By Shona Gossip, The Press and Journal, www.pressandjournal.co.uk 12 December 2011
Nearly five wind turbines would have to be built every day for the next nine years to meet the government’s targets for renewable energy, a new report claims today.
The UK Government wants to produce 20% of all energy and 30% of electricity from renewables by 2020 – but according to a new study the focus on green energy sources is “misguided”.
Experts from the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance say windfarms will never replace gas, coal and nuclear generation.
Environmentalists and renewables supporters have dismissed the report as one-sided and full of “tired and unconvincing myths”.
Last night, however, campaigners fighting against the number of turbines cropping up in Aberdeenshire backed the report.
Joint report author Martin Livermore, director of the institute, said: “For too long we have been told that heavy investment in uneconomic renewable energy was not only necessary but would provide a secure future electricity supply.
“The facts actually show that current renewable technologies are incapable of making a major contribution to energy security and – despite claims to the contrary – have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“It seems ministers have not yet realised the need to invest in more nuclear and gas generating capacity if the electorate is not to be badly let down.”
A separate report out today claims the industry could be worth £2billion a year to Scotland in exports.
However, the Adam Smith Institute study argues that wind turbines are not a reliable way of providing energy because of problems with their irregular working patterns.
During last week’s storms, wind turbines had to be shut off – and one in Ayrshire caught fire.
The report states: “For calm, cold winter days when demand is at a maximum, the country has to have conventional generating capacity available (either nationally or via inter-connectors) to replace the entire potential contribution of wind.”
The report also suggests that to meet current government targets almost five structures would have to be built every day until 2020, with the majority of them offshore, and that – with a lifespan of 20 years – turbines are a more expensive option than coal, gas and nuclear power.
It says present policies will lead to an energy crisis by the middle of this decade.
Aberdeenshire Council planning manager Bruce Stewart said recently that the local authority was receiving more applications for wind turbines than virtually the rest of Scotland put together.
Nick Orpwood, spokesman for Aberdeenshire-based campaign group Concerned About Wind Turbines, said the report raised valid points about the reliability of wind power.
He said: “The same comments were made recently at a wind turbine conference in Ayr.
“As a country, we cannot get reliable levels of energy at the right time and place by pure reliance on wind power. It’s just not a viable option.
“We are not against green energy, but wind power is not a solution in isolation.
“A lot is said about domestic issues, but one other important element is the industry. Businesses need constant, reliable electricity and there are people in the major electrical industries who I’m sure would agree that you can’t rely on something so variable.”
However, Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, described the report as a “distraction” from the campaign to become more environmentally friendly and said it comprised a “selection of tired and unconvincing myths”.
He added: “The report’s attacks on renewables just don’t stack up. More renewables really do mean less fossil fuels burnt and less carbon emitted.”
Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, added: “This is a one-sided argument that completely overlooks the benefits of renewables – greater energy security, reduced CO2 emissions and protection from future hikes in gas prices – the main driver of the huge increases in energy bills in the last few years.”
A spokesman defended the Scottish Government’s target to generate 100% of the country’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020 and added: “It is a matter of fact that using more renewables and clean fossil fuels will cut Scotland’s carbon emissions.”