Thursday, 17 October 2013

Trenches and trenches

There are increasing demands for the link from wind farms – both locally in Carmarthenshire and in Powys – to be taken underground.  From the point of view of minimising the impact on the scenery, it makes a lot of sense.
It does however add to the costs (although there is some dispute about the extent of that addition).  Whether it’s a cost worth paying is ultimately a matter of opinion.  Personally I’d like to see the detail of the cost impact before taking a firm view – it might be that the combination of overhead cables in some areas and underground cables in others will offer the best trade-off between cost and scenery.
There are however two major inconsistencies in some of the statements being made by those demanding that the links be underground.
The first is that the same people are also complaining about the high cost of energy, and wind energy in particular.  Yet they are demanding action which will effectively increase the cost.
The second is that some of those who now want to dig a trench across Carmarthenshire to bury electricity cables were implacable opponents of digging a trench across Carmarthenshire to bury gas pipes.  To me one trench looks much the same as another; insofar as it is damaging, it’s the trench which does the damage, not what is buried in it.
There are some hard facts that we cannot easily avoid:
·         We need to move away from carbon-based energy and base our economy on renewables
·         Effective use of renewables – wind, tide, hydro, solar – means siting the generators where the renewable energy is available.  That often means in the countryside.
·         All energy production and use has an environmental impact; the decision we face is either not to use energy, or else to decide which environmental impacts we’re prepared to support.
·         Energy costs may vary from time to time, but over the long term they are headed in only one direction – upwards.
Pretending that one or more of those things are not true, or that the consequences of them being true can somehow be avoided, may help politicians to win votes in elections, but it doesn’t make for a coherent energy policy.


Anonymous said...

The pipe from Milford Haven to Gloucestershire across South Wales was designed to move vast quantities of fossil fuel gas from a deep water port in the west into England. The transmission lines from the Cambrian Mountains across Powys into Shropshire is designed to move quantities of carbon free electricity from the windy mountains of Wales into England. I've got a better idea. Have a "smart" electricity grid in Wales for Wales. Transmission voltage could the lower due to less power being transmitted allowing less obtrusive pylons, and the pipe from Milford Haven should be lined with insulation to contain a lower power transmission line to Cardiff and the valleys. If England wants our energy, we should send them an invoice. Alternatively they can knock down the Thames barrier to fit an LNG ship, and they can stick the wind turbines over the South Downs and Peak District.

Pete said...

Anonymous does have a point here. The countryside of Wales does have energy potential in the same way that the valleys of Wales have reservoir potential. If there must be an environmental effect on Wales shouldn't it benefit those communities that are being impacted first?
Exporting across the border without first securing energy needs locally is neither morally or politically sound.

Anonymous said...

The idea that 'England' wants our energy is misleading. Multi-national companies produce the energy and pump it into a National (sic) Grid- which is actually an international grid as it covers England, Wales and Scotland. Ireland is increasingly looking to tap into this grid also.

At no point in this process do England or Wales or Scotland bill each other, nor could they. Companies sell the energy to customers. It's not a situation I agree with but i'm not sure at which point Wales can "send England an invoice". The only time that could happen would be if a Welsh Government was generating and selling the energy, rather than a private company. I'm inclined to think that's a good idea but to make any money it would still have to build alot of power stations in Wales and sell the energy to conurbations of people, most of which are in England. There would then still be pylons.