A recent article in the Financial Times does a good job of capturing the frustrations that can attend the development of clean, small-scale power generation (see Water Power Project Generates Little Return, by Carola Hoyos, May 31st). Ms. Hoyos profiles a U.K. family's efforts to develop micro-hydro at the site of a 700 year old water mill.
"For more than 700 years the Tillingbourne river has produced power on the spot where Neil and Candace McMahon's converted mill house now stands. A southern wall of Old Netley Mill, which dates from 1860 when this part of Surrey produced much of Britain's gunpowder, still shows distinctly where the water wheel once turned."
After much frustration the family meets with limited success.
"As for the McMahons, they are a little rueful that, even with the pleasant prospect of no more power bills, it will probably take more than 40 years of selling the extra electricity they generate back to the grid to recoup costs of buying, installing and maintaining the turbine.
"I'll probably be dead by then," says Mrs McMahon."
All this despite national policy intended to foster clean energy.
"Hurdles to forming green energy - whether sun, water or wind - that could help to mitigate global warming are not confined to the Old Netley Mill and ministers cannot count on the small group of green crusaders who have money, time, tenacity and ideology to spare. Planning permission problems, insufficient production of solar panels and wind turbines, and the economic burden of going green risk derailing the national goal to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent before 2050."
There is some irony in the Financial Times also reporting in the same day the failure of a U.K. micro-power support program (see Micropower Program Proves Partial Failure, May 31st.).
The number of homes in the UK generating their own energy has risen by just 18,000 in the last four years, figures released on Monday will show, suggesting an £86m government programme to subsidise installations has partially failed.
While the two stories focus on the U.K. I suspect they could equally be applied to many a jurisdiction, not least to my home, B.C. in Canada.