Renewable Energy Foundation reacts favourably to the creation of a new Department of Energy and Climate Change, but . . .

October 7, 2008 at 3:56 am | Posted in Climate change, DECC, Energy security, Environment, Global warming, Renewable energy | Leave a comment
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Unfortunately, REF headlined its 3 October 2008 statement on DECC in an unhelpful way.  In so doing, the Renewable Energy Foundation presents a typically British attitude: highlighting problems instead of suggesting ways forward, and not even offering to be part of the solution.  REF Expresses Concern at Problems Faced by New Energy Department was picked up by Farmers Guardian under the headline REF welcomes new department but warns of difficulties ahead.

Although I appreciate why people in the UK may have developed a notable degree of caution, distrust and cynicism in recent decades, I would not characterise a welcome that expresses concerns at the outset, and coldly throws down the gauntlet to Ed Miliband to prove he is ‘up to the job’, as a favourable reaction. 😐

It is not only Ed Miliband alone who needs “the courage to tackle these matters head on” but all of the British public: this strength of character needs to be in each and every one of us, not just those who head Departments of State!  The transition to a sustainable future with significantly lower carbon emissions needs to become a mainstream activity, inherent in all we do, and as soon as possible.

By dwelling on problems through endless debate and circular discussion without really working to resolve valid issues effectively, very little is achieved but disgruntlement.  Far better instead to recognise problems, accept they have to be dealt with successfully through viable solutions, know that hard work lies ahead, then highlight opportunities—and go for them!

Now here’s an opportunity for someone to take the following REF press release and, while recognising the difficulties we face in this complex situation, figure out a workable recommendation for policymakers and write an alternative statement to present the predicament in a more positive way 😉

REF Expresses Concern at Problems Faced by New Energy Department

The Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) today reacted favourably to the creation by the Prime Minister of a new Department of Energy and Climate Change, with Ed Millband as Secretary of State. However the charity expressed concern that the new Department faces grave difficulties in energy and particularly electricity, and it is to be hoped that the new Secretary of State has the courage to tackle these matters head on.

In the next decade the UK must replace some 30 to 40% of its “firm” generating power stations, due to age and non-conformity with EU emissions regulations relating to sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Due to a decade of heavy-handed government market distortion the industry is very badly placed to undertake this task, which on its own is Herculean.

However, the UK is simultaneously under pressure from the EU to generate some 15% of its overall energy from renewable sources, implying some 35 to 45% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, a level which is widely acknowledged to be technically infeasible in the timeframe. Attempts to meet the EU target are likely lead to additional costs for the UK economy of tens of billions of pounds per year in subsidy and other overheads affecting UK competitiveness in an increasingly hostile global business environment.

Unfortunately, these two pressing tasks have little overlap, with efforts to meet the EU renewables targets potentially doing little to address the UK’s need for “firm” capacity. Thus the efforts to comply with the EU renewables targets could hamper efforts to rebuild the conventional sector and drive the UK into an overwhelming dependency on gas fired generation.

Dr John Constable, Director of Policy and Research for REF said: “The new Secretary of State for Energy faces a critical need to stabilise the conventional sector and to address the UK’s need for firm electricity capacity, while avoiding dangerous gas dependency. Sentimental or gestural support for renewables is counterproductive to this need, as well as being, paradoxically, harmful to climate change policy and the long-term future of the renewables sector. The problem is not difficult to understand intellectually, but a solution will require political courage. Whether Mr Milliband is up to the job will quickly become apparent.”


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