New Report: Economic Analysis Reveals Wind Power ‘Worse Than a Mistake’

  • Date: 06/03/12

One of the UK’s leading energy and environment economists warns that wind power is an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, there is a significant risk that annual CO2 emissions could be greater as a result of Britain’s flawed wind policies when compared with the option of investing in efficient and flexible gas combined cycle plants.

The study ‘Why is wind power so expensive?’ published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation is the first thorough analysis of the true cost of wind power.

In his report, Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) finds that

  • Meeting the UK Government’s target for renewable generation in 2020 will require total wind capacity of 36 GW backed up by 13 GW of open cycle gas plants plus large complementary investments in transmission capacity at a cost of about £120 billion.
  • The same electricity demand could be met from 21.5 GW of combined cycle gas plants with a cost of £13 billion, i.e. an order of magnitude cheaper than the wind scenario.
  • Under the most favourable assumptions for wind power, the Government’s wind policy will reduce emissions of CO2 at an average cost of £270 per metric ton (at 2009 prices) which means that meeting the UK’s renewable energy target would cost a staggering £78 billion per year in 2020.

“The key problems with current policies for wind power are simple. They require a huge commitment of investment resources to a technology that is not very green, in the sense of saving a lot of CO2, but which is certainly very expensive and inflexible. Unless the current Government scales back its commitment to wind power very substantially, its policy will be worse than a mistake, it will be a blunder,” Professor Hughes said.

The full report, with a foreword by Baroness Nicholson, is available here:

Professor Gordon Hughes

Dr Gordon Hughes is a Professor of Economics at the University of Edinburgh where he teaches courses in the Economics of Natural Resources and Public Economics. He was a senior adviser on energy and environmental policy at the World Bank until 2001. He has advised governments on the design and implementation of environmental policies and was responsible for some of the World Bank’s most important environmental guidelines. Professor Hughes is the author of the GWPF report The Myth of Green Jobs.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

Emma Nicholson was made a Liberal Democrat peer in 1997. She was MP for Devon West and Torridge from 1987 to 1997, first for the Conservatives and then for the Liberal Democrats. From 1999 to 2009, she represented South East England in the European Parliament.