“It may just save the planet”: why Doctor Who was pushing wind power on the tube

Support for the UK's offshore wind industry has seen energy companies team up with environmental NGOs.

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Fans of Doctor Who were in for a surprise this morning. Peter Capaldi, who played the 12th incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC’s long-running series, was spotted stalking Westminster tube station’s sci-fi-esque corridors and promoting posters for a new campaign:

The posters appeared to be promoting a new deal on offshore wind energy: an image of a price-tag attached to a wind-turbine promises “50 per cent off, plus regional regeneration”.

But why would the former Time Lord be selling energy? In one recent Doctor Who episode, the energy industry of Regency England comes under fire from the Doctor: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry,” Capaldi’s character tells an evil industrialist who wants to replace coal with waste from a man-guzzling sea-monster, “It’s measured by the value you place on a life.”

Yet offshore wind technology challenges the idea that the energy industry has to be at odds with sustainability.

Capaldi has thus put his name to a new campaign which supports the technology: “It’s safe, secure, zero-carbon and economical. In fact it’s halved in price in just two years. That’s 50 per cent off. It’s a great deal. And it may just save the planet,” he said at the Westminster launch.

The campaign wants the government to commit to a pipeline of projects that allow offshore wind to deliver the majority of the UK’s power by 2050. It is receiving backing from both industry and NGOs alike: groups such as Greenpeace, WWF and the Marine Conservation Society, to commercial energy companies like SSE and ScottishPower. 

And while environmentalists pushing the interests of commercial lobbyists may seem like an unusual turn of events, Greenpeace says it is fearful of government inaction on the subject:

“The government has not always made strictly rational decisions on energy investment,” says Greenpeace energy campaigner Nina Schrank, of government support for an expensive new nuclear project, and the withdrawal of subsidies for cheap onshore-wind. “We want to make sure that the message about the price drop of offshore wind gets through to the heart of government, and feel that a coalition of developers and NGOs has the credibility to carry this message.”

So does this new coalition herald a new era in which commercial companies see eye-to-eye with environmental NGOs?

Greenpeace and the Marine Conservation Society have highlighted the risks new wind farms can pose to wildlife by also calling for “proper environmental assessments” of any new energy projects. But while there are still some points of possible contention, perhaps all involved have taken on board the advice of Capaldi’s Doctor: “Why not, just at the end, just be kind?”

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.