The failure of Britain’s wind farms to produce electricity in the extreme cold will cost billions of pounds, create an economic crisis and lead to blackouts, leading industrialists have warned.
To cover up the ineffectiveness of wind farms the Government will be forced to build emergency back-up power plants, the cost of which will be paid by industry and consumers.
Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which represents major companies employing hundreds of thousands of workers in the steel, glass, pottery, paper and chemical industries, said the failure of wind power had profound implications.
He was speaking after new figures showed that during the latest cold snap wind turbines produced less than two per cent of the nation’s electricity.
Now Mr Nicholson predicts that the Government will encourage power companies to build billions of pounds worth of standby power stations in case of further prolonged wind failures.Last updated at 1:20 AM on 9th January 2011
And the cost of the standby generation will be paid for by industry and households through higher bills – which could double by 2020.
Industry regulator Ofgem has already calculated that the cost of achieving sustainable energy targets – set by Brussels but backed by the British Government – will amount to £200 billion, which will mean that annual household fuel bills will double to about £2,400 on average within the next ten years.
In the last quarter ending December 23, wind turbines produced on average 8.6 per cent of our electricity, but the moment the latest bad weather arrived with snow and freezing temperatures, this figure fell to as low as 1.8 per cent.
The slack was immediately taken up by efficient, but dirty, coal-fired power stations and oil-fired plants.
‘What is so worrying is that these sort of figures are not a one off,’ said Mr Nicholson. ‘It was exactly the same last January and February when high pressure brought freezing cold temperatures, snow and no wind.’
In fact last year, the failure of wind power to produce electricity was even more profound.
Then, over a few days, the lack of wind meant that only 0.2 per cent of a possible five per cent of the UK’s energy was generated by wind turbines.
So little energy was generated then that the National Grid, which is responsible for balancing supply and demand of energy in the UK, was forced to ask its biggest users – industry – to ration supplies.
What really concerns industrial users is that it is Government policy to put wind power at the centre of its efforts to ensure that 30 per cent of electricity is generated by renewable resources by 2020.
This means that the number of turbines now running – 3,140 – will have to be massively increased to well over 6,000 in ten years time.
But this huge surge in wind farm activity will come at the same time as an EU Directive will insist that we close down our coal-fired and oil-fired power stations.
Mr Nicholson said: ‘We can cope at the moment because there is still not that much power generated from wind. But all this will change. What happens when we are dependent on wind turbines for 30 per cent of our power and there is suddenly a period when the wind does not blow and there is high demand?
‘We will be forced to switch off the gas and it could even lead to power cuts.’
The Government is aware of the dangers of relying on intermittent power sources and is working on plans to encourage energy companies through financial inducements to have stand-by generation.
Mr Nicholson said: ‘At least the Government is aware of the problem, but it will cost billions to put these measures in place and we will have to pick up the tab.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: ‘Wind power provides a home-grown source of electricity that doesn’t produce carbon dioxide.
‘The electricity system always has more generating capacity available than the expected demand. By having a diverse energy mix, we can manage the fact that some technologies are intermittent.’
The National Grid is also aware of the problem and has set up a team to look at solving the problem of erratic energy supplies.
One of the solutions being considered is changing demand at times of crisis. For example, setting up systems to stop electricity supplies to millions of fridges for an hour or so.
This would be possible by having ‘smart’ meters and would save massive amounts of energy.
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