Onshore wind cheaper than fossil fuels by 2016

» By | Published 13 Jun 2012

Some  of the UK’s media is quick to publish anti-wind power stories, so it came as a surprise when this week British papers picked up on a new study by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change on onshore wind energy.

The paper entitled, ‘the case for and against onshore wind energy in the UK,’ says that onshore wind energy will be as cheap as fossil fuels by 2016 – just four years away.

“A key attraction of onshore wind power over other low-carbon forms of electricity generation is cost. In terms of levelised costs – an economic measure which takes into account all of the costs of a technology over its lifetime – onshore wind is currently the cheapest renewable technology in the UK. It is expected that it could become fully competitive with older conventional sources of energy as early as 2016,” the paper said.

The paper also debunks one commonly cited wind energy myth – that wind energy is ‘too intermittent’. The challenges posed by the intermittency of wind energy are often exaggerated, it said. Greater interconnection, smart grids and improved load management are some ways of compensating for the variability, it noted.

Some EU countries cover a large percentage of their electricity demand with wind energy, further scotching the myth that wind power is too intermittent. In Denmark, wind power provides over one-quarter of electricity, while in both Spain and Portugal the level of wind-powered electricity is 16%.

The report underlined  the “unequivocal need” to decarbonise the UK’s electricity sector.  Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, “the UK is committed to cutting its annual greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2025, compared with 1990 levels. This is not achievable without a power sector that is virtually carbon-free by the middle to late 2020s,” it said, adding that the 2008 Act was passed near-unanimously by Parliament, and so were the first four carbon budgets legislated under it.

However, the report notes that onshore wind “raises potential local environmental issues particularly through the visual impact of turbines.” A way of addressing this would be to ensure “appropriate benefit-sharing, or compensation, in areas where local impacts are acceptable,” it suggested.

Every member of the UK parliament is set to receive this report today.