Wind power boost 'not answer' to energy gap claims report

The massive increase in wind power planned by the government is not the answer to meeting a looming energy gap or renewable power targets set for the UK, a new report has claimed.

A study published by the Centre for Policy Studies said wind was an unreliable and expensive source of electricity and the plans for a 20-fold increase in power production were over-ambitious and impractical.

The report comes ahead of the government's renewable energy strategy which is to be published on Thursday, and which is expected to propose a huge increase in offshore wind power as part of a bid to meet the EU target of sourcing 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020.

According to a leak of the document, the push for a green energy revolution will cost something in the region of £100bn.

The report from the Centre for Policy Studies warned that Britain faced a 32GW energy gap by 2015 as older coal and nuclear power stations are paid off.

But the report's author Tony Lodge urged that rather than pursuing wind to fill the gap, the UK should develop nuclear and clean coal which he said were cheaper, more reliable options for providing electricity.

He said the high costs of offshore wind, because of problems such as access to the grid and maintenance, would mean energy suppliers would be looking to build onshore - where turbines had negative consequences for the environment and local residents.

He urged the development of tidal power to meet the renewables target, which he said "does not have the environmental impact of windmills on hills" and was much more reliable than wind.

Lodge also said only 3 per cent of people were willing to pay more for their electricity bills to support wind power.

The Renewables Obligation, which requires suppliers to obtain a certain, growing percentage of power from green sources, is passing costs onto the consumer and helping push six million households towards fuel poverty, he claimed.

But Greenpeace said it was "simply not credible" to suggest that wind power did not have a central role to play in meeting renewables targets and tackling climate change.

Robin Oakley, the environmental group's head of climate campaign, said the "energy gap" meant money would have to be spent replacing the UK's energy system and provided a big opportunity to choose a beneficial system for the 21st century.

And he said wind power worldwide was the strongest growing sector of energy, providing jobs and backed by big businesses who saw its potential.

"This is a growth industry, it works in economic terms, works in practical terms, creating jobs and alternatives to being stuck with fossil fuels," he said.

He accused the Centre for Policy studies of being "one of the least credible voices speaking on energy in Britain today".

"The Centre for Policy Studies is still stuck in the 1980s while the rest of us are looking at the cutting-edge scientific developments and innovation that can secure our power supplies into the climate-changing 21st century world," he said.

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for the Department for Business said: "Wind is an important low carbon energy source and a vital part of the UK's diverse energy mix.

"We remain fully committed to hitting our renewable energy targets and this Thursday will publish our renewable energy strategy, which outlines ambitious plans to further boost the current level of renewables."

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