Protests against onshore wind farms could push up energy bills, a major new report has warned.
The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics predicted that the cost of putting up turbines will fall dramatically over the next few years so that by 2016 it will be as cheap to generate electricity from wind as from gas.
This will encourage developers to build thousands of turbines in the countryside. At the moment there are just over 3,000 but to meet Government targets this will need to double by 2020.
The report concluded that if people do not want so many turbines in the countryside, they will have to pay more on their energy bills as the only other alternative to keeping the lights on – while meeting carbon reduction targets, is to generate electricity from the sun or offshore wind.
“Onshore wind raises potential local environmental issues, particularly through the visual impact of turbines”. It notes: “People value natural landscapes and there are also wildlife effects that should be taken into account.
“These environmental impacts make more expensive renewable technologies – like offshore wind or solar photovoltaics – potentially more attractive. One can think of the extra cost of offshore wind as the premium society is willing to pay to avoid the local environmental cost of onshore wind.”
Speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival Ravi Gurumurthy, Strategy Director at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, agreed that the more expensive option of offshore wind or solar could replace wind turbines onshore.
But he insisted the plans to build thousands of turbines by 2020 remain on track, despite protests from Tory back benchers, since the UK needs to build as much renewable energy as possible.
“Given the concern about bills we will continue with onshore wind,” he added.
The report from the LSE, which will be distributed to every Member of Parliament, found the problem of intermittency with wind can easily be overcome with a ‘smarter’ energy grid.
It concluded: “Much has been made of the intermittent nature of wind and other renewables, which cannot produce electricity reliably on demand. However, the cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated. There are several ways of compensating for the variability, such as additional capacity from fossil fuel power plants to meet balancing requirements at peak demand, bulk storage of electricity, greater interconnection, and a more diversified mix of renewable sources, as well as measures to manage demand, like smart grids and improved load management.”
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