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Mark Whitby Principal, Whitbybird

Energy debate

The institutions are doing little to broaden the energy debate. For example, they gave no support for the 'microgeneration' private members bill of 11 November last year.

Dynamic demand was one of the clauses in the bill and it represents one of the simplest things we can do to improve the resilience of the UK energy sector over the next 10 years.

It is about avoiding the need for the grid to be backed up by spinning reserves, which costs £80M per annum. This standby is sized on the eventuality of a major nuclear station tripping out. This happens frequently.

Wylfa, for instance, tripped out in the course of writing this article and nuclear, unlike wind, takes three or four days to reboot. British Energy lost 25% of its output last year to unplanned outages.

Dynamic demand works by programming your noncritical equipment, such as air-conditioning, to shut down as the demand rises, re-engaging as it falls. The equipment recognizes the drop in frequency that comes with stretched supply. When delivered it will save around 2Mt of CO 2 a year, or 3% of our Kyoto commitment.

The institutions have been voluble about wind energy being inefficient, saying that standby generation is needed in case the wind stops blowing, or blows too hard. But they have been quiet about the DTI-commissioned Wind Power and the UK Wind Resource (eci. ox. ac.uk/renewables/ukwind) that concluded that UK wind power delivers its maximum output at the same times as periods of high demand. It found that low wind-speed conditions affecting 90% of the UK would occur for only one hour every five years during the winter. It also showed, not surprisingly, that our onshore and offshore wind conditions are significantly more efficient than those found in Denmark or Germany.

To be credible in the coming energy debate the institutions need to demonstrate a far greater understanding of all the present opportunities to meet a shortfall in supply arising from the unreliability and retirement of conventional power stations.

They should consider: . British Energy is extending the life of its power stations (Dungeness B has already been given a extra 10 years) . Wind energy, on a much greater scale and particularly offshore, can and will play a major role . Dynamic demand can work alongside wind energy, smoothing demand as supply falls as well as absorbing spikes of excess production . Adding to global warming by investing energy in systems that take 10 years to deliver a return is unsustainable.

The institutions should also demonstrate how sustainable nuclear power really is. British Energy chief executive Bill Coley claims that nuclear energy, taking account of construction, contains 5g of carbon per kilowatt. This rings again of the cry of 'too cheap to meter' and suggests that a couple of noughts might have been dropped from the calculation.

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