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UK’s energy strategy ”cowardly and incoherent” – solar and onshore wind are the practical options

Michael Grubb: The writer is professor of energy and climate change at
University College London and was former senior adviser to energy regulator

The UK energy strategy is both cowardly and incoherent. The defining
feature of the UK energy strategy is its incoherence. It does not know what
problem it is trying to solve – and thus it does not solve any. By
failing to boost energy efficiency and kicking the only possible short-term
supply option – that of cheap onshore wind – into the long grass, it
most certainly will not help those struggling with energy bills in the
coming winters.

Offshore wind is the great success story of the past decade
and capacity has grown sharply in recent years. The strategy increases the
offshore target for 2030 from 40GW to 50GW. That’s very ambitious but
possible. But offshore wind involves big and complex kit from only a few
suppliers, it usually takes three to five years from bid to completion, and
the pace of expansion could stress supply chains and drive up costs. If it
were all concentrated in the North Sea, there would be immense challenges
for the grid – both in transmission and in managing the peaks and
troughs. Wind is best when distributed more widely.

The most cowardly failure concerns onshore wind. It is not only our cheapest energy resource
– it typically costs about a third to a quarter of what people will soon
be paying for their electricity – but it is, with solar, the only one
that could make a dent in the short term. The strategy outlines a plan for
nuclear to 2050, kicked off with one new plant to be funded before the next
general election. If it takes an energy crisis to actually make a decision,
so be it, but it will not help solve the crisis.

Nuclear is not only slow
and expensive, it would need to be flexible to ramp up and down with the
swings of demand, wind and solar. This further undermines the economics.
Launching a 30-year plan for nuclear also raises the question – why
can’t the government set out even a coherent 30-month plan for energy

 FT 10th April 2022


April 12, 2022 - Posted by | politics, renewable, UK

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