With one hand the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is banning exploration for natural gas onshore in the UK, and with the other he is encouraging further development of physically inferior energy sources such as wind and solar. It seems that the government does not understand the importance of thermodynamic quality in energy supply, and has misdiagnosed the causes of the present energy supply and cost crisis.
Britain’s energy crisis is the result of decades of failing renewables-centric energy policy, policy which has eroded energy security and left the country vulnerable to events such as Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is reportedly considering reintroducing policy support for onshore wind. Many media sources are misreporting this as the lifting of a “ban” on this technology, though in point of fact there is no such ban preventing the building of wind farms. The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, removed subsidies for onshore wind, and thus reduced development interest, since the technology, like nearly all renewables, remains fundamentally uneconomic due to its inferior physical properties.
Whether Mr Sunak will reintroduce direct income support subsidies or provide non-market support through other routes such as tax breaks and favourable Power Purchase Agreements with government bodies, or “must buy” status with the increasingly nationalised retail markets, remains unclear. But such measures will be necessary since wind cannot compete as a pure merchant generator due to the penalties that it would face for non-delivery caused by unpredictable intermittency. Inevitably, such policy support for onshore wind must be paid for by burdening the consumer with additional costs at some point in the electricity supply system.
In parallel with this blunder, and compounding it, Mr Sunak’s government is dragging its feet in preventing developers of solar photovoltaic installations from covering quite literally hundreds of thousands of acres of British farmland with PV generation, thus swapping food production for low grade electricity.
Weak planning guidance has permitted and even encouraged development on Agricultural Land Class 3b, which is by no means bad land, and thus incentivised the misrepresentation of higher classes of land. It should be emphasised that all farmland is a national asset that should not be wasted by development as malinvestment in solar, or indeed as wind “farms”.
The situation suggests that Mr Sunak’s government is poorly informed and acting irresponsibly. Neither wind nor solar is thermodynamically competent, the fuels being of high entropy and of little intrinsic value. No capable government would encourage them. And no capable government would discourage exploration for high quality fuels such as natural gas, but this is precisely what Mr Sunak’s government is now doing with the ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Dr John Constable, NZW’s energy director, said:
To continue intellectually bankrupt and counterproductive policies in the middle of an energy crisis of unprecedented magnitude suggests that the machinery of government in Westminster has ceased to work, and that rational analysis can no longer effect a change of course. The outlook for the consumer and the country as whole is very bleak.”