Thursday, July 06, 2006

The way for ward for energy

Today saw a partial release of what is in the Conservative party's energy review paper. You can read the BBC report here.

It seems to me to follow in a similar vein to our policy at the last general election (Which when I saw Tim Yeo MP on Newsnight he had clearly not read) in that it puts nuclear last.

What it is looking to do is to create an environment in which many technologies can flourish, and then to some extent the market will decide which ones fair best.

The advantage of this approach is that we have no idea which technologies will work best, particularly as someone may come up with new ideas and new thinking.

As an example of the old thinking I remember when I saw a Not the Nine O'clock news feature on a solar powered torch. How ridiculous can you get? However someone oblivious to the obvious ridicule came up with solar powered garden lights.

Tony Blair's key man in the "Blue sky thinking" department was Lord Birt, renowned amongst many Private Eye readers. In the last few years Tony Blair seems to have become enthused by Nuclear power as a solution. He now appears to want to railroad it through.

So what is the problem.

Well, there are a number of issues with nuclear power and I don't pretend to present an exhaustive list, but in my view they are:

  • Cost of decommissioning.
  • Long term waste handling.
  • The apparent requirement for fixed pricing.
Other people will cite safety and terrorism as well.

The first two could well end up lumbering the tax payer with a "stealth tax" as the Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Menzies Campbell has pointed out. The third also falls into this category, but is worse than that because it will serve to stifle new technologies competing to get market share even if they are much better.

That said you can't rule out Nuclear for all time, but we do need to work much harder at renewables.

Just some random thoughts on that matter. Every year around Christmas Thames Water remove 7000 tons of turkey fat from its sewers. This gives them a large waste disposal problem. Were that turned into energy it would be the equivalent of 60 MILLION miles worth of diesel to power a van.

Other silly things. Whilst the rest of Europe still use the tallow gained from rendering one cow to provide the energy to render the next we have implemented a European regulation is such a way as to define the tallow as a waste product (rather than a by product which it in fact is) so that they can't do that any more.

On another note the sun delivers enough energy to the surface of the earth in 1 minute to power the world for a year. You can store solar energy in a heat store rather than as electricity in batteries, and in fact some large scale solar projects are in development that work this way.

No comments: