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UK urged to ditch ‘unreliable’ wind turbines for nuclear power

The government should shift its investment in renewable energy away from ‘unreliable’ wind power to nuclear and carbon capture and storage to avoid putting the security of the UK’s energy supply at risk.

That’s according to a report, The Economics of Renewable Energy, by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on the government’s plan to generate 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources to meet EU targets by 2020.

The nuclear question refuses to go away and while many sources of renewable energy remain either expensive to produce or are unsuitable for large-scale commercial generation – or both – it’s going to remain a tough one for the green lobby to dismiss.

Wind turbines are still the most readily available source of increases in renewable electricity but the Lords Committee says until satisfactory and commercially viable storage mechanisms are introduced wind power cannot be relied upon to generate electricity when it is needed.

Lord Vallance, chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, said:

“The UK is most likely to adopt wind power as its main means of producing more renewable electricity. This has an inherent weakness in that it cannot be relied upon to generate electricity at the time it is needed.  Current policies would take the UK into uncharted territory, with a dependence on intermittent supply unprecedented elsewhere in Europe.”

The crux of the report is about investment for renewable energy and the Lords’ committee calls on the government to create a stable investment environment for alternative forms of low carbon power generation – specifically nuclear. There’s that ‘n’ word again.

The Lords say nuclear energy presents a viable, low-carbon alternative that is not intermittent and can be produced at a significantly lower cost than renewable energy. Carbon capture and storage is another area that investment should be targeted, the report adds.

Other recommendations in the report include:

The government should not seek to increase the use of biofuels until the costs of carbon abatement associated with its use as an alternative energy supply are reduced.

The government should consider establishing a substantial annual prize for the best technological contribution to producing economical renewable energy and promote research into electricity storage technologies to overcome the problems associated with intermittency.

Lord Vallance adds:

“We accept that the UK Government, along with others, must take steps to reduce carbon emissions. However we are concerned that the dash to meet the EU’s 2020 targets may draw attention and investment away from cheaper and more reliable low carbon electricity generation – such as nuclear and, potentially, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.”

3 Comments

  • Jo
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I totally agree with Simon. It is pointless even discussing wind power. We need to get it off the debating table and start looking at realistic measures for drastically reducing our CO2 output. If you look at the figures, the new Clyde Wind Farm in Lanarkshire, which will be the biggest wind farm in Europe, will only produce one twentieth of one percent of the UK’s energy needs. At a cost of £600 million, this is a futile and hugely expensive way of tackling climate change.

    We need to start demanding the truth about wind farms. The figures we are quoted need to be standardised so that we can make fair comparisons. There are some good articles on this blog – http://paullavelle.wordpress.com about these issues.

  • Simon
    Posted December 5, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Wind power is notoriously unreliable and cannot be used unless it is backed up by conventional power. It also has a carbon footprint of 30 g/kwh. There is no storage for electricity in the same way that you can store water in a hydroelectric system. However, EfW, or Energy from Waste, is an excellent option. Technology has improved so much that it is a clean alternative to burying or dumping waste.
    Without Nuclear Power we will continue burning gas to produce electricity. Follow the French green lead and build Nuclear. Ontario, Canada’s CANDU system is a prime example of a first class system that handles its own waste.
    CO2 emissions:
    Natural Gas 700 g/kwh
    Solar Panels 100 g/kwh
    Wind 30 g/kwh
    HydroElectric 20 g/kwh
    Nuclear 20 g/kwh
    Our nuclear plants are going out of commission in the next few years and no new plants have been started up. We will see grave shortages, even rationing of electricity if the government doesn’t get up and stop dithering with our lives.

  • Sam Tana
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:53 am

    Surely it’s not an either/or situation. We probably need some of both.

Comments are closed.

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