It goes without saying that Britain has, in its past, faced many difficulties on its mission to keep the lights on and keep us warm. These difficulties have increased both in severity and number over the past few years as the country strives to meet renewable energy targets and reduce carbon emissions. The crux of the blame seems to be aimed at green subsides, and every proposal put forward seems to be met with harsh and hostile criticism. Why?
Naturally, we’re concerned about the cost to ourselves. Nobody wants to pay higher bills for the privilege of keeping warm in the winter. But there seems to be more to this vitriol surrounding the generation of energy than meets the eye. Technology has indeed provided us with new and exciting ways to generate energy, but each of them seem to be shunned before they even get started. If a proposal to erect a wind farm capable of powering 1000 homes is raised, you can guarantee that the same day it will be slammed by protest groups and met with disdain. We gave shale gas mining or ‘fracking’ a good go, but environmental concerns and media attention quickly cut off that route to cheap gas. Perhaps we shouldn’t condone these proposals but before we cripple them with criticism we should at least consider some alternatives and think about just how important energy is to our very comfortable lives.
Generating energy is always going to be subject to debate and criticism. The fact is, renewable energy is really the only viable step forward, and we don’t yet have the facilities to sustain ourselves on renewable energy. It’s hoped that by 2020 the country get around 15% of its total energy supply from renewable sources - so this is a monumental shift, one which could take decades and centuries to get right. Burning coal isn’t an option as scientists warn against climate change and campaigners pick up their protest banners. Nuclear energy seemed like a good option for a while but environmentalists speak up of the dangers, however small, and the media goes to town on Fukushima and Chernobyl.
These are things which make people angry and concerned, and so we see the recent big six price hikes fanning the flames and bringing many of the issues to light once more. But why is the country so angry?
Yesterday, the Conservation Director of the Yorkshire Dales National Park talked of how important wind was in the leap to renewable energy. He talked of how the country needed wind farms and how the Dales would in fact be the ideal location for them. He then shunned the idea entirely.
“"As a society we need more energy, and climate change feels like it's happening but that doesn't merit putting up massive wind farms here and ruining some of the country's biggest treasures. Commercial developers would think this is a cracking place for a wind farm but the price would be too high - there are plenty of other places where you can put them."
It seems that renewable energy may save us and doom us at the same time. No doubt, some enormous sacrifices are going to have to be made over the coming decades. Once we’re past the money issue, geography and environmentalism are going to be the next huge obstacles. Energy has a long way to go.