What is the difference between a fracking site and a garden shed?

What is the difference between a fracking site and a garden shed? Nothing! If the current proposed legislation gets the nod, you won’t need local planning permission for either.

Earlier this year the government issued a written ministerial statement which proposes that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be considered permitted development, and therefore would not require fracking companies to go through the normal local planning system.

We know that the commercial extraction of this type of fuel deposit depends on being able to drill your wells almost back to back, so it becomes very much like an industrial process. In practical terms that means anything up to 2,500 wells across the Wield.

The UK has the knowledge and technology to create a world-leading, sustainable clean energy revolution and certainly progress has been made in this industry, but for how long?

Many of us will be aware of the Feed in Tariff (FIT) system which is essentially the scheme in place to reward those who produce renewable energy fed onto the national grid for general use. Taking solar energy for example, this can be produced privately on your own roof or on a larger scale on a solar farm. The FIT comes in two parts; a payment per unit for feeding it onto the grid, and a payment per unit for producing it in the first place.

As technology advances and the panels become more efficient the financial incentives have been reducing, and rightly so. But, if a second government proposal gains approval, come next March new installations will receive nothing for supplying it to the grid and nothing for generating it.

Solar energy fed into the grid clearly has a value. In fact, decentralised energy generated close to consumer demand – as is mostly the case with solar, rather than from a large power station – has an even greater value as it suffers less from transmission losses and distribution costs.

It is energy that is generated during daylight hours, when demand is high (as opposed to night when demand is low) and wholesale prices generally follow this pattern. So, Solar is producing at times that are valuable to the energy system as a whole.

The planet is getting warmer and warmer with no sign of stopping so we must work together to increase clean energy production and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Not the other way round, as appears to be the objective of these proposed new legislations!

By Steve McDonald.

Published in the In Transition section of the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser.

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7 Oct 2018