REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 187

Revolt news 13/05/2005

1. News186 (special issue on wind farm concentration in Hambleton) has generated regional media interest in the papers and radio. The two pdf attachments sent with it are available at  http://tinyurl.com/9kgm5  for the HDC Topic Paper 8 (Environment), and http://tinyurl.com/7jyxd  for the YHA-RSS Topic Paper 7 (Energy) - which has the 2010 targets.

2. The general election is behind us, and of course we have another change of energy minister, Malcolm Wicks (the seventh in eight years - APPENDIX 1), and Secretary of State, Alan Johnson. The DTI is changing slightly, to the Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry (now abbreviated DPEI, I suppose, although Radio 4 Today 13 May mentions it may revert to DTI).

3. As expected, energy policy is likely to re-examine the nuclear option, left open in 2003 energy white paper. Margaret Beckett is set to oppose it (APPENDIX 2), or even considering it, so we expect turf wars in Whitehall. Meanwhile a leaked government report calls for urgent action to revive nuclear power (APPENDIX 3).

4. A possibly more benign form of wind power, distributed at the point of use as small roof-top turbines for about 1,000, is promoted in Scotland (APPENDIX 4). Having lots of small scale distributed generation allows it largely to be absorbed at the point of use.

5. Talking of 1,000, where did I read of a scheme in Yorkshire in which Powergen will make available micro-CHP domestic units for 1,000? They would replace central heating boilers and provide base-load electricity at the same time. I managed to track down the following from Powergen. Whispergen (if that's the spelling) is a mains gas CHP unit rated at 8 kW thermal and 1.2 kW electricity generation, now on the market for 3000. Details and info pack from Powergen on 0800 107 1366. But they have not yet appointed an installer for the DL post code, and so far it's limited to mains gas, though they expect to extend to other fuels in a couple of years.

6. Snips from news@all-energy are at APPENDIX 5.

http://www.all-energy.co.uk 

7. Another case of wayleave "bullying"! David Parker's garden is oversailed by a 132kV powerline of NEDL near Gateshead. He says that he is told he has no power to stop a pylon being moved close to his garden boundary and just 40 feet from his house. The pylon on his neighbour's land (owned by Tarmac as a landfill site) is being moved so that the landfill area can be increased. While it's true that he has no power to revoke consent for the line, nor to prevent changes on the neighbouring land agreed between the neighbour and NEDL, he does have power over the line as it goes over his own land. He can terminate the (old) wayleave. Then when NEDL seeks a compulsory wayleave he can put his case at a hearing, and further, no compulsory wayleave can be granted for a line to pass over a house or garden. The Electricity Act 1989 Schedule 4 prevents that. So, NEDL would then have to shift the line so that it misses his house and garden altogether. David believes there are viable alternatives to do that, not least since the pylon in question is a terminal tower just before the line goes underground anyway.

8. The proposed Beauly - Denny power line is already being promoted as an aid to developing business in the Highlands (APPENDIX 6).

9. Government abandons the undersea cable from the Hebrides to the Mersey, the idea promoted by then Energy Minister Brian Wilson. (APPENDIX 7)

10. An article in the Guardian (APPENDIX 8) argues that if there are enough windfarms sufficiently dispersed, the variations in output will even out and so greatly reduce the need for back-up. While the general principle makes sense, at least for small to medium scale wind and weather variations, experience from Germany, where there are many more windfarms than here, shows that in practice this evening-out effect is very small, and does not remove the need for extensive back-up. The E-ON Netz Wind Report 2004 gives full details from industry data. The problem of variability gets worse as market penetration increases. If Britain were entirely covered with windfarms and powerlines to try to cope with arbitrary medium-to-small scale weather variations, it would still fail to cope with large-scale weather variations, and quality of rural life and environment would be devastated.

***** *****

APPENDIX 1 Article from Press and Journal:

STORM OVER BLAIR'S OIL MINISTER - HIS SEVENTH

DAVID PERRY 09:00 - 10 May 2005

Prime Minister Tony Blair last night provoked a major political row by appointing his seventh energy minister in eight years.

Reshuffling just under 50 middle-ranking and junior jobs, he named former pensions minister Malcolm Wicks to take over the post.

He replaces Mike O'Brien, who landed the job last September and has now been promoted to become solicitor general.

The move - the fourth new energy minister in 18 months - provoked a spokeswoman for the oil and gas industry to call in exasperation for the new incumbent to remain in post a little longer this time.

Speaking for the UK Offshore Operators' Association, she said: "We certainly look forward to a long-term working relationship this time - seven energy ministers in eight years does not make for good long-term strategic planning."

Even Aberdeen South Labour MP Anne Begg admitted to "concerns", saying: "My fervent hope is that he gets longer in the job than previous ministers.

"The industry wants stability and there should be stability in the minister responsible for long-term planning."

Miss Begg claimed Mr Wicks was "canny and intelligent" and said that if he could master a pensions brief he ought to be able to manage energy.

But SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "This is a revolving door approach to the oil and gas industry which is bankrolling Chancellor Gordon Brown's Exchequer. It is totally ridiculous and insulting to treat energy with such disdain, given its vital importance to the UK and the Scottish economies in particular."

The Banff and Buchan MP went on: "In every botched reshuffle, Blair pencils in a new energy minister, rubs it out and then pencils in someone else."

He said the premier's move would be comic if it was not a vital decision affecting thousands of jobs, adding: "It speaks volumes for the arrogance and contempt with which Blair treats a vital industry."

Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said: "Mr Wicks is very able and has an eye for detail. I know he will strike up the right relationship with the oil industry as energy minister as long as he is given the chance."

New Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander said: "It is little wonder Mr Blair's Government has no coherent energy policy when he has been unable to keep the same person in the job for any length of time. It shows how unimportant the prime minister thinks this industry is."

Mr Wicks and Mr O'Brien follow John Battle, Peter Hain - who went on to be Commons leader, secretary of state for Wales and now Northern Ireland secretary - Helen Liddell, who went on to be Scottish secretary, Brian Wilson and Stephen Timms.

The premier was seen to be moving more Blairites into key posts, signalling - despite his promise the night of the election to learn from the result - a determination to drive through more "modernising".

Mr Wicks, 57, followed his chief, former work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson, into the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry - probably at Mr Johnson's request.

The MP for Croydon North has no known experience of North Sea oil and gas. He studied in the department of social administration at York University and was a researcher at the Centre for Environmental Studies. After working as director at the Family Policy Studies Centre he entered Parliament in 1992 and became a junior education minister in 1999 before becoming a minister for work and then minister for pensions.

***** *****

APPENDIX 2 Article from the Sunday Telegraph

Beckett puts block on the building of new nuclear power stations

By Robert Watts and Andrew Murray-Watson (Filed: 08/05/2005)

Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, is blocking attempts by other government departments to pursue plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations, The Telegraph can reveal.

In a confidential briefing to Alan Johnson, the new minister for energy, leaked to this newspaper, a leading civil servant has warned that Mrs Beckett will oppose any attempt to bring the nuclear option back onto the agenda.

Joan MacNaughton, the director-general of the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry - formerly the Department of Trade and Industry - has written to Mr Johnson and stated that Mrs Beckett has prevented the option of new nuclear power stations being examined.

The wide-ranging document warns that the UK will suffer electricity and gas shortages, leading to steep increases in fuel prices, unless measures are put in place to replace old nuclear plants which are to be decommissioned during the next decade.

Ms MacNaughton's document reveals that a review body set up last autumn by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to examine ways of reducing carbon emissions, in line with the Government's international treaty obligations, is not considering the construction of new nuclear plants because of Mrs Beckett's opposition.

It adds that Mrs Beckett's department prefers the option of forcing heavy industry to reduce its emissions but warns that this approach could "damage business competitiveness and (electricity) security of supply".

It states: "Because Beckett opposes nuclear new build, the review has not so far considered whether nuclear should contribute to cutting emissions."

The decision on building a new generation of nuclear power stations is one of the most sensitive facing Tony Blair as he begins his third term in power. The Prime Minister is understood to be keen to approve the programme but Left-wing MPs fiercely oppose it.

Mr Johnson, who was transferred to the new department from the Department for Work and Pensions in Friday's reshuffle, will play a key role in discussions.

A former union leader, he had responsibility for energy during his stint at the old Department of Trade after the 2001 election and at the time was thought to be a cautious supporter of nuclear power.

Ms MacNaughton urges Mr Johnston to reclaim leadership of the nuclear issue before this summer. The document adds: "The case for looking at the nuclear question again quickly is that if we want to avoid a very sharp fall in nuclear's contribution to energy supplies (some fall is certain and has already begun), we should need to act soon given the long lead times (10 years?) in getting a new nuclear station up and running."

The document also states that the new government should only "move towards" reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, a move Ms MacNaughton describes as a "slightly looser version of your repeated manifesto commitment to achieve this reduction".

Ms MacNaughton also informs Mr Johnson that the Government is in danger of failing to hit targets to eradicate "fuel poverty" and that consumers should expect further price rises over the next few years as energy supply struggles to meet demand.

She says: "The target is to eliminate fuel poverty among vulnerable households by 2010. This is unlikely without new measures."

Ms MacNaughton also warns that steeper energy prices could significantly damage industry. She calls for a government statement on energy and climate change before the summer recess.

She emphasises that a White Paper would be commissioned before any proposals to build new atomic plants were made.

Fourteen ageing nuclear plants currently provide a quarter of the UK's electricity, but all are due to be decommissioned within the next two decades.

Mitsui Babcock, the energy consultancy and engineering group, estimates that it will cost 12 billion to build 10 new nuclear power plants.

A DPEI spokesman said: "The Government's energy policy is set out in the White Paper. The new Secretary of State, Alan Johnson, will need to look at the issue."

***** *****

APPENDIX 3 Article from The Observer, Sunday May 8, 2005

Secret papers reveal new nuclear building plan

Oliver Morgan, industrial editor

The government's strategy to kick-start a huge nuclear power station building programme is revealed today in confidential Whitehall documents seen by The Observer.

In a 46-paragraph briefing note for incoming ministers, Joan MacNaughton, the director-general of energy policy at the new Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry, warns that key policy targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and boost green energy are likely to fail, and that decisions on new nuclear power stations must be taken urgently. It advises that 'it is generally easier to push ahead on controversial issues early in a new parliament'.

The document points to the key role new nuclear power stations, which do not emit carbon dioxide, would play in tackling carbon emissions. It states: 'We now have 12 nuclear stations providing 20 per cent of our electricity carbon-free. By 2020 this will fall to three stations and 7 per cent as stations are retired.'

It also points to the increased risk of an electricity supply shortage after 2008, when a number of nuclear plants are due to close, and warns of a growing reliance on imported gas supplies.

It continues: 'Extending the lives of nuclear stations and/or new build could strengthen the generating sector's contribution to CO2 reductions, by 2020 and beyond.'

But it adds that to avoid a very steep drop in nuclear output a decision is needed quickly, because it takes a decade to get stations operational. There are also obstacles that would need to be overcome in building a new generation of plants, including gaining public acceptance and dealing with nuclear waste.

The department paper is revealed as the nuclear industry gears up for a major lobbying push for new stations. The Nuclear Industry Association has been pressing on the government the need for 10 new stations to combat climate change, arguing that a large-scale building programme is the only economic way of financing them.

UK companies such as Amec and Westinghouse, the power station construction arm of state-owned British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) - along with foreign companies such as Aveva and Bechtel of the US, have also urged the case in Whitehall.

The Whitehall briefing, a 'first day' options paper prepared for the new Secretary of State, Alan Johnson, states that the government is widely expected to 'come off the fence' on nuclear energy and advises that it should work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Treasury and Number 10 to 'be on the front foot', making a statement on energy policy and its impact on climate change before the summer recess.

MacNaughton warns that '(carbon dioxide) emissions have been rising in recent years. We look to be falling well short of the goal to cut them by 20 per cent by 2010, absent (of) new measures'. Two of the reasons are 'falling nuclear generation' and 'weaker than predicted impact of some policy measures'.

Key among these is the attempt to boost renewable forms of energy - such as wind farms, solar power and crop-burning stations - by forcing electricity suppliers to source 10 per cent of their supplies from these sources by 2010. The paper admits 7 to 8 per cent is more likely.

MacNaughton also admits that the government's stance on the nuclear issue in the last parliament 'to keep the option open' without encouraging it 'was a compromise, endorsed by the PM, between ministers for and against'.

Now she says: 'The case for looking at the nuclear question again quickly is that, if we want to avoid a very sharp fall in nuclear's contribution to energy supplies (some fall is already certain and has begun), we should need to act soon given the long lead times (10 years) in getting a new nuclear station up and running.'

However, she lists a series of issues that need to be addressed:

'How might new stations be financed? What kind of government support might be necessary for new build to take place? How far would new build be consistent with our market framework for energy? How best to secure public acceptance? How far would we need to resolve the long outstanding issue of finding a final depository for high level nuclear waste, as a pre-condition for progressing new build?'

The previous compromise was hammered out in a 2003 white paper, Our Energy Future - creating a low-carbon economy. This was the result of a bitter Whitehall battle between pro-nuclear elements in the then Department of Trade and Industry headed by the Energy Minister Brian Wilson and in Downing Street, and a determinedly anti-nuclear group headed by Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett.

The new Energy Minister is advised to take a robust line with Defra, not only over nuclear power, but on the amount of carbon dioxide industry is allowed to emit under European regulations. DPEI's wants a higher cap than Defra, arguing that too stringent restrictions will harm productivity.

Defra is heading the government's Climate Change Programme Review, which has a crucial role in placing the issue at the top of the agenda for the UK's presidency of the G8 this year. But MacNaughton notes: 'Because Mrs Beckett opposes nuclear new build, the review has not so far considered whether nuclear should contribute to cutting emissions.'

Resistance from Defra, where Beckett remains Secretary of State, is likely to remain strong, as she is known to be particularly concerned that no decision has yet been reached on how to store Britain's stockpile of radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

***** *****

APPENDIX 4 Article from The Sunday Times, May 08, 2005

Rooftop wind turbines on urban horizon Jason Allardyce

THE Scottish executive is to force through new planning rules to allow residents to put wind turbines on their roofs.

The generators, about the size of a television satellite dish, are expected to become a common urban sight. They will cut electricity bills and also help the executive to meet its ambitious renewable energy target.

Ministers are to issue new planning guidelines, telling local authorities to approve the turbines. Costing about 1,000 if a government grant is obtained, these can produce enough electricity to run most domestic appliances and provide up to a third of all power needs.

Among their supporters is Brian Wilson, the former Labour energy minister, who has one at his home in Glasgow.

Charlie Silverton, a director of Renewable Devices, the Edinburgh-based firm that manufactures the silent rooftop turbines, said they had been designed like spinning wagon wheels to be easy on the eye.

Each turbine has five rotor blades encased in an outer rim and sits just above the house, producing up to 1.5kw of power.

"The technology has arrived to provide proper silent rooftop turbines for the domestic market. If people can generate electricity on their roof they will require less from the national grid," Silverton said.

"It is helping to save a lot of money for schools in Fife and planning applications are being considered in Eyemouth, Shetland, Edinburgh and quite a few places up north.

"But it would streamline the process if the Scottish executive could produce guidelines for councils, because applications are being held up for a disproportionate amount of time by individuals or planning authorities."

Environmental pressure groups, including Friends of the Earth, have described the devices as a breakthrough in the fight to reduce greenhouse emissions.

However, critics say the number of turbines is unlikely to be big enough to discourage the executive from continuing to approve plans for big wind farms on sensitive countryside areas.

Gillian Bishop, a spokesman for Views of Scotland, an umbrella organisation representing wind farm protesters, said the devices would achieve little and could be more controversial than satellite dishes.

"It seems so much effort for so little power," she said. "They are just twiddling around the edges and I think if these things are spinning around all over the place it could drive neighbours crazy."

A spokesman for the executive said: "The executive is committed to meeting its ambitious target of 40% of electricity generated in Scotland from renewable sources by 2020 - tackling climate change and creating new green jobs. We will do this by the development of a mix of renewable energy sources including marine, tidal, biomass and wind. These will be delivered through both large and small- scale projects."

***** *****

APPENDIX 5 Snips from news@all-energy of Early May 2005.

1.4.Winners announced

The Carbon Trust and the Sunday Telegraph announced CMR Fuel Cells as

the overall winner of the Carbon Trust Innovation Awards 2005. CMR Fuel Cells, winners too of the individual and small business category award, has developed technology which has the potential to make fuel cells commercially viable for the first time. The larger companies and public sector organisations award went to SMD Hydrovision for its innovative tidal turbine system http://tinyurl.com/9flwr 

1.5.Experts hear oil depletion fear

The world's oil reserves are running out much faster than industry and governments are admitting .... Many industry experts believe it will not occur until 2030 - but some analysts have stated publicly that it could happen by 2008 or even sooner.

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4481841.stm

4.9.Wind farms will cost consumers extra 12bn

Wind farms would need subsidies of 12bn to meet UK government targets on renewable energy generation. Nuclear power would provide the same amount of carbon-free electricity for 4.4bn - one-third of that sum.... The figures are from a new study by Oxera

http://tinyurl.com/8eulv 

4.10.No cash - no wind, energy groups tell the Government

Huge offshore wind farms vital to meeting carbon-reduction targets will not be built without more state aid, energy companies have warned.

 http://tinyurl.com/77qn9 

4.11.Review of wind farm guidelines called for

Ministers have ordered a review of wind farm guidelines following warnings from senior officials that the "unplanned proliferation" of the controversial power generators could damage Scotland's landscape.

 http://tinyurl.com/bswr6 

4.14.9MW with 8 blades - turbine with a difference

A British company is planning a revolutionary giant offshore wind turbine designed to produce three times as much electricity as the largest models on land. Engineers have drawn up plans for a 9MW offshore machine. The Aerogenerator is based around eight blades set into a giant V-shape spinning on a vertical axis

http://tinyurl.com/a93jv 

***** *****

APPENDIX 6 Press and Journal: 09:00 - 09 May 2005

POWER GRID UPGRADE TO OFFER OPPORTUNITIES

DAVID TELFER

North of Scotland businesses have been told that they can expect major opportunities from the planned upgrade of the power grid from Beauly to Denny by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE).

The upgrade is required to increase the grid's capacity to allow for the transmission of energy generated by renewable sources such as wind, wave and biomass.

Keith MacLean, sustainable development manager for Scottish & Southern Energy, told business leaders at the North Scotland Industries Group's (NSIG) inaugural business breakfast at the weekend that work would be available to contracting and civil engineering firms, and to the hospitality industry.

Mr MacLean said SSE was close to publishing the preferred route for the new grid and submitting an application.

Once approved, construction would take around three years with a further year for dismantling the existing grid.

A series of business breakfasts will be staged by NSIG over the coming months, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, to promote and stimulate business in the north of Scotland.

NSIG's newly-appointed chief executive, Jim Cockram, explained that the events are designed to raise awareness among member organisations of emerging opportunities in a range of sectors.

***** *****

APPENDIX 7 Press and Journal: 09:00 - 11 May 2005

PROTESTERS IN POWER LINE 'FUDGE' ATTACK CLIVE DENNIER

Campaigners calling for electricity from proposed windfarms in Lewis to be transmitted by undersea cable instead of overland pylons have accused the Government of fudging the proposal.

Their comments came after the Department of Trade and Industry ruled out the prospect of a subsea connection because of problems in avoiding offshore munitions dumps.

The Ullapool-based pressure group Highlands Before Pylons (HBP) wrote to Patricia Hewitt, the then trade and industry secretary, in March, asking for her views on having a submarine cable from Stornoway to Merseyside, rather than overland pylons from Ullapool to Beauly, should the Lewis wind projects go ahead.

The group has received a reply from John Overton, who is responsible for transmission issues affecting renewable energy, referring to a report by PB Power, published in February 2000.

Mr Overton says in his letter: "The results of that report set out the high cost of the cable in relation to the cost of an overland overhead cable and that there were specific difficulties with the offshore route in avoiding offshore munitions dumps.

"The DTI therefore concluded that this was not an option that should be pursued, and it has no plans to commission further work on this proposal."

Sue Hopkinson, of HBP, dismissed Mr Overton's response as a "red herring", saying: "We can find no mention of munitions dumps in the PB Power report of 2000, nor in the subsequent report by the transmission issues working group.

"It is well known and in the public domain that Beaufort's Dyke, which runs down the North Channel between Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland, incorporates a dredge spoil disposal site in the north and an explosives disposal site in the south. This did not prevent the construction of the Moyle subsea interconnector between Northern Ireland and Scotland, although concerns were raised at the time."

She added: "The dyke does not fill the North Channel and it is the belief of HBP that the Western Isles submarine interconnector was dismissed at the time on the basis of erroneous costings. The report is over four years out of date."

HBP believes a submarine cable could be laid at a cost of between 500,000 and 600,000 at today's prices and not the 1.7billion estimated in 2000.

***** *****

APPENDIX 8 Article from Today's Life section of the Guardian, Thursday May 12, 2005

link: http://tinyurl.com/dacw5 

Wave, wind, sun and tide is a powerful mix

Research at Oxford shows how renewables can plug Britain's energy gap, says Oliver Tickell

For years, nuclear power has looked expensive, dangerous and dirty. That opinion may be about to change. Britain is facing a power gap of up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity - almost 40% of peak national demand - by 2020 as ageing, unreliable and inefficient nuclear and coal- fired power stations are shut. There is a growing consensus that only new nuclear power can plug that gap without contributing to global warming.

Renewable electricity technologies that harness wind, wave, tide and sun are all very well, the thinking goes, but their output is too variable and unpredictable to provide more than a small part of our electricity needs. Meeting the government's target of 20% renewables by 2020 could mean getting as much as 15% from wind and other intermittent sources, with the balance coming from "firm" renewables such as biomass and landfill gas. And that, say critics of renewables, is as much intermittency as the system can take. Any more and we will need huge reserves of expensive, polluting backup capacity, ready to cut in whenever the wind stops blowing.

Convinced? Think again. Research at Oxford University shows that intermittent renewables, combined with domestic combined heat and power (dCHP) could dependably provide the bulk of Britain's electricity. "By mixing between sites and mixing technologies, you can markedly reduce the variability of electricity supplied by renewables," says Graham Sinden, of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute. "And if you plan the right mix, renewable and intermittent technologies can even be made to match real- time electricity demand patterns. This reduces the need for backup, and makes renewables a serious alternative to conventional power sources." In particular, it puts renewables ahead of nuclear power, which runs at the same rate all the time regardless of fluctuations in demand.

Sinden initially looked at just three generation technologies: wind, solar and dCHP - in effect, hi-tech domestic boilers, which produce electricity as they heat water. He ran computer models of power output based on weather records going back up to 35 years, and found that electricity production could be optimised by creating a mixture of 65% wind, 25% dCHP, and 10% solar cells. The high proportion of wind is because the wind blows hardest in the winter, and in the evening - when demand is highest. The dCHP also produces more at peak times, when demand for hot water and heating is also strongest. Solar makes a smaller contribution, and produces nothing at night. But it is still important to have it in the mix as it kicks in when wind and dCHP production is lowest.

It is also essential to disperse the generators, whether wind turbines or rooftop solar cells, as widely as possible. By increasing the separation between sites, you can be sure that power is always being generated somewhere and so smooth out the supply curve. This goes against current practice, which is to put wind turbines where the wind is strongest.

Sinden's approach is remarkably effective in reducing the need for standby capacity. If offshore wind power alone were to provide an average 3,500MW of electricity - 10% of electricity demand in England and Wales - it would need to be backed up by an extra standby generating capacity of 3,135MW - 90% of average production. But using Sinden's proposed mix of technologies, only 400MW of new standby capacity would be needed - just 11%.

In his latest work, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, Sinden has been researching the roles for wave and tidal power. Wave power output is concentrated into autumn and winter, when demand is greatest: 75% of wave power is produced between October and March. Tidal power output is predictable, but variable: at any site it drops to zero four times a day on the turn of the tide; and output is three or four times greater on the spring tide than on the neap tide. "A marine-based renewable system works best when it includes both tide and wave," says Sinden. "The combination has lower variability, is better at meeting demand patterns, and makes better use of expensive transmission infrastructure."

Putting these figures together with estimates of Britain's available renewable resources, wind (onshore and offshore) could realistically provide some 35% of the UK's electricity, marine and dCHP each 10-15%, and solar cells 5-10%. In other words, more than half the UK's electricity could ultimately derive from intermittent renewables.

"In the next year or so, the UK is going to have to decide how to meet its electricity needs for the next half-century," says Sinden. "It's an incredible opportunity for renewables but my fear is that it may be missed."

***** *****

-- Mike O'Carroll

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