Government must seize once-in-a-generation chance to green UK electricity

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Reforming the UK's electricity market is a once-in-a-generation chance to avoid locking us into a dangerous, high-carbon future, warns Friends of the Earth, on the day before Government published a consultation on the proposed changes.

The environmental campaigning charity is calling for the shake-up to decarbonise the country's power sector by at least 90 per cent by 2030 - and says producing more green electricity is essential for the UK to play its full part in tackling climate change.

Currently, around 30 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions are from electricity generation and demand is expected to rise sharply in coming years, as we shift from using oil to electricity to power things from trains and cars to homes.

Friends of the Earth is calling for electricity market reform to ensure the power sector is decarbonised by 2030, through measures including:

* An ever-tightening cap on carbon dioxide emissions from polluting coal and gas-fired power stations

* Helping reduce overall demand for electricity, through measures such as making homes more energy efficient and encouraging people to use 'smart meters'

* Clear assurances for investors to create market certainty and boost new renewable electricity

* Enabling more renewable electricity generation, particularly decentralised and community-owned, by improving access to transmission and distribution networks

* Creating a European 'super-grid' allowing electricity to be shared more easily.

Friends of the Earth's Senior Climate Change Campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “This reform is a once-in-a-generation chance to set energy policy for the next 20 years - it's crucial the Government makes the right decisions to ensure renewable power thrives instead of locking us into a dangerous high-carbon world.

“The Government must make it cheaper and easier for communities to save money by generating their own green electricity locally.

“The future is electric – and harnessing the UK's massive potential to produce much more green electricity will create jobs, reduce our reliance on overseas oil and help us slash climate-changing emissions.”

Even Friends of the Earth have not as yet understood, it would appear, that we do not need a European super-grid but, in fact, a different kin d of electricity all together. We must change the kind of current that we produce and use and we must produce the electricity locally, on every roof and at every possible location.

A super-grid will only make us more vulnerable to (1) someone pulling the plug for whatever reason and (2) to cyber- and other terrorist attacks.

Only a localized renewable electricity generating capacity will give Britain (and every other country that would implement such a regime) the needed energy security. A European super-grid will not do it.

The current must be DC and reduced voltage so that surplus can be stored in batteries for use when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

Off-grind homes are the example with their 12V DC current and the batteries in which to store the power produced. All that needs to be done is to have this recreated on the same and a larger scale.

Everywhere we look the powers that be and the likes of FoE can only see 240/220 or 110V AC as a power source, it would seem. But such high power is (no longer) needed. Most appliances today can run – and indeed do – that's why they have power supply units – on much lower voltages, often less that 12V DC even, such as most computers.

The low carbon idea also, time and again, seems to bring the nuclear option onto the table and into the discussions but, however carbon-less or whatever they may nuclear power to be, it is not, and neither can we afford it for the reasons of costs and the reasons of what to do with the radioactive waste. I do not even want to talk about the dangers from accidents or possible terrorist attacks. Thus nuclear is not an option in any way, shape or form.

Only wind, sun, methane and water, whether in the form of tidal or river current, are an alternative and we must concentrate on working on them, and that yesterday. Tomorrow is too late.

© 2010