As world embraces renewables, Rishi Sunak leads UK in wrong direction – Dr Richard Dixon
Green energy is progressing in leaps and bounds around the world but the UK Government is still backing the wrong horses. New figures from the International Energy Agency show that almost all the global electricity installed in the next three years will be from renewables. It predicts that renewables will supply the majority of the world’s electricity in just three years’ time. This means climate emissions from the electricity sector will plateau or start to decline, even though demand for electricity is expected to rise rapidly.
Last week, Scotland’s largest offshore windfarm became fully operational. At full tilt, the 114 turbines off the Angus coast can generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, creating on average enough power for 1.6 million homes. In Yorkshire, a site in the village of Kirby Misperton which was the scene of protests against drilling for fracking has been turned into a source of geothermal energy.
But UK energy policy remains out of step with the global trend. The two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point might finally start to generate power in mid-2027 at the earliest, ten years late and at nearly twice the original cost. The government is also backing the industry illusion of cheap, small reactors.
In Europe, only one other nuclear station is being constructed, and is now 11 years late and four times over budget. In western Europe, only France has plans for new nuclear stations. Indeed Germany switched off their last nuclear plants last year, and Spain and Switzerland are committed to phasing out their reactors.
Last week, the UK National Infrastructure Commission firmly concluded that there was no case for using hydrogen for home heating – it would be worse both economically and environmentally than the alternatives. There are now 47 independent studies concluding that hydrogen home heating is a terrible idea.
Despite this, the UK Government continues to back the creation of hydrogen boilers and plans for trials of home heating from hydrogen in Redcar in Teesside (similar plans having been rejected by people in Whitby in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire). There is also a small trial of 300 homes getting going in Buckhaven in Fife which expects to connect up homes next year, more than a year later than planned.
The Scottish Government, while having strong enthusiasm for renewable energy, has not been immune to the hydrogen hype either. The project in Fife is backed by nearly £7 million of Scottish Government money, although official policy is now only lukewarm towards hydrogen for heating.
And, of course, the UK Government still plans to wreck the climate by getting every last drop of oil out of the North Sea, having approved the massive Rosebank development and with 100 other projects in the pipeline. Sadly the UK Labour party has said that, if they win the next general election, they will honour any licenses granted before they come to power because they are scared of being sued by big companies for breach of contract.
Global energy trends are going in the right direction for the climate and, in Scotland, we are backing renewables and energy efficiency but need to do more. However, the UK Government continues its move backwards on climate emissions and green energy.
Dr Richard Dixon is an environmental campaigner and consultant
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