- A new study that argues the government should abandon its wind energy targets because the technology is 'inordinately expensive' and is hampering efforts to cut carbon emissions has be attacked by the renewable energy industry.
Economist Ruth Lea, director of the manufacturing renewal project at thinktank Civitas, published a new report written to identify the cheapest means of generating electricity and ensuring the government meets its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Existing government analysis had so far failed to take account of the expense of building the back-up power plants that wind farms would require to ensure a consistent supply of energy, argued Lea.
She found onshore wind power would cost £206.4 per MWh in the medium term, and offshore wind would cost £246.4 per MWh.
The report concluded there was "no economic case for wind power", insisting that gas-fired power would be the most cost-efficient method of generating lower carbon electricity in the short-term. Nuclear power stations would become the most cost-efficient option in the medium-term, delivering electricity at a cost of £67.8 per MWh.
The government should abandon its wind power investment programme and focus its attention on building a new fleet of nuclear power plants, according to findings.
"[Wind-power] is expensive and yet it is not effective in cutting CO2 emissions," the report concluded. "If it were not for the renewables targets set by the Renewables Directive, wind-power would not even be entertained as a cost-effective way of generating electricity or cutting emissions. The renewables targets should be renegotiated with the EU."
Trade association RenewableUK slammed the report, arguing it was based on 'outdated and inaccurate information'. RenewableUK alleges that Lea based some of her research on work by Colin Gibson, former Power Network Director at the National Grid Group and an outspoken anti-wind farm campaigner.
Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK director of policy, said "Mr Gibson's assumptions, upon which Ms Lea relies, are outliers to the mainstream of analysis in this area, to put it mildly."
"Dedicated OCGT (open cycle gas turbine) plants are not required to provide back-up for wind. Instead, wind can be integrated into our existing electricity system to act as a fuel saver, enabling us to harness the weather when it's available."
He mentioned while some additional investment in back-up plants would be required, it was more likely to be a sixth of Gibson's findings when wind provided two-thirds of the UK's electricity supply.
"It is surprising that a thinktank such as Civitas has published a report based on the work of anti-wind cranks, repeating the same discredited assertions," he said.
"The UK's energy policy over the next 10 years will play a critical part in our economic success - offshore wind in particular has the potential to revitalise our manufacturing sector, with the promise of over 70,000 jobs. This report, based on outdated and inaccurate information, does nothing to advance the debate."
Jonny Clark, director at energy consultancy WSP Future Energy, dismissed the findings of the report. He claimed onshore wind remains the most cost-effective renewable energy technology.
"No energy source is without its pitfalls, but onshore wind remains the most bankable technology and, of all the technologies available, wind has both the largest pipeline of projects either at the planning stage or under construction, and the capacity to deliver the largest volume of renewable energy to the Grid by 2020," he said.
"Recent criticisms of wind power's unreliability and inability to cope with excessive wind speeds are overstated... The majority of the increase in consumer energy bills over the last 10 years can be contributed to volatility in fossil fuel costs, not the cost and intermittency of wind energy," added Clark.
Research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, cited by WWF's Nick Molho, suggesting the cost of wind power is expected to come down over time, further undermining arguments that the technology is too expensive.
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