Everywhere in the world that Renewable Energy subsidies, grants or guaranteed unit price contracts have been set, there has been a gradual, or sometimes even rapid, development of new Renewable Energy assets. Which seems like quite a good reason for the State to partly finance the development of Renewable Energy systems, if you take the long view. (Note : I’m using the word “asset” in its proper, original sense here – something that has value long after it has been created, and long after it has been paid for.)
By the end of the lifetime of German roof-top solar panels, or British wind turbines, the economic signal to assist the deployment of these technologies will have long since vapourised, leaving behind a functioning electricity supply that runs without the use of expensive fuel and doesn’t run the risk of major failures and huge drops in power output – unlike large centralised power stations.
The need to invest in long-term non-fuel widely-distrubuted generation assets plugged into the electricity network is essential for its future stability – the more reliable Renewable resources of all scales the National Grid can call on, the cheaper it will be to guarantee a solid supply for all.
The large energy companies most likely consider investment in small- and medium-scale Renewable Energy by individuals and communities as a threat to their monopoly on electrical generation. And so they should. It is time for big changes in the way energy is supplied and managed in this country.
New, large, centralised power plants that the large energy companies want to build will cost their customers dearly in the form of higher energy prices – and there have been continual battles over the planning for and the financing of large new energy plants.
This is why the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme in the UK is so important to keep – a stimulus to create small-scale Low Carbon power resources that will still have value in 20 or even 30 years time with very low maintenance schedules.
The threshold level of the economic stimulus for small-scale Renewables is comparatively low when compared to other forms of investment. The incentive scheme to install principally solar resources can work with funds much lower than those required to underwrite a new fleet of Nuclear Power stations, for example, and yet create a resource that could rival the new reactors without all that cost of nasty radioactive clean-up at the end of a nuke plant’s life.
But, being Great Britain, the Government have had their heads turned by the large energy companies yet again, it seems, as there are rumours that the FIT will be scrapped :-
“Solar power subsidy under review : By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondents : Published: September 23 2010 : The recent mini-boom in solar power could be in jeopardy, as the government has privately indicated that new feed-in tariffs that have fuelled the industry could be slashed. If such cuts are adopted, renewable energy experts fear that it will scare off investors – with repercussions throughout the industry. “To change the subsidy system just when you can see the success it has had beggars belief,” said one. “Renewable energy investors . . . will lose faith in this government.” Industry insiders also accused the government of hypocrisy. They say that while Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary, was promising the Liberal Democrat conference 250,000 green jobs as part of a “revolutionary” deal to cut emissions, government advisers were holding meetings in back rooms at which they flagged up potential cuts to the feed-in tariffs (FITs)…”
Don’t blame me or anybody in the Green Party or Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth or a number of other Non-Governmental Organisations or independents if in 15 years time there is still not a significant Renewable Energy resource in the United Kingdom. We have expended a lot of personal energy calling for sensible levels of sustainable funding for the renewables revolution. We can do without the limitations of a stop-start regime.
If you want new energy systems, you need to pay for them. It’s called investment, and we need to do it because our current energy systems are decrepit and high carbon. The large energy companies are not prepared to put their own capital into small-scale Renewables, so it falls to the taxpayer to fill the gap. Why not pay the least for the most by directly incentivising small-scale Renewable Energy with a long-term Feed In Tariff scheme ?