No matter how confident you are in your opinions, it’s always good when others come out of the woodwork to support your point of view.
I’ve been batting on for some time about the threat to Britain’s energy security which is posed by our government’s over-reliance on wind (driven by EU renewables targets). I believe that wind farms cannot be justified in either economic or environmental terms. And I believe that even if they could, the grid cannot cope with a high proportion of unpredictably variable wind power, and that the extra cost of the necessary conventional back-up (for times when the wind does not blow) would vitiate most of the proposed savings. Already today we are paying too much for our electricity because of the government’s policy of requiring suppliers to use a proportion of vastly expensive wind energy — while the French enjoy much lower prices from their safe and reliable fleet of nuclear power stations.
Now two major reports have come out backing exactly this view. The first is from the Renewable Energy Foundation (“UK Renewable Subsidies”). It supports my case that the environmental benefits of wind are marginal, while the economics are downright bad; and especially the case that over-reliance on wind, and a failure to invest in mainstream base-load generating capacity, is a real threat to the survival of our economy and our way of life.
Now another report, this time from an academic, Professor Ian Fells of Newcastle University, warns that UK could lose one third of its electricity generating capacity and see “dramatic shortfalls” in power supply as early as 2012-2015, as ageing coal and nuclear power stations are set to close in the next decade ( at bottom of the “press release” page). This could lead to repeated power cuts. Fells argues that the Government has failed to develop a coherent and realistic policy to address the problem, and that current policies to reach the EU’s green targets have strong elements of “wishful thinking”, relying on particular renewables such as wind. He notes that the EU’s targets for energy efficiency are “demonstrably unattainable”. Meeting plans for up to 7,000 offshore wind turbines by 2020 would mean installing 10 turbines every possible working day until then, ten times the best current installation rates.
Fells also argues, “It is more worrying that we have signed up to the European energy plan, which is 20% renewable energy by 2020 — that implies about 40% renewable electricity”, adding that Government figures showed that subsidies for renewables last year amounted to £1bn. “If we continue the way we are providing subsidies at the moment, that would gross at between £20bn to £30bn by 2020. This is a staggering subsidy that is being provided to keep renewable energy on the road.”
We are staring into the teeth of a crisis which will be hugely more serious than Ted Heath’s three day week. We need to change course now, and start building coal and nuclear power stations while there is still time. Just about.
Thanks to Open Europe for their summary of the Ian Fells story, which I have quoted.
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