Our grumpy old man is being really rather positive this month. What has inspired this unusual turn of temperament? Well, when in February he called for someone to produce figures to justify the retention of Part P, someone did just that!

In a new report, The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said parts of Britain are in danger of becoming overrun by wind farms because of a huge increase in the number under construction.

The report – Generating light on landscape impacts: How to accommodate onshore wind while protecting the countryside – said the number of turbines over 30 metres high either already built, in construction or awaiting approval has soared to more 4,100 from just 685 in 2008.

The CPRE says it accepts wind power is necessary in the fight against climate change, but highlights certain areas it feels are overrun by turbines, including Durham and Cornwall.

The organisation has called for the government to provide more clarity on the total number of onshore wind turbines to be built and where they may be located.

Interestingly, while measures are in place to ensure offshore turbines are decommissioned at the end of their useful life, no policy is in place for onshore installations. The CPRE has called for government to insist the onshore wind industry take legal and financial responsibility for decommissioning turbines and restoring the landscape once they either stop working or reach the end of their useful life.

As always,  I would be very interested to hear your views.

Elinore Mackay
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Electrical Review today received an unusual call for help from the international development charity, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The charity is launching its first ever recruitment drive for experienced professors across the engineering sectors to work on a project in Ethiopia.

Successful individuals will depart this September or February 2013 with most posts being one to two years, although some shorter-term placements are also available.

The volunteers will teach as well as train their academic peers in Ethiopia.  And they will be playing an integral part in an ambitious project to help improve the living standards of the country’s population through enhancing the engineering curriculum within its higher education system, the workforce’s skills and the nation’s industrial development.

“We don’t need to advertise, we know all the people we need to communicate with”. Phil Turtle of Turtle Consulting looks at using PR to win new business in the recession

As a management and marketing consultant, I guess I hear this from directors of companies on a weekly basis. Either that or: “We can’t afford to advertise.” Nearly always, they’re directors of averagely performing companies.  The funny thing is that they know and they know that I know they are talking rubbish!
What we both know that they’re actually saying is: “Look, we’re sort of managing at the moment.  OK so the order book’s down, margins are low and advertising is really expensive so we couldn’t afford it even if we wanted to.”  And of course they’re quite right - so why didn’t they just say so?

In the April issue of Electrical Review, our Blown Fuse column (included in this newsletter) covered the government's new Part P consultation, which began on 31 January and closes on 27 April. First to respond to John Houston's column was Phil Buckle, Director general at the Electrical Safety Council (ESC). Phil's letter is reproduced below. I would be very interested to hear your views on the matter.

A narrow escape

David Davies is not just any Conservative MP. Even though he holds no ministerial office, his views are important - primarily because when the last election for Conservative leader was held in 2005, he was the initial front-runner who was only narrowly beaten by David Cameron. If a few Conservative MPs had voted differently, Davies might today be the Prime Minister.

The Guardian last week reported on Lynne Burke, owner of a flat in North London – part of a property converted in to three flats in 2006. Burke and her neighbours had all received a letter warning electricity to the the flats would be cut off within 14 days if the occupiers did not come up with £7000.

The problem, the letter said: "Following an investigation, it has come to light that electrical work has been carried out to make an unlawful connection to this company's distribution network/to alter unlawfully an existing connection." Who was it from? As the Guardian reported: "The letter came from UK Power Networks, an organisation that few have heard of. Formerly part of EDF, it is a monopoly player in electricity distribution in London, and the east and south of England, with immense legal powers to shut off electricity that are almost impossible to challenge.

UK Power Networks told Guardian Money: "its "illegal services team" had detected that the power cable from its mains to the front door of the flats had not been properly upgraded when the house had been converted."

It appeared all the residents could do, short of paying the £7000 then trying to trace the developer of the flats, was appeal to the secretary of state at the Department of Energy, an appeal that continues to date, preventing UK Power Networks from terminating the power supply during that appeal process.

Surely on completion these flats should have been signed off as electrically safe by an inspector from the local council? Terrifying stuff.

Following on nicely (and, perhaps, politically) from last week's Budget, came GlaxoSmithKline's announcement of plans to build its first new manufacturing facility in the the UK in almost 40 years.

The proposed facility in Cumbria is part of £500m in investment Glaxo expects to create 1000 UK jobs. The commitment follows the government's confirmation in the Budget, that a "patent box" will be introduced to encourage research and development in the UK, the culmination of a process which began with Alistair Darling.

Trade association RenewableUK has called for a significant increase in investment by the UK and Scottish governments to realise the wave and tidal sector's massive potential. The industry predicts the sector will be worth £3.7bn to the UK by 2020, creating around 10,000 jobs.

Its new report, Marine Energy in the UK, highlights the fact the two governments have so far provided less than a third of the £120m needed for the industry to overcome the barriers to full-scale commercial development. The study notes this support is vital, as every pound of public sector investment will unlock £6 of private investment.

A solar storm it was feared may wreak havoc with the Earth's satellites and power grids, appears to have passed without serious incident.

The sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun's atmosphere can cause a bright flare. This can also release bursts of charged particles into space, these solar eruptions are known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs. When headed in our direction, the charged gas collides with the magnetic sheath around Earth. The subsequent disturbances in the Earth's magnetic envelope are called solar storms.

Sourcing the story

Last November the Sunday Times published one of its archetypal shock-horror double page spread stories – about energy prices. Breathlessly, it ‘revealed’ the reason why consumer fuel bills were rocketing upwards was due to government subsidies for renewable power.  A couple of days later, BBC TV’s flagship Panorama programme repeated precisely the same ‘revelation’.

Our grumpy old man endorses high standards in our industry with a clarion call, but he hates paperwork that goes with it – like the Government’s new Part P consultation document for instance

Seven years after the enactment of Part P of the Building Regulations, the electrical industry (among others) is being asked to comment on it! But in fairness this isn’t a simple case of bolting the stable door after the nag has fled into the sunset. Rather it is a consultation process aimed at removing some of the costs of Part P compliance.