The announcement of government plans for an offshore wind farm revolution may generate lots of feel-good headlines but does it tackle the fundamental issue in the battle to avert climate chaos?
Building wind farms around Britain’s coastline will make an important contribution to meeting our renewable targets. However, the real challenge is to cut our overall carbon emissions, which are still rising year on year in the UK owing to runaway energy demands. This pattern isn’t going to change with another 7000 offshore wind turbines.
The government has yet to face up to the task of reducing our damaging carbon emissions through greater energy efficiency. Effective energy conservation measures could easily cut 40% of our overall emissions by 2020. So when is the government going to announce that it will “revolutionise” household insulation and micro energy on all new building in the UK? When is it going to announce a “revolution” in public transport to cut our car and plane use?
It may not make for sexy headlines but surely we should be more focused on energy conservation rather than generating endless energy to meet an ever-burgeoning demand.
Helen McDade, Policy Officer, John Muir Trust, Tower House, Station Road, Pitlochry.
Construction is now under way at Whitelee, near Eaglesham, on Europe’s largest wind farm, with the first Seimens-manufactured turbines now in place.
When it is completed in 2009 this wind farm will have an installed capacity of 322 MW, will apparently produce enough electricity to supply 200,000 homes and will cost ScottishPower £300m.
Is this good news for Scotland?
Well, Scotland has been labelled by some wind enthusiasts as the “Saudi Arabia of wind”. Certainly, we have much more than our fair share of wind, and Saudi has the world’s greatest reserves of oil. Indeed, this year Saudi Arabia will earn around $150bn from sales of oil.
So how much will Scotland “earn” from this giant wind farm?
With the high-value turbines having been manufactured abroad, I reckon that over 75% of the total value of the project will be spent outside Scotland.
How many permanent jobs will the project produce? No more than a handful. So not a lot there for Scotland from the exploitation of its wind resource, though the local landowner will do quite well.
And how will foreign-owned ScottishPower fare? The electricity produced by this wind farm will earn ScottishPower one Renewable Obligation Certificate (or ROCs, as they are called), for each MWhr. These can be traded at around £40 each. This is the rather opaque subsidy mechanism introduced by the Westminster Government to encourage investment in new renewables. Most people I mention it to have never heard of ROCs. But I can assure them that whether they have heard of them or not they are paying for them in their electricity bills.
The Whitelee wind farm should net ScottishPower around £40m in subsidy annually, which, of course, will be in addition to the price it gets from selling its electricity. As this subsidy regime is to run for the next 20 years, I think ScottishPower will do quite well out of the Whitelee windfarm.
Nick Dekker, 1 Nairn Way, Cumbernauld.
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