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Zion Lights, former Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, has doubts about Boris Johnson's plan to make every home wind-powered by 2030

For all the invocations of harnessing our gusty shores in some ‘green revolution’, the proclamations do not stand up to scrutiny. Even if we cranked up wind power provision to the level the Prime Minister proposes (40 gigawatts), this amount would power only about half the homes in Britain - or 7 percent of the total national energy demand.

Whatever his faults, no one can accuse Boris Johnson of a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to eye-catching projects and targets.

‘We believe that in 10 years’ time, offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts,’ the Prime Minister cried to the (virtual) Tory party conference yesterday (5 Oct).

‘Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle: the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.’

It was certainly a seductive picture, even if I admit I was taken aback by Boris’s triumphant declaration that Britain will become the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of wind power. While I can understand the analogy, it seems odd to commit to renewable energy by invoking a country synonymous polluting fossil fuels (not to mention its appalling human rights record).

Speaking as a committed environmentalist - who has spent time as the spokeswoman for the lobby group XR (also known as Extinction Rebellion), I applaud in principle the shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Whatever his faults, no one can accuse Boris Johnson of a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to eye-catching projects and targets.

‘We believe that in 10 years’ time, offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts,’ the Prime Minister cried to the (virtual) Tory party conference yesterday (5 Oct).

‘Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle: the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.’

It was certainly a seductive picture, even if I admit I was taken aback by Boris’s triumphant declaration that Britain will become the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of wind power. While I can understand the analogy, it seems odd to commit to renewable energy by invoking a country synonymous polluting fossil fuels (not to mention its appalling human rights record). 

Speaking as a committed environmentalist - who has spent time as the spokeswoman for the lobby group XR (also known as Extinction Rebellion), I applaud in principle the shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.

But yesterday’s over-promised and unrealistic pledge to power every home in Britain with wind energy within a decade was, quite frankly, entirely typical of this Government’s muddled thinking when it comes to futureproofing our energy supplies.

The sad truth is that Boris’s crowd-pleasing soundbites cannot deliver what they promise.

For all the invocations of harnessing our gusty shores in some ‘green revolution’, the proclamations do not stand up to scrutiny.

Even if we cranked up wind power provision to the level the Prime Minister proposes (40 gigawatts), this amount would power only about half the homes in Britain - or 7 percent of the total national energy demand.

And that is only when the turbines are turning - a key point to which we will return shortly.

Data company Aurora Energy Research has calculated that to reach 40 gigawatts by 2030, one new wind turbine will have to be installed around Britain every weekday for the entirety of the 2020s - at a cost of some £50 billion in capital investment.

I do not oppose wind power altogether: it has an important part to play in meeting some of the world’s energy demands. 

Yet over time, like many environmentalists, I have come to realise that while renewable energy can and should be part of the mix, the idea that offshore windfarms can power huge parts of Britain’s national grid are simply not realistic.

Wind power is widely viewed as the safest, cleanest energy option - and it’s certainly safer and cleaner than gas, coal or oil.

The problem is that it nowhere near as reliable as they are. To put it in the crudest terms: for wind power to work, the wind needs to be blowing – and when that doesn’t happen, as often occurs in Britain, you need to get your energy from elsewhere.

In this year’s summer heatwave, for example, the UK went from sourcing 20 per cent of its energy from wind to sourcing just four per cent, a gap we plugged with imported, polluting coal.

On one especially windless day in October 2015, Britain’s wind turbines produced almost no electricity at all. The Government was forced to resort to using diesel generators to provide back-up power to the national grid: hardly the ‘green industrial revolution’ of which Boris now speaks in such boosterish terms.

Anyone can understand that a piece of coal is stored energy. Wind power must be harnessed by a turbine and fed into the grid - or lost forever.

Batteries, of course, are an option to store that electricity - but they are hugely expensive (one big enough to store Britain’s electricity for a single day would cost an estimated £300 billion) and themselves rely on polluting mining processes, rare minerals and, of course, they must eventually be disposed of safely, so are hardly ‘green’.

It is batteries, too, that make wind power increasingly expensive – unlike most technologies, which typically get cheaper over time. When building wind capacity into the grid it’s essential to include the cost of battery storage, which is currently multiples more expensive than the apparent cost of building wind turbines. 

Many experts believe that a huge shift to wind power would see Britain’s energy bills soar.

We only need to look to the continent to see that a shift to wind power, whatever the fine intentions behind it, can cause new problems.

Germany has spent billions of euros building more than 30,000 wind turbines as part of its much-vaunted bid to cover 65 per cent of its electricity needs with wind by 2030.

All its nuclear power plants are to be closed by 2022 and its coal to be phased out entirely by 2038.

Frequently, however, on windless days, Germany has had to turn to high-emissions fossil fuels to make up shortfalls.

And there, as here, environmental campaigners are deeply concerned about on- and offshore turbines’ impact on wildlife, particularly bats and endangered birds.

Birds of prey - which look downwards as they hunt for food and often can’t see directly in the front of them - are especially prone to be killed by turbines’ giant blades. 

Meanwhile, a modern wind turbine is unlikely to last much longer than 20 years. Though much of its components can be re-sold or recycled, the blades are a challenge: most end up buried in giant landfill sites.

Altogether: not quite the cheap, clean, green answer to our problems that Boris seems to think it is.

So - given that it is paramount that we wean ourselves off polluting fossil fuels, what should the Government be doing?

The truth is that we have only one hope of safeguarding our future energy supply.

Only this summer the Government announced that it was investing £40 million to develop the next generation of nuclear energy technology in Britain.

Coupled with plans for two new nuclear power stations, Sizewell C in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset, this looked like positive news for pro-nuclear campaigners such as me.

Yet the plans have stalled - and were dealt another bitter blow last month with the news that Japanese company Hitachi has pulled out of its commitment to build new power stations on Anglesey and in South Gloucestershire, citing the impact of Covid-19. Thousands of new jobs will no longer be created as a result.

All this has severely hobbled the Government’s famed target to hit ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050.

In Britain, reliable energy stands on a precipice. Seventies-style energy caps and rations, something none of us want, are inevitable unless ministers urgently prioritise this vital issue.

Everyone wants a safer, cleaner world for their children – and, for that, Government needs to make bold decisions. The shift to wind might look like that - but to me it all too closely seems like hot air.  

Zion Lights is director of pro-nuclear group Environmental Progress UK and a former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion


Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk...

OCT 7 2020
http://www.windaction.org/posts/51751-zion-lights-former-extinction-rebellion-spokesperson-has-doubts-about-boris-johnson-s-plan-to-make-every-home-wind-powered-by-2030
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