Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Raining on Drax's parade.

Drax – the huge energy complex in the middle of Yorkshire - has been busy announcing a new power station. It will run on coal (not-so-new) and also have the ability to burn biomass (ongoing, and flawed because it’s transported thousands of miles and sometimes is old-growth, ie you’re cutting 
down forests to make electricity!)

It’s main selling–point, though, is a serious carbon capture and storage ability, where the CO2 the plant produces is piped into a hole under the North Sea. This reduces the carbon footprint of the plant - and UK energy.

However, this is a ‘greenwash’ business. It’s dirty coal, the fossil fuel industry, with a varnish of biomass – to sound green. Its main selling point, the CCS – means it can capture and store CO2 under the sea – which then don’t get counted as emissions formally. We’re hiding our waste, like landfill, instead of reducing it.

It’s NOT energy saving. It’s NOT renewable energy. It’s not Green Party policy.

When it comes to renewable energy adoption, we’re one of the worst offenders in the EU. The EU often gets slammed for being undemocratic, but in 2010 it was because of EU standards that Drax was on a hitlist to close – its standards of energy production weren’t high enough; it was dirty! So, how did the UK Government and industry respond? Naturally, they had a word and got the standards dropped! (Something they also did this January by getting the EU to adopt non-binding energy targets for 2030).

So DRAX has seen the light! It’s undergoing a huge conversion process! The new plants will be burning coal (which travels thousands of miles from 20 different countries, by the way), could also burn biomass (something the EU also favours) and will sequester the CO2 by CCS. One plant was ready last year, two more being converted.

What would green energy policy look like? In Hull we have an Ecohome. Resident Richard Howarth has spent serious money making his house 100% energy neutral. In fact, overall, he’s not an energy consumer, he’s a producer. Solar panels and passive solar provide energy and hot water. He’s done amazing amounts of insulation so less energy is needed - or lost. From £1500 a year in bills, the house now makes money at £1400 a year INCOME from energy production and savings benefits. Let’s make all homes, especially new-build, like this.

In Huddersfield Green Party councillor, Andrew Cooper, has got an agreement, first of its kind, for 2000 homes to be fitted with solar panels, costing £10m (for 25 years of panel lifespan). This means FREE energy for tenants! And after ten years, the unused electricity, that gives credits back to the council, will pay it off.

The Drax plan is business as usual but with the extra benefit of CCS – and helped by £200 million of EU taxpayers money. However, where’s the benefit for ordinary people – for consumers at home? This will not affect bills – other than them going up every year! The Green Party plan lowers people’s consumption drastically, provides free renewable energy and has ZERO CO2 to be CCS’d either in production or consumption.

There are companies that specialise in providing renewable energy to consumers – like Ecotricity (quote them “Yorkshire and Humber Green Party” and they’ll donate to Greens too!), Good Energy, and others.

For Drax-based systems prices are STILL controlled by industry.

For Britain, wind is still a plentiful resource and solar works too! If more projects were government ones, or council ones, more people could have energy for free.

Martin Deane
Hull and East Riding Green Party

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