He began by stating that the importance of renewable energy should be regarded in units of what he terms “Humanity Points” and not financial payback, revenue, trade off’s or tariffs. He posed the question as to what value people actually put on the lives of family members in terms of surviving the next century and whether, as a result, it is worth the investment of time and money now. Renewable Energy he stated could not be ignored and should become an important part of life both at an individual and national level.
Richard Simmons highlighted the UK’s immense potential for wind, wave and tidal power saying “the UK has the potential to become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy” and that wind in particular would need to play a huge part in enabling the government to reach the EU 2020 targets of 15%. Wave and tidal power he said although still very much in its infancy is a massively untapped resource in the UK and with good funding and backing from the government could also play a significant role in providing energy to the UK. The problems facing the industry he said were threefold; firstly the time taken for planning consents was becoming prohibitive for the wind industry with over half of all applications still in the system for over a year.
Secondly the UK’s aviation and military radar systems currently at times misinterpret turbine blades as aircraft and so many applications are turned down by the Ministry of Defence, however with an upgraded system, this could be avoided.
Finally weaknesses in the national grid, particularly in Scotland were cited as an issue for the renewable energy sector with many of the sites available for wind, wave or tidal power being inaccessible to adequate infrastructure of national grid. Investment to eradicate these weaknesses, Simmons said was critical for the sector to gain momentum and start producing significant volumes of electricity for the nation.
He said “We simply haven’t got the time to worry about the British preoccupation for democracy and “nimbyism” if targets and the future sustainability of the country’s energy supply are to be realised. We cannot allow it to take 10 years to bolster the national grid in Scotland; action needs to be taken right now”
The Renewable Energy Centre was clear about the message to the individual; homeowners should insulate their lofts and wall cavities and increase the air tightness of their homes before looking at investing in micro generation. If every home met these criteria it could have the greatest effect on the reduction of the UK’s CO2 emissions while also reducing energy demands and saving money on bills for the individual. Richard Simmons urged the audience to lobby their local government to legislate and enforce individuals to, at the very least insulate and draught proof their homes. He alluded to the overnight changes to smoking laws in pubs and restaurants in 2007 and the move from town gas to North Sea gas in 1961 showing that when the government takes firm action, changes can be made across the board in a very short space of time.
Simmons said that in order for the government to meet its national and European targets it needed to push politics aside and invest in the UK’s future and pave the way for the UK’s wind, wave and tidal industry to become a global market leader.
He concluded by saying “The government needs a backbone on this matter, it is simple; every house in the UK within 5 years should have 12 inches of loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. The tax penalty and incentive system is a logical vehicle to achieve this. To imply micro wind turbine and solar panels need attention prior to completing this is to con the public and shrink from significant and substantial progress, which could be achieved in a short space of time.”