The government should stop underwriting the generation of renewable electricity because the system often leaves customers paying for projects which never get off the ground, a leading scientist has warned.
John Constable, director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation, told a confer-ence in Swaffham that the current mechanism is a very expensive way of reducing carbon emissions.
He said lavish subsidies and high electricity prices have turned Britain’s onshore windfarms into a moneyspinner, with a single turbine capable of generating £500,000 a year.
According to industry figures, a typical 2 megawatt (2MW) turbine can now generate power worth £200,000 on the wholesale markets – plus another £300,000 of subsidy from taxpayers.
Dr Constable said ‘renewable obligations’, which require elect-ricity suppliers to get a proportion of their power from renewable sources, operate in such a way that cash is stumped up for projects which are delayed or shelved as a result of intricate planning legislation.
This, he argued at the event on Thursday, leads to much higher returns for current renewable generators than investors expected or required.
Speaking at a meeting organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Norfolk County Association of Parish and Town Councils, Dr Constable said that by cutting the subsidies for the current system, developers would be encouraged to diversify the generation of renewable energy through better, more cost-effective mechanisms.
Members of the public attending the meeting expressed their concern at the visual and environmental impact of the structures and several local residents insisted that nuclear power stations would be the ideal solution for replacing oil or fossil-fuel generated energy.
Jan Matthiesen, head of onshore at the British Wind Energy Association, said wind energy was the most cost-effective way forward.
“Wind energy does not contribute to climate change and is the only way to bridge the energy gap and ensure security of supply,” he said. “The government has set certain targets for generating energy in the UK by 2020 and it is estimated that 40pc of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. This is would be an extraordinary achievement.”
However, Greg Britton, former planning officer at Breckland Council, said concerned residents should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of developments and mount concerted campaigns if they feared that projects would have a negative impact on their area.
He said it was planners’ responsibility to ensure Norfolk did not become a “soft spot” for developers eager to make important money from renewable energy.
Other subjects tackled by the conference included street lighting and light pollution.
Guest speaker Bob Mizon, of the British Astronomical Association, and widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts on light pollution, expressed his concerns over the safety of using high-powered floodlights.
He encouraged residents and organisations to consider sensitive lighting which respects the environment and does not disturb the privacy of other people’s homes.
16 June 2008
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