Reality intrudes

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has agreed to scale down its calculation for the amount of harmful carbon dioxide emission that can be eliminated by using wind turbines to generate electricity instead of burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

The move is a serious setback for the advocates of wind power, as it will be regarded as a concession that twice as many wind turbines as previously calculated will be needed to provide the same degree of reduction in Britain\’s carbon emissions.

A wind farm industry source admitted: "It\’s not ideal for us. It\’s the result of pressure by the anti-wind farm lobby."

For several years the BWEA – which lobbies on behalf of wind power firms – claimed that electricity from wind turbines \’displaces\’ 860 grams of carbon dioxide emission for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated.

However it has now halved that figure to 430 grams, following discussions with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The reason is that other forms of generation have become more emissions efficient. Thus the savings from this technology have fallen. Welcome though this is it\’s not going to make much difference. They\’re still grossly overstating the savings because they\’re not including the more conventionally powered back up systems that are required.

I\’m still puzzling over a comment left here months ago about that. I was asking why wind was a reasonable answer, given the need for that back up, and I was told that of course, the assumption was that that back up would itself, in time, become CO2 neutral. Eh? If we\’ve got such a technology, or we\’re likely to get one, then why not just build that instead of all the windmills?

But this is the point to me:

Nick Medic, spokesman for the BWEA, said: "Wind farms are still eliminating emissions. The fact is that fossil fuel burning power stations belch out CO2 and wind farms don\’t. That has not changed.

"The fact is we need to reduce carbon emissions, however you account for them. But there are people who just don\’t like wind farms and will use any argument against them."

No, it isn\’t "however you account for them". It\’s absolutely vital that we account for them properly. Firstly, of course we want to reduce emissions in the most cost effective manner and secondly, if reducing the emissions costs more than the damage the emissions do then there\’s a very good argument that we don\’t want to reduce them at all. For that would make all of us, both those alive now and those to come in the future, poorer than they need to be.

Accounting is at the very heart of the matter, not some frippery bolted on afterwards.

2 comments on “Reality intrudes

  1. …we want to reduce emissions in the most cost effective manner…

    May I ask your opinion on what the most cost-effective manner may be?

    Tim adds: Technological change driven by carbon tax I think. But note the “I think”.

  2. A windfarm is just a fairly inefficient and unreliable power station, which looks like it doesn’t cause any emissions, but did cost a whole load when it was being built, transported, erected, and commissioned.

    This is similar to viewing your lamb chops as independant wild mammals who were running around the countryside until they up and died of old age, just as Sainsburys were passing by.

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