Green Shoots in Budget Need Hard Backing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Initiatives in Chancellor Alastair Darling’s credit crunch budget to kick-start carbon capture and storage (CCS) and renewable energy will be welcomed across the energy sector but will need a robust and sustained framework and investor confidence to bear fruit.

According to EnerStrat Consulting the Chancellor’s support for sustainable energy, while echoing that from US President Barack Obama, can only help bring Britain out of recession and through the impending energy supply gap, if regulators and investors can be brought together to understand how greener fossil fuels and renewables can, along with new nuclear, work as a genuine sustainable energy mix.

According to EnerStrat’s Director Ashutosh Shastri : ‘This week’s boost for renewable energy in the 2009 Budget Report, and for co-ordinated ‘clustered’ carbon capture for new coal power stations in today’s statement from Energy Secretary Ed Miliband will be widely welcomed. But they will only remain good intentions, unless further detailed policy frameworks can be established which could make both these technologies economically viable, particularly in these difficult economic times’.

‘Investors will require further incentives in order to opt for carbon capture, renewables and nuclear – rather than other easier, relatively low risk options.’ he said.

US President Obama used ‘Earth Day’ to express his support for ‘clean energy technologies’ including offshore wind and wave power. And in the UK Chancellor Darling pledged support for offshore wind, district heating, energy efficiency and, supported by Miliband, perhaps through a levy, carbon capture.

Yet, with an energy gap and carbon targets clock ticking, a recession hit world will need help from governments and investors to make this happen. ‘The greatest possible understanding of how energy markets work and the limitations of how far markets can support low carbon initiatives is needed, and now’ said Shastri.

Sometimes, I think, one has to wonder where some of these people, whether from government or industry, and in this instance especially those from the energy sector, are coming from. It is obvious that governments, here and abroad, in most cases are not on this planet and often not even in the same universe as the rest of us but when I hear the term “clean coal” or even “green coal” I must say I cringe.

Fossil fuel of the coal and oil kind, whether lignite, which is a real dirty coal and the find that is being burned in Germany and especially Poland, or what some refer to as “deep” coal, cannot ever be considered clean or green. But that is just my opinion.

While nuclear is “clean” as far as CO2 and such emissions are concerned it is not something that could be considered clean and green really either, in my view, due to the fact that we have to deal with the nuclear waste, which could be a serious problem if it ever got out of containment. Then, in addition that that, the power stations themselves could cause us grief, as Chernobyl so well and truly showed the world.

We need electricity to run our countries, basically, and there is very little nowadays that we could do without it, there must be and there are other options than coal and oil and nuclear.

Those green options of renewables, and please no one mention biodiesel and biofuels of other types, can work if we get away from thinking huge arrays and such for producing x-amount of gigawatt, and such.

It can be done on a smaller, more local scale, when the power would then not need to be thus and especially the voltage could then, basically, be of the domestic kind and no longer needed to be in the tens and twenties of kilovolt range.

This appear to be something, however, that the energy industry has absolutely no interest in in Britain for it would interfere with their control over the energy produced and consumed. And it would seem that the reason that we just cannot get anywhere here really with selling back surplus production from home micro-generating setups to the national grid at a decent price, as is possible in other EU countries, such as, per example, Germany.

Strange though considering that most of the British energy companies are either owned by German or French outfits, whether it is E-ON, EDF, N-Power, or others. I think one would be very hard pressed nowadays to find a utility company in the UK that is a UK owned one.

The budget of Mr. Darling and the current British government is looking too much at things such as coal and oil and carbon capture than at other ways of electricity generation. Too much lobbying still from industry, methinks.

It is clear that wind, sun and wave power can only produce so much in energy, if we always look at the high voltage and high wattage output of the big stations in use today. That does not need to be the way. Local must be the watchword in power generation as much as in food.

The talk is everywhere about locavore and local foods, etc., but we still look at energy production at far away places with the power then having to be “shipped” over hundreds of miles to the consumer, needing substations to reconvert the x-amount of kilovolts back down to a consumer current, with great losses.

Small is beautiful is what Schumacher said and he was advocating local power stations then and his words are as true today as they were then. Local power generation is possible and this could be combined into combined heat and power, killing two birds with one stone.

One of the energy sources for this could be wood in its various forms, maybe not necessarily as chippings though, nor pellets.

© 2009