Blowing hot and cold

The energy debate will be back on the agenda with a vengeance this week with publication expected on Wednesday of the UK government’s Energy White Paper and, separately, its strategy for renewable energy.


The latter is tipped to include an aggressive policy of support for expansion of wind energy as the cornerstone of the nation’s renewable power infrastructure.


Sparks are flying even before any announcement. The CBI today warns that giving too many incentives to wind risks deterring private investors from backing alternatives such as nuclear and clean coal, leaving the UK’s energy mix dangerously skewed towards one source.


Wind sceptics will also doubtless point out the pitfalls of a local planning system that makes the construction of new turbines a lottery. The manufacturing sector will not appreciate the bitter irony of watching the UK’s only significant turbine production facility, Vestas on the Isle of Wight, preparing to shut its doors even as central government support for wind is ramped up.


Even as the UK wrestles with its own energy policy, a consortium called Desertec is due today to announce further details of ambitious plans to harvest solar power from the deserts of north Africa to supply a significant portion of Europe’s energy needs.


Proposals to use Africa as a giant battery for Europe are likely to cause their own controversy and the scale of the project is mind-boggling, but nobody can accuse Desertec of lacking ambition.


Finally, look out for plenty of build up to the fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing a week today, without doubt one of the greatest achievements of technical endeavour the world has seen.



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Andrew Lee, Editor