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Britain’s wind power high costs 

Credit:  Author - Jack Dini, www.canadafreepress.com 8 May 2012 ~~

Britain produces less than two percent of the world’s emissions but is still working to reduce emissions further. (1)

The UK has set ambitious targets: reduce overall carbon dioxide consumption by 34 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 (against a baseline of 1990); eradicate fuel poverty by 2016; and ensure energy security through a combination of renewable energy capacity which is to account for 15 percent of the UK’s energy supply by 2020. (2)

Vast expansion of wind power, bankrolled by taxpayers is required to meet the pledges in the Climate Change Act, in which Britain signed up for emissions cuts by 2050—the only country in the world to do so. (3)

This is all coming at a very high price. Two recent studies report the astounding cost of Britain’s go-to-it alone obsession with using wind turbines to generate much of the electricity the nation needs. Both studies came to similar conclusions: wind is astronomically expensive compared to other sources of energy—and consumers and businesses must pay a high price for the privilege of subsidizing such an inefficient technology. (4)

One study says that the UK can still meet its carbon dioxide emissions targets and save 140 billion pounds—but only if it dumps today’s inefficient technology. The other puts the potential savings at 120 billion pounds—pointing out that the same amount of electricity could be generated using open cycle gas plants at one-tenth the cost of using wind turbines. (4)

The report by Mercados states the UK can meet EU targets set for 2020, and its own targets for 2050, much more cheaply than by building wind turbines and solar panels. By abandoning its radical go-it-alone CO2 targets completely—an increasing possibility since the rest of the world is refusing to follow suit—the UK would save 320 billion pounds in fuel costs. (5)

The other study, a report by Gordon Hughes, shows meeting Britain’s target for renewable energy by 2020 would require a total investment of some 120 billion pounds in wind turbines and back-up. This is almost ten times more than the 13 billion pounds it would cost to generate the same amount of electricity from efficient gas-fired power stations. A typical turbine generates power that is worth around 150,000 pounds a year, but attracts subsidies of more than 250,000 pounds a year. These subsidies are, of course, added directly to the bills of energy users. (6)

An analysis of wind patterns in the UK suggests that wind generation offers a capacity usage of between 10 and 20 percent of theoretical capacity, which in itself is an indicator of how much of the capacity can be statistically relied on to be available to meet peak demand. It compares with around 86 percent for conventional generation. This means that fossil fuels still have to be available as a back-up in times of high demand and low wind output if security of supply is to be maintained. So, new conventional capacity will still be needed to replace the conventional and nuclear plants which are expected to close over the next decade or so, even if large amounts of renewable energy capacity are deployed. Simply put, this means that every 10 new units’ worth of wind power installation has to be backed up with some eight new units’ worth of fossil fuel generation. This is because fossil fuel sources will have to power up suddenly to meet the deficiencies of wind. Wind generation does not provide an escape route from fossil fuel use, but embeds the need for it. It is clear that wind power does not offer a decent alternative to fossil fuels. (6)

A conclusion is that Britain could hit its 2020 reduction targets set by the European Union without building a single additional wind farm. A combination of new nuclear plants and gas-fired power stations, which emit far less carbon dioxide than the coal-fired plants they would replace would deliver the required cuts to emissions. (7)

The total consumer bill for wind subsidies by 2030 is estimated to amount to a staggering 130 billion pounds. A dozen of the biggest landowners will between them receive almost 850 million pounds in subsidies, a huge amount of funding that will be paid by ordinary families through hidden taxes on their household electricity bills. (6)

At this preliminary stage, the calculations suggest that anticipated spending of 108 billion pounds could be reduced by 35 billion pounds—nearly one third—if planned wind farms were replaced by gas-fired and nuclear stations. (8) Yet, the world’s biggest wind farm is planned for the south coast of England. The development comprises 200 turbines, each the height of a skyscraper and spread over an area the size of Glasgow. This is three to four times bigger than any previously built and is expected to earn its Dutch owners Eneco more than a quarter of a billion pounds a year in subsidies alone. The scheme has already attracted widespread criticism with opponents claiming it will ruin coastal views for generations to come. The Royal Yacht Squadron, the world’s most prestigious sailing club whose patron is the Queen and which is headed by the Duke of Edinburgh, is also orchestrating a campaign against it. (9)

Additionally, British taxpayers are underwriting a multi-million pound loan to help China plant trees as part of a project to tackle climate change. The cost to the British to underwrite the loan, based on a European Union plan, is more than 30 million pounds. India and Brazil are among other countries with surging economies to receive similar EU anti-climate change loans in the past 12 months. (10)


1. Jason Groves, “Is carbon cutting a waste of time? Figures show Britain’s ‘footprint’ has increased 20 percent despite green taxes,” Daily Mail, March 21, 2012
2. “Rethinking the Unaffordable,” Economic Policy Center, KPMG, 2011
3. Jane Orient, “Gaps: Gigatonnes and Megawatts,” Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, January 2012
4. Andrew Orlowski, “The true, tragic cost of British wind power,” The Register, March 7, 2012
5. “Powerful Targets,” AF-Mercados UK, March 4, 2012
6. Gordon Hughes, “Why is wind power so expensive?”, The Global Warming Policy Foundation, GWPF Report 7, 2012
7. Danny Fortson, “Wind power adds 45 billion pounds to cost of climate targets,” The Sunday Times, March 4, 2012
8. The Scientific Alliance, “Energy: low carbon, renewable, or both,?” redneckusa.wordpress.com, March 9, 2012
9. Robert Mendick, “World’s biggest wind farm planned for off south coast of England,” The Telegraph, April 8, 2012
10. Daniel martin, “New Britain is lending China—the world’s second largest economy—millions of pounds to plant trees,” dailymail.co, April 9, 2012

Source:  Author - Jack Dini, www.canadafreepress.com 8 May 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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