“Wind turbines off-shore and in some industrial areas are fine but in open countryside they are unacceptable.”
That is the view of Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers, as he defended his role in a campaign to urge the Prime Minister to cut his support for the onshore wind industry.
His comments came after claims he and more than 100 other backbench Tory MPs made in a letter sent to David Cameron – which questioned the viability of the industry – were thrown into doubt by the results of a new report.
The MPs had argued that wind power cannot be relied upon at times that demand is the greatest, cannot be stored and does not cut enough carbon to make large investments worthwhile and suggested that money be spent on more reliable forms of energy.
However, the new report by the left-leaning thinktank IPPR, in association with the leading energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan, concludes there is no technical reason why turbines should not be supported.
Reg Platt, an IPPR fellow, said government and local communities were right to scrutinise costs and planning issues, but that the report showed “unequivocally that wind power can significantly reduce carbon emissions, is reliable, poses no threat to energy security and is technically capable of providing a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity with minimal impact on the existing operation of the grid”.
Claims to the contrary are not supported by the evidence, said Platt, who pointed out that the study had been peer-reviewed by Nick Jenkins, the head of the Institute of Energy at Cardiff University. The economic model GL Garrad Hassan adopted showed that every megawatt-hour of electricity wind power produced led to carbon savings of a minimum of 350kg.
On that basis, it said, the increasing number of wind farms both on and offshore saved 5.5m tonnes in 2011, at a time when the UK is committed to meeting EU carbon reduction targets in a bid to counter climate change.
Although wind is a variable energy resource in that it cannot be guaranteed to blow at a constant rate, GL Garrad Hassan said it was predictable as a result of weather forecasting technology and the fact that turbines are located all around Britain, meaning that even when some areas are calm, others are likely to be windy.
However, Mr Vickers defended his stance, adding: “Though there is evidence that casts doubt on the economics of on-shore wind, what is certain is that on-shore turbines are seen by local communities as a blot on the landscape and the public’s willingness to subsidise them through their bills has reached the limit.
“One key argument put forward in our letter to the PM was the public’s dissatisfaction with, in particular, the planning process – something acknowledged by the IPPR report and without public support for the policy it has no future.”
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