In his speech to energy ministers from 23 leading economies yesterday, David Cameron was keen to reaffirm the Government’s green ambitions: “With global demand forecast to increase by more than 40 per cent in the next two decades, we urgently need a more diverse, cleaner mix of energy sources that will give us energy security without causing irreparable damage to the planet.” The Prime Minister is right. Reliance on fossil fuels, whether or not they are causing global warming, is not only short-sighted but selfish, because their depletion will deny future generations potential supplies.
But while greater investment in renewables is commendable, not least because it creates jobs, it should not be carried out without robust economic and environmental evidence being established in its favour, or to the detriment of alternatives, such as shale gas. Mr Cameron’s emphasis on the rapid expansion of wind generation is a case in point. There are now more than 3,000 turbines on land, and this number is expected to quadruple in the next decade, encouraged by generous taxpayer subsidies. If wind power really did provide an answer to our renewable energy needs then it might be worth pursuing with such vigour. But the economic rationale for it is hard to fathom.
Wind generation accounts for a tiny proportion of our electricity supply and its impact on conventional power production is negligible. Perversely, if more turbines are built, more power stations will be needed as a back-up for when the wind is not blowing. Yesterday some turbines were shut down because the wind was too strong. On top of that, they also ruin the landscape. There are enough doubts about the efficacy of wind power to justify the increasing scepticism among Conservatives about its future as the cornerstone of the Government’s energy policy.
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