By John Stevenson, Head of Political Communications
As we head closer to the election, the cost of living is firmly at the centre of the political debate. A hiatus has been created by the Labour Party’s twenty month price-freeze promise combined with the Coalition’s review of environmental and social levies. This has led to people questioning the amount of indirect taxation paid through their utilities bills and whether a myriad of subsidies and charges is the most effective way to protect the vulnerable, drive energy efficiency and encourage sustained large-scale private investment in national energy infrastructure.
In recent weeks, a number of statements from the industry have reflected the need to invest in a diverse mix of energy generating capacity, from gas and nuclear to renewable energy, both on and offshore.
A new outline agreement for a nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point was championed by the Prime Minister, Centrica prepares to usher a series of tankers to north Kent in a £4.4bn deal with Qatar to import 3 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year for four years – enough to supply 13% of domestic gas use – while the same company warmed the Government up to the proposition that they would pull out of a £2bn offshore wind farm project at Race Bank if the subsidy package in December is too low.
Biomass – the national “transition fuel”, as it is so often referred – is slowly but surely making a positive contribution to the UK’s energy production and green credentials.
Selby-based Drax has developed technical solutions to deliver output of up to 600MW from the first of its units it is converting from coal to biomass. Drax has released data which reveals the first converted unit has been operating at the 600MW level on several occasions over recent weeks. The results, they argue, show the benefit of moving from temporary systems to the new purpose-built facilities.
With a buyer for neighbouring facility Eggborough on the horizon, it looks like the immediate issues of converting coal to biomass in delivering an immediate solution is well underway.
In spite of some criticism of the sourcing of the wood pellets (a waste product from North America and northern Europe) – an issue that will be largely dealt with through the Government’s sustainability criteria – public support for renewable energy remains high. The latest edition of DECC’s quarterly Public Attitudes Tracking Survey shows support for biomass stands at 60%, while wave and tidal is at 72% and offshore wind 71%.
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