Onshore windfarms offer the cheapest form of new electricity generation in the UK, says the chief executive of industry group RenewableUK, as long as they are at windy locations. Those sites “almost certainly” won’t be in England, says Hugh McNeal in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph. McNeal joined RenewableUK two months ago, moving from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). McNeal’s comments have attracted wide, negative coverage under headlines including “England Simply Isn’t Windy Enough For Wind Farms Admits Industry Chief” (Huffington Post). The Daily Mail, MailOnline, Express, Times and a Daily Mail editorial all take similar lines. McNeal focuses on the positives. He tells the Sunday Telegraph: “We are now the cheapest form of new generation in Britain…That means there are plants we can build – I prefer the word onshore wind ‘plants’ to ‘farms’ – which are cheaper than new gas.” Another potential positive for the renewable industry is that the cost of wind is falling, while the cost of electricity from new gas plant is uncertain and depends on future wholesale energy prices, as well as the price of CO2 emission permits. Of the 8.9 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind currently in operation, two-thirds is in Scotland (5.4GW) compared to around a quarter in England (2.3GW). There is an even larger disparity when it comes to the windfarms not yet built. Scotland accounts for around 70% of the project pipeline, compared to less than 10% for England. McNeal says the best and windiest sites can generate power even more cheaply than gas, a fuel often cited as a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately for McNeal, this potentially significant story is in danger of being lost in favour of headline-grabbing “admissions” that England is less windy than Scotland.
Carbon Brief 6th June 2016 read more »