A report claiming that electricity generated by wind turbines will cripple consumers with high bills has sparked fierce debate.
The report, commissioned by think tank Civitas, argued that wind power was subject to additional costs which meant it leapt above nuclear and fossil fuel power in the cost league.
The costs were due, it said, to a need for back-up power generation when the wind was not blowing or was varying considerably in strength, and extra pylons and cables required to transport the electricity from wind farms to the grid.
These factors, it argued, undermined wind power’s green credentials in helping the UK to reduce its dirty emissions.
“The costing of wind power electricity generation is clearly very complex,” the Civitas report said.
“But one conclusion can safely be drawn and that is that wind power is expensive – especially offshore.”
The report said wind power was driven by Britain’s commitment to a European directive which required it to generate 15 per cent of all of its energy – transport fuel as well as electricity – from renewable sources by 2020.
“There is, arguably, little chance that Britain will be able to meet the renewables target,” said the Civitas report.
“The targets should be renegotiated with the EU.”
It said gas and nuclear were the most cost-effective way of generating electricity, all things considered.
Renewable energy trade body RenewableUK has hit back, claiming the report repeated “discredited assertions”.
It said the author failed to understand how electricity was balanced in today’s grid. Some additional back-up was required for wind power, it said, but at a fraction of the cost quoted in the report. It added that tens of thousands of jobs would be created by building offshore wind farms.
Director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said: “It is surprising that a think tank such as Civitas has published a report based on the work of anti-wind cranks, repeating the same discredited assertions.”
Gas currently provides 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity, coal 32 per cent, nuclear 17 per cent and wind 1.5 per cent.
The Post asked National Grid how the electricity supply was balanced, and about Civitas’s claims about embedded wind power costs.
It declined to answer in detail due to the complexity of the subject, but said all generation types had their own characteristics and had to be balanced in different ways.
UK Government advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, said last month that recent hikes in energy bills were mainly due to the rising gas prices rather than green-related charges.
Committee chairman Lord Adair Turner said: “We were keen to provide a dispassionate analysis of household bill impacts in what has become a politically controversial area.
“We found that bills have increased primarily in response to increased wholesale gas costs and not due to environmental policies.
“Over the next decade, we anticipate a rise of around £100 in the average bill as a result of investment in low-carbon power capacity, which will benefit the UK in the long run.”
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