Wind Chill: Why wind energy will not fill the UK's energy gap

Political and energy analyst, Tony Lodge, presents a critical analysis of the United Kingdom's renewable energy policy which is heavily reliant on industrial-scale wind power.


Britain faces an energy gap of up 32 GW by 2015 as older coal and nuclear power stations are paid off.

At the same time, Britain has made a binding commitment to deliver 15% of all its energy consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Government policy is based on using wind power both to help close the energy gap and to meet its renewable energy targets.

If the Government is to meet its renewables target, then the amount of electricity to be generated by wind farms will have to increase by more than 20 times.


This will be very expensive. Electricity generated by wind turbines already enjoys huge subsidies and tax breaks through the Renewables Obligation scheme.

The Government has now accepted that the total costs of meeting the 2020 target will be £100 billion. This is the equivalent of £4,000 for every household in the country.


The Royal Academy of Engineering has calculated that wind energy is two and a half times more e expensive than other forms of electricity generation in the UK.


Wind generation does not provide a reliable supply of power. It must be backed up by other baseload sources.

Greater reliance on wind power could lead to electricity supply disruptions if the wind does not blow, blows too hard or does not blow where wind farms are located.

The experience of Denmark - often hailed for its pioneering development of wind farms - is that wind energy is expensive, inefficient and not even particularly "green". There are signs that other countries are losing some of their enthusiasm for wind power.


There is no evidence that people are prepared to pay for wind power. Only 15% of people say that they are fairly or very willing to pay higher electricity bills if the extra money funds renewable power sources such as wind. The figures for "very unwilling" and "fairly unwilling" are 37% and 24% respectively.

This over-reliance on expensive wind energy, coupled with rising gas prices, will drive six million households into fuel poverty.


Present wind farm planning applications do not take into consideration the economic viability of the project or whether the topography and meteorological conditions are suitable.

The planning system already favours wind farm developers. But if the Government is to meet its renewable target by 2020, then current planning regulations will have to be weighted even further in favour of wind farm suppliers.

The Ministry of Defence has recently lodged last minute objections to at least four onshore wind farms claiming the turbines will interfere with their national air defence radar.

The alternative

The energy gap must be filled with equivalent baseload capacity as quickly as possible.

The UK should therefore now develop its nuclear, clean coal (including coal gasification) and other renewable supplies of energy (particularly tidal).

Wind energy, in contrast, should only play a negligible role in plugging Britain's looming energy gap.

Wind Chill

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JUN 23 2008
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