Billions of pounds in grants to the wind industry have failed to assist the UK in meeting its renewable energy target for 2010, prompting one industry organisation to call for a review of what it describes as “infeasible” green energy ambitions.
A study by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) – a long-standing critic of subsidies to the wind power sector – claims the UK fell well short of its 10 per cent renewable electricity target, with just 6.5 per cent coming from green sources last year.
Although air currents were unusually calm in 2010, the foundation says the target still would have been missed by a substantial margin even if winds had exceeded the highest annual average of the past ten years.
John Constable, REF director of policy and research, said: “We have spent more than £5 billion subsidising renewables since 2002, but we have not met the target. Is that value for money?”
The foundation’s research – based on data from the Chris Huhne’s Deparment for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and energy regulator Ofgem – found that onshore wind load factor fell to 21 per cent last year, versus 27 per cent in 2009.
The offshore wind load factor – the amount of energy produced as a percentage of available capacity – suffered a smaller decline, from 30 to 29 per cent.
No specific figures were available for Scotland, though Constable noted that load factors here – which are normally higher than in many other parts of the UK – fell last year as well.
Constable said UK government subsidies were leading to developments in relatively calm areas where wind farms would not otherwise be economically viable, thus dragging down wind load factors.
On the other hand, subsidies to owners of farms in the windiest areas are allowing them to recover their investment within five to six years, he claimed.
Constable added: “It is open to question whether those rates of return are too high.”
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