By Edward Malnick, Sunday Political Editor
The Disclosure prompts questions over the accuracy of the CCC’s claims
about the feasibility of meeting net zero by 2050.
Modelling used to justify the “feasibility” of the net zero target assumed
a dramatic fall in the number of days of calm weather, when many turbines
stand still, according to new analysis.
Data obtained from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the official
advisory body, following a legal battle, shows that a series of assumptions
underpinning its advice to ministers included a projection that in 2050
there would be just seven days on which wind turbines would produce less
than 10 per cent of their potential electricity output. So far this year,
there have already been 65 such days, and in 2016 there were as many as 78.
On Saturday night the disclosure prompted questions over the accuracy of
the CCC’s claims in 2019 about the feasibility of meeting a target of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Ministers rely
heavily on the CCC’s advice and modelling, and last week its chief
executive, Chris Stark heralded Boris Johnson’s new Net Zero Strategy as
“largely mirroring the CCC advice”.
It comes as an analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think
tank warns that the “quality of the CCC’s advice is questionable”,
particularly in relation to the 2050 target adopted by Theresa May in 2019.
“[The CCC] advised that this target was feasible but refused to disclose
the calculations on which its costs figures were based, and it became clear
that the scale of the challenge of net zero was not well understood when
the target was passed into law,” states the report, which is published
today. The IEA report also accuses the body of having expanded an initial
remit as an independent advisory body delivering balanced advice, to
becoming a “pressure group”.
Mr Stark used a newspaper interview on Friday to say that the Government
should be urging people to “understand what they can do” about climate
change, including “flying less, eating less meat”.
Back-up power could be required from more reliable sources
Craig Mackinlay, the leader of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative
MPs and a member of the public accounts committee, warned that if the
committee had significantly overestimated the amount of power that turbines
would generate, significantly more back-up power could be required from
more reliable sources.
He said: “These predictions appear somewhat fanciful. The Climate Change
Committee seem to be looking at the whole project through rose-tinted
spectacles to try and minimalise the unpalatable costs of this whole
Analysis of CCC data obtained following a legal battle by the Global
Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), a climate sceptic think tank, found that the
body’s assumptions as part of modelling included that the UK would
experience just one day in 2050 on which wind turbines would operate at
less than five per cent of the industry’s overall capacity. That compares
with 20 days so far in 2021 – which has seen particularly low wind speeds –
ten days in 2020, nine in 2019 and 21 in 2018.
The CCC’s modelling, which drew on a study by Imperial College London, also
included an assumption that, in 2050, there would be just seven days on
which wind turbines produced less than 10 per cent of their overall
capacity. That compares to 65 such days so far this year, 30 in 2020, 33 in
2019 and 56 in 2018, according to analysis by Net Zero Watch, a campaign of
the GWPF.
A spokesman for the CCC declined to explain the disparity, saying:
“Detailed assumptions on power generation were made in 2019 as part of an
extensive body of modelling and analysis to inform our advice to government
on net zero. We stand by these insights.
“This information, including the study undertaken by Imperial College
London, is published in full on our website. We have no further comment to
The CCC has previously said that the UK’s future energy supply should come
from a “portfolio of technologies” including nuclear and hydrogen power,
but insisted that the costs associated with the intermittent nature of wind
“represent a small proportion of overall system costs.” Experts have also
suggested that placing turbines in a wider variety of locations around the
UK would increase the overall yield when the wind fails to blow in
particular areas.
Victoria Hewson, a solicitor and the IEA’s head of regulatory affairs,
said: “The scale and impact of the areas covered by the advice of the
Climate Change Committee is vast… Far from being treated as an
irreproachable source of truth, the CCC should be challenged and
scrutinised more than any other regulator or advisory body.”

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