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United Kingdom

THER MORAL AND THE MARKET

Reply to Francis Otway (Letters, March 1996). Either we approach energy production from a moral stance and try our best to use all legitimate methods to reduce pollution both at home and abroad, or we abandon the fight. A liberalised market will be equitable, so that the consumer knows he is paying for pollution and therefore should choose either clean generation or reduce his consumption. None of this need result in higher prices in comparison with the Far East

If I understood the point being made by Francis Otway (Letters, March 1996), he contends that the principle of making the polluter pay in energy pricing will be disadvantageous to western Europe because fast developing countries in the Far East will not be so scrupulous. There are two points here, the moral and the market.

Either we approach energy production from a moral stance and try our best to use all legitimate methods to reduce pollution both at home and abroad, or we abandon the fight, and go home. Yes, China is opening coal fired power stations at 300 MW a week, but it also has a 1000 MW target for installed wind power capacity and has thus shown itself willing to a substantial degree to embark on clean energy generation. It is the very rate of building of conventional power stations that gives urgency and point to the development of renewable energy in Europe: if we don't, how can we preach to others?

The market point is that a liberalised market will bring down prices, in theory. A liberalised market will be equitable, so that the consumer knows he is paying for pollution and therefore should choose either clean generation -- which in the case of wind energy in the UK is competitive -- or reduce his consumption. None of this need result in higher prices in comparison with the Far East.

Lastly, one of Mr Otway's other remarks was also a bit off beat. He equates the safety problems of wind energy to those of the nuclear industry. There is no comparison. While a turbine might bang someone on the head, it cannot take farm land hundreds of miles away out of use for years. Of course there are inherent safety problems in the nuclear industry, which is precisely why there has to be such a high standard of training and such strict monitoring, security and inspection. No doubt these costs are reflected in the price of electricity from nuclear energy, which is generally higher than that of wind.

From Hugh Babington Smith, Executive Director, British Wind Energy Association, London

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