Little did I realise when I wrote my previous blog on ‘fracking and values’ that within a couple of days of posting it the Hereford Times would carry the story that fracking may come to us in Herefordshire. Fracking is bad technology wherever it is. The Herefordshire villages of Fownhope, Eastnor and Much Marcle are all beautiful places, with rich agricultural land, some tourism and much to lose as a result of these destructive proposals. The work so far is only exploratory, no planning permission has yet been applied for, but the local community are already getting organised in opposition. Meanwhile the UK government is also pushing ahead with Hinkley C nuclear power station at tremendous cost to the UK taxpayer; this, at a time when the full scale of the nuclear leak at Fukushima is only now becoming apparent. Both nuclear and fracking are obsolete, expensive and polluting technologies.
Solar power by contrast is undergoing a long term and continuing fall both in cost and in the environmental footprint associated with many of the individual technologies such as concentrating thermal, concentrating photovoltaic and ordinary photovoltaic panels. The Californian energy and entrepreneurial expert Tony Seba shows how unit costs of pv have fallen 1000 fold relative to nuclear over the last 40 years, and forecasts it won’t be long before they have fallen 10,000 times. Of course solar will not meet all UK energy needs, although it will for many currently off grid regions of India, Africa and Latin America. The UK could follow the lead set by Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Uruguay and many other countries and start a process to move toward 100% renewables. We have some of the best wind resource in the world, excellent tidal and wave energy potential, vast potential for renewable gases and liquid fuels generated via algal bioreactors, anaerobic digesters and a basket of other emerging renewable technologies. Perhaps the greatest opportunity is through greater levels of energy efficiency in terms of how we build, travel, farm and live. We can live better, pollute less, have more fun and build a fairer world by transforming our relationship to energy, both our personal energy and the energy we use in our lives.
I’m about to start a course of evening classes in Leominster where we’ll be exploring all this from a local, Leominster perspective. The class is called ‘Leominster: Radical Possibilities for a Sustainable Future’, perhaps it should be a ‘Leominster: Radical Possibilities for a Better Future’, but they are in the end one and the same thing.
My report ‘Localising Herefordshire’s Energy Economy’ is available as a free download on this blog site under writings, and there is more about my upcoming Leominster evening classes on the talks and classes page of this website.
Tony Seba on solar to nuclear costs http://tonyseba.com/disruption/solar-has-improved-unit-costs-by-1000-times-relative-to-nuclear/
Hereford Times fracking http://www.herefordtimes.com/news/10614266.Potential_fracking_sites_in_Herefordshire_revealed/