Sunday, June 09, 2013
Wind farms are a 'complete scam', claims Britain's Environment Secretary -- who says turbines are causing 'huge unhappiness'
Wind farms have been branded a ‘complete scam’ by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, reigniting coalition battle over green power.
As the government unveiled new powers for local residents to block turbines blighting their villages, Mr Paterson condemned many planned schemes as ‘deeply unpopular’ and causing ‘huge unhappiness’ across the country.
The outspoken remarks from a senior Tory minister in charge of environmental policy risks a furious reaction from Liberal Democrats pushing for more renewable power projects.
The Conservatives have taken a tougher line on wind farms in recent months, and this week unveiled plans to give communities a powerful ‘veto’ over controversial new onshore developments.
Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.
Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.
Mr Paterson signalled that plans for wind farms will have to take into account the impact on the countryside and views as well as the desire to save the planet.
In an extraordinary intervention at the Royal Cornwall Show yesterday, the Tory Cabinet minister said: ‘Turbines are regarded as a complete scam, but as of today we have given power to local communities to decide.
‘The criteria is now that environment and landscape will have to be taken into consideration as well as the national energy requirement.’
Under the new rules councils must look at the cumulative impact of wind turbines and reflect the effect on landscape and local facilities.
There is also a major increase promised in the amount developers pay local communities to win them over, including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to 20 per cent.
However, Mr Paterson suggested anger with many schemes would not be overcome by additional bribes.
He added: ‘I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects, both from what I hear nationally and from my own constituency in Shropshire.
‘There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants it and it will be worthwhile. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular,’ the Western Morning News reported.
Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said: 'Wind farms may seem like a scam to a Government minister who questions the science of climate change and who’s pushing for his Shropshire constituency to be fracked for shale gas.
'The public disagrees - two thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine near their home than a fracking site.
'Onshore wind powered almost 2.5 million homes in 2011, is falling in cost and will play a key role in our future energy mix.'
Mr Paterson’s appointment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last September was controversial, with allies forced to deny he was a climate change denier.
In 2007, he described wind farms as ridiculous, claiming they ‘demand vast amounts of public subsidy and do not work’.
Green measures will only save £31 by 2020, says British consumer protection body
Government estimates of the savings that will be made on household energy bills from its green measures have been dismissed as "unduly optimistic".
Consumer Futures, the official UK protection body, today warned the Government its estimates of savings from encouraging consumers to use more energy efficient products and appliances were "unduly optimistic".
It urged the Department of Energy and Climate Change to make an assessment of the impact if take up of new products is lower than predicted while warning that two million low income households, many dependent on electricity for heating, would be worst affected, including many pensioners.
It wants the DECC to investigate measures to offset the costs for poorer customers reliants on electricity.
In a report - The Hardest Hit - it said the average "benefit" from encouraging more use of energy efficient appliances and other green measures would be £31 per household a year - or 2pc - by 2020 rather than the official estimate of £166.
The study estimated that if demand for these appliances is lower than expected, bills would increase on average by £93 or 7pc above where they would have been if the Government had done nothing.
Much of the DECC’s estimate is based on policies introduced in 2002, such as new rules that encourage boilers to be replaced. The Consumer Futures study was based on measures introduced after 2010.
Consumer Futures estimated that 2.1 million low income households may be significant losers from the energy policy, in particular those dependent on electric heating and including many pensioners.
Households reliant on electric heating would see their typical bill rise by £282 by 2020, the report warned. This is because the cost of energy efficiciency policies fall largely on electricity customers. Such initiatives include the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) - investment in the network - and Renewables Obligation, where households with solar panels and other energy generation devices are subsidised by other electricity customers. The schemes will have cost an estimated £4.8bn by 2020.
Consumer Futures called for intervention to protect the most vulnerable customers from unfair additional costs.
Adam Scorer, director of policy at Consumer Futures, said: "Many will be protected from such costs by benefits such as energy efficiency, microgeneration technology and bill discounts. But for those who are not protected, the impact on their bills will be significant.
"Energy policies should provide benefits to many consumers, but as they are rolled out they will also create clear winners and losers. Some of those losers will be hit hard, and will not be in a position to absorb some significant bill shocks."
He also warned that the Government assumptions on savings could prove danergous. "There is a real danger that heroic assumptions about the benefits of product policy could perform the function of an energy policy comfort blanket, providing an illusory sense of security and cost saving," he said. "Consumers cannot afford such over generous policy assumptions.
"The Government must use the current Energy Bill and forthcoming Fuel Poverty Strategy and Heat Strategy to provide greater protection to those who rely on electric heating, but who cannot rely on current protections against the cost of energy policies."
Downing Street is ploughing ahead with a range of measures to "decarbonise" the UK economy, with the costs picked up by taxpayers, businesses and consumers. It is in reaction to the consensus of scientific opinion that human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.
The UK is bound by international agreements to achieve an 80pc reduction in emissions by 2050.
The DECC also launched the Green Deal in January, which offers loans for energy efficient measures to be undertaken on homes with the cost recouped via additional repayments on the homeowner or tenants' energy bills.
But the policy has faced fierce opposition. An amendment to the Energy Bill which would commit the UK to have a “near carbon-free power sector” by 2030 was rejected in House of Commons yesterday. The bill has now passed on to the House of Lords.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The Energy Bill – which received overwhelming support in Parliament yesterday – and our policies to encourage investment in low carbon energy, will help cushion UK consumers from rising global wholesale oil and gas prices.
“Households with electric heating can benefit from the Warm Home Discount, which is helping over 2million households each year, the Green Deal, which will improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock and the Energy Company Obligation, which will put efficient boilers and insulation in thousands of homes each year, helping those who need it most.
"This is on top of work by Ofgem to extend the gas distribution network and a the Government’s grant scheme to help householders with the up-front cost of installing renewable heat equipment.
“We will consider Consumer Futures’ research carefully, but it does not take account the fact households – including those with electric heating - will continue to save money with energy efficiency measures installed before 2010. Our assumptions on products are also not based on expectations of a change in consumer behaviour. We do not assume or require that people replace products any faster than they already do.”
Britain committed to new nukes
Ministers and EDF still disagree on “five or six” issues over the building of Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, Michael Fallon has said, insisting the French company does not have the Government “over a barrel”.
Talks over subsidies for the £14bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset were originally due to be concluded at the end of last year.
But despite suggestions in recent weeks that the two sides were nearing agreement, energy minister Mr Fallon revealed: “We are still apart on five or six issues.”
The comment, in an interview with The House magazine, will cast renewed doubt on the project, which requires not only agreement with the government but also EU state aid approval and for EDF to secure financial partners.
EDF wants the Government to sign a long-term contract guaranteeing it a “strike price” for power from Hinkley Point, subsidised through levies on consumer energy bills. Ministers are under intense pressure not to commit households to paying too much.
Other key terms will include the duration, indexation, and clauses to protect EDF being disadvantaged by other changes in policy.
Asked at an npower event in London on Thursday about the prospect of a EDF securing a rumoured 35-year contract, Mr Fallon said: “Inevitably it is a reasonably lengthy contract if you’re going to get people to invest. I would urge you to wait and see, if we are able to strike a deal, what the terms will be.”
He insisted new nuclear plants were crucial to replace the old ones that are being retired, which produce about 17pc of Britain’s power. “We can’t afford to let 17pc disappear... We need to maintain the energy mix,” he said.
But in the magazine interview Mr Fallon rejected suggestions that the need for new nuclear plants left ministers in a weak negotiating position, citing plans by Japan’s Hitachi to build reactors in Gloucestershire and on Anglesey through the Horizon venture.
“We are not over a barrel,” he said. “We have Hitachi ready to come in... So we are not wholly dependent on Hinkley. We would like to do the deal with EDF but we are not going to do it at any price.
“It’s a very complex negotiation and we are inching closer but we are not quite there yet.”
EDF said on Wednesday that negotiations "are continuing and both sides have characterised them as positive".
Mr Fallon also made an enthusiastic case for shale gas exploitation in the UK, claiming: “It would be irresponsible not to see what’s down there.”
He described shale gas as “very important”, despite admitting its potential here is not yet known, and suggested businesses may move overseas unless Britain can cut its energy costs.
“Shale has dramatically lowered the cost of energy for industry in the States and it is very important that Western Europe is not put at a disadvantage, that we don’t start losing manufacturing processes, steel plants or chemical plants to the States because of the long term cheaper cost of energy there,” he said.
Promised tax breaks for gas explorers would be “firmed up by the summer” and “take effect from next April”, he said.
GWPF Think Tank Sets Out Areas Of CO2 Agreement And Dispute With Royal Society
Disputes magnitude of threat
Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has set out the areas of scientific agreement and dispute about whether man’s carbon dioxide emissions pose an environmental threat.
Foundation director Benny Peiser outlined the issues in a letter to [Fellows of] the Royal Society, which defends man-made warming theory and recently offered to put the GWPF “in touch with people who can offer the Foundation informed scientific opinion”.
Peiser says [he] agrees with the dominant scientific establishment that:
* the greenhouse effect is real;
* CO2’s warming potential follows a logarithmic curve with diminishing returns at higher concentrations;
* absent of feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels would warm the atmosphere by about 1.1ºC; and
* since 1980 global temperatures have increased at an average rate of about 0.1ºC per decade.
But [he] says a lack of understanding about feedbacks means the climate sensitivity of rising CO2 concentrations is a “matter of vigorous scientific debate”.
He says the decline of summer sea ice in the Arctic has happened as sea ice in Antarctic has increased. “This is more consistent with regional albedo changes due to soot than with global temperature changes due to global warming.”
He adds: “There is no consensus that recent climate change has affected the variability of weather or the frequency of extreme weather events.”
[Peiser] says the lack a global temperature rise for the last 16 years is at odds with the so-called “scientific consensus” of man-made warming.
“Predictions of increasing humidity and temperature in the tropical troposphere, a key prediction of rapid greenhouse warming, have been falsified by experimental data, casting doubt on whether the warming of 1980-2000 was man-made,” he adds.
On policy responses, Peiser says: “Policies to decarbonise the economy using today’s technology are likely to be harmful to human welfare and natural ecology… Adaptation may be a cheaper and less harmful policy than mitigation.”
Cooling looms as earth’s true climate calamity
Although we have been enmeshed in a long debate over global warming and climate change, this controversy has been politically motivated, not a response to actual global warming, as there has been no warming for 16 years.
In fact, it is likely we will soon need to take a long, hard look at adjustments in behavior based not on warmth, which, by and large, results in good things, but, rather, on cold, which creates endless problems for both individuals and society.
Scientists from Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg, Russia, stated in the Voice of Russia on April 22, that solar activity is waning to such an extent that the global average yearly temperature will soon begin to decline.
Now, there is no reason to believe there will be any warming during the remainder of this century, says Vladimir Kotlyakov, head of the Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Science, speaking with Vladimir Radyuhin for the Hindu newspaper on April 22, 2013. In the same article, Dr. Yuri Nagovitsyn, academic secretary of the Pulkovo Observatory, is quoted as saying coming generations will have to grapple with temperatures several degrees lower than those today.
On Jan. 8, on NASA's Science News website, Tony Phillips cited Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory as noting we are now in the final stages of Solar Cycle 24, which has been "the weakest in more than 50 years." By the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives shortly, they predict, "magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed," Phillips wrote.
The effects of this weak solar activity have been notable. The United Kingdom just suffered through a winter with temperatures 5 to 10 degrees Celsius below normal, and German meteorologists report 2013 has been the coldest year in 208 years. Writing April 27 in England's Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker noted 3,318 places in the United States that had recorded their lowest temperatures for that time of year since records began. Similar records were set in every province of Canada, and the Russian winter has seen its deepest snowfall in 134 years.
Anthony Watts, at his Watts Up With That blog, shows that, in this century, average U.S. winter temperatures have dropped by 1.45 degrees C, more than twice as much as their rise from 1850-1999 and twice as much as the net rise in the 20th century.
This cooling has come as a big surprise to many. All of mankind's new carbon dioxide emissions were supposed to make things too warm, with climate models indicating the world would heat up by 0.3 degrees C every decade.
Armed with an understanding of the solar cycles, however, Vladimir Bashkin and Rauf Galiulin from the Institute of Fundamental Problems of Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences state the warming in the past century was simply what should be expected when coming out of a mini ice age, rather than any changes caused by man's activities.
Cold causes more disruptions for people than warming, and mankind always has been more prosperous during warmer periods. However, with modern technology, we have the ability to plan accordingly and manage the slow change toward cooling that is likely upon us. But unless the governments of the world turn off the spigots that have fed tens of billions of dollars annually to support only research on man-caused warming, and begin to fund serious science intent on determining what the real global temperature trends are, it will be a decade or more before the truth is told.
The suggestion that the Earth may actually be cooling, not warming, is based not on science-fiction computer projections but, instead, on centuries of real data of how our planetary system actually works. It is time to turn away from supposing and direct our attention to reality.
Green Investors Face Bankruptcy As Spain Cuts Subsidies Even Further
Juan Antonio Cabrero is bracing for the savings he invested in a solar-energy farm in northern Spain to disappear into light.
In 2008 Mr. Cabrero put up his €20,000 ($26,200) life savings and took on a €80,000 bank loan to buy part of the solar farm, pledging his home in nearby Tafalla as a guarantee. Spain’s government was promising more than two decades of large subsidies to spur the growth of solar energy, and Mr. Cabrero thought his investment would safely provide a nest egg for his planned retirement in 2018.
Now, because of cuts in renewable-energy subsidies the government is said to be planning, the 60-year-old Mr. Cabrero may lose both his savings and his house.
“I feel cheated, misled and assaulted by my own government,” said Mr. Cabrero, who works in sales for a company that builds hybrid-electric buses. “I never would have done this if I had known what would happen.”
Under a broad energy-sector overhaul to be announced as early as June 21, Spain’s government will reduce subsidies to renewable-energy producers by 10% to 20%, people familiar with the plan said Thursday.
The move could drive tens of thousands of struggling solar-energy companies and individual investors like Mr. Cabrero into default at a time of deepening recession and eventually boost loan losses for banks that financed the projects.
A spokeswoman for the Energy Ministry declined to comment.
Spain’s renewable-energy sector includes wind- and solar-energy projects. The proposed cuts are a far bigger threat to solar-energy investors because their projects are more heavily indebted.
Deputy Energy Minister Alberto Nadal told representatives of Spanish and foreign banks late last month that the government was planning to cut the level of government-guaranteed revenue for renewable-energy production, a government-guaranteed payment that effectively acts as a subsidy because it is far above market rates, according to people briefed on the meeting.
Bank executives present at the meeting argued that they shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the energy overhaul by assuming any resulting losses, a senior Spanish banker said, adding that Spanish banks are still lobbying to soften the planned cuts.
Those government subsidies increase the costs for running the nation’s electrical system. For years, the subsidies and other overall costs of running the system have been higher than the amount of money generated by actual sales of power to households and businesses, resulting in a “tariff deficit.” Reducing the tariff deficit helps cash-strapped Madrid’s fiscal picture because the government likely would have to devote less money to filling that gap in future years.
Spain’s electricity system has registered deficits during most of the past decade. By May, the total accumulated deficit had reached about €26 billion ($34.04 billion). The government has promised to narrow the annual gap this year as it struggles to bring down its budget deficit and limit the rise in household electricity bills.
Spain began offering large subsidies and other incentives in the late 2000s to promote the growth of solar-energy projects. In addition, banks loaned the renewable-energy companies an estimated €30 billion. As a result, the amount of solar-power capacity installed in Spain far surpassed official government targets, increasing the tariff deficit.
Since 2010, the government has taken steps to curb the tariff deficit, including imposing a temporary limit on the hours of electricity generation for which most solar-energy producers receive payment above market rates. These producers say the limits adopted since 2010 could cut their revenue by as much as 40% this year.
José Donoso, managing director of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union trade association, said the subsidy cuts would also lead to a wave of defaults in the renewable-energy sector because companies managing many of the 60,000 or so solar-power installations in Spain would have trouble servicing their debt loads. He said he couldn’t estimate how many were at risk of default.
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Posted by JR at 5:28 PM