UKIP supports renewables (when they’re economically viable)

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This photograph shows the aftermath of an anaerobic digester accident in Shropshire – both the damage to the installation and the massive leak of sludge

I have written at length about the vast misallocation of resources involved in the dash for renewable energy, and especially solar and wind power.  We see analyses of the costs of solar and wind, with the industry insisting that they have achieved the Holy Grail of “grid parity” – in other words, cost parity with conventional generation.  So this begs an interesting question – why does the industry also insist that it continues to need massive subsidies?

A major part of the answer is that the costings fail to account for the massive costs of back-up, which is essential when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.  You’re effectively paying twice for the capacity – first, for the intermittent renewables, and a second time for the back-up.

Then conventional generation is less efficient when run intermittently as back-up for renewables, meaning higher costs and higher emissions per unit of output.  Worse still, conventional generation is designed to be efficient when run steadily.  You simply can’t make an economic case to build a gas-fired power station if it’s going to run intermittently.  So we now have to offer “Capacity Payments” – an additional layer of subsidy to allow the back-up capacity to be built.

The day may come when solar and/or wind become economically viable.  This would be based on (A) further substantial increases in efficiency; and (B) the availability of very large-scale (and efficient) energy storage.  But even then, if and when that day comes, we shall look back and regret our vast misallocation of resources on wind and solar capacity which by then will be obsolescent, old-fashioned, inefficient and expensive.

So are we in UKIP against all renewables?  Not at all, and the best example to quote is hydro, which (provided you have the right locations and topography) is cheap and controllable.  It also offers the possibility of “pumped storage”, which may be viable despite the inefficiencies inherent in any double conversion of energy.

I have occasionally been asked to comment on another renewable technology – anaerobic digestion (AD).  Popular on farms, the idea is to take agricultural waste, allow it to ferment, take off and burn the resulting methane – and use the residue as fertiliser.  I freely admitted that I didn’t fully understand the economics of anaerobic digestion, but I had no objection to it if it was economic.

It sounds like a win-win.  Free feed-stock.  Free gas.  Free fertiliser.   If only.  It doesn’t quite work like that.  It’s rather like claiming that “The wind is free”, and so it is — if you ignore the costs of converting it to electricity.  Indeed you might say that coal and oil are “free” – they’re just lying there in the ground and waiting for someone to come and take them away.  But again, the costs of obtaining them and converting them to usable electricity are substantial.

I haven’t studied the economics of anaerobic digestion (it’s a minor issue compared to solar and wind) but fortunately the Daily Mail has, and has written and excellent article about it.

Their conclusions are damning.  First of all, there just isn’t enough agricultural waste to feed the available capacity (and to mop up the available subsidies) so thousands of acres of perfectly good arable land are growing maize and other crops explicitly for AD. That was 131,000 acres in June 2016.   Land that could be used for food, to help ensure our food security and reduce our balance of payments.  Then the cost of the methane is three times higher than natural gas.  The subsidies amount to a cool £216 million a year.

And AD has led to a number of leaks or even explosions that have contaminated farmland and waterways and caused the death of dozens of farm animals.  Large-scale AD operations also involve large numbers of lorry movements in rural areas, not just during installation (as is the case with shale gas) but for the whole life of the plant.  And now Dale Vince of Ecotricity wants to exploit AD (and subsidies) by building 1000 new AD plants providing gas for the grid.

It is bizarre that campaign groups and NGOs vehemently oppose shale gas development, on the grounds that it might possibly do some environmental damage, and yet seem to have nothing to say about AD which actually is doing great damage – and costing hundreds of millions in subsidies.

 

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14 Responses to UKIP supports renewables (when they’re economically viable)

  1. terry Sullivan says:

    remove the subsidy–we will then see if viable

    • Katie says:

      They may still be viable for the big boys but only for the present lifetime as they get CFD. They earn more to switch off than when they operate. Because they have got hundreds of turbines they earn enough money to make it worth their while. It is us that are out of pocket. Any wind farms that are in planning or have been approved still get the subsidy but I don’t think new ones will in the future.

  2. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin says:

    Dale Vince claimed he had built a wind powered car. Actually, it was an electric car that happened to be charged by wind turbines (when they are operating).

  3. Shieldsman says:

    What can you say when the Palace of Westminster is largely populated by the environmentally enthusiastic PC liberal idiot. Everyone wants to jump on the subsidy funded environmental bandwagon. Just look at all the Lords who are signed up to the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International) for their free overseas holidays.

  4. Shieldsman says:

    The Mail also runs another story on the energy subsidy scam.
    Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has set a deadline of 5pm for his resignation

    The state-funded RHI was supposed to offer a proportion of the cost businesses had to pay to run eco-friendly boilers, but the subsidy tariffs were set too high and, without a cap, it ended up paying out significantly more than the price of fuel. This enabled applicants to ‘burn to earn’ – getting free heat and making a profit as they did it.

    Claims of widespread abuse include a farmer allegedly set to pocket around £1 million in the next two decades for heating an empty shed.

    • Katie says:

      That is happening big time in Scotland too. My husband is a plumber and heating engineer and he goes to a lot of farms. They are putting in biomass boilers in their empty barns and running them 24/7 and making a nice fat tidy profit thank you very much. All a big scam. Farmers are making a mint out of all this.

  5. Simon says:

    Apart from the cost of installing renewable power generation plant, the back-up power generation and the cost of subsidies, there is one further factor that no-one seems to consider.
    This important factor is the use of fossil fuels in the extraction, mining and transport of the raw materials such as iron ore, cement and the rare elements from which the components of the renewable power equipment are formed together with the fossil fuels used in steelmaking, fabrication and construction during the various manufacturing processes to assemble the components. Finally, not forgetting the fossil fuels used to erect the equipment on site such as cranes.
    It would simply not be possible to do any of this without a cheap and plentiful supply of fossil fuels.

  6. Dung says:

    I believe that this is a foolish comment for UKIP to make, only the headline will stick: UKIP BACKS RENEWABLE ENERGY. This message is the last one you should have put out.
    This kind of energy generation is a sop to the AGENDA 21/AGENDA 2030 mantra of the UN and it implies that there is a shortage of resources that must be addressed to avoid guess what? Catastrophic resource shortages.
    It is a great shame that we do not have a discussion area so that we could discuss thesse kind of issues.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      I don’t think there’s a lot of doubt about UKIP’s position on renewables. But I wanted to shake the complacency of critics who seem to think we’re against renewables ON PRINCIPLE, whereas in reality it’s a question of economics.

  7. John Burnett says:

    Roger your last is the relevant point and the Daily Mail research extremely valuable, they deserve to be complemented

  8. Francesca Macfarlane says:

    “”The day may come when solar and/or wind become economically viable..”

    Well maybe but don’t hold your breath! Exxon Mobil’s latest forecast is that in 2040 the combined contribution of solar + wind to the World’s energy requirements will be less than 4% – so probably still not very cost effective! Of course, when the new Trump administration brings the whole Climate
    Change industry crashing down (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/01/03/delingpole-trump-versus-the-green-blob-heres-how-we-know-he-means-business/) then Green energy will become an amusing irrelevance.

  9. Dung says:

    I keep gently trying to introduce the UN into our discussion on energy and climate change but without success, oh well I have never had a great ability to be peruasive, c’est la vie ^.^
    On the Bishop Hill Blog more than a decade ago we decided that the UN already had a plan for the day when the climate bubble burst – SUSTAINABILITY/SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT would become the buzzwords.
    Despite believing that climate change was finished as a big issue and that it was destined for a slow death, the blog continued to focus on climate and interest in the UN Agendas faded.
    Now we find that climate change is a tiny heading in the Agenda 2030 document and insidiously sustainability has been embedded in every aspect of our lives without ever having it explained to us.
    Very briefly; the idea that using the resources of the planet is in anyway unsustainable is bunk. The idea that technology will not find new ways to extract energy is bunk. The idea that we have even scratched the surface of the planet in our exploration is bunk and what about the rest of the solar system and beyond in the future. We are being told to leave fossil fuels in the ground even though we have no idea what energy sources we will be using long before fossil fuels are exhausted and this also is short sighted bunk.
    However the UN and the UK is totally signed up to this stuff, it is worse than the climate change scam!

    • KennieD says:

      Indeed, it is all bunk, but, there is a lot of taxpayers’ money to be had for those who sign up to it. Ask Al Gore, or perhaps even “Lord” Debden might be able to explain.

    • I’ve always been amused by the point that policies described by the UN and the EU as “sustainable” are, in fact … well … just unsustainable!

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