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Renewables are 'key to keeping lights on'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

Comments (5)

The Westcountry’s promising renewable energy sector could play an “increasing role” in limiting Britain’s reliance on expensive foreign gas imports.

With no new major power stations – including the second generation nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset – expected to be operational in the next decade, the country’s power needs will increasingly hinge on imports.

That exposure could ultimately lead to rising household bills, particularly given the narrowing margin between electricity generation and demand.

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of the green energy group Regen SW, said only the renewables sector, particularly proven technologies such as wind turbines and photovoltaics, could respond in the timescales concerned.

“We have excellent renewable energy resources in the South West and if we invest in them, it would reduce our reliance on foreign gas,” he said. “I always say I would prefer to be reliant on British wind than Russian gas.

“The renewables industry is well placed to play a role, that’s not to say in the next two years we will be completely reliant on renewables to fill that gap, but they will definitely play an increasing role because they can be deployed pretty quickly.

“In terms of solar energy, two years ago there was 10MW of capacity in the South West, now that has risen to 500MW which shows how rapidly they can be deployed.”

Mr Hyman said the industry faced a number of issues including council’s “local plans”.

Developers also needed to work more closely with communities, delivering more local benefits, if projects were to go ahead. Ofgem also needed to approve investment in the local grid to enable more power generation schemes.

Dr Peter Connor, senior lecturer in renewable energy at the University of Exeter, said global demand for energy had risen for “decades” while government policies, now focusing on security of supply, had been driven by the need for cheap power.

If the coalition Government back-tracked on promises not to subsidise the second generation of nuclear power stations then taxpayers or consumers could be left picking up the bill. He warned that “prices could go through the roof” adding: “We will pay for it one way or another.”

The South West was designated as a “marine energy park” by the Government last year making the region the sector’s focal point in the UK.

Cornwall’s Wave Hub, a wave energy “nursery” in Falmouth Bay, and research facilities at Plymouth and Exeter universities, are all key to the “virtual” park plan which will gravitate around the ports of Falmouth, Hayle, Plymouth and Bristol.

That’s been boosted by news that Plymouth had been fast tracked for City Deal status, a scheme designed to kick-start growth in the regions.

Johnny Gowdy, programme director at Regen SW, said: “The Plymouth City Deal vision is to establish the city as a global centre of marine science and marine technologies.

“Their plans include a focus on the commercialisation of new technology through the establishment of a ‘production campus’ for technology integration and a programme of initiatives to improve the productivity and export potential of marine-based enterprises.

“This is exactly the sort of local enterprise support and investment that new industries such as marine energy need in order to reach their commercial potential.”

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  • johndavies  |  February 22 2013, 10:54AM

    Stork, The tide may not be in yet, but it is coming in or going out, which is when electricity is produced. Also the tide times vary all round our sceptered isle (and are predictable and published years ahead), so with generators spread around the coast, tide could actually provide base load. Excuse me for butting in - John's wife

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  • johndavies  |  February 21 2013, 11:38PM

    For some live info look here The grid- http://tinyurl.com/6ja8btf European Wind outputs - http://tinyurl.com/c5b35rn OFGEM payments - http://tinyurl.com/affaqep As I write this, on a cold frosty night, the UKs entire 4,413 wind turbine fleet is producing- just … 5% of demand !!! pathetic. So to provide 50% you'll need another 40,000 of them, but as the best sites have been taken, say 60,000….where will they all go ???

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  • sandman18  |  February 20 2013, 2:05PM

    At one point yesterday all the 7,168mW of wind turbines monitored by the national grid were producing 50mW and it was like that for most of the day !!. Even if you doubled the amount of turbines you would still have got only 100mW because the wind was just not blowing hard enough anywhere on the UK. But it would have cost us millions of pounds to acheive that, the goverment needs to divert the subsidies to build new Nuclear or Gas power plants soon or we will all be sitting around in the dark...

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  • Stork  |  February 20 2013, 12:55PM

    What a load of rubbish. I look out of my window, the sun is not shining, the wind-there isn't any, and I don't think the tide will be in for some hours yet. So, where's the juice coming from to power my electrical items in my house and the office and factories ? Why, power stations, of course. The Green Developers are only in it for the subsidies, ok.

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  • 2TheBeehive  |  February 20 2013, 10:58AM

    This is a complete fallacy and whilst renewables can play a part in providing some energy, the subsidies would be best used to bringing deep sea methane gas into use. Old gas fields in the North Sea could be used and we would no longer have to be reliant on any foreign country, for our energy supplies.

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