Last words from Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate ChangeIn the months since I first posted on this blog a great deal has happened in the fight against climate change. Perhaps the most important event was the UN conference in Copenhagen. The conference didn’t produce everything we wanted, and in particular it didn’t deliver a track to a legal treaty. But it did produce a global agreement on climate change that includes the US and China for the first time. The world has made an irreversible commitment to going low carbon.

What does that mean for the English countryside? Reading the comments on the blog it is clear that there is a mixture of optimism and concern.

There is optimism because by getting global emissions under control we can limit the damage that would be done to our landscapes and wildlife. The international action on emissions that is now under way is vital if we want to protect traditional landscapes.

Wind farms and the countryside

But there is concern that new low carbon infrastructure, and in particular windfarms, will change the environment  people live in and use. It was interesting to read posts from people who saw windfarms as beautiful, but it is very clear that for many other people they pose a significant risk to areas they have come to love.

The key question for me is not about whether we need windfarms, but where they should be. The challenge of climate change is so large that by 2050 our electricity system needs to be almost entirely carbon free. That is why we are supporting the development of a range of renewable technologies including solar power, wave power and wind turbines located out at sea. But we cannot achieve the change we need if we rule out one of the best developed clean energy technologies: onshore wind.

So we need to make sure we put  windfarms in the right places. We need to make sure people have a say in how those decisions are made. And I think we should do more to ensure local people can benefit from the windfarms that are built.

Planning for people and the environment

There is progress on all these fronts. The new Infrastructure Planning Commission is up and running and in the next few months will take decision making on large wind farms out of the hands of politicians and strengthen the consultation process. It will ensure decision making is in the national interest, including our interest in protecting our countryside.

For smaller windfarms and other renewables, we are updating the Planning Policy Statement that guides local planning authority decisions (you can click here to take part in the consultation).

And from 1st April, the feed-in-tariff system will make it much easier for local communities to earn money from small renewable electricity projects, including small wind farms that they build in their area.

I know this won’t be enough for people who want to say a blanket ‘no’ to wind farms, but I hope it will go some way to meeting the concerns of people who want to know that everything is being done to make sure we maximise the benefit from wind farms and minimise the disadvantages.

Away from wind energy, there was also a point made in the comments about the importance of helping energy efficiency at home. That is a really important point because saving energy is the easiest way to save carbon and it also provides an immediate benefit through lower bills. Earlier this month we set out plans to provide more support for people, including ways to pay for the installation of energy saving measures out of savings in energy bills rather than upfront. We expect around 7 million homes to have eco-makeovers by 2020.

Population growth and climate change

Someone also raised the issue of population growth and climate change. This is an issue that comes up a lot but the truth is that it is economic growth not population growth that is the main reason why emissions are rising. If you look at the pattern of emissions growth around the world, most of the nations with the highest population growth rates had low growth rates for carbon dioxide emissions.

The core issue is that at the moment economic development very often brings new high carbon power stations, high carbon vehicles and high carbon lifestyles. The challenge is to break that link so we can all enjoy the benefits of economic growth and development without the dangers of unconstrained climate change. That is why clean energy is so important around the world, as well as at home.

The final point I want to make is about the importance of people engaging in these issues, whatever side of the renewables debate they are on. The shift to low carbon requires a big transition in our country and it is important that that is made on the basis of broad public engagement and discussion. It can’t be left just to politicians or businesses or even the staff of NGOs. The commitment of CPRE members to the countryside is a powerful force in the debate and one I am sure will continue to be so long into the future.

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9 responses

  1. A starter for ten??

    I artended the regional consultation by DECC on the NPSs at York racecourse in November. This was the most northernly venue.Transcripts of all these are on the DECC website the attendees were not named.

    I made the following comment as CPRE
    “Thank you for letting us come today. I was very interested in what I have heard and feel a lot happier. I would like to point out that we accept the climate change agenda. However,there is a wider environmental one. My question is this: will you be prepared to act as an independent judge and question government policy where needed, especially where local impact assessments clearly outweigh the potential national benefit that any particularscheme may bring? I would like to address that to anybody who feels they would like to answer it. Thank you.

    Answer from the panel
    Sue Manns
    That is really a question for the IPC. Perhaps Alison is better placed?
    Alison Cremin, Department of Communities and Local Government
    Yes, you might want to talk to the ladies from the IPC who are here today. Certainly the 2008 Act specifically places a requirement on the IPC that it cannot consent applications if
    the impacts outweigh the benefits.
    That is very clearly stated in the Act.

    31 March, 2010 at 9:14 am

  2. Dr Phillip Bratby

    The main problem we have is that Miliband is a career politician who has never held down a proper job in his life. He has his own agenda and ignores the fact that the climate changes naturally and has always done so.

    There is absolutely no scientific evidence to show that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing the planet to warm. The argument used by many so-called “climate scientists” (if you have to put “science” in the title, then it is not science – think “social science”, “political science”, environmental science”) is that they cannot explain the recent warming except by human emissions of CO2. That is an argument of ignorance which has no place in science. Firstly, as the discredited “climate scientists” Prof Phil Jones admitted, there has been no statistically significant warming for 15 years despite CO2 levels continuing to rise, Secondly, the temperatures have been fraudulently adjusted to exaggerate any warming that occurred last century. Thirdly, “climate scientists” do not understand all the physical processes that drive the climate. Fouthly, computer models which are used to predict “dangerous climate change” are not evidence of anything and are of no more worth than virtual reality computer games.

    Ed Miliband can ignore all the evidence and comments posted here that he doesn’t like, but at the end of the day he and his boss are totally ignorant of proper science and are the biggest danger to the future of our country and its beautiful countryside. The sooner they and wind farms are banished, the better off we will all be (unless we get another set of scientifically illiterate and ignorant politicians).

    2 April, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  3. Brian Gallagher

    For those who care to look, there is ample evidence questioning assertions that we have entered a period of warming. If a correlation between Co2 and warming exists, why have temperatures been dropping significantly around the world for more than ten years? If we can’t answer that based on historical data, how on earth can we trust speculative forecasts from organisations that are so notoriously unreliable and evasive? The science is NOT SETTLED.

    Some people have a “conflict of interest” – this means their judgment is unduly influenced by money. “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it,” Carbon trading is set to become the biggest commodity in history at the expense of the consumer.

    Climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is reasonable for us to consider if the minor greenhouse gas Co2 is having an effect – and attempt to estimate what that effect might be. What is not reasonable, nor scientific, is for commercial, political and ideological vested interests to denigrate and insult those who wish this important subject to be discussed openly and properly. Ed Miliband is guilty of being destructively closed minded. That is no way for a public servant to behave.

    The wind turbines bonanza is a symptom of AGW corruption. They fail in all respects to fill a useful role in delivering an affordable and reliable electricity source to fill the looming 40% black hole as old, dependable, thermal power stations are obliged to close. The lemming-like following of the failed German and Denmark experience would be the height of folly and irresponsibility.

    5 April, 2010 at 6:08 pm

  4. Richard Cowen

    Whether climate change is man made or not, surely the question we all ought to be asking about wind farms is whether they cut CO2 emissions and, if so, by how much.

    In today’s Times is an advert from E.ON which pointedly asks “but what happens if it’s not windy”. Despite many claims that the UK is the windiest country in Europe, it is I believe in the same wind contours as most of Europe. We only have to consider this winter to see that, even at its coldest, there were many still days when little energy was generated from wind power. Increasing the number of wind turbines will not alter this basic fact.

    I accept that when it is still in my area a gale can be blowing in other parts of the country. But it is also frequently the case that when it is still in one place, it is still in most of the rest of the country. I think one only needs to watch the weather forecasts to see that this is frequently the case. The “smoothing” effect claimed by the wind industry cannot in reality be substantiated.

    Which leads to my real point. Wind needs shadowing at all times, even when the turbines are operating (see the E.ON netz Wind Report of 2005). In that Report, E.ON has stated this requires conventional power stations to operate at 90% of the installed wind capacity.

    So before we build yet more turbines in our countryside (or even, at still greater expense, offshore) has anyone checked just what CO2 savings are in fact made by those wind farms already erected? This surely applies however many homes the present wind farms can supply when they are operating to capacity (2 million I believe). And surely this is relevant from the Climate Change Act perspective.

    Which is more important, renewable energy for its own sake or renewable energy which in fact makes substantial savings in CO2 emissions? Even if climate change is more cyclical than man made, surely this is a relevant question and should be answered before yet more of our countryside is given over to these substantial structures.

    5 April, 2010 at 7:40 pm

  5. Dr Phillip Bratby

    Richard Cowan: You ask “has anyone checked just what CO2 savings are in fact made by those wind farms already erected?” The answer is that experience from Germany and Denmark suggests the saving might well be zero. I have tried to point this out at public inquiries. There are several factors involved such as Life Cycle Assessment results, backup effects as you mention, energy consumed by turbines in low wind conditions.

    Calculations would show that the government renewable energy targets would never be met using intermittent wind power, no matter how many wind turbines were erected. That is why the government won’t ever do the calculations, because they will reveal that the Emperor is naked.

    5 April, 2010 at 8:32 pm

  6. Ramsey Martin

    Dr Philip Bratby. Yes you are hitting the nail on the head. In fact the saving from wind turbines is less than zero when all relevant factors are taken in. There are papers available on the Renewable Energy Foundation website that provide all of the background when pulled together. The REF is one of the few organisations promoting good sense.

    There are a myriad of so called “green schemes” around that are actually worse than doing nothing when all relevant factors are properly considered. Then real green schemes barely get a look in.

    Real green energy comes from the sensitive use of rivers and tidal power. Sensitive means a large number of widespread small installations mainly feeding back into local distribution grids.

    Large single tidal installations such as “Pentland Firth” are little better than wind. Approximately every six hours the output is zero. That means conventional thermal stations have to be kept permanently hot and spinning to cover the big gaps every six hours. The Wash and Severn would be more or less as “gappy”.

    But nobody wants to discuss the more sensitive local small scale “little and often” patterns. They do not appeal to the megabuck financiers and lack the background grandeur for a politician to have his retouched image photoshop pasted in. Excuse my cynicism but the whole process is being driven away from practical pragmatism by money and egos.

    9 April, 2010 at 9:34 am

  7. Brian Gallagher

    Ramsey Martin is right to mention favourably the Renewable Energy Foundation.

    Credit is also due to Country Guardian http://www.countryguardian.net But for CG’s ceaseless effectiveness since it was founded in 1991, much more pointlessly destructive industrialisation of Britain’s rural heritage would have taken place.

    9 April, 2010 at 5:06 pm

  8. Brian Skittrall

    Mr Miliband, do you live in an alternate reality?

    1. The planning system has been systematically emasculated by your government to prevent local people having any input into the siting of windfarms. The DCLG (Dept for destroying Communities and preventing Local Government) has only just released PPS5 to further reduce protection of historic assets from windfarms.

    Where I live, we have approved enough windfarms to be 4 times over our 2010 target & 3 times over our 2026 target, yet we are drowning in new proposals. We are forbidden to say no to any of them because they will help achieve regional targets and you have instructed the Planning Inspectorate to overturn local decisions at appeal. It matters not that we have the poorest wind resource in the region and the amount of electricity that will be produced will be a fraction of what would be produced in the windier parts of the region – in Blair/Brown world installed capacity is all that matters – not output. When we have reached regional targets, no doubt the goalposts will be moved to cover national targets. After that it will be overall renewable targets.

    No offshore windfarms will be needed because your government has set the bar so low for onshore wind that there will be no need for them – we will just live under wall-to-wall turbines.

    2. Your government has knowingly suppressing vital recommendations to reduce allowable noise levels from windfarms that may have addressed the inadequate noise protection scheme ETSU-R-97. This shows a reckless disregard for rural communities when already at least 1 in 6 windfarms have noise issues.

    Why does Scotland view 2,000m as the minimum distance between large scale wind and homes, yet in England & Wales we are approving turbines under 500m?

    3. Generating grid electricity from wind does not deliver carbon savings in Denmark or Germany, why do you think it will be different here? Stop looking at your spin doctors’ statistics and look at the real experience of large scale wind.

    Gordon Brown recently apologised about the credit crunch, he told us that he had learnt from his mistake of only listening to business. Why is it that Renewables Advisory Board is still packed to the gunnels with vested interests from the wind industry? Do you learn nothing?

    4. Domestic wind turbines have proved to be so disastrous at generating electricity and saving carbon emissions that B & Q have stopped selling them – it was doing too much harm to their reputation. Why are the government making changes to promote them when they are more often carbon negative than carbon positive? Why are you planning to accept the manufacturers’ recommendations on noise limits and ignore both the EU regulations and WHO recommendations? When will you stop taking recommendations from vested interests?

    5. If economic growth is the cause of carbon emissions, I am surprised that you have not hailed the credit crunch as a step forwards in cutting emissions. Why are all governments going for growth? Won’t increasing the population by 25% create more demand & more economic growth?

    The current government policy on renewable energy will deliver a national disaster for the countryside. It will not noticeably reduce carbon emissions. It will increase our dependency on gas (to balance the grid) and so decrease our energy security. It will cripple our competiveness as more and more of our electricity is subject to the additional cost of the RO scheme. It will destroy the stability of the National Grid. It makes as much sense as creating a water system without building any reservoirs.

    Mr Miliband, anyone who cares about Britain, our countryside, making genuine reductions in carbon emissions or wants Britain to be competitive in a globalised world has a duty to oppose these useless blots on the landscape.

    Set aside the dogma and listen to some sense. Talk to engineers and scientists – they all know that wind power is stupid. Remember the saying “we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Start listening!

    Don’t make windfarms Britain’s equivalent of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forwards”.

    17 April, 2010 at 11:10 am

  9. This response is offered as a concerned member of the community
    I have edited it as the earlier one is still awaiting moderation so may not be acceptable, though it was factual and truthful

    I very much appreciate the time taken to respond to my concerns. I apologise for taking so long to reply but found it difficult to marry the comments you make and the facts relating to onshore wind farms in the North East. The chicken and egg situation needed to be resolved by building the wind turbines to see how they actually performed!!!
    May I draw your attention to the following;
    The former PM said on a visit to Co Durham area some years ago he would tell his family not to leave the computer on standby and to use resources carefully to help save the planet. DETR published a booklet in May 1999 are you doing your bit? It was posted on the internet at http://www.doingyourbit.org.uk It encouraged everyone to save energy, water and to recycle, to buy energy efficient products.
    Planning was then weakened and the Renewables Obligation increased to make sure investor confidence was maintained and the turbines were built
    It seems the time for turbine performance, producing electricity and saving carbon dioxide emissions plus the noise aviation wildlife and other problems to be properly considered has finally arrived That must include people and consideration for their quality of quality of life
    Now we can assess the situation as saving CO2 emissions seems lost in the race to meet renewable energy targets or pay substantial fines to the EU
    Can we in this recession or could we even before that afford to pay a covert subsidy (our money) of approx £6 million pounds, over the lifetime of each, 2MW turbine installed onshore and more offshore?
    Renewables are not just wind. County Durham has done its bit
    I remain not anti but skeptic I did support the largest urban wind farm in the world proposed for the Corus site at Redcar 5 years ago but although it received planning permission it ‘stalled’ .and is now out of ‘planning time’
    Load factors for 2009 at Blyth Harbour and Blyth offshore wind farms are 5.4% and just over 20%

    19 April, 2010 at 3:07 pm

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