The Government’s reliance on wind power has been condemned as misguided, unreliable and expensive by a think-tank which claims meeting the 2020 renewables target would cost each household an extra £4,000.
A Centre for Policy Studies report also claimed over-reliance on wind power and rising gas prices would drive six million households into fuel poverty.
It said Government wind energy proposals are overambitious and impractical claiming that the UK does not have the capacity to build the 3,000 new offshore wind farms required.
The report published today is embarrassing for the Government coming 24 hours before ministers launch their “green revolution” that recommends building thousands of turbines.
The widely trailed energy blueprint is expected to include a commitment for a 30-fold increase in off-shore wind power generation, new loans and grants for businesses to increase green energy supply and a compulsory measure on households to boost energy efficiency.
The think-tank’s document ‘Wind Chill: wind energy will not fill the UK’s energy gap’ warned dependence on wind power would lead to electricity supply disruption “if the wind does not blow, blows too hard or does not blow where wind farms are located”.
Tony Lodge, an energy analyst and the report’s author, said: “Of all the resources available, it is the least reliable. Turbines are also a blight on the landscape. There will be trench warfare in the Town Halls over planning applications.”
Mr Lodge said wind energy was two and a half times more expensive than other forms of non-oil and gas electricity generation in the UK.
He added that the cost of meeting the Government’s target of meeting 15 per cent of all its energy consumption through green means by 2020 would cost £4,000 per household.
The calculation was made on the basis that the Government has estimated that the cost of achieving the objective would be £100 billion. Mr Lodge said increasing wind power would also prove to be a difficult political objective given the state of public opinion.
He said there was little evidence to suggest that people were prepared to pay for wind power quoting research that said only 15 per cent of the public would be “fairly” or “very willing” to pay higher electricity bills to finance the move to renewables.
Britain faces an energy gap of up to 32 GW as older coal and nuclear power stations are paid off. According to the report, Government proposals imply an increase in wind production of over 20 times by 2020 to meet that need.
The Centre for Policy Studies claimed that the goal was “overambitious”. It also said that the National Grid would be unable to cope with the “enormous new strains” that would be imposed on it.
At the moment, Britain gets less than five per cent of its electricity from renewables, most of that comes from wind power.
The document recommended that in the future wind energy should “only play a negligible role in plugging Britain’s looming energy gap”.
Instead, it recommended the development of nuclear power, clean coal (including coal gasification) and other renewable methods, particularly tidal energy.
A Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesman said: “Wind is an important low carbon energy source and a vital part of the UK’s diverse energy mix.
“We remain fully committed to hitting our renewable energy targets and this Thursday will publish our renewable energy strategy, which contains plans to further boost the current level of renewables.”
By Tom Peterkin
25 June 2008
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