Memorandum from Greenpeace
Wind, wave and solar power must provide an increasing
proportion of our energy in the twenty first century. The UK has
the best resource for renewable energy in Europe: DTI figures
show that we could supply all our electricity from renewable sources.
The Government has accepted that a major shift away from fossil
fuels will be needed to combat the threat of climate change.
Yet the UK is near the bottom of the European
league for renewable generation. Only Belgium performs worse.
Successive British governments have lacked the vision and commitment
to develop anything more than a fraction of the potential. The
current Government promised a "new and strong drive"
to promote renewables, and has undertaken some good initiatives,
but overall has failed to deliver a coherent policy to develop
renewable energy. This is largely the fault of the Treasury who
have been unwilling to provide funding.
Over the past decade support for renewable energy
has come from a levy on consumers' electricity bills. The present
Government has stated that its policy for renewables will continue
to be constrained by the desire to keep energy prices low. But
consumers' bills are not the only way to raise money. Clean energy
sources will have significant economic, environmental and industrial
policy advantages, so should be funded out of the general Exchequer
Many thousands of manufacturing jobs could be
created in renewable energy, jobs which would utilise skills being
lost in other, declining sectors. An ambitious renewables policy
could safeguard or create over twenty thousand new jobs.
The Government's Climate Change Programme states
that in order to combat climate change developed countries may
need to reduce emissions by as much as 90 per cent, and that "achieving
it would almost certainly require a major shift away from fossil
fuels". The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has
called for cuts of 60 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions by
Wind power, wave power and solor power emit
no carbon dioxide at the point of generation. Even taking account
of emissions during manufacture, the emissions are a small fraction
of emissions from fossil fuels. Waste incineration, in contrast,
results in almost as much CO2 as gas-fired generation.
Emissions per unit of electricity are shown in the graph.
The fact that solar and wind emissions result
from the energy used in manufacture, and not from the actual operation
of the technologies, means that they are avoidable. Using renewably-generated
energy in manufacture would bring these emissions down close to
zero, and over their lifetime the technologies would generate
many times the amount of energy needed to make them. It is not
possible to avoid carbon dioxide from waste incineration or burning
Carbon dioxide is not the only environmental
problem caused by energy generation. Fossil fuels and incineration
also emit the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide which cause
acid rain and damage human health. Waste incineration produces
dioxins, heavy metals and other dangerous pollutants. Wind, wave
and solar power produce none of these gases.
Nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide,
but it is not a safe or a clean technology. Radioactive emissions
and the generation of nuclear waste, for which there is no safe
solution, make this an unacceptable alternative. Moreover, despite
the billions of pounds of public money which has been spent on
it over the past fifty years, nuclear power remains uneconomic.
There is therefore a strong environmental rationale
for developing renewable technologies far more ambitiously than
has been done to date. As the table shows, the UK is lagging behind
every EU member state except Belgium.
The Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU), the
Government's offical advisers on renewable energy technologies
has produced figures which show that the UK could meet 100 per
cent of its electricity demand from renewable sources.
As this illustrates, the Government's 10 per
cent target is relatively modest. A further problem with the target
is that it uses the wrong definition of rewnewables, including
Greenpeace supports the Renewables Obligation,
which has the potential to develop into a powerful tool for promoting
clean energy sources. We strongly support the proposed exclusion
of incineration from the obligation.
The ETSU analysis suggests that photovoltaic
(PV) panels on buildings could supply 85 per cent of the UK's
total electricity demand.
The factor holding back widespread installation
of solar panels is cost. A report by a group of industry experts
chaired by BP Solar concluded in 1996 that what was needed to
bring PV prices down to levels comparable with fossil fuel generation
was one major PV factory (around 500 MWp) which would achieve
economies of scale. The study confirmed that there were no technological
barriers standing in the way of this type of scale-up.
Since 1996 there has been some progress on PV,
but nothing approaching the economies of scale which would enable
the market to take off. Because solar panels are expensive, not
many people buy them, so not many are manufactured, so they remain
expensive. The Government needs to break through this impasse
with a vastly more ambitious programme to install solar panels
to roofs in the UK.
A simple and cost-effective way to achieve the
required scale up in solar power to bring the price down would
be to amend the building regulations to require all new buildings
to include a small array of solar panels. The Government should
do this without delay.
In addition, the Government should fund a programme
to retrofit 100,000 roofs with solar panels over ten years. Greenpeace
calculates that this would cost just over £500 million in
The current cost of solar panels is roughly
£5,250 per kW.
The aim should be to install 2kW array of solar panels per roof.
This will supply around half the average requirement for the household,
presuming that electricity exported to the grid at peak generating
times is offset against electricity imported during hours of darkness
(in other words "net metering" applies so that the national
grid can be used as a giant battery) so the current cost would
be £10,500 per house. Total cost of programme would therefore
be £1.05 billion, or £105 million a year over a 10 year
The Danish 300 roof programme required householders
to pay $3,000 themselves; around 15 per cent of the total cost.
Electricity prices are higher in Denmark so the amount one might
expect UK consumers to pay is lesssay £1,000 or less
than 10 per cent of the total cost. This would reduce the programme
cost by £100 million or £10 million a year, leaving
a total cost of £95 million a year.
However, this ignores cost reductions which
will come from production economies of scale as solar power becomes
more widespread. KPMG suggest that once a large (500MW) plant
is built, the cost of panels will fall by 75 per cent.
A 100,000 roof programme in the UK would not be sufficient to
get such a manufacturing facility built, but combining it with
a change in the building regulations to require new buildings
to include solar panels would certainly provide a large enough
guaranteed market. (A 500MW plan would produce enough panels to
cover only 40 per cent of the roof area of new buildings in the
On an assumption that it would take six years
to achieve these cost reductions, but that reductions of 25 per
cent, could be achieved after two years and 50 per cent after
four years, the ten year cost of a programme of 10,000 roofs a
year could look like this:
The UK is losing out in an area where once we enjoyed a strong
position and which will undoubtedly be big business in the future:
the World Energy Council suggest that by 2010 the global solar
market could be worth up to £150 billion. BP has moved its
solar headquarters out of Britain, and in March 2000 Shell announced
that it was ceasing its PV activities in the UK, citing "current
market constraints and the lack of financial incentives to stimulate
consumer demand (which) make the UK market less attractive than
elsewhere". However, it made clear that this decision could
be reversed if market conditions changed.
Attracting a solar manufacturing plant to the UK would create
3,000 new jobs directly and many more indirectly.
The potential contribution from offshore wind turbines is
enormous. ETSU has stated that the practicable resource, taking
account of cost, local environmental constraints, slope of the
sea bed and so on, is around one third of total UK electricity
demand. (The total resource, not taking account of these constraints,
is approximately twenty times the UK peak power demand). Shell
are on record as stating that the UK could get three times its
current electricity needs from offshore wind. There are currently
only two turbines in UK waters, off Blythe in Northumberland.
Offshore wind is currently more expensive than other forms
of renewable electricity. It is therefore unlikely to be developed
under a renewables obligation which does not distinguish between
different technologies, unless the Government provides capital
grants. The amounts offered so far, £39 million from climate
change levy receipts and £25 million of lottery funding,
are welcome but won't trigger take-off of offshore wind power
on the scale needed to tackle climate change and gain the UK a
foothold in this emerging global market.
The forthcoming announcement by Crown Estates of prospective
offshore wind power sites will restrict firms to small sites of
30 turbines each. Given the likely outcome that between five and
ten sites are approved, total offshore wind capacity that will
be built as a result of this round will only total 300-600MW.
Meanwhile, Denmark, with a much smaller offshore wind resource
is aiming to develop five sites, each with 80-100 turbines. Denmark
has set specific offshore and wind targets: 750MW by 2005, 2,500MW
by 2015, 4,000MW by 2030. These are the sorts of targets that
enable investors and developers to act.
The Government should increase the capital grants available
to offshore wind, to a total of £300 million over three years,
and make much larger blocks available.
The British Wind Energy Association has stated that this
would lead to the establishment of a domestic turbine manufacturing
and supply base involving perhaps 5,000 engineering jobs and some
19,000 jobs in all. A report by Border Wind suggests that a more
ambitious but still realistic development of the UK's offshore
wind resource, so that it supplied 10 per cent of total electricity
demand, would create over 36,000 jobs.
Government support would make offshore wind projects viable
and trigger hundreds of millions of pounds of private investment.
Offshore engineering firms are in pole position to win the resulting
There are also major export opportunities. Wind power around
the world is already a $3.5 billion industry, which every year
for the past six years has grown by 40 per cent, a growth rate
set to continue. Denmark has captured the largest share of the
world onshore wind market, and is now pushing offshore.
Greenpeace has recently been actively campaigning for wave
power. In 1999 Greenpeace launched a campaign in Scotland following
the announcement that Scottish Renewables Order funding was to
support the building of three wave power machines. The campaign
included a series of business conferences around Scotland, in
Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Islay. The campaign also included
bringing the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, to these locations
to publicise the campaign and engage the public. In addition,
Greenpeace contributed personnel, boats and equipment to carry
out initial seabed surveying work on Islay to assist the progress
of the wavepower companies Wavegen and Ocean Power Delivery. The
response to the Greenpeace campaign was overwhelmingly enthusiastic,
from a wide range of sectors, including politicians, businesses,
trade unions, public sector organisations and members of the public.
This encouraging response led to the formation of the Commission
for Wavepower in Scotland to carry forward the impetus of the
campaign. The Commission
works to the remit that it will "determine how to capitalise
on the industrial opportunities offered by Scotland's position
as a world leader in wave power". It has recently produced
a Five-Point plan for wave power in Scotland and a report recommending
the establishment of a wave power test center, both of which Greenpeace
Why is Wave Power Worth Developing?
The vast resource was recognised as far back as 1977, when
the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) said of wave power
that "its development potential along the UK west coast exceeds
the present capacity of the CEGB". It further noted that
"There are currently 120GW of wave power being dissipated
on the beachesnearly five times the average demand".
More recently, ETSU put the accessible resource at double the
UK electricity supply. The UK has one of the world's best wave
But the UK is not necessarily going to win first-mover advantage
in this emergent market. Yes, the UK retains some of the world's
leading wave power experts and some of its most innovative companies,
despite the ill-judged closure of the previous DTI wave programme
in 1982. And John Battle's announcement in 1999 to restart R&D
funding for wave power is a welcome step in the right direction.
However, the context of this announcement was a DTI renewable
strategy document that only sees wave power as having potential
in the "longer term (after 2010)". This categorisation
shows no appreciation of the urgency of the task required if the
UK is not to lose its world lead in wave power in the same way
it lost its once world-leading position in wind power. The DTI
has taken the view that wave power is 10 years away, for so long
that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The tiny scale of the funding announced reflects this lack
of ambition. Tom Thorpe also points out that of the 15 wave power
devices deployed in the last two decades, only two have been in
the UK. A warning note for the UK should be sounded by the recent
decision by the oil company Woodside to buy a stake in US company
Ocean Power Technologies, as their "first major investment
in a renewable energy technology". The scale of their ambition
is indicated by their option to purchase, by 2012, half a million
tonnes of CO2 credits, which implies installation of
some 5,000 of Ocean Power Technologies' wave power machines by
that date. A sharp contrast with the UK is the Danish support
programme which clearly means business: it has a clear structure
of how initial smaller grants will lead to bigger grants as machines
prove themselves. Over four years up to 2002 the programme was
projected to spend DKK40 million, which is £3 million pounds,
approximately triple the estimated UK expenditure on wave power
over the same period, despite the fact that Denmark is one tenth
the size of the UK. Denmark has successfully captured the lion's
share of the $3.5 billion wind power market from a position behind
the UK. The race to win the wave power market is on, and now is
the time for the UK to give its runners a decisive boost.
A WINNING STRATEGY
FOR UK WAVE
"The market will decide" has embedded itself deep
in Government thinking ever since the politically embarrassing
demise of various nationalised industries, and has resulted in
statements on renewables by successive DTI Ministers along the
lines that it is "not for the Government to pick winners".
However understandable the desire to escape from accusations of
"dirigisme", and however poignant the examples of past
Governments' abilities to pick failures like the nuclear industry,
the fact is that this is not an adequate Government response to
embryo technologies and infant industries. A distinction should
be clearly drawn between backing individual firms or inventions,
and backing sectors that are rapidly approaching maturity, and
for which there is a pressing environmental, commercial and societal
case, of which wave power is a fine example.
It is a well-worn British lament, based on all too many examples,
that the UK fails to bring outstanding UK research to successful
commercialisation. It would be wrong to lay the blame entirely
at Government's door, but there is certainly a strong Government
role to be played in addressing this malaise. There are, of course,
world-beating British success stories, and it is heartening that
one of these is ideally situated to assist wave power achieve
commercial lift-off. The offshore oil and gas sector, whilst itself
environmentally unsustainable, does have exactly the skills and
technology required to build and install wave power machines that
will survive in the hostile marine environments where wave power
is highest. "Synergies between renewable and conventional
marine energy industries" are one of the two main themes
identified by The Marine Foresight Panel of the Office of Science
and Technology. Their recent report highlights ten priority technical
areas where "the vast experience of the offshore hydrocarbon
industry should be extremely useful to the emerging marine renewable
energy industry". The UK also has a long and proud history
of shipbuilding, albeit in sad decline, and it is notable that
at a recent wave power conference, Harland and Wolff stated that
they "have a role and an opportunity in getting actively
involved in offshore renewable energy . . . this is going to be
very big business".
So, the UK has the natural resource, the expertise in wave
power technologies, and the manufacturing and industrial capacity
to accomplish the tough task of putting wave machines in place.
The question is: what plan should the Government adopt to harness
these capacities? Greenpeace believes the following set of measures
can turn the UK's technical potential into commercial reality.
1. Adopt a clear policy objective to establish the UK
as world leader in the commercial wave power industry.
2. Set ambitious targets to achieve electricity from
wave power. There must be a target for the next 10 year period,
but targets for 2020 and 2030 should also be set because these
will be a major encouragement for potential investors to commit
to the UK.
3. Energy policy is not a devolved responsibility, but
renewable energy policy is under discussion in the devolved legislatures
and regions. Given Scotland's special position with wave power
firms and resources, the Scottish Executive should set the ambitious
but attainable objective to obtain 10 per cent of Scotland's electricity
from wave power in 10 years, and Westminster should encourage
and assist them in this endeavour.
4. Make much more grant money available for wave power.
It would be quite reasonable for the UK to aim for a programme
an order of magnitude larger than that of Denmark. Greenpeace
has proposed a Green Fuel Fund whereby, instead of lowering taxes
of fossil fuel, just 1p of that tax, £500 million per year,
should be used to promote renewable energy and green fuels. £50
million per year should be spent to develop wave power.
5. The trajectory of granting should be big grants for
small projects then smaller grants for big projects, to support
companies through the disproportionately high early development
costs and risks so as to achieve the subsequent economies of up-scaling
and cost reductions from technology development.
6. The Government should develop a strategy, of which
the above measures would be a major part, to make the UK wave
programme sufficiently attractive to draw in "big hitters",
including the large maritime engineering and oil and gas interests.
There inevitably will be hitches and delays with deployment of
the first round of commercial wave power machines, just as the
first offshore oil and gas faced drawbacks and problems. Big company
support is required to overcome such early obstaclesa challenge
it has shown it can easily rise to. The development of the North
Sea's fossil fuel reserves is a highly pertinent example, albeit
one which has been pursued to the great detriment of the climate.
Diversification of this nature would bring great benefit to the
UK regions that are starting to suffer from the economic effects
of decline in the UK oil and gas sector.
7. Some of the grant money should be used to set up a
UK test centre for wave power. The cost of a suitable test facility
is a major obstacle to the UK's wave power companies. Site and
wave resource surveys, cabling to shore, grid connection and shorebase
equipment, monitoring and maintenance facilities are examples
of infrastructural elements that could be made use of by any and
all potential wave power businesses to test and show-case their
products. Without such a facility, the additional cost on top
of the cost of building a prototype or pre-production device over-reaches
the resources available to the most potential wave power developers.
Both Ocean Power Delivery and Wavegen are seriously and urgently
considering whether to go to a commercial test facility planned
in Portugal, rather than test in the UK, despite their preference
to stay here. The value of a place for the UK wavepower companies
to showcase their technologies must not be underestimated. A test
centre provides a key part of this showcase. Recent discussions
with Scotland's wave power companies indicate that Orkney is emerging
as the leading contender. The centre might in addition serve a
similarly valuable function for tidal current power.
8. The other necessary part of the showcase is a domestic
commercial market for wave power. For too long, for example regarding
photovoltaics, the DTI has made the extraordinary assumption that
UK companies can somehow win export markets without any domestic
market to give them a base and shop-window to expand from. This
bears no relation to commercial reality. The measures above will
help ensure a domestic market for wave power, but it will also
be essential to ensure that wave power electricity from the first
wave power devices can compete in the renewable electricity market
place. This electricity will be comparatively more expensive than
what follows because it will bear development costs and include
no economies of scale. Grant funding should be used to bridge
the gap so that wave power becomes a competitive option for utility
companies to fulfil their renewable energy obligations.
9. None of the points above will achieve UK offshore
wave power unless seabed sites are made available. The present
round of discussions between DTI, DETR, MAFF and Crown Estates
regarding consenting procedures for offshore wind power ought
to provide a useful basis. However, the present discussions have
yet to achieve amalgamation of the nightmarish combination of
departments and procedures into the desiraable one-stop-shop for
potential developers. The complexities of the process mean uncertainty,
delay, wasted time and resources for small companies who can't
afford them. The DTI should take the lead to create a structure
which delivers a one-stop-shop. The DTI is well aware of this
issue for offshore wind and has just announced its intention to
amalgamate consenting procedures for offshore wind developments
into a one-stop-shop under DTI auspices.
10. A further requirement is a far-reaching programme
to up-grade the grid to the weak peripheral grid areas critical
to connection of the wave power resource. This would also aid
development of other renewable energy resources such as wind power.
Utility companies now have somewhat more incentive to upgrade
the grid for renewables due to the approaching renewable energy
obligation, but further carrots and sticks are required to institute
an up-grade programme sufficient to guarantee that deployment
of wave power development can go ahead rapidly on a large scale.
It is not acceptable that the cost of this task be left entirely
to the developers of renewable energy themselves.
ETSU, Supporting analysis for the DTI's "new and Renewable
Energy: prospects in the UK for the 21st century, DTI, March 1999". Back
Based on recent 300 PV roof programme in Denmark, where the Danish
Energy Agency bought in bulk and secured 33 per cent cost reductions
as a result. This figure includes installation labour costs. Back
KPMG, 1999, From Perennial Promise to Competitive Alternative. Back
The Commission operates under the chairmanship of the Scottish
Trades Union Congress, with a secretariat provided by the Scottish
Council Foundation. The Commission comprises a cross-party group
of Members of the Scottish Parliament who hold relevant briefs,
utility company input from the Head of Generation of Scottish
and Southern, the leading wave power expert Tom Thorpe, renewable
energy investor Fred Olsen Production, and Community Development
organisation Forward Scotland. Scottish Enterprise, Highlands
and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Power, Wavegen, Ocean Power Delivery
and Greenpeace offer advice to the Commission as required. Back
DTI press release "Hain Trims Red Tape for Offshore Windfarms"
20 February 2001. Back