Tomorrow I will be a panelist in the Institute of Welsh Affairs event in Bangor University debating ‘Whats the best future energy mix of energy for North Wales and its people’ I’m there representing distributed and community energy. For me the case of localised energy is a simple one of local decision-making, accountability and benefit retention. For example in terms of the £20 billion going into the new nuclear power plant on Anglesey the control is really with the foreign banks and or Westminster in what they will offer to said banks. For many of the community energy schemes I have been involved in the decision is local first and then government bodies second in terms of consents and support. The Welsh Government have set their stall out in terms of declaring that every new energy scheme must have an element of local ownership (not sure a £20 billion nuclear power station counts… oh yes forgot as this is outside WG powers and decisions is from Westminster. back to accountability, decision-making and who does it?) but they have set a very laudable ambition of 1 GW of generation will be in local ownership (lots of definitions need clarifying here but they are consulting on ‘local’)
The model we have wont work if we want a 100% renewable energy as we have a very centralised grid system and a decentralised environmental resource (can be windy or not, night-time and so on, wind on far side of the country… we’d be fine if we could move the cities to the resource but. ha)
I saw an excellent presentation by John Gowdy of Regen on what would be needed to meet our current UK electricity need of about 50GW ish load from renewable sources and simply put we need about 80GW of renewable energy generation capacity because of the load factor of renewables. The question I always ask is do we have enough power on a cloudy, dry, still February (day or month) when demand is at peak but renewable energy is not? (This 50GW is currently free from Electrical Vehicles, more computing server capacity, possible air conditioning growth based on climate change, more houses…) I am a 100% believer in renewable energy but we need to look at the way we pay for, distribute and store energy if we want to reach this future (and will we pay for it?) simple question. If we put the estimated combined £50 billion budget of Hinkley and Wylfa Newydd into energy efficiency in order that we use much less electricity than the Nuclear could generate (don’t know) I wonder what the economics would be? But we live with a market economy where we pay for products and not for the energy we don’t use. (I won’t go into demand side management for now) Current energy storage will be fine for a few hours but not for a few days. We use storage as a sort of top up at the moment and not as a big gap filler (we don’t have a enough storage and by quite a margin) then we get into interconnections with other countries and the whole thing gets even more complicated (won’t mention Brexit)
It’s going to be an interesting debate tomorrow. We don’t have a choice in terms of a low carbon future but the ‘how’ is up in the air at the moment. Back to my title question in terms of ‘which horse to back?’ If we have the money…all of them, then we will be guaranteed to win. but also we need to look at a business model which values the energy we don’t use in order to get some serious investment in there.