REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 197

Revolt news 03/10/2005

***** NEWS FLASH Beauly - Denny application now in (item 7)

***** REVOLT AGM 21 October (item 9)

1. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published an interesting short paper dated 2-9-05 called "Windfarm agreements - who has the power?" by David McCartney of Brodies LLP. The paper outlines the likely windfarm developers' approach and the pitfalls for unwary landowners. The overall message is to consider long term implications and not be distracted by short term gains. Although different from powerlines wayleaves and easements, windfarm agreements seem no less tricky for the landowner up against the large experienced company.

2. The Knabs Ridge Wind Farm proposed adjoining the Nidderdale AONB has been recommended for approval by a DTI Inspector on appeal against Harrogate DC's refusal (APPENDIX 1). Perhaps this is an indication of the determination of national government to over-ride local objections to windfarms.

3. DTI has issued its SIXTH REPORT: DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY: RENEWABLE ENERGY (HC 413), on 15.9.05 (APPENDIX 2). The Chairman of the Public ACCOUNTS Committee has said that the implied 6.5 billion pound subsidy by 2010 which does not receive annual scrutiny by Parliament is not acceptable.

4. DTI has issued a note "Wind Power: 10 myths explained" on its web site. This strikes me as one of the most blatant pieces of one-sided yah-boo political propaganda I have seen. The Orwellian oppression of it is really quite sickening. It uncritically promotes wind farms, uses selected references and selectively quotes others. Oh for something even handed, setting out the pros and cons impartially. I won't grace this awful propaganda with a blow by blow response, but will just mention one of the milder features - the first "myth" which is stated as "Turbines are taking over the countryside". DTI writes only of the direct land take: "less than 1/20,000th of the UK (800-1,200 hectares) would be used for foundations and access roads". And that would be by 2010. But the direct land take would be only hundreds of square metres per turbine. The visual impact would cover hundreds of square kilometres per turbine - a million times more! Even allowing for overlap of individual turbine visual impacts (a factor of perhaps 10 to 100) that leaves an aggregate visual impact of the order of half the UK. It is no myth that government policy implications for wind farms would, visually at least, be the largest single visual impact on the countryside over the next ten years and would transform and dominate its visual aspect across most of the country.

5. BBC online news 14.9.05 reports a 10.6m scheme to remove overhead power lines to improve the countryside in the East and South East of England has been proposed by EDF Energy. The five-year programme will see EDF look at the installation of underground cables in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This will be for burying lower voltage (wood pole) distribution lines, as the small amount of money would not go very far with burying high voltage lines. Ofgem's latest distribution price control required several electricity companies to invest more in their infrastructure to improve security after recent prolonged outages.

6. Sir Digby Jones, head of the CBI, has warned of fuel crisis this winter (APPENDIX 3). In its Consultation on Winter 2005/06, National grid had indicated that even a severe winter should be within the scope of industrial demand management, thus avoiding general power cuts.

7. Highland Council announces that the application for the Beauly - Denny line has been made formally by the electricity companies to the Scottish Executive on Friday 30 September. Copies of all the documentation will be available for inspection at Council offices, Service Points and libraries in the area covered by the application on and from Wednesday 5th October, 2005. Members of the public have until 12th December, 2005 to send their letters of representation to the Scottish Executive. The Highland Council would welcome copies of representations to be sent to: John Rennilson, Director Planning and Development, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX. However at October 1st the web site  shows no sign of it, having last been updated on 25 July. BBC Scotland are to visit the Newby - Nunthorpe underground cable site in Teesside tomorrow.

8. The National Trust for Scotland (called Scotland in Trust) has submitted a critical response to Scottish Hydro Transmission Ltd over various options for transmitting power from wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, including the proposed Beauly - Denny line. They say that renewable energy in Scotland should be subject to strategic environmental assessment and that transmission proposals should not be considered separately from major wind farm proposals. Similar and related views have also been put forward by Revolt (e.g. news184.1, 191.1, 195.2, 195.3 and 195.4).

9. The Revolt AGM is scheduled for Friday 21 October. The venue is to be announced - it is expected to be a low-key AGM and it would be helpful if members would let me know as soon as possible if they are likely to attend.

10. David Clarke, Chairman of Hambleton CPRE and a leading engineer, has analysed the feasibility of small scale wind turbines for domestic use. Using the manufacturers own estimation of output, under financial and usage conditions most favourable to wind generation, and allowing a 2500W turbine although it would be fifty feet tall, the analysis shows that even with the current level of nearly 50% subsidy the units come nowhere near covering the interest cost of the hardware involved at current electricity (domestic) prices. He says the capital and running costs of such installations are crippling and they do not come anywhere near helping our objective of providing an eyesore free competitively priced consistent energy supply.

***** *****

APPENDIX 1 Wind farm in the Yorkshire Dales allowed on appeal 

A planning inspector has given the go-ahead to an eight-turbine wind farm on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Yorkshire Dales, which was opposed by the planning authority, Harrogate Borough Council.

The inspector agreed that the power renewable project would "have some harmful effects on the landscape and in other visual respects", but concluded that the requirement to meet "national policy" on green energy and the "pressing need" for new renewable generation in North Yorkshire justified the Knabs Ridge Wind Farm close to the Nidderdale AONB.

The inspector also concluded that any adverse impact on the operations of the Leeds Bradford International Airport would be "minor".

In his decision letter the inspector listed a number of urban and man-made developments in the vicinity (the A59, an army training college, a holiday caravan site and the Menwith Hill base).

He said the area "is not as tranquil or remote as, say, some of the moorlands of Yorkshire or other places in the Pennines; and the turbines would not be as alien or out of character as they might be in a more remote, tranquil or scenically unspoiled area."

John Ainslie, head of consents for Npower renewables said the scheme would "make a valuable contribution towards the fight against global warming. Existing wind farms in the UK enjoy very high levels of local support and I have no doubt that Knabs Ridge Wind Farm will also became an accepted feature of the local landscape."

Richard Cooper, the council's cabinet member responsible for planning, complained the decision flew in the face of common sense.

He said: "For a government inspector to come to our district and ignore all the good planning reasons why these towering metal structures should not be allowed is a smack in the face to local people and the local council."

Roger Milne 9 September 2005

***** *****


Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today:

"Renewable energy comes at a price. The government's target is to have 10% of our electricity generated from renewable sources by 2010. But, by then, the scheme for rapidly expanding the supply of renewable energy, the Renewables Obligation, will be adding 1 billion a year to electricity prices and will have cost consumers at least 5 billion. The expansion of distribution and transmission capacity required to meet the 10% target will add another 1.5 billion - also to be shouldered by consumers. Consumers are providing a massive subsidy to the renewables industry. But, unlike public expenditure, this subsidy does not receive annual scrutiny by Parliament. This is unacceptable.

"The future of renewable energy is uncertain. The government certainly needs to act in two crucial areas. It must start to target subsidy at the technologies which need it in order to have a genuine prospect of becoming commercially viable. The government will also fail to meet its long-term emissions targets unless it gives serious thought to how it is going to find enough green energy to fill the gap left when the low-carbon energy generated by current nuclear power stations is no longer available."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 6th Report of this Session, which examined initiatives put in place by the Department of Trade and Industry to promote the generation of electricity from renewable sources.

The Government's energy policy and wider climate change programme aims to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources, such as wind, wave and biomass. The Government's target is to supply 10% of Britain's electricity from renewable sources by 2010, with the aspiration of doubling this share to 20% by 2020. The aims of these levels of renewable generation are to make a significant contribution to national and international targets for reducing carbon dioxid e emissions, while improving the diversity and security of the UK's energy supplies. In the period to 2020, however, the contribution of renewables to these aims could be offset by the planned closure of most of the UK's existing nuclear power stations.

To achieve the rapid expansion in renewable energy required by the 2010 target, the Department of Trade and Industry (the Department) introduced in April 2002 the Renewables Obligation. The Obligation requires all electricity suppliers to source a growing percentage of their sales each year from renewable sources. The scheme pushes up the demand for renewable energy, thus increasing the revenue that generators can earn which in turn encourages developers to invest in new generating capacity. Electricity suppliers pass the higher cost of purchasing renewable electricity on to consumers. The Renewables Obligation will cost consumers 1 billion per annum by 2010 rising to 1.5 billion per annum by 2015.

The Renewables Obligation is more expensive than the other mechanisms currently being used under the Climate Change Programme to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These include promoting energy efficiency through the Climate Change Levy, which is paid by non-household consumers of energy, and controlling the carbon dioxide emissions of key industries through emissions trading schemes. The expense of the Obligation reflects the high cost of renewable generation and poor targeting of the scheme - around a third of the funds exceed the support needed by generators. The Department hopes that funding investment in renewables now will reduce future generating costs and thus the cost of each tonne of carbon dioxide saved. It has not established measures or targets to track the industry's progress in reducing costs, however, and consumers will not necessarily benefit if generating costs do fall.

The Department is working to remove barriers to the achievement of the 2010 target, but this work is imposing further financial and non-financial burdens. Support to develop new and emerging renewables technologies and the cost of upgrading the electricity grid, so that it can carry the renewable energy generated, is likely to total 2 billion or more in the period to 2010. New planning guidelines, introduced in 2004, seek to increase the proportion of successful planning applications for renewable sites and will reduce the influence of local communities on planning decisions.

***** *****

APPENDIX 3 Britain set to run out of fuel warns CBI boss

Tue 27 Sep 2005 This article: 

Sir Digby Jones, head of CBI, has warned of low reserves.


Key points * CBI boss says fuel shortages could force staff lay-offs and business closures * Energy Minister admits Britain has only 11 days-worth of gas reserves * Met Office issues 'amber alert' to government contingency planners

Key quote "If we have a cold winter, we are going to throw the switch, businesses will shut down, people will lose their jobs" - Sir Digby Jones, director- general of the Confederation of British Industry

Story in full BUSINESSES could be forced to close down and lay off workers this winter because the country's energy reserves are so low, the director-general of the CBI warned yesterday.

"If we have a cold winter, we are going to throw the switch, businesses will shut down, people will lose their jobs," Sir Digby Jones said.

"If we don't sort out our decrepit supply system, we are, this winter, going to run out of fuel."

According to the CBI, Britain has only 11 days' gas held in reserve to power industrial users during a hard winter. In comparison, other European countries keep an average of 55 days in reserve.

His warning came as the Met Office yesterday issued an "amber alert" to contingency planners in the government - including the NHS and Highways Agency - and in the energy industry to prepare for a "colder than average winter".

The UK energy minister Malcolm Wickes admitted the truth in Sir Digby's words at a fringe meeting of the Labour conference in Brighton attended by both men. Mr Wickes conceded that industry could be badly hit by an unusually cold winter.

Sir Digby last night told The Scotsman that Britain's historical position as a net exporter of energy, coupled with government red tape, had left the country poorly prepared for a cold season.

Until recently, Britain was a net exporter of gas from the North Sea, and because that gas was nearby and on tap, less effort went into constructing gas reserve stations, experts say.

Now, Britain is becoming a net importer of natural gas, much of it from Russia, yet, as ministers admitted yesterday, the UK still lacks proper reserve capacity.

Many of the UK's current generation of electricity generators are gas- fired, and their output would be curtailed by any shortfall in gas supplies. Because domestic electricity users are always given priority over commercial customers, there is no realistic chance of even the worst winter affecting households.

But, as Mr Wickes admitted, most businesses have "interruptible" contracts with their energy suppliers, meaning that they would be the first to be hit by any energy shortage.

"We could have a tight winter," said Mr Wickes. "This is not about shutting off domestic customers, but there could be problems for industry."

Mr Wickes said that responsibility for any energy reserve problems lay with industry. Companies, he said, had been "a little slow" in investing in reserve capacity.

But Sir Digby insisted that government planning officials were ultimately to blame for obstructing companies' attempts to prepare for the long-anticipated decline in North Sea reserves.

"Since 2003, many local authorities have denied planning permission to build new storage capacity, and when industry has appealed those decisions and taken them to central government in Whitehall, [Deputy Prime Minister] John Prescott's office has refused as well," Sir Digby said.

Warnings of potential power interruptions are not confined to industry. Earlier this month, Prospect, a trade union whose members include engineers, scientists and other energy specialists, warned that predicted low temperatures mean "there is a very real threat this could be the winter our luck runs out".

Alan Johnson, the Industry Secretary and Mr Wickes' boss, tried to downplay the warnings last night, insisting there was only a one-in-50 chance of a winter cold enough to exhaust reserves. "And even if it happens, there is no risk to domestic supplies," he said.

But even Mr Johnson admitted that there was a "problem" with reserve capacity, though he promised: "That is going to change."

Sir Digby also called on the government urgently to launch a debate about nuclear power.

"The government never seems to take the energy debate to the consumer - they take it to business all the time. We have to have a proper debate about whether we need nuclear power."

* "Clean" carbon technologies provide better value for money than new nuclear power stations, Eliot Morley, the environment minister has said.

Ministers must decide during this parliament whether to replace Britain's nuclear plants, which supply about 20 per cent of UK electricity.

"Nuclear plants are expensive and if you're looking at the energy mix, then at the moment I think you'll probably get more value from investment in clean coal," Mr Morley said.

***** *****

-- Mike O'Carroll




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