Climate change: Rising gas prices help make the case for onshore wind and solar | climate news
After days of calm, warm weather, there was a biting wind in Westminster on Thursday.
While most of us rushed on with contorted faces, this must have put a smile on the face of the renewable energy industry.
They were on their way to a roundtable meeting in Downing Street to convince Boris Johnson what they can do to contribute to his energy security strategy.
When it started, said the weather wind and sun together generated more than a third of our electricity.
But they wanted to tell the prime minister it could generate a lot more – if barriers to wind and solar farms, particularly onshore, could be removed.
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Solar and wind are becoming increasingly popular
Polls show that the majority of people are not opposed to having wind turbines or solar panels in their neighborhood – and that they might be even more willing to accept them if they received a reduction in their electricity bill.
A major challenge are local activists and certain MPs who traditionally oppose them.
Under pressure to take on the so-called “Green Blob,” David Cameron removed public funding for onshore wind farms back in 2015 – and few have been built since.
But now the situation is very different. Wholesale electricity prices are currently around £244 per megawatt hour
(mainly due to the price of petrol).
These high prices are the main reason for the cost of living crisis, and now there is an added impetus to dissuade the nation from oil and gas imports from Russia.
Inexpensive and quick to set up
Wind turbines, the industry says, can generate electricity for less than £50.
And compared to new gas fields, nuclear power plants, or carbon capture and storage technologies, they can be operational in two to three years, rather than a decade or more.
£68m more in additional government support for offshore wind could reduce consumer dependence on gas prices by £1.5bn, according to industry lobby group Renewable UK.
Numbers like these increase the likelihood that ministers will be leaning on backbenchers to help more wind projects be built faster.
The sector is expected to be an important part of the energy security strategy.
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But renewable energy is not a silver bullet. do you remember the weather
On those windless days (especially windless nights when there’s no solar energy either), renewable energy isn’t worth much.
That means we’ll still need big investments in something like nuclear power, battery storage, hydrogen power, or probably all of the above to keep the lights going.
The challenge is made even more difficult when you consider that while renewables could quickly replace gas for power generation (most of the time), the majority of our energy still comes from gas and oil.
Fossil fuels, which power our 32 million petrol and diesel cars and heat 80% of our homes with gas boilers, accounted for more than three quarters of our energy consumption in 2020.
That’s a much bigger nut to crack, and why we’ll still be dependent on gas — and the high energy bills that come with it — for at least years to come.