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Thinktank blasts wind power support

Britain is heading for an energy crisis by the middle of the decade due to the government’s “unrealistic” reliance on wind, solar and other high-cost renewable energy technologies, according to a controversial report out today.

Ministers are failing to factor in the cost of dealing with intermittent energy sources and ignoring the implications of burdening consumers with higher energy bills, said the right-leaning Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance.

The report argues the renewable energy roadmap for 2020 is hugely overambitious. It says the target has already been reduced but current renewable power generation is still 28% short of meeting it.

Solar and wind energy have no prospect of becoming economically competitive in an unrigged market, with government intervention leading to higher energy costs and jeopardising energy security, the document says. It is being published just as ministers are preparing further details on reform of the electricity market.

“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,” said Martin Livermore, co-author of the report and a self-styled consultant who has in the past questioned the science around global warming.

“The facts actually show that current renewables technologies are incapable of making a major contribution to energy security and have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

Livermore said the main drawbacks of wind and solar were that they must be backed up with gas, coal or nuclear generation when the wind does not blow or sun shine.

With the decommissioning of many coal-fired stations and nearly all existing nuclear reactors over the coming decade, energy security has become a priority for policymakers alongside the drive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Livermore argued that to achieve current targets for wind turbines for 2020, almost five must be installed every working day, with the majority of them offshore. “This is unrealistic,” he said.

Critics of renewables have become increasingly vocal in recent months with some backbench Conservatives suggesting they are unaffordable in an economic downturn, an argument the nuclear industry privately admits is playing into its hands.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said Livermore had failed to recognise that the UK had already attracted nearly £2.5bn of investment in renewable energy, with the potential support of more than 10,600 jobs.

A department spokesman said: “This report completely misses the point. Our policies are aimed at developing a mix of energy sources here in the UK rather than relying so much on expensive fossil fuel imports, so we can keep the lights on and cut emissions as old power stations close. It would be madness to put all our eggs in one basket, ignore the UK’s huge renewables potential and just give away Britain’s share of the green energy revolution.”

RenewableUK, the lobby group, dismissed the report as failing to take into account factors including the effect of technological advances bringing down the cost of wind power. “Given these people are from a scientific alliance they do not seem to have much belief in progress. It’s like saying to a five-year-old he won’t be going to university because he can’t read. To be honest this report makes the same kinds of arguments that we have refuted before and they just keep repeating,” said Gordon Edge, director of policy at Renewables UK.

[To read a summary of and to download the report click: “Renewable energy: vision or mirage?”.]