Letters in the Independent July 20 2009
Face up to costs of green energy
Your editorial "Fuel bills set to soar to pay for green energy plan" (13 July) indicates that a considered debate is beginning on the cost of the low-carbon electricity production needed to meet the UK's climate change targets.
While lobby groups with flawed arguments have grabbed headlines about energy prices, most experts agree that there are real costs resulting from the drive towards cleaner, more efficient energy. If the costs of environmental commitments are unclear and the benefits are not explained, there is a risk that public opinion may force a political U-turn.
This uncertainty is, arguably, the greatest risk faced by investors. Candour about benefits and costs should improve the appetite for risk of those investing in technologies such as nuclear and wind power, and serious debate should increase the level of public support. The clear recognition by the Secretary of State, Ed Miliband, that the Government's environmental programme will increase energy costs, will be welcomed by the electricity market, as it seeks to deliver low-carbon investment on the massive scale required.
Chief Executive, Association of Electricity Producers, London SW1
It is astonishing that, of the 20 promising renewable technologies listed in the Manchester Report (13 July), there was no mention of estuary tidal energy. The rise and fall of tides round the UK is a massive energy resource. A tidal barrage combined with pumped storage has the highest energy density of all renewables, plus a life expectancy of at least 100 years.
For those concerned about inundating the inter-tidal zones, there is the option of the vertical rotor tidal fence. A hybrid system combining a fence with upstream high-tide storage could significantly extend the generating phase.
It is equally incomprehensible that the Government places such reliance on wind power. According to statistics from the department for Energy and Climate Change, offshore wind power in 2007 had a load factor of a mere 25.6 per cent, meaning that nearly 75 per cent of rated capacity was lost.
There is a theory that tidal energy is not favoured because it would deny funds to nuclear energy. Both will be necessary to bridge the energy gap. The Manchester report favoured the thorium alternative to uranium. This has much to recommend it now there is less enthusiasm for nuclear weapons.
Peter F Smith
Special Professor in Sustainable Energy
University of Nottingham
Ed Miliband is one of Labour's deeper-thinking ministers but the projection in his Green Manifesto of 400,000 new green jobs seems wishful thinking. It's true, for example, that off-shore wind is the key driving agent in achieving the Government's ambitious renewable energy targets and that the UK is the world leader in offshore wind at present. What is in doubt is who will be manufacturing the components of this programme.
According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology, we have 5,000 people working in our industry; Germany has 80,000, Spain has 30,000 and even Denmark, with less installed capacity than Britain, has 20,000 employees in this sector. What is missing in the manifesto is how and who will create these promised new green jobs, particularly because, on the day of publishing the manifesto, one of our major wind- turbine manufacturers went out of business.