Friday, May 22, 2009
Corrections and clarifications (Wind, Whitelee, Wales...)
Perhaps I need to stop doing media interviews...
I wrote some notes about Whitelee recently. Last weekend, the BBC asked me to record some comments in advance of the official Whitelee switch-on. My comments focussed on the scale of renewables required to really make a substantial contribution to British energy consumption. Unfortunately my comments may have been misinterpreted - partly because I wasn't actually sure what I was being asked! The interview was recorded by a nice subcontracted interviewer who had been fed the 3 questions to ask me. The first question was "are the government's targets achievable?" ... with no indication of what targets the question referred to. The child poverty targets? "No more boom and bust"?
I answered the question assuming we were discussing long term climate targets. In one take I referred to "the government target of a complete decarbonisation of our electricity supply system by 2030." This was an error, as the government hasn't adopted that target (yet); it is the Committee on Climate Change that has indicated that they think almost-complete decarbonization of electricity by 2030 is essential.
As I have discussed in this article, if the UK is to get off fossil fuels, we need to be talking about big efficiency measures, probably lots of electrification of transport and heating, and big growth of 'green' electricity sources - for example, something along the lines of windfarms with size similar to the area of Wales, and a five-fold increase in nuclear power. Each of these two sources would deliver roughly 20 kWh per day per person.
Do I think Whitelee is a figleaf? Not at all. It's awesome, and it does generate real power, on average - enough to power hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles, for example - though not quite enough to "power Glasgow".