At the bottom of the renewable energy table

I came across some news today which surprised me, and makes me angry. For what it's worth, this is EU Sustainable Energy Week, and figures have just been published which show that the share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption of the EU has almost doubled in the decade from 1999 to 2009 to now stand at 9%. This is not just electricity generation, but all inland energy consumption including energy for heating, transport and industrial processes.

Now if I were a politician wanting to put a positive spin on things, I could say that the UK has done particularly well, for its percentage from renewables more than trebled in that period. But before we sit down and pat ourselves on the back, we should look at the actual figures. If this image is too small to read, click it to open the pdf version.


Back in 1999, the UK's percentage of energy from renewables was 0.9%, the worst of any member state of the EU with the exception of Malta. The percentage in 2009 was 3.0% ... which means we have risen from 26th to 25th, and are now ahead of Luxembourg as well as Malta.

This is truly pathetic.

Right at the top of the table are Latvia with 36.2% and Sweden with 34.4%. Outside the EU but even further ahead is Norway with 42.4%. Latvia came as a surprise to me, but a large bulk of its energy comes from wood. I guess that qualifies as a renewable if it's sustainable, I can only trust it is. Elsewhere the bulk is from hydro electricity. But even among countries that are similar to the UK, we are a long way behind: Germany is on 8.5%, France on 7.5% and even Ireland on 4.3%. So we have no excuses.


Now I don't want to ignore the fact that the UK is doing some positive things. The Round 3 offshore wind programme will improve the situation. But when we consider that the UK has the best wind and tide resources in the whole of Europe by a very long way, it's impossible to come to any conclusion other than that the UK has been sitting on its hands.

I think we have allowed ourselves to be sidetracked into a flirtation with nuclear, with the result that we have not put any real effort into developing our renewable resources. We have let countries like Denmark, Spain and Germany do the work, and as a result they will rake in the profits that we could and should have been making. For example, as I noted in this post, the consortium that will build and operate Gwynt y Môr is all German. So apart from the rent paid to the Crown Estate, the profits it will make will all go to Germany.


We need to face up to the fact that the UK has a fourth-rate energy policy. The UK is at the foot of the table because of this and for no other reason. In all conscience, how can we allow Westminster to continue to set our energy policy for us? Wales will do much, much better when we can pursue an energy policy of our own.

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Jac o' the North, said...

In Wales 'renewable energy' equates almost solely with wind turbines, and the pylons and power lines that further despoil our beautiful country. Why should anyone support this?

Especially as more and more people are waking up to the fact that wind turbines are ugly, useless, and very expensive. Report after report tells how inefficient and expensive they are.

So maybe it's time for those who are genuinely in favour of renewable energy - as opposed to 'seen to be green' politicos and subsidy-farmers - to realise that if they want a green revolution then their support for wind turbines discredits anything else they might propose.

MH said...

Not "almost entirely" Jac. Wind accounts for most; but hydro, landfill gas, biofuels, solar (both thermal and PV) heatpumps and the like play their part too. But what's criminal is that we've hardly touched our most valuable renewable resource, the tide ... which could provide much more renewable energy for Wales much more dependably than wind.

The reason that the UK's energy policy is so reliant on wind is because we are not developing the technologies for ourselves, but have passively relied on what other countries like Denmark and Germany have taken the lead in. They developed wind because it was the best renewable resource they had. All the UK government has done is let them do the same here, and let them take all the profit from doing it. We could and should have been doing the same with tidal because it is the best resource we have.

And why should we be so worried about wind turbines and power lines? Why single those out more than the roads, railways, power stations, open cast mines, dams, ports, factories, farms, commercial buildings and housing that equally "despoil our beautiful country"? We do not live in an untouched wilderness, we live in a landscape that we have created; and if we develop sensitively, what we build can enhance the beauty of our country rather than detract from it. Do you want to live in a nature reserve or in an active, thriving country?

And why not give us details of "report after report?" Don't resort to innuendo, give us links.

Jac o' the North, said...

MH, the Germans and the Danes have given up on wind energy in their own countries. They now limit their activities to flogging the useless "technology" to other countries, and of course, milking the subsidies.

This may be slightly dishonest but nowhere near as bad as the stupidity (or duplicity) of our politicians in London and Cardiff in going along with the pretence that wind turbines are anything other than ugly, useless and expensive.

As for the things you list in the final paragraph these, without exception, are useful and productive. They may not be pretty but then again we don't have them in the kind of unspoilt, upland wildernesses sought after by wind farm subsidy-milkers.

MH said...

Jac, you've said that before on this blog about Germany and Denmark, and you were shown to be wrong here and here.

If you have a short memory, let this serve as a reminder. But I suspect you do remember, and are simply trying to spread what you know to be lies.

You're free to do that sort of thing on your blog, but not here. Take this as a warning.

Jac o' the North, said...

I’m not quite sure what I’m being referred back to. If it’s yet more environmentalist propaganda then obviously I’m not going to accept that. If it’s your 1 2 3 links then these all refer to offshore wind farms, and obviously have no relevance to this discussion on the despoliation of our upland wildernesses.

The thing is – and you may have guessed this, MH – I am a climate change sceptic. It’s not an obsession, I am invariably re-active rather than pro-active. The reasons are many, not least among them the fact that I can spot a charlatan at 500 yards on a foggy night. And the environmental lobby has more than its fair share of charlatans. You, I’m glad to say, appear not to be a charlatan. On the other hand, I fear you may be a zealot.

Other reasons are that – and perhaps you can help me here – I’m at a loss to see how industrialisation can be misrepresented as protecting the environment: First, by driving highways into our unspoilt wildernesses to cater for the massive machines that follow, transporting and erecting the wind turbines. But before erection, vast concrete bases for each turbine must be sunk in carbon-capturing bogs. Then come the access roads to each and every turbine. Next, the pylons to carry power lines, requiring more massive machines; and more access roads. If that equates with concern for the environment, and for wildlife, then I’ve missed something.

On top of which, I’m still waiting to hear that some tropical island paradise has been evacuated due to rising sea levels, as we have been promised for 20 years or more would happen to countless islands and archipelegos. Or, how about an apology from the idiot who, some 10 years ago, predicted that Britain would never see snow again. Moving on, and now it must get a little more serious, for you have set the tone.

You wrote that I am simply spreading what I know to be lies. I suggest that what you really mean – as I say above – is that I have rejected the green propaganda you have quoted and linked to. But I remain open-minded – you provide me with irrefutable and impartial proof and you will have a convert.

Finally, and now I am being very, very serious. Your final paragraph seems to say that I peddle lies on my own blog. I do not. I give strong opinions, and views with which many may, and do, disagree (I’m used to that) but I do not peddle lies. My blog is open to anyone to make a comment, I don’t vet anything submitted, any comment goes straight up. That’s the sort of man I am, I believe in free speech. Which is why I was so concerned by your, “Take this as a warning”. I’m not sure how to take it. What exactly do you mean?

MH said...

Jac, You have just said that I accused you of spreading lies. Anybody who reads what I said can see that I only suspected you of doing that.

It is possible that you had genuinely forgotten that you made the same claim that Germany and Denmark "have given up on wind energy in their own countries" before, and forgotten that I had shown you then that you were wrong. However the other possibility is that you did remember, yet wanted to repeat something that you knew to be untrue.

But what is not in question is that your statement is untrue, and I make no apologies for showing it to be untrue.

Others are free to make up their own minds, but if you were genuinely mistaken or had simply forgotten the earlier exchange, I think your reaction now would be rather different.

Jac o' the North, said...

MH, let's stick to the issue. The links you provided referred to offshore wind farms. I am criticising the ugliness, the destructiveness, the expense and the sheer inefficacy of wind farms in upland Wales.

You provide evidence that either the Danes or the Germans are still planning wind farms in pristine, onshore locations and I will concede that I am wrong in saying that both nations have given up on wind power.

But, to make this absolutely clear, these must be onshore wind farms that are being planned today for construction in the future, not those being built today, or in the near future, for which planning permission or whatever was granted in the past.

P.S. I'm delighted that you only "suspected" me of being a liar. (Must make suspected murderers everywhere feel a whole lot better.) Now what about the reference to my own blog? And the warning?

MH said...

Jac, take my advice and stop digging. If you were only criticizing onshore windfarms, does this mean that you are in favour of offshore windfarms? I reckon that would be quite some conversion, for it would at least mean you think they are useful. You can't have it both ways.

As I said before—and it was a warning, even though couched in gentler terms—if you want to make assertions, it is up to you to provide evidence for them. If you, or anyone else, want to repeat assertions without being able to back them up, or resort to innuendo to make your points, then you must find somewhere else to do it. On rare occasions when people have done this before, I have warned them and sometimes removed their comments. So be careful what you do next.

As for your blog, you are free to say whatever you want on it ... whether true or false, whether sensible or silly. But as I can see, you've just used it to add to your tally of lies and innuendo. For example, you say you were "told" that you are now a "persona non grata". I certainly didn't tell you that, nor did I remove your comment. It's here, exactly as you posted it, when you posted it.

Jac o' the North, said...

What I will say is that abandoning onshore turbines to focus on offshore turbines is tantamount to saying, 'No, hang on, they do work, honest - we just got it wrong about putting them on land'. Next step? 'Oh, sorry, folks; they don't work at all'.

As for the exact subject matter here - read the first paragraph of my first comment. In reality, I don't give a toss about offshore turbines killing seagulls in the Baltic or turbines on top of the bloody Alps causing avalanches, they're somebody else's problems. Being a Welshman, and a nationalist, my concern is Wales.

As for my latest blog, here's the sequence: My posting timed at 20:02 appeared on your blog and was then taken down. When I tried to post it again I was blocked (nobody actually said 'persona non grata', for God's sake! Why must you be so literal, so pedantic?). This despite the fact that my postings have hitherto gone onto your blog automatically. I then put out something on my blog, criticising you - et voila!, my posting reappeared.

I feel that we have come to a parting of the ways; for you are clearly just another blinkered and dogmatic environmentalist. Like all fanatics you lack balance and a sense of humour, which means that you are not the sort of person I'd bother with outside of the blogosphere. Or, from now on, in it.

MH said...

Your attempts at trying to justify yourself are laughable. As anybody who uses Blogger will know, once a comment has been deleted it cannot be reinstated. But because you were angry at being shown to be wrong, you let your temper get the better of you. When and if you can get your temper back under control, look back at what you said. Your claim was:

MH, the Germans and the Danes have given up on wind energy in their own countries. They now limit their activities to flogging the useless "technology" to other countries, and of course, milking the subsidies.

No mention of the distinction between offshore and onshore that you've subsequently tried to make. You couldn't stand being shown to be a liar and you've tried to bullshit your way out. I can't say I have much sympathy for you. I did warn you, but you just carried on regardless.

MH said...

If anyone's interested, the Germans have produced a short booklet in English called Renewable Energy in Europe, which shows not only the overall energy consumption of the EU member states, but also the electricity generation figures and some of the trends:

Renewable Energy in Europe

Unknown said...

Jac has the facts wrong. Wind turbines are not inefficient or useless. And he's welcome to his opinion that they're ugly and they despoil the countryside, but I disagree with him, as do the majority of people in Wales.

Wind power is a very low cost electricity generator, and is far better for returning money to Wales than fossil fuel generators via employment and supply chain. Wind farms employ about ten times more than gas power stations, in terms of jobs per kWh generated.

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