Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence


Written Evidence from Janet C Moseley

  I am resident in the northern part of the City and County of Swansea, and own five small fields. These are already crossed by a 30-year old gas pipeline, main high-voltage electricity lines and a large pylon, local electricity distribution lines and from next year a new massive gas pipeline which will cross the existing one. Additionally since the publication of the National Assembly of Wales' TAN 8, I am on the edge of Strategic Search Area E and currently have my registered grazing rights on the adjacent common put in doubt by a proposal for a wind power station on the common.

  As a Community Councillor for Mawr I have been approached by worried members of the local community concerning the proposed windfarm. An WDA-funded questionnaire survey for the Mawr Development Trust, with a high response rate and carried out by independent consultants, found along with other unrelated questions, that 83% of respondents stated that they did not want a windfarm on Mynydd-y-Gwair, the area of common land central to Mawr.

  Consequently, over the last two years I have of necessity made a study of energy and the position locally. The gathering of this information has involved obtaining data on areas elsewhere in Wales and beyond. I would like to make the following comments below:

1.  UK GOVERNMENT POLICY IN RELATION TO:

    (a)  the current and future energy needs of Wales; and

    (b)  the current and future provision of energy in Wales.

  As regards the energy needs specifically of Wales; not only do we use less per head than England, but we generate nearly twice as much as we use, and `export' the rest to England.

  Although statistics for Welsh electricity seem to be lacking from the normal source of statistics for Wales (http://www.wales.gov.uk/keypubstatisticsforwales/content/publication/compend) figures can be obtained from the Economic Development Committee, Report for Consultation, Review of Energy Policy in Wales Part 1: Renewable Energy April 2002 table on page 5, which shows the UK 1.2 GW generating capacity per million population and 6.4 TWh/y per million population and Wales 1.8GW generating capacity per million population and 11.2 TWh/y generation per million population.

  Generation ratio 11.2/1.8 = 1.75 ie Wales produces one times as much electricity per head as the UK average.

  So the energy needs of Wales would seem to be catered for internally already. It is a matter of policy whether Wales should be looking to be a net exporter of energy as it is of water. The deciding factor in this should not only be the needs of other areas of the UK, but also the amount of despoliation and disruption Wales would suffer by satisfying these needs. This depends on the type of energy generation chosen and the methods of transportation. Public attitudes to this are made more unfavourable by, for example, the new Chief Executive of Transco Gas Pipelines in Wales appearing on television recently saying the new gas mains from Milford Haven would benefit people in Wales as well as in England—when the vast majority of the people who will be affected by the pipeline do not and will not have access to natural gas, but instead have to rely on tank gas (propane) which is the most expensive fuel available.

  Similarly, TAN 8 flags up the creation of new and expansion of existing high voltage power lines across Wales.

2.  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UK GOVERNMENT AND THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES—INCLUDING THE DIVISION OF POWERS ON ENERGY POLICY

  The current situation is seen to be at best a muddle and at worst anti-democratic, as it is far from clear where the responsibility lies. The Prime Minister on a tour of Wales last year blocked questions relating to renewable energy saying it was the responsibility of the Assembly. However, the Assembly imply that they have to follow guidance from Westminster—and from the documents coming out of the Assembly the public perception is that they are acting as a rubber-stamp for central government. Consequently a feeling of disenfranchisement pervades and people cannot get their questions or concerns addressed.

  How this should be changed is open to debate, but my personal feeling is that a matter so vital to life and the quality of life in the whole UK should be the responsibility of central government (Westminster) where the demography is such that the likelihood is that there will be from time to time a change of government; which seems unlikely to be the case in Wales.

  However it is addressed, the current situation must be changed.

3.  THE CURRENT AND FUTURE PORTFOLIO OF ENERGY PROVISION IN WALES INCLUDING:

(a)   Nuclear energy

  If Wales is concerned only to supply the energy needs of people in Wales, then it may just be possible to manage without nuclear energy, at a price. However, taking a decision to be nuclear-free seems anachronistic when Wales is well within the fall-out area of other countries nuclear power stations over which we have no control, whilst denying the people of Wales the benefits of predictable, adequate amounts of electricity from modern advanced-state nuclear power stations which are far from the suspect safety standards of earlier types of stations. If it is really believed that modern nuclear power stations are unsafe, then the Assembly government should be looking into methods of financing fall-out shelters for the community in case one of the many in France has an accident. Finland is developing methods of disposal of waste (which is much less in quantity than in earlier nuclear power stations) which could be looked into for possible use here. Nuclear energy is of course emission friendly, which might be another reason why some people would be looking at this method given the current beliefs concerning global warming.

(b)   Liquefied natural gas

  Has to be brought into Wales by tanker, and has limits to its supply. It may get more expensive as third-world countries develop and require more energy; but nearby gas fields are thought to exist off the south and west coast of Ireland and may offer opportunities for other methods of transportation. However, large areas of Wales are unable to access a supply, and the new facilities at Milford Haven require land transportation across Wales (of small benefit to Wales).

(c)   Clean Coal Technology

  Originally a British project, and progressed to the tested stage, which on disbandment of the Coal Board was shelved. I took this up with Martin Caton MP last year; and he has all the references to this, and asked questions in the House. It certainly has a role to play, even in this country where the use of coal has declined so much.

(d)   Wind farms

  Wind is the most expensive method of generating a meagre, intermittent and unpredictable supply of electricity. The ROC system results in all consumers paying for the marketing of the ROCs on the open market at five or six times the cost of normal electricity (DTI Energy White Paper). The "retired ROC" scheme is another way in which energy costs have been artificially inflated. Companies can claim tax relief of up to 125% on some costs associated with building and maintaining wind turbines. These include staff costs and any spending on ways to make the wind farm perform more quietly or generate more electricity (which is a disincentive for companies to get it right when they are first erected—for example the months and months of trouble after opening at Causeymire Windfarm, Caithness).

  The amount of electricity capable of being generated is consistently exaggerated by wind companies. Now that figures are being measured for actual generation it can be seen to be a lot less than claims often repeated by the BWEA. (For example, the DTI 2005 Digest of UK Energy Statistics gives the load factor for on-shore wind in table 7.4 as 26.6%; only slightly up from 24.1 for 2003.) Apart from the 24.1%, this is almost the lowest load factor ever recorded; and it is likely to gradually fall as "poorer" sites have to be utilised; probably levelling at around 20% as in Denmark, and probably in SE England at about 15% as Germany.

  This is a far call from original estimates of 40%—and even now 35% is still being quoted.

  The UK's plans to derive a fifth of our energy from renewable sources (some 20 gigawatts) by 2020 have been rebutted by Hugh Sharman, principal of the energy consulting and brokering company Incoteco in Hals, Denmark, who argues that the UK's energy grid will not be able to handle more than 10 gigawatts (Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineering, vol 158, p 161). He states that the problem is that the wind doesn't blow when we most need electricity, for example in cold still winter anti-cyclones, and on hot still days in summer. Typically turbines start generating energy at wind speeds of 4 metres per second and reach full capacity at 14 meters per second. They shut down again at around 25 metres per second to protect the drivetrain and gearbox.

  Even on wind industry figures, 25 gigawatts of wind-power capacity in the UK grid would displace around 5 gigawatts of conventional generating capacity, such as coal-fired or nuclear power plants.

  Germany's turbines, which have a capacity of 17 gigawatts or 14% of the total energy demand, shut down so frequently that averaged over a year they only generate around 15% of their notional capacity.

  Earlier this year (January 2005), Wolfgang Clement, the German Social Democratic Economics Minister, citing an unpublished study by German energy agency Dena, warned that German costs for including wind power into their Grid could increase four-fold by 2015, from 1.4 billion Euros to 5.4 billion.

  The 16 page Wind Report 2004 by E.ON Netz GmbH (who are responsible for the electricity transport grid of the E.ON Group, and are one of the main electricity grid operators in Europe covering one third of Germany) paints a gloomy picture of the ability of the Grid to cope with any increase in wind energy. It contains tables showing the strong fluctuation in wind power infeed (Table 4) and the minor contribution of wind power during (Table 6) the 2003 heatwave, and (Table 7) during midweek peak load.

  It states that:

    "The experience of the past year has shown that whenever electricity consumption was comparatively high because of the weather, namely during cold wintry or hot summer periods, wind power plants could make only a minor contribution towards covering consumption."

    "In order to also guarantee reliable electricity supplies when wind power plants produce little or no electricity—for example during periods of calm or storm-related shutdowns—traditional power station capacities must be available as a reserve. The characteristics of wind make it necessary for these `shadow power stations' to be available to an extent sufficient to cover over 80% of the installed wind energy capacity. This means that due to their limited availability, wind power plants cannot replace the usual power station capacities to a significant degree, but can basically only save on fuel."

    "Large quantities of electrical energy cannot be directly stored. This means that every second, exactly the same amount of energy must be fed into the grid that is taken out at the same time. If the amount fed in differs from the amount tapped, this can cause faults or even failure of the supply—as confirmed in 2003 by the widescale power failures in the USA, Italy, Sweden and Denmark."

    "Wind energy leads to regional price distortions—even load distribution overdue. The result of this is a higher grid utilisation cost burden in the `windy' areas."

    "Even more serious is the fact that wind power plants of the usual type have so far disconnected themselves from the grid even in the event of minor, brief voltage dips, whereas large thermal power stations are disconnected only following serious grid failures."

    "Even today, the failure of wind power generation in the event of grid problems is barely possible to master via system technology."

  Germany is many years ahead of the UK and most other countries in developing wind energy—and is now obviously having considerable problems. We should learn from their expensive mistakes and call a halt to the development of any further wind power stations in Wales or the UK. They are not the answer to our energy needs, and do a great deal of environmental and social damage for a meagre return. Photographs of damage to peat areas during construction of these massive structures show irreversible damage; as for example do the Minutes of the Cefn Croes Wind farm Environment Committee charged with monitoring the reinstatement after construction. The divisive approach used by companies to attempt to get local communities to back development proposals will fester in rural areas long after these structures are superseded . Wales has a large investment in tourism, beautiful scenery and a strong rural heritage and cooperative communities. All these are damaged by wind farm developments.

  We should not be giving this up for the sake of an expensive method of not meeting England's energy needs.

(e)   Bio mass energy

  The main problem is the large amount of land required for a relatively small return in energy terms. There are other environmental issues, particularly with alien crops like Miscanthus which are not biodiversity-friendly and tend to sterilise an area whilst the crop is under growth. Also of disease—a monoculture of willow for example is prone to rust attack. There may be a case for small stands of mixed tree coppice, but the traditional uses of forest crops would seem to be more appropriate than large-scale growth harvested mechanically which would be necessary if bio mass would be able to give an economic return.

(f)   Geo-thermal energy

  I am not sure if there is any true geo-thermal energy accessible in Wales (unlike Hampshire, for example). However, there may be a place for soil-pipe heat exchange particularly in relation to new build. But this seems likely to be small.

(g)   Tidal and wave energy

  These are two very different forms of energy; wave energy depending on wind and thus being subject to the same problems of fluctuation, unpredictably and expense. Experiments so far have not been favourable and it seems not a viable prospect for the near future.

  However, tidal energy is different, particularly tidal lagoons (as opposed to barrages across rivers and estuaries which have several environmental problems). Tidal lagoons are capable of giving very useful amounts of predictable energy and operate both on in-coming tides and on outgoing ones when the water in the lagoon exits the lagoon through the (protected) turbines. They are comparatively unobtrusive being only about a meter above high water, and can add habitat to an area, and opportunities for developments within the lagoon, such as lobster farming. The lagoons are very long-lasting and can continue for at least 100 years with only minor refurbishments.

  Details of a proposal for an energy-generating tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay can be found in a Report by WS Atkins (2004), backed by Tidal Electric, the Environment Trust and Swansea Harbour Board.

(h)   Hydro electric energy

  This has been operating in Wales for very many years and is largely trouble-free. The great majority of renewable energy in the UK comes from hydro-electricity. There would be little opposition to expansion on a small scale, but considerable resistance if it involved flooding any further valleys. I do not know if it would be viable to build hydro-generation into existing structures that do not have it.

  I note that solar power does not get a mention in the portfolio, although it figures in government schemes like Clear Skies. Whilst it might play a part in new build and small-scale on the spot generation, it would perhaps make little addition to total energy generation. Energy Saving Measures would maybe contribute more; but this aspect is also not included.

December 2005





 
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