Renewable energy foundation manifesto: reform the renewables obligation

The renewable energy foundation (REF) launched its manifesto this week calling for an overhaul of the renewable obligation (RO) and greater emphasis on forms of production other than onshore wind.

The manifesto was launched by former television celebrity and anti-wind farm campaigner Noel Edmonds, who is also chairman of the group. He said that current energy policy was mistaken in its emphasis on emissions reductions rather than efficiency of production, generation and supply.

This, he said, had led to an over reliance on “randomly intermittent” renewables, a euphemism for onshore wind, which, he said, do not offer adequate or cost effective emissions abatement as they can: “cause additional stresses to be placed upon the fossil fuel generation required to provide back-up and stabilise supplies to society, thus resulting in inefficient plant operation with a deleterious effect on the net reduction in emissions.”

REF’s manifesto urges an overhaul of the RO to ensure that more money is offered to other technologies such as tidal systems and biomass. At present, the RO does not make distinctions between high and low value power generation. Therefore, REF suggest, the system needs to be overhauled to allow for variable value RO certificates to be awarded, based on the value of the power generated. Under this system, high power forms of generation would be rewarded with high value RO certificates.

If this system is not adopted, REF says, low-value renewables will be over encouraged as they are cheap and easy to market, while high-value renewables will be over looked.

“We conclude that a review of the current policy is necessary, to ensure that future renewable development is diverse and not over committed to one energy use, or to one technology,” the manifesto states.

Despite their characterisation of onshore wind as “randomly intermittent” and the presentation of case studies showing wind power in a bad light from Denmark and Germany, the REF calls for an overhaul of the RO system are not very different from those made by the British Wind Energy Association itself last year. BWEA commissioned a study into the RO, by Climate Change Capital, a specialist merchant bank. This concluded that the RO be reformed to divert money into fledgling tidal projects and offer a greater mix of renewable energy supply.

(see related story).

However, this is probably the only time the views of BWEA and REF have coincided. The three members of REF present at the launch of the manifesto have in the past all been involved with campaigning against wind farms in their local areas.

By David Hopkins

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