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Wind-power: inordinately expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 emissions

nick cowen, 9 January 2012

Energy experts warn that unwarranted support for wind-power is hindering genuinely cleaner energy

The focus on wind-power, driven by the renewables targets, is preventing Britain from effectively reducing CO2 emissions, while crippling energy users with additional costs, according to a new Civitas report. The report finds that wind-power is unreliable and requires back-up power stations to be available in order to maintain a consistent electricity supply to households and businesses. This means that energy users pay twice: once for the window-dressing of renewables, and again for the fossil fuels that the energy sector continues to rely on. Contrary to the implied message of the Government’s approach, the analysis shows that wind-power is not a low-cost way of reducing emissions.

Electricity Costs: the folly of wind-power, by economist Ruth Lea, uses Government-commissioned estimates of the costs of electricity generation in the UK to calculate the most cost-effective technologies. When all costs are included, gas-fired power is the most cost-efficient method of generating electricity in the short-term, while nuclear power stations become the most cost-efficient in the medium-term.

10 comments on “Wind-power: inordinately expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 emissions”

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  4. Nice post which The focus on wind-power, driven by the renewables targets, is preventing Britain from effectively reducing CO2 emissions, while crippling energy users with additional costs, according to a new Civitas report. The report finds that wind-power is unreliable and requires back-up power stations to be available in order to maintain a consistent electricity supply to households and businesses. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

  5. David,
    Even if you turn out to be right that no-one has died or is on course to die from Fukushima yet, (a claim that beggars belief, after the slew of coverups and lies that both Tepco and the Japanese Government have been employing since long before the Quake), how great a swathe of Great Britain are you willing to sacrifice to one or multiple No-Man’s-Lands, in the case that Chernobyl or Fukushima happens again on your Island?

    As Finland’s excruciating progress will no doubt keep proving, the economics will finish this argument long before I have to, or before disasters that leave cities like Pripyat uninhabitable for decades will manage to convince you.

  6. Modern reactors can be turned on and off, and their power can be increased or decreased as needed. This is already done in France, and new builds are even better at it.
    Even with cost over-runs the first of a kind build in Finland comes in at around £3,000 kwe, which is cheaper than anything but gas and comparable with on-shore wind. excluding back up and without the difficulties inherent to the grid of using a highly variable and unreliable resource.
    Off-shore wind comes in per actual kilowatt around 3 times as expensive, and the idea of solar at the UK’s latitude is ludicrous.
    Going nuclear in a big way saves around £60 billion a year out to 2050 against fooling around with renewables according to the Government cost calculator.
    No one has died from radiation due to Fukushima, but dozens have from heat prostration due to shutting down perfectly good reactors.
    Future reactors have far better safeguards than the 40 year old ones at Fukushima.
    Radiation risks are anyway exaggerated by thousands of times by the likes of Friends of the Earth.

  7. Alice said;
    “We should limit ourselves to power sources which can give us what we need, when we need it, reliably and at an affordable cost.”

    I’d call that the wishful thinking. It sounds good and resolute to make such demands and be unflinching about it, but geology is not going to bend to our requirements any more than the wind and sun.. It may not be as cheap as Oil and Gas currently remain, but it’s a pretty good bet that there will be some Wind and Sun continuing to arrive, after these flakey gas-wells follow the pattern that your North-sea oilfields have so predictably taken, which is that they deplete.

    To say ‘We must limit ourselves..’ is all too revealing of what investing only in Burnt and Fissile Fuels will leave for our kids. I hope you all in the UK figure out where your bread is really buttered, and don’t get too swayed by these distorted economic arguments. “Cheap Fuel” looks good today, but you do really only get what you pay for.

  8. We should stick to the facts rather than to use ad hominem arguments.

    Electrical power is crucial to modern industrial and “post industrial” economies. It must be reliable, affordable, and abundantly available at the times that we need it.

    If power is not available when we need it, we suffer for that. If too much power is dumped onto the grid when it is not needed, we suffer for that.

    We should limit ourselves to power sources which can give us what we need, when we need it, reliably and at an affordable cost.

    Big wind and big solar have a long way to go before they can provide that essential service — all wishful thinking aside.

  9. Ruth Lea references Dr. C. (Kees) le Pair but fails to observe that he is deeply involved in the Fusion Energy Foundation. Nuclear fission is and fusion is likely to be, if it ever develops, baseload generation. It cannot be turned on and off with ease and, therefore, doesn’t easily co-exist with intermittent renewables. Bit of a conflict of interest, there!
    The nuclear industry has excelled at promising a solution to all our energy needs but that solution is never today, always tomorrow. In the case of fusion it is 30 years away and always has been 30 years away. We need environmentally friendly energy generation that does not rely on depleting fuel resources. Immediate cost efficiency is of greatly less significance than decarbonisation and natural gas, methane, contains carbon.
    The suggestion that nuclear is the most cost effective in the medium term also beggars belief. Just take a look at Finland’s recent experience with nuclear fission power plant.

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