Dave Elliott: The good news is that renewables now supply nearly 30% of UK electricity and the UK’s attractiveness to renewable developers has improved. In Ernst and Young’s latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, the UK has moved up three places in the global rankings since October 2017 to hit seventh place – a ranking it last held in September 2014. This has in part been put down to the fact that some projects are now said to be able to generate returns on subsidy-free projects. That’s not just the case for some large PV projects but also, it seems, for wind farms. The first subsidy-free on-shore wind project has been agreed. It’s an 18 MW extension to an existing 18 MW scheme in Yorkshire. However, some see these examples as exceptions, only available to developers in special circumstances, e.g. where an existing scheme can cross-subsidise a new one. Certainly the wider investment picture looks grim – clean energy investment in the UK fell 56% last year and the Environmental Audit Committee’s chair said that “a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets”. Alan Whitehead, Labour’s shadow minister for energy and climate change, commented: “It’s clear there is a substantial downward trend in new investment, which is across the board in terms of investment in clean technology ranging from big wind farms right down to the effective collapse of the solar market”. With on-shore wind and PV blocked, “if anything, the country is beginning to introduce a ‘hostile environment’ for green investment for the future”. Nuclear is currently only supplying around 18% of UK power and that will fall as more old plants close. Even if all goes well, the new 3.2 GW Hinkley EDF plant seems unlikely to be running before 2027 at the earliest. Meanwhile, there is talk of the taxpayer being asked to shell out something towards the £13.3 billion needed for Hitachi’s Wylfa project. Priorities do seem a little skewed, as was clearly felt by those who had backed the now evidently blocked proposal for a 320 MW Swansea tidal lagoon.
Physics World 20th June 2018 read more »