Article published by Preben Maegaard, WCRE Chairman, Director of the Danish Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, July 2006
Why does the UK not take this opportunity?
UK has the best wind resources in Europe and a variety of other renewable energy resources. During the past decades UK presented ambitious plans to become a leading player within renewable energy. However, intentionally or not, the government till now only chose political instruments that missed. With 1670 MW of wind power UK has less than 10% of Germany’s 20.000 MW and half of little Denmark’s 3.200 MW, that constantly grew till the Blair-type government took over in 2002 and Denmark joined the Iraq war coalition in 2003.
In addition, UK never got the renewable energy employment benefits like Germany and Denmark with 170.000 and 30.000 new jobs respectively.
The British wind energy lobby appears even to have some problems in maintaining a distance from the nuclear industry. The British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, appears to be financed by the renewables arms of companies that dominate the worldwide nuclear marketplace. RWE, Siemens and E.on, for instance, are highlighted as "sponsoring members" on its website. The power oligopoly is also the main actors in the British wind energy off-shore program. They benefit highly from the inflated electricity tariffs of the “market”-oriented programs that have failed in all other countries and make wind-electricity unnecessarily expensive.
In Ontario, Canada, representing half of the Canadian economy, nuclear power is also being promoted strongly – apparently as a reaction and subversive initiative to the feed-in tariff law that was celebrated earlier this year but still not implemented. The driving political force behind the Ontario renewable energy legislation, Energy Minister Donna Cansfield, was recently transferred to the Ministry of Transport.
Also Finland, a small rich country with an abundance of renewable energy resources is promoting atomic energy. The contract of a fifth reactor was signed between the TVO power utility and Siemens-Framatome on 18. December 2003 for a 1.600 MWel plant at a price that seems unrealistically low. Construction work began in January 2004 – but without building permission.In Denmark, with 22% of the electricity supply coming from wind energy and 0% nuclear power, leading power utility representatives recently concluded in “Ingenioren”, the engineers’ weekly journal, that in future “it is either atomic energy OR wind energy”. In a well functioning future power-structure wind and atomic energy cannot be combined. “Now it is time for the politicians to choose”, they declared. This statement is in conflict of BWEA’s hope of electricity suppliers to buy nearly 7% of their energy from the renewables sector in case Mr. Blair’s atomic energy program is implemented.
To point at the advantages of the renewable energies seem at this moment not sufficient to stop the atomic energy offensive. I suggest that we in the coming months discuss an anti-nuclear power strategy with focus at the weak points: Atomic energy is NOT cheap, is NOT safe and is NOT abundant. In addition acceptable depositing of radioactive waste has never been solved and the plutonium threat has no solution.
It is now sufficiently clear that the atomic industry is escalating its confrontational stance with the renewable energy sector, not least wind energy. We should respond on the same terrain. We have to realize this fundamental conflict and there is no room for peaceful coexistence. It is not just a battle of ideas but a material and organizational struggle. In order to attain popular acceptance, it is time for the renewables sector to aggressively assert itself so as to be able to impose renewables as the primary energy regime at the global level as we shift away from fossil fuels, in opposition to, and at the expense of, atomic energy.
It is time for CEOs in the renewables sector to personally assume responsibility for this conflict. We must challenge them, so that they no longer opportunistically shy away from the political, economic and social struggle breaking down the stranglehold of the fossil and nuclear industries in the fight for the choice of supply of future energy technologies implies. Compared to twenty years ago the renewables sector is now fully able to stand on its own feet and there should be no reason to continue being diplomatic with the nuclear industry, but rather we must make the conflict more overtly visibilized and articulated at all political, organizational and industrial levels.
I am, therefore, encouraging that we strive to make closer working alliances and convergences with those organisations, networks and individuals whose main activities consist in struggling against the nuclear industry, as well as the big new renewable energy industry and its more than 300.000 work force whose livelihood directly depends on the emerging sector worldwide and whose future growth and wellbeing is fundamentally incompatible with the global renaissance of atomic energy.
One concrete possibility could be to make a global conference under the slogan “it is either atomic energy OR renewable energy - There is no room for both and it is time to choose”.