Central to next generation success is decentralised microgeneration, and Cameron gets it

December 6, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Britain, California, Conservatives, Energy paper, Germany, Microgeneration, Netherlands, Renewables, UK, US | 7 Comments

Finally! A politician in Britain in addition to David Miliband and the Defra crew gives me hope on climate change—and it’s David Cameron. Party politics don’t matter any more. It should simply be a case of the best man for the job. Cameron should team up with John Ashton of the Foreign Office too, and perhaps we might get some success on the climate front. I have waited patiently to allow our Prime Minister time to ramp up his climate commitment, but it is clear now that the time for waiting has run out and Gordon Brown has lost the plot, if he ever cottoned on to it in the first place.

After what I read about the energy lobbies nobbling energy policies earlier this week, the Tory leader gave a good speech (please read it) today at Greenpeace’s offices. It shows that he understands and appreciates the seriousness of climate change, and the fundamental problem with centralised power, and is prepared to do something positive to change the way this country generates power. Good.

Cameron’s party released a new Conservative “Power to the People: The Decentralised Energy Revolution” Green paper today. This follows the enlightened approach to business opportunities—green and otherwise—taken in California for a post-bureaucratic world, as well as leadership demonstrated by Germany and the Netherlands in increasing local generation of renewables, proposing a feed-in tariff to encourage people to be paid for the energy they generate and feed back into the grid. In the meantime, while waiting for such proposals to win support and take effect, we desperately need more Brits to sign up for electricity from 100% renewables, as offered by Good Energy, to increase demand for such sources ASAP. There is no need to go for nuclear, yet if you read the US administration’s stance and that of the UK energy minister, you’d think nuclear power was a godsend. They, by contrast with Cameron, just do not get it.

Here’s the Conservative proposal:

The decentralised energy revolution

the short story in the Guardian:

Tories urge home power generation

and the Independent:

Tories plan £300m green energy revolution to avoid nuclear option

and at businessGreen:

Tories propose green energy “revolution”

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  1. A quick scan through didn’t find the numbers. Where are they? What fraction of lectric can be generated from panels on roofs, etc etc?

  2. The numbers for quick scanning (PV in Germany, CHP in the Netherlands, and examples of long-term feed-in tariffs from other countries) are in the Green Paper, which ends with a call to interested parties:

    At our Party Conference in 2007, Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced that the Party had decided to adopt a policy of feed-in tariffs for decentralised energy. The purpose of this Green Paper is to set out in more detail the nature of the Party’s policy commitment as it applies to micro-generation.

    We recognise, however, that there are significant technical, economic and environmental issues involved, and that it is of great importance to ensure that the detailed mechanics adopted for the introduction of feed-in tariffs should both benefit from the experience gained in other European countries and be fully consistent with the particular features of our own electricity
    supply industry.

    We accordingly seek detailed comment on the proposals outlined in this Green Paper from all interested parties, particularly including participants in the electricity supply industry, manufacturers of relevant equipment, financial institutions that might be involved in providing financing packages for micro-generation, the insurance industry, consumer groups, academic energy experts and environmental groups.

    In 2008, we will come forward with further proposals relating to large-scale
    decentralised and renewable energy.

  3. Hi inel,
    I feel green with pride as a ‘microgenerator’.
    We have 10 PV panels, and are expected to produce 2.15 kWp annually. So far in 8 months, we have produced 1.88.

    I maybe wrong, but I have read somewhere, if every house in Britain generated some form of power, the total generation may be equivalent to the amount generated by at present by conventional means.

    There is very good support out there for whoever wants to install PV-generator.
    1. The company that installed our panels, had given us excellent support, with advice before and backup following the installation.
    2. We received 50% as grant from energy saving trust.

    To the countries you mention, I would like to add India the winds are changing as one of the front runners in alternative power generator.

    And I am with Mr Cameron, if he can implement this.

  4. William: Syngellakis (2005) suggest that the UK can generate a large proportion of its domestic energy needs from micro, especially wind (we have 40% of Europe’s entire wind energy potential). For example, a million small wind turbines (2.5kW) might be expected to produce around 2-3gW of energy at source. This is ‘worth more’ than a similar wattage produced at a distance, because of system efficiencies (basically, no power loss). The Hockerton Housing project has regular updates on the energy produced from its solar array and two wind turbines, summarised monthly.

    The main problem still with microgeneration is the initial cost to the individual; long-term, the numbers add up okay, but a good (cost effective) system will cost several thousand pounds to install, which is clawed back relatively slowly. My feeling is that this will take off in the next year or two in a big way, as soon as the existing technology is supported by the right kind of incentives (there are some, but not enough, such as tax breaks and the odd subsidy). Such a large scale commitment would require the Govt. to set aside several hundred million pounds to support installation.

    Regards,

  5. Hello little indian,
    .
    Good for you! When I looked into the cost of possibly replacing our boiler a week or so ago, I was pleasantly astonished at the number of grants and special offers available to people for installation of insulation, high-efficiency boilers, and other energy-related home improvements, including PV panels.
    .
    Energy Saving Trust is a good place to start looking in the UK.

  6. Hi fergus,

    Congratulations on your new role. I think you’ve made a great move and I hope it all works out very well for you.
    .
    What I would like to see in Britain is some sort of encouragement to communities or neighbours to install PV or wind energy sources. Solar installations on a per town or city basis are popular in CA, and I think it helps people make the changeover if they know others who are doing the same thing at the same time, and getting a bulk discount from the suppliers/installers.
    .
    The Government could easily set aside a small sum for renewables instead of nuclear and airport extensions ;-)
    .
    I think the main hurdle to overcome is sourcing materials for production of the equipment, then there are installation delays, and financing is a cinch by comparison: once the political will to commit to renewables has been demonstrated, the money is likely to follow.

  7. Hi inel. I agree with you on the communities/neighborhoods idea. Quite simply, one medium-sized installation is more cost-effective and more generally efficient (in the case of wind) than several very small ones, and there are now several producers of equipment which is rated between 100 and 500kW; the larger of these might be enough for a whole community. Wales and Scotland have many relatively isolated small towns and villages which would benefit from this; the main problem being that they are often places with a shortage of private wealth, implying a need for support of some kind. Some energy companies may be in the position to subsidise such projects in the early stages, in order to meet their own emissions targets.

    The amount of money that the government here commits to renewables in comparison to other demands on its resources is an indication of its real attitude to the problem in relation to other things which require its attention. Your readers might be interested to know that the Low carbon Buildings Program has just re-launched, with a new tranche of money available for grants, but these are only half the size they were two years ago. Why?

    Installation of wind on the small and medium scale is a relatively rapid process, taking only a few weeks, generally; most projects of any size are delayed by the planning and consultation process rather than materials or installation. This is also an indication of a lack of integrated organisation (which is however, being addressed in various govt. plans).

    A community installing a decent mid-sized turbine should get a return on its investment in 4-10 years, depending on the wind regime. This is a good enough prospect to allow banks to consider loans. At least one ‘green’ finance company will do such loans at 0% interest.

    Thanks for your kind words, and regards,


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