Thursday, 10 May 2012

Missing the point

A week or so ago, I posted on the question of subsidies for different types of energy generation.  The issue arose again earlier this week.
The protesters against wind power are right to say that the wind industry is receiving significant subsidies through energy bills, and that, without those subsidies, the industry would not be viable.  It does, though, ignore the point that other types of generating capacity are able to externalise the costs of dealing with the pollution they cause – effectively passing it on to the taxpayer.  So the comparison is not an accurate one; subsidies are still subsidies even if they look like taxes.
There were two other elements in this week’s report which interested me more.
The first was that every Megawatt of installed capacity generates around £700,000, but that only £100,000 of that stays in the local economy.  And the second was that more than half of the construction spend goes abroad.  Since this is a UK study, ‘abroad’ means ‘out of the UK’; my guess is that figures looking solely at Wales would reveal an even more alarming gap.  These are damning statistics, and underline the way in which we are not receiving our fair share of the rewards for the energy being produced here.
I remain as convinced as ever that we have to exploit renewable resources in Wales.  But the real battle is to make sure that we gain the benefit of that exploitation.  All the attention is going on the first question – to exploit or not; but we should really be paying more attention to the second – who benefits.


Anonymous said...


Can you tell me were we should get our electricity in say 20 years time?

I would suggest something like
20% nuclear
30% gas
30% coal
20% renewable (wind & hydro)



John Dixon said...

Not strictly on-topic, but I'll giv e a brief answer anyway.

We should be aiming for 100% renewables as the end game; so the question really is how far we can get down that route in 20 years. Unless new nuclear power stations are huilt, the nuclear element will be 0% by then. And although the government remains committed to nuclear, it is by no means certain that any new stations will be financially viable.

We could also stop using coal in that timescale as well. Gas would be the last of the conventional sources to go, because it's the cleanets - or at least the least dirty. So the question is how far we will have got with renewables in 20 years - and that depends on the will and determination of governments.