Wind offers only sustainable energy future says commission

Wind power must be made to work to tackle the problems of climate change and energy security, a report by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has said.

The report, prepared ahead of a review of energy policy in the UK and set against a backdrop of government targets to increase use of renewables and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, says that wind: "offers the only truly sustainable and secure option for generating electricity over the long term."

Johnathon Porritt, Chairman of the SDC, the government's main advisors on sustainable development, said: "Climate change will have a devastating impact unless urgent action is taken to boost the contribution of renewables, alongside energy efficiency measures. We believe wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix, and hope that this authoritative guide will ensure wind power is harnessed in the most responsible way to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced."

The study asserts that:

  • The UK has the best and most geographically diverse wind resources in Europe, more than enough to meet current renewable targets.
  • Technological advances mean there are no limits to the amount of wind capacity that can be added to an electricity system.
  • Planners and decision-makers should involve communities in effective public consultation from an early stage, and their concerns must be addressed as solutions exist to many such issues.
  • Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy and increasing supply to 20% by 2020 would present only a very modest increase in cost for consumers that compares well with other sources.
  • Wind power will displace fossil fuelled plant and there is no need for dedicated back-up plant to cope with wind.
  • Wind farms are most successful where good working partnerships are formed.

    The SDC said they had focused on the onshore sector as this is where decision making is primarily made at a local level and where debate is strongest. The offshore sector should be dealt with separately as offshore planning decisions are made centrally rather than locally.

    The recommendations were welcomed by those in the renewable sector. Marcus Rand, Chief Executive of the BWEA said: "With a review of energy policy around the corner, this report has come at a critical time. The Commission's positive conclusions will come as no surprise to the three quarters of the UK public that believe wind energy is necessary to meet our current and future energy needs."

    Most importantly, he said, the report dismisses claims that intermittency is a major barrier to large scale deployment of wind power. "The report confirms that significant amounts of wind capacity can be integrated onto our electricity network without the need for dedicated back-up and without compromising the nation's security of supply."

    There are currently 18 wind projects under construction and due for commissioning by the end of 2005, including the third of the UK's large-scale offshore wind farms off the coast of Kent.

    By David Hopkins

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