Bob Ward tells us about wind power

Myth 1: that there is a requirement for gas-powered backup to counter the unreliability of wind power. “This is plainly untrue,\” said Bob Ward. “Only 1% of carbon savings are wiped out, because there are many ways of managing both demand and supply due to the intermittency of the wind.\” The report says: \”The cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated. There are several other ways of compensating for the variability, such as bulk storage of electricity, greater interconnection, and a more diversified mix of renewable sources, as well as measures to manage demand, like smart grids and improved load management.”

\”Manage demand\”.

Wind\’s just great as long as we can turn the lights out the wind isn\’t blowing. Or is blowing too hard.

Myth 2: that onshore wind is expensive. “We found that it is the cheapest of all low carbon forms of electricity generation,\” said Bob Ward.

It may be the cheapest form of renewable power (although I know some people with dams who would disagree) but it is still expensive. That\’s actually our problem Bob: renewables are expensive. If they were cheap we\’d all use them and we wouldn\’t have this climate change problem.

Myth 3: that using gas power generation is low carbon and will help us meet our climate commitments. “This is only true if we stop using gas in 2020,\” said Bob Ward, because at that point emissions need to drop further than relying on gas can permit.

This is abject twattery. How much climate mitigation we do as opposed to how much adaptation depends upon the cost of doing the mitigation. It\’s the cost of relying or not relying upon gas (or wind etc) that determines what we do, not anything else.

27 thoughts on “Bob Ward tells us about wind power”

  1. The Grantham Institute produces an “independent report”? And Bob Ward is the spokes-weasel to add credibility?

    It’s like saying that the ASI produces independent reports just because they aren’t part of a political party – they are both heavily political entities.

  2. Assuming all this climate bollocks is actually true, the Stern carbon tax adaptation rather than mitigation strategy doesn’t actually work. Will our lords and masters put the money aside to build future hurricane shelters and sea defences, or will they spend it on duck moats, first-class intercontinental fact-finding missions, and millions of other carbon-belching vote-buying activities.

  3. The actual report is quite reasonable.

    “Managing demand” for intra-day fluctuations in electricity generation is not a complete fantasy. There are uses for which the consumer often doesn’t much care exactly when he gets the electricity, so long as he gets it at some time. Eg refrigeration and charging car batteries. If there were a lot of electric cars, and they were plugged into an intelligent grid when not in use, they could form a distributed electricity storage system.

  4. Hmm.. not so sure I want to nip to visit friends in my electric car and come outside to find the battery doesn’t have sufficient charge for all I need. If I charge it to full, I may want to use the full charge before connecting to charging point again. How much charge could be allocated to a national storage system? 5%? 10%? 20%? And how to get the charge out when I’m not connected to the charger…

  5. Tim, good as you are at classical liberal economics, your attempts to argue against wind power are a source of delight. As the gentleman above me said, demand management means shifting demand that can be time-shifted – i.e. charging electric cars, and paying supermarkets to shut down their refrigerators for non-time-critical periods. The latter is something which is already happening, and indeed the private sector is delivering as part of National Grid’s STORR:

    The report makes the point that wind is the cheapest form of low-carbon energy and will be the cheapest form of energy overall by 2030. I know you know this Tim, because you’re planning a business venture based on it.

    On the third point, although he couches it in scientific terms, the point holds in economic terms too – because the cost of abating emissions isn’t necessarily the same at every point in time. Indeed, the Social Cost of Carbon rises every year to reflect the increasing marginal abatement costs. The Stern Review explicitly states this.

  6. Wind power is far too dilute, both in space and in time, to be any bloody use. That’s why people started looking at wave power forty years ago.

  7. “demand management means shifting demand that can be time-shifted – i.e. charging electric cars, and paying supermarkets to shut down their refrigerators for non-time-critical periods.”

    In a wind powered system that has to be one of the stupidest concepts I’ve ever heard. You can time shift if you can predict both demand & supply. By definition, with wind, you can’t predict supply.
    “… supermarkets to shut down their refrigerators for non-time-critical periods.”
    For the point of sale freezer units that’d be around 12 hours provided the displays were sealed & no goods sold. For the freezer stores maybe 24 hours. But. Like most things the total energy use over time will be constant. Those freezer cabinets have to be cooled back down. That takes the energy that wasn’t being used in the time critical period. As we’ve now shifted our available shopping hours to the early hours of the morning our energy use at those times is higher because we’re also lighting & heating the store, running the tills & all the rest of it.
    Wonder how long a calm period would have to last before the cumulative energy deficit would crash the entire system? You can only time shift if there’s somewhere to time shift to.

  8. @ Adam Bell ‘…paying supermarkets to shut down their refrigerators for non-time-critical periods’

    Would extra energy not be required to re-cool the cabinets back down from their now-higher temperatures? And if so, wouldn’t this increase demand in the non-peak times, perhaps to the point where we started getting power outages?

  9. I’ve no doubt that electric cars would be competitive if they drove perpetually down hill.
    Hmm, even I can see a problem with this. They’d all be at the South Pole.
    So, let’s harness the Coriolis effect and get them to drive in circles. Much better.
    The fact that the car doesn’t go where you want it to go we call “demand management”.

  10. “They’d all be at the South Pole.”

    Monsieur, vous avez sûrement dire l’équateur?

  11. The report makes the point that wind is the cheapest form of low-carbon energy and will be the cheapest form of energy overall by 2030

    I know at least one major energy company who doesn’t believe this. In March, I was at a seminar where their head of strategy was asked why they were not investing in wind power when they were pumping billions into solar and biomass. She replied that they did not see that there would be any significant technological progress in wind power, no major leap forward, which would make wind power one day viable. Straight from the horse’s mouth, it was.

  12. BiS
    Sorry, got it wrong again.
    Because of the curvature of the earth (the flattened orange) only some of them would be at the S Pole, most of them at the North.

  13. the flattened orange

    Oblate spheroid.

    Anyway, surely the lowest convenient gravitational potential energy point is the local sublittoral shelf. Water resistance then preventing most of them migrating to the hadal? And the electrics being shot to pieces quite quickly, of course.

  14. @Tim Newman – this is certainly the view at a major energy company I know (might be the same one, might not). A friend of mine was tasked with going back over all of the raw published science and working out what’s viable and what’s not. She took a year and reported back that
    a) wind’s never going to work, ever, because it’s reliant on long-established technology of turbine blades and generator sets that are a long, long way down the cost curve and not getting cheaper that much faster
    b) solar PV will probably be cost competitive with hydrocarbons within a decade assuming that unit costs keep falling the same reasonably predictable way that they have before (although all it would take is one bright idea or lucky break in a materials science lab somewhere to bring costs down even more quickly) and
    c) the only one that works right now is biomass, specifically genetically-engineered cellulosic fermenters that can brew pretty much any old farm/garden waste into liquid fuel. The key is getting them to brew it into something other than ethanol which is corrosive, dangerously flammable and volatile and doesn’t actually have that good an energy density

  15. I actually drive an electric car (from time to time). I have manufacturers for the car industry as customers and they think it is cool when I turn up in it.

    I run it through a car-sharing company. It’s great, €10/month fee and €9 per hour when I use it fuel included. What’s not to like? Well, you can’t go far. You spend the return journey shi**ing bricks ‘cos you might not get back and it corners like a drunk on skates, but hey…

    Also, if I use it for 3 hours it has to be plugged in for 4 to recharge. So I am paying double the price for using it, or as it is a start-up between a government agency and Repsol I suspect that you lot (Spanish taxpayers) are paying and that it doesn’t make a profit.

    Wind power and the real data make me believe that it is little short of a green masturbatory fantasy. I do not believe in managing demand as an answer. It leads to brown outs and black outs (not nice for certain equipment, my washing machine for example) and is going to have a whole load of undesired consequences for the consumer. The back-up cost, the transfer of demand cost are not easy to calculate.

    All instead of ensuring adequate supply.

    When you don’t believe in AGW it is really difficult to swallow.

  16. The wishful thinking and fact-torturing among the greens never ceases to amaze. Once you think no one could possibly take them seriously anymore, they issue reports with depraved levels of nonsense in them and talk about them as if they are totally the solution, man, this time for sure…

  17. The re-cooling costs will be lower than maintaining a constant lower temperature because the rate of energy loss is proportional to the difference (or perhaps the square of the difference, can’t remember) of the difference in temperature between the cooler and the outside world.

    Spending some time at a higher temperature thus results in a lower overall energy cost. The biggest question is what this constant changing of temperature does for the quality (i.e. length of time you can store) the food. Constantly changing the temperature of food is unlikely to have a beneficial effect on said food.

  18. It is a LIE that windpower is the cheapest form of low-carbon electricity. Even their phoney numbers show that nuclear is cheaper and we all know that hydro is cheaper still (why do aluminium smelters build their own hydro station – because it saves money!)
    @ Adam Bell – I don’t want to buy food from a supermarket that turns off its refrigeration when the wind drops. You can keep your food poisoning.

  19. And the electrics being shot to pieces quite quickly, of course.

    Oh, sure, you go ahead and deny we’ll be driving Q Branch Lotus Esprit submarine sports cars.

  20. All the chaps seemingly appalled by the notion that refrigeration can be used for demand-side management should click on the link I provided, where they’ll see that despite their protestations it’s already happening.

  21. This site usually shows great faith in market forces, so I’m mildly surprised that commentators here are showing such a lack of imagination in thinking about how demand management might work.

    I propose an electricity tariff which guarantees an average price each week but allows the prevailing price to change every minute, the current price to be broadcast on the internet. Devices could have control units which vary their consumption according to the price. The owner of an electric car could specify each night whether he wanted his car to be fully charged by a particular time, or what minimum charge level would be acceptable to him. The owner of a freezer could say whether he needs to have the unit going full blast because he’s just put something in it he wants to freeze quickly, or whether he’s not bothered what temperature it runs at for the time being so long as it keeps his stuff frozen.

    Computer strategies for related problems of automated execution are well developed in the financial markets.

  22. Shale Gas anyone ? Onshore and Offshore reserves estimated at 1200+ Trillion cubic ft. Bearing in mind we only use 3.5 Trillion cubic ft per annum in the UK, I’d say Shale will piss all over the green wind, biomass, solar nonsense.

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