Climate change might be seen as the biggest challenge by many. But a British expert feels the emerging power crisis is a more serious issue and hence some limited pollution might be allowed to generate the much needed electricity.
"Security of energy supply must be seen as taking priority over everything else, even climate change," stresses Prof Ian Fells, emeritus professor of Energy Conversion at the University of Newcastle.
AdvertisementHe warns the UK will lose a third of generating capacity in the next twelve years as old nuclear and coal fired power stations close down.
With the current politicial situation making it difficult to rely on imported gas or oil, he said Britain will face regular power cuts lasting long enough to delay operations in hospitals, close down schools and bring cities to a standstill, Guardian reports.
Ultimately he said the situation would lead to economic downturn and mass unemployment.
"If our civilisation is really crumbling, if we do have serious power cuts, that focuses the mind on running the country," argues Fells, who is also the founding chairman of the Renewable Energy Centre,.
In an independent report commissioned by a leading industrialist, Fells said addressing the looming energy crisis was a more serious challenge than climate change.
And woe betide environmentalists. Wind power will simply fail to fill the gap. So what is the way out? Simple, be ready to live with a little more pollution.
Coal power stations must be extended beyond decommissioning dates and more such must be built.
And burn municipal waste in incinerators, like the 100MW plant opened by the government in Runcorn, Cheshire, despite protests over possible pollution.
Prof Fells also recommended an early decision on the Severn Barrage, which he claimed could produce five per cent of UK electricity within 10 years.
A barrage is an artificial obstruction at the mouth of a tidal watercourse, used to increase its depth, and the Severn Barrage aims to link the English coast to the Welsh coast over the Severn tidal estuary.
Environmentalists say the barrage would cause irreversible damage to wildlife.
But Fells is unimpressed. It is going to be a close thing, keeping lights on through the next decade. Hence any option should be considered, he is convinced.
Only he is also asking for more of the supposedly clean nuclear power stations - they have their nuclear weapon side, though, say activists.
Fells also wouldn't mind the carbon capture idea. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach to mitigate global warming by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources such as fossil fuel power plants and storing it instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
But the technology is hugely expensive, and the British government is evasive on how far it would go to press manufacturers on that score.
Anyway as far as Fells is concerned, people live or die because of power. So any kind of approach is fine by him.
But there are many who disagree. For instance, a new website, Sandbag.com, has emerged to allow ordinary consumers to club together and buy the carbon credits that allow power stations to pollute under the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETC).
By buying up the credits and "retiring them," the organisation remove carbon emissions that would otherwise have been used by an energy company to pollute.
However, the Association of Electricity Producers claim that if the organisation is truly successful it will reduce supply of carbon credits therefore pushing up the price, a cost that will ultimately be passed onto consumers. If carbon credits become so expensive that energy companies cannot buy them, it could lead to the lights going out.
But Bryony Worthington, founder of Sandbag, said it was just "scare tactics".
Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace chief scientist, said Prof Fells has lost the backing of the scientific community.
"All over the world jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector, but Britain has been left behind for too long by the negative, white flag approach to climate change that his report represents," he said.
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