United Kingdom

Harsh criticism by renewables association of new wind power report

RenewableUK, the United Kingdom’s trade association for the wind, wave & tidal industry, has criticised a report published by the think tank Civitas for failing to understand how wind power works as part of the UK’s electricity generation system. The association says the report “relies on the work of cranks”, inflating the cost of wind energy by relying on inaccurate assumptions and failing to understand how modern grid works.
Harsh criticism by renewables association of new wind power report

The study entitled "Electricity costs: the folly of wind power", by Ruth Lea, Director of Civitas’s Manufacturing Renewal Project, claims that both onshore and offshore wind power are the most expensive forms of electricity generation. This is based on research by Colin Gibson, a former Director of National Grid (1993-1997), who recently spoke at an anti-wind conference in Scotland.

Mr Gibson’s research was based on a range of assumptions, particularly the need to build a new fleet of rapid-response gas power stations (known as open-cycle gas turbines, or OCGT) to back up wind generation on a MW-for-MW basis. These assumptions significantly inflate the cost of energy from wind, however RenewableUK highlight that the study “relies heavily on non-peer-reviewed research from anti-wind groups”.

Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s Director of Policy, said “Mr Gibson’s assumptions, upon which Ms Lea relies, are outliers to the mainstream of analysis in this area, to put it mildly. Dedicated OCGT plants are not required to provide back-up for wind. Instead, wind can be integrated into our existing electricity system to act as a fuel saver, enabling us to harness the weather when it’s available. Some additional investment is required, but credible analysis puts the cost at one-sixth of Mr Gibson’s inflated claims even with wind providing two-thirds of our power.”

“It is surprising that a think tank such as Civitas has published a report based on the work of anti-wind cranks, repeating the same discredited assertions. The UK’s energy policy over the next ten years will play a critical part in our economic success – offshore wind in particular has the potential to revitalise our manufacturing sector, with the promise of over 70,000 jobs. This report, based on outdated and inaccurate information, does nothing to advance the debate.” Dr Edge concluded.

Wind covers 12% demand earlier this month

At the end of last year, wind farms in the UK hit a high, covering more than 12% of UK electricity demand. RenewableUK praised National Grid's successful management of the record output reached on 28 December. During the entire month, strong winds allowed UK's wind fleet to meet an average of 5.3% of demand. RenewableUK, the trade association for the wind, wave & tidal industry, has praised National Grid's handling of the large volumes of electricity generated by wind farms over the festive season.

"As we're generating increasingly large amounts of electricity from wind, feeding those large volumes of power into the system represents an engineering challenge to the National Grid – a challenge we are pleased to see they met over Christmas,” said Dr Edge.

National Grid is responsible for balancing the output of the UK's electricity generators with demand from consumers and businesses on a minute by minute basis. Integrating the variable output of wind generators involves taking a range of balancing actions, including reducing the rate at which fossil fuel generators consume fuel when wind output is higher. Last year, National Grid launched a new wind power forecasting system, allowing their engineers to more accurately predict output from the UK's growing fleet of wind farms.

A full analysis of the additional costs involved in incorporating wind and other forms of variable generation into the grid can be found in ‘Analysing technical constraints on renewable generation to 2050’ by Poyry.

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