Investing in wind energy makes absolute economic sense.
Europe’s ageing power plants need replacing. It makes economic sense to replace a growing proportion of those conventional power plants with wind energy.
This is because wind energy does the following:
- Creates jobs and economic growth in Europe. 238,000 people worked in EU wind energy in 2010.
- Reduces the cost of importing fossil fuels. Wind energy avoided €5.71 billion of fuel costs in 2010.
- Reduces the risks of Europe being dependent on other countries for its energy.
- Costs no more – and soon less – than conventional power sources. Today, production cost of a wind farm on land is broadly cost competitive with building a new coal or gas power station and the electricity costs are half of those from a new nuclear power plant. And that is in a situation in which some of the environmental and health costs of extracting and burning fossil fuels are not covered by power producers and therefore not included in the price of energy.
- Reduces the risk associated with rising fossil fuel prices.
Europeans take climate change seriously, as today’s Eurobarometer survey results show. Nearly nine in ten of us think it is a serious problem.
One of the major causes of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions. The EU has pledged to reduce its emissions by 80-95% by 2050. To get there, we will need a zero carbon power sector by 2050 – that means emissions-free electricity.
Last week an article was published in the Financial Times exploring the potential threat Chinese wind power technology poses to the European wind power industry. The article (published 29 August) points out that Chinese turbine manufacturers are now among the world’s top 10 turbine makers and that China is putting up wind turbines at the rate of one turbine per hour. And it’s not just the Chinese wind power sector that is expanding on the global stage, but South Korea, Japan and others.
Recently I wrote a letter to the Financial Times (published 16 May) on the costs of nuclear power compared to renewable technologies. My purpose in writing was to correct a statement which Steve Radley, Director of Policy at EEF (a UK manufacturers organisation), made in a letter published in the Financial Times 11 May.
In it Radley claimed that “most renewable energy technologies are likely to remain considerably more expensive than alternative forms of low-carbon generation such as nuclear”. This is misleading because – although nuclear may or may not be cheaper than some less developed renewable energy sources – wind accounts for over 70% of renewable energy capacity installed in Europe in the last decade.
I am just returning from Abu Dhabi where negotiations on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on renewable energy – the most comprehensive review of the sector written by the world’s leading experts on energy and climate science – have drawn to a close.
While the negotiations were long and arduous, the message I take home is clear: With renewables, the world will never run out of energy. In fact the total potential for renewables is “substantially higher than both the current and projected future global energy demand,” according to the report.