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Friday, September 07, 2012

"Public Engagement on Offshore Energy"

   Mike Haseler of SCEF, Robert Malyn and I went yesterday to the Glasgow's public consultation on offshore energy.

   It was hilarious. Viewers of the comedy 2012 should think of the committee meetings but without the cynical Yorkshireman who actually says what nonsense it. That will give you the feeling.

   Actually it wasn't a consultation, they are at the "very early stages" so this was a "pre-consultation", then they go for an "appraisal then a "public consultation" & then get some firm plans by Autumn 2013.

   Right now what we got was a map of Scotland with an outline drawn round it to show where the sea is and a few dots, mainly concentrated north of Cape Wrath, where some marine renewals might be set up.

   When we got to the questions I started off by asking how much this electricity would cost. "We don't know" to which in a spirit of helpfulness I replied I do and read out the Royal Academy of Engineering figures of production cost per kwh.

Gas 2.2p    Nuclear 2.3p     Coal 2.5p    Onshore wind  5.4p     Offshore Wind  7.2p  & Wave and other Marine 6.6p

     Though gas prices have dropped sharply since because of the Shale gas revolution and nuclear cost is mainly regulatory.

     We had a wide range of questions, mainly from us 3 sceptics and a lady anti-windmill campaigner who was well informed and on the other side a man who turned out to work for Vattendall & another who kept repeating that a recent IPSOS/MORI poll showed that 70% of us wanted windmillery so that proved it.

    I believe she was referring to this 
Overall, 66% of Britons were in favour and just 8% against when asked: "to what extent are you in favour of or opposed to the use of wind power in the UK" in the Ipsos Mori poll, commissioned by wind trade body RenewableUK.
The figures show a slightly higher enthusiasm for wind power than a Guardian poll in March, which revealed 60% of people were in favour of wind. The discrepancy could be partly explained by the framing of the questions, with the Guardian research asking if people were in favour of windfarms near their homes.
   So "70%" is rounding upward. Of course that question includes anybody who is in favour of trying a very little of it, somewhere or other and in the interests of experiment I wouldn't disagree with that as long as it doesn't cost. It doesn't ask if people want to pay extra on their bills for it. As the Guardian article itself shows the results of polls depend very much on the question asked, any previous questions asked in the build up to real question and overwhelmingly, experience shows, the answer the paying client is after.

   Actually in the discussion that followed we got the closest to a straight answer from the presenters of the evening. I asked if, in its various consultations, on marine energy they had asked the public if we would support marine if told it would cost 10 times the cheapest available (that assumes either US prices for gas or nuclear cost dropping fairly close to its engineering cost) and he said they hadn't but "I think I know the answer to that". Me too.

   Other questions were - How much of the 5 Gigawatts we now use which is to be 100% renewable by 2020 will come from this - they didn't know, though I got the impression that they are so far from even having a plan that it will be about none. How many turbines will be built - "haven't got any set plans on quantity. Basically a menu without prices, or dishes or tables to sit at.

     During discussion on how much of these turbines would be made inn Britain (answer - don't know) Mike made a good point. Working from his engineering experience and a report he had researched and written, to get an engineering industry running it is not enough to throw money at one project - you have to build engineering team experience from the ground up over many years.

     This is a valuable point for my other hobbyhorse of X-Prizes, suggesting a continuity of prizes and thus that an ongoing fund of foundation is essential.

     The anti-windfarm lady pointed out that the Scottish government had admitted that building windmills etc will produce more CO2 than it will, even theoretically up through 2025. This was vehemently denied but she could name and quote the statement on the webpage.

      She also pointed out that the Aarhus Convention, to which out government is signatory, requires that the public get real information about government plans,and figures for renewables, which was clearly not being provided here. To be fair the government appears never to have attempted to adhere to these rules - it isn't just waterbound windmills.

   There was also a question about what plans there were to get power from onsite (mainly Cape Wrath) and the rest of the country to which the reply was none actually but there is an HVDC link between Ayrshire (Hunterston actually) & Northern Ireland.

      Mike brought up that though we can see windmills kill birds ("allegedly" the presenter ludicrously insisted) it was more difficult to tell what they do to dolphins, whales and more cold blooded fish. The answer would be that this would be prevented by (A) acoustic devices fixed to turbines and (a careful examination during the 2 year "iterative process" of amending the decisions after they were made. That got me asking how many working turbines would there be actually in place during that 2 year process that could be test if they were killing fish. "Don't know".

      We did get a confirmation from Fiona, one of the other presenters, that all comments received will actually be put up on the website. That will be interesting to see & I will send this thread to them..

      The meeting wasn't exactly packed in fact there were 14 people in the audience. At the end i asked, since this is a public consultation, for those members of the audience who were actual members of the public, rather than working for government, quangos, government funded charities and other such organisations. 9 of us raised our hands including the chief audience supporter government supporter. I expressed doubts about that, based on the fact that he used as much the same sort of "2012" PC verbiage the presenters which is when he said he worked for Varrenfall, which is indeed a government subsidy dependent entity. I suspect that even with the 3 of us, the real public were actually in a minority in the audience.

      The numbers may owe something to the fact that this consultation was only announced publicly last thing last Friday, something which Bishop Hill pointed too with astonishment.

      Mike said the previous meeting in Edinburgh had had about 18 people. Presumably there are more governmental types in Edinburgh.

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