Thursday, May 12, 2005

Renewables Can Plug UK Energy Gap

From the UK Guardian via How to Save the World for Free, news of research at Oxford University that
shows that intermittent renewables, combined with domestic combined heat and power (dCHP) could dependably provide the bulk of Britain's electricity. "By mixing between sites and mixing technologies, you can markedly reduce the variability of electricity supplied by renewables," says Graham Sinden, of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute. "And if you plan the right mix, renewable and intermittent technologies can even be made to match real-time electricity demand patterns. This reduces the need for backup, and makes renewables a serious alternative to conventional power sources." In particular, it puts renewables ahead of nuclear power, which runs at the same rate all the time regardless of fluctuations in demand.
The timing on this is fortuitous in regards to our debate on nuclear power below, but it also stresses an aspect of energy development that often seems to get lost: diversity. Much of the argument for nuclear power relies on a "one right way" kind of thinking: that is, we have to look for a single (or at least primary) source of energy to replace fossil fuels, and this primary source should work for all people in all places. I'd argue that this kind of thinking is what's gotten us into our present predicament, and an energy plan that allows for diversity in terms of local needs, demands and resources will likely be the most sustainable. I'm sure that nuclear supporters would agree with me that a "silver bullet" theory of any kind probably isn't in our best interests.

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