I spent much of the weekend being ferried around Yorkshire (friend's stag do since you ask; the St Leger at Doncaster, followed by several evenings of, well, enough of that).
One of the most noticeable features of the landscape is that you are never too far from a dirty great big smoke stack.
A quick Google Maps search tells you there are at least four power stations near Leeds and I think I saw three of them, although in fairness, as with all good stag dos, things were a bit hazy at this point and I might have been looking at the same one twice.
There were two things that were immediately striking about these power plants.
Firstly, how anyone has the nerve to complain about the visual intrusiveness of wind turbines when the alternative is these monstrosities is as intractable mystery as any Lehman Brothers' derivatives contract. They dominate the landscape for miles around like later-day cathedrals, so much so that you can nod off and wake up a few minutes later and still see the blasted thing. To call them ugly would be an insult to ugliness - they are the visual equivalent of putting your money on a horse that doesn't even get out of the gate.
And secondly why are there so many of them concentrated in such a small area?
The answer is partly to do with the historical proximity of a ready supply of coal from Yorkshire's mines and the continued proximity of northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester.
However, it is also a sad fact of the UK's energy grid that the shift in the population balance towards the south east over the last few decades means that our energy infrastructure no longer fits with our usage profile. The UK's energy profile has become an anachronism where one of the biggest challenges is shifting the power generated by the cluster of Northern power stations and the hydroelectric facilities of Wales and Scotland to the cities and towns that need it further south.
It is in this light that the government's continuing reluctance to support onsite micro generation technologies looks all the stranger.
You would have thought that faced with having to deliver the biggest overhaul of the UK's energy infrastructure since it was first built there would have been at least the temptation to try and tackle the transmission challenges presented by centralised power generation.
Instead, the government has only made the challenge still more daunting through its support for both a massive expansion of wind farms, which by definition are located far from population centres, and new nuclear power plants, which by definition are located far from population centres. Consequently, alongside overhauling our energy generation we will also have to overhaul the entire grid to cope with supply sources that are even more spread out and varied than they are now.
That is not to say this strategy is entirely wrong, indeed both wind and nuclear are urgently required as part of a low carbon energy mix.
It is just that it is strange that a more decentralised approach to energy generation was apparently given such short shrift when it would have delivered multiple benefits: simultaneously allowing us to build fewer expensive new turbines and nuclear reactors, reduce grid transmission headaches, and give communities a much clearer sense of where their energy comes from - a phenomenon that would encourage them to appreciate the energy they use and save it where possible.
The government has on occasions revealed that it does understand all this, talking up the potential of micro generation, while also showing an increasing willingness to give the go ahead for community scale biomass plants. But it has never displayed the enthusiasm for these technologies evident in countries such as Germany where the feed in tariff has already delivered the first green shoots of a decentralised energy network.
Perhaps if Ministers ever found themselves staring long and hard at an ugly, big power station, while consigned to the back of a stuffy minibus with an ugly, big hangover they might think again.
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