Friday, 30 December 2011

Renewable energy, a real boost to the economy

A progress report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, says latest research shows that so far this financial year:
  • £2.5billion worth of investment in renewable energy projects in the UK
  • the potential to create almost 12,000 jobs across the country
Chris Huhne, Energy Secretary, said yesterday:

“Renewable energy is not just helping us increase our energy security and reduce our emissions. It is supporting jobs and growth across the country, and giving traditional industrial heartlands the opportunity to thrive again.

“Our renewable target is less demanding than other EU member states, but the effect is bringing real jobs and investment.

“I do not want the UK to be left behind by turning our back on the green economy. The agreement to negotiate a global deal secured at Durban has reinforced major nations’ commitment to cutting carbon. We cannot afford to stand alone while the world wises up.”

You can read the full text of the press release at the DECC website

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The weather and the jet stream.

Figure 1

The winter weather to date has been rather warm, if wet and windy. A major reason behind this has been the jet stream, which for most of December has been above us, bringing warmer air in from the Atlantic. A good explanation as to how the jet stream affects UK weather can be found in the - tutorial

You can see a predicted model of the jets stream from the Global Forecasting System at Weatheronline.

Figure 1 above shows the jet stream as predicted for new years eve at 18:00 hours GMT.  As you can see the jet stream is moving in a general South to North direction as it passes the UK, which will bring warmer weather as can be seen in figure 2 below:

Figure 2

Therefore for Ynys Môn weather on new years eve is likely to cloudy but mostly dry with a mild temperature (up to 11 Celsius) but may feel colder in a brisk wind (25-30 mph). An approaching cold front from Ireland may bring rain sometime after 9 pm,  with  light rain showers for most of new years day.

Base data from Weatheronline and Met Office for Surface Pressure Charts

Friday, 23 December 2011

My perspective on wind farms and why we need them.

There is it seems a growing concern about wind farms on Ynys Môn,  the island of whom most visitors I know comment on how windy it is.

A related concern is the apparent lack of debate around the issue of wind farms - well let me contribute some of my thoughts.

First all you need to think about the wider picture - One day we shall have used most of the planet's natural resources be they oil, coal or gas.

And in their burning we produce carbon dioxide, which evidence suggest is causing global warming.

Much is made about future generations - i.e the need for austerity now, so that we don't burden them with our debt.

I for one believe we are very lucky, that we (if a small percentage of the world population) live in the golden age of mankind. The future if we continue on the same irresponsible consumer driven madness is a bit bleak to say the least.

However, we should at least try and make the future better for those yet born.  One big step we can take is to reduce our dependency on carbon fuels.

Climate change is real, is accepted by most countries of the world, and is something we need to tackle as a matter of urgency. You may say what's the point of the UK cutting our carbon emission if China emits more - a bit like saying it's OK I only smoke 20 a day, the bloke next door smokes 40, then dying of cancer.

We need to consume less and reduce our reliance on carbon based fuels. Think about the electricity we use, we need a balanced mix of electricity generation.  Now, one day there may be new means of generating electricity such as thorium power, but until then we have to use what we have.

That would be nuclear power in the first place, then gas (the most 'friendly' of carbon based fuels) and then renewable sources.

I don't think the Conservative led Coalition Government is under any impression that renewable power can provide a majority of our electricity, although some might disagree. The latest government policy aims for 15% of our electricity to be supplied from renewable sources, a major component of which is wind power.

That means 85% of our electricity needs has to produced from either nuclear, gas or coal. One day soon we might develop a commercially viable carbon capture system, which would make gas or coal more environmentally friendly. But even then that's still burning it, and gas and coal wont last for ever - sorry kids we used it all, at least we've made it warmer for you!

Let's be realistic whatever we do has an impact on the planet, but we are not talking about the planet's future; its destiny is already mapped out in the stars - we need to STOP, and think about the future of HUMANITY.

If we didn't have wind farms, then we would have to build more nuclear, gas or coal power stations. Offshore wind farms being more expensive, whereas wind farms on land provide a relatively cheap and short term solution to our need to reduce our dependency on carbon based fuels.

A major part of the government's policy for reducing carbon emission is a switch to electric cars. That's going to be a lot of batteries, and the next major breakthrough is likely to come in battery technology. In theory electric cars could be a source of storage, after all not going out for the day, battery full why not sell it to the national grid.

We could also build more hydro power station like the one at Llanberis, which is a storage unit. It was build to utilise spare capacity from Wylfa and Trawsfynydd, to pump the water to the top reservoir, and then quite quickly give a boost to the national grid when the nation say had a cup of tea during a commercial break in Coronation Street.

I finish by saying that in my opinion onshore wind farms are the short term answer to our urgent need to reduce our dependency on carbon based electricity albeit as part of a mix of generating sources. Who knows in 20 years time we might have new means of generating clean and green electricity, but until then we would be foolish to totally rule out onshore wind farms as part of the solution.

See also

Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?

Select Committee on Economic Affairs - The Economics of Renewable Energy

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Councils consult on windfarms in 'Gwynedd'

Wind farms especially the new generation of wind turbines; which are much larger than those we currently have on Ynys Môn, have of late become a contentious issue. The pressure group Anglesey against wind turbines "exist to oppose any further erection of commercial on shore wind turbines on the grounds that they are unsightly, damaging to our fragile economy, uneconomic, noisy and damaging to our wildlife."

Large non-commercial wind turbines being OK I assume?

I myself have previously stated the in my humble opinion wind farms are the short term answer to our electricity needs, as part of a sustainable national grid.  However having said that I think 'Anglesey against wind turbines' are doing a good job in that wind turbines "has recently become a hotly debated topic".

As Paul Williams (aka The Druid) points out, even the Council has taken notice. Last week Anglesey and Gwynedd Joint Planning Policy Unit published a draft Supplementary Planning Guidance document which you can download from Ynys Môn Council website.

The consultation period runs till Friday 10th February 2012.

Update: With thanks to Mairede Thomas (see below comments) who makes reference to the following documents:

Electricity Market Reform (EMR) White Paper 2011 (July 2011)


Written ministerial statement by Chris Huhne on Electricity Market Reform: technical update. (December 2011)

or Press release by Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The renewable energy debate - more investment in Nuclear power?

A joint report "Renewable Energy Vision or Mirage" published the Adam Smith Research Trust and Scientific-Alliance in summary concludes:

...In light of this assessment, we conclude that taxpayers’ money would be far better spent on measures to increase energy efficiency, plus investment in proven nuclear and gas generating capacity to provide energy security as many of the UK’s coal-fired stations – and nearly all existing nuclear reactors – are decommissioned over the coming decade.

You can download the full report from the Adam Smith Website see Reports.

However, the above review has been criticised by some, and the below is a press release from WWF Scotland

Responding to a report out today (Monday [12 December 2011]) ‘Renewable Energy: Vision or Mirage’ by the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance, Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said:

"This report comprises a selection of tired and unconvincing myths about renewables and is a distraction from our fight to reduce carbon emissions. The report's attacks on renewables just don’t stack up, more renewables really do mean less fossil fuels burnt and less carbon emitted. WWF research shows how 100 per cent of global energy needs can be met from renewables by 2050 and Scotland is already aiming for a perfectly achievable 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020.

"At the UK level, our Positive Energy report shows that we can have well over 60 per cent of renewables in the UK by 2030 in a way that is secure and affordable and could generate great benefits to the economy.

"Scientific Alliance are a well known front for anti-environment, pro-nuclear and climate-sceptic views. They were set up by a PR company and a quarry millionaire who didn’t want to pay environmental taxes. They are a right-wing think-tank that isn’t very good at thinking and this report is destined to go the way of all the other biased tosh they have produced over the years."

You can see the full press release at WWF Scotland which includes additional information.

Friday, 16 December 2011

My two tone crow

Not this crow this is a rook.

For the last few months I have noticed a crow with some white feathers in its wings and tail which has intrigued me. Sorry no pictures yet, but it looks a bit like the rook above. Today I googled 'crow with white feathers'.

According to the website Birds of Britain:

Much more usual is a Blackbird or crow with a few white feathers, on the body, wings or tail. Birds with large amounts of white are the result of a genetic flaw in both male and female. The reason they remain rare is that both parents must carry the genes responsible for the white plumage. Birds with just a few white feathers may arise in the same way, but equally may have suffered an injury or even a disease which has damaged the feather follicles so that the feathers grow without any pigment. Most reports of birds with a few white feathers are of Blackbirds, Starlings and crows, but then these not only are these common birds, but their normal colour is black or very dark so that white feathers will show up well. It is quite usual for the amount of white to grow as the bird gets older.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ynys Môn GVA per head revised figures

We here on Ynys Môn have long being used to the label of poorest region in Wales, if you use GVA per head as a measure.

However, the latest revised figures from ONS shows that for the period 1997 to 2003 the GVA per head for Ynys Môn had been over estimated, whilst for the period between 2004 and 2009 they where under estimated.

The result of this revision means that since 2004 based on NUTS3.2 GVA per head at current basic prices, it has in fact been Gwent Valleys and not Ynys Môn that has the lowest GVA per head in Wales.

As a comparison in Ynys Môn the GVA per head between 1997 and 2009 grew by 5247, whereas for Gwent Valleys and the same period only grew by 2979.

Not surprisingly in 2009 in most regions GVA fell, Ynys Môn by 233 and Gwent Valleys by 344.

I would add my usual disclaimer about using GVA per head to compare regions see Anglesey and GVA

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Final banding for secondary schools announced.

The final banding for secondary schools based on 2011 data, has been published by the Welsh Government.

For Ynys Môn and in no particular order, the banding for secondary schools are:

  • Ysgol David Hughes - Band 3
  • Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni - Band 1
  • Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones - Band 3
  • Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern - Band 5
  • Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi - Band 5
It's important to point out that the banding system is not a league table, you can download a brief explanation as to the model used for banding of secondary schools (in pdf format) from the Welsh Government website

See also: BBC News Wales

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bribery Act and the Royal Mail

It's nearly Christmas and some of us, as we have done for a long time, will give a small gift to the likes of the local postman and binmen.

Recent guidance published by Royal Mail (see BBC News) advised postmen to politely decline any gift  over £30 in value. Now I don't know about you, but when I said a small gift, I meant a small gift, £30 pounds and over sounds a bit much to me.

But if someone wants to give a gift greater in value than £30 and the postie receives it in good faith, it's very unlikely to constitute a bribe.

Guidance by the Director of Public Prosecution ( Download in PDF format) is quite clear on the matter.

See also the website Merry Christmas from the Royal Mail: Postmen (and women) – tips could violate Bribery Act

Bribery is wrong and in his foreword to the 2004 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) the then UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) described the serious effects of corruption:

“Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish … Corruption is a key element in economic under-performance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

Joint prosecution guidance of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions (see above for download link) define the scope of the Bribery Act 2010:

The Act takes a robust approach to tackling commercial bribery, which is one of its principal objectives. The offences are not, however, limited to commercial bribery. There may be many examples outside the commercial sphere where individuals attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and normal procedures. Examples would include attempts to influence decisions by local authorities, regulatory bodies or elected representatives on matters such as planning consent, school admission procedures or driving tests.

So I doubt if it was ever intended to include say Mrs Jones from down road giving a Christmas gift to her favourite postman and possibly only daily contact with the outside world.