Going on holiday – Satnav or roadmap?

You could do worse (the new Jilly Cooper novel for example) than take the hot-off the press ‘UK Renewable Energy Roadmap’ off to the beach for a holiday read this summer. It even sounds a bit like it might be helpful in getting you to your destination, and it may be anyway, that you will be able to look up from its pages and gaze upon the newest installations of offshore wind turbines turning gently on the horizon.  That thought is a little pertinent, since a recent report from the European Wind Energy Association (here) contains the unlikely-sounding statistic that, of 108 turbines installed around Europe’s coastline in the first six months of this year, no fewer than 101 were built around the UK. It seems we are getting our offshore wind act together. The view of the ‘roadmap’ is that, with some hard work and a number of not-far-fetched assumptions, we really can reach our 15% of electricity from renewable sources target by the end of the decade. But both the EWEA report and the roadmap have some sobering asides to consider: building turbines and connecting them aren’t the same thing. Only 68 turbines were actually connected to the grid during the period; we’re building faster than connecting; and that problem will get worse if we do not strengthen and manage grid connection better and faster over the next few years.

There is a new and encouraging emphasis  in the ‘roadmap’ on wave and tidal as well. These are now earmarked as one of the ’eight technologies [that] are capable of delivering more than 90% of the renewable energy we need for 2020’, as the summary puts it.

So let’s count these eight up: they have a section each in the roadmap. There’s  on-shore wind, off-shore wind, marine energy, biomass electricity, biomass heat, ground and air source heat pumps, renewable transport: a section each. Seven sections…hmmm.  It does take the shine off the impressive calculations when you realise that DECC apparently cannot count beyond seven.  But if you turn to page 14  there’s your eight – a small additional category bereft of its own section, sadly,  marked ’others’ which encompasses hydro, geothermal, solar, and domestic heat.  So still no room for solar then: it does have a ‘case study’ in a box, though,  and it does state therein that ’the Government believes that solar PV could potentially have a role in larger-scale UK renewables deployment in the future….though this will depend on a number of factors’  The box  goes on to talk about achieving meaningful cost reductions, and then concludes ’work for industry suggests that this point may be reached during this decade’.  That’ll be the recent Ernst and Young study then (here), which is helpfully footnoted.  The final table in that report is headed “projects at high irradiation levels may become economic with two ROCs by 2012 and reach parity with retail power by 2017”. These are, by the way, the 50kW to 5MW installations that have recently been so comprehensively squashed by changes to FITs. Ho hum. A good and encouraging report, but still hanging on to that solar blind spot, it seems.

By the way, I’m not really taking the report on holiday with me. That might look a bit sad. No, you need a really meaty read on your hols. I’ll be packing the Committee on Climate Change’s Fourth Carbon budget report instead.

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