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The other factors

Should the thermal sources be required to pay for at least some of their external costs -- such as those of pollution and protecting oil supplies -- wind in comparison will start to look cheap. Further restrictions in Europe on the output of emissions from generation plant, coupled with a cap and trade system for control of carbon emissions, are on the way. Although the premiums on electricity cost from carbon trading will be small, they will probably be enough to tilt the balance firmly in favour of wind.

Another factor to be taken into account is that many wind installations on shore feed electricity into local distribution networks rather than the main transmission system. Numerous studies are in progress to put a price on the added value to an electricity network of local generation -- and wind power should end up being financially rewarded for its contribution to limiting the transmission losses that customers otherwise pay for.

Last, as the penetration of wind power into electricity systems increases, fluctuating wind output at some point will start adding extra costs to the far bigger overall bill for keeping power supply and consumer demand in balance. Though wind's contribution to that bill will only be small, it will have to bear its costs.

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