After months of silence, I’ve had two cold calls about the state of microgeneration in recent weeks. I don’t really work on the details of the policy anymore so I did wonder why everyone’s getting excited all of a sudden. However I think it might have something to do with this: another consultation document.
But this new consultation is a little different from the old ones, in both form and content. First the form:
Rather than follow recent practice, and produce a document on which interested parties can comment, we wish to make sure that all those with the greatest knowledge and expertise in this field can contribute to the development of a draft strategy, which can then be widely consulted on later this year.
Seems like a sensible idea. Rather than drafting a bunch of stuff internally that only gets slapped down as being simultaneously over- and under-ambitious, why not try to build a consensus from the start?
The second difference is the scope of the consultation. Previous efforts have had fairly wide remits, looking at technology standards, skills and quality assurance, grant schemes, feed-in tariffs and so on. But the new strategy, undoubtedly reflecting the coalition’s spend-thrift ways, is crystal clear about what is in and, more to the point, what is out of scope. Check out these extracts from the invitations to join the four working groups:
- WG 1: Quality and certification Out of scope: complete removal of certification and industry standards, publicly financed instruments.
- WG 2: Technology development Out of scope: support for R&D and developing export markets would need to be through the existing mechanisms within Government, publicly financed instruments
- WG 3: Skills Out of scope: not looking to set up new bodies but to work with existing organisations operating in the sector, publicly financed instruments
- WG 4: Information and advice Out of scope: Publicly financed instruments
Notice a trend?
Three words: backyard nuclear power.
To be honest, I can’t tell if this is crazy good or crazy bad. On the one hand, compact self-contained nukes would give better output – more of it and more predictable – than similarly distributed renewables. But still, the units are buried underground and every 7 to 10 years, a lorry full of fresh uranium comes round to your house (well more realistically your local factory, industrial estate etc.), digs up the reactor to refuel it, and takes away the old waste. Although the transportation of nuclear materials has been relatively safe to date, I wonder how things change when you start shipping around lots of little containers rather than a few big loads (ignoring medical isotopes).
The first units are scheduled for delivery in five to ten years to a Czech utility company.
It looks as though the new Energy and Climate department is getting off on the right foot. Buried part way down this article is a quote from the minister saying that the Energy Bill will be amended to incorporate a feed-in tariff for microgeneration. Finally.
For years, microgeneration advocates have looked at the rapid deployment of solar and wind in Germany and called for similar incentives, which pay microgen owners for exporting their electricity to the grid, here in the UK. But in 2005, my research found that the UK government was fundamentally opposed to this option as an unnecessary intervention in the market. Obviously, market intervention has become a little more fashionable of late but there have also been serious economic analyses published to say it is in fact more economically-efficient to promote renewables and microgeneration using a feed-in tariff, rather than the current renewables obligation mechanism.
Of course the details haven’t been announced yet. But that the fact that a feed-in tariff is now being considered, alongside the government’s new commitment to a 80% – not 60% – reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, suggests that things may be changing in Whitehall. Let’s wait and see.
The government has launched yet another energy policy consultation and Ashley Seager hit the nail on the head: why more talk? I’ve lost track of the number of energy consultations and white papers since Labour came to power but I’m pretty sure I’d need both hands and feet to count them.
There’s a great video on the Sustainable Development Commission website where Jonathan Porritt takes the government to task over its flip-flop on home energy monitors. But the best bit is when he’s asked if anyone in government (especially BERR) really gets climate change. Watch from about 6:45 on – it’s a masterclass in media diplomacy.
Either the prime minister or the BBC has no clue about what nuclear power is for. 93% (pdf) of the UK’s oil consumption is for uses other than electricity generation (e.g. transport) so it makes no sense to argue that nuclear power is a solution to the current oil crisis. (Put another way, oil accounts for 1% (pdf) of the UK’s electricity generation). If you want to solve the power cuts, well that’s a different question (though nuclear isn’t necessarily the right answer to that one either).