The policy on which Britain’s national energy strategy is centred is a ludicrously expensive, self-defeating joke, says Christopher Booker.
In the week when it was reported that 20 per cent of the EU’s fast-soaring, trillion-euro budget may soon be spent on “fighting climate change”, it was timely that Britain’s energy companies should have met with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to raise one of the best-hidden secrets of our Government’s obsession with wind power.
Centrica and other energy companies last week told DECC that, if Britain is to spend £100 billion on building thousands of wind turbines, it will require the building of 17 new gas-fired power stations simply to provide back-up for all those times when the wind drops and the windmills produce even less power than usual.
We will thus be landed in the ludicrous position of having to spend an additional £10 billion on those 17 dedicated power stations, which will be kept running on “spinning reserve”, 24 hours a day, just to make up for the fundamental problem of wind turbines. This is that their power continually fluctuates anywhere between full capacity to zero (where it often stood last winter, when national electricity demand was at a peak). So unless back-up power is instantly available to match any shortfall, the lights will go out.
Two things make this even more absurd. One, as the energy companies pointed out to DECC, is that it will be amazingly costly and wildly uneconomical, since the dedicated power plants will often have to run at a low rate of efficiency, burning gas but not producing electricity. This will add billions more to our fuel bills for no practical purpose. The other absurdity, as recent detailed studies have confirmed, is that gas-fired power stations running on “spinning reserve” chuck out much more CO2 than when they are running at full efficiency – thus negating any savings in CO2 emissions supposedly achieved by the windmills themselves.
Is there no longer anyone around at DECC who is familiar with these very basic practical points? The policy on which our national energy strategy is now centred is a ludicrously expensive, self-defeating joke, which will achieve no benefits whatever – even if you are among the diminishing number of people who still believe that man-made CO2 is causing catastrophic climate change.
Unfortunately, among those still in the grip of these fantasies are David Cameron, Chris Huhne and the EU, who between them are now responsible for Britain’s energy policy. I’m afraid we are in the hands of very dangerous children, upon whose deranged wishful thinking a large part of our country’s future depends.