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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 10:24 GMT
Renewable Energy: Is enough being done?
The government has released its Energy White Paper. The paper announced plans to radically cut the pollution linked to global warming.

It also announced the running down of nuclear power stations, which currently supply about 25% of all UK electricity.

The paper suggests that 10% of electricity should come from renewable power such as wind and wave energy by 2010.

Renewable forms of energy are to be given a boost at the expense of nuclear power.

Do you think this is good news for the environment? Can the government really increase it's target for renewable energy without nuclear energy? Do you worry more about rising electricity prices or rising levels of pollution?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

This topic was suggested by David Keeling, Culham, UK
Is the government's current energy policy fatally short-sighted?

The trouble with nuclear energy is the prohibitive cost of safe decommissioning, and the ever present danger of a terrorist attack releasing radioactive materials which would leave large areas of the country uninhabitable. But why has no-one mentioned energy from biomass? Farmers who can no longer make a profit from stock farming can grow fast growing willow (wildlife friendly, and carbon-neutral) which is harvested for special wood-burning power stations. Germany (not Britain, of course) is pioneering this method - getting groups of neighbouring farms around a locally sited power station to grow the willow. It can be harvested easily without a large outlay on expensive equipment and is not subject to weather variations to the extent that wind power is.
John Ward, Bideford, UK

This policy is premature and risky
Tom Westmacott, UK
The Government is taking a big gamble here - if renewable energy sources can be developed, we will have clean, safe energy and gain a strong technology position. However, there is no guarantee of this, a 'renewables or bust' policy carries a risk of backfiring, leading to higher carbon emissions or even a California style crunch. In short, it would be far more responsible to continue our nuclear programme until other no-carbon energy technologies have proven their ability to supply the bulk of our needs. This policy is premature and risky.
Tom Westmacott, UK

Plenty of debate about nuclear vs. renewables, the vision of a hydrogen economy etc. One fact has been neglected however. The low cost of electricity and the very secure supply we enjoy has come about through 50 years of sustained government intervention between the 1930's and the late 70's. Since then the privatised industry has been "sweating the assets" and waiting for clear direction. So, manage a transition to an alternate low emissions arrangement relying on the private sector? Manage a transition to a sustainable energy future without government vision and a realisation that someone has to bite the bullet? No chance.
Gareth T, UK

The thought of more wind farms is horrifying. OK - they use a renewable source but are not green. They are industrial structures in a rural landscape, require the removal of swimming pool size volumes of soil or peat for the concrete plinths, require access roads, emit noise and their regular rotation is out of keeping with the natural movements of the landscape. They produce miniscule amounts of power in return for such desecration of the environment. And the irony is that standby conventional power is needed in case the wind drops. Onshore wind is very bad news for the environment. I say forget it as a viable means of power generation.
Graham R, UK

Applause for the Government's apparent interest in Renewable energy. Why doesn't it put its green credentials where its mouth is and equip government and other public buildings with solar panels to utilise its free energy? This would highlight the possibilities to the average homeowner and perhaps the increased demand would drive down the price of installing this technology which is prohibitively expensive despite government grants.
Ian Hayman, UK

After watching the 6 o'clock news this evening and hearing the negative comments made about wind energy, I felt dumbfounded by their view. Surely an attractive windmill is a better view than any power station. I would rather see the grace of several wind turbines, than ugly funnels, and the knowledge that I am using a safe renewable energy, than further harming the enviroment. Wind energy? Great idea, bring it on!
Penny Draper, Isle of Wight

So middle-class urban dwellers, utterly profligate in their consumption of energy, think wind farms are a "green" alternative, and ignore the effect on the countryside. Presumably they never go to the countryside to see the effects. The only real "green" alternative is to use less energy! Insulate your house, take care over using unnecessary energy.
Rob, UK

To those people cynical about renewable energy. For the last year my house has been served by a company supplying energy from wind, biomass and hydro-electric power and not once have I had a problem. As for nuclear energy, surely the possibility of terrorist attacks on a nuclear plant have to be seriosuly considered from now on.
Alex B, UK

It is the complacency of becoming dependant upon external sources of fuel which worries me most in this report. Current events show just how susceptible the country is to uncontrollable external factors on the supply of oil. To simply write off nuclear power and expect to survive on the good graces of unstable Middle Eastern states is naive and incompetent.
Lee Upcraft, France (UK Citizen)

I envy Denmark's 30% energy from renewables, but that ignores the fact that Britain has many times more consumers. Many times more wind farms would be needed, and they are yet another development that suffers seriously from Nimbyism. As a scientist, it seems to me that nuclear power is the obvious quick fix for global warming. France, Japan, etc haven't turned into radioactive wastelands yet so why should we?
John A, UK

Why don't we put the wind turbines along the side of motorways? These are already a blot on the landscape so no one can complain that they ruin the view. Personally, I find wind farms strangely beautiful.
Josie, UK

People claiming that renewables are unreliable are totally wrong. There are many ways to balance out the input from renewables. Firstly, solar, wind, wave and tidal power schemes can each supply energy at different times. Secondly, there are well-established ways of temporarily keeping extra energy in the grid system (e.g. hydrogen electrolysis, hydro storage). Thirdly, no one ever said we would move to 100% renewables any time soon! It's about time we started slightly higher prices for energy, we have after all signed the Kyoto treaty.
Toby Woodwark, UK

A step in the right direction
Emyr, UK
At last, a focus on renewables - the team at DTI actually did some thorough research for the White Paper and the evidence was staring them in the face. We've already lost out on "competitiveness" as other European countries steam ahead with world beating renewable technologies, but its not too late to catch up and even be a leader, with vision - a step in the right direction.
Emyr, UK

The industrial revolution was all about easily accessible, high-volume sources of energy, initially fossil fuels and more recently including Nuclear. We need to maintain such energy sources if we are to hope to keep similar standards of life that have been developed in the UK over the past 200 years.
The current renewable technologies cannot hope to generate sufficient quantities of energy to maintain the country's infrastructure and standard of living. Depending on renewable sources for the countries long-term energy requirements is a short-sighted dereliction of duty by the Government. It is a pity that this vital area of long-term policy is so often influenced by short-term and often uninformed media debate.
Chris G, UK

While people argue whether 20% of British power will be from renewables by 2010, I'm using Danish electricity, 30% of which is wind generated already, to type this. Denmark has far fewer wind resources than the UK but, seemingly, a lot more political will.
Jason H, UK (in Denmark)

It will take 20,000 2MW wind turbines to replace the power currently generated by nuclear power stations - how exactly do the government expect to replace the coal and gas power stations as well? And what happens on calm days? Wind and other renewables cannot be relied on exclusively, and modern nuclear stations are much cleaner than coal power ever will.
Andrew T, UK

Why nuclear fusion power is never mentioned? It is the obvious power source of choice for the future as it is non-polluting, renewable and a single fusion power station would be able to generate similar amounts of power to a nuclear fission power station. OK, the technology is not yet ready, but if the government significantly backed the research and development it could be the only necessary source of power within the next 20 or 30 years.
Chris, UK

We shall all have to go to bed when the wind stops
John C, UK
Renewables will not solve the problem - we shall all have to go to bed when the wind stops. They are too costly. Nuclear power is the most sensible solution - starting now with time to design the optimum solution.
John C, UK

In another 20 years, neither we would be able to have plenty of fossil fuels nor we would be able to afford burning them looking at the environmental issues. So the earlier, the better. I welcome this step and wish to see this paper implemented to the best extent. We would slowly need to move to hydrogen economy, technology-permitting. We should never welcome Nuclear plants if it is not mandatory for our survival.
Biswajit Majumder, India

Offshore wind power is fine in principle but people seem to forget that the national grid is not connected to the middle of the North Sea. Serious questions about the practicalities of making these connections have not been addressed. And more critically, who will invest the billions of pounds required to make it happen - industry? The taxpayer? In the meantime I guess we ought to keep some candles handy...
Andrew Furlong, UK

At last a government willing to give renewable energy the focus it needs! My electricity already comes from renewable sources through a 'Green' electricity scheme; we need more and more people to join these schemes so that it is obvious that the demand is there.
Fergie Meek, Scotland

It is a mistake to shove the nuclear option under the carpet as this is the only current technology capable of delivering large scale non-CO2 producing energy. Yes, there are problems still with how we handle nuclear waste, but it is non-nuclear waste (i.e. CO2) that is currently destroying our environment.
Andy L, UK

We have no resource of uranium in the UK which leaves us vulnerable
Clive, UK
At last a long overdue policy. For years the power of the lobbying groups for nuclear, coal, oil and gas have influenced governments. The latest 7 billion package to bail out the nuclear industry, has finally broken the lie of the nuclear fission reactors. We have no resource of uranium in this country which leaves us vulnerable and liable to the conflicts we witness in the Gulf today.
Clive, UK

People still claim that nuclear power is cheap and clean ! All the evidence I've seen recently about price per unit states that renewables are cheaper - and they are not heavily subsidised. As for clean, does that include the waste produced (which has to be looked after for thousands of years) and the risk of accident ?
jfm, uk

We have very litle countryside left as it is - why destroy what we have with these inefficiant wind turbines? They say electricity charges will increase by 30% for industry - making Britain even less competitive than it already is!
vince, wales

I am delighted to see the government is finally talking about the issue. But I think individuals still need to take responsibility. I get my home power supply from the green arm of a major energy company and it costs me practically the same as conventional methods.
Veronique Cotrel, UK

What is needed is more money for research into Nuclear power. Nuclear produces almost non existent levels CO2 and components needed for acid rain. Most important of all is reliable unlike solar and wind that depend on weather. People need to understand the dream of replacing Nuclear with Eco power will not happen .
Henry Bradshaw, UK

Once again the media is trying to whip up public opinion: renewables, great; fossil fuels, bad; nuclear, don't be stupid! However once again they haven't considered the consequences. I wonder who will be the first to complain when the integrity of the power supply is threatened?
Mike O, UK

The big problem for renewable energy is that there is no big business backing unlike oil, gas or nuclear. If we had spent the money on research over the last 20 years we would already have super efficient wind farms, solar energy, wave power, etc. But instead the governments have been pandering to the nuclear lobby and throwing billions of our tax money into a massive hole, otherwise known as oil/nuclear shareholders profits
Vish, UK

How can we expect the energy companies to want to go green when the government is so keen to steel oil?
Duncan, UK

Safe renewable energy is the only way to go
Alastair Ward, UK
Safe renewable energy is the only way to go and this paper is a move in the right direction. So what if it costs us a little more, the majority of people in this country can easily afford current prices. Why do people always strive for the cheapest solution whilst not taking into account more important issues?
Alastair Ward, UK

Expansion in renewable energies is barely keeping up with increasing demand. Failure to replace the UK's ageing nuclear fleet will leave a black hole in our environmentally friendly electricity supplies and make us reliant on imported gas. We cannot reduce CO2 emissions by 50% and power a hydrogen economy without nuclear power.
Catrina, UK

I hear from parts of the public that wind farms are a blot on the landscape. Big deal! They'd rather have a nuclear power station then? The environmental damage sustained from building these farms is nothing compared to the ugly and threatening figure of a nuclear power station that could be a target for terrorists. I certainly don't mind paying a bit extra on my bill if I was in the knowledge that the energy was clean.
Eddie, UK

These energy proposals are a great start, but don't go far enough. If the government is really serious about reducing greenhouse gasses it needs to reduce consumption. Why not give away free energy efficient light bulbs to every home in the country? Why not insulate every home in the country to Scandinavian standards, with cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and triple glazing? If we are to really make an impact then we need to think radically.
Tony Wylie, UK

No government ever got popular with a pro nuclear stance
Chris R, UK
No government ever got popular with a pro nuclear stance. This will simply cost the country more money. The lead time on building nuclear is massive; hence once energy shortfalls are experienced the government will throw money at a rushed nuclear programme.
Chris R, UK

Renewable sources are all very well until you consider the vast tracts of land needed for wind turbines etc. The only sensible way of doing this is to build an offshore platform capable of making a significant contribution to the national grid. Otherwise the money spent on building such things should be ploughed into research into better ways of producing energy from renewable sources. In the meantime nuclear power is the cheapest, cleanest and most compact way of producing all our power requirements.

The environmental impact of nuclear power is easy to quantify as its effects are highly localised - I suspect that the burning of coal has caused far more pollution and health problems than nuclear has - but no-one has the hard figures to back it up. Overall the paper is not good news for the environment.
Rich, UK

We are still miles behind countries like Germany and the Netherlands, but it is encouraging to see that something is being done. One quick suggestion: How about making recycling compulsory?
James K., Chester / UK




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