World Renewable Energy Congress VIII - Denver, Colorado - 8/29-04 through 9/3/04

w3w3 Interview - Stephen Timms, Energy Minister, United Kingdom

LLN: This is Larry Nelson with w3w3 Media Network and as you know, we are always expanding the work we're doing and opening up new channels, and I've not had a chance to say this online but we have our own "English channel" right here on w3w3® Media Network..

I'd like to welcome Stephen Timms who is the Minister of Parliament or MP, Minister for the State of Energy and E-Commerce and Postal Services in the United Kingdom. Welcome to the show.

Timms: Thank you.

LLN: Stephen, let's get into one of the subjects, the subject that's probably a real passion for you and that is -renewable energies. We enjoyed you on the panel discussion -you were in the keynote panel opening up the Eighth World Renewable Energy Congress. We enjoyed that very much and I wanted to ask you a couple tough questions if I could. OK?

Timms: Yes.

LLN: Well, let's start out with what do you feel are the three biggest challenges that renewable energy faces on the near term horizon?

Timms: Well, from the UK perspective the target we set is that we want 10% of our electricity to be generated from renewable resources by 2010. We'd like to double that by 2020. Now we're starting from a pretty small base in the UK. Last year less than 3% of our energy came from renewable resources. So we’ve got a great deal of work to be done between now and 2010 to deliver that target let alone move beyond the 20% we'd like to see by 2020. So in terms of the big hurdles that need to be overcome- I think number one is building the confidence among investors that this is a good market for them to commit the very substantial sums of investment that we need. We want investors to be confident about the market framework that we put in place. We've established what we call the renewables obligation, which is a market based mechanism to incentivise investment in renewables and I think that's doing a good job for us. But never the less, securing that investor confidence, building this very large new market that we need is a big challenge and one we've got to address very energetically as we are doing. In order to get to that 2010 target we're going to have to secure about £8 billion (Pounds) of investment so that's $12 or 15 billion dollars of investment. It is a large amount of investment we need and there's some work to be done to make that happen. I guess that's the number one hurdle we need to overcome.

I think the second challenge we face is to make sure that we have a sufficiently world portfolio of renewable technologies available to us. Because between now and 2010 in the UK it's basically going to be about wind. Of those ten percentage points we want by 2010, 8% or so will be wind. Probably 4% from on-shore wind, probably 4% from off shore wind. So it is quite a small proportion from the other renewable technologies. But beyond 2010 we're going to need a much broader portfolio. We'll want to have solar, we'll want to have wave and tide. Marine energy is going to be a big opportunity for the UK given our geographic characteristics. Solar, bio mass, geothermal -all those are going to be important for us

I think the second big challenge we face is to make sure that we have technologies that are going to be available in that Timms frame for deployment at scale in the UK when they become commercial and when we need them

And I suppose the third big challenge we face is in some parts of the UK there is some resistance to the construction of wind turbines. People say they don't like the look of them. People allege other difficulties with them; they say the low frequency noise is an issue. I think we've got quite a big job to do to win the hearts and minds to convince people that this is a good thing. Actually if you say to people, "Are you in favor of renewable energy?" overwhelmingly they say yes. When you say to them, "Do you want that wind farm half a mile down the road?" it's a different story. We've got some work to do in that respect to persuade people that their general enthusiasm should be translated into support for particular proposals. So those are the three big challenges I see.

LLN: Well you sure have a very aggressive plan. And of course you are showing your good stuff. And you've got a great group of people down here at the Expo.

Timms: There’s a lot of UK support at this event. I am very pleased by the quantity, the size and the quality of the UK representation here. But you're right it is an aggressive target. But the reason for that is we are determined to address the challenge of climate change. Prime Minister Tony Blaire has made it clear in the UK we're taking the threat of global warming very seriously. We think we need to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the UK and so we've set the goal. A long-term goal of by 2050 we want our CO2 emissions from the UK to be 60% less than they are today. Now, it's the long term goal we think that given that long term perspective it’s a formidable goal, because people throughout the economy can make the changes that are needed to deliver it. But it means we've got to get a move on. We've got to start making some changes for right away.

LLN: You know there are many urban myths, as they say here in the US, about renewable energy. It's amazing how much misinformation or, not the right information anyhow understanding of the real benefits of renewable energy. What might they be?

Timms: Well, number one is a contribution to tackling the problem of global warming. And form the UK perspective from what our scientists are telling us and from what US scientists are telling us that's a really important and that's a very big gain. But it's certainly not the only one. Number two, is the contribution to the security of our energy supplies. That's a big issue for us in the UK. We've been self-sufficient in energy for some decades, in fact, for a very long Timms n the UK thanks to coal. Historically we've been self-sufficient in energy because of the oil and gas we've been able to extract form the North Sea. But that is incoming to end. We're going to be net importers of gas within a couple of years. At the end of this decade we'll be net importers of oil. So security of our energy supplies is an important issue for us and renewables are completely under our control not subject to the kind of interruptions we've seen from Timms to Timms on the oil and gas front. That's a very, very big plus for renewable energy and it's a good reason for us to be committed to its development. I think the third benefit I would point to is the industrial benefits. I was very impressed with the Bon Conference on Renewable Energy a few months ago that German Chancellor Schroeder made the point that in Germany today there are 120,000 people working in renewable energy. In the UK we have 8,000. Actually I was surprised it was as many as that. 8,000 is quite a lot of jobs. But I think that German figure gives a sense of what the industrial potential here may be, could be if we can do it right. So there's a big economic gain as well. I'm particularly excited about the prospects for the marine energy, for wave and tide energy. We've got some excellent technologies being shown here at the convention this week. I think we have a world lead in this because of all the great results all around the UK. We've got some very innovative developers I think a number of those companies exhibiting here are ahead of the world in making a reality of electricity being generated from the waves and from tides and that's potentially a very big economic and industrial prize for us if we can make a success of that over the next few years. Those are the three big benefits that I think are available to us.

LLN: It's amazing the different organizations getting into this - just the idea that an oil and gas company, BP, is real big in their effort in terms of renewables as well as ((the diversity)) in air and the water and everything else. It's exciting.

I have five children - What do you see on the horizon? What would you like to see as it relates to renewables in their lifetimes?

Timms: Well I think were going to see more and more of our electricity, heat and our energy generally coming form renewable sources. I've been very impressed by what I've seen at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden where I've been today. They’re doing a great job developing solar, bio-mass, wind and -you know I think we're looking at what they're doing in those research activities and what others are doing around the world shows just what the huge potential is for this can be in the years ahead. Of course for them vehicle fuel is there priority and powering our cars buses and planes with material from bio mass is a huge prize. And I think it's going to be a reality in the lifetimes of our children. So, it's going to be a big, big prize and I think we're going to see, we're going to have to see big changes - because we all understand that our oil and gas reserves are being depleted. They're not going to last forever and we do need to address this challenge of climate change. We can't keep on forever putting CO2 in the atmosphere. We need to address the problem of global warming that is already causing some serious problems around the world. We've just recently had floods in Cornwall in the last few weeks we've had landslides in Scotland. And I think as we see more and more the extreme events, it becomes more and more clear that we need to address the problem of global warming we need to tackle the scale of CO2 emissions that we're seeing at the moment.

LLN: Certainly pain and suffering can be a motivator. Steven Timms I want to thank you so much for joining us today I know you've got a very busy schedule. A member of Parliament like you are and the position that you are in - we are depending on the world leaders like you Thank you so much.

Timms: Thank you for the opportunity.