There could be no better symbol of the madness of Britain’s energy policy than what is happening at the giant Drax power station in Yorkshire, easily the largest in Britain.
Indeed, it is one of the biggest and most efficiently run coal-fired power stations in the world. Its almost 1,000ft-tall flue chimney is the highest in the country, and its 12 monster cooling towers (each taller than St Paul’s Cathedral) dominate the flat countryside of eastern Yorkshire for miles around.
Every day, Drax burns 36,000 tons of coal, brought to its vast site by 140 coal trains every week — and it supplies seven per cent of all the electricity used in Britain. That’s enough to light up a good many of our major cities.
But as a result of a change in Government policy, triggered by EU rules, Drax is about to undergo a major change that would have astonished those who built it in the Seventies and Eighties right next to Selby coalfield, which was then highly productive but has since closed.
Readers of this column might have been astonished by the media response last week to that warning by Alistair Buchanan, retiring head of the energy regulator Ofgem, that next month we will see the closure of five major coal-fired power stations that between them contribute nearly a sixth of the UK’s average electricity needs.
Over the next few years, Mr Buchanan feared, we will be dangerously close to not having enough power in the grid to keep Britain’s lights on.
I have been trying to explain this here for so long that my readers may be weary of it. It was back in 2006 that I first reported on why, within a decade or so, we might see Britain’s lights going out. In fact, as I set out in my book, The Real Global Warming Disaster, in 2009, the writing was already on the wall in the government’s energy White Paper of 2003. Tony Blair signed us up to an energy policy centred on building thousands of windmills, already fully aware that we would be losing many of our coal-fired power stations due to an EU anti-pollution directive, and that we were unlikely to build any new nuclear power stations to replace those that by now would be nearing the end of their life.
Lost Horizons takes a critical look at the policies driving 'the great wind rush', from their origins in the EU through to their effects on local economies, people and the environment.
UK and European energy policy is driving huge investment in wind technology, through massive subsidies. Yet increasingly, politicians and the general public are becoming aware that, no matter how many giant wind turbines are erected across our countryside or around our shores, wind power can't solve our energy problems or save the planet, and is simply making landowners richer and consumers poorer.
Steve Crowther talks to people who are concerned about the huge new wind arrays now being planned all round the country, and especially the giant 'Atlantic Array' proposed between the North Devon and South Wales coasts.
A rising tide of public opinion is pushing the UK government to abandon its obsession with wind power -- but will the change come in time to save the country's precious land and seascapes?
Talk about bees clustering round a honeypot… When are we going to wake up to the extraordinary goings-on at the heart of Britain’s energy policy?
Last week, it was announced that Charles Hendry — who was, until September, the minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in charge of wind farms — is to become chairman of Forewind, a consortium planning to build the world’s biggest and most lucrative wind farm in the North Sea. His predecessor, Lord Deben (formerly John Gummer), had to step down when he was made chairman of the Climate Change Committee, the hugely influential body set up under the Climate Change Act to advise DECC on Britain’s energy policy. Deben’s appointment was approved by the Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, chaired by his friend Tim Yeo, who makes more than £200,000 a year advising firms in the “low-carbon” energy sector.
It was also announced last week that a new company, Greencoat, is to be floated on the Stock Exchange and given £50 million of taxpayers’ money to buy stakes in six wind farm companies, and that one of its directors is William Rickett, formerly head of the Energy Group at DECC.
Mr Hendry has also been hired by a cross-party lobby group, CarbonConnect, to co-chair a review of energy policy with Baroness Worthington. She is the former Friends of the Earth campaigner who was hired by the Department for Environment to mastermind the drafting of the 2008 Climate Change Act. This put at the centre of our energy policy a plan to spend £100 billion on up to 30,000 wind turbines, so hopelessly inefficient that they have to be given absurdly lavish subsidies. For offshore windfarms like the one planned by Mr Hendry’s firm, the subsidies amount to 200 per cent of the value of the electricity they produce.
An investigation into the collapse of the first turbine in Bradworthy, Devon, during a 50mph gale last weekend has revealed that bolts are missing from its base.
The turbine was initially thought to have been brought down by the wind, despite being designed to withstand winds of up to 116mph, but the new evidence could suggest a case of foul play, councillors said.
It came as a second, 60ft turbine was spotted "lying crumpled on the ground" just 18 miles away in Cornwall, on a farm owned by the family of a Lib Dem councillor.
Officials from Dulas, which installed the £250,000 turbine at East Ash Farm in Bradworthy in July 2010, and Health and Safety Executive representatives are investigating what caused it to collapse last weekend.
Local residents had campaigned fiercely against the installation of the Endurance Wind Power E-3120 50kW turbine, which was the first of its kind to be erected in the country, claiming it would spoil the landscape
Wind farms have just half the useful lifespan which has been claimed, according to new research which found they start to wear out after just 12 years.
A study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain – the largest of its kind – sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years, which is used by the Government to calculate subsidies.
Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank, predicts in the coming decade far more investment will be needed to replace older and ineffective turbines – which is likely to be passed on in higher household electricity bills.
Click source to read FULL report from Tamara Cohen
It was the year when many long-dominant belief systems began to collapse
There could be few more apt epitaphs for the year now ending than a recollection of the headlines in April that greeted a stark warning from the Environment Agency. Fuelled by the predictions of the climate-change-obsessed Met Office (and the the official policy, since 2007, of the similarly fixated EU) that we will have “hotter, drier summers” for decades to come, the agency foretold that the drought conditions of the early spring were likely to last “until Christmas and perhaps beyond”. The prophecy was swiftly followed by the wettest late spring, the wettest summer, the wettest autumn and the wettest Christmas we have ever known – eight months of near-continuous rain and floods amounting to England’s wettest year since records began.
For many of the major stories which have long been followed by this column, 2012 has been the year when long-dominant belief systems and fondly held illusions have been conspicuously falling apart, portending a time of agonising reappraisal when familiar certainties give way to greater realism and painful rethinking.