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Renewables gravy train can’t clatter on

IT IS only to be expected that representatives of the wind industry such as Andy Drane (Friends of The Scotsman, 8 June) should be concerned by the likely derailment of the onshore wind subsidy “gravy train”, but the arguments he advances for its continuation are spurious.

Firstly on costs, onshore wind’s current renewables obligation payments make its cost on the grid slightly greater than the strike price for Hinkley C. However, this is only about half the cost which ends up on consumers’ bills, as we must also pay for the additional grid infrastructure to bring power from remote wind sites and the additional costs of gas back-up and stand-by generation for when the wind is not blowing, as on the morning of last Thursday, 4 June, when the UK’s wind turbines were operating at less than 5 per cent of their capacity. Intermittency of supply is fundamentally an economic issue.

Hinkley will incur none of these costs as it would be on an existing site with good grid connections and should generate reliably 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Furthermore, the strike price does account for the legacy issue of decommissioning as the operator will be required to make payments to the Funded Decommissioning Programme to cover this.

Secondly in the “wider context” the increasing proportion of intermittent wind generation, its subsidies and the priority given to it on the grid are a major, probably the major, cause of our looming electricity supply crisis.

Wind is so profitable for developers that there has been no investment in new gas or coal generation. On the contrary, we are seeing the premature closure of Longannet for whose reliable 2.4 gigawatts no number of wind ­turbines can substitute.

(Prof) Jack Ponton

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The Scientific Alliance is pleased to publish and analyis of the intermittency of UK wind energy generation for 2013-14 by Derek Partington