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United Kingdom

Industry criticises government report -- Cost of renewables

A new government report is criticised by the wind industry for overstating the cost of increased levels of wind energy to the electricity system. The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) claims the report, by ILEX Energy Consulting and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) for the Department of Trade and Industry, presents an "unduly pessimistic" picture. The report, Quantifying the System Costs of Additional Renewables in 2020, says that increasing renewables from the current 10% UK target to 20% of demand will increase system costs by between £150 million and £400 million a year, depending on the technology and location of renewable energy plant. Extending renewables from 20% to 30% of demand would increase costs by a further £200 million to £500 million a year.

David Milborrow, adviser to the BWEA, takes issue with many of the report's assumptions and results, particularly the possible location of new wind plant and the failure to mention the findings of other studies which have produced less pessimistic results. The authors also ignore expected improvements in wind prediction techniques, which could substantially reduce balancing costs, he says, adding, "As always, the quality of the results depends on the accuracy of the input data."

Green electricity company Ecotricity also challenges the report. The company's Dale Vince says: "I find it quite incredible that this report questions the reliability of wind power when for years we have witnessed the vulnerability of coal and nuclear energy, which are expensive, non-sustainable and have significantly contributed to damaging the environment." Wind is a much cheaper option in the long run, he says. "The fact that the report mentions that the cheapest scenario -- increasing renewables contribution to 20% -- will cost about £150 million is farcical, considering that the nuclear industry has guzzled £50 billion of government money over the years."

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