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Controversy over high subsidies to UK wind power

A difference in opinions has become apparent as the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) oppose RenewableUK’s claims that very high subsidies to wind power are justified because the industry contributes to the UK’s security of supply.

Unlike RenewableUK who believe that the contribution of wind power technology is an important factor in the UK’s security of energy supply, REF argues that government subsidies have distorted the wind market and will ultimately result in strengthening the UK’s reliance on gas, particularly at times of peak load.

The REF uses the work of Paul-Frederik Bach, The Variability of Wind Power, (REF: London, 2010) as the foundation to their argument. In these papers Bach shows that there is little wind 'smoothing' across Northern Europe wind fleets and that prolonged periods of low wind conditions at times of high electrical load are to be expected as regular occurrences.

As such, REF claims that RenewableUK’s analyses are 'simplistic' as they draw on the expectation that wind power is a constant and secure form of generating electricity.

The research group also states that by distorting the market the presence of large quantities of subsidised wind gives the market no option but to invest in gas generation, and not necessarily the most efficient type of such generators.

Dr John Constable, Director of Policy and Research for REF says: “For economic and technical reasons overcommittment to subsidised wind power runs a high risk of cementing gas dependency at those times when our need for electricity is greatest, thus increasing the UK’s exposure to gas rather than alleviating it. A more prudent policy is required.”

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power

 

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