Index of this Section Front page of Site
Donate to Sovereignty Join e-mail List Subscribe to Printed Journal


Alistair McConnachie published Sovereignty from July 1999 to its 120th consecutive monthly issue in June 2009, and he continues to maintain this website.
Alistair McConnachie also publishes Prosperity - Freedom from Debt Slavery which explains a solution for the economic crisis and A Force For Good which makes a positive case for the UK Union.
To find out more go to the about who is Alistair McConnachie page.
Buy the Complete 10-Year, 120 Back Issue Set of Sovereignty - worth £162.50 - for only £89 inc p+p, a 45% discount. Cheques to Sovereignty, at 268 Bath St, Glasgow, G2 4JR or go to the Sovereignty home page and click "Buy Now".

Jonathan Leake
Environment Editor
Wind Farms whip up Division in Whitehall Sunday Times
11 July 2004

A leading government scientist has criticised the wind farms springing up across the country as "bloody eyesores" and has said they will never supply more than a fraction of Britain's energy needs. Professor Howard Dalton, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said the power from wind farms would be expensive and the turbines costly to maintain.

The criticisms come as the wind power industry is gearing up for a huge expansion. There are plans for up to 2,000 more turbines on land and another 6,000 around the coasts. The existing 1,000 turbines have already sparked huge protests.

"Wind power can make a contribution but do we really want windmills all over the countryside and covering swathes of the ocean? I don't think so. If we built enough we might get 10% - 20% of our energy needs but they are a hell of a bloody eyesore," Dalton said.

His comments lay bare a growing rift over energy policy between Margaret Beckett's Defra and Patricia Hewitt's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is behind the government's heavy promotion of wind power. Defra's view is that Britain should be using conservation and efficiency measures to reduce energy consumption and so cut greenhouse gases rather than simply pouring billions into new generating capacity.

The DTI is so concerned about the growing opposition to wind farms that it recently awarded Porter Novelli, an international public relations company, a £2m contract to promote them via a website and through workshops and conferences. The move has enraged the myriad opposition groups fighting wind farm proposals around Britain.

This week they will set up a national energy foundation, to be led by Noel Edmonds, the former television presenter. Edmonds said: "Politicians are promoting wind turbines as a green icon but they are misleading the public into believing the propaganda of the wind farm industry. The reality is that wind power is too costly and can never meet our energy needs — but it will destroy the countryside."

A recent study commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering showed that wind power could indeed prove expensive. It showed that coal, gas and nuclear power stations produce power for between 2p and 3p per kilowatt hour compared with 5.4p for power from land-based turbines. Offshore turbines — of which thousands are planned in the next decade — would cost 7.2p per unit. This means that if consumers opted to buy all their energy from wind farms and had to pay the full costs, they would see their bills double, at least.

After another study Claire Durkin, head of energy innovation at the DTI, confirmed the potentially high cost but said this was justified because wind power met greenhouse gas reduction targets. Tony Blair has said that he wants Britain to increase the energy that it obtains from renewable sources from its present 3.9% to 10% by 2010 and to 20% by 2020. Under DTI plans, about 75% of that would come from wind energy. By the end of this year, 22 wind farm projects are expected to come into use and more are planned.

In a free market such investments would fail because the power generated is much more expensive than that from other sources. But the wind power industry is protected from such forces because electricity suppliers are legally obliged to buy a proportion of their power from renewable sources. During the coming few years that proportion will slowly increase.

Such hidden subsidies have enraged many conservationists. Last week David Bellamy, the environmentalist, was among hundreds of people who took to the Lake District fells to protest against plans for some of the tallest turbines ever designed for England. Opponents of the planned Whinash wind farm near Tebay claim the turbines will be visibl from some of the Lake District’s most popular peaks. Lord Bragg, the writer and broadcaster, and Sir Chris Bonington, the mountaineer, are opposing the proposals.

Similar divisions have emerged in the green movement over wind energy. Some groups, including the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, object to wind farms while others, such as Friends of the Earth, are in favour. Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said he thought wind turbines were "quite beautiful" as long as they were sensitively sited. "They shouldn't be built in areas like national parks but they can complement some landscapes," he said.

Brian Brady
Westminster Editor
Green will make us see Red
When Bills Soar
Scotland on Sunday
9 May 2004

Gas and electricity bills will rocket by 20% over the next six years as a direct result of the UK's move towards "green" energy, consumers will be warned this week.

Experts believe the shift from traditional fuels such as oil, coal and gas to "renewable" energy sources, such as wind and solar power, may contribute towards saving the environment but will cost householders dear.

Annual energy bills for a typical home are likely to increase, based on today's prices from around £575 to £700 by the end of the decade.

The warning comes from the Labour-friendly think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which is generally supportive of the government's campaign, outlined in its 2003 Energy White Paper, to reduce greenhouse gases by concentrating more on low-carbon fuels and sustainable energy.

The plan is for Scotland to rely on renewable sources of energy for 40% of its power by 2020. Across the UK, the target is a relatively modest 20%.

But in a new publication, Sustainability and Social Justice, IPPR energy expert Julie Foley claims the historic switch will be bankrolled by millions of ordinary consumers.

"Meeting the policy commitments laid out in the Energy White Paper is likely to contribute to an increase in energy prices which could be politically unpopular," said Foley, who claimed ministers were bracing themselves for the impact.

"A number of measures outlined, including achieving our renewable electricity aspirations, extending the Energy Efficiency Commitment and participation in the European emissions trading scheme, could all contribute to rising energy prices. It forecasts that there will be a steady rise in electricity and gas prices over the period to 2010."

The IPPR concludes that overall price rises will be in the region of 20%, before the effects of inflation, by 2010.

Utility companies plan to plough over £10bn into building more than 73 wind farms around Britain during the next few years, and analysts say the cost of the investment will inevitably be passed on to customers.

Once built, renewable energy facilities are expensive to maintain compared with traditional sources.

The Royal Academy of Engineering recently estimated that the cost of generating electricity at offshore wind farms was 5.5 pence per kilowatt-hour, more than twice the unit costs for gas turbines and nuclear power, estimated at a little over 2p/kwh. Onshore wind generation costs 3.7p/kwh.

Traditional coal-fired power stations generate at less than 2p/kwh, but the government's demand that they reduce the carbon emitted by the fuel more than doubles the price.

Business leaders have already warned that the government's plans to enforce a 16.3% cut in greenhouse gases under a new EU scheme starting next year will cost the industry an extra 30% in fuel bills.

Latest figures reveal that the average electricity bill in Britain is around £250 a year, while gas bills are some £75 higher.

Mario Dunn, of watchdog organisation Energywatch, told Scotland on Sunday: "The government has conceded that bills could go up by 15%, and I think that many people will speculate that, if that is what they are prepared to admit to, the real figure may be much higher.

"Whether the switch to renewables is a good thing or not depends on what sort of consumer you are. If you are a middle-income family you might be able to choose greener energy as a lifestyle choice, but our concern is that the most vulnerable people have no choice, and they have to pay whatever they are charged."

Campaigners estimate that some three million UK households are "fuel poor", where heating costs account for more than 10% of incomes.

The Fuel Poverty Strategy, designed to eradicate the problem by 2016, is built around the Warm Front programme, an ambitious scheme to improve energy efficiency in 600,000 homes over the last three years. But an investigation by the spending watchdog the National Audit Office found that only 14% of grants were reaching the least efficient households.

In her IPPR pamphlet, Foley warns that the failings of the scheme represented a major obstacle for the government's attempts to meet the most important targets ministers set themselves in the white paper.

The IPPR also highlights the growing threat to the government's plans to have thousands of huge windmills erected across Britain and around its coasts, to generate renewable energy for millions of homes.

A joint report by the Scottish Executive and the Department of Trade and Industry suggested that the renewables industry already provides around 8,000 jobs, but the planned expansion could increase that figure to between 17,000 and 35,000.

The upsurge in the industry lay behind the establishment of a wind farm components plant in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, last year. But Cambrian Engineering went into administration in February, owing hundreds of thousands of pounds to companies that had supplied materials and services to the Arnish yard.

Foley warned that the increasing local opposition to on-shore wind-farms in several parts of the country was the biggest threat to the burgeoning UK industry, and the government’s chances of hitting its renewables targets.

She said: "On-shore wind developments present policy makers with a difficult choice about whether they should be siding with the developer or with local communities."

"It would be unhealthy for local democracy if a precedent was set that local views should not be accounted for when assessing planning applications for either onshore or near-shore wind farms."

"In some cases, however, the government may need to make tough choices about whether the anti-wind attitudes of a vocal minority should over-ride national and international interests to encourage renewable electricity generation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

James Reynolds
Energy on the crest of a wave The Scotsman
7 May 2004

Quite why a renewable energy company would choose to name its groundbreaking piece of technology after the world's deadliest snake is not clear.

The Pelamis plutarus, to give the yellow-bellied sea snake its proper name, boasts a venom so deadly that medicine has never found an antidote to it.

Yet Ocean Power Delivery (OPD) has developed its Pelamis Wave Energy Converter (WEC) specifically to help preserve future generations of human life.

Designed to harness the vast power of ocean waves for conversion into the electricity that makes the modern world go round, the WEC is an exciting development in the race for renewable energy sources.

Having attracted interest around the globe, this Scottish invention is being tipped as the lead player in this ever more urgent game.

But will Scotland fully exploit this latest in a long line of innovations made here? Or will it be one more Scots invention whose full potential - and profits - are realised elsewhere?

Not so long ago, renewable power was barely clinging to the margins of the electricity-generating portfolio. Today it is taking centre stage.

The energy white paper last year outlined a commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60 per cent within 50 years.

While few would dispute the merits of this aim, the debate on how to achieve it intensifies by the day.

The wind power industry might seem the obvious candidate to fill the energy gap which would arise if this policy were adhered to. However, some believe it is incapable of producing significant amounts of electricity or reducing emissions.

In addition, wind farms stand accused of blighting the countryside, damaging tourism and posing a hazard to birds and bats.

Spotting wave power’s potential, OPD set up in Leith in 1998 with the aim of developing a way to harness it. Hence the Pelamis plutarus, the invention which industry insiders tip as the most likely winner of the race for the renewable energy crown.

Weighing 700 tonnes, the Pelamis is huge, with a size and shape resembling four train carriages.

The machine is a semi-submerged, articulated structure which consists of cylindrical steel sections linked by hinged joints.

Moored to the ocean floor via a cable at its nose, it swings about according to wave direction. Waves travel down the length of the machine, causing each section to articulate about the hinged joints.

Hydraulic rams at each joint resist this movement, causing them to pump high-pressure fluid to hydraulic motors. These then drive electrical generators.

This power is fed down a cable to a junction on the seabed, connecting it and other machines via a common sub-sea cable to shore.

The Pelamis is not alone in harnessing offshore energy. A number of offshore wind farms are in development around the UK in water less than 10 metres deep. A typical offshore wind project consists of about 30 turbines occupying an area 10km square and producing about 60Mw.

The Pelamis can outstrip that. A wave farm occupying a similar area to a wind farm could provide four to five times as much electricity.

Dr Richard Yemm is the managing director of OPD and the principal creator of the 750kw Pelamis, which is about to undergo trials in Orkney. He says: "Initial wave projects are likely to be smaller in size. For example a 30Mw project would consist of 40 Pelamis machines occupying 1km square and providing electricity for more than 20,000 homes."

The Pelamis already has its fans. Professor Stephen Salter, an expert in renewable energy engineering systems at Edinburgh University, says: "OPD has done an extremely careful set of survival tests, and the crucial thing here is that this machine should survive and produce the electricity that it has been predicted to produce. Of all the wave power devices that have ever been anywhere near the sea I think this is the truest of them all."

So far, the signs are not good. Earlier this month it was announced that OPD has secured a £20 million deal to sell its technology to the Portuguese company Enersis, with the prospect of expanding the deal by a further £80 million. The Portuguese government has awarded Enersis the grid capacity to build a 20Mw wave farm in the Bay of Biscay, and Enersis remains favourite to win 80Mw more from future bids.

The development has sparked fears among supporters of Scottish renewable energy that Scotland may be about to miss out on developing a vital and profitable industry.

Dr Yemm adds: "All of the site development work is now going ahead and we are talking to some Portuguese manufacturers in relation to some components which we may make over there. This really shows that there is an imperative for Scotland and the rest of the UK to get their act together so we can build some here, otherwise the industry will, I’m afraid, end up over there after all the ideas, and money on research and development and lots of DTI grants to prove the technology have been spent in Scotland.

"If no industrial development follows on then it will be a great loss, and that is a fairly stark message for government to listen to."

A factor hampering the industry’s development in Scotland is that UK subsidies for such ventures fall short of those offered in Portugal.

Because wave power is still very much in its early stages of technological development, it requires high subsidies. However it is anticipated that the cost will fall gradually over the next 15 years, eventually making its price competitive with those of conventional energy sources.

Portugal has set a tariff of 20 Euro cents per unit of energy generated (kilowatt hour) from the first 500Mw of wave power, which equates to about 16 pence per unit , approximately five times higher than that available in the UK.

Maf Smith, development manager with Scottish Renewables, says the UK government need look no further than the fate of the wind turbines which now adorn so many hills.

"The Danes saw this and seized upon the wind market with the result that every second turbine sold in the world is made in Denmark.

"We have leading Scottish firms and great expertise, so the resources for the wave and tidal industry are here, but that doesn’t bring the jobs by itself. We need a market framework for the first few projects. The first one of anything is going to be very expensive. But after that costs come down as the scale of the projects increases.

"We need the Executive to give a clear and strong political commitment that marine energy is vital for Scotland and that they are going to put measures in place to make sure the industry is a success here. We also need the UK government to acknowledge that this is will benefit UK plc, not just Scotland, and examine how best they can achieve this.

"Portugal has created the conditions to allow people to come forward and operate and grow in the industry, and that is exactly what we need here."

In the case of OPD’s Pelamis WEC, the clue may be in the name: pelamis plutarus is the most abundant sea snake in the world, with a massive geographic range across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. If the Pelamis WEC can spread like that, Scotland could be in the vanguard of a cash bonanza with the potential to outstrip the wind-energy goldrush sweeping across these shores.

Donate to Sovereignty Join e-mail List Subscribe to Printed Journal
Index of this Section Front page of Site