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WMN opinion: Renewable energy policy must be evidence-based

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 31, 2012

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The case for renewable energy has never been stronger.

There is a need for the world, not just the UK, to lessen its dependence on fossil fuel.

The UK Government has a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

It is an enormous target, and one that will never be met without bold decisions. For them to be made there will need to be some strong leaders, who will, if they are to be successful, be required to make some unpopular decisions.

Conversion to renewable energy is not a game for the faint hearted.

But proponents of the thousands of new renewable energy schemes should not expect everyone to be with them.

More than 100 wind turbines cover the rural Westcountry, which has been targeted by developers becasue of its natural assets - in terms of both wind and sun.

The debate over the visual impact of turbines, and now of solar farms, has become increasingly polarised.

Today we report that the new Beyond The Bluster report reveals that wind farms slash emissions to the equivalent of taking 2.1 million cars off the road a year.

The report from left-leaning think tank IPPR argues wind turbines are more efficient and reliable than claimed by Conservative MPs and other critics.

And in the report, energy consultants conclude there is no technical reason why wind turbines should be opposed – pointing to the reduction of 5.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2011.

We also report how the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says David Cameron's decision to revisit proposals for a 10-mile barrage to be built across the Severn estuary is at odds with Tory claims to be the greenest government ever. The MCS feels that environmental concerns are being overlooked in order to facilitate the creation of a great civil engineering project.

And here is the rub.

There will always be opposition to large schemes such as the Severn Barrage, or the Atlantic Array.

There is always likely to be opposition to even single wind turbine projects in small communities in the South West.

Opposition will be based around visual impact, environmental impact, cost, and efficiency.

And there lies the challenge for our political leaders both here and in Westminster.

And this is the challenge for the pioneers at the forefront of the ground-breaking new technology designed to create power and heat for our homes from the world's renewable energy sources.

Government policy on renewable energy must be based on evidence, not politics.

Renewable energy policy must also appear to be strategic, valuable and deliverable.

If it appears scattered, and inconsistent, its opponents will have a field day.

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