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UK Completely Powered by Renewables by 2020?
Alex Steffen, 12 Dec 07

UK government announces ambition to build enough wind power to move the country completely to renewables by 2020, encounters skepticism.

News at 11:00.

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Ho hum. I'll believe it when I see it.

Our government is deeply schizophrenic when it comes to climate change and renewables. For example:

I also don't understand why they're so set on wind. We have plenty of wave resource plus one of the largest tidal reaches in the world in the form of the Severn. They are deeply confused.

Posted by: Scatter on 12 Dec 07

Hi Scatter,
yes I saw a thing on that tidal resource and it looks impressive, much larger than the power output of the 3 Gorges dam even! However, it would only provide 5% of the UK's electricity demand, let alone transport fuels.

Basically with the double whammy of Global Warming and Peak Oil approaching, I think we need all the renewables hype we can get. And the thing that people don't often realize about wind power is it's incredible ERoEI. It has a VERY high Energy Return on Energy Investment... something like 50 times the energy returned that it cost to make the turbine in the first place. (Including mining and smelting the metals, transporting the turbine, and installing it.) Other renewables have an energy profit, but not as large... solar PV rumoured to only be 2 to 5 times the energy it took to make the panel. I'm not sure of the ERoEI on large scale Concentrated Solar Power (which can supply 24 hour baseload power by storing heat for the night shift). That strategy could work for the UK if it was willing to rely on Saharan electricity imports as it is now technically feasible to transmit that electricity up from Africa along HVDC lines... see for more.

If we electrify transport with electric rail (20 times more energy efficient than trucking) and trams, and roll out the wind, tidal, wave power and CSP, we'll create a cleaner and more energy secure world for our kids. That's got to be a good thing hey?

Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 15 Dec 07

Oh, Alex... I think you meant to say: "UK HOMES Completely Powered by Renewables by 2020?"

The article specifies domestic homes — and that the goal for all these wind turbines would only really make up 20% of the UK's current energy budget. So 100% of homes is good, but it will be essential to bring in industry, commercial, infrastructure, and transport as we hit peak oil, gas, and then coal.

Posted by: Dave Lankshear on 16 Dec 07

Of course, while I don't believe it either, setting the goal and committing some resources in that direction, is a good step.

This isn't the first time that oil prices have given rise to serious public concern, but this time around I think we are likely to get results. It won't happen overnight, but it should happen.

We have technologies that give us viable alternatives. Now, we can quibble all day one what is and what is not viable, whether it will happen fast enough, or perhaps whether it is too late anyway, but change is going to happen.

I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by: Heatwatch on 22 Dec 07

Dear Alex,

I am concerned about your posting of a Headline entitled UK Completely Powered by Renewables by 2020? along with a similar lead line, when the story is clearly talking about installing enough wind power just to take care of the housing needs in the UK. Certainly this is achievable and well before 2020.

As the costs of fossil fuels continues to increase it would be ludicrous not to set goals such as this. In fact we should be setting a target of making a rapid transition to move completely to renewables - which I believe could pretty much be done by 2025. That would give us almost twenty years. This is what we should all be talking about and beginning to plan for. Rather than raise skepticism when government begins to do the right thing we should be championing and celebrating it.

Please send me an explanation as to what happened that you ran the title and lead line that you did.

Rob Wheeler

Posted by: Rob Wheeler on 24 Dec 07

The Centre for Alternative Technology released a report in July - titled Zero Carbon Britain - which mapped out how to move the UK entirely over to renewables by 2027.

It would involve halving energy demand and installing massive renewable energy generation.

I'd recommend giving it a read -

Posted by: Richard Hawkins on 25 Dec 07

Dave, most numbers I've seen suggest a payback for wind turbines in the 9 months to a year range. I reckon 50 times is a little high but could be possible for offshore I guess.

You're absolutely right on the 5% of electricity for the Severn but there's plenty of other areas around the UK where we could harness tidal streams. We have some very lively tides! And we've been so slow in developing wave resources which is crazy given our coastline. I'm glad to see more movement in this direction recently.

And I'm a big fan of TREC. Good to see that getting attention recently too.

I'm all for employing every single renewable technology we have at our disposal but I just don't think our government gets this yet (they're completely distracted by the nuclear sirens).

Posted by: Scatter on 25 Dec 07



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