Great way to spend an evening. Last night over dinner I started reading this report, or at least the Executive Summary. I feared that the other seventy pages of detail and statistics might have impinged on my digestion. I note that the work was conducted by BiGGAR Economics for DECC and RenewableUK. Pause for a moment and reflect. What does it tell us about the impartiality of the report — and, indeed, the impartiality of DECC — when the report is co-commissioned by the wind industry?
I am particularly concerned about three aspects:
Emissions savings: The report is informed by the assumption that wind power, almost by definition, delivers CO2 emissions savings. So far as I can see, there is no reference to recent reports (or the evidence from Germany) showing that when you look at the entire system emissions, wind turbines plus conventional back-up, the emissions savings are trivial or even zero. See Professor Gordon Hughes here.
Cost of wind-generated electricity: The report seems to fall into the regular trap of most economic analyses of wind. It looks at the cost per KW of electricity generated by a stand-alone wind turbine, and ignores the very substantial costs of back-up generation. As you will be aware, gas back-up uses single-cycle generation, already much less efficient than modern combined cycle. Intermittent running of the gas plant further reduces efficiency and drives up cost. Professor Hughes (cited above) estimates that the capital cost of wind plus back-up is nine to ten times higher than an equivalent combined cycle gas plant.
“Green Jobs”: The report looks at the economic benefits of green jobs, even to the extent of considering local spending on bed-and-breakfast accommodation for installation workers. But I can find no reference to repeated studies from several countries showing that each green job, by driving up energy costs and suppressing growth, costs several real jobs in the real economy. See for example http://www.versoeconomics.com/verso-0311B.pdf
There is a good case to be made that wind power achieves little or no emissions savings; that it is much more expensive than generally reported; and that it is damaging UK employment.
I have written to DECC, urging them, in the interests of balance, to commission a report into these questions from a neutral organisation not committed to the wind industry.