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Green moves spark more subsidies; THOUGHT of the day.

Byline: Ian L Handford, former chair of the Federation of Small Businesses

WHEN concerns about climate change entered the political arena, no-one imagined the term 'renewable' would become so contentious.

But with coal, oil and gas and to some extent nuclear power demonised by 'the green lobby' the concept of subsidies for renewables was to me like a nightmare with little logic.

The easy target was coal which saw the most modern and some said cleanest coal-fired power station of Europe being lost, when made subject to Chancellor Osborne's new 'carbon tax'. Yorkshire's Drax plant at the time was supplying 8% of the UK's electricity, albeit from coal. It devoured a PS700 million subsidy to convert the coal-fired boilers to biomass, which used wood. The now deceased investigative journalist Christopher Booker confirmed the wood came from the forests of South East America before being sent to the UK.

Next on the Green agenda came one hundred anaerobic digesters after a PS206 million subsidy was provided by taxpayers, for extra methane production to the National Gas grid. These huge industrial plants were built around the countryside, so that concerns about pollution and smell or the transport by thousands of heavy diesel powered vehicles, taking waste food and other nasties to the sites, created minimal opposition from any locals.

Then of course, solar power became acceptable and we all watched as thousands of acres of land were lost to subsidised 'solar farms' (initial cost: PS5billion a year). The subsidies assumed this renewable energy would produce at least 14% of the nation's electricity requirements. It was a precursor to all sorts of subsidised domestic solar panel schemes which at the time saw salesman recruited at a manic rate, probably as the industry knew the PS30 billion 'Green Scheme for feed-in tariffs' could not last forever. They were right - the schemes closed in April 2019.

Then came a PS50m subsidy to encourage drivers to "go green" by switching from petrol to diesel or better still purchasing an all-electric vehicle. Another subsidised idea destined to fail due to the cost of actually changing your vehicle. But then the Green agenda moved on again, as vehicle owners were encouraged to purchase a hybrid or full electric vehicle.

As the sun finally set on solar power schemes, officials finally accepted that if the sun fails to shine, only their new highly subsidised gas-fired power stations, would meet any urgent demand of the National Grid.

What next? Well with tidal power, heat pumps and even hydro power systems having fallen by the wayside, we are left with wind power. Yet although given a green light by the green lobby, the provision of thousands of turbines has cost taxpayers untold billions rather than just millions in subsidies.A National Infrastructure Commission (Government quango) report in 2018 confirms that a fifth of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come not from vehicles but from the supply of heating and hot water to homes and businesses. The only Government response seems to be that gas boilers will be banned in homes by 2025, and conventional engines (like vehicles) banned from 2030. One has to wonder whether these changes will spawn another round of taxpayer subsidies.

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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Ian L Handford, former chair of the Federation of Small Businesses
Publication:The Plymouth Herald (Plymouth, England)
Date:Nov 18, 2020
Words:533
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