[Mr. David Amess in the Chair] — Energy Policy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 27th November 2007.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 9:30 am, 27th November 2007

Frankly, they just do not work and are over-subsidised. I have not come here to talk exclusively about wind and wind farms, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is a great deal of opposition in my constituency to the non-productive use of such technologies, which are completely useless according to the evidence that we have received. I am talking specifically about the midlands; it is not for me to go into the broader picture in this debate, but I treat the whole issue of wind farms with a great deal of scepticism and I think that they are extremely damaging environmentally.

Clean coal should enjoy financial incentives equal to those enjoyed by the renewable energy sector, and nor should the subsidies that have gone to nuclear power be forgotten. Will the Minister address this specific point in his response?

I should like to give a brief but important example of how over-zealous support for renewables, particularly wind power, has led to increased carbon emissions. Denmark has the most intense concentration of wind generation in Europe. At peak output, its wind farms can account for nearly 64 per cent. of Danish peak power, but that rarely occurs. Last year, Danish carbon emissions rose as the Danish grid fell back on older, coal-fired power stations to plug the energy gap left by underperforming wind farms. Its power stations used 50 per cent. more coal than in 2005 to cover the failings of wind power, and its wind turbines generated a mere 22 per cent. of electricity, down from 29 per cent. in 2005. The increased demand for coal and the fact that it was burned in old, unmodified stations meant that Danish carbon emissions rose by 36 per cent. in 2006. My point is obvious, and I suspect that Danish investment in clean coal is imminent.

Investing in clean coal technology could allow us to enjoy consistent and competitively priced base load supply, with huge reductions in carbon emissions. Overzealous and irresponsible support for renewables, no matter how well-meaning, can and will lead to what is increasingly called "the Danish problem". There are considerable financial incentives and support for renewable energy sources, but no such moneys exist to assist and promote ongoing indigenous mining projects, which are crucial if we are to retain and develop our coal reserves and have a clean coal generating sector that does not depend only on coal imports.

The recent surge in coal prices has whetted the appetite of indigenous coal producers who wish further to develop reserves. Loan guarantees would rightly provide an alternative to direct subsidy and could reflect the Government's strategic support in the national interest. The money could be used to access new reserves and to help develop existing reserves. Developing new coal faces underground can take years, and considerable finance is required. A facility for Government loans or loan agreements would resolve that issue and secure access to coal reserves that require large-scale, ongoing investment. Harworth colliery, in Nottinghamshire, has been mothballed because money cannot be found to access the 50 million tonnes of coal that could be mined there and sold to power stations literally on its doorstep in the Trent valley. Will the Minister address the issue of loan agreements as one concept for the financing of mining operations in the national energy interest?

The nature of a loan is that the money is returned to the lender—in this case, when the coal mined as a result of the loan has been sold to the generators. Coal is the world's most abundant fossil fuel. According to the International Energy Agency, in the light of new clean coal technology the use of coal is set to grow, especially in the developing economies of China and India and in countries such as the United States and Australia. It is therefore imperative that we use this national asset, as so many other countries are doing. In doing so, we can demonstrate how it can be used in a balanced and environmentally responsible way by supporting the concept of clean coal technology with action, not just words.

It is imperative that the Government provide a lead on energy policy. The Minister might disagree, but many in the energy sector and in this House are not aware that a policy with set targets or ambitions to address these critical questions exists. I look forward to his responses to my points.

Annotations

Brian Gallagher
Posted on 3 Dec 2007 4:50 pm (Report this annotation)

At last, some common sense on the destructive pointlessness of industrialising our countryside with a cripplingly costly, failed technology.

Germany has about 21,000 turbines and is held up as a green example to other nations. But because they only generate seriously measurable amounts of power when wind conditions are optimal (a rarity), "efficiency" often struggles to reach anything like 20%. What is supposed to happen the rest of the time - hibernation or candlepower? Germany's answer is to build 26 new coal-fired power stations to work reliably and prop up turbines. The duplication is expensive and negates much or all of any notional Co2 reduction claims.

But when German winds are strong, as they were a year ago, it caused the grid to crash which blacked out most of Western Europe and "catastrophe was narrowly avoided". The grid is not designed to accommodate hugely variable input. It doesn't need Professor Ian Fells to spell out the obvious.

The need for renewable, sustainable power is clear. Industrial wind power is an irrelevant distraction because it is incapable of providing dependable output. We don’t have time for energy dead ends.

The subsidy-driven wind industry propaganda machine now admits its theoretical emissions savings are exaggerated twofold. That means double the number of turbines and double the unsustainable subsidies added directly to our electricity bills. The constant claims about the number of houses a given turbine output will supply are consistently and grossly overstated.

Another wind industry myth is that 80% of British people support wind turbines. The truth is that when faced with a turbine planning application, communities do some research and soon discover that there is no silver lining to the black cloud hanging over them. In these circumstances, typically 80% to 95% of people oppose wrecking their environment with something that doesn’t work.

Many foreign companies and their shareholders are happy to have wind power masquerade as a green environmental saviour. It is an impostor properly exposed by William Cash.

Janet Moseley
Posted on 6 Dec 2007 6:14 am (Report this annotation)

Thank goodness for some common sense at last on the issue of wind power.
It has a huge environmental footprint for the return of a trickle of unpredictable, intermittent energy requiring backup to be constantly available from other sources.
It is also very expensive, thanks to the ROC system and its over-generosity to wind-produced electricity generating certificates which can be traded at vastly inflated prices to suppliers - who naturally look to recover this from consumers.
At the same time, because wind energy is subject to dips and surges, the national grid can only cope with a certain amount of this type of power before it destabilises. In Germany, their grid has had to deny access to wind power on several occasions for this reason.
The further promotion of wind power is not a good use of public money if we want an affordable energy supply in the years to come, and one that keeps the lights on.
It is a marvellous cash-cow for wind power companies, mostly based abroad, who trade on the government's desire to apparently be 'seen to be green', when in fact a different interprepation of 'green' would be more appropriate.

Janet Moseley
Posted on 6 Dec 2007 6:14 am (Report this annotation)

Thank goodness for some common sense at last on the issue of wind power.
It has a huge environmental footprint for the return of a trickle of unpredictable, intermittent energy requiring backup to be constantly available from other sources.
It is also very expensive, thanks to the ROC system and its over-generosity to wind-produced electricity generating certificates which can be traded at vastly inflated prices to suppliers - who naturally look to recover this from consumers.
At the same time, because wind energy is subject to dips and surges, the national grid can only cope with a certain amount of this type of power before it destabilises. In Germany, their grid has had to deny access to wind power on several occasions for this reason.
The further promotion of wind power is not a good use of public money if we want an affordable energy supply in the years to come, and one that keeps the lights on.
It is a marvellous cash-cow for wind power companies, mostly based abroad, who trade on the government's desire to apparently be 'seen to be green', when in fact a different interprepation of 'green' would be more appropriate.