Wind power ‘more resilient than fossil fuels’

Increasing wind power generation would make the UK's future energy supply more resilient to the fluctuating price of fossil fuels and cut costly importation, making energy prices more predictable.

So says a new report commissioned by trade body Renewable UK – The impact of wind energy on UK energy dependence and resilience – which looks ahead at how using more wind would serve the UK’s energy needs in 2030 and 2030.

It reveals that 56% of the UK’s gas supplies and 79% of coal was imported in 2013. Wind power reduced coal imports by an estimated 4.9 million tonnes and gas by 1.4 billion cubic metres, saving more than £579m in import costs. 

Onshore surety

RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “The costs for the entire life of a wind farm are known very early on, whereas the volatile price of fossil fuels can never be accurately predicted.

“Wind power is already helping us manage future price instability, and industry is confident that by 2020 onshore wind will be the cheapest form of new generation of any form of energy.”

The study, carried out by Cambridge Econometrics, ran two scenarios through National Grid’s Electricity Scenario Illustrator Model to estimate the potential costs of different generational mixes. One scenario replaced end-of life coal and nuclear plants with gas CCGT as the dominant technology; the other replaced them with both offshore and onshore wind.

Decreasing UK gas supplies would require increased imports in the gas scenario, costing an estimated £3.1bn in 2020 and £7.4bn in 2030. The wind scenario would require more investment in supporting infrastructure than the gas model, although this could be reduced by demand-side response and increased storage.

Insurance policy

The report concludes that, as the cost of wind is predictable, using a greater amount of it to generate electricity amounts to investing in an insurance premium against the uncertain cost of gas.

Commenting on the findings, Cambridge Econometrics director Phil Summerton said: “Investment into wind power acts as an insurance policy against uncertainty in future wholesale gas prices and could provide a degree of stability to future electricity prices.”

The report follows a Government statement last week insisting that wind power remains a ‘crucial’ element of the UK’s generation mix, off the back of UK wind power generation rising by 15% per cent in 2014 and wind contributing 14% of UK power in a record-breaking December.

Lucinda Dann

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