Offshore wind farm plans ‘are a costly mistake’: Climate experts demand rethink on turbines and more nuclear power
Ministers are backing the construction of too many expensive offshore wind farms too quickly, senior advisers on green policy warn today.
In a report into the future of energy, the influential Committee on Climate Change calls on the Government to scale back plans to build thousands of turbines off the coast of Britain.
Instead, the report calls for hundreds more wind turbines to be built onshore at a lower cost over the next eight years.
The committee also says renewable green power should play a central role in Britain’s energy policy and that the UK needs a new generation of wind farms, nuclear power plants and other sources of green energy to keep the lights burning.
The Coalition is planning a massive expansion of wind farms to meet tough EU climate change targets.
By 2020, the UK will have to generate 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, wave and wood burning. Currently it produces only 3 per cent.
Many of the 10,000 new turbines will be built at sea, producing up to 13 gigawatts of electricity. The rest will be built in the countryside.
The Government claims the wind farms are needed to slash greenhouse gas emissions from coal, oil and gas-fired power.
But critics say the plan is too expensive, the turbines ugly and that the UK will become over-dependent on the variable power of the wind.
The report says the Government’s plans for offshore wind are too ambitious and that the EU target could be met more cheaply. David Kennedy, the committee’s chief executive, said offshore wind was ‘a very promising technology and one we are keen to support in the UK’.
He added: ‘The renewable energy target is a legally binding one. But within that there are different ways to meet the target and at the moment we are doing a lot of offshore wind. There are other things we could do that are cheaper to meet the 2020 target.’
The Government should consider scaling back offshore farms by up to three gigawatts, he said. Instead of building expensive offshore wind farms, it should encourage more on land and import more renewable energy.
The report also says wind will play a crucial role in Britain’s low carbon future.
By 2030 it is calling for 40 per cent of electricity to come from renewables, 40 per cent by nuclear power, 15 per cent from clean coal and gas and less than ten per cent from traditional gas.
To meet those targets, the UK would need another 3,600 giant offshore wind turbines, each one capable of producing five megawatts, or enough power for 1,200 homes.
Another 11,000 turbines would be needed onshore. The Government is already committed to building the next generation of seven nuclear power plants. But another three would be needed to meet the low carbon targets, the report says.
It estimates that meeting the 2020 renewable energy targets set by the EU will add £50 to the typical household’s electricity bill.
But if homes take advantage of the Coalition’s green deal insulation finance scheme in the next decade, average bills could be cut by 14 per cent, it says.
Lord Turner, chairman of the committee, said: ‘Renewable energy technologies are very promising and have an important role to play in helping to meet the UK’s carbon budgets and 2050 target, alongside other low-carbon technologies such as nuclear and carbon capture and storage.’