Where are third world economies?

Are renewables only suitable for third world economies and yachts?

Where are these third world economies, I think they may have been replaced by developing nations!

Tim Peake probably has the best view of the world where deforestation and growing deserts are clearly visible but country borders, so clear on a map yet so insignificant in the view from the space station.

Gone are the days of ‘head in sand’ over what other nations’ activities are and the COP 21 Paris summit is a stark indication of that.

Is the tax-payer subsidised output from renewables different from the tax-payer subsidised output from Hinckley (estimated at £160 on average energy bill) or the recent capacity auction to supply electricity in 2019/2020 (a competitive auction won mostly by diesel and gas generators) that cost an estimated £11 on average energy bills, whereas the Feed in Tariff support for solar is a mere £9 on the average energy bill!

Mr Jones is correct in identifying embedded energy in wind turbines and solar (embedded CO2 footprint exists in almost every single man made item due to where our energy currently comes from!)

However, the measurement is subject to endless argument (hence the downfall of the Kyoto protocol!).

But if the embedded energy comes from a renewable source then as long as the ratio is greater than one, it’s a net CO2 saving.

By the way, solar panels are estimated to be at 20 as in they produce 20 times more energy in their lifetime than is used in production and recycling.

This is the classic reason for steering a free market in the right direction for the benefit of the masses by use of subsidies (as is done in virtually every industry in one form or another), once there are sufficient numbers (such that the energy needed to produce more comes from existing) the support will no longer be necessary.

Mr Jones is also correct in highlighting energy storage as a critical part of a zero carbon society.

However, it is a chicken and egg scenario, there needs to be sufficient renewable generation to make the required investment in storage (again presumably with the support of subsidies to start the ball rolling) and it does appear to have started with all solar inverter manufacturers now having storage solutions available right now.

People seem far more willing to have batteries in their households rather than the left over contents of a nuclear reactor so the toxicity does need to be put in perspective.

There are numerous other potential storage technologies from tried and tested hydro electric and silicone batteries to super capacitors based on graphene, high speed flywheels all requiring a positive market (and potential subsidies) to encourage the investment required to commercialise to the point where subsidies are no longer required.

National Grid PLC a private multi-national 20th largest on the FTSE 100 with substantial Chinese shareholdings (and substantial dividend payments) will need some persuading to move from centralised generation (with single point failure, but also so easy to control and monopolise for profits, possibly a reason for discouraging the take up of renewables where individuals are generating their own power).

We need to move to a far more robust distributed smaller scale multiple generation points feeding into a web style grid giving multiple redundancy and enhances flexibility.

So renewables do have their place in ‘developing’ nations and, is it in our best interests that they do?

If we stick to our current tried and tested generation methods, then further down the road, could it be that developing nations (because we forced them to) cross the payback threshold before we do?

So their industries would be benefiting from energy that cost nothing to produce! Who would be the developing nation then?

Duncan Lee

Technical director

Solar UK


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