North Devon is at the forefront of the energy debate
Geography and nature have combined to put North Devon in the forefront of the debate about future energy production.
We already have one huge wind station at Fullabrook, several more substantial ones looming on our horizons, the prospect of the Atlantic Array, and one of the hottest spots around the UK for tidal energy off our coastline. Hinckley is not far away, and I am told we may even have shale gas.
Climate change and dwindling resources of fossil fuels are combining to make us decide urgently where we will get our future energy supplies from.
World gas prices already determine half of what we pay for domestic energy, making us very vulnerable. UK unit prices for gas and electricity are among the lowest in Europe, but our actual bills are among the highest because our houses are draughty and inefficient.
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This is why Liberal Democrats in the coalition have brought forward the Green Deal, offering everyone the money to install insulation, heating and new boilers – and then repay the cost gradually out of their savings on fuel bills. In the process 60,000 new "green" jobs will be created.
The Government is also managing markets to engineer £110 billion of investment into new energy production.
The UK has a legally binding target of 15 per cent of our energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. And we are aiming to have largely de-carbonised by 2030.
But we must get this right. In my view there has been too much emphasis on wind power. Turbines have been built too near to housing and without the consent of local communities. An efficient grid can only manage a finite amount of wind energy, and what has been built, consented or is in the planning process, basically provides that.
We just don't want or need very much more.
By contrast, too little progress has been made to exploit wave and tidal energy which has been starved of investment finance. Hopefully, new, more generous price support (ROCs) and funds from the new Green Bank, another Lib Dem initiative, will help.
And we face difficult decisions about gas. If safe ways of extracting new reserves of gas in the UK can be found, this is preferable in my view to more nuclear power.
Waste disposal, decommissioning and true cost remain seemingly intractable deficiencies of nuclear.
But what we cannot do is hide away from the debate. North Devon is right on the front line.