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Utility Week 24th April 2015

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8 | 24TH - 30TH APRIL 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Interview RO regimes allowing, we'll build around 100MW of our own projects. That's the plan as far as anyone can have one in renewables." Whalley's composed manner as he references the mire of shiing subsidy regimes and political camp-shiing that has beleaguered the UK renewables indus- try over the past decade or more, suggests he has learned to simply chalk up their impact to fate. But his apparent equanimity belies a fervent belief in the role of onshore wind in a decarbonised society and a passionate incre- dulity about Conservative efforts to thwart its progress. "If you remove onshore wind from the mix – forget it. How can you get to 41GW [of renewable power]?" Whalley even-handedly allows that Michael Fallon's claim, made when the now defence secretary held the energy minister hot seat, that there is enough onshore wind in the planning system to allow the technology to play its rightful part in decarbonisation, is credible. But he cautions, "that assumes you don't run into issues with radar, that the grid's available and that you don't get 'Pickled'" – a reference to the now infamous interven- tionism of the Conservative communities secretary. "If the government embraced it – as the Scottish gov- ernment has – then you could make onshore wind very successful. If we embraced tip heights like they have in Germany we could make it really, really cheap." Convinced that the strategic development of more onshore wind in suitably windy locations around the UK would accelerate the UK's journey towards meeting both its emissions and renewables targets in a cost-effective and relatively low-risk manner, it infuriates Whalley that its progress has been hampered by political whim and an apparent refusal to accept the reality of public support for this form of renewable power generation. "When Cameron comes out saying the 'people have had enough of this' it's patently untrue. Seventy per cent of people, according to the government's own figures, like onshore wind." Entering into a spirited one-man dialogue with an imagined Conservative naysayer, Whalley continues: "Oh well, people in the vicinity of windfarms don't like them." "No, 60 per cent of people – again your own figures – living in the vicinity of windfarms, like windfarms. Not just put up with them, like them. That compares with 29 per cent for fracking and 49 per cent for nuclear." "Oh well, we'll put a moratorium on it." "You're going to put a moratorium on a form of gener- ation that delivers power for £75-80 per megawatt-hour? And it's an indigenous resource. And people like it." Breaking out of character, Whalley throws up his hands and sighs. "This is what makes me cross." Luckily, REG's other business interests provide some relief from this clearly frustrating environment. In partic- ular, REG Biopower, which opened its first power station, fuelled with used cooking oil, in 2008. Since then it has built three more, including its lat- est and largest investment in Whitemore, Yorkshire, which started generating in February 2014. Whitemoor is an 18MW facility that comprises ten "huge" Caterpil- lar engines that run on REG's patented and Environment Agency-certified fuel LF100. About 250,000 tonnes of cooking oil is used in the UK every year and, at present, most is used to make biodiesel, which Whalley says "in truth is not very renewable". He suggests that LF100 represents a better use of the resource. It's is made from processed used cooking oil that REG collects from restaurants, an operation Whalley, laughing, says is "a world away from generation. There's a lot of tattoos and transit vans". The oil is "sedementised" in 30-tonne vats to "get rid of chefs' fingers and bits of batter", then filtered. The resulting fuel is about 10 per cent less efficient than diesel but is cheap and, Whalley adds, "we get one and a half Rocs as well." Whalley wants REG to build 100MW of Biopower gen- eration in the UK by 2017 when the Roc runs out. "This is about the optimum amount before we start to cannibal- ise our own return," he explains. REG's Biopower fleet participates in National Grid's Stor (short-term operating reserve) mechanism, a long- running means of providing extra capacity through either generation or demand reduction. The technical requirements for participating in Stor are: the ability to provide 3MW or more of generation, or steady demand reduction (this can be from more than one site); the ability to deliver full MW in 240 minutes or less aer receiving instructions from National Grid; and the ability to provide full MW for at least two hours when instructed. Or, as Whalley more simply explains, "when there's a dip in the system a bloke in the control room in Woking presses a button and we rumble into life". The final part of REG's enterprise is a grudging but significant play in the solar market. REG Solarpower opened its first solar farm alongside its Goonhilly Downs windfarm in 2013. In 2014, waste management giant Veo- lia approached REG with a proposal to open a windfarm on land previously used for landfill in Essex, but solar generation proved a better proposition for the site. The Ockenden development, which is still in progress, will be REG's largest solar farm, spanning 250 acres and with a capacity of 36MW. Setting up solar panels on an old landfill site felt like "a good option," says Whalley who admits he otherwise has "a personal view about using up good farmland [with solar farms]". To gain better efficiency from its solar assets, Whalley adds that REG has been exploring the potential to link the panels to electricity storage assets – a technology area he's cautiously enthusiastic about in a broader sense. "We like storage – we have strategy days every so oen and we're really interested in storage. Blackrock is interested in storage as well. The problem is that the battery technologies are still massively expensive – cry- ogenic storage and hot sand and so on. Conceptually we're keen on it – but we don't take on technology risk." It's a perennial problem for emerging technolo- gies, but an understandable position for a firm that has enough trouble pacifying the concerns of its investors in a relatively proven technology. Returning to the trials of onshore wind development in the UK, Whalley concludes with a potent insight into the impact of political ambiguity on his business. "We're one of really only two companies listed in this arena. We're very good at buying and developing wind projects, we've got the world's biggest fund manager backing us and the world's biggest engine manufacturer (Caterpillar) backing us. Yet we've just done an investor road show and almost without exception, investors are saying: 'We'll buy you aer the election. We've heard Mr Cameron say he's putting a moratorium on windfarms'. Our shares are trading at probably half their intrinsic value because of this. It completely screws you up." "If the government embraced onshore wind – as the Scottish government has – then you could make it very successful"

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