Monday, 29 December 2008

Windfarm revolution tangled in red tape

Britain's wind power industry is facing a double blow of lengthy planning delays and rapidly rising construction costs in a crisis that threatens to sink the government's climate-change goals.

Dozens of projects are being held up by planning inquiries, with the average length of time taken to win permission being 15 to 20 months in England and far longer in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the bulk of the schemes are being developed.

There are 262 different projects representing seven gigawatts stuck in the planning stages. And the rate of approvals is slowing despite government promises, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA).

It said that the start of a third inquiry into one project in Norfolk that has already been delayed for seven years showed that the government has not cured the problem despite introducing the Planning Act to speed up the process.

Meanwhile Centrica, owner of British Gas and one of the most powerful energy utilities, said a 250-megawatt scheme off the Lincolnshire coast was hanging in the balance because turbine manufacturers and other suppliers had raised their prices so high they were jeopardising the economics of the scheme.

With Britain committed to producing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 to meet European Union targets, the government would be blown off course unless it intervened more robustly, said the BWEA.

"The government does not want the political problems of undermining local democracy by taking control out of the hands of local councillors," said Charles Anglin, director of communications at the BWEA. "But if it fails to act it is just storing up more difficult problems further down the road when it gives the go-ahead to coal or expensive gas projects instead."

To meet the 15% target, the BWEA estimates that Britain needs more than 30GW of wind capacity. "We think you can get 20GW offshore, which means you need 10-12GW onshore, and yet so far we have only got 2.5GW," Anglin said.

"We are aware that the planning system does need to be quicker and there are other barriers to projects," said a department of energy and climate change spokesman. "That is why we are going to unveil a renewable energy strategy with the next steps to meeting our goals."

The planning problem is highlighted by the battle waged by Ecotricity at Shipdham in Norfolk over a wind farm application submitted in December 2001. The company has won two planning inquiries only to find the final decision challenged in the high court by two local residents claiming potential noise problems.

The Planning Act applies only to schemes in England - and then only those over 50MW. "Eighty to 90% of the schemes in England are under 50MW anyway so the Planning Act does virtually nothing," Anglin said.

Offshore operators are also struggling because of the mounting costs that have already chased Shell and BP off to the US.

The cost of Centrica's 250MW Lincs wind farm off Skegness has increased from £2bn to £3bn a GW. "We are committed to building wind farms," said a company spokesman, "but we have got to get the costs down to an economic level."

Source - The Guardian

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Japan launches first solar cargo ship

The world's first cargo ship partly propelled by solar power took to the seas on Friday in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions when automakers ship off their exports.

Auriga Leader, a freighter developed by shipping line Nippon Yusen K.K. and oil distributor Nippon Oil Corp., took off from a shipyard in the western city of Kobe, officials of the two firms said.

The huge freighter capable of carrying 6,400 automobiles is equipped with 328 solar panels at a cost of 150 million yen (1.68 million dollars), the officials said.

The ship will initially transport vehicles being sent for sale overseas by Japan's top automaker Toyota Motor Corp. The project was conceived before the global economic crisis, which has forced automakers to drastically cut production as sales dwindle.

Company officials said the 60,213-tonne, 200-metre (660-foot) long ship is the first large vessel in the world with a solar-based propulsion system. So far solar energy has been limited to supporting lighting and crew's living quarters.

The solar power system can generate 40 kilowatts, which would initially cover only 0.2 percent of the ship's energy consumption for propulsion, but company officials said they hoped to raise the ratio.

The shipping industry has come under growing pressure to take part in efforts to curb global warming, which is blamed on carbon emissions.

Estimates say maritime transport accounts for anything from 1.4 percent to 4.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. But the industry remains largely unregulated due to its international nature.

Nippon Yusen, Japan's largest shipping company, has set a goal of halving its fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions by 2010.

Resource-poor Japan has been looking for ways to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.

Source - Solardaily

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Swiss engineer completes first world tour in solar-powered car

A Swiss engineer completed Thursday the first ever round-the-world trip in a solar-powered car after more than 17 months on the road during which he crossed almost 40 countries.

Louis Palmer, 36, arrived back in Lucerne in central Switzerland in his "solar taxi" after covering 53,451 kilometres (33,213 miles) over four continents.

Since his departure on July 3 2007, he travelled through eastern Europe, the Middle East and India before heading to New Zealand, Australia, southeast Asia and China and finally the United States.

He finished his trip after a detour through France, England, Scandinavia and Germany.

"We have achieved our first world tour without using a single drop of oil," Palmer rejoiced at the end of his trip.

The three-wheeler solar taxi, which towed a trailer packed with batteries charged by the sun, reached speeds of 90 kilometres (55 miles) per hour. It had a battery for travel in the night and in cloudy conditions.

"One of my goals was to persuade as many people as possible that renewable energy is ecological, economical and reliable," Palmer told reporters.

His vehicle only broke down twice during the tour, he said, and surmounted the extreme heat in the Middle East and the hazardous terrain in America's Rocky mountains.

The small blue-and-white vehicle carried around 1,000 passengers, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Palmer has previously said the prototype for the solar taxi could be mass produced but that it would need serious modifications.

He said he plans to travel around the world in 80 days for his next challenge, but in a faster car.

Source - Solar daily

Obama's revolution on climate change

Barack Obama ushered in a revolution in America's response to global warming yesterday when he appointed one of the world's leading climate change experts as his administration's chief scientist.

The president-elect's decision to make Harvard physicist John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reveals a new determination to draw a line under eight years of US policy that have seen George Bush steadfastly reject overwhelming evidence of climate change.

News of the appointment was hailed by scientists around the world, including former UK chief government scientific adviser Sir David King. "This is a superb appointment," he told the Observer. "Holdren is a top-rate scientist and his position on climate change is as clear as you could get. This is a signal from Barack Obama that he means business when it comes to dealing with global warming."

Obama also used his weekend radio address to announce that respected climatologist Jane Lubchenco is to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appointments follow Obama's selection of Steven Chu, a Nobel prizewinner, to the Department of Energy, where he has been directed to lead the development of alternative energy sources.

"Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation," Obama announced. "It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and ... worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology."

In one telling remark, he added that respect for the scientific process was not "just about providing investment and resources. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted nor obscured by politics nor ideology."

Obama's appointments are outspoken proponents of the need for urgent action over climate change, and they come after eight years of inaction, during which the Bush administration resisted international emission-reduction accords and the introduction of US laws to protect threatened species.

Holdren, whose expertise runs from nuclear-weapons proliferation to global warming, recently warned in a speech at Harvard that he considered "global warming" to be a misnomer. "It implies something gradual, something uniform, something quite possibly benign, and what we're experiencing is none of those. There is already widespread harm ... occurring from climate change. This is not just a problem for our children and our grandchildren."

As he pointed out, new figures point to a rapid acceleration in the loss of Arctic sea ice, as well as dramatic acidification of the ocean.

With the international community looking to America for leadership, Obama has made it clear that, despite the global economic crisis, the success of his presidency will hinge on a revolution in America's use and production of carbon-based energy. The selection of marine expert Lubchenco underscores that. She has warned that even if the world abruptly shifts away from fossil fuels, the oceans will continue to soak up carbon dioxide and become more acidic. She recommends protecting marine life by reducing overfishing, cutting back on nutrient run-off and creating marine reserves to protect marine eco-systems.

"The Bush administration has not been respectful of the science," she said earlier this year. "I am very much looking forward to a new administration that does respect scientific information and considers it very seriously in making environmental policies."

In another signal of his determination to move on the environment, Obama appointed Carol M Browner as his climate tsar last week. She was quoted as saying: "Time and time again, when the nation has set a new environmental standard, the naysayers have warned it will cost too much. But, once we have set those standards, American ingenuity and innovation have found a solution at a far lower cost than predicted."

For Obama, the creation of this green team is part of a broader push toward economic and environmental self-enlightenment. He has expressed hope that engaging technology with environmental and energy policy will lead to significant job creation.

Source - The guardian

Peak oil in 2020, says energy agency

Global oil production will peak much earlier than expected amid a collapse in petroleum investment due to the credit crunch, one of the world’s foremost experts has revealed.

Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was “not good news” for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.

The prediction came as oil companies from Saudi Arabia to Canada cut their capital expenditure on new projects in response to a fall in oil prices, moves that will further reduce supply in future.

Birol’s comments will give more ammunition to those who warn that the British government is dangerously complacent in not trying to wean the country off oil as quickly as possible. Some observers believe that, because the global economy is underpinned by oil, the peaking of supply will cause severe economic, social and political disruption unless prepared for over many years.

John Hemming, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, said Birol’s “conversion” was significant. “The penny has finally dropped - geological issues matter as well as political and economic. The IEA - unlike our government - appears to be leaving cloud cuckoo land finally,” he added.

The IEA has never before been specific about the point at which so-called conventional oil would peak. It said last month that total crude output could peak in 2030. Birol’s comments follow other signs that the IEA is rapidly changing its view. In its 2007 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted a rate of decline from the world’s existing oil fields at 3.7%, only to admit 12 months later that the speed of the fall was more likely 6.7%.

Jeremy Leggett, chief executive of solar energy company Solarcentury, said Birol’s views underplayed the scale of the problem. “The IEA is very constrained in what it can say - by the demands of its constituent governments - so you have to read between the lines. We believe that peak oil will come about in 2013 at the latest but the real concern from the IEA is the adjustment of production figures,” he said.

The energy agency, which represents most western governments including the UK and US, has been backtracking rapidly on previous positions.

Three years ago the Paris-based organisation still denied there was any fundamental threat to the world’s petroleum economy.

Source - The guardian

Monday, 15 December 2008

Obama to present new climate change team

President-elect Barack Obama was set Monday to name his energy and environmental chiefs and vow a new dawn for US leadership against climate change after eight years of Republican "denial."

After talks with his national security team, Obama was to name more cabinet lieutenants at a news conference where he was also facing questions over Illinois's scandal-hit governor.

Obama's transition team said the press conference in Chicago would "discuss the nation's energy and environmental future."

Obama was reportedly to nominate Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary, placing the expert in renewable energy on the frontlines of climate change policy.

Joining Chu in Obama's new team was expected to be Lisa Jackson, chief of staff to the New Jersey governor, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Obama was further to announce that Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator under president Bill Clinton, would become the White House "climate czar" overseeing the battle against global warming.

And Nancy Sutley, a senior adviser to Obama's transition team, was expected to be named chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Last week, after a meeting with former vice president Al Gore, Obama said the "time for denial is over" on climate change.

"We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way," he said.

"That is what I intend my administration to do."

Despite an economic recession hitting the United States, Obama is promising to unwind the environmental policies of President George W. Bush, whose refusal to ratify the Kyoto pact on climate change disgusted green campaigners.

Chu, a scientist and Washington outsider, won his Nobel in 1997. Since 2004 he has been running the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, which has a budget of 645 million dollars and a staff of 4,000.

As energy secretary, Chu is expected to lead Obama's ambitious agenda to generate 2.5 million new jobs through "green" and new technologies aimed at making America more energy efficient and less reliant on foreign oil.

Jackson, who trained as a chemical engineer, is likely to restore teeth to the EPA, which during the Bush administration saw its funding slashed, scientific findings censored, and enforcement efforts downplayed.

In one notorious example, the EPA backed off a finding that said climate change was a risk to public welfare. The findings would have led to the nation's first mandatory global-warming regulations.

Despite the costs to industry as the US recession bites, Obama has promised to set caps on domestic emissions of greenhouse gases and reposition the United States in the vanguard of international action.

At UN climate talks in Poland last week, many delegates were delighted at the passing of the Bush administration as the international community attempts to craft a successor to the Kyoto pact.

"This climate conference will go down in history as the retirement party for the Flat Earth Society of the United States of America," said Edward Markey, the senior lawmaker on climate change issues in the House of Representatives.

But analysts also warn against over-expectations. Obama's room to manoeuvre may be limited by the US recession and also the limited time before the deadline of December 2009 for completing a new UN climate treaty.

Source - terra daily

Australia fast-tracks renewable energy funding

Australia will bring forward millions of dollars in funding for solar and other renewable energy sources, in part to help boost the economy, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Sunday.
solar, renewable energy sources, australia, carbon pollution, environmental
Rudd said the government's 500 million dollar (329 million US) renewable energy fund will now be spent over the next 18 months rather than spread over six years as previously planned.

"It's time for Australia to begin the solar revolution, a renewable energy revolution and we have got to fund it for the future" he told reporters in his home state of Queensland.

"It's good for jobs, it's good for stimulus, it's good for acting on climate change."

The Australian government is due to reveal Monday its targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

Environmental groups have argued that the government must ensure carbon pollution is slashed by 25 percent by 2020 but industry and business groups have contended that this will be too high.

Source - Solar daily

Friday, 12 December 2008

Barack Obama's choice of energy team signals climate change intent

Barack Obama has picked an energy team that includes a Nobel Laureate obsessed with fighting global warming and an acolyte of Al Gore — a clear sign that he intends to move quickly on climate change legislation despite the dire economy.

Mr Obama has chosen as his Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics and who in recent years has devoted himself to the cause of inventing alternative fuels.

The President-elect has also created a new post, a White House overseer of energy, environmental and climate policy — already known as an "energy tsar" — who will be responsible for driving his agenda on Capitol Hill. For this, he has picked Carol Browner, a former legislative director to Al Gore.

The choices, and the fact that Mr Obama is intent on co-ordinating environmental policy from inside the White House, underscores his intent to push ahead with his hugely ambitions and expensive plan to create alternative fuels, and reduce carbon emissions, despite the fierce resistance that will inevitably come from US industry.

Mr Obama is in fact exploiting the economic crisis as a way to justify much of his legislative agenda. He is arguing that economic recovery is tied implicitly to big reforms in areas such as healthcare, the environment and schools, and he appears to have a Democratic-controlled Congress willing to fund much of it.

Yesterday, as he announced Tom Daschle, the Democrats' former leader in the Senate, as his Health Secretary, Mr Obama said: "Now, some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our healthcare system. Well, I ask a different question — I ask how we can afford not to."

Mr Chu, 60, the son of Chinese immigrants, has been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California since 2004. On his website, he says it has been his "mission" to make the facility the world leader in finding alternative and renewable energy sources. He views a shift away from fossil fuels central to fighting global warming.

On Tuesday, Mr Obama had a meeting in Chicago with Mr Gore, declaring afterwards: "The time for denial is over." He added, referring to climate change: "This is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That is what I intend my Administration to do."

Source - The times

Europe agrees energy targets for 2020

Targets for 20 per cent of Europe’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 were agreed after EU countries decided to reduce the role of biofuels over concerns about the impact of growing crops for fuel in developing countries.

In concessions to smooth the deal EU states that cannot afford to meet their own individual renewable energy targets will be able to outsource some of their efforts by sponsoring green projects in other countries or buying credits from those countries that have exceeded the goal.

Instead of a parallel target proposed last year for 10 per cent of transport fuel to come from biofuels, this goal will now include all methods of sustainable transport such as electric cars and trains, while aviation will be exempt, meeting concerns from Britain that fuel technology would not be ready in time.

Renewable energy targets are a major part of the EU’s massive climate change package, due to be signed off by leaders from the 27 nations at a summit in Brussels later this week. Each country will have its own share of the overall goal, with Britain obliged to move to 15 per cent of renewable energy from 3 per cent this year — a target expected to mean that more than 30 per cent of electricity will have to come from renewable sources, with thousands more wind turbines needed.

The only outstanding point of disagreement on the renewables package is Italy’s demand for a full review in 2014, which will be debated by EU leaders at their summit on Thursday and Friday. In another concession, EU countries that exceed their individual renewable target will be able to sell the premium to an EU member struggling to meet its own target.

But fierce wrangling is still going on over another key plank, the emissions trading scheme, with a group of eastern EU countries heavily dependent on coal power, led by Poland, arguing for big subsidies from western European nations.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, said that he hoped for a comprehensive deal including emission trading, which could then be extended to include North America. “If we reach agreement this week, we should propose a transatlantic emission market which should be the basis for a global carbon market,” he said.

In Poznan, Poland, where UN climate talks are under way, green groups were broadly content with the EU deal on renewable energy but voiced alarm at another part of the 2020 climate package to be agreed at the Brussels summit, so-called effort sharing.

This sets energy use reduction targets for sectors, accounting for 55 per cent of EU emissions, that are not covered by trading in carbon emissions, including agriculture, transport and households.

A coalition of environmental groups called this a farce because polluters could offset as much as two-thirds of their emissions by investing in clean-technology projects in poor countries.

“This proposal, steered by the self-interest of EU member states, sets the bar far too low,” said the coalition, called the Climate Action Network .

Source - The times

Wal-Mart And SunPower Announce Solar Power On Californian Store

Wal-Mart Stores and SunPower have announced completion of a 554-kilowatt solar power system at the Wal-Mart store in Hanford, California. The system is estimated to generate approximately 15 percent of the store's electricity.

This Hanford store is part of a Wal-Mart pilot project to purchase solar power systems from SunPower and other solar providers for up to 22 Wal-Mart stores, Sam's Club locations and distribution centers in California and Hawaii.

It is expected these solar power systems at Wal-Mart's facilities will replace 7,000 to 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. The systems help move Wal-Mart towards its long-term goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, and will provide immediate cost savings over current utility rates.

"This project helps move Wal-Mart forward in our commitment to conserve energy, reduce energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions," said Kim Saylors-Laster, vice president of energy for Wal-Mart Stores.

"We are very pleased with SunPower's work on the Hanford solar project and on all of our facilities on which they are building solar power systems."

The Hanford Wal-Mart store, as well as the nearby Wal-Mart distribution center in Porterville, are two of eight Wal-Mart facilities in California to receive SunPower solar power systems, totaling 4.2 megawatts, by the end of this year.

The other six Wal-Mart facilities included in the SunPower contract are located in Chino, Simi Valley, Brea, Orange and Lakewood and Palmdale.

"Companies like Wal-Mart are turning to solar power because it makes good business sense and supports their environmental initiatives," said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower.

"Companies turn to SunPower because we have the most efficient solar technology in the world, and unparalleled experience in delivering high quality solar power installations anywhere and at any scale, from rooftops to parking structures to power plants."

Wal-Mart plans to use the results of the solar power pilot project to explore additional ways to achieve its renewable energy goals and to determine how to move forward with solar power generation at additional Wal-Mart locations.

Source - Solardaily

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Go-ahead for wind farm puts Wales on track to meet clean energy targets

Wales took the biggest step yet towards its target to become the UK's leader in renewable energy yesterday when the government granted permission for a 750MW wind farm off the north coast which, when finished in 2014, will be the second largest in the world.

The Gwynt y Môr wind farm, to be built by the energy company Npower Renewables, will be eight miles off the coast of north Wales and, at maximum capacity, will be capable of generating enough power for the annual needs of more than 700,000 homes; it will be second only to the proposed 1GW London Array wind farm.

In February the Welsh assembly's environment and energy minister, Jane Davidson, announced a target to source all of Wales' electricity from clean sources by 2025. More than 30% of the carbon emissions from Wales come from electricity generation and, in a report on how to maintain supply while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Welsh government said it wanted at least 1GW each of onshore and offshore wind farms (possibly rising to 2GW of onshore wind) as well as biomass plants. Further clean power could come from the proposed Severn barrage, a scheme to harness tidal energy that could generate up to 5% of the UK's electricity needs.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, said the North Wales coast could become a powerhouse for renewable energy. "The UK must clean up its energy supply to fight the damaging effects of climate change and more wind power will help us do this. The UK is leading the world in offshore wind, and the developments off the coast of North Wales will help keep us frontrunners."

In October the UK overtook Denmark as the world's leader in generating power from offshore wind farms. Energy company Centrica's completion of the 194MW wind farm off the coast at Skegness, Lincolnshire, brought the UK's total built offshore capacity to 590MW, compared with Denmark's 423MW.

Neil Crumpton, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said Gwynt y Môr was an important step for Wales. "Projects like this are urgently needed to help tackle the immense threat of climate change and create new jobs. Gwynt y Môr will boost the green energy revolution, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by around 2m tonnes a year."

A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association said Gwynt y Môr brought the total offshore wind projects in planning stages to 4.5GW. "It will also set us well on our way towards reaching our 2020 renewable energy targets. The offshore sector remains vibrant."

Npower Renewables, owned by energy giant RWE Innogy, already operates the UK's first big wind farm, the 60MW North Hoyle array, off the coast of Rhyl in north Wales. This feeds 40,000 households with 30 turbines. The company is also constructing a second wind farm, Rhyl Flats, which is rated at 90MW and will become operational next year.

The Gwynt y Môr farm will consist of an array of 3MW and 5MW turbines with rotor blades of up to 130m. Construction will begin in 2011 and last for three years.

Greenpeace's chief scientist, Doug Parr, said: "Our country has some of the best engineers in the world, a highly skilled manufacturing sector as well as the most powerful renewable resources in Europe. This is a big step forward, and it now needs to be followed up by an ambitious government strategy to unlock the massive potential of offshore wind to secure our energy supplies, fight climate change and create thousands of new British jobs."

Paul Cowling, managing director of Npower Renewables, said: "The decision underlines the government's commitment to massively expanding renewable energy generation in the UK to help tackle climate change and improve security of energy supply. We are equally dedicated to these aims, with RWE Innogy committed to spending around €1bn across Europe on renewables every year until 2012."

Source - The Guardian

ICP Solar Wins Business In Africa

ICP Solar Technologies has announced that the Company has signed an agreement worth $500,000 for off-grid modules in Africa. Deliveries are expected to begin in January, 2009.

"We are very pleased to announce our first sales to Africa in years, where demand for solar systems has climbed rapidly in the past twelve months," said Sass Peress, Chairman and CEO of ICP Solar.

"We will be providing our proprietary modules for remote power generation in areas where, given the lack of reliable electricity but continuous availability of sunshine, we will make it possible for thousands of individuals to use portable power products and operate critically-needed equipment. These sales represent our re-entry into a market that will become a key part of our expansion in 2009, leveraging our innovative line of thin-film applications to harness the power of the sun.

"Combined with other announcements during the past two months, ICP Solar has already secured over $5 million of business for the upcoming fiscal year - a record for the company at this stage of the contract confirmation season. Considering that we will also be launching several new products in the coming quarters, we remain very well positioned for 2009."

Source - Solardaily

UK - Support solar panels now

The introduction of solar panels feed-in tariffs to the energy bill may not sound enthralling. Yet it is raising blood pressure among green groups, politicians and government officials alike.

Liberal Democrat, Conservative and backbench Labour MPs, along with environmental groups, have been calling for a tariff to offer incentives for households, businesses and communities to generate energy from renewable sources (such as solar panels, wind or biomass) and feed it back into the national grid.

This would move us towards our target of generating 15% of UK energy from renewable sources by 2020. We are currently hovering around 2%, lagging behind all of Europe except Malta and Luxembourg. We need all the incentives we can employ.

Germany introduced a feed-in tariff in 1990 and has seen its renewable energy market soar. Domestic turnover in 2007 was €25bn, with 250,000 people employed in the renewables sector. This is exactly the kind of boost that we need, particularly if recession continues to bite.

The good news is that the government has finally introduced a power in the bill to create solar panels feed-in tariffs. Yet collective blood pressure is still high, as the concession is too vague to offer certainty that they will be set up within the next two years, or introduced in a workable form. The power is deliberately broad to give officials space to work out the details later.

Energy minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath demonstrated the government’s lack of urgency, saying: “Our hope is that a feed-in tariff scheme will be operational in 2010 … I have to say that this is a hope, and I cannot give that as an absolute commitment … ”

His commitment to a renewable heat incentive was even vaguer. Almost half the UK’s carbon emissions are generated through heat, yet the minister could not even promise to make a start on the detail by 2010.

In August a campaign was launched to highlight the serious risk of a climate change “tipping point” in 100 months. Every day that we dither and delay is another day closer to that tipping point where we can no longer stop irreversible climate change.

We need to start doing government in a new way. There is no time for yet another consultation, another green paper, or another review. Far better to get a tariff up and running, and then refine it as we go along. If we wait until the mechanism is perfect, it will never happen. And we can draw on the wisdom of schemes that have already been set up in other countries.

Now is the time to pull out the stops and ensure that feed-in tariffs are up and running within 12 months. Any less is not enough.

Source - The Guardian