MEPs are frequently allocated no more than 60 or 90 seconds speaking time in plenary debates, so we become very practised at making our point succinctly. The same applies at the dinner-debates we have in the parliament. It’s normal to ask questions from the floor, but it would be very bad form to make an extended speech.
Yesterday I attended an evening debate organised by the European Energy Forum, chaired by my good friend and colleague Giles Chichester MEP. Our speaker was Professor Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), which covers renewables generally, but in his day job Arthouros is a main man in the wind industry.
I wanted to challenge him on wind energy, but my own challenge was to get a few key points in very quickly. As near as I can recall, my speech went like this:
“I’d like to thank the speaker for his address this evening. I have nothing against renewables in general, but I see he’s involved in the wind industry, and I have real problems with wind power.
The wind industry is addicted to regulation and subsidy. It delivers energy for two to three times the cost of conventional generation. You’re not farming wind — you’re farming subsidies.
Wind is intermittent and unpredictable, and therefore needs conventional back-up kept running constantly at sub-optimal levels, which costs more and creates more emissions than it needs to.
Costings for wind energy are based on a 25 year working life. Yet at the big Horn Reef offshore wind farm in Denmark, all eighty turbines needed replacement or major overhaul within eighteen months. This is unsustainable.
You claim that green energy creates jobs, but look at the facts. In Spain, green energy created thousands of new jobs that came and went in short order. In the UK, the last wind turbine factory just closed. In Denmark, the wind industry created a few new jobs at great cost, and moved workers into wind from more productive sectors, slowing growth in Denmark.
I was alarmed to hear that more than half of all new wind capacity in the world last year was installed in Europe. What that means in plain English is that Europe is saddling itself with over-priced, inefficient, uncompetitive power generation. Our electricity will cost more and we shall be less able to compete in the world.
Finally, if you really want to move to a low-emission economy (and we could have a debate about that), surely the logical and economic approach is to build more nuclear capacity?”
The good professor muttered on about other generating technologies — coal and nuclear — also benefitting from subsidies, but that hardly explains our own government’s estimate that renewables will add £200 per household to domestic electricity bills by 2020.
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