Friday, July 24, 2009

The Windmill Goes Round and Round

Lord Mandelson Here’s Greenpeace’s Executive Director John Sauven on the British energy plant:

"If this plan becomes a reality, it will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and make Britain a safer and more prosperous country. This will be good for the British economy and, in the long-run, save householders money as we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas.

This is likely part of what pleases Sauven:

Up to £180m would be made available to promote wind and tidal power – this includes setting up a low-carbon economic area in the south-west to promote marine technologies and money for up to 3,000 wind turbines off the UK's shores by 2020.

And why not? As Britain reworks its energy regime, renewables are extremely valuable – both in themselves and for gaining enough traction and resources to work on issues of scale and reliability. By 2020, those 3000 turbines might be fewer or might be capable of generating more electricity than currently anticipated. A big order and long timeframe can be great for innovation.

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But subsidies can be a problem – when it’s nuclear energy.

[…] Business Secretary Lord Mandelson […] stated in June: "We are not going to achieve a competitive [nuclear] sector by handing out subsidies. We are not in the business of giving out subsidies. We are in the business of maintaining a level playing field."

Well, as seen above, no. And:

Yet to some observers, low carbon technologies do not appear to be competing on a level playing field. [EDF Energy chief executive Vincent] de Rivaz and other major utilities such as E.ON and RWE have been quick to point out that the more photogenic generation sources such as wind and solar are the beneficiaries of generous subsidies and tax breaks. Equally, carbon capture and storage technology is receiving massive R&D funding and incentives. For all the government's rhetoric on free market attitudes, it has effectively picked its winners already.

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Energy Secretary Ed Miliband sounds as though he knows where his fights may come from:

Critics of turbines, which can be more than 300ft high, say they disfigure the landscape and cause noise. Some engineers also question whether they are efficient enough to be economically viable but Mr Miliband said people must come to accept wind farms as a necessary part of Britain's energy sector.

He said ministers would be sensitive to residents' concerns about turbines, but insisted: "They have to go somewhere."

And if he anticipates a fight on wind, imagine adding nuclear to that. Why, nuclear units eat up space – er, sound like a hundred engines going at once – um, well, we joke. Every energy source has a downside. And as we mentioned, it’s possible the wind industry will mitigate some of them.

Shaun Spiers, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the group supported the expansion of renewable energy but the countryside must be protected. "There will be no public consent for renewable energy infrastructure if it is centrally imposed or causes great damage to the beauty of England's countryside," he said.

NIMBY - this will be the big fight, we suspect.

We wondered what Lord Mandelson looked like. Pretty much like this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rather than providing subsidies it would be better if government got out of the way and didn't create a need for subsidies in the first place.

A proficient coder can't even write a page of code without one ore more bugs or ugly corner cases sneaking in that require debugging to find; in that light the 30 000 page tax code is an unpalatable idea, even more so when you consider that the language it is written in is a lot more ambiguous than something like C++ or assembly. It is made much less unpalatable when you consider the massive abuse of tax code for repaying political favours, protectionism of one industry against another, crafting milker bills and social engineering("sin taxes", wealth redistribution etc.).

If hurricane katrina thought you anything it should be that central government planning continues to be a terrible idea. Not only did FEMA royally screw up the rescue work, they prevented others from helping; in one particularly egregious case a local sheriff posted armed guards to guard against FEMA, which had previously cut communication lines.

A large part of the charm of loan guarantees for the nuclear industry is not the prospect of getting help from the government. If the government has skin in the game they're not going to be too opposed to letting the project finish, where as otherwise a government beaurocrat could kill it with the stroke of a pen in return for some votes from the greenie weenies or some campaign contributions, a wink and a nod from the coal industry.

Subsidizing nuclear justifies politicians in subsidizing whatever they like, e.g. near useless paleotechnologies like wind and solar. This is a bad idea.