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United Kingdom

Think tank report slammed -- Pro-nuclear, anti wind

A report heavily critical of the government's policy to produce 20% of UK electricity from renewable energy by 2020 is the latest anti-wind publication to receive wide media coverage and to be seized upon as ammunition by wind's opponents. The unimaginatively titled "Tilting at Windmills" by economist David Simpson was published by Scottish policy think-tank the David Hume Institute. Simpson attacks the costs of wind power and the Renewables Obligation. He calls on government to take advantage of the planned 2005-06 review of renewables policy to reconsider the nuclear option.

The renewables industry and environmental groups dismiss Simpson's arguments. Jason Ormiston from Scottish Renewables dubs the report: "a one-sided diatribe masquerading as an authoritative academic study," in The Scotsman newspaper. Friends of the Earth Scotland brands the notion of reviving the nuclear program "environmental and economic madness".

From the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), David Milborrow says Simpson uses a mixture of supposition and selective references to argue the case for nuclear. The report ignores the mass of information available on the costs and performance of wind energy, he says, and it side-steps the more tricky question of quantifying nuclear generation costs.

Milborrow refutes Simpson's allegation that wind is unlikely to account for more than 20% of electricity generation on the grid because of the high costs of providing standby generating capacity if the wind blows too much or too little. "The Carbon Trust has recently released a report that reviews over 40 studies on this topic-and they reach the unanimous conclusion that the variability of wind power output is not a major problem for system operators," he says.

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