Much more than slightly misleading

At the beginning of this month, I wrote this article on the amount of power produced from renewable energy sources in Wales.

    Slightly Misleading

It was prompted by an article in the Western Mail which got a few things wrong, but those faults pale into insignificance compared with this story on the BBC website today, which is an almost incredible mixture of fact and misinformation:

     Wales misses wind farm energy target

So let me try and unravel the two. Firstly, the TAN 8 target set in 2005 is quoted correctly:

The provision of electricity from renewable sources is an important component of the UK energy policy, which has an established target of producing 10% of electricity production from renewable energy sources by 2010. The Assembly Government has a target of 4 TWh of electricity per annum to be produced by renewable energy by 2010 and 7 TWh by 2020.

In order to meet these targets the Assembly Government has concluded that 800 MW of additional installed (nameplate) capacity is required from onshore wind sources and a further 200 MW of installed capacity is required from offshore wind and other renewable technologies.

TAN 8, Section 1.4

So far, so good. But this is what the Welsh government is now claiming:

Five years on, the assembly government said Wales produced in excess of three terawatt hours of electricity from renewable sources.

A spokeswoman added: "Whilst we have not met the 2010 target, there is an additional five terawatt hours of electricity either in the planning system, consented or under construction, that would allow us to significantly exceed it.

"This means we are on course to significantly exceed our previous 2020 target of producing seven terawatt hours of renewable electricity annually by 2020."

The first claim is completely wrong. In fact it is so completely wrong that it can only be called a barefaced lie.

Now I don't know what the electricity figures for 2010 are; as we are still in October, nobody can know that. But we do know what the figures for 2009 are, because they were published in DECC's Energy Trends for September in the section starting on page 25. This is the table:

     

As we can see, Wales generated just over 1.6 TWh of renewable electricity in 2009. Of course the figure for 2010 is almost certain to be higher, mostly because of the Rhyl Flats windfarm. But adding 90 MW of capacity is only likely to deliver something like 275 GWh of electricity, and any other increase in capacity is going to be much smaller. So the 2010 figure will still be less than 2 TWh.

This cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called "in excess of three terawatt hours of electricity from renewable sources".

     

Jane Davidson is the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing. By allowing this sort of rubbish to be published, she is making it obvious that she is not in control of her department ... well, unless she is in control, and therefore responsible for this outrageous piece of misinformation. We need to call her to account for this.

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But let's look again at the second paragraph of the TAN 8 statement:

In order to meet these targets the Assembly Government has concluded that 800MW of additional installed (nameplate) capacity is required from onshore wind sources and a further 200MW of installed capacity is required from offshore wind and other renewable technologies.

To me this shows the total lack of realism in the document itself, which was put together when Carwyn Jones was in charge of the department. These are the actual figures for installed capacity, taken from this spreadsheet

2004 ... 230.9 MW of wind ... 429.5 MW total
2005 ... 329.8 MW of wind ... 528.8 MW total
2006 ... 359.0 MW of wind ... 558.8 MW total
2007 ... 363.2 MW of wind ... 558.8 MW total
2008 ... 375.4 MW of wind ... 574.4 MW total
2009 ... 532.6 MW of wind ... 753.3 MW total

Even if we are charitable and say that the increase promised in TAN 8 was based on the 2004 figures, we have only managed to increase our total installed capacity for wind generation by just over 300 MW. This is less than a third of the target set out by Carwyn Jones in 2005. If we take the 2005 figure as a baseline, the increase is only 200 MW or about a fifth.

That's enough to make a grown man cry. We have had a bunch of clowns in charge of our energy policy in Wales. Well meaning, perhaps, but still inept.

And yet, more by luck than judgement, there is a silver lining to this cloud. Although I am generally in favour of windfarms, I believe that the targets as set out by Carwyn Jones in the second paragraph were flawed. Offshore wind generation is much, much better than onshore wind generation. The load factors are higher, and building them offshore reduces at a stroke the vast majority of problems such as noise, flicker, transport and visual intrusion. If Carwyn Jones had any basic grasp of the issues involved, the figures would have been the other way round ... a 200 MW increase in onshore wind, and a 800 MW increase in offshore. So no marks for him, either.

     

But in spite of this ineptitude, we will probably meet the 2020 target ... though certainly not in the way he imagined. The next big windfarm to come on line will be Gwynt y Môr. It's capacity of 576 MW will produce maybe 2 TWh of electricity a year. After that we have the even bigger Round 3 windfarms in the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel, as I mentioned here. So the picture is not as grim as it might appear.

Yet it has to be said that these windfarms have had nothing to do with the Welsh government. We have a government that likes to make out that it is really quite green, but that it is being held back by Westminster. That's why their statement says:

"Unfortunately, most of the elements that are key to us meeting the target are outside our direct control."

But where are the schemes that the Welsh government is proposing? I don't know of any big renewable energy schemes that we are putting pressure on the UK government to let us build. Our energy ministers have always seemed happy to sit back and let Westminster make the running.

Of course I want decision making power for energy projects over 50 MW to be devolved to Wales. But devolving that power is only half of the story ... we also need to elect a government that is as ambitious for renewable energy in Wales as the SNP has shown itself to be in Scotland.

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3 comments:

Welsh Ramblings said...

An excellent demonstration of the weak leadership in Wales' strongest potential area. I have alot of time for the way Jane Davidson has supported wind power but she is not a nationalist and as such will never be able to make the arguments for Wales to become a renewable energy powerhouse- something that is entirely realistic and achievable based on our geography and resources.

The SNP Government- from a party traditionally interested in oil, a non-renewable resource- has proven itself to be the most progressive in Europe in the field of renewable energy, by having the full responsibilities at its disposal. We could achieve similar things.

Siônnyn said...

When Jane Davidson took up her post, one of her first pronouncements was that Tidal Lagoons were unproven technology and too expensive - both out and out lies as we discussed on a previous thread.

I made a FOI request for any briefing documents or notes that she had been given on this subject, but was told that they were made off the cuff. I have been un-impressed with her ever since.

Anonymous said...

TO SEE JANE DAVIDSON'S TOTAL INEPTITUDE, AND THAT OF HER OFFICIAL(S) mR qUINN LOOK AT THE aSSEMBLY TV SELECT COMMITTE COVERGAE ON 25 nOV 2010. iN ALMOPST 2 HOURS OF WAFFLE SHE AS AT A LOSS TO EXPALIN WHAT HERE DEPT ACTUALLY DID. aS cMMTTEE MEMEBER aLUN dAVIES SAID' NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE' tan 8 WAS 'MARKET LED'(arup'S REPORT TO wag 2005 IE PROFIT LED AND THE BIGGEST SCAM EVER PERPETRATED IN THE uk

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