Wind Power Could Secure Energy Independence for Britain

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A new study has shown that increasing Britain’s installed wind energy capacity could go a long way to securing energy independence for the island nation.

Commissioned by national trade body RenewableUK, and conducted by independent analysts Cambridge Econometrics, the report concluded that additional wind power in the country’s energy grid would make Britain’s energy supply more resilient, by way of cutting the need for ever-increasingly costly imports of fossil fuels.

In 2013, wind energy played a small role in minimising the need for coal and gas imports — reducing coal imports by an estimated 4.9 million tonnes, and gas by 1.4 billion cubic metres.


Increasing the level of wind energy generation would serve to increase these figures, minimising how much Britain needs to import.

Without wind, in 2013, Britain would have needed to acquire — somehow — an additional 6.1 million tonnes of coal, and 2.5 billion cubic metres of gas to generate the additional 45.8 TWh and 24.8 TWh of coal and gas respectively (these figures are so high, because there is a significant efficiency loss involved in converting fuel to electricity).

“Beyond the environmental benefits brought about by the continued deployment of wind power, this report shows that wind energy is contributing to reducing fossil fuel import dependence and that this contribution will grow in future as wind capacity expands,” explains Phil Summerton, Director at Cambridge Econometrics.

“Investment into wind power acts as an insurance policy against uncertainty in future wholesale gas prices and could provide a degree of stability to future electricity prices.”

“This report shows how much the UK relies on wind power to reduce our dependence on sources of costly fossil fuels imported from abroad,” explains RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery. “In these uncertain times, we need to recognise the wider benefits of wind. The costs for the entire life of a wind farm are known very early on, whereas the volatile price of fossil fuels can never be accurately predicted.

“Wind power is already helping us manage future price instability, and industry is confident that by 2020 onshore wind will be the cheapest form of new generation of any form of energy.”

The full report, ‘The impact of wind energy on UK energy dependence and resilience’, can be downloaded here (PDF), courtesy of Cambridge Econometrics.

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Joshua S Hill

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13 thoughts on “Wind Power Could Secure Energy Independence for Britain

  • UK wants no Wind Power UK wants new nuclear ,
    nuclear Sellafield decommission supassed 100 billion Euro and is state paid 2 billion a year for nuclear decommission of just Sellafield. every year.

      • I wish true environmentalists did not create false dichotomies between nuclear power and renewables: both work for reducing the big problem of CO2 emissions — nuclear on short-to-medium term, and can be scaled very fast if not blocked by irrational hysteria and propaganda. And RE can ramp up over next 20-30 years, to first replace fossil fuels, and, in due time, fusion nuclear power as well.
        Although it is true that power utilities (and sometimes politicians) tend to get too focused on a single-provider-solutions, at expense of balanced portfolios, not all do, nor does that make any sense.

        For some reason, the worst enemies for environment are often attention-heavy outlets like Greenpeace; and they target nuclear power even more than truly polluting energy sources like coal. Their goal is apparently not fighting global warming; even though nominally claiming they do.

        So: at very least existing nuclear capacity should be kept in good running order, optimized as base load. And ideally upgraded with the latest safe technology, which also yields more medium-term capacity.

        • Nuclear power scaled fast, yeah, funny, it takes many years to build a nuclear power station, it takes months to build solar/wind. Nuclear takes decades to decommission.

          Nuclear power stations can’t get insurance because the risk is too high and the premium would cost to much.

          Decades of nuclear power and the waste storage problem is not solved.

          Re-processing nuclear fuel is insanely expensive – not a viable option.

          Nuclear costs double what fossil fuels or renewables cost per Kwh, Thorium reactors are even more expensive.

          If the world went nuclear there would only be enough Uranium for 20 years.

          We should be investing in wind, solar, tidal lagoons, geothermal systems of various types and most of all encouraging energy efficiency schemes, devices that auto power off, legislation that makes standby after x amount of time a default option etc.

          • Decommission, too, is only as slow and complex as it is mandated to be. The best way to decommission plants — leaving high-active material to decay in-situ for a decade or two, and only then proceed — is not chosen due to political considerations; leading to costlier pro-active approach, transportation, and further (perceived) risks.
            Insurances are expensive not because of likelihood of accidents, but due to uncertainty surrounding actual rules. Governments tend to change rules on a whim, so current legislation is not a guarantee of changes in future. This means that the only institutions big enough to back such projects are national governments; which is not good for cost-effectiveness of projects. Vicious circle; cost additions build on each other.

            All of which is to say is that cost figures vary by an order of magnitude based on politics, and not by inherent cost or complexity.
            Similarly, actual safety is far removed from perception of safety. Scary atoms vs clean wind. Never mind that dirty coal benefits from this uncertainty; and that by dissing nuclear option makes avoidance of global warming so much more difficult.

          • “Insurances are expensive not because of likelihood of accidents” but because the cost of an accident can be enormous. Yes, the probability of a nuclear disaster is small, but the consequences very, very large.

            Insurance companies are experts at loss calculations.

            Dirty coal benefits most by the many years it would take to bring any significant nuclear generation on line. Dirty coal is getting stuffed by the rapid rate at which wind and coal come on line and eat its lunch.

        • ” nuclear on short-to-medium term, and can be scaled very fast if not blocked by irrational hysteria and propaganda.”

          No, it can’t. Even China, where no opposition is permitted, is having trouble building reactors in a timely fashion.

          • Partly or mostly because these are the first ones for the new(est) generation nuclear plants (same huge delay in Finland). Teething trouble. And delay has much to do with hysteria after Chernobyl that blocked building of nuclear plants, and loss of expertise, knowledge, on-going production work.
            Further compounded by (often) fervent opposition that has managed to add often unreasonable additional constraints, reviews, double-checks and contractual obligations which then lead to financial and project management problems.

            Very little of these delays are due to actual technical problems. Opposition has indeed managed to slow down projects, and then (dishonestly) claims these as fundamental problems.

          • Come on. Tired to keep whipping that tired old nuclear horse and let the poor beast die in peace.

            It’s a new world. Wind generation has become very cheap. Solar and storage are on their way there. Wind and solar will be the backbones of our 21st Century grids. We’re leaving thermal generation behind in the previous century.

            Nuclear has never been anything but expensive. It’s always cost far more than promised and the industry has cried crocodile tears over those mean anti-nuclear people when their problem is that they are trying to use a very expensive way to boil water.

          • Heh. So, instead of arguing with logic and facts, you switch to “hey man that’s some old shit” argument. Very compelling.

            The thing is, I am pro-wind, pro-solar, as per my original comment. But until they ramp up to majority of electricity, and grid issues that follow are resolved, base load needs to be provided. This 50 years timespan would be logically and rationally filled with well-known nuclear fusion reactors; and once they are at the end of their productive life-cycle would be decommissioned.

            But obviously I am not going to change your mind in this matter. Even if a closed mind would be wonderful thing to lose. Be that as it may.

          • You can change my mind. Show me a nuclear plant that can compete with wind and solar based on cost. (New:new)

            Wind and solar can ramp up much faster than can nuclear. Time to bring on line is a big deal killer for nuclear. About half of nuclear’s very expensive cost comes from accumulated interest during the construction phase.

            “instead of arguing with logic and facts”

            I gave you facts.

            “Wind generation has become very cheap. Solar and storage are on their way there.”

            “Nuclear has never been anything but expensive. It’s always cost far more than promised”

            If you can’t see the logic in why the world will go with the least expensive technologies then you’re wearing nuclear goggles.

          • I don’t know why you keep talking about fusion, you made the mistake twice. There is no such thing as a nuclear fusion power plant. The ones we have are fission. If you don’t even know the difference, how are we supposed to believe your other arguments (which we have heard repeated ad nausea) Bob Wallace covered all the points.

            I’d say run out the current reactors for all they are worth, but build no new ones. Too expensive, too risky, too slow.

  • Where do they talk about energy independence? What I read is “reducing dependence.” In a slowly but steadily integrating Europe, dependence on other European countries (Norwegian hydro, Danish and Spanish wind, French nuclear) is not a problem – pace fringe eccentrics like Euan Mearns (link). What worries European policymakers and voters is dependence on Russia for gas and the Middle East for oil.

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