Friday, 22 May 2015

Why Friends if the Earth should demand NOW that the Government scraps Hinkley C plans

Below is a copy of a letter I have sent to Simon Bullock, the Senior Energy Campaigner of Friends of the Earth


Dear Simon,

Thankyou for news of FOE's activities, which are most welcome. However, I am struck by one crucially important omission - a demand for the Government to scrap Hinkley C and replace it with plans for investment in more renewable energy. This is vitally important for the future of investment in renewables simply because long term plans are now being put in place in the government machinery for decarbonisation that will place far too little emphasis on renewable energy. This is because large amounts of 'fantasy' new  nuclear power are being pencilled into the decarbonisation programme that, as no doubt you know, will not be carried out. This will not only lead us with a big hill to climb in terms of future decarbonisation, but pave the way for considerable under-investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency compared to what is required.

It is therefore of supreme importance to press the government to recognise a reality which is increasingly recognised by the energy industry at large, namely that the Hinkley C project is doomed. Recognition of this failure ought also to lead to a wider re-appraisal of the relative costs and practicality of the so-called 'new nuclear build' programme compared to renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

It has seemed that a significant section of green opinion has been reluctant to overtly oppose the notion  that decarbonisation should include new nuclear power. Yet it should be manifestly apparent now that the reality of the situation is that an effective decarbonisation strategy cannot be achieved if nuclear power is included in decarbonisation programmes. Inclusion of notional but ultimately un-implemented plans for new nuclear power simply means that there will be under-investment in renewable and energy efficiency. This is compared to a more realistic appraisal which based decarbonisation on more investment in renewable energy. Resources of wind power and solar pv alone (onshore and offshore) are immense, and, in any case, demonstrably cheaper than even some rather optimistic notions of what nuclear power costs (as represented by the Government's own proposed Hinkley C contract). The very fact that the Treasury caps spending on 'low carbon' energy spending means that as money is pencilled in for notional (fantasy) nuclear power, less will be available for renewable energy.

Of course a key priority at the moment is to ensure that the Treasury and DECC release more funds under their 'LCF' policy to enable implementation of renewable energy targets for 2020, including, of course, for onshore wind. But it would be a grave mistake to believe that what is being decided now and in the next couple of years will not set the agenda for the early 2020s. The CCC, for example, are now deliberating on their fifth carbon budget to cover the period starting in 2028. We must act now to safeguard not only the present, but also the future.

The process for Electricity Market Reform started off with discussions in OFGEM, DECC and the Treasury in 2008-9, and the first projects under EMR will only become implemented in 2016 - a lead time of 8 years, something that is fairly typical in government policymaking. Industrial investment cylcles themselves have to depend on these policy cycles and so industry really needs strong signals about what is likely to happen with perhaps notice of a decade.

It is, in terms of decarbonisation strategy, a disaster that we have now gone 10 years already with a failing national policy supposedly heading towards a 'new' nuclear power programme. Not only is such a programme grossly delayed but is in fact never likely to occur. That is it will never occur short of the effective nationalisation of nuclear construction and the consequential squandering of vast resources that would be much better deployed on green energy schemes. I would add  that we should firmly squash any hint that we can rely  on reviving otherwise  long abandoned notions of 'small' nuclear reactors and 'thorium' rectors. Such ideas are pipedreams  that will, if implemented, turn into nightmares of a financial black hole.

I therefore call upon you in strong terms to put demands for the scrapping of Hinkley C to the Government, accompanied by demands for a post-2020 system of effective long term power purchase agreements for renewable energy technologies. These must include onshore and offshore wind and solar pv  (both ground mounted and on rooftops).

I would also suggest that you step up your efforts to persuade the CCC to shift their emphasis from what is obviously a failing nuclear strategy and towards other, genuinely green, energy technologies.

Best Wishes,


Dr David Toke

You can see FOE's list of priorities for the new DECC Secretary of State Amber Rudd at http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/lights-are-amber-will-they-go-green

Former FOE Director Jonathon Porritt is less than impressed with FOE's current stance. See http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/friends-of-the-earth-slammed-as-totally-reprehensible-by-groups-former-director-10272276.html

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Why Scottish independence is more likely if the whole of the UK stays in the EU

There is a theory going around in Scotland that if the rest of the UK (rUK) votes to leave the EU whilst Scotland votes for the EU then Scotland can have another referendum, and that in such circumstances Scotland is more likely to vote 'YES'. Certainly the first part has great force. Scotland voted against independence on the constitutional basis of EU membership, so it would be reasonable that, if it requested, the Scots could have another indyref. However, the second part, that the Scots would be more likely to vote 'YES' is much less clear. Indeed I rather think that they would be LESS likely to vote for independence under such circumstances.

This is contrary to received opinion, I know, and no doubt people will accuse me of lots of things, but hear me out. I am, of course, aware of all of the arguments, very attractive, of how an independent Scotland might have more in common with the European continent than an isolated (dare I say 'nationalist') England and maybe then a less connected Wales (and Northern Ireland). Maybe one can even think of a sort of nationalist domino theory with Scottish nationalism saved by left wing politics and an internationalist cooperative outlook.

But beware unintended consequences. Always beware. If the UK did vote to leave the EU then the  UK could indeed have more control over its immigration policy - but only if it left the internal market. It is of course possible that the UK could vote to leave the EU and remain in the internal market, but then that would ruin the whole point (as far as the average UKIP supporter is concerned) of leaving the EU since the UK would be obliged to keep its borders open to citizens from around the EU. Switzerland are facing this dilemma at the moment, and they have been told firmly that they cannot have it both ways, even though Switzerland is not in the EU (same applies to Norway). If you remain in the internal (economic) market, then you must observe all the rules about free movement of labour.

The point here is that if the UK left the EU, it would no doubt negotiate some sort of a trading agreement with the EU, but that it would, indeed, have control over its immigration policy. It would not be part of the internal market.  It could stop Poles, Bulgarians, Rumainians, etc and, if Scotland was independent, potentially Scots from coming to rUK and living and working there.

Now please note, I use the word 'potentially'. It is quite possible, indeed certain (assuming separation was done amicably rather than through secession) that there would be an agreement about English residency rights for Scottish citizens. However, who it might apply to and whether it could apply to future generations of Scots is less certain. How Scots could or could not expect to have their British passports renewed would also be left uncertain. What is more to the point the rUK Government is very unlikely to agree to be generous about such rights before a referendum. No doubt there would be the same sort of debate as occurred about whether rUk would agree to allow Scotland to use the £ as common currency.

However when it came to another indyref the threat (whether scare story or not) that Scots would be treated no more favourably than people from the USA or Canada in wanting to settle in the rUK would have to balanced against the attractions of Scotland being in the EU without rUK. Scots would be asked to compare the benefits of rights to settle in Sweden, Germany. Poland etc with the rights of settling in Manchester or other parts of England. I suspect that this might not weigh in favour of a 'YES' vote. Indeed, the fear of such an eventuality may end up undermining the prospects of even a new referendum vote.

The point that I'm getting at here is this. Scottish Nationalist support for Scotland remaining in the EU is very welcome. But I hope nationalists don't predicate this on any sort of hope that the UK will decide to leave the EU. I hope that Scottish nationalists do not start sniping at the pro-EU campaign being fought down south, as division in such a campaign may well lead to consequences that nobody wants. It is in everybody's interests to remain in the EU. Please let us all make that clear.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tory bill to end windfarm subsidies likely to undermine EU approval for state aid to Hinkley C

Conservative efforts to 'end subsidies' for onshore windfarms seem likely to undermine EU state aid approval for Hinkley C. This is because the EU Commission's judgement was based on evidence submitted to the Commission which said that the state aid to nuclear was justified because similar support was available to other renewable and low carbon generators. Clearly if onshore wind is barred from enjoying the same sort of support (that enables it to be constructed) as nuclear power this argument no longer applies. Many will now argue that the (already highly controversial) Commission decision to allow state aid for Hinkley C be struck down for this additional, very important, reason.

In their consideration of the evidence submitted by the UK Government the European Commission stated that:
'(282) The UK submitted that;......


(284) The aid would not have a negative impact on other low-carbon sources, given that they are also supported by the UK, and there is no discrimination against renewable technologies. The aid would actually support investment in a broad range of energy initiatives...' 
See http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/251157/251157_1615983_2292_4.pdf 

But now, Amber Rudd,  the new Conservative Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has announced that she will ensure that legislation will be introduced next year to end 'subsidies' for onshore windfarms. See http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2408908/government-to-ban-onshore-wind-subsidies-from-may-2016-says-amber-rudd

So, it seems clear that the Commission's judgement giving consent to Hinkley C was based on a claim by the UK Government which cannot (now) be reasonably said to apply when Hinkley C starts generating and therefore gets paid its state aid incentives (2023???). If onshore wind is no longer able to be given reasonable CfDs (contracts for difference) that allow it to be built then clearly the aid to Hinkley C would be discriminating against a very important renewable energy technology, namely onshore wind. Hence the logic upon which the Commission gave its consent no longer applies. This will add considerable weight to the efforts to appeal against the Commission decision.

Austria and Luxembourg are said to be launching appeals against the Commission's decision to grant state aid permission to Hinkley C nuclear power station.



Sunday, 17 May 2015

Is China's slump in carbon emissions real or are they just making it up?



Jonathan Leake, writing in the Sunday Times described reports of reductions in carbon emissions from China as 'unlikely' 'in such a fast growing economy'. He highlighted a US initiative to launch a satellite to monitor carbon emissions. 'We're goin' to smoke you (Chinese) out!' is one interpretation. So is the Chinese Government really fiddling the books about carbon emissions?

Of course we're all thoroughly (self) trained to repeat the mantra about the Chinese are building a coal fired power station every day-or-two so what possible difference can my solar panel make etc.....(although no doubt that unmentionable supermarket chain's motif about 'every little helps' comes into mind). So talk of 5 per cent (or any) cuts in Chinese carbon emissions are instantly filed in the rubbish tray by many westerners. 'They are obviously cooking the books, what can you expect of a communist government' is, I am sure the general trend among the richer sections of chattering Sunday Times classes who are reeling from relief from the worry of a potential Miliband Government taxing their mansions,

Except that I have a sneaking feeling that reports of cuts in carbon emissions are not to be discounted.  Indeed I will be rather surprised if the Chinese are making it up. Sorry Jonathan.

There are various reasons why I believe the Chinese statistics.
First, if you look at the data for changes in production of various sorts, it would require some highly integrated coordination to get a bunch of statisticians to weave together such a convincing story of how contextual figures for cement production, industrial production of various sorts and energy production to tally. China is an authoritarian state, yes, but it is not North Korea. Somebody somewhere is likely to leak some details of what is really going on, if the stats books are really being cooked to that degree. There are an awful lot of very intelligent people in China. Really.

But perhaps an even bigger reason why it would be wrong to place to much emphasis on sceptical western opinion is are the clues from the wider energy, social, economic and political context. Westerners received wisdom of what is happening in China is basically flawed in some crucial senses. One myth is that China is still in the midst of a transformation from a rurally based population to an urbanised population requiring vast investments in buildings and infrastructure that will carry on until the cows come home in their newly built mass sheds. In fact, for the large bulk of the population, this has already happened. Chinese people mainly live in towns and cities already. There has been a big building boom in recent years, but that may be less connected to people coming in from the fields than in pure property speculation funded by a lot of governmental graft.

In fact the government led by President Xi Jinping has been busy cutting down on government graft and seems to be well aware of the distorting impact of an economy heavily influenced by corruption - and incidentally under great pressure to do something about the appalling levels of air pollution suffered in these urban centres in China. And there is a lot of contextual evidence that the corruption crackdown is real, for example the cries of pain from the gambling ventures in Macao. So there are likely to be big reductions in speculative building constructions. This certainly connects with official statistics showing a big slowdown in cement production, and therefore in outputs of carbon emissions.

Sure a lot of coal fired power stations being built, but there are now far too many of them compared with electricity demand, which has barely increased in recent times. This has had the collateral effect of allowing production to be focussed on the newer, more efficient power stations. Coal prices have plunged on the world markets in recent times, Australian and other coal traders are reacting with horror at import curbs on coal with high ash content, and of course, the world economy has been slow to rebound, influenced no doubt by 'sluggish' Chinese economic growth.

Now 'sluggish' is definitely a relative term when is comes to economic growth rates. A Chinese economic growth rate hovering, as it has been in the last 12 months, just above 7 per cent, would hardly be regarded as sluggish in the UK, but in China it is a big decline from the 10 or more per cent annual growth that they have been chalking up. But that has big implications in that this will send carbon emissions in (relatively) downwards direction. Now, the western press believes the official statistics showing a relative decline in Chinese economic growth, but doesn't believe their stats on carbon emissions. Odd.

Added to which the Chinese have actually been adopting a lot of renewable energy sources - up from 10 per cent of electricity to around 30 per cent over a decade - and they also making much more efficient use of the coal they are burning. Yes, that's energy efficiency, also helped by a shift to production of less energy intensive goods and services. And by the way, while the Chinese have been building a few nuclear power plant, this makes little difference compared to the growth in renewable energy. Wind power alone is now outstripping nuclear power in electricity production.

Putting this all in perspective, Chinese per capita emissions are roughly on par with average EU per capita emissions, and about half those of per capita US emissions. It is positive news that the Chinese are most unlikely now to catch up the Americans. A big question is, how fast is the USA curbing down its emissions? And by the way Uncle Sam, why are you virtually banning imports of solar power from China and helping to curb the fall in world solar pv prices?


UPDATE: Greenpeace analysis of background to fall in coal use http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/05/19/china-coal-use-falls-how-the-worlds-largest-polluter-reduced-its-emissions/



Friday, 15 May 2015

Nuclear power is more expensive than both onshore AND offshore wind power

Using the Government's own contract prices for nuclear power and wind power we can demonstrate how nuclear power is more expensive than both onshore wind AND offshore wind. Based on a plausible set of assumptions set out below (if anything which gives the benefit of doubt in favour of nuclear power), then we arrive with a set of costings over 45 years of £73 for onshore wind, £78 per MWh for offshore wind and £83 per MWh for nuclear power. This is based on current costs, and of course we know that wind power's costs are declining whilst nuclear power costs seem to be rising.

In November 2013 the Government provisionally agreed a price of £92.50 per MWh to be paid to the operators of Hinkley C over 35 years, underpinned by a £10 billion loan guarantee from the Treasury. Adjusting for inflation since then, this price is now worth around £94 per MWh. By contrast, in February the Government authorised contracts to be issued for onshore windfarms at £80 per MWh and offshore windfarms at £120 per MWh, but for only 15 years and with no loan guarantees. Of course we cannot be certain that these projects will be built for that price, although the wind power projects currently look like more likely bets compared to Hinkley C!

Even on these headline prices, onshore wind already looks cheaper than nuclear, but of course even then we are not comparing like with like, since nuclear receives the premium prices for much longer and is backed by a Treasury loan guarantee. The Government's justification for the distinction in contract lengths between nuclear and renewables is based on a bit of a myth, that nuclear power stations have a lifetime of 60 years and wind power last just 25 years.

 As I discussed in a previous blog, in fact wind turbines can last longer than 25 years and no nuclear power station has lasted as long as 60 years. See http://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/wind-power-history-blows-away-ed-daveys.html

 It certainly seems unlikely that this (60 year) figure  can be accepted as an average lifetime for nuclear; 45 years would seem more likely, and currently the longest surviving nuclear power plant is just 46 years old; many have shut down with a lifetime of less than 45 years. The confusion  seems to come from a US regulatory decision to extend safety licenses to 60 yeas - but that does not mean that it will be economically feasible to carry on refurbishing them for this lifetime.

Offshore windfarms may have a headline premium price of £120 per MWh for the first fifteen years, but after then they will operate initially at a much lower wholesale price (say £50 per MWh) and then they can be refurbished at a much lower price than the £120 per MWh initially quoted. If they are refurbished (say after 20 years) the costs may NOT include the foundations, towers and electrical connections since they will already exist.

Using the estimates of cost breakdowns produced by IRENA and RESCO (see references below) the cost of refurbishing the turbines with new nacelles and gears ,may be no more than 50 per cent of the initial installation cost. Hence is reasonable to assume that the offshore windfarms given contracts at £120 per MWh could be refurbished for no more than £60 per MWh. Hence for a 45 year contract, only the first 15 years would be at £120 per MWh, then 5 years at £50 per MWh, a further 15 years at £60 per MWh followed by another 5 years at £50 per MWh and a final 5 years at £60 per MWh (assuming a further refurbishment).

If you average these costs over a 45 year period then you get a cost of around £78 per MWh for offshore wind. Even this price, it should be noted, is higher than the contract recently awarded for a Danish offshore windfarm at £75 per MWh.

This sort of development (that is refurbishment after 20 years) will certainly fit in with offshore windfarms using advanced concrete  foundations which are more likely to assure very long lifespans for the offshore windfarms compared to the metal foundations used that have been more widely used so far. The concrete foundations are suitable for both shallow and greater water depths.

It is suggested that a concrete base would be the chosen design for the Neart na Gaoithe windfarm off the Scottish cost which was given a 15 year contract at £120 per MWh in February this year (2015).

By contrast with nuclear power would expect £94 per MWh for 35 years and then £50 per MWh for a further 10 years you get an average cost over 45 years of around £84 per MWh.

A potential limitation to the 'refurbishment' strategy discussed here for offshore windfarms is that by the time the refurbishment takes place much bigger, more efficient, turbines will be available suggesting that new turbine towers and bases would be preferable. Hence a further strategy that may lead to much the same overall cost destination may also be to preserve the electrical connections (saving 15-20 per cent of costs) but install much bigger turbines that are likely to be available in the future. Fewer of these turbines will be needed. They will be more efficient, increasing output, and the fact that fewer will be needed for a given output will considerably cut down costs that are involved in installing offshore windfarms.

In the case of onshore wind, assuming the  same pattern of contracts as for offshore wind, 15 years at the premium price of £80 per MWh, five years at wholesale price of £50 per MWh and then a further 15 year premium price contract at £80 per MWh, five years at the wholesale price and a final 5 years at the premium. This generates an average of £73 per MWh.

Hence we can see that both onshore wind and offshore wind are cheaper over 45 years even before we take the considerable advantage given to nuclear power by the loan guarantee on offer and also that the prospect of cost reductions is much stronger in the case of wind power than nuclear power. Recently wind power's cost have gone down whilst nuclear power cost appear to be increasing.

In the case of Germany where renewable energy is installed at lower prices compared to the UK, Hinkley C looks even less commercially attractive by comparison:
Price of new nuclear already higher than solar and wind
Source; http://energytransition.de/2014/12/infographs/

References:

Wind power cost breakdowns from:
http://www.resco.org.uk/wind-and-marine-power/

Concrete foundations for offshore windfarms: See  http://www.viciventus.no/getfile.php/Dokumenter/GBF_product_sheet_231111.pdf. Also http://www.4coffshore.com/windfarms/gravity-based-support-structures-aid274.html for some examples of installations.
For technical specifications of Neart na Gaolithe offshore wind proposal see See http://mainstream-downloads.opendebate.co.uk/downloads/NnG-Addendum---Technical-Appendix-1---Design-Parameters.pdf

Nuclear Power plant retirements:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-power-seems-doomed-to-dwindle-in-the-u-s-infographic1/


Saturday, 9 May 2015

Why fiscal autonomy will help both Tories and Labour as well as Scotland in general

The landslide victory of the SNP in the General Election allied to the nearly 45 per cent vote in the 'indyref' signals the support of the majority of the Scottish voters for devomax. If this is to have real meaning it must mean full fiscal autonomy (FFA). This will mean that the Scottish Parliament would have to take responsibility for social and economic matters and take the blame as well as the credit .

Labour has resisted this arguing that Scotland gets a good deal out of the Barnett formula compared to the uncertainty of FFA. A good argument, especially in view of the fact that eventually the growth of electric cars will keep oil prices reduced and reduce the bonus of North sea oil revenues. But the point is that the majority of Scots have voted, in effect, to say that regardless of such claims they want self- determination, albeit still within the UK.

The problem with resisting this call is that the SNP can go on and on blaming Westminster for austerity, and avoid facing the choices of cutbacks or tax increases that they would have to take under FFA. For them it is perfect - power without responsibility and they can continue to play  the 'blame Westminster game' until the cows come home - or until such time as they can argue to have another Indyref. They could well win the next one. Ok fiscal autonomy - which means Scottish control over all of their tax and spending decisions (apart from spending on common 'federal'  items such as defence), may lead to independence, but we'll have to see. It is right that the Scots should get a good portion of self-determination before they decide whether they want the whole dish of full independence. It may be that Scots will decide that (despite the heavy incubus of hosting Trident) the advantages of the United Kingdom in providing overall financial security including, and (I hope) continued large spending on renewable energy in Scotland justifies continued union with the UK. 

But really, rather than the drip-drip process of more conventions and more bit by bit concessions of Scottish autonomy, Westminster should take one bold step and agree FFA for Scotland.

We know that giving the Scottish Parliament FFA could make things difficult for a future Labour Government since they would have to have a vote only among English and Welsh MPs for a budget for the rest of the UK. But what is worse? Carrying on indefinitely with the current position where the SNP blame the 'red and blue' Tories for everything? Maybe independence would come anyway. But maybe not, and there would be a more stable political settlement wherein there is not at present.

Labour has been knocked out in Scotland. So when it struggles to its feet is it going just to carry on with the same losing punches, or can it do better by calling the SNP's bluff? That is by supporting FFA. Labour is re-evaluating. It should re-evaluate its stance on FFA for Scotland as an urgent priority.

It is a conversation that needs to include Labour and Tories and the other parties south if the border as well. Arguably, the SNP cost Labour some seats in the election (indirectly) south of the border since the Tories ran a vigorous scare campaign about the impact of SNP on a putative Labour Government. The Tory claims may have been implausible, perhaps, in the sense that the SNP would have little alternative to back Labour in key votes (including the budget since there would be no better available alternative) but nevertheless, they seemed, to many to be effective. Giving Scotland FFA could ensure that the Tories could no longer play the scare card about the SNP holding Labour to ransom over the budget again. 

Okay there would be a political price to this for Labour in that the ability of Scottish MPs to vote on English and Welsh matters would be curtailed (and this will benefit the Conservatives) - but if you think carefully you come to realise that the political cost if NOT grasping the FFA mettle is even higher. Not only will the Tories continue to play the SNP card, but Labour's chances of making a comeback north of the border wound be much reduced as the SNP were able to carry on blaming Westminster for everything. Finally of course comes the biggest reason for granting full fiscal autonomy to Scotland - the Scots have voted for it large numbers. Let democracy rule.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Lib Dems to be right wing stooge with agreement to ditch onshore wind

Nick Clegg has already sold the pass on onshore wind even before negotiations with the Conservatives have begun for a new Government. Nick Clegg has announced that he will agree to cut-off incentives for onshore wind as part of a new agreement with the Conservatives. Given that the Lib Dems seem only likely to make a Parliamentary difference by propping up a Cameron Government one wonders just how much the Lib Dems much prized green commitments are really worth. Practically nothing, it seems. The Lib Dems are poised to plough a future now as little more than a fading liberal fringe of the Tories. And a very ineffective fringe at that! They will accept a referendum on the EU (which will only strengthen UKIP either way) and now, when it comes to energy, they will do little more than embellish (if at all) what the Conservatives would do anyway.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nick-clegg/11580558/Nick-Clegg-could-back-Tory-plans-to-end-onshore-wind-subsidies.html

No doubt the Lib Dems will change their tune and go on about how they are supporting offshore wind and a few solar pv panels on rooftops, and we'll hear all sorts of nonsense about how onshore wind is no longer necessary (I await the newspeak in accordance with this to emerge from Ed Davey's lips soon!). Of course the reality is, that with tough Treasury limits on spending, that there will be a big decline in the amount of new electricity generated from renewable energy. That is because onshore wind (and also ground mounted solar pv) are a lot cheaper than the other renewables, and so refusing to spend money on them will reduce the amount of renewable energy that will be generated. There's no way around that, and the Lib Dems will be leading the apologies for this outcome.

The Lib Dems notion of the environment being a 'red line' for negotiations with David Cameron is not only meaningless, but a joke. A sad, pathetic joke at that in terms of what they have previously said about the importance of onshore wind!

The attitude of Nick Clegg seems to be: if the Tories need the Lib Dems to get a Commons majority, we'll join them. Of course they would consider cooperating with Labour - but only in circumstances when the Labour Party could do without their votes anyway! Given that the Liberal Democrat commitments on renewable energy overlap with Labour's anyway, they will make little difference here. So, in short, a vote for the Liberal Democrat, if it has any effect, will be to weaken the green energy agenda through supporting a Conservative Government, and in doing so converting what should be a pro-onshore wind energy Commons majority into one that stops it.

The standard progressive wisdom of many has been to say that in a constituency contest where the leading candidates are clearly a Lib Dem and a Conservatives a green vote should plump for the Lib Dem as the better/lesser evil. But if there's no significant difference any more on energy, what is the point? The Green Party has the closest to the original Lib Dem policy of course (anti-nuke, pro-onshore wind) so they would be a logical choice!

The long term prospects for the Lib Dems are now dire under Nick Clegg's leadership. Indeed the party is now threatened with the sort of near extinction it had during the 1930s - that is if it does another coalition with David Cameron (in the 1930s much of the Liberal Party were absorbed into the Conservatives as supporters of the 'National' Government). It will increasingly be seen as an irrelevance with people like Nick Clegg absorbed in all but name into the Conservative Party. Nick clearly sees his future as somebody who depends on mobilising the Tory vote behind him in Sheffield Hallam to survive - and more and more his orange turns blue! It's back to the 1930s in more ways than one!