Wind Power Is the Way Ahead, Says UK Minister

Wave or tidal power also holds promise, but onshore and offshore wind most technologically developed

Published: 15-Jan-2004

N class=article id=mainHTML>Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has told peers that the Government's target for a massive expansion of renewable energy will be driven mainly by new windfarms, despite calls for greater investment in tidal power.

Speaking during a short debate, Lord Sainsbury insisted that the Government was interested in tidal power and other forms of renewable energy.

But he said that many technologies were at too early a stage to make a major contribution towards meeting the Government's target of generating 15 per cent of the UK's energy needs from renewable sources by 2015.

"In the short term, most of the expansion in renewables will be from new windfarms, both offshore and onshore," he said.

Lord Sainsbury's comments came in response to calls from peers to provide greater investment for tidal power.

Lib-Dem peer Lord Hooson said that using the tidal power of the River Severn alone could provide up to 10 per cent of the nation's energy needs.

Lord Hooson said the development of turbine technology had moved on enormously since the last assessment of the Severn barrage project and urged ministers to "look anew" at the feasibility of the massive scheme.

Lord Hooson also questioned the Government's reliance on wind power, saying that ministers "should give greater priority to harnessing tidal power, rather than wind power".

He also questioned the "reliability" of wind power, adding: "The reason we have tended to go in the direction of wind power is the subsidy.

"Are the Government satisfied with the reliability, viability and cost of that being the prime renewable source? Where does the money come from? Is it all European Union money? If so, has any attempt been made to make sure that such subsidies would also be available for research into the development of tidal projects?"

Lord Sainsbury said the £117 million given in grants for the development of offshore windfarms came from Government coffers.

And he said the Government was satisfied with the reliability of wind energy, although he conceded that it could push up costs in the long term.

He added: "We recognise that wind energy is intermittent, but analysis shows that the electricity system could cope with an increasing reliance on renewable energy.

"But of course, as the proportion of intermittent generation increases, the cost of maintaining stable supplies also increases." Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, the Lib-Dem environment spokeswoman in the Lords, said she would like to see the Government explore ways of harnessing the tidal power of the Severn, although she opposed a barrage.

But she also urged ministers to support other tidal projects, such as the ongoing experiment with underwater turbines off the coast of Lynton and Lynmouth. She said tidal energy had the potential to meet ten per cent of the UK's energy needs by 2010.

Lord Sainsbury insisted that the Government was interested in tidal energy and said the Department of Trade and Industry had already provided support to the scheme off the North Devon coast.

He acknowledged that a Severn barrage would produce large, reliable amounts of electricity - up to 6 per cent of the UK's needs - but he said this would come "at a very high cost".

He also said there were potential environmental problems with the creation of a barrage.

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