A Grim Fairytale
Once upon a time, in the sleepy tourist resort of Porthcawl along the South Wales coastline, where everyday life went on as normal, holidaymakers and day-trippers stroll along the seafront, occasionally stopping to sit at the bars and cafes on the promenade and enjoy the breathtaking views across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon. A couple of hundred surfers could be seen in Rest Bay, a local Blue Flag beach, as long as there was a good swell providing 4 to 6 foot waves. The local lifeguards would be out patrolling the town’s beaches; dogs and their owners would walk along the common grassland overlooking the seashore.
Around the town there is Kenfig Nature Reserve, Heritage coastline to the east, Margam Burrows, areas of historic interest. Traffic Wardens would be out booking everyone is sight. As you might have guessed by now, the tourist industry and surfing is important to the economy of Porthcawl.
Yes, life was pretty normal. Until one day in January 2003 United Utilities Scarweather Sands Ltd announced that it had applied for planning permission to build 30 giant wind turbines, each the size of the London Eye, at a cost of £60m, just 3.5 miles off the coast in an area called Scarweather Sands covering an area of just under 4 square miles, which is larger than the town of Porthcawl itself.
In their non technical summary (designed for the average plebeian like myself), United Utilities talk about global warming, reducing CO2 emissions, government targets of producing 10% of electricity from renewable energy by 2010, significantly contributing to Welsh targets and help to combat climate change, all the usual propaganda designed to convince us that they are doing their green environmental bit for the planet. They claim that the wind farm would have a generating capacity of up to 108MW. United Utilities did release a full-blown version of their Environmental Impact study; this was available for perusal at selected libraries, etc.
Sad bastard that I am, I actually spent an afternoon reading the whole thing. Copies could be obtained at a cost of £300, something to do with the cost of photocopying. I don’t understand why they didn’t plonk the whole thing on a website and save all this paper, if they really cared about the environment and reducing CO2 emissions. After all we are living in the 21st century.
Anyway, back to the story. After the announcement the townspeople went into headless chicken mode, confused by how this development would affect the town and the tourist industry. Town hall style meetings were held attended by United Utilities, local politicians, newly formed action groups, etc, to discuss the impact on the town. One person arrived from Denmark and told the audience that we needed these windmills, because they had them in Denmark and we should have them as well. Some people were in favour but it became apparent that the majority were against this development. Surveys were being carried out, asking people if they supported renewable energy, by people who suddenly appeared in the town and then just as suddenly disappeared. All very confusing. By this time people’s minds had become focused on the issue, and they had a much clearer understanding of the impact of this development.
The upshot of this commotion was that the local Town Council and the local Borough Council voted against this development. In February 2003 the Borough Council voted 35 to 10 in favour of a public inquiry. After 3,100 letters of objection and an 8,000 signature petition, the Welsh Assembly decided on the 26th March that a public inquiry was in order. The Welsh Assembly, by the way, is a curious institution, whose sole function seems to be interfering with local democracy. It seems to spend a lot of time discussing the spiralling costs of its new building and where people are going to sit.
During November 2003 a public inquiry was held headed by the Inspector Mr S Wild, appointed by the Welsh Assembly. In total the inquiry lasted 15 days and 47 witnesses gave evidence. The Inspector even visited Rest Bay to observe the surfing community, as they were concerned about the detrimental effect this development could have on wave patterns, he also visited other coastal towns as far a field as North Devon, in order to assess the visual impact.
Winter came and went, on the 23rd April 2004, The Secretary of State proposed to make an Order under section 5(1) of the Electricity Act 1989 as amended by the Utilities Act 2000 (“the Electricity Act”) granting exemption from the requirement to hold a generation license to Scarweather Sands Limited (SSL), a wholly owned subsidiary of United Utilities,
in respect of Scarweather Sands Offshore Wind, a wind farm 6km west of Porthcawl
in the Western Power distribution area. The exemption granted by article 3(4) to SSL is subject to compliance with the conditions specified in paragraph below.
(a) Scarweather Sands Ltd is not a licensed generator.
(b) The Scarweather Sands generating station is connected to the total system and is not
normally capable of exporting more electrical power than 100 megawatts to the total
system, disregarding power temporarily provided in excess of 100 megawatts due to
technical circumstances outside the reasonable control of SSL.
So much for the claim by United Utilities that the wind farm would have a generating capacity of up to 108 megawatts.
On the 30th March 2004, the Inspectors report was finalised. At this stage only the Welsh Assembly were able to view its contents. An addendum to the report was issued on the 15th May 2004, again only the Welsh Assembly was aware of its contents.
On June 16th 2004 United Utilities PLC held a meeting in Cardiff, where they announced that Danish utility Energi E2 had joined them as an equal partner to develop Scarweather Sands offshore wind farm. The meeting was introduced by John Roberts the Chief Executive of United Utilities PLC, who has also contributed to the DTI’s strategy on energy policy. One can only presume that United Utilities and Energi E2 were confident of a decision in their favour.
On the 22nd June 2004 the Welsh Assembly voted to form a planning decision committee called the 2004/3. Its sole purpose was to meet in private (so there are no minutes of the proceedings available to the public), to consider the Inspectors report, make a decision, write a letter to Messrs Winckwood Sherwood, Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents (acting on behalf of United Utilities Scarweather Sands Ltd), disband and disappear off the face of the planet. This committee consisted of two Labour AM’s, one Plaid Cymru AM and one Conservative AM. An AM by the way is Welsh Assembly Member
July 6th 2004, we all got to read the good news; the Inspector recommended that planning permission for the Scarweather Sands wind farm should be REFUSED, on the grounds that the visual impact would be significant and harmful –Hooray. The bad news is that in a letter to Messrs Winckwood Sherwood, the 4-member committee disagreed with the Inspector and proposed that planning permission should be GRANTED. – Boooo. I did warn you earlier that the function of the Welsh Assembly is to interfere with local democracy.
Well, that’s that then, end of the story, time for bed. Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and it will all go away, maybe it was just a bad dream and we will live happily ever after.
Nope, I have just woken up and the grim prospect of these oversized windmills are looming as large as ever over the town of Porthcawl. Doesn’t look as if the townsfolk are not going to live happily ever after all.
My own personal observations are
· This government regards renewable energy as ‘wind’ only.
· Wind Energy is expensive – Government subsidies for Capital and unit cost
· Subsidies in Wind Energy will starve investment in other forms of renewable energy, conventional energy and nuclear power
· Wind Energy is unreliable and unpredictable. A huge investment in the current electricity distribution infrastructure is required to combat the ‘spikes’ and ‘dips’ produced by this form of energy.
· The current obsession with wind energy, by the government jeopardises the long-term economic future of this country, in terms of reliability of supply and the inflated costs per unit.
· Developers like United Utilities are only interested in wind because of the hefty subsidies offered by this government. What business would invest over £60 million to generate such small amounts of electricity without the incentive of subsidies, funded by the taxpayer?
· Scarweather Sands Ltd do not hold an Electricity Generators License and with current Government thinking may be exempt under proposed new legislation being put forward by the DTI. They are in effect regarded as an ‘embedded generator’, which means that they are outside the scope of NETA (New Electricity Trading Agreement), which all large scale electricity generators have to belong to by law. This gives them an unfair advantage. More about this later.
· The claim of developers regarding power output are exaggerated, always stating the maximum. In the case of Scarweather Sands 108MW. The actual output will be determined by the average capacity availability, which for offshore turbines is around 30%. This means that the average output of Scarweather will be around 30% of 108MW which is equal to approximately 33MW. To put that into perspective, an aluminium plant in North Wales requires 220MW of reliable electricity.
· Wind energy will have very little impact on reducing CO2 emissions.
· The people of Porthcawl and the rest of the UK will end up paying for the privilege of living with this folly, in the form of indirect taxation and high electricity prices.
· The Government has allowed the target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation to be transformed into a target of producing certain percentages of UK electricity from renewables, and especially offshore wind. The two targets are not the same, but have become so in the minds of politicians, business and the general public.
The Welsh Assembly have a set of rules and guidelines regarding the called ‘The Code of Conduct for Members of the Planning Decision Panel’. They also have something called TANS – Technical Advice Notes that are designed to help Planning Committees with the technical aspects of a particular application. They have one called TAN8 (dated 1996) which relates to renewable energy, this includes a number of annex’s, one for each form of renewable energy. TAN8 Annex A deals with Wind Energy. Within this document the following statement is made
‘The Technology - A3. Wind turbines use the wind to generate mechanical power for water pumping and for electricity generation. This guidance deals only with land-based machines producing electricity.’
There is no Annex within TAN8 that deals specifically with offshore wind farms, and yet the 2004/3 Planning Committee made the decision, without the guidance of a Technical Advice note that deals with offshore wind farms. Scarweather Sands is the only offshore wind farm that the National Assembly has made a planning decision on, so there are no precedents here.
The only documentation that is publicly available is the Inspectors Report, the Addendum to the Inspectors Report and the decision letter of the Planning Committee to Messrs Winkwood Sherwood. So we can only speculate if
- This was a majority decision or a unanimous decision by the 4-member committee.
- Whether or not the committee visited the site of the proposed development
- How many meetings took place, what was the duration of each meeting
There are of course, very good reasons why the committee cannot comment, because their Code of Conduct precludes this, as shown in the following paragraph
‘Post decision representations
13. Once a decision on a planning appeal or application has been made, it is final and the Assembly has no further jurisdiction in the matter - unless the decision is overturned in the Courts. Planning Decision Panel members should not comment on it or discuss it afterwards. It is particularly important that they do not say or do anything that could prejudice the Assembly’s position in the period (usually six weeks) that a decision may be subject to legal challenge or, if a challenge is initiated within that period, during the further period before the case is concluded.’
With regard to the decision of the Planning Decision Committee 2004/3, in a letter sent to Messrs Winckworth Sherwood dated the 6th July 2004, I must make the following comments
“ 7. The Welsh Assembly Government has set a target of 4TWh to be produced by renewable energy in order to meet the UK national target of producing 10% of its electrical power production by 2010. The Assembly will support renewable energy proposals which are economically attractive and environmentally acceptable.”
4TWh, which equates to 4000000MW/8760 (hrs in a year) = 456MWh. If we take the available capacity of 30%, we end up with an average output of just 137MWh.
Economically attractive to whom?. Economically attractive to the developers who will receive subsidies for Capital expenditure and subsidies for units of electricity produced. I do not believe it is economically attractive for the taxpayer and consumer who have to pay for these subsidies with inflated electricity charges.
What is the definition of environmentally acceptable?. If it means reducing CO2 emissions then wind energy will not achieve this aim. A conventional or nuclear power station will always be required as backup or ‘spinning reserve’ to wind energy, unless the public and industry are happy to put up with power cuts.
“11. The Committee takes the view that, although the wind farm will have a visual effect on public amenity in the area, it recognises that each individual’s perception of that impact may be different. In this case the Committee has concluded that the visual effect on public amenity and the local tourism industry identified by the Inspector will be outweighed by the significant benefits arising from the development in terms of the production of renewable energy.”
What are these significant benefits?- 33MW of expensive electricity. We will need 15 Scarweather Sands just to match the output of a small gas turbine power station in Port Talbot.
How did the committee quantify the visual effect on public amenity?. Did they spend as much time and effort as the Inspector in visiting the various locations around the proposed development and trying to quantify these effects. How did the committee quantify the effect on Tourism?. By their own implied statement, they consider that there would be a detrimental effect to tourism, ‘as it will be outweighed by the significant benefits arising development in terms of the production of renewable energy.
“12. For the reasons set out in this letter, in the light of the conclusions of the Inspector, the Committee accepts the Inspector’s consideration of the issues but disagrees with his overall conclusion and with his recommendation. It considers that the proposed Order should be made with the modifications presented by the Inspector, (inquiry document CD87 with inquiry document UU/0/02) and that deemed planning permission should be granted”
Brilliant, after thousands of man-hours sent in supporting or opposing this development, and a huge amount of money spent on the inquiry, the committee comes up with a one-liner, “the Committee accepts the Inspector’s consideration of the issues but disagrees with his overall conclusion and with his recommendation”
I presume they are alluding to ‘significant benefits’ again, and that they supported the misguided government policy on energy.
So is the 2004/3 Planning Decision Committee’s decision a planning decision based on ‘material planning considerations’ or is it a political decision?. I will let you decide, I mentioned earlier that you would be tested.
While we are on the subject of planning, John Prescott has just announced in a document called PPS22, and warns that the Government will intervene to ensure that regions did not restrain renewabletechnologies without "sufficient justification".
They instruct planning authorities to "promote and encourage" renewables such as wind turbines right up to the boundaries of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty. They even suggest that, in some cases, wind farms should be allowed within national parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty.
PPS22 only applies to England, but Wales are thought to be following suite with an updated version of TAN8.
So what possesses companies to invest large amounts of money for such small amounts of electricity production?. The answer is a piece of paper called a Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC). This is a complex system of subsidies that stand to make developers very rich.
A wind farmer is allowed to create one ROC for every 1MW hours of electricity they generate, so if we take the average available capacity of Scarweather Sands of 33 MW/hours and multiply by 8760 (number of hours per year) 33*8760= 289080 ROC’s. Wind farmers are able to sell the certificates to the big electricity suppliers, who need them to prove to the government that some of their electricity comes from renewable sources. Currently ROC’s are trading at around £44/MWh. The current wholesale price of electricity is £18/MWh. Therefore, Scarweather Sands will generate an income of £18,000,000 a year for 22 years. Only £5,200,000 per year would come for the electric generated, the real profit comes from the sale of ROC’s, which amounts to £12,800,000 per year. Effectively the consumer or taxpayer would have to bear this cost.
As mentioned earlier Scarweather Sands Ltd does not hold electricity generators licence, and are therefore outside the scope of NETA. Under this system proper electricity generators have to predict how much electricity they will generate in advance. Under the Balancing Mechanism the electricity producer will be forced to pay penalties if their positions were either over or under declared. Ultimately, these penalties will have to be paid by consumers. This is another form of subsidy and gives wind farms an unfair economic advantage over other forms of electricity production. This is currently worth in the range of £1.50 to £2.50 per MW/h to the wind farmer.
My contention here is that United Utilities are here to farm subsidies, the ROC’s. The electricity is in fact a by-product. Hence the expression ‘subsidy farms’ coined by Neil Kinnock.
Experience shows that by picking winners, dictating losers and offering special treatment on top of subsidies, any industry tends to lose sight of its real business, because the business becomes chasing government incentives and inducements. The result is that the industries technology is set back for decades. Nuclear energy comes to mind.
By picking winners from uneconomic renewable technologies such as offshore wind is one thing, but dictating as losers other more viable forms of renewable, conventional or nuclear is really a criminal act by this government, who are throwing away billions of pounds of taxpayers money on an energy policy that belongs somewhere in fairyland. By using 19th century technology to tackle the challenges of the 21st century is shear folly. This is the familiar slippery slope of intervention, which begins with politicians picking a winning technology, and inevitably ends with the true cost of that choice being compounded and hidden through a series of further subsidies and special concessions that are designed to validate the original decision. The current government would do well to seriously consider whether it wants to step on the slippery slope of offshore wind.
The size of offshore wind generation capacity planned, and the public money offered to ensure the capacity is built, shows that offshore wind is being given preferential treatment, at the expense of other forms of renewable energy large hydro, biogas from municipal waste and co-firing of imported biomass in coal fired powered stations, tidal flow, etc. And they are certainly ignoring any investment in conventional or nuclear energy.
The answer is a political one, rather than economic and that the justification goes beyond the narrow criteria of whether the expected future marginal value of electricity and emissions abatement will cover the investment cost.
I disagree with the Inspectors views (22) Needs and Benefits ‘This proposal would generate significant amounts of electricity. It would have a beneficial effect on reaching the targets for renewable energy at UK and Welsh levels’ (28) ‘In my view the proposal would have considerable benefits. There is a need for offshore wind farms, using generally proven technology, if current Government targets for renewable energy are to be met.’
With regard to significant amounts of electricity, we would need to build 60 Scarweather Sands, covering an offshore land mass of 234 square miles (which equates to roughly the area of Anglesey, the largest island in England & Wales), to produce the same output of a single 2,000 MW conventional power station, based on an average available capacity of 30% for offshore wind. The total estimated cost (including all captital subsidies) of building 6,000MW of offshore wind capacity with an average available capacity of around 2,000MW, amounts to some £4 billion. I believe most people would agree, that given the facts this development would not provide ‘significant amounts of electricity’, when compared against conventional or nuclear generation. Even if wind farms on this scale were to be built, and there was enough offshore landmass available, 70% of the time there would be a reliance on existing conventional or nuclear plants to supply the shortfall.
This Government envisages at least another 2,000 turbines by 2010. In fact meeting government targets for 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will require up to 8,000 turbines, some of which will be offshore. If we take the 2010 target of 2,000 turbines, using the same turbine separation as Scarweather Sands, it will consume a landmass of 253 square miles; the 2020 target of 8,000 turbines will consume a landmass of 1,040 square miles, which is the area of Carmarthenshire. Look out National Parks. We are certainly entering a fairytale world now.
There is no need for Scarweather Sands and offshore or onshore wind farms in general, it will not have a beneficial effect it reaching governments targets, the cost to consumers and industry will be massive. Again this government has chosen the easy route, by choosing a technology that is freely available, without formulating a coherent long-term energy policy, which encompasses all forms of conventional, renewable and nuclear. This is a knee-jerk, quick fix reaction by this government, that has been sexed-up by spin-doctors, to convince the public that it is seen to be doing something, to try and meet it’s obligation under the Kyoto agreement. Where have I heard that before?.
Indeed, the Times reported on July 11th 2004, that “the DTI is so concerned about the growing opposition to wind farms that it recently awarded Porter Novelli, an international public relations company, a £2m contract to promote them via a website and through workshops and conferences. The move has enraged the myriad opposition groups fighting wind farm proposals around Britain.”
In deciding that offshore wind generation will be promoted and that other forms of conventional and renewable generation technology is not, wind technology will discredited in the eyes of consumers and taxpayers when it either fails to live up to the exaggerated claims being made about its contribution to reduce emissions or its true cost and lack of reliability becomes apparent to consumers and taxpayers.
So what are the experiences of Denmark?, home of the fairytale, which most supporters of wind energy cite as model that every country should emulate and who are hailed as the world leader in green energy. Denmark’s electricity needs are only 10% of the UK.
One can only assume that Danish company Energi E2,who now have a 50% stake in Scarweather Sands, are looking for opportunities and chasing subsidies outside of Denmark, now that the Danish government has removed subsidies from new offshore wind farms, effectively cancelling them, because they have serious destabilisation of their grid. Indeed in January 2003, the head of information for the West Denmark transmission authority compared the operation of the Danish electricity network to ‘driving a giant articulated truck with no steering, brakes or other controls.’
Currently, in the absence of government subsidies, no more sea-based wind farms will be built. However, exports are good and Denmark has quite likely gained its greatest advantage from wind power by selling turbines to other countries. Howard C Hayden, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut said "In recent years, the little country Denmark has gained a certain amount of fame with its wind turbines. No, they don't get much electricity from them. They sell them to suckers."
The problem for Western Denmark lies in balancing the supply of electricity with demand. Electrical power supplied must balance the power demand plus transmission losses at every second of the day. If this balance is not achieved there will be an automatic disconnection of either supply (to prevent physical damage to generating plant) or of loads (blackouts). Conventional plant has to be run in conjunction with the unpredictable wind generators and their output varied, increasing CO2 emissions, in order to provide a cushioning effect. When large changes in wind power occur beyond the capability of such conventional plant to compensate, then the assistance of neighbouring systems has been called upon. In windy conditions the surplus of Danish wind power has to be dumped somehow. Help is secured from Germany, Sweden or Norway who accommodate Denmark by accepting low or zero priced electrical energy. Germany has, at times, the same problem as Denmark because of its own wind turbine concentration in the same region.
Hence the frequent big falls in price. Both countries need to get rid of their uncontrollable excess of wind electricity at whatever price they can get!. Denmark has even paid Sweden to take its surplus wind power, effectively subsidising the Swedish consumers. When the supply of electricity from wind is suddenly reduced by a deficiency of wind, the coal and gas fired generator companies must be on-line to take up the demand, and for this service they charge a premium.
The whole system is crazy, and can only operate because Denmark has neighbours who are only too keen to receive cheap electricity and because the previous "green" government was willing to support the vast costs involved. The present Danish Government is trying to sort out the mess.
"In green terms windmills are a mistake and economically they make no sense," says Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries. "Many of us thought wind was the 100 per cent solution for the future but we were wrong. In fact, taking all energy needs into account, it's only a 3 per cent solution."
Danish experts admit that wind power has not worked out very well.
"In just a few years we've gone from some of the cheapest electricity in Europe the most costly," says Jytte Kaad Jensen, chief economist for Eltra, Denmark's biggest electricity distributor.
Aase Madsen, an MP who chairs energy policy in the Danish Parliament, is emphatic: "For our industry it has been a terribly expensive disaster."
So why do people support wind power?. From a developers, operators, turbine manufacturers or anyone else involved in the wind industry, there are billions of pounds of taxpayers money up for grabs. It’s the new game in town and everyone wants a piece of the action. Indeed in October 2003, United Utilities sent a memo to the UK Parliament, urging them to raise the renewables target to 20 per cent in 2020 to ensure the market remains buoyant, also asking them to resist the temptation to make any changes in the precious Renewable Obligation (ROC). The claim by United Utilities that Scarweather Sands will save nearly 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, over its lifetime, is of course theoretical. There is no explanation of how this will be achieved.
As for the supporters of wind farms, I can only speculate that it’s to do with being environmentally friendly, free clean energy, green energy, doing their bit for the planet etc. As I have already pointed out, wind energy is not free, it is very expensive, just ask the people of Denmark. As for environmentally friendly, again this is not case. If the intention is to replace nuclear (with produces no CO2) with wind energy, then the net saving of CO2 emissions is zero. If the intention is to replace conventional power stations with wind, than again there is no reduction in CO2, as this needs to be kept for backup or ‘spinning reserve’. Indeed, some experts argue that it can actually increase CO2 emissions, when backup plant is idling. In Denmark or Germany not one conventional power station has been shut, because of wind power.
A number of people that I have spoken to actually believe that you can store electricity generated commercially. They don’t seem to understand that when they flick the light switch, or switch on the their electric kettle, the electricity has to be generated at that precise moment in time. Balancing the grid to ensure that the required amount of electricity is generated at the correct moment in time, and then diverting this to the areas of demand is an extremely complex task. Hence the need for NETA, and one of the reasons that the Danish grid is so unstable, caused by the erratic nature of wind power.
As for Greenpeace, if they are so concerned about global warming, the reduction of CO2 and are so much in favour of wind farms, why do they travel the planet in a three masted ship called the ‘Rainbow Warrior’, equipped with a diesel engine for backup. When the wind doesn’t blow, you can bet your life they start up that polluting diesel engine. As one eminent engineer commented "A very good analysis of the problem of wind power. Next week we are sailing on a modern `wind jammer', with 20,000 square metres of sail. It will sail at 12 knots under ideal wind conditions, but it also has two diesel engines, which will drive it along at 14 knots when the wind is not blowing or in the wrong direction. In other words it needs 100 per cent back up if it is to operate properly and keep to its schedule."
Even the House of Lords doubts whether the government is able to meet its obligations to the reduction in CO2 emissions. In an energy debate in the House of Lords on the 30th June 2004, Lord Jenkin stated that
“I turn next to greenhouse gases. Ministers make much of the policy of investment in renewables to achieve their White Paper CO2 targets. But even if those targets are met—and there are many both inside and outside the industry who seriously doubt that—they will do no more than replace the loss of CO2-free generation over the same period, especially, of course, from the retirement of carbon-free nuclear reactors. In other words, the CO2 targets are a sham; they cannot possibly be met, at least during the first quarter of this century”
Authoritative reports from respected sources argue that the only way to do this will be to build new nuclear power stations. They include the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Wood Mackenzie and, most recently, the David Hume Institute. They are supported by acknowledged experts such as Professor Ian Fells, Professor Sir Alec Broers, Professor M A Laughton, and, let it be said, by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir David King. All those reports have been ignored by the Government.
But there must be one recent comment that the Government cannot ignore. I come to Professor James Lovelock, the well known and highly respected Green campaigner. Writing in the Independent five weeks ago, he stated uncompromisingly that, "only one immediately available source [of electricity] does not cause global warming and that is nuclear energy". He went on to say: "Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media". Further on in the article he said: "I find it sad and ironic that the UK, which leads the world in the quality of its Earth and climate scientists, rejects their warnings and advice, and prefers to listen to the Greens. But I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy".
James Lovelock is not just a straw in the wind, he is a mighty gust of realism and common sense, bravely articulating what more and more people are coming to recognise: climate change is the enemy, not nuclear power.
It is now apparent that in this country opinion is moving in this direction, but it is also moving in many other countries. Nuclear plants are now being built in China, Korea, Taiwan and India. Nearer home, Finland and France have ordered new nuclear plants, and Sweden is expected to announce something soon. The Swiss having held a referendum and have voted to build a new nuclear plant. Even in anti-nuclear Canada, there are reports of moves to commission new nuclear plant.
So, we are left with the Government's doctrinaire opposition to nuclear power, and at the moment that is the real obstacle. But if we are to keep the lights on and, at the same time, make a genuine attack on global warming, Ministers must swallow their outdated prejudices. In quoting from the Government White Paper, it is no longer the case that, "future new nuclear build might be necessary". It has to be that new nuclear build "will" be necessary, and it is not a moment too soon to start.
Indeed Tony Blair and some members of the government are finally waking up to the reality of the situation. In a BBC News Online report on the 31st May 2004 ‘The only way to meet the UK's promises on tackling climate change may mean it has to opt for nuclear power, the prime minister has told a committee of MPs. His declaration will scandalise many environmental groups, but it will draw praise from several influential greens. Tony Blair made no commitment to build a new round of nuclear power stations, and acknowledged the obstacles ahead.’
And the threat of ‘if the lights go out’ is no idle one. In the Mail on Sunday on the 20th June 2004 it was reported that French power workers are threatening to switch off the cross-Channel electricity supply to Britain, raising the threat of blackouts across the country. The move comes as a row intensifies over privatisation plans. And last week they targeted the British Embassy in Paris and switched off the lights at the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Palace, President Jacques Chirac's official residence. Now a spokesman for the Communist-ledCGT union is warning that Britain could be next.
'This is no empty threat,' he said. 'We have only to throw a switch and the lights will go out over a chunk of England. We will choose a time when demand is high so consumers suffer most and we will get more publicity for our cause.'
France is a net supplier of power to Britain via the so-called interconnector. Stewart Larque, an external relations adviser at National Grid Transco, said: 'If the French workers shut down supplies at a vital moment, it would be equivalent to the closure of a big nuclear power station in Britain.'
Roll the clock forward 10 years and imagine living in the UK, the fairytale land of windmills. Electricity costs have soared to twice or three times that of our major competitors. Ageing conventional and nuclear power stations have been shut down, due to lack of investment. Industry decides that energy costs are too high and the supply has become unreliable, so they move their manufacturing base to a country that has lower costs, because it had developed a sensible energy policy. The government in power are being blaming by the nation, for the loss of jobs, the high cost of electricity and the failing infrastructure systems. Tony Blair has long since retired and is living in France where he enjoys the benefits of the French transport and health systems. He is also cooking his dinner using cheap, plentiful electricity supplied by nuclear power. Meanwhile there in an anti-cyclone over Western Europe, no wind is blowing and the rest of us are wondering how we will cook our Christmas turkey.
As the Inspector Mr S Wild stated in the Addendum Report “Round 1 is intended to be a pilot scheme. Pilot schemes are designed to test all aspects of a proposal. One of the aspects is the robustness of the mechanism for determining whether a particular scheme should go ahead. This is the first of the Round 1 wind farms to go before a public inquiry. Eleven have gone through without serious objection.”
In this document, or whatever you want to call it, I have attempted to present arguments based on the economic viability of this scheme and on the government’s policy on energy and in particular wind power, something I feel was neglected during the inquiry. The arguments based on visual impact have debated at great length and there will always be an element of subjectivity in this debate. However, on the subject of Needs and Benefits and the socio-economic and other benefits and dis-benefits of the development, as requested in the Statement of Matters, by the Welsh Assembly, there is irrefutable evidence, backed by leading independent organisations that wind energy will cost two to three times as much as conventional methods, and massive subsidies will be needed to sustain this form of power at the expense of other forms of renewable, conventional or nuclear. It will also consume huge areas of land or seascape for a piddling amount of electricity. Needs and Benefits? – I don’t think so. Scarweather Sands is a hugely expensive pilot scheme designed to test the waters, in preparation for the massive schemes proposed in Round 2, unfortunately the people of Porthcawl and the surrounding area will have to live with this experiment for many years to come, and what is more galling is that they will be expected to pay for it.
Professor Rod Smith (See Observer article of 16.08.04) of Imperial College, London: 'We are going to get an awful shock in a few years when we run out of power to light our homes,' he says. 'It sounds incredible but it is looking increasingly likely.' Most other experts agree. We are heading for a power supply meltdown. Smith is more direct. 'Anyone who thinks we can replace nuclear power stations with wind energy is talking bollocks.'
The thoughts and opinions that I have presented, in no way represent any body or organisation. They are my own personal interpretation of the facts, that I have researched over the last couple of years. I would urge anyone reading this, to discover the facts for themselves and form their own opinion.
I will end with on final thought
The present high quality power supply in the UK is the result of immense capital and intellectual investment over many years. The importance of maintaining high quality power supplies is perhaps not appreciated by those who debate the future of the electricity supply industry in political, economic and environmental circles, yet without high power supply quality the operation of a modern industrialised society is not possible.