There’s no such thing as too much renewable energy
There were stories in the press this month about £1.2m worth of ‘constraint payments’ made to Scottish wind farms over Christmas to not generate electricity when demand was low. These stories appear to have been placed by dodgy “think tanks” (read: propaganda machines) protesting about public subsidies going to renewables.
And I agree with them.
It is madness to pay to restrain renewable energy. We need as much renewable energy as we can get (here I diverge sharply from the propagandists), so what on earth are we doing saying “not now! take some cash”?
The money would be much better invested in smart grid technology and storage facilities. In a smart energy world such “excess” renewable energy would be used to cheaply charge electric vehicles and portable devices as well as distributed storage systems.
The problem is our thinking hasn’t got past that of the 1930s. The grid we plug wind turbines into in the UK hasn’t changed much since 1938. 1938! That grid was designed to distribute electricity from centralised power stations – a bit like television channels broadcast the same entertainment to lots of people. A sustainable energy system would be more like the internet than TV with energy entering, being stored, and accessed at different places and times by a wide variety of players. It’s about time we brought energy into the internet age.
The wider point is our tendency to be hidebound by linear, incremental thinking – to innovate to the degree to tackle the sustainability challenge, we need to break free of business as usual.