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'New demands; old countryside' by Rob Yorke FRICS

'New demands; old countryside' by Rob Yorke FRICS

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Published by rob yorke
A journalistic style paper (2011) stimulating debate around tradeoffs & priorities in a modern thriving countryside. @blackgull
A journalistic style paper (2011) stimulating debate around tradeoffs & priorities in a modern thriving countryside. @blackgull

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Published by: rob yorke on Aug 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The government‟s policy on low carbon energy is in disarray. Subsidies for generating electricity from
PVs, at the UK‟s latitude, make them as expensive an option as nuclear, albeit without the waste
issue [MONBIOT]. Onshore wind, often perceived as the only other economically viable regional low
carbon energy, is thrown into doubt under closer scrutiny: the anti-lobby claim that manufacturing
and install costs combined with carbon outlay make electricity both expensive and unsustainable, in
part also due to the inefficient transmission from turbine to grid but also because most areas have
variable wind [DAILY MAIL FEB 2011].

Nimbies and the public also object to turbines on
aesthetic grounds (e.g. additional associated cross-
country overhead lines) while some conservationists
object on species specific grounds such as death of
birds and bats.

“The wind turbines are just a few hundred yards from the kite
feeding station”

Cefn Croes Action Group

Yet pro-wind advocates point out that electricity
generation from wind turbines is comparable in
terms of cost per unit, especially when we consider
the true cost of generation from other forms such as
decommissioning, the legacy of contamination,
harmful emissions and land displacement.

Overall, there has been little room for sensible debate with dramatic actions by some countries
(Germany switches off nuclear) contrasting with the polarisation of public opinion which distinguishes
only between black (science & business is bad) and white (green & natural is good). We must find a
way to look at things in a more balanced and rational way. [SCIENTIFIC ALLIANCE]

Meanwhile DECC has reviewed the Feed in Tariffs (FITs) for various renewables, pronouncing that,
while recognising that industry needs a long-term plan for investment in which it can have full
confidence, the government has closed the initiative for larger PV installations due to an overload of
applications and a lack of funding [HULME].

Even positive developments appear more mixed under closer analysis. The target of 12% heat
energy from renewables by 2020 is a high demand particularly as finding the raw materials to burn in
the 30 large-scale biomass power stations that are proposed will be almost impossible without
importing or using unsustainably sourced products. They will require a total of 23 million tonnes of
wood annually. Furthermore, timber is only 30% efficient when burnt for electric within the proposed
regional power stations and yet that figure climbs to 85% efficient when it‟s burnt for heat at a local
level. That‟s why in France, rather than flail hedges, they allow them to grow into hedgerow trees and

then coppice them for biomass.


On top of that, there are political problems. The Renewable Heat Incentive, designed to boost
production by providing financial support for the high cost of biomass combustion installations, has
been postponed due to political pressure, some say from Europe, others within the UK government.


The matter grabs a lot of attention but there are receding opportunities to capitalise on providing
renewable energy with financial backing from government. We are aiming to get most if not all of our
energy from electric in the future and the current Electricity Market Reform White Paper might assist
us reach 2020 targets but might not please the Nimbies amongst us.

The complex nature of climate change and global emissions puts many of us off from embracing any
form of individual action. Why should I do anything when China is spewing out carbon and my
neighbouring farmer is spreading fertilizer with a huge tractor? However, when governments set
targets and there is real risk to our immediate environment, we must do something to mitigate our
own impact, reduce profligate behaviour and open our eyes to the opportunities to save or even make
money from the exercise, while taking a little hardship to protect the environment for the next

“We‟ve co-evolved on planet earth so it suits humans,
we have to make this planet the one we can survive on”

Sir David King (previous chief scientific govt advisor)

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