A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wind power: it's just like letting your money blow away in the breeze.....

A new report from EEF, the leading manufacturer's group in the UK, demonstrates all to starkly the economic folly of supporting wind energy. It really shouldn't even be a starter.

Broken wind turbineThe new EEF report shows that, when gas and carbon prices are high, nuclear power is the most cost effective energy provider, at under £40 per Megawatt hour (MWh). Gas comes a close second (also under £40 per MWh), followed by conventional coal and clean coal (both under £50 per MWh). By contrast, onshore wind is nearly £60 per MWh, while offshore wind, at over £70 per MWh, is just punitive. A government must have money to burn to contemplate offshore wind.

These rankings and differentials remain effectively the same even when fossil fuel prices are low, except that gas then replaces nuclear as the most cost effective (at under £30 per MWh). This, however, makes offshore wind more than 3 times the cost of gas. Yet more money to burn.

Wind energy is thus the surest way to undermine UK competitiveness and growth (not to mention punish the poor domestic consumer - and voter). Unsurprisingly, EEF regards wind farms as an unrealistic option for providing a fifth of UK energy needs. Quite so. Instead, they call for an urgent rethink on nuclear power: 'Manufacturers call for nuclear build as part of balanced long-term energy strategy' (EEF Press Release, October 24):
"EEF, the manufacturers' organisation has urged the government to back replacement nuclear build as part of a balanced sustainable long-term energy strategy for the UK.

The call is made in a major report published today which sets out a wide-ranging future energy strategy for the UK, to deliver a secure, reliable and competitive low carbon energy supply and which does not rule out any options.

The UK's energy supply has taken on a renewed sense of urgency given large rises in prices (50-80% for manufacturers contracting since the summer) and fears over supplies in the next two winters..."

We are going to pay dearly for the government's prevarications over a realistic energy policy. To date, New Labour's approach to energy has been a disgraceful shambles and one which has not even succeeded in meeting its own farcical 'Green' targets (carbon dioxide emissions have risen markedly since Labour came to power). But worst of all, along with all the other political parties, there has been a culpable failure to address our central energy requirements for the next 50 or so years. These must comprise some mix of gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.

The rest is ephemeral, just blowin' in the wind.

I feel extremely sorry for manufacturing and industry in this area of public policy. It will lead to tears, perhaps even before this winter is out.

See also: the leading article in the 'Business' Section of today's The Times; for once a relatively good piece in The Guardian (October 24): 'The answer is not written in the wind' ; and, 'Manufacturers urge Government to take action to solve power crisis' (The Daily Telegraph, October 24).

Finally: 'Fission returns to fashion' (Time, October 23).

Philip, increasingly angry at the damage 'Green' utopian twittering has done to our energy policy in the UK. A strong, black coffee is required this morning. And, how can we trust the government over energy, when, with a stated lead policy of "Educashun! Educashun! Educashun!", it can't even spell key words: 'FURTHER ACTION NEEDED TO CUT EMMISSIONS ACROSS EUROPE, MORLEY TELLS EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONFERENCE'? [Hat tip to Barry Hearn for spotting this dire bit of Defranese.] Watch to see if they change it! Espresso doppios all round.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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