David Elliot is Emeritus Professor of Technology policy at the Open University, specialising in renewable energy policy. He is the author of “Renewables”, written for the Institute of Physics.
Prof Elliot’s standpoint is that renewables (wind, wave, tidal, solar etc) , at various scales, could supply all the energy we need in the UK and EU and possibly worldwide within a few decades, given proper support.
“Some renewable sources are currently more expensive than conventional energy sources,” he says, “but they are all getting cheaper rapidly – and they would relieve us of having to buy in increasingly expensive fossil fuel- e.g gas from Qatar , coal from Russia. They would also remove the need to build very expensive and as yet untried new nuclear plants. On land wind is the cheapest major new renewable source at present, with more capacity now in place in the UK than nuclear, and by 2020 or so looks like being cheaper than nuclear power. It had been claimed that PV solar will also be competitive with nuclear by around then, and by the time the proposed new Hinkley nuclear plant is built, if it goes ahead in Somerset , off shore wind would be cheaper. So we will be wasting our money paying an excess amount for Hinkley for 60 years after that !”
He will also be looking briefly at local level smaller scale options such as the Crida Wind Co-operative project near Bridgnorth. He suggests that renewables offer us a range of possibilities at all scales, large and small, but all of them with much lower levels of environmental and climate impact than coal, oil or gas- including shale gas – and none of the risks of nuclear.