The sort of energy Wales really wants

While reading this post on the excellent Ynni Cymru website, I found out that a poll had been conducted last year about how people thought we should generate electricity in Wales.

The results are summarized here, and the full tables are available in pdf and spreadsheet form.

The first question was a general question about the place of wind energy.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement. "I support the continuing development of wind power as part of a mix of renewable and conventional forms of electricity generation."

Agree ... 64%
Neutral ... 12%
Disagree ... 21%

The second question asked whether people were generally for, neither for nor against, or generally against the development of different types of large-scale energy projects in their areas.

In general, would you be for or against the development of large-scale projects being built in your local council area involving each of the following energy sources?

Coal ... 38% for ... 23% neutral ... 31% against
Shale Gas ... 24% for ... 20% neutral ... 38% against
Gas (excluding shale gas) ... 42% for ... 25% neutral ... 22% against
Nuclear ... 27% for ... 16% neutral ... 48% against
Oil ... 30% for ... 32% neutral ... 27% against

Wind ... 64% for ... 11% neutral ... 20% against
Solar ... 82% for ... 8% neutral ... 5% against
Hydro ... 82% for ... 9% neutral ... 3% against
Bioenergy ... 56% for ... 18% neutral ... 9% against

The percentages in favour of renewable energy (the bottom four) are all remarkably high. It's interesting to note that, for wind energy, the figures for this second question are virtually identical to the figures for the first question. The first question is a general question, but the second is specifically about large scale development in people's own local area. This suggests that there is not much nimbyism in Wales about wind farms: those who are in favour of wind energy do not object to windfarms in their areas; and those who object to windfarms in their areas object to windfarms per se rather than because they are visible from their back yard.

More people in Wales are against nuclear energy than against any other form of power.

The third question asked people to choose from which one source they would prefer to receive the majority of their electricity.

In general, from which ONE of the following energy sources would you choose to receive the majority of your electricity?

Solar ... 26%
Hydro ... 23%
Wind ... 16%
Bioenergy ... 4%

Total for renewables ... 69%

Nuclear ... 10%
Gas (excluding shale gas) ... 4%
Coal ... 3%
Shale gas ... 1%
Oil ... 1%

Total for non-renewables ... 19%

Other ... 1%
Don't know ... 13%

Finally, there was a question on the impact of windfarms on tourism.

Generally speaking, would the presence of a wind farm affect or not affect your decision of visiting that area?

Would be affected ... 26%
Would not be affected ... 66%
Don't know ... 9%

I think results like these don't need much commentary. Overwhelmingly, we want our energy to be produced from renewable sources rather than from fossil fuels or nuclear. And, with our wealth of renewable resources, Wales is easily able to do this.

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

The idea that people don't like wind farms is a myth. In this Survation poll last October 70% said, "I would be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area." 30% said they would not be happy.

craig said...

whilst im not against energy that is renewable i am against the greenwash that is "renewable energy". in short, "renewable energy" devastates chinese peasant lives in order to enrich the wealthy land owning western elite, and make middle class fuel bill payers feel that they are helping the environment as they keep their homes at a steady 21 degrees. as you say, these figures dont really need much explanation, but just because 80% of welsh people think theyre better off hanging on to englands apron strings rather than buying a new welsh apron, doesnt mean their beliefs are not self destructive and the result of propaganda and hegemony. if i have a choice between "renewable" energy from a wind "farm" (just what constitutes a wind farm?) built by a company from outside of wales, using materials obtained from outside of wales, with labour and expertise from outside of wales and profits going into rich peoples pockets outside of wales, or energy from the apparently huge coal field we have sitting in our territorial waters, using innovative, genuinely green technology developed in welsh universities and companies by welsh people, and extracted using welsh labour and expertise, with profits going to all the people of wales, i know which one i would vote for every time and im pretty sure that is how most welsh people would vote too. but of course the questions arent worded as such. the real point here is though, if we want to promote living green lives, the choices you and the survey makers present are akin to asking a gastronome to choose which he/she would recommend, a lump of shit with nuts on it or a lump of shit covered in chocolate. if we are genuinely concerned with the environment and how our energy needs hurt others and the planet, there is only one choice, and that is to use a lot less. i dream of a wales that leads the way in innovative ways to do that. but instead, yet again, we are like a wet fart in a cheap corner shop plastic bag, the type that embarrassingly spills its contents on the way home as soon as the edges of the value pack british bacon that you just bought comes into contact with it.

Anonymous said...

Craig, you've posited a false choice between renewables and Welsh clean coal. Clean coal technology is not at the deployment stage yet. Wind is. All serious countries are deploying wind energy.

As for expertise outside Wales, it is a fact that Welsh farmers are getting money from wind turbines and it is a fact that the energy firms employ some Welsh workers and engineers.

Wales has to meet its renewable energy targets.

As a Welsh nationalist I believe in energy independence. That is impossible to achieve without renewables. The attitude of Craig ultimately serves a colonial policy towards Wales, to keep us underdeveloped.

craig said...

"all serious countries"! what does that even mean?

did you skim read what i wrote by any chance? i was trying to make 3 points; "renewables" are neither renewable nor green; that the only real green choice if we have if we are to be a "serious country" is to find innovative ways to use less energy and not just pass the environmental damage on to other countries; and that we need to ensure that whatever we do, it benefits wales and the welsh and doesnt just act to drain even more money and talent out of our country. how you've got me trying to keep us an underdeveloped colonial backwater baffles me a bit.

i too believe in energy independence for wales, something that, with all our resources, would not be difficult to attain, but one sure way of making sure that that never happens, is to support what's going on now, and to be happy just because a few welsh farmers and some welsh workers and engineers are involved in a rerun of the english steel, coal, slate and granite asset stripping of wales that took place in the last two centuries.

we need to be imaginative and innovative in order to solve our energy problems and not just do what weve always done, trying to emulate "serious countries".

Anonymous said...

There isn't a choice not to have renewables, Craig. It's not even a real point. By "serious" countries I mean the European nations we aspire to be like. Denmark, Germany, or Scotland.

Those countries want more renewables, not fewer of them.

craig said...

there isnt a choice!!!! and denmark, germany and scotland are the serious countries we should be emulating? we need a smarter argument than that if we are to genuinely tackle the environmental issue and wales' energy independence.

MH said...

Thanks for the link, 11:31. Somehow I don't think the Mail on Sunday, who commissioned that poll, would have published the answer to that question. But I think tha finding is pretty much in line with most surveys.

It's also worth pointing to this story (the report itself is here) which shows that the impact of wind turbines on tourism is negligible. But mid-Wales like Russell George and Glyn Davies have been burying their heads on this issue. It is interesting to look at the party cross-breaks in the Survation poll. Tory voters (along with those who intend to vote UKIP) are markedly less supportive of wind farms than supporters of other parties. But even so, a majority of those who intent to vote Tory (60.8% to 39.2%) and UKIP (57.8% to 42.2%) would be happy to have a windfarm in their locality.

MH said...

Another interesting thing about the poll are the questions on "green taxes". They are first mentioned in Question 11:

At the moment the average annual household energy bill includes £128 in “green taxes”, used to subsidise items such as wind farms, and other government measures By 2020, this figure will be around £270 Do you support or oppose the existence of these charges?"

The question is worded to imply that this subsidy is primarily used to support renewable energy generally and wind energy in particular, which is not true. But as we might expect from that wording, only 17.8% support them and 60.3% are opposed. It is only later that this figure is broken down, with people asked their opinion on each element.

Renewables Obligation: (+£33 to bill) Requires energy companies to get more of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power.
36.1% continue it ... 40.7% scrap it

EU Emissions Trading System: (+£8 to bill) Places a cap on the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed and requires companies to trade permits to produce those emissions.
26.4% continue it ... 28.3% scrap it

Feed-in-Tariffs: (+£8 to bill) Gives money to customers who carry out their own small-scale electricity
generation, e.g. using solar panels or wind turbines on their house, by letting them sell electricity back to the grid at higher prices.
38.8% continue it ... 38.8% scrap it

Smart Meters and 'Better Billing': (+£4 to bill) These give consumers more information about their own energy consumption and costs.
46.2% continue it ... 34.1% scrap it

Warm Home Discount: (+£11 to bill) Subsidises a reduction of fuel bills for low income customers.
The cost is an average across all households, but low income households receive a subsidy instead of paying more.
50.7% continue it ... 25.7% scrap it

Energy Companies Obligation: (+£59 to bill) Requires energy companies to help insulate the homes of poorer customers to make them more energy efficient.
36.9% continue it ... 37.3% scrap it

Carbon Price Floor: (+£5 to bill) A tax on producing energy using fossil fuels, in order to reduce carbon emissions.
31.6% continue it ... 42.9% scrap it

When broken down, the figure supporting each element is considerably higher than the 17.8% who support the package. So if question 11 had been asked after the breakdown, I'm certain the answer would have been very different.

I one sense, I am against most of these charges in the form they exist, particularly those aimed at helping the less well off. The aims are right, but the costs are better met from general taxation because it has an element of progressivity, meaning the rich pay proportionately more of the cost, and the poor pay proportionately less. By adding it to ordinary bills, rich and poor pay the same ... or in fact the poor pay more, because better off people are in a better position to pay for energy saving measures and thus save themselves money.

The news that some of these charges will now be switched to general taxation is very welcome for that reason.

MH said...

Craig, I have to say that you appear to be speaking in some sort of secret code that I'm sure makes sense to you, but doesn't make sense to me.

Renewables are, by definition, renewable. And they are also green, provided that the carbon cost of building and maintaining the installation is less than the energy produced. Also, I don't see how producing our electricity from renewable sources has any negative impact on "Chinese peasants" or anyone else in the world.

Of course I don't disagree with you about the need to reduce energy consumption. But, at least in terms of electricity, our consumption is likely to rise rather than fall because of the increased use of electricity in transport in trains and cars in place of fossil fuels. Provided the electricity is produced cleanly, I don't see that as a problem. In fact it could be very helpful, because cars will store a significant amount of electricity, and battery technology is likely to improve as a result. That will help solve the problem of intermittency inherent in many forms of renewables.

Neither would I disagree with you about where the profits from renewable electricity generation go. Of course I want more to be made in Wales and more profits to be retained in Wales. But why single out electricity as something for which profits are not retained in Wales? We could say the same about many other products too. How much does Wales keep profits from the cars we buy? Or the computers? Or the mobile phones we use? Or the food we buy in supermarkets? Or the banks we keep our money in?


On the specific subject of coal (and the same would apply to gas) reserves in Wales, the thing that is important to remember is that these are fossil fuels, and burning them will contribute to global warming. You talk about "genuinely green technology" but, as the other Anon has said, we do not yet have a workable model for carbon capture and storage ... particularly the storage. If we develop it, it might well change the picture. But we don't have it yet.

In wind farms, we have a developed technology that makes a difference now. Therefore we should make the most of it now. We could, in fact, generate more than 100% of the electricity we need from wind.

But that shouldn't stop us developing other renewables. Solar is really taking off in a big way. But the one area in which we could lead the world is in tidal lagoons ... because a high tidal range is something we have that other countries don't have. If we can get it to work, for example in Swansea Bay, we have a model to export to the world.

craig said...

secret code? never heard of green washing then? and erroneously labelling something to make it look healthy, positive and green is a common enough practice. "local food" doesnt have to be local, "contains one of your five a day" doesnt mean it doesnt contain toxins, new "luxury 3 bedroomed detached houses" are not most peoples idea of luxury. the "renewables" industry is enormous. its in the best interests of the people who run that industry (the same people who always run every industry), to paint as much green paint on it as possible. that is not a crazy new concept ive just come up with.

an explanation of why renewables are not by definition renewable:
its from the daily mail but theres thousands of pages of this on the internet from less "dirty" sources. its not a secret. producing energy from renewable sources is admirable and as i said, something i support 100%, unfortunately, the "renewables" we are talking about are not from renewable sources. somebody is paying the price.

again, agree with you about electricity consumption increases being ok as long as its clean. but what is happening now is not clean, so i dont support it. just because it looks clean to us and its marketed as such, does not mean it is. and all the evidence shows, if we think our electricity is clean or we have energy saving devices in our home, we actually use more of the stuff.

i didnt single anything out. your article was about renewable energy, so i addressed that. i believe the same should apply to all the other industries too. and just because we get fleeced by all the others doesnt mean we should let the "renewables" industry do the same. cars, computers, phones are all established markets, theyre out there already, so it would be hard to change that. but renewable energy is just starting, we could actually, without too much hassle make the energy sector in wales, truly renewable, truly green and designed to benefit all the people of wales, not just wealthy land owners, politicians who will end up on "renewables" boards, and asset stripping foreign mercenaries.

every single thing we do now contributes to global warming. every letter of your blog pumps out CO2, from the making of your keyboard to the cooling of the servers and to the coffee you drink while you write. but that doesnt mean you shouldnt write it. oil creates CO2 but i dont see much of a call for scotland to stop using its supplies. if we have as much coal as they say we do, then we need to play the long game and set up the institutions that are going to find the answers to the difficult moral dilemas. come up with innovative ways to genuinely stop using so much energy. use what we have to look after all our people and our environment. jesus we could even try planting some trees for a change. what i mean is an actual vision and plan to develop something we can all be proud of, instead of just allowing the "serious countries" to tell us that theyre looking after all our futures while they finish off the job the english started 800 years ago.

looking forward to the wales that produces all of its electricity from wind. that will be a site to behold. to paraphrase an irish person, in order to get what you want you may have to lose everything else.

and finally, youll be happy to hear, that our major worry about wind farms is how they might affect the tourist industry just about sums us up.

Anonymous said...

Planting trees? Eh?

Sorry but the stuff about using less energy sounds unrealistic to me.

Why not just continue to develop the wind sector, in line with public opinion, in line with our EU commitments, and in line with good examples like Scotland and Denmark? Prosperous, attractive countries use renewable energy.

Wales does not need conspiracy theories and neanderthal views about energy. We need to be a powerhouse, not a backwater.

craig said...

yeah, there you go! using less energy sounds unrealistic. exactly the dearth of innovation and immagination im talking about.

yeah planting trees helps the environment.

why not? because as ive explained in my conspiracy theories, it benefits no one but the usual crew who dont need anymore help amassing their fortunes. and as i said "public opinion" regularly gets it "wrong" because its ill informed and changes as soon as that information is updated. public opinion was until very recently, roundly against scottish independence. its not any more. im pretty sure that public opinion in the chinese communities that weve laid waste to in order to live our green lives is roundly against welsh wind farms.

Good examples like scotland and denmark. whilst what denmark have done is pass the environmental buck on to poorer communities in other countries, at least their windfarm industry is danish. but scotland? in what way are they a good example?

"prosperous, attractive countries use renewable energy"!! do you work in the renewable industry? whats your definition of prosperous? and "attractive"! could you not find a more subjective word?

youre right of course, wales does not need conspiracy theories and neanderthal views about energy. my point entirely. but seriously, what we really need is a real debate about energy issues. MH doesnt agree with me, but at least he actually makes an attempt to discuss why he doesnt, rather than just present a string of platitudes. "we need to be a powerhouse, not a backwater" might look great on a renewable energy poster but it doesnt do much to inform. and if we carry on down this renewable path we will end up as both.

Anonymous said...

"Why not just continue to develop the wind sector, in line with public opinion, in line with our EU commitments, and in line with good examples like Scotland and Denmark?"

Is Scotland intending to close down it's massively lucrative oil industry? Where can I read about it?

MH said...

I don't disagree with you that much, Craig. You're right to say that there are all sorts of less obvious costs to renewables, both financial and environmental, which should be taken into account.

As for neodymium, though, it's not only used for wind turbines. It just makes rather good magnets, and in fact those magnets might well be used in all sorts of other turbines generating electricity too ... perhaps even from fossil fuel and nuclear power stations.

And I don't think mining it is inherently environmentally unfriendly. It's more about mining practices and cutting corners to maximize profit. I guess it would be possible for unscrupulous operators to mine, say, coal or uranium ore with equally bad environmental consequences.

craig said...

you dont need rare earth metals for electricity turbines. you do need them in wind farms and electric cars. however, im not proposing carrying on with the present environmentally damaging ways of making energy either. if we are serious about our children's future, we need to do things differently. if we are serious about the very practical idea of a self sufficient wales, we need to think differently. there is an answer, it just isnt a very popular one, primariy because its "naive" and goes against "human nature". the "renewable" energy industry, despite its very eco friendly public image, is just like the rest of the energy industry and motivated solely by profit. what we need in wales, in order to succeed, is an energy industry that operates according to resource based economics. what is our energy producing potential? and how do we meet that potential so that it benefits our entire population and our environment? rather than just making a lot of money for a few individuals and destroying the environment.

an upper middle class guardian reading man in england started a solar panel business a few years ago. i didnt have any solar panels but my taxes and energy bill payments were spent on subsidising his business despite it being only green in name. he earnt an awful lot of money in a short period of time and was able to retire at a very young age. he bought an enormous piece of land and a rustic farm house in a welsh speaking community in wales and moved in. he doesnt have to work, but hes still a director of the company so my taxes and energy bill payments are still paying for his sunday supplement lifestyle despite me still not having solar panels. that sort of system, penalises chinese peasants, penalises tax and energy bill payers, and penalises the have nots. i know its not a windfarm but the economics are the same.

all mine operators are unscrupulous. as are all wind turbine producers.

Ambiorix said...

Renewables are, by definition, renewable. And they are also green, provided that the carbon cost of building and maintaining the installation is less than the energy produced.

No they are not they just as dependent on fossil fuels as everything else.

Anonymous said...

Don't wind farms need a natural gas back-up? The wind isn't the most reliable if forces.

Would you be pro-nuclear if we stared investing more into generation IV reactors? These reactors can consume existing nuclear waste. This would make it one of the cleanest energy sources we would have.

On another note, Green Deutschland is investing heavily in coal. The 'greenest' country is France and that's due to nuclear.

MH said...

Every form of electricity generation supplying the grid requires backup. Not just renewables, and not just wind. Nuclear power stations require backup. Gas power stations require backup.

Neither does that backup have to be provided by any particular form of generation. For example, it's probably best to consider the backup to Denmark's wind as being the fixed hydropower of Norway and Sweden ... that means Denmark's wind backup is from renewables. I believe that we should change the way we operate our fixed hydro so that, instead of it providing a constant amount of energy each day, we use larger amounts when backup is needed and don't use it at all when energy can be provided by other renewables. This doesn't mean changing the size of the lakes, but would mean adding more turbines. Essentially, hydro is a form of "supply side" storage. But in not too many years I think "demand side" storage, will take off, so that all buildings have battery stacks to provide a few hours' or even days' worth of storage. A few hours is all that would be needed to completely solve the intermittency of solar and tidal power.


As for nuclear breeder reactors, I believe they are better than the conventional type of reactor that the UK now wants to see built, but only because they provide a long term way of dealing with nuclear waste. But the way they "consume" nuclear waste is by a complicated process involving re-enrichment of spent nuclear fuel, which will take many cycles and many generations, as well as costing lots of money. Take a look at what I wrote in this comment from last October.

As for France, generating electricity from nuclear might be "green" in the sense that it's low carbon, but it produces a dangerous and dirty by-product, so in that sense it is not green.

And Germany might well be investing in coal, but they are doing it as a short term fix, not as a long-term solution. Dismantling a coal power station is quick and easy. Dismantling a nuclear power station isn't.

Anonymous said...

MH, I was surprised at the fact you didn't once mention in the piece the fact that solar comes out on top in each of those answers. I know you've mentioned it in the comments subsequently, but why is it that solar just doesn't seem to be getting the attention it deserves? It seems to me THE best solution, and most would seem to agree with me.

Craig - you're absolutely right about the solar guy. The obvious answer is that energy should be publicly owned. It is an utility, and if we want our economy to be running as efficiently as possible, energy should be delivered to businesses and individuals/families at cost price.

Anonymous said...

Craig's point about wind turbine manufacturers and companies being unscrupulous does resonate with me but it's an argument against private energy effectively.

The issue is, if you were a Welsh Energy Minister and you sat down new to the job tomorrow, you couldn't seriously say 'right we alone in Europe are going to stop developing renewables becuase its green-washing, because it hurts people in China and because capitalists benefit from the subsidies. Instead we're going to instruct everyone in Wales to cut their energy use'.

You wouldn't seriously be able to do that. You would have the EU and Welsh renewable targets in front of you and would have to meet them. You could introduce energy-saving initiatives but you'd still be looking at electrifying the transport network (and preparing for electric cars).

Personally i'm a socialist and ideally want state/public solutions for all utilities, but overnight that wouldn't be possible and until you had a state provider you would have to keep working with the existing energy companies in the subsidised private market.

I'm not seeing that an anti-renewables stance is at all defensible. I mean, think about what you are actually advocating.

Anonymous said...

Wind is the strangest energy source I have ever encountered, on account that the emotive reactions it produces are absolutely wild.

There is obvious public support but opposition is concentrated and loud.

Energy production and electricity consumption is an area full of pitfalls when we consider how it can actually be done as cleanly as possible (not the same as saying it will be "completely green").

But broadly speaking, putting up structures that can power turbines, is quite a normal thing to do. Wind energy isn't something that is being trialled in Wales or imposed here as a conspiracy, the truth is that almost all countries in the world are putting up turbines because they do actually work.

In a capitalist world it will be done by companies that are looking to make a profit, and they will ask for taxpayer/billpayer subsidy because they are in a captialist market system competing with other types of energy. That is a product of the economic system we live in and the use of markets to determine resource allocation, rather than the renewable energy industry per se.

All that said, the Conservatives are launching a very opportunist anti-wind drive to stop subsidy after 2020 (they will not stop subsidy for nuclear and fossil fuels). They have calculated that the anti-wind minority are more likely to have Tory leanings than the majority, and of course are fending off the anti-wind UKIP to their right.

That level of politics has more to do with climate change denial than a concern about capitalism or a desire to use less energy, i'm afraid.

Someone made a point about Scotland's lucrative oil industry. What Scotland wants to do is cater for its energy in the long-term as the oil winds down. It has rejected nuclear and is seeking wind as its wind resource is possibly the best in the world. It will export that energy to the UK and EU, although the revenues will never match oil, which is a cash generator rather than an electricity source for Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Has any work been done on the fact that there are many reservoirs in Wales which are not fitted for hydro-electric power?

Post a Comment