Wind energy “can only play a negligible role in plugging Britain’s looming energy gap”, according to the UK’s Centre for Policy Studies.
“It is time to call a halt to new windfarms and to expand aggressively our nuclear, clean coal and tidal resources,” says the report’s author, Tony Lodge.
Lodge condemns wind power as unreliable, expensive, overambitious, impractical and politically foolish.
Instead, he advocates switching to harnessing tidal energy, even though the technologies required are in their infancy and, according to a Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology Postnote dated October, 2006, possess a far larger carbon footprint than wind and, for that matter, hydro and nuclear power.
Lodge says: “Britain’s coastline is over 11,000 miles long and has some of the highest tidal ranges in the world. Tidal energy provides a far higher level of load consistency than wind and can be housed and installed away from the population, thereby negating the problems, cost and time taken up with lengthy planning applications so associated with wind.”
Lodge displays ignorance by stating: “Compared with wind energy, the costs and environmental impact of tidal energy are substantially lower. David Cameron was right to herald tidal power in his speech unveiling the Blue Green Charter.”
Lodge is correct in saying that wind energy must be backed up by other baseload sources – this has never been disputed.
Lodge and the Royal Academy of Engineering are wrong in saying that wind energy is two-and-a-half times more expensive than other forms of (non-oil and gas) electricity generation in the UK. Either that or the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology is wrong.
Lodge is right to highlight that the cost per household of the 20% renewables target will be higher than considered hitherto. To instal 33,000MW of offshore wind at the current rule-of-thumb £3million per installed megawatt will cost just short of £100million. But he fails to acknowledge the massive cost inflation that is hitting all other large-scale forms of power generation and that nuclear is legendary for smashing budgets.
Lodge may be right that the UK target is overambitious – something Energy has commented on in the past. The Government proposals imply an increase in wind production of more than 20 times (from 4,225 GWh in 2006 to 87,000 GWh in 2020).
Lodge is right to say that the UK does not have the capability to build the 33GW (33,000MW) of offshore wind advocated by Trade Secretary John Hutton and that the national grid is likely incapable of coping with the “enormous new strains”. But he overlooks the North Sea offshore revolution, which was, in fact, accomplished in a remarkably short time – barely a couple of decades.
As for being politically foolish, Lodge fails to acknowledge that fuel bills are rising dramatically under the current fossil fuels and nuclear-dependent system, and if he thinks wind is expensive, he will be in for a shock with the cost of tidal energy.
Lodge also fails to appreciate that every technology that is thrown at the problem of sustaining flick-of-the-switch power supplies is deeply imperfect – it’s not just wind that should be put in the dock in this regard.
He acknowledges that the UK must now develop its nuclear, clean coal (including coal gasification) and renewable supplies of energy, but is wrong to condemn wind out of hand the way he does – an “unreliable, costly, uncompetitive and unpopular horse in the great energy race”.
And the statement, “Over-dependence on wind energy and the resultant costs to electricity consumers risks plummeting more and more families into the fuel poverty trap”, smacks of tabloid journalism, not rational discussion of the sort that the Centre for Policy Studies should be coming out with.