11 Aug An Energy White Paper With No Mention Of Hemp

Chris Huhne has said his electricity white paper and renewables proposals of July 2011 add up to the greatest transformation of energy since the privatisation of the energy industry.

This half hearted white paper lacks the vision of community development at a local level, nationally. Huhne however, is intent on remaining silent concerning the sustainable power potential of cannabis hemp.

The need is clear for a sustainable, zero carbon hemp crop to be grown in abundance where hemp can be processed into potentially zero carbon power. Currently six power plants could burn hemp for power in the UK. Only one has ever operated in the black. Hard pressed farmers within a 50 mile radius of these plants could be growing hemp and be reaping an extra annual income. Ten hemp seeds could be given away at garden centres to educated gardeners and at the end of the growing season, collection points could be provided for transportation to power plants. Schools and parks could be utilised, educating our children in the whole cannabis hemp truth, from its 8000 year old history, its biology, physics and chemistry, through to the farce that is prohibition and the crime prohibition has always caused, proving politicians learn nothing from history. Schools and parks could become local collection points. There is a need for the nation to be enlightened and the documentary….WHEN WE GROW, must be televised on all terrestial channels.

Huhne’s ambition for power reform is said to be transformative and it is also said to include some sensible regulatory measures, proving the energy and climate department (DECC) does not share in the deregulatory zeal that dominates several other departments (including DEFRA).

UK energy policy over recent decades shows political ambition has never really led to significant change. Regular speeches from politicians extolling renewables and numerous plans still leave the UK third from bottom in the European league table of energy from renewable sources. The EU fails miserably in informing European citizens on the attributes of cannabis hemp. For what they are worth, the rudimentary plans, in current jargon, the roadmaps, need delivery, which will be costly.

Some commentators say: the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments appear serious in intent. However the potential role of local government and local community awareness is overlooked in DECC’s publications. Elsewhere in Europe and also in parts of North America local government has led to only a limited energy transformation.

Electricity Market Reform

The electricity market reform has four key measures (ENDs Report, July 2011).

The first, a feed-in tariff contract for difference, involves a mechanism to provide low-carbon electricity generators with long-term contracts and guaranteed prices. This insulates the low carbon generator from very low wholesale prices. It is a sensible approach which will support renewables, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and new nuclear. However hemp is a renewable, sustainable crop, which can be utilised for power and CCS. CCS is also achieved in solid hemp products ranging from babies nappies to housing. In the case of new nuclear the public fear of a melt down remains and disposal of waste will be much more than a concern for future generations.

The second measure, an Emissions Performance Standard for fossil fuel power stations, has been set at a level which can be met by a new gas-fired power station without CCS. It is debatable this level will ever really reduce carbon emissions overall.

There is however a danger that this will encourage a ‘gas rush’ which could potentially, drive up the cost of gas to the consumer. Gas stations only emit about half the greenhouse gases of coal stations per unit of electricity but they are not low-carbon enough. Roughly, gas processing is four times as carbon-heavy as nuclear stations and 16 times as carbon-heavy as wind. The white paper states: “It is clear that fossil fuels without CCS, especially gas, will also continue to have a key role to play in the coming years.” So fossil fuel energy without CCS, which should be standard in all fossil fuel plants, is being completely disregarded in the white paper. Hemp grown locally, nationally, is needed in order to minimise the use of all higher carbon footprint energy sources.

The third measure, a carbon floor price, was announced in the Budget this spring. A floor price will be more effective than the EU emissions trading scheme has been in triggering investment in new low-carbon plant according to the white paper. Nevertheless it is unlikely that a price of £30 per tonne (if Treasury target price for 2020 is reached) would be enough to channel serious investment into low-carbon options, thus making budget power plans from renewable sources far less likely.

The fourth and last key measure, capacity payments, will give money to generators simply for having capacity available, whether or not it is actually used. This is intended to ensure that there are power stations available to keep the lights on when intermittent sources, sun or wind, generate small amounts of electric. This will favour gas stations, since these can be turned on and off more easily than coal or nuclear stations. Unfortunately for the consumer again the already expanded importation of liquefied gas will drive up its price to the consumer while also increasing carbon footprint in transportation.

So another dash for gas is a real danger. The present administration and the Labour government before the Con-Lib coalition gave planning consent for many new gas stations without either CCS or combined heat and power. Is this an act of truly endeavouring to lower the UK’s carbon emissions?

There is some encouraging text in the white paper about demand-side projects such as electrical energy being allowed to bid into the capacity mechanism. DECC is also prodding Ofgem to ensure better liquidity in the market. This could enable smaller generators and suppliers the ability to compete in the energy market. A hemp power industry should be part of any government’s drive toward lowering the carbon emissions of not only the UK but all nations.

Renewables Roadmap

The new renewables roadmap is supposed to be an encouraging document, according to many commentators. It begins by stating that the Government’s aim is to meet the UK’s target under the EU renewables directive, which is to get 15% of total energy (electricity, heat, transport fuel) from renewables by 2020. This directive is far from being achievable without the utilisation of hemp and the fact some scientists say climate change (global warming) will become irreversible by 2015 makes a goal of 15% by 2020 laughable, if it was not so potentially cataclysmic.

Last year the UK generated 3.3% from renewables. Therefore a five-fold increase in less than a decade is needed. Hemp should be allowed to become the five fold increase, plus! Again some commentators say the Government should be commended for sticking to the target, even though the Conservatives are far from being keen concerning EU rules and regulations and right-of-centre think tanks such as Policy Exchange are arguing the renewables target should be renegotiated and in so doing they continue to threaten the future of our children.

The document lists eight technologies. The Con-Libs believe it will help the UK to meet the target and puts particular emphasis on offshore wind. They favour 18 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020. The UK currently has 1.5GW of offshore wind in operation and 2GW under construction.

The political attractions of offshore are obvious for a government which favours rural electors voting in the ballot box for them. Wind turbines do not bode well with those that have been forced to live with them. Fellow citizens living in rural areas do not wish to live with them yet all governments have failed to inform country folk of the versatility of hemp for the rural economy and job creation.

Offshore wind farms are more difficult and more expensive to construct than onshore ones. £300 million has been invested for almost 300 turbines in Scotland. This can not be considered cheap, especially when only 300 jobs were created, so what exactly is the cost of constructing 18 gigawatts of offshore electricity before 2020?

The government is setting up a task force with industry to identify ways to bring offshore costs down. An obvious starting point would be to build ships to take the turbines out and install them but the building of these ships would cause there to be high emissions in construction, thus minimising the benefits of them in the first place. The ideal option would be ships constructed out of plastic processed from the hemp plant. “There is not enough land”, rings out the shout from all opposition to hemp but there is far more land suitable for hemp cultivation globally in semi arid regions unfit for conventional crops.

Land-use planning is the main reason why the UK has done so badly so far on renewables. In 2002, in excess of 100,000 hectares of land, unfit for conventional crops but suitable for hemp, lay neglected, along with 32,000 hectares of fallow land. Hemp is a fallow field crop!

Lack of access to the electricity grid especially in mid-Wales and lack of regulatory stability puts up the cost, making development capital from investors unlikely. However, carbonised hemp, a by product of ethanol fuel could be burnt in conventional power plants. Although emitting carbon from plant matter, an annual cycle is in operation, taking carbon out of the system, while the plants are growing but returning that carbon back, year in year out. Ethanol could then be used in local transport.

The SNP has done well on the electricity grid by giving permission for the construction of the Beauly-Denny line down the centre of Scotland. The UK and Welsh governments should follow this example. However if hemp was to be locally mass cultivated in the UK there would be no need for costly massive extensions of the grid but only a need for more ethanol plants supplying conventional coal burning power plants with carbonised hemp. Sulphur emissions have always been a contributing factor to coal burning but with carbonised hemp there is no sulphur.

The regulatory stability of the UK has been damaged by the ongoing debate between the renewables obligation and the German approach of a Feed-in Tariff. Ed Miliband seemed to have ended this discussion when as energy secretary he accepted the two approaches could be combined: renewables obligation for large infrastructure and feed-in tariff for small.

The coalition said that it would stick with this approach but reintroduced all the regulatory instability, proposing a contract for difference approach. The roadmap does recognise the danger and proposes transitional arrangements. It is not clear these will be sufficient to deliver regulatory certainty. The Con-Lib coalition, on a whim and a prayer, only believe transitional arrangements will address the problem.

An essential means to maximising regulatory certainty and increasing the chances of meeting the 2020 target is to avoid unnecessary delays. All parties seem to be rowing together in the electricity market reform and implementation should be passed in Parliament through primary legislation. However there are consultations to carry out which can and often have in the past caused unnecessary delays in implementation.

The main weakness of both the renewables roadmap and the electricity market reform white paper is the lack of articulation of the potential role of local government.

In August 2010, Huhne announced that local government would be allowed to sell renewable electricity – they had previously been banned from selling electricity so they would not ‘complicate’ the privatisation of the CEGB back in the 1980s. In early July 2011 Huhne met with new electricity suppliers, including Co-Op Energy and renewable generators such as Good Energy and Ecotricity. After the meeting he said “we need more suppliers” beyond the existing “big six”.

With local government being allowed to produce renewable electricity there is an obvious resource to provide it, hemp! Ethanol plants built in close proximity to conventional coal burning plants could provide fuel for local transport systems and the by product, carbonised plant matter of all kinds including hemp could and should be used in conventional coal burning plants. As far as the private sector is concerned, although the providers seem to be in competition, there is always the likelihood of those providers working together, in order to keep costs to the consumer higher than they need to be, thus excessively rewarding shareholders for doing nothing other than investing.

In parts of Europe, notably Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, parts of the USA and Canada, local government has become a major player in both energy efficiency and energy supply.

Local governments, community organisations and co-operatives are achieving many admirable things. Local opposition has been overcome because they do not have to pay shareholders and lower tariff charges enable cheaper power. UK policymakers seem to know next to nothing about these notable exceptions, in effect, making these policy makers unfit for purpose.

For six years, Chris Huhne was a member of the European Parliament and some commentators say he can not be fairly be accused of not knowing what is happening. Other DECC ministers also seem conscious that the UK has much to learn from other countries but all ministers, from the PM down, refuse to acknowledge the versatility of hemp as a sustainable biomass resource.

Plans to help UK local government become energy and climate leaders, learning the lessons of their continental and North American counterparts, are under preparation by DECC officials and will be published soon but again, hemp as a biomass resource for electricity, which could and should be locally and nationally cultivated will not even get a mention.

The meerkat in the commercial on TV says it all, with one suck of his teeth and one single word. To neglect a biomass resource like hemp reveals our energy policy makers as just too scared to admit the whole cannabis hemp truth to a UK electorate who, through no fault of their own, have always been, ill-informed.

Simples.

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