Ed Davey MP writes…Investing in green energy

offshore wind farmToday I published the Government’s first ever ‘Energy Investment Report’.  It shows how Liberal Democrats in Government have delivered on jobs and investment in energy – particularly green energy – and shows the plan we now have for this to continue for decades to come.

Let me be clear – investment in the energy sector has not been a ‘nice to have’.  We inherited a legacy of energy underinvestment from Labour and we’ve spent the last four years turning this around.   The sheer scale of the investment has already been huge: between 2010 and 2013 we’ve secured £45 billion of investment in electricity generation and networks alone.  The UK’s future energy infrastructure investment is larger than transport, communications and water spending combined.

While I’m sure you’ll be interested in reading every word of the entire report, you may want to start with what we’ve achieved on renewable electricity.

A few facts:

Since 2010, an average £7 billion a year has been invested in renewable energy.  This compares to £3 billion a year in the previous parliament.

Electricity generation from renewable sources has doubled since 2010 and now supplies 15% of the UK’s electricity.

Earlier this year, eight renewable energy projects got contracts providing up to £12 billion of private sector investment and up to 8,000 jobs

The UK is the world leader in offshore wind and we have more than any other country.  This supports up to 18,000 jobs.  By 2020 we could see offshore wind powering almost 7 million homes.

Onshore wind has attracted £7.6 billion of investment between 2010 and 2013 and supports 17,000 jobs.

Solar PV attracted £6.4 billion of private investment between 2010 and 2013.

Energy Report map

While these facts speak for themselves, we can’t be complacent.   We’ve put in place the necessary reforms and now Ernst & Young rank the UK as one of the best places in the world for renewables investment.  But we know that there are threats from the right, particularly on onshore wind, and from the Labour Party with their energy price freeze policy.  Their policy not only threatens the competition to the Big 6 that we’ve encouraged, but also investors who currently see the UK as a great place to invest.

Be in no doubt.  The Liberal Democrats have the strongest green energy record of any political party and Britain is now on track to beat our renewable electricity targets for 2020.

Green wind farm

* Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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  • Two facts —

    Since 2010, an average £7 billion a year has been invested in renewable energy. 

    This figure is trivial compared to the deal signed by Ed Davey for billions of pounds of subsidy for new nuclear at Hinkley (in contravention of party policy agreed last autumn which said no subsidies for new nuclear)

  • Thanks for this update Ed. Speaking to civil servants in one of your former departments recently, it’s good to hear that you are still the honest, caring, hardworking person that I used to know.

    Delighted that your passion fighting for the environment hasn’t dimmed. Not sure how anyone can bash this record?

    The nuclear quote above seems wide of the mark http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/pressure-mounting-over-16bn-nuclear-site-for-hinkley-point-9209175.html

  • Waist of money time an effort will never provide the energy cheaply and in quantities needed

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jul '14 - 10:36pm

    John, can you tell me how nuclear energy has received a subsidy? As far as I am aware it is just more expensive than coal and gas, is this what you call a subsidy?

    There is a debate as to whether we should pay more for it, but I wouldn’t call that a subsidy, if I am correct.

  • http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_nuclear_power_plants

    Eddie Sammon 17th Jul ’14 – 10:36pm
    John, can you tell me how nuclear energy has received a subsidy? As far as I am aware it is just more expensive than coal and gas, is this what you call a subsidy?

    Eddie Sammon — good question but a bit like pointing to a forest and asking the number of leaves. The wiki link above does provide a bit of a starter.

    I expect someone can give a definitive list of UK Government subsidies to nuclear since 1946.

    But subsidies for Hinkley C are quite specific and have been referenced in earlier LDV threads. These are the ones that most EU governments and The Commission object to. These are the ones which are in contravention of the party policy agreed last autumn.

    Hope that helps ?

    Keith Reed not sure why you provide the link to the Independent that you did unless you thought the reference to £16 billion was a good comparator? But see above addressed to Eddie.

  • Eddie Sammon and Keeth Reed

    Last year The Guardian carried this informative piece. Note in particular Martin Horwoods criticism.

    Nuclear power: ministers offer reactor deal until 2050 | Environment | The Guardian

    The government is launching a last-ditch attempt to sign up energy companies to build new nuclear power stations by proposing to sign contracts guaranteeing subsidies for up to 40 years.

    The coalition agreement reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010 promised that nuclear power stations would be built only if the industry got no public subsidy, but costly overruns for new reactors overseas and the exit of several major utilities from the UK programme, most recently Centrica, have driven ministers and officials to backtrack on that pledge and accept they will have to provide financial support.

    The Guardian has learned that ministers, intent on keeping the guaranteed wholesale cost of each unit of energy below the politically crucial figure of £100 per megawatt hour, are proposing to extend contracts from the 20 years originally envisaged to at least 30 and possibly as long as 40 years.

    “To build the full 16GW (gigawatt) at the same price would cost £250bn over 40-year contracts, and over 30-year contracts £150bn,” said Tom Burke, a founding director of the environmental campaign group E3G.

    Industry sources believe the likely agreed price for the first project in the pipeline to be contracted on this timescale – two 1.6 GW reactors to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset by the energy company EDF – will be below £100, though not by a large margin. That price, however, is more than double the market price for electricity, and higher than all but the most expensive government forecasts for the future.

    “It makes a huge difference if it’s 30, 35 or 40 years,” said one industry source with knowledge of the negotiations.

    Whitehall sources said they were confident that although the cost of the new reactor would be very high, that will start to fall with subsequent projects, and could fall as low as £55-56 a unit later in the programme. The Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, commenting on the threat to extend contracts to 40 years, said: “Over that timescale it’s ludicrous because we should really see renewables come into their own: there’s no justification for subsidising nuclear like that.”

    At the same time some MPs are concerned that the energy bill, which is being scrutinised by MPs, would allow future governments to give nuclear power stations more money if it was needed, without telling parliament.

    Suspicion about the clauses in the bill enabling future financial support have been fuelled by industry claims in recent weeks. Vincent de Rivas, chief executive of EDF, told MPs that he wanted the government to guarantee buying all the possible output from the new nuclear plants, not just what was needed.

    Horwood said he supported most of the bill and the funding mechanism being used, but would be tabling amendments over the financial support being extended to a much older technology like nuclear power – a technology that Lib Dems have traditionally opposed.

    MPs are also angry about the government’s changing rhetoric on subsidies. Since the 2010 promise there would be “no public subsidy”, ministers have modified it to say no “unfair” subsidies – wording intended to cover support for a range of technology. This month the energy secretary, Ed Davey, admitted to MPs the funding mechanism could differ between technologies and even individual projects.

    Under the proposed funding system, called contracts for difference, companies such as EDF that build and operate nuclear reactors would be guaranteed a minimum “strike” price for the energy they generate.

    If the market price falls below this strike price, the difference will be made up by a surcharge on customer bills; if the market price rises higher then the generator will have to refund the difference. “This is Jesuitical Casuistry,” said Paul Flynn, a Labour MP and long time anti-nuclear campaigner. “He [Davey] is saying there will be a subsidy. Perhaps an enormous subsidy. But you, parliament and the public, will not know what it is until it is too late to change.”

    Burke, who is visiting professor at Imperial and University colleges in London, calculated that at just below £100 a unit, if the market price stabilised at £50 – which is below the lowest government forecast market price of £59 in 2030 – EDF would receive £50bn in support from the government over four decades for Hinkley.

    The government argues that despite the problems getting new nuclear plants built it is essential to keep nuclear power alongside renewable energy and new gas plants to keep prices lower and help reduce the risk of over-relying on one technology. Long term the government hopes to build up to 16GW of new nuclear power to help diversify the energy sources, also including renewable energy and new gas power, to keep prices down and make the UK more resilient to supply problems with one technology.

    The Department for Energy and Climate Change said in a statement: “No commitment has been made on commercial terms or a strike price. Ongoing discussions are focused on finding a fair, affordable deal, which represents value for money for consumers. Any agreement reached will be laid before parliament, and will include details of the strike price.”

  • The link is a kind of ‘Dashboard’ of the UK energy production and usage.
    Once you take a close look at the reality of our energy situation, you will see that terry’s view is not far off the mark. Whilst it is unfair to say that Wind, Wave and Solar are of no use, it is evident that they will never replace fossil fuels which have astounding levels of BTU energy content. Those who continuously hyperventilate over the prospect of replacing Coal, Oil, Gas and Nuclear with Wind, Wave and Solar simply do not understand science and in particular thermodynamics.
    Can someone explain how you mine the ore and other materials needed to make a wind turbine, manufacture it, ship out to sea, construct, maintain, repair and eventually dismantle and replace just ONE wind turbine, using *only* the electricity, bio-gas, and bio-oil and biomass produced from ‘renewables’?
    If you can’t, then they are not renewables. ‘Green energy’, will only ever be supplemental, and it is totally wrong to think that green energy can sustain a global economic ‘business as usual’.

  • Richard Dean 18th Jul '14 - 1:14pm
  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 1:36pm

    Great to see John Tilley back and on such explosive form … but perhaps not the best term for me to use in connection with nuclear power. I will be returning to this thread this evening 🙂

    In the meantime, John I agree with everything you have written.

    @William Hobhouse18th Jul ’14 – 10:41am. Good comments but re “Once technologies are established, big investment comes in from the private sector.” I have to wonder why they didn’t go for nuclear then? As I am sure you will be all to aware, Ed Davey’s monument at Hinkley is effectively financed by the British consumer (through the guaranteed price) and essentially state-financed French and Chinese business. I do agree otherwise though!

    @terry17th Jul ’14 – 10:27pm – Clearly not one of your specialist areas of knowledge so I’ll keep the questions simple. Do you believe that any form of electricity generation can supply all our needs? Do you genuinely believe that cheap energy is available from coal, gas, oil or nuclear?

  • @ Richard
    My real fear is that by using the magic words ‘Green Energy’, like some wizards repeated incantation, we create a hypnotic (and unrealistic) belief that we can and will solve a looming energy crisis. Playing clever accounting trade-off games with carbon emissions between differing technologies, completely misses the point.
    How do you manufacture a car tyre, a bathroom wall tile, a toothbrush, indeed most of the things you will see around you right now, without the chemicals and embedded energy derived from fossil fuels?
    The global production of car tyres is about one billion per year. How do you make a billion car tyres with Green Energy? Anyone?
    And then,… how do you dispose of a billion used car tyres which are not bio-degradable using magic Green Energy?

  • I would be interested to know why we are not using marine energy.
    Marine energy is said to be capable of providing one fifth of our needs.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jul '14 - 5:58pm

    John Tilley, thanks for getting back to me and I am glad you are back with us! Unfortunately I’m mad busy today, but I will try to check out the links later. The whole CFD thing is complicated, I think I got my head around the reason it was used last time, but it takes up some brain power!


    In fact, it was too much of a challenge to resist, I should know these things. I think CFDs were used rather than simply a fixed contract because the energy company buys and sells off the wholesale market, not the government, and we can’t fix the wholesale energy price. Any experts can correct me if I am wrong.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 9:26pm

    SUBSIDY: I quote Dr Paul Dorfman, from the Energy Institute at University College London, “what it equates to actually is a subsidy and the coalition said they would never subsidise nuclear”. He added: “It is essentially a subsidy of between what we calculate to be £800m to £1bn a year that the UK taxpayer and energy consumer will be putting into the deep pockets of Chinese and French corporations, which are essentially their governments.”

    Dangers from nuclear accidents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

    Decommissioning costs – astronomical. Long term storage of radioactive waste … I’ll be kind and say ‘problematic’. Do you know anyone who would rather have a nuclear dump near them rather than a cluster of wind turbines?

    John Dunn 18th Jul ’14 – 3:02pm
    “How do you manufacture a car tyre, a bathroom wall tile, a toothbrush, indeed most of the things you will see around you right now, without the chemicals and embedded energy derived from fossil fuels?
    The global production of car tyres is about one billion per year. How do you make a billion car tyres with Green Energy? Anyone?”

    Yes John, I’ll take you up on that!

    Car tyres are made from sustainable natural rubber latex, carbon black pigment, a vulcanising agent (usually sulphur based) steel banding etc. I think you’d better tell me how you think you make them? Regarding the energy required, electricity is electricity. Spurious argument. We just need more renewables.

    Bathroom tiles are manufactured from clay and ceramic materials derived from the granitic and similar minerals. Yes they do need to be fired. If gas and oil are the preferred (but not unique) heat sources, I would suggest that we might be better using such fuels for these processes and redistributing the excess heat into district heating etc rather than simply burning far greater quantities of finite resources simply to generate electricity – a high proportion of which we can obtain from sun, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal etc!

    Your nylon toothbrush
    http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/green_chemistry/rennovia-develops-process-produce-100-bio-based-nylon. This states “Rennovia last week announced that it has created a process to make bio-based nylon materials that are nearly 25 percent cheaper to produce and emit half as much greenhouse gas emissions as conventional petroleum-derived substances.”

    Next???? Oh yes your “… how do you dispose of a billion used car tyres which are not bio-degradable using magic Green Energy”

    Well how about burning them as a partial substitute for coal along with all the fossil fuel derived plastic waste we send to scarce and ever more expensive landfill.
    Currently, the U.S. burns 52% of its old tires (tyres!) while the EU is burning about 31%. But how clean is that? The US EPA states that although burning them as fuel is not the cleanest thing on the world, it’s better than just stockpiling them or disposing in landfills. Cement factories or power plants can use them to produce energy.
    The EPA also claims burning tires (tyres) has the following benefits: they have the same energy content as gasoline, they save the use of fossil fuels, they produce less SOx and NOx than coal or heavy fuels ….

    And challenging your point “… car tyres which are not bio-degradable …”

    “The Coskata Process promoted by General Motors uses a wide variety of different feedstocks to produce Ethanol. Agricultural wastes, purposefully grown crops and other waste materials like old tires and even municipal waste streams can be used with very little or Zero land fill waste. Anaerobic bacteria in a reactor are fed Carbon Monoxide and hydrogen produced by the gasification of the feed stock. The reactor is a sealed plastic tube with millions of filaments on which the bacteria live. Bacteria feed on the Carbon monoxide and hydrogen and produce ethanol. This process does not use genetically modified organisms and the microbes that are being used are not pathogenic. Being anaerobic they are poisoned as soon as they come into contact with air. The process is also less taxing on water. While other current methods of ethanol production take three to four times of water per unit of alcohol produced, the Coskata process needs less than a unit of water per unit of ethanol produced.”

    OK, I’m getting bored with this now!

    The ability for us to rewrite the rule book is only limited by our own imaginations … and some of that support and leadership mentioned by William Hobhouse!

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 9:39pm

    Employment – Take a look at Ed Davey’s figures concerning the number of jobs created.

    By its very nature, renewable energy is decentralised and suitable for use just about anywhere i.e. the jobs are close to the communities.

    Nuclear power – massively more capital intensive and far fewer jobs created in much smaller areas due to the very nature of the industry.

    EDF: http://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/hinkley-point-c
    “Around 900 jobs at the new power stations for more than 60 years.
    Around 25,000 employment opportunities throughout the build for nearly a decade”

    COST: The government’s agreement to underwrite the £16bn Hinkley Point nuclear power station could prove to be “economically insane” and hugely costly to consumers, City analysts have warned.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 9:48pm

    And finally my own experience of solar PV generation … 5782 kWhrs of electricity generated from the sun in the past two years.

    This is more than double the electricity the house has consumed over the same period.

    Cost £6500. Local generation, local company, local employment.

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 9:53pm

    @Voter 18th Jul ’14 – 4:14pm
    “I would be interested to know why we are not using marine energy.
    Marine energy is said to be capable of providing one fifth of our needs.”

    Me too!

    Perhaps Ed Davey could enlighten us as to why we are not doing more to support development of this fantastic UK resource?

  • @Stephen Hesketh
    Perhaps there are technical reasons why marine energy is not in the mix but it would be good to know what they are.

    Tyre burning also looks interesting

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Jul '14 - 10:21pm

    Green Voter 18th Jul ’14 – 10:05pm
    “Perhaps there are technical reasons why marine energy is not in the mix but it would be good to know what they are.”

    Indeed it would!

    We appear to have a global leader in Scotland … http://www.pelamiswave.com/ The obstacles do not appear primarily technical !

    We should be seeking to recover the energy from all non-recyclable food packaging and other plastics rather than sending them to landfill. Most of what goes into our ordinary bins falls into this category.

  • I have been reading the Pelamis site and I see that they do wave power.
    it appears that there is a significant development time for sites as they have to perform an assessment process. This takes a couple of years and is to determine if the site is going to generate enough power.

  • Jenny Barnes 19th Jul '14 - 9:06am

    Stephen : Your electricity consumption is unusually low. See https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/64026/domestic-energy-consump-fig-fs.pdf which indicates that average UK electricity consumption is 3.3 Mwh per house per year, roughly twice yours. Our household, with electric cooking, consumes about 4 ; 3 off the grid and about 1 from our pvs (1.9 kwpeak). Are you double counting? If you’re only counting your grid consumption then it’s a bit misleading.

  • “Yes John, I’ll take you up on that!
    Car tyres are made from sustainable natural rubber latex, carbon black pigment, a vulcanising agent (usually sulphur based) steel banding etc. I think you’d better tell me how you think you make them?”
    You totally missed the point of the embedded fossil energy [ mainly Crude oil ], in the whole process. Mining and processing the ingredient materials, moving the material to the factory, the manufacturing process, transporting [to the factory] the chap who forms the tyres, transporting the finished tyres by road [made of asphalt], rail [using diesel oil], ship [using bunker oil], to the point of sale, the sales outlet and transporting the people who work there……….. and on.
    None of which is done ( or could be done *at scale*), with bio fuel, bio mass, or any green energy.
    Lets resume the conversation when 51% of the materials, resources, manufacturing production, transportation, air traffic, public infrastructure, food growing, food production, home heating, home cooling, water pumping, sewage processing… is from a green renewable source. How long a wait do you think?

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jul '14 - 3:28pm

    Hi Jenny
    I am certain that we use less than the OFGEM average because we are not an average home in that we are, most of the week, a 2-person household and we consider our energy consumption in a variety of ways including the purchase low energy appliances and not leaving everything on standby. We are not obsessive about saving electricity but know from the behaviours of certain family and friends that we are aware of and use painless energy-saving practices. The best way to cut fuel consumption and bills is surely not to waste it in the first place!

    You may however be correct that, in your terms, I am guilty of an element of ‘double counting’ … this is not intentional and just reflected me quickly taking and recording the values on both use and feed in meters.

    It does not alter the fact that across the year, my less than ideal facing northern England home generates more electricity than it uses and that most people could easily reduce the amount of energy they consume.

    Instead of simply cutting it, we should have shifted the so-called feed in tariff to providing a grant for the installation of solar PV and solar thermal etc on homes and businesses. Even if only 25% of buildings were suitable for the technology, the combined effect would be able to generate an awful lot of electricity and hot water.

    In addition to helping consumers and businesses with their long-term energy costs, the effect on creating jobs and reducing energy imports would have been significant. And obviously solar-based generation is only one of the possibilities.

    Yes, we do need baseload electricity but I believe we have approached the problem from the wrong end.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jul '14 - 3:52pm

    John Dunn 19th Jul ’14 – 11:47am
    And you miss my points that 1) energy is not the only input, 2) that being a finite resource our petro-chemical based technology will have to change sooner or later, 3) that the petro-chemicals we have should be used in those areas where they truly are the best fit rather than simply being burnt when alternatives already exist, 4) that at the end of their life we should extract the embedded energy whenever possible (your tyres for example) and 5) that chemists, biologists and engineers already have solutions to some of the issues you perceive as being the only way for human civilisation to exist.

  • “…2) that being a finite resource our petro-chemical based technology will have to change sooner or later,…”
    But change to what? Where is the substitute for the 93 million barrels of oil the world uses *every day*?

  • Mr Davey’s energy policy is completely insane.

    He has forced the closure of our most productive and efficient producers of the lowest cost electricity.

    He has lavished money on rich landowners and developers to erect useless, inefficient windmills which produce electricity at triple the cost on the odd occasions when they actually generate anything. He even pays the owners when their windmills are idle.

    This crazy policy requires massive investment to the grid to connect thousands of useless windmills and somehow manage their pathetic, intermittent output. He hopes this expense is not noticed if he calls it a grid upgrade and quietly hides it in your electricity bill tariff.

    Having degraded our energy industry to third world status, Mr Davey is spending £14 billion replacing 56 million perfectly adequate electricity meters with smart meters that use already redundant technology. He has the forlorn hope that these will enable the generators to manage demand to balance dwindling energy production.

    A whole new industry has emerged whereby rich landowners fill their fields with polluting diesel generators connected to the grid. They are paid lucrative standby fees by Mr Davey who hopes that the generators will kick in on demand to prevent the lights going out.

    Mr Davey realises that inevitably his energy plans will lead to the total collapse of the grid and blackouts will rival those seen in some African countries. He has now produced a master stroke, at such times he will use your money to pay British manufacturing industry to stop production and shut down.

    The green fantasy is summed up in one graph:

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Jul '14 - 7:51am

    @Green Voter.

    Thanks for taking the time to follow the link. Regarding the assessment time, several prime sites in Scotland and the southwest of England would only require a fraction of this time due to their exposure to the full force of the Atlantic. Such work would provide real life evaluation of the technology and a platform for UK manufacturing and exports.
    The technology appears to offer a reasonable option for baseload electricity generation.

  • Green Voter 20th Jul '14 - 5:49pm

    @Stephen Hesketh
    I am not sure whether the technology being intermittent can fully provide the energy for the baseload but when operational, it might allow for reduced use of fossil fuels which would be certainly a good thing in my eyes.
    I have a question about cost. How does the cost of wave power energy compare with coal-fired power?

  • “The decision to allow builders to continue building badly insulated homes after 2016 is a scandal.”
    Agree, however in my opinion the scandal predates 2016 by several decades as there is very little that is really new (ie. requires technology invented in the last few years) in the proposed 2016 regulations…

  • Green Voter 20th Jul '14 - 9:12pm

    I would like to know if Pelamis has come up with a fomal proposal, saying what the guarantees (such as a guaranteed price and market) and other items they would need from the UK government, before we can get this show on the road

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Jul '14 - 9:07pm

    Green Voter 20th Jul ’14 – 5:49pm
    “How does the cost of wave power energy compare with coal-fired power?”

    Depends if you live in a near sea-level coastal community or in an area increasingly prone to flooding and/or eat food from most of England’s (low-lying) Grade 1 agricultural land.

    A comparison with carbon-capture coal-fired generation might be a more reasonable comparison for a party interested in environmental issues … and that’s before we get onto the effects of climate change in places such as Africa which make the UK situation look like a stroll in the park.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st Jul '14 - 9:11pm

    @David Pollard 20th Jul ’14 – 9:01am
    “The decision to allow builders to continue building badly insulated homes after 2016 is a scandal. What was Ed doing allowing it to go through? What is the point of installing renewable energy sources and allowing energy wasting buildings to continue being erected? ITS STUPID!!!!”

    Spot on David!!!!!

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