Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



Ian Lucas

  60. Do you encounter less resistance in Scotland than in Wales from the general public?
  (Mr Goodall) All wind farms to be built have to achieve planning permission. There was a study commissioned by the Scottish Executive which was published last year which had nothing to do with us and which reported that not only did the approval of wind farms increase the closer people lived to them but there was also a much higher level of tolerance and acceptance than had previously been expected. Anecdotally, it is worth pointing out that most new wind farms now quite often come with a mandatory layby on a road because people like to stop and look at them. It is true that there is always suspicion and curiosity about any new development but it may well be that, when a local community considers all the factors including the opportunity presented locally, the closer knit that community is the more rapid is the understanding. It is true that planning success is swifter and tends to be more universal in Scotland than we found elsewhere in the United Kingdom recently.
  (Mr Still) In north Wales, a 20 to 30 turbine project was approved by the local authority but was immediately called in by the Welsh Assembly about a year ago. We are still waiting for a decision. The local people made the decision but that was then taken away from them.

Mr Jones

  61. The DTI has said that there is a current fragmented situation for obtaining consents on offshore wind farms. Is this being addressed?
  (Mr Goodall) The DTI have indicated they intend to facilitate a one-stop shop which will enable developers of offshore sites to take a streamlined approach to the necessary consents. There are effectively two major consents. They are going to help make that process go as seamlessly as possible. We are at the early stages in taking any projects through that process but Mr Still is taking at least one of those projects through the process. He might be able to offer a more useful commentary on that. It is considerably easier than it was when the first and the United Kingdom's only wind farm was built.
  (Mr Still) There are several departments of government interested in offshore wind. One is DEFRA with its MAFF FEPA licences and the second is either getting consent from the DTI under the Electricity Act or the Coastal Protection Act from DTLR. The problem is that the DTI has said it will set up a one-stop shop. That is more likely to be probably a two stop shop but they will coordinate the two key departments, one for electricity and I guess one for working in the water, which is DEFRA. It is a system which has not been confirmed to us yet and it has taken a long time to evolve through government. Although projects were awarded early last year, we still do not know the final consents that we can take to get our projects consented.

  62. Was the last description you gave an England only description?
  (Mr Still) England and Wales.

  63. The offshore projects would all be over 50 megawatts?
  (Mr Still) Normally, yes.

Mr Francois

  64. The renewables obligation set a target of ten per cent electricity from renewables by 2010. What proportion of this do you think wind can realistically provide?
  (Mr Good all) There is enough wind energy resource in the United Kingdom to meet as much as anybody cares to. It is a rather glib comment but technical resource is something like eight times total United Kingdom demand so achieving ten per cent should be technically possible. The effect of the obligation is what is perhaps most relevant here in terms of the obligation itself is an obligation on suppliers to procure renewable energy. It is a market device. It therefore puts it out to the market as to what they are going to buy. For reasons indicated in the note, wind energy is the cheapest renewable technology available in any large quantity in the United Kingdom. It is apparent from the market interest in developing wind both on and offshore that it appears to be attracting the market to wanting to take forward wind proposals. It is interesting to note that even in the original DTI guesstimate, based on figures of perhaps four years' vintage, approximately 4.7 per cent was what the DTI imagined then would be met. We tend to suggest it would probably turn out to be somewhat greater than that for a number of reasons, not least of which being the effect of the obligation, but also because of the effect of the obligation and other factors on other technologies. Here, notably, I am talking about energy crops and so forth which are mired in a number of additional issues related to land use, rural diversification, rural regeneration, CAP and so forth, and there is a longer lead time for energy crops. We have working numbers on projects in process in wind which suggest that although the rate of deployment is increasing it is still relatively laggardly in terms of achieving ten per cent on its own by 2010. Whatever figure we are at by 2010, the lion's share is likely to be from wind both on and offshore, simply because of what we know is already in the process and what we believe is not in the process in terms of other technologies.
  (Mr Still) 5,000 megawatts would be five per cent of United Kingdom electricity. Currently, we have slightly less than 500 megawatts installed. There are at this moment 800 megawatts in the planning system or going very immediately into the planning system for onshore projects. The first round of offshore projects could be up to 1,500 megawatts perhaps to be installed by 2005/6. If that all happened, we are already in the region of 2.8 per cent and we still have a number of years of onshore and some more offshore projects so we could easily get to five per cent by 2010.

  65. I take it you were choosing your words carefully when you mentioned the lion's share.
  (Mr Goodall) It was a glib comment. Read nothing into it.

  66. We have done a few calculations of our own which suggest that meeting the RO requirement would require an additional 29,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy. That is about 3,000 megawatt hours a year. Even for wind to meet 50 per cent of this would amount to 1,500 megawatt hours per year. Do you think 1,500 megawatt hours is realistic?
  (Mr Goodall) In terms of installing turbines?

  67. In terms of bringing that power on line and into service.
  (Mr Still) That is not very much.
  (Mr Goodall) Do you mean 15,000?

  68. 1,500 megawatt hours a year.
  (Mr Goodall) That is not very much at all.[11]

Mr Jones

  69. Are you going to be able to meet that increased level of demand over the next eight years?
  (Mr Still) The figures given here are what is in onshore planning now, which is short term, what can come from the first round of offshore, which is just the start. That is going to be 2.8 per cent. If we get to five per cent, that is more than possible within the timescale, by 2010.


  70. You are fairly optimistic about meeting the government's target?
  (Mr Goodall) With a fair wind, if you will allow us that terrible pun. If I give you the example of what was built in Germany last year in terms of installed turbines in megawatts, that was the better part of 3,000 megawatts built in one year. We can install turbines at a fair rate if the process lends itself well.

  71. The potential is there?
  (Mr Goodall) Absolutely.

  72. It is a question of whether you get the fair wind.
  (Mr Goodall) With your permission, we can verify these numbers and give a detailed analysis to you in due course, but we were somewhat puzzled by that because it struck us as a relatively small number.

  73. Perhaps we can have a note on that.
  (Mr Goodall) Absolutely.

Mr Francois

  74. We have not had time to digest the document you have presented to us but have you used any formula or made any calculations about what you think the employment estimates might be for wind energy in the United Kingdom?
  (Mr Goodall) The first principle is that employment tends to follow a domestic market. We can see that self-evidently in the Danish population involved in wind energy. Something like 14,000 people are directly employed in wind energy and a similar number indirectly. It is interesting to note that, with the activity in Scotland in particular—Mr Still recently announced aspirations for a project on Lewis—accompanying that will be the necessary manufacturing that will support that. That is manufacturing and construction and therefore the creation of jobs. There are formulae which have been suggested from time to time and there are approximate job creations per megawatt. It is never quite as simple as that because one is looking at the availability of turbines elsewhere and if there is a shortage of supply because the world demand for turbines is growing constantly—something like 23,000 megawatts have been installed. I am given to understand that there are no turbines available from the two major manufacturers in 2003, so therefore will be an increase in output from other manufacturers and perhaps opportunities for local assembly plants in the markets where there is clear growth.
  (Mr Still) The key thing is that there needs to be a market which is firm for people to set up a business to manufacture and assemble turbines etc. Without that—and we have not had that to date, apart from the example in Scotland starting last year—we have not seen the local manufacturing opportunities. Spain took advantage of a large deployment of wind turbines and I think there are now five or six manufacturing plants around Spain sourcing components from the home market and contributing to the local economy.

  Mr Francois: I take your point about needing to make an estimate for the purposes of the market but under the circumstances it is only fair that if you want to do some calculations on that too, we would like to have them.

Mr Best

  75. So far today I have had a wonderful time. The questions and answers are illuminating and that is helpful for all of us. One of the difficulties is this matter of having planning permission, having the theoretical stuff all worked out and then somebody has to deliver the generator and manufacture it. It brings back memories that I have of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. You could build a power station only if the generating capacity was available from someone like C A Parsons and their order book was several years ahead. All these things are, as they say about the wind, variable. I listen to the shipping forecast; you probably do as well. The references to the wind and the variable nature of that and the power generating capacity and the supply of the generators raise for me questions about certainties in what is going to be an essential planning element for industrial development and generation. I would like some observations from you about the lack of certainties and what it might mean. There is something which has always been a kind of magical, hopeful element in the provision of power and that is the ability to store it. With wind, it being variable, you cannot store. Have you given any thought to the storing of water and the relationship between hydro and wind?
  (Mr Goodall) Yes indeed. The relationship between hydro and wind is a rich opportunity that particularly applies in Scotland. We are in discussions and many of our member companies have interests in both camps as to how we can maximise the output of wind generation. It is worth considering that with wind it is not captured, converted or wasted. It comes around again. We are not looking at a lost opportunity because of an energy source that we have squandered. Related to that is the more complex question about what wind one can put into the system to ensure system stability. We are looking increasingly at hybrid systems, particularly for the export market, where we are seeing the partnering of two renewable technologies to ensure that one gets the best and most constant supply out of putting two well suited technologies together.
  (Mr Still) The 500 megawatts of wind which is on the system now is not seen in the system by the National Grid. They can accommodate probably up to ten per cent without any changes to the system because we keep a large spinning reserve to allow for outages or a cross channel link or a major power station. Wind is intermittent in that we cannot forecast it and that is where we suffer under NETA. Quite often wind is blowing on the west coast when it is not blowing on the east coast and vice versa. There is a lot of symmetry around the system. If you look at the modelling, you can see that wind will become a firm part of the overall power solution and not just something which goes on or off at full output. It is a gradual change around the country and it is seen as a benefit to the system and to displacing conventional generation.

  76. The last power station construction that I worked on was a long time ago but there were four 500 megawatt sets. It was coal fired, Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, and they had one 500 megawatt set running continuously for a year, an amazing piece of engineering skill and maintenance. That provides security of power generation into the National Grid. I am looking for that kind of certainty from wind and other natural sources. I am not sure that we are going to be able to offer that. When you think about the capital costs of taking advantage of variable winds around our coastlines, having plant standing by in the hope that it might blow and the generating capacity linked up and so on, it is an enormous engineering project, is it not?
  (Mr Still) Yes. I commend the operation of that generator during that time because it is very good to get such a high availability. We lose generators and nuclear power stations on a relatively frequent basis. We can lose the cross channel link. What we have is a lot of smaller generating units. They are not 500 megawatts. They may be 200 megawatts in the future and the variability that we may find from either maintenance or wind, because they are on different sides of the country, will bring a firm power element for the National Grid to use.
  (Mr Goodall) I am always reluctant to make comparisons between countries but there are other countries with greater wind penetration than the United Kingdom, as I am sure you are aware, and the system disruption is not the problem that it is often painted to be. We regularly lose generating set in the United Kingdom, much larger than the envisaged amount of wind might be and nobody notices. That is because of the way we run our system. It is quite important to remember that. The big, scary story is what happens when the wind blows. When the wind does not blow, turbines do not go round, quite clearly, but the system does not suffer. NGC have reported quite publicly that they could routinely take ten per cent availability of intermittent, maybe as high as 20 per cent, and you will see the nature of the grid, as you heard from our colleagues in CHPA, changing to reflect that.


  77. Why do conventional power stations get taken out of the grid?
  (Mr Goodall) They get shut down for various reasons.

  78. Maintenance?
  (Mr Goodall) Yes, popped fuses, all sorts of mundane reasons.

  79. Quite involuntarily?
  (Mr Goodall) Sometimes it is deliberate. Sometimes they get shut down for all sorts of unexpected reasons.

11   For clarification of the Committee's question and the BWEA response, please see supplementary memoranda from the BWEA Back

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