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Wind or hot air?

October 7, 2020 12:35 PM

as02 (Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash)We have got used to the Conservatives making headline catching announcements which fail to materialise. From easy frictionless deals with the EU ( any deal will be far from frictionless) through reform of social care promised when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister through to a world class test and trace system that clearly isn't there have been a stream of such announcements which prove words are easy, delivery less so.

In a speech yesterday to the virtual Conservative Party conference Mr Johnson was at it again. In a speech heavy with sunny optimism and bluster the Prime Minister was again short on a detail of how he was going to achieve his better world post covid

One new" claim grabbed all the headlines - that by 2030 all homes would be powered by wind generated clean electricity. So how ambitious is that goal in reality

The government publishes regular statistics on energy use. Those for 2019 are at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877047/Press_Notice_March_2020.pdf. Pages 9 and 10 suggest that domestic consumption of electricity is declining very slightly as efficiencies eg low energy bulbs kick in. In total domestic usage is 103.7 Twh a year with wind providing 64.1 Twh an increase in the year of around 10%. So today 60% + is already wind powered

Back in March the government issued a press release ( see here) in which it said the 30% figure would be reached. Private industry committed £40bn of investment to make it happen

It explains why such an ambitious scheme will only cost £160m of tax payers money

With current trends the target is not too stretching. It will become much more so if the government announces plans to replace fossil fuels in heating homes or accelerate the take up of electric cars both of which would reverse the decline in domestic electricity demand and require more wind generated power

So the headline grabbing announcement turns out to be one already made in March . What the Prime Minister cleverly did was assume all wind power would go to homes ( which clearly it wont) but by making the link it created a concept people can get their heads around and sounded like a new commitment. To paraphrase the catch phrase of the Northern Irish comedian Frank Carson, " Its the way you tell 'em" !!

Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave his reaction based on his experience as Energy minister:

"People across the UK are worried about the planet and for their children's futures. We need a Government that leads from the front when it comes to tackling the climate emergency. But just a few years ago Boris Johnson claimed a wind turbine "couldn't blow the skin off a rice pudding".

"He is now late to the table and, regrettably, still not ambitious enough. If the Prime Minister really wants to deliver a ground-breaking Green Recovery, he would be talking about investing billions, not millions, in offshore wind and other renewables. £160 million is a tiny fraction of the investment needed.

"Thanks to Liberal Democrat policies, the UK has become the world leader in offshore wind. Now we want to see £150 billion invested over the next three years in a green economic recovery plan. From real ambition in renewable energy to restoring vital habitats, this is about securing sustainable growth to benefit future generations."