Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Game of two halves?

The green energy debate is really heating up (please excuse the pun), with both politicians and corporations backing away from earlier commitments to renewable energy schemes. On 26 November, the German energy giant, RWE, announced its plans to stall its 240-turbine Atlantic Array wind farm in the Bristol Channel in the UK. The scheme could have provided hundreds of jobs in the tourism-dependent area, but objectors were concerned about the appearance of the 750 foot high turbines, as well as their possible effects on the delicate marine ecosystems that surround Lundy Island.

This was announced as a commercial decision, and is likely a result of the growing difficulty in getting long-term financing for such large-scale green projects. RWE reportedly said that it was ‘no longer viable’ to continue with the scheme, which would have provided power to around 1 million homes. There is also a change in background political ideology and support, both in the UK and more widely. This follows reports that the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is now less keen on his previously much-vaunted green image, especially if it means increases to the cost of living.

Meanwhile, I have just come back from a series of meetings in Geneva. At the meetings, many countries were co-operating on schemes to help sustainable communities, with considerable enthusiasm among participants. For example, the Chinese delegation was talking about building eco-cities from scratch, and to the highest standards.

The meetings were held at the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Here I found a treasure trove of resources about green energy schemes ...and much more. I discovered, among other things, excellent resources from FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers), Project Sustainability, the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) Global Community, Green Cross International, a Geneva ‘Sustainable Living’ pack for families, and ‘Our Planet’, the UNEP magazine. All were useful for different parties in the sustainable future.

Whether you need to make an argument, build a business case, find case studies, or devise a tool kit, the materials are all here. There is no shortage of good information. Perhaps the inability to decide on how to proceed with the green energy debate is because there are two groups in the ‘room’, talking amongst themselves and not to each other. Surely, if we are to take such large decisions, we should do so on the basis of the best information available. In this, G24 can make a contribution.

David Jackman

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