Tony Fisher, 7 Dec, makes some important points about our sources of electricity.

Consider UK fossil fuel subsidies: these can take the form of tax breaks or subsidies for exploration as well as research & development.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) gives a figure of £10 billion in 2021, down from £16 billion p.a. during 2017-19. Thus UK fossil fuel subsidies appear to be decreasing.

The relative contributions of fossil fuels and renewables to generating electricity, vary by year and season.

For example, up to 2020, fossil fuel generated electricity exceeded renewables. Then for about a year, renewable electricity exceeded fossil fuels, until early this year, when due to low wind speeds and less sun, fossil fuels again generated more.

I accept that I omitted biomass (mainly wood pellets burnt at Drax power station) from the equation and so over-estimated the contribution of renewables. I share Tony Fisher’s concerns about wood pellets and do not regard them as true renewables.

So what can we agree on? The UK government has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions overall by 2050 and net zero carbon for electricity generation by 2035. I doubt we will achieve these targets with our present policies. By reducing our fossil fuel subsidies and directing these towards renewables we may have a chance of mitigating serious climate change. Wind and solar electricity have by far the greatest potential and we should focus mainly on these. Major improvements in energy efficiency will also make these targets more achievable.

The intermittent nature of wind and solar means we must have other contributors to maintain a constant electricity supply. I accept that Nuclear has an important part to play, despite the fact that we have still not decided how and where to store the dangerous radioactive waste. 

The other storage sources suggested are much more than wishful thinking. Already large scale battery storage is being planned and a 100 MW, £16 million, project near Shaftesbury has been started. Detailed plans for a tidal barrage in Swansea bay and a much larger one in the Severn estuary have been proposed. In time, the escalating climate crisis may demand that we seriously pursue all these options, as well as looking again at more pumped storage hydro.

The International Energy Agency has produced a special report entitled “Net zero by 2050”. It makes interesting reading and covers the above points and many others in much more detail than I have attempted.

John Tomblin

Littlemoor Road, Weymouth