Editorial Leader: Time to pass on the renewables baton
It’s been some year since I took on the role of Managing Editor for Renewable Energy Focus. The highlight? When Faith Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, declared fossil fuel subsidies “public enemy number one”.
He was speaking at the European Wind Energy Association conference in Vienna earlier this year and as we reported in our March/April 2013 issue (page 26-29), he stressed: “Fossil fuel subsidies do not make sense.” In case any reader has forgotten, the IEA’s figures for subsidies paid out globally in 2011 are as follows: Fossil fuels - $523bn, Renewables - $88bn.
Birol also pointed out that the vast subsidies being paid to fossil fuels keep them artificially cheap. Unless phased out, we will not reach our climate targets, he explained, adding: “I hope governments pay attention to this”.
I fear not. Witness current energy policy announcements in the UK. Yes the Energy Bill has been published. Yes there is solid support for renewables again, albeit with scope for improvement to level up the playing field. But a 30% tax break (aka subsidies by any other name) to help the UK gas industry in its exploration of shale gas reserves?
Tax incentives for deploying a method of extracting fuel which is widely recognised to be potentially devastating to the planet by potentially polluting our water supplies, amongst other things? Then again we have subsidies for nuclear power even though we still have no safe way of disposing of the deadly waste it creates, so what’s the difference?
In the words of UK Chancellor George Osbourne, the UK has introduced the “most generous” tax incentive package for shale gas in the world. In addition, communities hosting shale gas sites will also receive £100,000 per well and up to 1% of all revenues from production for allowing fracking to be conducted near them. Much like communities receive payments per MW for wind farms (and now nuclear too).
If it can be safely extracted, shale gas is the energy game-changer of the century. It’s a simple fact...if we continue down this path the energy baton will no longer be passing to renewables, but back firmly into the arms of the gas industry.
But the key word here is “if”. I have heard countless claims by proponents of fracking, including from Osbourne, that the risks from fracking are minimal. The fracking truth is that it takes just one incident to potentially wreak havoc; renewables are more benign than fossil fuel energy technologies; and quite simply the world cannot afford a Fukushima-style fracking incident.
I would really love to see the renewables industry (not just environment NGOs) stand up and be counted on this point. Yes we need more energy. But we need safe energy.
On a more optimistic note, renewables generally are going great guns as the articles in the latest July/August 2013 issue of Renewable Energy Focus show, including our annual focus report (courtesy of German engineering consulting Lahmeyer International) on the global renewable power generation market (starting on page 24).
Finally, my freelancing reign as Managing Editor of Renewable Energy Focus has sadly come to an end. Fear not, while my photography business is now firmly taking off (and yes that covers renewables too) I will be back next issue - as an editorial contributor and consultant to your new editor, Reginald Tucker.
The baton is passing on and with that I urge you all to Rage With A Smile long into the future!
This is the Editorial Leader from the July/August 2013 issue of Renewable Energy Focus. Register now to receive the full issue
Posted 10/09/2013 by Gail Rajgor
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