IPPR report blows away myths about wind power


  By a Newsnet reporter
A new report by think-tank IPPR has blown apart claims that wind-power is an inefficient and unreliable source of energy.
Results of studies carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research have shown that the controversial green energy source is both a reliable source of electricity and also that it contributes greatly towards carbon emission reductions.

According to the independent body, the results show 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 supply with minimal impact on the existing operation of the grid.

The conclusions of the report note that:

  • It is inaccurate to describe the output from wind power as ‘unpredictable’.
  • In the short term, wind power output is remarkably stable and increases and decreases only very slowly.
  • The risks associated with ‘long, cold, calm spells’ have been overstated.
  • In the UK, National Grid has reported that up to 30GW of wind power can be accommodated even if no changes are made to the way that the electricity system functions.
  • In the longer term, there are numerous technological options to facilitate much greater amounts of wind power – such as improved interconnection with other countries and intelligent management of supply and demand through a ‘smart grid’.

Working with GL Garrad Hassan, a leading renewable energy consultancy, the report also found that recent rises in energy bills were largely due to wholesale gas costs, not renewable subsidies.  From 2004 – 2010 government support for renewables added £30 to the average energy bill, while wholesale gas costs added £290.

According to the report, in Scotland, connection capacity with England has risen from 2000MW (a third of peak demand) to almost 6000MW, ‘largely as a result of the development of substantial wind generation in Scotland’, and could be 8000 MW before 2020 – significantly greater than Scottish peak demand.
In a scathing attack on the anti-wind power lobby and the attitude of the UK government, the report’s authors called for a “balanced debate based on accurate evidence” and added: “False claims that influence policy outcomes and result in a low ambition for the technology could sacrifice important opportunities for the British economy.

“Inconsistent support from government will increase the riskiness with which businesses regard investment opportunities and increase their cost of capital.  This will ultimately mean higher energy bills for consumers and businesses.

Describing the Westminster coalition’s approach to wind power as “worrying” the authors continued: “Although a decision has now been reached to reduce financial support for onshore wind by the anticipated amount of 10 per cent, rather than 25 per cent as HM Treasury had preferred, the postponement of the announcement and the decision to almost immediately conduct a further review of this support level has created widespread concerns in the industry.

“It is entirely proper that subsidies for wind power are not overly generous and that local concerns are taken into account through the planning process with opportunities for local residents to share in the dividends of local development. But an ad hoc approach to policymaking based on political whims is not the right approach.”

Welcoming the report, SNP Energy spokesperson Mike Weir said:
“This informative report debunks the myths that wind power is an inefficient and unreliable source of energy. 
“Renewable energy is vital to Scotland and to the rest of the UK if we are to keep bills down, boost the economy and meet our climate change targets. Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective of the low carbon technologies and plays an important role in the energy mix.
“A recent poll found 71 per cent of people in Scotland support wind power as part of our energy mix and a survey from VisitScotland found 80% of visitors do not agree that wind turbines spoil the look of the Scottish countryside.
“It’s important to debunk objections to wind power that are not based on reality, although it’s also important wind developments are in the right places and any local concerns are rightly addressed. New guidance from a Scottish Government led EU project will help ensure good practice and the active involvement of the community in the planning process.
“The biggest threat to our renewable industry comes from a UK Government sending mixed messages on renewables, providing uncertainty over funding for onshore wind, and still wedded to the discredited and expensive nuclear power industry. The UK Government’s up and coming energy bill must not provide subsidies for new nuclear at the cost of Scotland’s renewables industry.
“The UK Government’s lack of commitment stands in stark contrast to the Scottish Government which is attracting investment in the green energy market.
“The renewables industry now meets 35 per cent of Scotland’s annual demand for electricity and directly employs more than 11,000 people across the country. We are well on the way to meeting the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of 100% domestic electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020 – but the UK Government must not hinder the continued growth of this vital industry.”


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