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Wind power key to UK's desperate renewable energy bid

A fresh blow to the government, as it were

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Effectively, though, the IPC is more likely to be busying itself with offshore wind, and approving nuclear plant and offshore wind projects than troubling the onshore wind target. Offshore is less prone to nimbyism than onshore, or at least it has a different class of nimby. The MoD's concerns about radar interference are to be addressed by the development of an action plan "to identify workable solutions to mitigate the impact of wind turbines on radar systems", while extensions to the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) are proposed to allow wind farms to be build closer to shipping lanes.

Sustainable transport

The defects of biofuels are now well-established, but it's clear from the document that this presents some considerable difficulties for renewable strategy. At the moment, the EU's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires that 5 per cent of fuel be biofuel by 2010, and 10 per cent by 2020. For the UK this 10 per cent would amount to 20 per cent of the total target, or a 20 per cent hole in the vision if biofuels are deemed to have been a daft idea in the first place.

"We are committed to meeting both our and the EU's renewable energy goals in a sustainable way," says the document, and although it doesn't quite spell it out, and warbles hopefully about "second and third generation" products that somehow won't be a problem, it looks likely that biofuels won't fit the bill.

Which leaves us looking tentatively elsewhere. "At present the main source of renewable energy available for transport is biofuels. However, vehicles powered through the electricity grid using renewable energy may have a growing part to play." And: "Over the next few years, motor manufacturers have committed to developing electric and, potentially, hydrogen-powered vehicles. In widespread use, such vehicles would have the potential to contribute to the EU renewable transport target."

The authors have also spotted the potential of a large fleet of battery powered vehicles to provide storage for renewable energy sources. They "through vehicle-to-grid technologies could help smooth electricity demand." But as yet we don't have any kind of strategy: "The Government is keen to promote all options for future technological development (including electric and hydrogen) and is interested in examining now how the development of electric vehicles and an appropriate charging infrastructure could be accelerated in the UK."

And what will all of this cost? It's something of a movable feast - overall it will definitely cost lots, but the amount it will cost us over and above not doing anything will depend on the price of oil and commodities. The document suggests that the cost of meeting the 15 per cent obligation will be around £5-6 billion a year in real terms by 2020, but this is based on oil at $70 a barrel, while if it were $150 a barrel the relative cost of the renewable strategy "could fall by 35-40 per cent." So the more you end up having to spend on energy, the smaller the more you're likely to have to spend on renewable energy. But it'll still be lots. ®

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