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Chronic wind

The latest GWPF report - on the subject of wind energy - is published today. It makes pretty grim reading.

In his report, Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) finds that

* Meeting the UK Government's target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 13 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity at a cost of about £120 billion.

* The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a cost of £13 billion, i.e. an order of magnitude cheaper than the wind scenario.

* Under the most favourable assumptions for wind power, the Government's wind policy will reduce emissions of CO2 at an average cost of £270 per metric ton (at 2009 prices) which means that meeting the UK's renewable energy target would cost a staggering £78 billion per year in 2020.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (55)

Mind-blowing stuff.

Mar 7, 2012 at 7:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

I got "error 404"

The following link seems to work

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I think we know the answer to "Why is wind power so expensive?". Unfortunately it is impossible to get the message through to the Government as it is filtered by DECC bureaucrats (and the EU).

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This report will make the vested interests, such as RenewableUK (BWEA) squark that it is all wrong and the professor has misunderstood the economics and has got it all wrong, that we need a civerse energy supply etc etc. DECC will support BWEA as will the likes of Greenpeace, WWF and FoE. Just wait for the reaction.

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

diverse even.

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Hopefully this will start to make headway with the main news outlets, everyone likes to kick a Minister when they are down.

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Another great headline Bish.

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

This report is underplaying the real problem. When you put variable wind into a fossil-fuelled standby system, the efficiency falls as wind penetration increases. This was shown recently from Irish data:

Thus, put 12% wind energy in and the raw CO2 saving falls to 4% - experimental data. However, you also have to factor in the CO2 in the windmill construction. This report has done that:

Other reports are the US Bentek analysis and the recent German report summarised here:

DECC has clearly had no experienced engineers advise it. Above a wind penetration of ~15%, CO2 emissions increase compared with having no additional windmills. The only practical solution is to control the wind energy surges by cutting the wind farms loose about 11% of the time by 2020 [NGC data] to save the grid, then dump about a quarter of what's left to pump storage to get the CO2 saving.

In essence, real capacity factor cannot exceed ~17% and you need Norway to get 2 GW pump storage. The cost is immense. DECC has showed itself to be an bunch of amateur activists.

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose


DECC does have some engineers, and some of them are quite good, but they have to conform to the policy laid down by those at the top of the tree, where there are no engineers. Those at the top of the tree have to conform to the ludicrous renewable energy policy that Blair signed up to with the EU. So our ludicrous wind policy is dictated by unelected EU commissioners (known as commissars) and Cameron and his cronies are frightened to stand up to the EU and tell them where to stick their renewable energy policy.

From my experience with DECC officials, there are an awful lot of them whose sole function in life is PR, churning out the standard propaganda and generally ensuring that Ministers don't get to hear the truth. This fine report will be kept well away from the Government Ministers

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I wonder, in passing, how many ministers know what 'an order of magnitude' means?

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

This fine report will be kept well away from the Government Ministers
Not if we all download copies and post them to:
a. their private office;
b. their parliamentary private secretaries;
c. their political advisors;
d. their constituency offices;
e. their constituency chairmen.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Thank you Philip: clearly what the people at the top have to be told is that the EU policies can never be achieved because they are based on outright lies from Denmark which wanted to sell windmills. The role of Helmut Schroeder should also be investigated from a corruption viewpoint.

From now on, all case studies should be based on experimental engineering data. Also, perhaps those who insist on using false data to benefit a foreign power should be charged with treason?

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I don't disagree with the article, but at the risk of being called pedantic:

"an average cost of £270 per metric ton"

Why take the trouble to specify that is is a *metric* ton? The difference between a normal ton and a metric ton is tiny. But the figure of £270 looks to have been rounded to the nearest £10!

This is a very strong clue to me that the writer is not quite as knowledgeable as he/she would like to pretend!


Mar 7, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhi-M

I suggest all readers visit Master Resource (sorry can't do link) for a thorough analysis of the failure of wind in Canada and elsewhere.



Mar 7, 2012 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Maynard

PS: 'Meeting the UK Government's target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 13 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity at a cost of about £120 billion' is plain wrong.

I estimate 68GW windmills to give an average of 11.6 GW wind energy or 355 of 45 GW average present demand. The cost will be >£200 billion.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Sorry not 355 but 25%.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

This is perhaps a question for Philip Bratby: While I am used to getting the numbers from NETA about that percentage contribution of of various power generating systems, is there anywhere I can get the percentage of wind-generated electricity vs the 'installed capacity' of on/off-shore turbines?

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:07 AM James P
"I wonder, in passing, how many ministers know what 'an order of magnitude' means?"

Of course they know. Don't be so cynical.

Obviously, it means "An important order".

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I think I shall download a copy and send it to my Tory MP.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Brubaker

I thought "an order of magnitude" meant "doubles all round". No?

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Snotrocket, have a trawl around here for the stats:

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Mike Jackson

I don't think many would read the entire report (let alone understand it). Perhaps just send the Summary.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


Cumbrian lad beat me to it, but try this one, it may have more detail if you follow the links. I'm never sure why DECC hides the statistics all over the place.

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"I wonder, in passing, how many ministers know what 'an order of magnitude' means?"

Why, that's easy. Everyone knows it is a 3-line whip when you have a 10 seat majority.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix

"DECC does have some engineers, and some of them are quite good,"

I am sorry Phil, I cannot believe that statement, any engineer who is 'worth his salt' and who has a modicum of integrity - wouldn't go anywhere near the DECC, how can a proper engineer justify the enormous [and madness] of expenditure on our current 'renewable' energy provision. The only natural sources of renewable power which work - can be seen in Iceland and in our own country in the Mountains of Scotland and Wales - hydro plant.

Wind and solar, a joke. Engineers have to justify costs - mind you that's the problem - the DECC thinks the money fairy will keep giving - they are not of this world.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The role and functions of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers gives a good insight into how Ministers utilise the scientific advice:

Professor Collins, former CSA to BIS (formerly Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) and DfT, described offshore wind as an occasion when he had lacked access to decision makers and, as a result, had been unable to contribute engineering advice to the relevant discussions.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook


A job with DECC provides a good salary, good perks, good working conditions, little responsibility and a good inflation-proof pension. Why wouldn't you get a few engineers who want an easy life to become members of the civil service? I didn't say they were worth their salt though.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Two questions to ponder:

1. Since the aim of this policy to limit temperature rise from AGW, how many actual degrees of temperature rise will be prevented by us spending tens-to-hundereds of billions of pounds (that we don't actually have)?

2. If instead of trying to reduce carbon emissions, we focussed on adaptation and mitigation, how much would it cost us to adpat to/mitigate that same amount of temperature rise?

I would suggest that no-one would be able to justify an answer to the first question that is indistinguishable from zero.

That being the case, it must follow that the answer to the second question is also zero.

In other words, if we spend tens to hundreds of billions of pounds, we achieve a temperature reduction that is indistinguishable from zero. If we don't spend the money on carbon reduction, we would have to suffer the temperature rise that we would otherwise have prevented. We would therefore face adptation/mitigation costs. But since the temperature reduction achieved from our carbon reduction is zero, the cost of adpating to or mitigating that temperature rise would simply be Business As Usual - zero additional cost. Hence by spending tens to hundreds of billions on carbon reduction, we end up in the same position we'd be in if we spent nothing..........

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterAngusPangus

Athelstan: I specified experienced engineering input: such people can stand up to bullying.

The problem is that the Mafia which controls 'renewable energy' bought the politicians and have deliberately prevented real experimental data from influencing 'predictions'. So the rest of the politicians had no real information. Hedegaard has been blissfully parroting DEA lies; Huhne was doing the same.

We are now getting real data in steam grids: you can't have wind energy >~15% [10% for coal plants] unless you have artificial hydro. The Danes worked this out by 2004-5 and lied to protect their windmill makers. So, our renewable plan is based on faked data and is unachievable except at ruinous cost.

The political task is to inform the public that the politicians are deceiving them over green energy so we can smoke out those who are bought. It may be most of them if you add relatives with wind interests..

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

AngusPangus; having exhaustively analysed the existing science, I am coming to the conclusion that there is no threat from CO2-AGW because it is kept at a net zero, This is because of basic physics' mistakes. There is absolutely no experimental evidence above 'aerosol noise' of any CO2-AGW.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Slightly OT, but the report about the cost of renewables that has been concerning RenewableUK, DECC and the greens, namely "Powerful Targets" can be downloaded at

SandyS asked about it in unthreaded.

Mar 7, 2012 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Cumbrian Lad/Philip Bratby: Many thanks for the links. I'll have some reading to do now. Cheers.

Mar 7, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Phillip Bratby
thanks for the link, I'll look at it later tonight.

Sandy Sinclair

Mar 7, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

You're welcome. I love the conclusions, especially this one:

The scenarios show that the least cost way of meeting 2050 carbon dioxide missions reduction targets is to do so without renewable electricity.

Of course one doesn't have to agree with the need to make carbon dioxide reductions - far from it.

Mar 7, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip Bratby: the windmills have nothing to do with saving CO2 emissions [which they can't do anyway, at least no more than 5% without nuclear]. Instead, they are a symbol of political dominance in the new globalised State, in effect new swastikas, continually visible as a symbol of the control of the State.

The bureaucracy will merge with existing landowners to own the means of production and the rest will live in Staliinist low energy blocks in cities with no rural development apart from the windmills and the dachas.

Mar 7, 2012 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Mar 7, 2012 at 9:07 AM James P
"I wonder, in passing, how many ministers know what 'an order of magnitude' means?"

Of course they know. Don't be so cynical.

Obviously, it means "An important order".

Nah - to them in means to order a lot of very expensive fizzy drinks at someone elses expense....

Mar 7, 2012 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

It is simple really: given that you have to build conventional power generators as back up, what is the point of building windfarms? Why the duplication? Why not simply build the conventional power generators that are both cheap and reliable?

Having such duplication inevitably means that there will be no significant saving in CO2 emissions, and the costs associated with the construction of the energy supply will be vastly more expensive. Given this simple fact alone, it is difficult to envisage any sensible case being made out in favour of the construction of windfarms.

Government madness, if ever there was an example of this.

Mar 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

richard verney: DECC has been driven by Greenpeace's Marxist control of EU policy. The aim is to destroy Western industry and society as per UN Agenda 21 with the Mafia-controlled windmill companies, landowners and carbon traders getting rich from the income defined by carbon taxation.

The future is the Finklestein report in Australia which advocates internet censorship so bloggers can be turned off if their information contradicts that of the State. Readers might wish to recall Cameron's letter last Summer to Gillard, praising her for introducing their carbon tax.

Mar 7, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I wish the idea of sending the report to my MP had any value. I live in Brighton.

Mar 7, 2012 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieP

Also of interest, folks, will be Danny Fortson's two features in The Sunday Times this week (one in the main paper, and the longer version in the Business News) specifically and perhaps unsurprisingly about the NON-publication of a KPMG report on the astronomical cost of using 'renewables' as a route to achieving the government's arbitrary CO2 reduction targets.
As usual, when this report was leaked, the Usual Suspects leapt up and down in fury at this 'total valueless' report - which says to me that it was spot on.
Specifically, the report says that it would cost £34 billion (£550 for every citizen) LESS to achieve the CO2 reduction figure required by the EU (don't start me off) by using gas, than by pursuing so-called 'renewables' (windmills to you and me).
A no-brainer, surely - but then those in government love shovelling money we haven't got into schemes only supported by dogma....

Mar 7, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I took a quick look at the the DECC's summary of generation for 2010 in

As far as I can determine with my Mk I eyeball, at the end of 2010 there was a 'capacity' for wind to generate ~5.3GW - which I calculate to be ~46.5GWhrs.
The actual power generated from these turbines for 2010 was ~7.2GWhrs, not quite 16% of capacity. (To be fair, a caveat to this has to be that the installed capacity was not static (no pun intended!) through the year)

I'll get back to my reading to see if there's more...

Mar 7, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield


Try the link I gave. DECC usually gives two sets of data, one of which only includes turbines that were operational throughout the year. I think they call it on a like-for-like basis.

Mar 7, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Mar 7, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Lord Beaverbrook

Hopefully this will start to make headway with the main news outlets, everyone likes to kick a Minister when they are down.

It's in the Daily Mail

and also The Register

A quick look with Google News didn't show much else.

Mar 7, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Hi Philip Bratby: Yep. Tried your link earlier. Thanks. Somewhere along the line it took me through a load more links and I ended up at the Chapter 7 summary. But I did look at the capacities v generation charts on the site you referenced. They were useful but, typical of Gov, they needed to be qualified with lots of x-ref info that was dotted around all over the place. I shall certainly take a look at the 'like-for-like' data when I find it. I especially want to get the most up-to-date data. you think the figures I mentioned earlier look plausible? Booker et al is always going on about turbines only being 26% - ish efficient, yet my take seems to show no better than 16%.

Mar 7, 2012 at 2:15 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Cosmic: having read these two reports, i am astonished that a DECC spokesperson countering the Hughes' report claimed an offshore capacity factor of 38-54%. This is only true for the Western isles and much of the time you couldn't transport the power because of grid limits.

There is a serious lack of engineering common sense, in effect underplaying one's hand to ensure one is not caught out thus losing credibility.

These people have totally lost their credibility.

Mar 7, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

JC on a bike!!! I'm wading through some of the reports at DECC that PB and CL linked. It occurs to me that not only do we have to put up with the stupidity of wind farms as one of the most inefficient generators of energy, we - the taxpayer - have to foot the bills for the huge numbers (it MUST be) of civil servants who set up, manage and populate the statistics data that the DECC produce for 'renewables'. I mean, there is an incredible industry just in the admin of these damn things! Tons of PDFs, XL speadsheets etc. And most of it just used as BS to baffle brains. (And I can speak from experience in BIG business running management reports/stats)

DECC is truly the home of the 'digging holes and filling them in again' jobs!

Mar 7, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield


From the DM article

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said developing wind power will mean the UK is less reliant on imported gas.
She said: ‘We need investment in new energy capacity. Wind will be a crucial part of that, alongside gas, new nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

They are still clinging to CCS. No mention of shale gas. No mention of gas fired backup required for windpower, which means you may as well just build the gas plant and forget the windmills.

And they also make it clear that this comes from the 2008 Climate Change Act. Obviously nothing will change until it is repealed. As this involves EU legislation and 'leading the way in Europe', don't hold your breath until it happens.

It's obvious that DECC is living in Climate Change Fantasy Land. There's a hint that the message is shifting from Climate Change to energy security, but in practical terms it's the same old same old and just as useless for its new suggested purpose as it was for the original.

Mar 7, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic


Try Table 7.4 of DUKES for recent load factors if you can't find your way round the other links (the words they use are "unchanged configuration basis")

Yes, there must be thousands of civil servants churning out masses of data and huge reports which are indigestible. And they also use our money to pay consultants millions to produce even more impenetrable reports that nobody reads, but which they can use to justify the policy if necessary.

Mar 7, 2012 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

'These people have totally lost their credibility.'

Only, sadly, with people like us who know and inquire into these issues, and certainly not with politicians who appear to have no working knowledge whatsoever (they believe what they're told too, in most cases). I'm not sure the average person has any real clue at all. When I discuss things like this with anyone, whether agw religious or not, they only know what they read in the msm (if they bother at all). Received wisdom is received entirely uncritically in most cases.

Mar 7, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieP

Philip Bratby: capacity factors for 2010 were 30.5 offshore, 21.7 onshore which matches ~26% average. However, by 2020, according to NGC, wind farms will be disconnected 11% of the time when wind speeds are high and demand is low.

My interpretation of this on the basis of typical wind speed data is that it removes 30% of the energy to avoid overloading the grid so you can't save is pump storage offshore. Thus the real CF falls to ~18%. Taking into account the need to save CO2, much of the residual peaks must still be sanitised by pump storage so I expect real CF<=17%.

This assumes 2 GW to and from Norway. The talk by DECC of >30% CF is balderdash because you can't use it.

Mar 7, 2012 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

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