The UK’s Energy Future
2014 has been a milestone year for energy production within the UK. Billed as being on the edge of an energy crisis, fuelled by tensions in the East of Europe as well as ageing power plants the government has tried to drill into consumers our need to frack. David Cameron’s almost underhanded tactics to pass legislation allowing fracking under homes has undoubtedly helped fuel opposition and led to more support for renewable investment.
Today the EU has announced ambitious new plans to cut CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and to increase the use of renewable energy to 27% in the total energy mix. These plans have been met with the news that on the 21st October wind generated 20% of UK energy, surpassing the amount that nuclear power generated. Although this was only temporary it shows the clear growth in our renewables sector.
Not everybody is satisfied with the role renewables have to play in the future, Environment Secretary Liz Truss calling solar farms a “blight on the landscape”. Concerned by the possible detrimental impacts of solar farms on food production, she has cut their subsidies. Critics of this however claim solar farms, have allowed farmers to diversify their incomes whilst still being able to farm livestock such as sheep.
It is not only MPs who are critical of renewable energy. Conservationists have met the announcement of four offshore windfarms in the Firth of Forth in Scotland was meant with disdain. The RSPB has major concerns of the impacts they will have upon internationally important colonies of seabirds. The scheme has been proposed close to a 110,000 Bass Rock gannet colony, as well as to puffin and kittiwakes breeding sites. Amongst fears of turbine collisions, it is estimated that over 1,000 gannets could be killed every year as a result of the development.
The RSPB however cites climate change as the “single greatest long-term threat to birds and wildlife” and recognise the role renewable energy from a variety of sources can have in fighting this. Although wind farms can harm bird populations, the RSPB are pivotal in assessing the ecological impacts any proposed sites may have.
The continuing thirst for energy means the UK government must find solutions fast. The worry is that this demand will allow more reliance on fossil fuels or that in a rush to meet demand wind farms could be placed in areas detrimental to wildlife already under pressure. Whatever energy path our government chooses, there are sure to be winners and losers.
For More Information:
RSPB Policy on Windfarms: http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/policy/windfarms/
Windfarms Outstrip Nuclear Power: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29715796
Climate Change: EU Green Energy Target: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29736484
Solar Farms & Food Production: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/21/are-solar-farms-really-hitting-british-food-production
Solar Farm Subsidies Cut: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/environment-secretary-liz-truss-under-fire-over-plan-to-scrap-solar-farm-subsidies-9804965.html
RSPB Concerned by Offshore Windfarms: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/383843-rspb-scotland-extremely-concerned-by-consent-for-offshore-windfarms
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