Andrew Montford: Balderdash, Dishonesty And Woo

  • Date: 04/12/12
  • Andrew Montford, Bishop Hill

There is much excitement this morning about a Cambridge Econometrics report on windfarms. The headline finding is this (according to the Independent):

British economy would be £20bn-a-year better off with focus on wind power, says think tank

There is a parallel article here at Greenpeace’s Energy Desk, which is perhaps surprisingly slightly more honest than the Independent. For example we learn from Greenpeace that:

Based on the government’s own price assumptions, and the rising cost of carbon, the report found the cost of power from offshore wind would be within 1% of the cost of power from unabated gas power.

That’s the assumption that, contrary to all the available evidence, that gas prices will continue to rise in the face of a worldwide glut of shale gas. It also reads as if they have invoked the great levelised costs lie in their support.

The Independent doesn’t mention this rather outlandish assumption, unlike Greenpeace:

Even if the gas price falls due to shale, the authors argue, the results would be similar.

But the economic benefit of a ‘dash for wind’ depends on foreign firms opening UK factories to supply any growth in renewables beyond 2020.

OK, so the result depends not only on an unrealistic assumption for gas prices, but also on manufacturing countries suddenly deciding to build their wind turbines here rather than somewhere cheap like China. If I said this was risible nonsense, I think I would probably be understating matters.

As an aside, I should mention that both articles quote Professor Paul Ekins as follows:

Much of the debate around the choice between gas-fired and offshore wind electricity generation in the years post-2020 assumes wind is more expensive. This study represents powerful evidence to the contrary.

In both articles, Professor Ekins is introduced as “professor of resources and environmental policy at University College London”. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that Professor Ekins was also a long-time leading light in the green party. Oh yes, and he’s a director of Cambridge Econometrics, the company that produced the report in the first place.

Normal day in the green media then.

Bishop Hill, 4 December 2012