Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wide boys, fashion gurus and renewable energy

I wonder how the slightly new-age, mildly hippy folk who have dominated the ‘green’ movement are reacting to the entry of renewable energy into the mainstream. Large scale businesses are cashing in on people’s real concerns about climate change and, hey presto, along come the sharp salespeople always ready to spot a new opportunity to pick up some easy commission.

This morning our postman delivered one of those unstamped letters. This one offers us the chance to participate in a renewable energy programme and dangles massive discounts to those few carefully selected households willing to be part of it. The blurb is almost exactly the same as letters which promised cheap exterior painting or double glazing in exchange for taking part in some, probably non existent, special promotion.

I’ve no doubt that the salesperson’s patter would be almost the same as in those scams.

Now I’m all in favour of renewable energy but, as someone who long ago trained as an electrical engineer, I’m aware of some of the realities particularly around domestic installations.

The gizmos such as the wind turbine which David Cameron is famously having installed on his house are rapidly becoming fashion statements. But are they any good? In particular will they help at all in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

I have my doubts. The kit has to be manufactured and installed. This takes energy and raw materials and, as a consequence, produces greenhouse gases. I fear that present generation domestic wind turbines and solar panels may in their lifetime produce less useful energy per kilogram of greenhouse gas than could have been got from a gas power station or domestic gas boiler for the same amount of greenhouse gas.

Ironically many of the green lobby have used big business’s domination of conventional power plants as an argument against them. Big business = wicked capitalists = nasty profits = corruption and spin in their eyes. But now, are the bad guys moving in on their patch?

Ironically also, it’ll only be large scale industrial size developments that will provide real solutions to the problems....


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