Written Evidence from David Lewis
I am a retired civil servant and have made a
general study of energy in the last two years. Much of the following
detail is in broad agreement with the conclusions of the Sixth
Report by the Commons Select Committee on Public Accounts which
does seem to cover a fair amount of common ground. One vital conclusion
reached was that a carbon tax would be a much fairer and simpler
system than the existing regime of Renewable Obligation Certificates
which distort the economic factors of energy production.
The Committee is primarily concerned
with cost, cleanliness, efficiency and sustainablity of energy
It is submitted that the most
important of these is sustainablility, which is assumed to infer
security of electricity and gas supplies. The worst case scenario
is that the National Grid will be unable to cope with demand and
cause blackouts and/or the gas supply fails.
This inability to cope is most
likely to result from lack of fuel and/or failure of unreliable
power station machinery. The existing reliability factor appears
to be satisfactory.
The recent progressive rises
in natural gas prices is now cause for concern, coupled with the
growing dependence on imported gas from areas which might become
This appears to be diversion
from the main concern and needs to be addressed before it aggravates
the very problems it is meant to solve.
The setting of targets of so-called
renewable energy targets stems from the Kyoto Treaty which is
now severely discredited in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions
which are believed to cause Global Warming and climate change.
It is due to expire in 2012.
The targets were regarded as
a simplistic method of measuring carbon reductions but there is
ample evidence from the practical experience of Denmark and Germany
that their prolific investment in wind turbines has not reduced
their emissions because full back up is required from conventional
sources at all times to avoid power failure.
Continental Utility Companies
are clear about the futility of wind power. Eon Netz, one of Germany's
grid managers, with over 7,000 MW of wind capacity connected,
has described in their annual wind reports that they need additional
conventional capacity to cover 100% of the possible infeed from
wind, because even as it peaks it often drops off very quickly.
Many utilities in Japan cap the amount of energy they will accept
from wind facilities. A recent report boasting of the UKs superb
wind resource also points out that new "spinning reserve"
must be built and kept burning to compensate for wind power's
fluctuations, thus severely limiting any positive effect on the
use of other energy sources. A February 2004 study by the Irish
grid found that wind power caused minimal displacement of other
sources, that it was essentially superfluous additional capacity.
Eon Netz projects that at best wind turbines might displace barely
4% of their capacity in other sources.
"In green terms windmills
are a mistake and economically they make no sense," says
Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries. "Many
of us thought wind was the 100% solution for the future but we
were wrong. In fact, taking all energy needs into account, it's
only a 3% solution."
Danish experts admit that wind
power has not worked out very well.
"In just a few years we've
gone from some of the cheapest electricity in Europe to some of
the most costly," says Jytte Kaad Jensen, chief economist
for Eltra, Denmark's biggest electricity distributor.
Aase Madsen, an MP who chairs
energy policy in the Danish parliament, is emphatic: "For
our industry it has been a terribly expensive disaster."
4. WIND POWER
It is clear that wind power
is not capable of meeting our energy needs and is having no practical
effect on climate change.
It is heavily subsidised by
Capital Grants, Renewable Obligation Certificates and Climate
Change Levies which are hidden in the increase in cost to electicity
It cannot compete on a level
playing field with conventional power supplies, with the result
that up to 70% of earnings by wind turbine operators is from ROCs
and other subsidies.
There is very limited reliablity
of supply and the adverse visual effect on the environment has
now become obvious with growing public opposition.
If the underlying reason to
build wind turbines is to lessen global warming it has failed
in every respect to prove that the policy has been successful
in this aim.
The reluctance of Government
to recognise and react to the above facts is likely to stem from
inertia in that the initial policy had the hallmarks of a "political
winner" and there would be a loss of face if a change of
direction was adopted.
The wind policy is therfore,
costly, unreliable and inefficient.
5. THE NATIONAL
Efforts to convey these points
to the Government and Members of the Assembly have mainly been
met with repetitive mantras on their blind obedience to meet renewable
energy targets. Democratic debate has often been stifled.
The main instance of this is
the case of the Scarweather Sands Wind Farm which is summarised
below. The challenge to debate this matter in the Welsh Assembly
was heavily defeated on 5 October 2004, to the dismay of the general
public whose perception that the WA Government was reluctant to
face up to these compelling facts. The Scarweather Sands Order
was therefore issued by publication in The London Gazette dated
2 November 2004.
Background to the Planning Decision Committee's
Approval of the Proposed windfarm on Scarweather Sands:
January 2003. United Utilities put forward an
approximately 1,000-page Environmental Assessment of the proposal.
Summer 2003. Then Environment Secretary, Sue
Essex AM, calls for a Public Inquiry to be held.
A Public Inquiry sits from 4 November 2003 to
27 November 2003. This was the longest inquiry into a windfarm
ever held in Wales, with thousands of pages of evidence considered.
30 March 2004. 177 page Inspector's Report produced.
In his report the Inspector concluded;
"The visual impact of a windfarm in the
specific location of this proposal would be so prominent when
viewed from Porthcawl and its immediate area that I consider that
the harmful effects on this view are sufficient to outweigh the
benefits of this particular proposal. I recommend that the Order
is not made and the Direction that planning permission is deemed
to be granted is not given." (paras 128-129, p 22.)
15 April 2004 The Planning Division of the Welsh
Assembly Government (WAG) requested "a more detailed explanation
of the issues associated with the impact of the proposal on visual
14 May 2004 The Inspector produced a 14 page
Addendum Report in which he stated;
". . . I reiterate my overall conclusion
that the environmental and economic benefits of this proposal
do not outweigh the real and significant harm to the visual quality
of Porthcawl and the surrounding area that would result from this
particular proposal on this particular site." (para 65, p
6 July 2004 The Planning Decision Committee
(PDC) of the National Assembly for Wales reported its findings
on the Inspector's Report. It concluded, after a meeting which
lasted only a few hours:
". . . the Committee accepts the Inspector's
consideration of the issues but disagrees with his overall conclusion
and with his recommendation."
The PDC accepts that ". . . the windfarm
will have a visual effect on public amenity in the area . . ."
but adds that the effect on this . . . and the local tourism industry
identified by the Inspector will be outweighed by the significant
benefits . . . in terms of the production of renewable energy."
The PDC gave no reasons for its conclusions.
It simply disagrees despite the recommendation by the Chief Planning
Officer of the WA that the Public Inquiry Inspector's Decision
should be upheld by the PDC
My Reaction and Comments Relating to this Matter
are as follows:
It should be noted that the load factor of these
30 turbines, taken from average recorded output of similar developments,
is likely to be around 23% of the installed capacity of 108MW,
giving an output of 25MW. This represents a small proportion,
under 2%, of the output of 1,500 MW from neighbouring Aberthaw
coal fired Power Station which will still be required for back
up at all times. To call this "significant" is really
stretching the true definition of that word to the point of travesty
. . . no practical effect on climate change but all down to target
chasing. Another way of putting it is that we would need 1,800
offshore wind turbines, occupying 240 square miles, to match the
output from Aberthaw. . . . but we would still need Aberthaw for
If Scarweather would cost around £150 million,
possibly more now that the Danish Manufacturers have increased
turbine prices by 70%, the projected cost for 1,800 turbines would
be £9 billion. It is clear that this would not be economically
viable without huge subsidies from Capital Grants and ROCs . .
. a ludicrous prospect.
This case illustrates the need
for an urgent change of policy in the provision of reliable and
economically viable energy production in Wales and for the whole
of the UK.
An immediate moratorium should
be imposed on wind farm developments pending the outcome of this
The Welsh Assembly should be
asked to explain the reasoning of the Planning Decision Committee
in the Scarweather Case.
6. THE NUCLEAR
It is now recognised by the
UK Government that this is the best solution to provide an efficient,
economic and reliable source of carbon free power. France and
Sweden have successfully changed the attitude of their citizens.
France obtains 75% of their electricity from nuclear sources,
probably envied by Germany and Denmark who now regret their decision
to phase out their nuclear facilities. Sweden have 10 reactors
providing half their electricity and 80% of their population favour
The closure of Wylfa Nuclear
Power Station in North Wales will cause serious problems unless
it is replaced with a new nuclear unit of the latest efficient
The storage of nuclear waste
is recognised as global problem and it is feasible for all industrial
Nations to cooperate in building a safe and remote facility for
New technology designed to clean
up emissions from coal fired power stations should be developed
and introduced when available. A carbon tax would provide an incentive
but should still allow coal to remain profitable as a fuel.
The other renewable options
of tidal and hydro-electric really do need to be explored and
given proper funding to provide a more reliable and predictable
source of green energy.
7. Finally I wish the Committee well in
this difficult task and trust that they will meet the challenge
30 November 2005