of energy supply.

He said he wanted to "encourage" the extraction of UK coal where it was economically and environmentally viable. Sorry, mate, few miners left who know how to mine coal underground, which means all UK coal will likely be from opencast sites, potentially environmentally unviable.

So there it is, and I have not even tried to be cynical. Wake up, wake up to the new post petroleum era of black outs.

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