The case for wind power is looking increasingly tattered. Several reports are arguing that wind plus the necessary conventional back-up delivers emissions savings somewhere between not-very-much and zero, while the costs are frightening. Yet the government clings to its wind policy. It may be the perverse effect of the Lib-Dems in the Coalition. It may be the even more perverse effect of Brussels regulation.
But it is such a huge threat to our prosperity that I feel we must try to get to the bottom of it. So I have written to Energy Minister Charles Hendry in the following terms.
Economics of wind power
You will recall that we have corresponded on the economics of wind power, and I drew your attention to the report from Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, “Why is Wind Power so expensive?” You will recall that Prof Hughes concluded that wind power, with the necessary conventional back-up, saved little or no CO2 emissions, and that the capital cost of wind plus back-up was around ten times that of equivalent gas capacity.
From your reply, I formed the impression that the civil servants who are advising you had not really taken the trouble to understand Prof Hughes’ work — perhaps because it was so challenging in the face of current policy assumptions. Given the vast implications of Prof Hughes’ findings, I wonder if you could take a moment to see if we can find some common ground?
May I assume that you would agree with the following observations:
1 Wind power is intermittent and requires back-up, usually gas
2 For technical/flexibility reasons, the back-up needs to be single-cycle gas, not the modern combined-cycle
3 Single-cycle gas is very much less efficient than combined cycle
4 Further, because the back-up will run intermittently, it is still less efficient than if it were run consistently
5 Therefore the back-up gas will produce electricity which will cost very much more per unit, in terms of money, fuel consumption, and emissions, than would be the case with (combined-cycle) gas alone.
6 These additional costs and emissions are usually ignored in the performance estimates given for wind power by the renewables industry.
7 Therefore, the real cost of wind power is much higher than industry estimates, while the emissions savings are much lower.
If, as I assume, you agree with these observations, then your disagreement can only be about the actual numbers which Prof Hughes has applied to these factors. If your staff have produced their own estimates of these factors, and if these are at variance with those of Professor Hughes, could I ask you please to release the estimates and calculations on which your staff are relying, as they seek to maintain that wind power saves emissions and is affordable? This would at least enable us to take the debate forward.
In view of the critical importance of these questions to the future of the British economy, and the gravity of the debate on renewable energy, I propose to take the liberty of publishing this letter, and I will of course plan also to publish any reply I receive from you.
With kind regards.
ROGER HELMER MEP
UKIP Energy Spokesman