I have pointed out some of the problems with the UK wind plan, a plan which the current government believes will both fulfill EU renewable electrical generation mandates, and fill the electrical generation gap. In fact the UK wind plan is in shambles. A recent investigation by the Guardian reveals just how badly the plan is failing.
Yesterday I pointed to a report by the Carbon Trust, which simply ignored the issue of inflation in assessing the projected cost of a 29 GW off shore wind development. The Guardian noted that the output of windmill manufacturers had already been booked up for the next 5 years. The wind industry is in the grips of a demand driven inflation that has seen the price of wind double during the last 5 years. Considering the wind craze, there is no reason to expect the wind inflation will stop until investors and politicians recover their sanity.
The Guardian noted that environmental opposition to wind mills in the UK is growing. That opposition does not come from traditional environmental groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, but from grassroots local movements, that object to windmills because they are ugly, and the will destroy some of the most beautiful landscape (and sea scape) in the UK.
The story quotes Stephen Tinsdale, a wind industry spokes person, 'It can cost up to £200,000 just to put an application in, and you can expect it to take three to four years to go through planning. Two-thirds of all applications are refused. On top of that, there are conditions from the Ministry of Defence over radar and conditions by local authorities on when we can and cannot erect them. England has very few places left where you can build large farms. There are potential delays at almost every stage."
Grid connections are another pressing issue, In Scotland alone, 115 renewable projects with a total generating capacity of 9 GWs, are waiting for grid hook up approval, projects have been told to expect a wait of up to 13 years and are expected to deposit Millions of pounds for the right to hook up to the grid.
The National Grid believes that offshore windmill targets are not credible, and that it cannot hook up more than 12.9GW of off shore wind projects. Government plans call for 5 to 6GW wind farms located 10 to 20 miles offshore. Even the Carbon Trust doubts the practicality of this scheme, and wants to move the windmills closer to land. Some off shore backers are getting cold feet.
Planners may also have underestimated the challenge of building a large number of very large off shore windmills. An enormous amount of resources will be needed. One executive stated:
'We are going to need different boats, a whole fleet of vessels, offshore cable installers, helicopters. We are already getting close to our hurdle rates. If things get worse, it makes it a marginal decision whether we invest in them or not. It's all very risky. Because the UK is a difficult place to do business, the utility companies will just go elsewhere. We are not threatening to go, but if a utility finds a project which it can build quickly, it will go there. We are committed to the UK, but it is difficult.
'Until you get absolute consent from government, people will dither and it will take longer to install farms. Industry costs have become very, very expensive, and both government and companies need to work hard to tackle this.'
What we have is a premature plan, paradoxically premature, because the implementation of the plan appears to have begun to late. Yet the implementation is being delayed by by planning flaws, and a lack of commitment. Both the Government and the people of the UK lack a sense of urgency and a commitment to resolving the crisis. They are not fully aware of what is going to happen if the crisis is not addressed, and completely unaware of what will be neccessicary to address the crisis. The crisis threatens the standard of lliving enjoyed by the people of the UK, and threatens their ability to not pay attention to it. Unfortunately if the people of the UK wait till the crisis is upon them it will be too late. In this they are not alone. Nor is this the only energy related crisis faced by the people of the UK and the rest of the world during the next few years.