Friday, 25 April 2014

Windy Tories

It was always understood that the subsidy regime for the wind power industry was intended to create the conditions for the industry to mature, and that, when it was sufficiently mature, the subsidies would be reduced or removed.  And that’s not a policy with which I would particularly quarrel per se.
Whether the industry has actually got to that point or not is another matter.  I don’t believe that it has, but I accept that others may interpret things differently; and it’s not a question which has a simple yes/no answer - it's inevitably a matter of opinion, not fact.  It is, though, a question which doesn’t even seem to have been asked before the Tories announced their latest policy on abolishing subsidies if they win the next election.  The announcement seems to have little to do with energy policy as such, and everything to do with what they think will be popular amongst their target electorate.
The closest that they come to serious consideration of energy policy in the announcement is to declare that, if all currently consented turbines are built, agreed EU targets will have been achieved.  That’s one of those statements by politicians which is ‘true’, but completely misses the point.  The objective of using renewable sources is to reduce carbon emissions, not simply to achieve a negotiated EU target which is, by its nature, inadequate to achieve the necessary level of carbon reduction; but as so often happens, the target seems to be being treated as an end in itself.  Achievement of the agreed target is obscuring the objective which the target was meant to promote. It's a common problem with a target-based approach.
I don’t doubt that the abolition of the subsidies to onshore wind will be welcomed by shire Tories, in Wales as in England, who want all the benefits of clean electricity produced ‘somewhere else’.  But the subsidies (and massive ones at that) paid to keep the cost of producing energy from fossil fuels low will continue unabated – basically because the subsidies are not so visible to the end consumer, and the environmental costs of production are elsewhere.  They are effectively proposing to switch the balance of support to more carbon-intensive sources of electricity.
Time will tell whether this is really the election-winning strategy that they hope; but it is certainly not much of a carbon reduction strategy.
(As an aside, it’s interesting to note that, having declined to devolve planning control over wind turbines to the Assembly in the interests of maintaining a ‘national’ strategy for EnglandandWales, they are also proposing to devolve all control over all wind projects to local authorities.  There’s nothing like consistency in politics – and this is indeed nothing like consistency.)

1 comment:

G Horton-Jones said...

The question is whether the big subsidies were put in place to generate a surge in electricity generation so as to get the Conservatives off both the energy gap hook and the barb on the hook our dependence upon imported fuels viz oil and gas however produced

In my innocence I rather believed that the policy that should have been adopted was one which would have stimulated technological progress rather than as appears to have heppened poured big money into putting old technology on domestic roofs and mega bucks in to the pockets of the vast solar array owners or those in the race to put up the most or as now seems to be the case the biggest turbines.

Sorry I forgot to mention Carbon emission targets but someone this week has been banging on about wood burners and the impact upon the Welsh landscape. Am I being cynical or are the people of wales about to be offered by the Conservatives free wood burners if they live within so many metres of a wind turbine Could help to blow the smoke away eastwards to Lloegr