Turbulant times for wind power

The UK government has being making severe cuts to subsidies to wind turbine technologies. That sort of rolled of the keyboard because that’s how it’s usually put. Someone pointed out to me recently that the government and the media talk about putting money into renewable technologies as ‘subsidising’ and putting money into fossil fuels as ‘investing’, subtle isn’t it? With more people perfecting politicians scripts than worked on the latest Hollywood blockbuster it’s hard to imagine this is accidental.

 

The cuts have unfortunately already seen 250 planned wind farms cancelled in the immediate aftermath of their announcement, so is there any hope?

Great Britain uses 289,976 GWh of electricity per year (Department of energy and climate change, 2014). Wind power produces 36,098GWh per year of that (Department of energy and climate change, 2015) – that’s 12.4%, a pretty large chunk already, the trend has been for this to increase. It is likely that power from wind turbines will contribute 15% of power to the grid within the next 5 years.

Let’s not forget that the UK is also affected by legislation from the EU which has set out a directive which requires all of it’s member countries to be getting 20% of their final  energy consumption from renewables by 2020. It is difficult to predict whether this target will be met but the EU has now agreed a further target of 27% of energy from renewables by 2030. It is uncertain whether the UK will stay in the EU in the long term but in the short term at least these obligations will help promote wind turbine development (European Commision 2015).

Back in the UK, government legislation puts pressure on energy companies to invest in renewable technology (including wind power) through something called the ‘Renewables Obligation’ which requires electricity suppliers to provide a proportion of their electricity from renewables or face a fine.

Business investment also has a huge part to play in the amount of electricity produced by  wind turbines, good news here too, Siemens have announced plans to build a wind turbine factory in the UK in 2016 which reflects their vision of a need for such equipment in a growth industry and will likely bring down the cost of building wind turbines as parts are more readily available.

 

Individuals also have roles to play,when it comes to ensuring wind turbine numbers increase, in raising public awareness and lobbying governments as well as through blogs, reports, social media and traditional media, there are also some pretty great community owned wind turbine projects around.

On a wider global scale, other renewable technologies must be combined together to meet the energy needs. In the longer term wind power is likely to be a forerunner in the UK as the British isles have a lot of this resource. But is must be part of an integrated renewables approach which is tailored to local needs.

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