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UK Wind Power Smashes Records As Scotland Eyes Fossil-Free Future
Wind power went from strength to strength in the UK in 2014, with new figures from the National Grid showing the sector smashed its previous energy generation record last year.
It was revealed this week that the wind power in the UK climbed 15 percent in 2014 and now powers a quarter of British homes.
Wind power generation rose from 24.5 terawatt hours to 28.1TWh—enough to supply the needs of more than 6.7 million households across the UK.
Across the board, UK wind power generation is breaking records. December generation broke records, with wind’s contribution to the electricity mix rising to 14 percent.
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said:
It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind, with new records being set month after month, quarter after quarter, and year on year, as we increase our capacity to harness one of Britain’s best natural resources.
He noted the importance clean energy would play in the forthcoming general elections:
We’re now into a general election year so we know that the political temperature is set to carry on rising over the next few months. The cost of energy has become an important political issue, so now would be a good time for voters, prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs to take account of the fact that onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy we have at our fingertips.
The news of wind power’s great success comes as a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study predicts that Scotland’s power grid could viably become entirely fossil-free by 2030.
The study found the Scottish government’s policy goal of decarbonising Scottish power generation by 2030 was technically possible, due to the country’s abundance of wind and wave energy resources.
Paul Gardner, lead author of the WWF report, said:
Our technical analysis shows that a system with an extremely high proportion of renewable electricity generation located in Scotland can be secure and stable.There is no technical reason requiring conventional fossil and nuclear generation in Scotland.
What’s more, while the Scottish government’s current decarbonisation plan to 2030 relies on untested carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the latest research shows this is not needed to ensure a fossil-free future.
It states that “a renewables-based, efficient, flexible, electricity system is perfectly feasible by 2030”
To become entirely renewable-dependent would be a cheaper and safer option for the country.
Renewable energy is more than 50 percent cheaper than installing carbon capture and storage in thermal plants, while renewables would be replacing dangerous fossil fuels that have negative effects on the planet and on public health.
Moreover, WWF stated that renewable projects in the pipeline are more than adequate for the country’s electricity needs.
Gina Hanrahan, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland, said:
Pursuing this pathway would allow Scotland to maintain and build on its position as the UK and Europe’s renewable powerhouse, cut climate emissions and continue to reap the jobs and investment opportunities offered by Scotland’s abundant renewable resources.
The report has given the Scottish government a number of policy recommendations to be implemented if the target is to be met, suggesting Westminster and Holyrood should work together to support initiatives to reduce the demand for energy.
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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
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"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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