Hidden agenda

Steve Pester
There’s no room for vested interests as the debate continues on the UK’s future energy mix, argues Steve Pester, BRE

As always, there are so many things going on across all of the renewables technologies that it can be hard to keep up. However, some of the same old chestnuts seem to be perpetually recycled in the general news. For example, I opened a local paper whilst on a trip to Derbyshire today and read an article which I can only describe as ‘a lot of tosh’ about how wind turbines are no good because ‘they are subsidised and ‘don’t turn when there’s no wind’, etc. The writer was then quick to attempt to polarise the argument by immediately expounding the virtues of nuclear power as the only viable alternative. Whilst I’m not a great fan of nuclear, I do think it is mischievous to pretend we have to opt for one technology over another. The agenda for some appears not to be to solve the problems of future energy shortages, security of supply or climate change, but rather to make us understand that their hobby horse is the only sensible interpretation of ‘the facts’.

My conclusion to this is that there is still a huge job to do informing the debate and explaining the benefits and limitations of renewables to the public. Aside from often being the client, the public has influence over planning decisions and even policy through the things they say to politicians at election time. I’ll leave it as an open question: how do we raise the level of debate in the public arena beyond the sound bites peddled by the vested interests and the NIMBYs?

On a more positive note, I aim in this column to keep readers up-to-date on news from the BRE National Solar Centre. We will be starting outdoor side-by-side testing of PV modules before next spring. The idea is to help installers, investors and end users make informed choices and perhaps even stoke up a little competition on performance and reliability.