RenewableUK has today released a report specially commissioned to prove how valuable onshore wind is to the UK economy. SAS saw it coming and prepared a comment which you can find here or in our Press Releases.

In addition to the input from the economic experts Prof Gordon Hughes and Dr John Constable quoted in the Press & Journal, Prof Jack Ponton has also prepared a response on behalf of the Scientific Alliance Scotland which we reproduce below:

RenewableUK claim that 8GW of installed onshore wind capacity is worth £0.906 billionn annually to the UK economy

According to RenewableUK 8.08GW will produce 18.3TWh annually.

Estimates of the extra annual costs of wind generation and solar generation compared to thermal generation have been made by Sir Donald Miller (previously chairman of Scottish Power)and Mr Colin Gibson (previously Power Network director of National Grid) and submitted in a paper to the House of Lords.

Earlier studies by Gibson put the median cost of onshore wind at £190M/TWh. This cost includes the costs of infrastructure, e.g. grid expansion and backup generation to compensate for wind’s intermittency. This has never been effectively challenged.

The annual cost of onshore wind generation is thus around £3.5Bn

Gibson puts the median cost of new gas generation at £66M/TWh. 18.3TWh annually would thus cost £1.2Bn, making the excess annual cost to taxpayers and consumers of wind generation £2.35Bn.

This cost is thus much more than twice the claimed benefit and makes no allowance for the fact that building and operating gas power stations also produces at least as much economic benefit in jobs etc. as does building wind farms. The cost of each of the 13,600 jobs claimed is nearly £260,000 annually.

The paper does not provide enough information on assumptions and sources of data to enable RenewableUK’s figures to be challenged in detail. However we would question the claim that onshore wind provides continuing employment for operation and maintenance – the only long term jobs created – for 3,384 people, about 0.42 jobs per MW.

Most wind farms are unmanned and maintenance appears to be largely on an ad hoc basis. By contrast, Torness 1.2 GW nuclear power station employs 730 people on site, or 0.6 per MW, and many others in the supply chain.

Jack Ponton, FREng,
29 April 2015

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