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The UK government announcement on incentives for small scale renewables has three unexpected features:
- The payments for renewable heat, such as the home burning of wood to replace gas or rooftop solar hot water, are much higher than predicted.
- The figures for wind have risen since the autumn consultation document. This means that well-located wind turbines of the 6-15 kW size are likely to produce returns above 13% per year.
- The payments for solar PV have been increased slightly, but do not offer returns as good as wind. Importantly, the government has also signalled that it will allow PV installed at any time over the next 28 months to capture the full feed-in tariff. Previously, the tariff declined for installations made after March 2011.
An earlier article on this topic which looks in more detail on the incentives to take up the new ‘feed-in tariffs’ is here.
A recent press release from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) suggested that millions more people in Kenya are susceptible to malaria as a result of mosquitoes colonising higher ground as global temperatures rise. (‘New evidence of a link between climate change and malaria’, 30.12.09 – see below). The press release was extensively covered in UK newspapers and elsewhere.
Simple analysis shows that the claims of the press release are almost entirely without foundation. The battle against the severe threat from climate change is impeded, not helped, by government departments issuing alarmist and exaggerated alerts based on poor science.
The Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has become the most visible developing country spokesperson on climate change. Nasheed has continued to press for radical reductions in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, most recently arguing for a 350 parts per million target in a meeting with activist and author Bill McKibben in Copenhagen.
The UK government asked the wrong question. It demanded that the Committee on Climate Change calculated how much air travel can rise without causing an increase in aviation emissions. Not unsurprisingly, the CCC answered by saying that the number of trips could rise at the same rate as efficiency improvements in air travel. The Committee said that emissions per passenger will fall by about 1% a year, and so travel could rise by about this amount. No shocks there.
By 2050, the CCC opined, the number of passengers taking trips from UK airports can rise to 370 million a year, up from 230 million today. The maximum possible number of new passengers at Heathrow from the addition of new runway and sixth terminal is about 60 million. Hoorah, said the industry, there’s space for the expansion. Unsurprisingly, the press misinterpreted the Committee’s report and said that it had ‘approved’ the government’s plans for the airport. By answering the government’s disiningenous question, the CCC has lost some of its impartiality.
Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency. Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage.
A new piece of research shows that potential Conservative voters in the UK are typically slightly less supportive of strong environmental policies than the population as a whole. Undecided voters that the Tories want to attract into their camp are generally even less convinced by eco-friendly political initiatives. Although the party leadership remains eager to portray itself with a greenish tinge, the lack of support among voters will tend to circumscribe the freedom to propose radical ideas for the 2010 election. If your target voters are wary of strong environmental policies, you don’t propose them in the run-up to an election.
Not unexpectedly, Tory voters want green policies to be focused on investment in emissions-reducing technologies and tend to reject any increase in taxes or restrictions on economic freedoms. So, for example, it will be difficult for the party to reject airport expansion strongly.
Books referred to:
Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science, UK edition, Quartet Books, 2009.
Christopher Booker, The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is The Obsession With ‘Climate Change’ Turning Out To Be The Most Costly Scientific Blunder In History?, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009.
The phrase ‘the science is settled’ is regularly used by politicians arguing for meaningful action on climate change. To the majority of the world’s scientists, global warming is a clear and present danger and those who deny it, or argue that its effects will limited or benign, are dangerous lunatics. Nevertheless, an increasing numbers of voters, particularly in the US and the UK, have drifted into the sceptic camp in recent months and years. A Pew Research October survey in the US showed the percentage of people seriously concerned by the climate change issue down from 77% to 65% in two years. An international survey by HSBC showed a fall from 32% to 25% over the past year in the percentage of people from developed markets saying that climate change was the biggest issue that respondents worried about. The overall figure across all 12 countries surveyed fell from 42% in 2008 to 34% in 2009.[*]
A batch of highly successful books from journalists and maverick scientists has provided the intellectual covering fire for this decline. The result of the growing scepticism will be a weakening of national resolutions to take the difficult steps required to shift rich countries away from dependence on fossil fuels.
Plans for a new windfarm are set to make the Maldives the country with the highest proportion of renewable power in the world.
The 30-turbine proposed windfarm, close to the capital Malé, will deliver 75 megawatts of electricity at full capacity, enough to provide electricity for the whole of the capital, the international airport and the surrounding resorts. Excess power will be used to run desalination plants that will produce bottled drinking water from the sea.
The Guardian newspaper of Monday 19 October broke the story that the UK government is preparing to guarantee a minimum price for carbon dioxide emissions to encourage the development of nuclear power stations. Putting a high cost on greenhouse gas emissions from power stations will force up the wholesale price of electricity, ensuring a better financial return for nuclear power stations (and for renewables such as wind). The decision to create a floor price for carbon demonstrates that the full costs of nuclear technology are probably well above today’s wholesale electricity prices. We may well need nuclear power but we are going to pay heavily for it. The government’s optimistic noises from 2006 to the middle of this year about the commercial viability of nuclear power have turned out to be wrong.