Friday, October 31, 2008

the economics of renewable generation

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The House of Lords is conducting an inquiry into this. Someone called Bibi van de Zee reported on it in the Guardian back in August. I've been sitting on this because I've been waiting for more information to emerge but there's been little to nothing so I'm going to go ahead and give it the punkscience treatment.

Bibi's summary is bleak and depressing to an advocate of the technology. Her subtitle was:
"Renewables are not the simple solution, according to the House of Lords. In fact, they are expensive, difficult and unreliable."
To anyone who follows developments in the field this doesn't ring true at all. Numerous policies have been proposed to 'green' our generation system without undue cost or trauma to society:

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/
http://www.desertec.org/
http://www.globaleconomicgovernance.org/docs/EnergyPoliticsandPoverty_lr2.pdf

So, why are the Lord's conclusions so negative? Or- why is Bibi's spin of their results so negative? A skeptic might point out that the above documents were produced by organisations inherently favourable of renewable generation, whereas the government's position on the issue- as revealed by their actions over the last decade- are actively hostile to it. So where does the middle ground lie?

3 comments:

  1. The reality is that there is no simple solution for energy.

    There never has been - our current system is an overly complicated mess of a legacy infrastructure and technologies, a market pricing system that benefits no-one but the producers and retailers, and the pressure of twenty years of vested interests, from the energy producers to the unions, all backed by 'evidence' from consultants paid by the industries which benefit from the status quo.

    It isn't helped when you add to that mix a bunch of self important politicos like Lawson each with their own axe to grind and interests to protect.

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  2. Too true. What do you think the government should do for electricity generation then?

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  3. I favour a diverse renewable energy model along the lines of The Lazy Environmentalist and partly outlined in Monbiot's book Heat.

    The UK could provide it's own renewable energy, backed up by a baseload from the likes of DESERTEC and helped by a localised energy storage infrastructure (hydro, compressed air, hydrogen cells) for peak loads.

    There's no shortage of ideas for a renewable revolution, but the simplest has got to be energy conservation, but it's got to be done via an economic framework in which CO2 savings made in one sector aren't squandered in another.

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