Wednesday, July 12, 2006

UK Government Energy Review - Response from the Wilderness Foundation


Onshore wind farms have become a costly irrelevance as a result of the Government’s Energy Review.

Expensive to consumers, and ruinous to landscapes and livelihoods, their only justification has been in providing a clean energy alternative – although with minimal savings of carbon gas emissions.

With the Energy Review now putting full focus onto a revival of nuclear energy, there can be no rationale at all for onshore wind farms – other than perhaps as a cynical fig leaf of green respectability to show that government is somehow reviewing and trying all other options.

A Moratorium on Wind Power
“Now that the Government’s strategy is out in the open, there must be an immediate moratorium for onshore wind power development” says the Foundation’s Vice Chairman Toby Aykroyd.

“It would be environmental madness to allow vast swathes of British countryside to be despoiled by industrial scale wind factories – merely in order to add a couple of percentage points of ‘clean’ generating capacity that is then dwarfed by a nuclear revival”.

Only two months ago, clear evidence was published showing the heavily negative impact of wind power on tourism in Scotland.

Yet, far from reigning in on wind development, Government is set to relax planning protection for rural landscapes even further – threatening to unleash a new wave of giant onshore turbines across the UK, with little opportunity for objection.

The facts bear out Aykroyd’s statement, with Renewable Energy set to contribute at most 10% of electrical output by 2010 – a maximum of only 7.5% coming from wind farms. Yet nuclear power, if it is to fill the “energy gap” left by decommissioning outdated coal fired and atomic capacity, would need to provide around 40% - probably a lot more to take the place of politically vulnerable gas supplies.

And that’s just electrical generation – itself only responsible for around 30% of carbon emissions, alongside transport (25%) and business (30%).

“A Diversion of Scarce Resources”

If the genuine aim of the government’s energy strategy is a reduction in greenhouse gas to tackle climate change, then onshore wind power can only make a very small difference.
It simply diverts scarce resources away from more cost-effective ways of curbing greenhouse gases such as better building insulation, tighter curbs on industrial and aviation emissions, and other forms of renewable energy - particularly micro-turbines and solar panels.
The Energy Review’s emphasis on these latter aspects marks a refreshing shift in policy, but resources will still be needed to make this effective.

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