Ed Miliband – Question 9

Q:

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Technologies including solar power, in the new CIS tower in Manchester, for example; geothermal, such as the proposed Eden project scheme; wave power, being developed in the UK; and anaerobic digestion, which can process farm waste and provide fertiliser at the same time, can play a substantial part in securing delivery of renewable energy. Because wind turbines are so visible, are they in danger of overshadowing investment in these other less visible renewable energy sources? How can you ensure other forms of renewables aren’t deprived of investment and research?

A:

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Wind farms certainly attract more debate! But behind the headlines we are also encouraging support for other technologies. For example, energy companies have to get a set proportion of power from renewable sources, and since April they have got double credits for wave and tidal power.

Talking to people around the country, including in research organisations and companies, I do think other technologies are receiving attention. My colleague, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, announced £10 million earlier this year for an Anaerobic Digestion Demonstration Programme, which has huge potential.

New technologies like this show we can tackle climate change, and we can create a low-carbon Britain. There will have to be changes, but the prize – from preventing floods in our towns to widespread disruption in our countryside – will be worth the effort.

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10 responses

  1. Brian Skittrall

    Industry has litle incentive to invest in R & D for other technologies while they can make enormous profits from onshore windfarms without any investment. When will the Government reduce the level of ROC credits for onshore wind so that the market is not skewed entirely to a technology that delivers great statistics, but in practice does not deliver carbon savings?

    3 July, 2009 at 3:47 pm

  2. Simon

    Working in the renewable industry we are seeing these “new” technologies recieving more and more attention (and hence private investment) as test machines are becoming commercially viable. The fact that they (e.g. wave, tidal, deicated biomass, offshore wind, geothermal, anaerobic digestion etc) recieve more ROC credit than onshore wind has seen industry diversify their investments (yes, they do have to invest their own money! Onshore wind farm development is not funded by the government). This is great news, but we still have a long way to go. The recent Synthesis Report on climate change, fears of ‘Peak Oil’ happening around 2030 and the fact we are importing an ever increasing amount of gas indicate we need a full quiver of renewable technologies up and running as soon as possible.

    6 July, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    • Brian Skittrall

      My point is not that developers do not have to pay to construct their windfarm, but that they do not have to pay for R & D for wind because it is a mature technology.

      With return on investment for onshore wind in excess of 15% (sometimes substantially more), why would a business look at a solution that needs a large R&D budget and has uncertain returns?

      Anyway, if we do not change our renewables policy peak oil will not be the problem, but peak gas as this is the only fuel that works well as back-up for with wind. Spain now use far more gas than they used to for this very reason.

      It is a pity that gas is the least secure of the fossil fuels.

      6 July, 2009 at 9:06 pm

      • As for gas being the least secure source of energy I hope the goernment will strongly support those companies investing in coal bed methane [cbm].
        Here in Staffordshire there are many seams of coal that were never worked by mining and technologies are well developed to drill down to these seams throughout the West and East Midlands.
        Extracting the cbm and injecting it into the high pressure gas grid will have a much lower impact on the appearance of the countryside than intrusive wind farms.
        Wind farms cannot guarantee power at peak periods – cbm can.

        Similarly I welcome your support for anaerobic digestion, this should be a major player in domestic and industrial food waste treatment. All Local authoroties should set up a collection service from commercial and domestic kitchens.

        I also strongly support incineration of domestic waste as long as there is electricity generation and ideally district heating schemes. The majority of residual domestic waste, after recycling, is made up of plastic which essentially is as good as oil. This should not be wasted in landfill sites and again the power supply provides for the base load that we can never rely on wind-farms to provide.

        10 July, 2009 at 8:29 am

  3. Dr Phillip Bratby

    Floods in town are not due to a changing climate. They are due to factors such as changing farming practices (land drainage schemems etc), building on flood plains, paving over vast areas of gardens, straightening river courses, not maintaining infrastructure etc etc.

    7 July, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  4. Dr Caroline Bott

    There has been a recent government initiative, adding solar thermal panels, as well as solar PV to be eligible for ROC/ feed in tariff payments. There are also various grants to defray the cost of installing solar thermal panels. However, it is my understanding, that to be eligible for any of the payments, the householder has to use a registered installer. Despite the grants, this makes the installations extremely expensive and out of reach of many people.
    Effective solar thermal panels are an item that can be readily made by anyone reasonably competent at DIY, and for a fraction of the cost of a commercial installation. (e.g. see http://www.builditsolar.com for the type of fully tested DIY panels that could be built)

    I do know there is concern regarding the appearance of solar thermal panels on roofs and also a limitation on storage tank size in existing house, and also a drop in efficiency where there is no south facing roof. For houses with gardens, there is a possible solution I’d just like to publicise – the idea of the solar shed – which is a shed in your garden, suitably orientated to face south, with the solar panels fixed (leaning back to the optimum angle) to the side wall of the shed. This also makes them easy to reach for cleaning. The insulated tanks are inside the shed, with a piped feed to the house (insulated pipes in a trench). See an example using a large shed, where a house is also heated by solar thermal:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/SpaceHeating/SolarShed/solarshed.htm

    WOULD THE MINISTER CONSIDER CHANGING TO A SYSTEM where instead of registered installers, there are registered inspectors – so a householder has the option of either using a commercial installer or going the DIY route. Their installation would then be inspected to determine how much household hot water, and possibly even space heating (with large systems) is supplied, and the system is registered accordingly. An upfront charge for the registration may be necessary, but I would suggest that it be under £100, or waived for those on benefits. This could encourage a greater number of solar thermal panels, and allow the government to have a record of every registered panel – bringing in currently unregisterable panels onto the total (and so also helping the government to meet the targets set).

    8 July, 2009 at 9:06 am

  5. We found Ed Millibands comments incomprehensible and not what one would expect from a supposedly responsible Minister.
    One must ask if he has ever actually walked onto and into an operative Wind Turbine Farm. Probably never: he has just been “greened” as have a large number of County and Borough Councillors by carefully spun presentations with only half the true facts by developers who stand to make very large profits from Wind Farm developments that are already adding to the cost of our electricity bills.
    In the North East we note the increasing demand for planning approvals for Wind Turbine sites that do not adequately respect our landscape, our right to tranquillity. Noise, flicker disturbance and lack of performance efficiency to produce adequate regular power are all glossed over with partial facts fed to a mainly unsuspecting general public. The protestors or protectors who know the score are decried by a Minister who should be capable of impartial judgement and not ill-advised comments.
    Tricia & Tony Winnett

    8 July, 2009 at 10:40 am

  6. Tricia and Tony Winnet mention ‘our right to tranquillity’
    Previously difficult to quantify so I draw your attention to Mapping Tranquillity” document and mapsavailable on CPRE website

    Windfarms do affect tranquillity
    Abstract from Mapping Tranquillity
    Defining and assessing a valuable resource

    “Places that make us feel tranquil take us away from the stresses and strains of everyday life and help us to relax — but they face a multitude of threats and are shrinking in size. We have developed a new method of mapping tranquil areas which builds on our previous work.
    This methodology takes into account people’s experiences of the countryside and what qualities contribute to a feeling of tranquillity. It also looks at what factors detract from tranquillity — people, landscape and noise are key themes. The resulting tranquillity maps can be used as an important indicator in helping to protect the the countryside. This report explains the research undertaken in the north east of England to develop the new methodology and mapping techniques in two pilot study areas: Northumberland National Park and the West Durham Coalfield.”

    Page 40 The non-natural features detracting
    from tranquillity were identified as:
    Roads: motorways, primary roads,
    A roads, B roads, and minor roads
    Railways,Urban areas
    Isolated properties,Caravan parks
    QuarriesVertical structures such as pylons
    and telecommunications masts
    Windfarms

    9 July, 2009 at 8:34 am

  7. John Beadle

    With an ever increasing population surely more effort and research should be going into electricity generation from human waste.This would enable generation plants to be sited at existing sewage farms rather than occupying valuable green belt land.Such technology could also be of great benefit to third world countries and therefore add to our Overseas Aid activities.

    5 August, 2009 at 6:19 pm

  8. John

    Wind turbines at sewage works seeem to be a recent government initiative. Co Durham seems to attracting more of these 126metres high, than other areas in spite of the number of turbines we already have,in spite of the problems and poor load fcators of those already ‘operating’ in the area.

    Please read my posting on q10

    6 August, 2009 at 6:31 am

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