UK should be leading Europe on wind power

Britain is the windiest country in Europe yet lags behind some of its more progressive neighbours when it comes to tapping into the energy potential of this resource.

That needs to change, according to the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association Maria McCaffrey.

Speaking at Energy & Environment 2009 in London this week she said: “The bulk of our energy generation is still coming from fossil fuels but the good news is that the entire energy sector has bought into the belief that a greater contribution must come from renewables,”

“Within that the greatest contributor is going to be wind energy – both on and offshore.”

“That can help us reduce our dependency on imports and create greater independence by harnessing our own natural resources.”

The biggest cost is of deployment is the capital cost up front – the fuel itself is free.”

She said there were four key things needed to make wind power a reality – plenty of wind, the technology, capital investment and political will.

The first two are, she argued, a given.

The UK has the best wind resource in Europe, both on and offshore, but has yet to tap into its full potential, said Ms McCaffrey.

Germany, by comparison, has one of the worst wind resources on the continent but currently manages to produce ten times more energy from wind than Britain.

Turbine technology is now well-proven, with bigger and more efficient machines being built all the time.

Investment is also still looking promising on the whole, said Ms McCaffrey, even in these gloomy economic times, and the Renewables Obligation framework makes the UK highly attractive.

“It’s a very capital intensive process but then so also are most other forms of electricity generation,” she said.

“There’s still a healthy investment market in the UK despite the [economic] situation over the past 12 months.”

But there are obstacles, she said.

“Working against us is the fact that we still have problems with the planning system and access to the grid.

“Our national grid is over 50 years old and is in radical need of upgrading and replacement in many parts.

“If it has to be replaced anyway, let’s make it fit for the purpose of modern energy.

Ms McCaffrey said political will is needed to cement all the other factors together and the right regulatory framework is needed to keep investment in the UK to secure jobs and wealth creation.

She claimed that Government has taken big steps in the right direction over the past six months, with the creation of DECC a sign that it is serious about climate change, but it must now translate good intentions into action to ensure the UK reaches its full potential.

Sam Bond

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