There are arguments against all types of energy, for example the human cost of coal power is massive as miners often suffer from ‘black lung’ and severe health problems. If these social costs were factored in, we would see the true cost of the different forms of energy generation. This reminded me of our Panel report on the fairness of different energy options. Juliet reminded us that for wind power, planning is still a problem in the UK as it can take almost 3 years to get planning permission. By contrast, solar takes only about 3-4 months.
Wind power could be encouraged by community-owned wind farms which offer local residents a share of the benefits of having wind turbines nearby. They could issue bonds or provide a local tariff so communities have a share of the cheaper electricity generated. Renewable energy is getting cheaper as fossil fuel prices continue to rise. Juliet suggested that wind turbine developers need to reach out to the local community, perhaps offering benefits such as a free electric mini-bus for elderly residents. Overall we need to make it easier for people to invest in renewable energy. Perhaps the launch of the ‘Green Investment Bank’ and the ‘Green Deal’ by the government next year will build on this opportunity?
We found it inspiring to meet a female head of an energy company in an industry that is often male-dominated. As part of our upcoming ‘women in energy’ project, some of us are planning to research this topic. Juliet told us she had not encountered any particular problems; but agreed there is a need to encourage more girls to study Physics and Maths to have the opportunity to work in the energy sector. In an inspiring closing comment, Juliet encouraged any young women interested in energy to “push yourself out of your comfort zone and take risks” – and to have a vision of “what we need to do” to get to a sustainable energy future.