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Power struggle over miniature wind turbines

David Cameron wants one; Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, has applied for one and this week there is a full-scale Commons row about miniature wind turbines, among other forms of do-it-yourself energy generation.

It may not have been Tony Blair's intention when he set up an energy review to ask whether Britain needs more nuclear power but both it and the climate change review due later this month are highlighting how much could be achieved with micro-power.

Solar voltaics, mini-wind turbines, ground source heat pumps, small hydro turbines, wood-chip boilers, mini combined heat and power (CHP) plants and hydrogen fuel cells are all in the spotlight.

Micro-power generation means any form that does not come via the wasteful wires of the National Grid, a system set up to relay power from coal fired stations in the 1930s.

Centralised power generation is estimated to waste two thirds of the energy produced in cooling and distribution.

It is a crucial time for micro-power, with a Government-backed Bill on sustainable energy hanging in the balance and the Government's microgeneration strategy due out later this month.

The advantage of micro-power is that it offers homes and businesses security that the lights or the heat will stay on in times of terrorist threat, power cuts or interruptions in Russian gas supplies. It is also far more efficient in terms of... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
It may not have been Tony Blair's intention when he set up an energy review to ask whether Britain needs more nuclear power but both it and the climate change review due later this month are highlighting how much could be achieved with micro-power.

Solar voltaics, mini-wind turbines, ground source heat pumps, small hydro turbines, wood-chip boilers, mini combined heat and power (CHP) plants and hydrogen fuel cells are all in the spotlight.

Micro-power generation means any form that does not come via the wasteful wires of the National Grid, a system set up to relay power from coal fired stations in the 1930s.

Centralised power generation is estimated to waste two thirds of the energy produced in cooling and distribution.

It is a crucial time for micro-power, with a Government-backed Bill on sustainable energy hanging in the balance and the Government's microgeneration strategy due out later this month.

The advantage of micro-power is that it offers homes and businesses security that the lights or the heat will stay on in times of terrorist threat, power cuts or interruptions in Russian gas supplies. It is also far more efficient in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

The latest Government figures show that Labour has managed only half the carbon dioxide savings it promised in 1997, so it is in need of some rapid solutions if it is to comply with its promise of cutting 20 per cent of Britain's emissions by 2010.

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, said: "Before the advent of large-scale power stations, self sufficiency in energy was the norm - water mills used to grind corn, coal-fired boilers provided heat. Advances in technology mean that products are now available that allow the individual to regain this self-sufficiency."

A micro-CHP unit, for example, will deliver the same heating levels as a modern gas condensing boiler, while also generating electricity. It can reduce the emissions of an average house by 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year and save about £150 from bills.

The Energy Saving Trust has calculated that microgeneration could reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from homes by 15 per cent by 2050. Its study shows microgeneration in all its forms could provide 30-40 per cent of the country's electricity by then.

Dave Sowden, of the Micropower Council, said that replacing the present generation of nuclear power stations would only save a maximum of six per cent of carbon emissions by 2050.

The gas-fired fuel cell plant that Woking council has installed has saved 77 per cent of its emissions from public buildings and public sector housing. It begs the question, if micro-generation has so much to offer, why has so little happened to date?

Greg Barker, the Tory environment spokesman, says the main reason is that the electricity market is rigged in favour of the big generators.

Most forms of micro-generation are more expensive than burning gas or taking electricity off the mains because customers cannot make money by selling surplus energy back to the grid.

The power generators sell power to consumers at 10-12p per kilowatt hour but, if householders want to sell surplus energy from their micro wind turbines back to them, they pay 2.5p - 3p.

"In Germany, if you sell it back you get five times more," Mr Barker said. "As a result, people are investing heavily in domestic and community-based generation."

The Tories think that a total liberalization of the energy market is the answer, instead of the stumbling regulatory tweaks and disappearing grant schemes, such as Clear Skies, that the Government has tried so far.

Doug Parr, of Greenpeace, says that the stranglehold of the power utilities means that electricity generation is an "innovation free zone" in Britain.

Some modest steps toward changing that are in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, a private member's Bill sponsored by Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North & Leith.

It had successfully completed its committee stage and was expected to complete its final stages in the Commons on Friday.

The Bill, which has Government support, sets national targets for microgeneration, amends the duties of the electricity regulator Ofgem and rewards customers who exported their electricity.

However, after lengthy speeches by veteran Tory Bill-wreckers, Eric Forth and Christopher Chope, the Bill failed to complete its progress on Friday. It will now return to the Commons this Friday in another attempt to complete its Parliamentary passage.

The questions campaigners are now asking are whether Mr Cameron can restrain his backbenchers and whether the Government will take microgeneration seriously enough to rescue the Bill by giving it Government time.

If it is not given time, bringing in measures under the Government's microgeneration strategy could waste valuable months, even years.


Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...

MAR 13 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1664-power-struggle-over-miniature-wind-turbines
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