A short news agency story in early January – Gales raise wind record power, 7 January, page 31 – said that “wind farms produced 12.2% of the UK’s energy demand on 28 December”. Readers rightly pointed out that we’d failed to spot that a bit of this line was nonsensical. As one put it, “RenewableUK, the source [of the story], claimed only that wind farms met 12.2% of electricity consumption that day.” But aside from that, he went on, “Electricity consumed represents, on an annual basis, about 15% of the country’s primary energy supply. So it seems likelier that wind farms produced less than 2% of the nation’s energy demand on that day.” Another suspected the “record” was not quite what it appeared, either: “The record is expressed as a percentage of the total demand. The Wednesday after Christmas, demand might be quite low. We really need to know the MWh produced as compared with the previous record. To put this performance in context it would also help to know the minimum power produced. The article has the feel of RenewableUK cherrypicking data to spin their case. Why pick 1 December to 5 January as the time interval to report average output over? I think more questions should have been asked before printing the article.”
On our pages, this was a brief item – yet its content provides a perfect example of the significant middle-ranking item that can lose out between must-do corrections and the quick straightforward correction. Wind power is a hard-fought subject, politically, environmentally, and in business terms. Keen scrutiny of claims and figures is essential. I have got no further than recently forwarding the reader comments above to RenewableUK for its response. Can readers shed any further light? If they believe a correction is in order based on evidence and fact, how would they phrase that succinctly?
(PS, the first reader added: “The maths, if you’re interested. Page 59 of the latest International Energy Agency figures gives TPES (total primary energy supply) for the UK as 197mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent). Converting that into the sort of units electricity is measured in (the IEA provides a converter here you get 2290TWh. In the same table on page 56 you will see that UK net electricity consumption in 2011 was 350TWh. So only about 15% of the UK TPES is consumed as electricity.)
[excerpt from column: “The corrections and clarifications column editor on… significant errors”]
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