SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 14.9.08
1. (Leader) Wind farms, hot air and spin
As we report today, an investigation by the Renewable Energy Foundation casts doubt on the idea that wind turbines are the solution to the problem of how to generate Britain's electricity in a reliable but "clean" way.
That a substantial portion of Britain's energy needs can be generated by wind turbines is now the received wisdom. So much so, indeed, that in order to ensure that wind turbines are built, the Government - which is to say, every taxpayer - subsidises the cost of the electricity that wind turbines produce to the tune of almost 100 per cent.
There is, however, one major problem with wind power: wind. Because the wind does not blow reliably or constantly, there are inevitably long periods when it is not strong enough to generate electricity. It means that wind turbines cannot solve Britain's energy needs, for there is no way to store the electricity produced when high winds are blowing so that it can be used when they are not.
Christopher Booker has been pointing this out in his column in The Sunday Telegraph for years.
His refusal to believe in the fads and fashions of environmentalism has often turned out to be correct. His conviction that "biofuels" would fail to provide an alternative to traditional transport fuels has been vindicated: the only significant effect of the cultivation of biofuels has been increased hunger in the developing world.
Mr Booker now predicts that the decision to subsidise wind power "will one day be looked back on as having been one of the most incomprehensible blunders of our age". Whether or not that prediction is fulfilled, he is surely right to point out that we face an enormous energy shortfall, which wind power cannot fill.
At the moment, nuclear energy is the most realistic option for meeting our long-term energy needs. The sooner new nuclear power stations are built, the better.
2. Climate change chicanery
By Christopher Booker
Recent events have seen the scare campaign over global warming descend to the level of a Monty Python sketch.
Much publicity was given, for instance, to Lewis Gordon Pugh, who set out to paddle a kayak to the Pole to demonstrate the vanishing of the Arctic ice. At 80.5 degrees north, still 600 miles short of his goal, he met with ice so thick that he and his fossil-fuelled support ship had to turn back.
But this did not prevent him receiving a congratulatory call from Gordon Brown, nor boasting that he had travelled "further north than anyone has kayaked so far".
It took the admirable Watts Up With That blog, run by the American meteorologist Anthony Watts, to point out that in 1893 the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen found the Arctic so ice-free that he was able to kayak above 82 degrees north, 100 miles nearer the Pole than our hapless campaigner against "unprecedented global warming".
Then there was the much-publicised speech to Compassion in World Farming by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pleading for people to give up meat, on the grounds that the digestive methane given off by cattle contributes more to greenhouse gases than all the world's transport.
Although hailed by the BBC as "the UN's top climate scientist", Dr Pachauri, who holds PhDs in economics and engineering, is nothing of the kind, but just an apparatchik.
A vegetarian Hindu, Dr Pachauri not only used highly tendentious figures to promote his cause but said nothing about the contribution made to global warming by India's 400 million sacred cows, which presumably would still be free to vent wind even if the rest of humanity is converted to eating veggieburgers.
There has also been an acclaimed new paper by Michael Mann, the creator of the iconic "hockey stick" graph, purporting to show that the world has recently become hotter than at any time in recorded history, eliminating all the wealth of evidence to show that temperatures were higher in the Mediaeval Warm Period than today.
After being used obsessively by the IPCC's 2001 report to promote the cause, the "hockey stick" was comprehensively discredited, not least by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian computer analyst, who showed that Mann had built into his computer programme an algorithm (or "al-gore-ithm") which would produce the hockey stick shape even if the data fed in was just "random noise".
Two weeks ago Dr Mann published a new study, claiming to have used 1,209 new historic "temperature proxies" to show that his original graph was essentially correct after all. This was faithfully reported by the media as further confirmation that we live in a time of unprecedented warming. Steve McIntyre immediately got to work and, supported by expert readers on his Climate Audit website, shredded Mann's new version as mercilessly as he had the original.
He again showed how selective Mann had been in his new data, excluding anything which confirmed the Mediaeval Warming and concentrating on that showing temperatures recently rising to record levels.
Finnish experts pointed out that, where Mann placed emphasis on the evidence of sediments from Finnish lakes, there were particular reasons why these should have shown rising temperatures in recent years, such as expanding towns on their shores. McIntyre even discovered a part of Mann's programme akin to a disguised version of his earlier algorithm, which he now calls "Mannomatics".
But Mann's new study will surely be used to push the warmist party line in the run-up to the IPCC international conference in Copenhagen next year to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, temperatures continue to drop. The latest Nasa satellite readings on global temperatures from the University of Alabama, one of four officially recognised sources of temperature data, show that August was the fourth month this year when temperatures fell below their 30-year average, ie since satellite records began. The US National Climatic Data Center showsis showing that last month in the USA was only the 39th warmest since records began 113 years ago.
It is high time, however, that we took all this chicanery and wishful thinking seriously - as was evidenced in Maidstone Crown Court last Wednesday, by the acquittal of six Greenpeace campaigners tried for criminal damage to Kingsnorth power station.
They were attempting to stop a new coal-fired power station being built, to produce 1,600 megawatts of electricity (two and a half times as much as is generated by all the 2,300 wind turbines so far built in Britain).
As gleefully reported on the front page of The Independent, and at length by other promoters of warming alarmism such as the BBC and The Guardian, the jury agreed that the damage they had perpetrated was lawfully justified - because the damage done by the new power station, in raising global sea levels and contributing to the extinction of "a million species", would be far worse.
The court was swayed to this remarkable verdict by the evidence of two "expert witnesses" for the defence: Zac Goldsmith, one of David Cameron's envrionmental policy advisers and a prospective Conservative MP, and James Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Dr Hansen, who has been the world's leading global warming campaigner for 20 years (along with his ally Al Gore), claimed that the proposed Kingsnorth power station alone would be responsible for the extinction of "400 species".
It is extraordinary that two such partisan witnesses were accepted by the court in this role, since the rules, as defined by Mr Justice Cresswell in 1993, insist that the function of an "expert witness" is only to give "objective evidence". He must not be an "advocate" for one side or the other on any issue on which experts are divided.
This should have ruled Dr Hansen out at once. Question marks are raised over his institute's temperature data. Last year he was forced by Steve McIntyre to revise his figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as Hansen claimed, but the 1930s. He has also campaigned tirelessly for the scrapping of all coal-fired power stations.
Yet we are critically dependent on coal-generated power: it supplies 35 per cent of Britain's needs and 50 per cent of America's. Thanks to EU rules, we will be forced to close six coal-fired power stations before long, and without new ones, such as that proposed for Kingsnorth, our economy will judder to a halt.
David Cameron could well be prime minister by then. That one of his closest advisers believes that criminal damage is justified to stop coal-fired power plants being built is just as alarming as that the British courts now seem to agree with him.
3. Wind farms fail to deliver value for money, report claims
Wind farms are failing to deliver value for money and distorting the development of other renewable energy sources, a report claims.
By Patrick Sawyer
Excessive subsidies make them an expensive and inefficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a study by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) think-tank says.
The report comes amid mounting disquiet over the number of wind farms planned for Britain.
Energy companies want to erect more than 3,000 turbines over the next five years, leading to fears that hundreds of acres of rural landscape will be blighted.
Critics insist that wind energy is too inefficient to replace the creaking network of fossil fuel power stations. Even with modern turbines, wind farms are unable to operate at full capacity because of the unreliable nature of Britain's wind.
The industry admits that for up to 30 per cent of the time, turbines are idle because wind speeds are either too low to turn the blades, or too high, risking damage to the machines.
Without any suitable method of storing the excess power produced when winds are blowing but electricity use is low, many turbines also have to be turned off for fear of overloading the grid.
The report says that wind farms are unprofitable and rely on hefty subsidies that ultimately come from consumers in the form of rising energy prices. This cost comes on top of increases in gas and electricity prices caused by the high price of oil. They risk leaving the poorest members of society struggling to heat their homes.
The report, written by John Constable, of REF, and Robert Barfoot, the chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, says that the subsidy scheme is encouraging energy firms to build as many wind farms as possible because it is more profitable than investing in other more expensive forms of renewable technology, such as wave power.
They say: "The market for renewable energy is an artificial one created and maintained by government legislation. The question is whether this consumer-derived money is well spent. It is worth noting that the excessive subsidy offered to onshore wind development has drawn developers even to sites where the wind resource is very weak and the environmental impact severe."
Backed by large subsidies, companies have put in planning applications for 235 wind farms. The plans would see 3,189 turbines, many more than 400ft tall, installed by 2013. At present, there are 176 wind farms operating 2,033 turbines onshore and at sea, providing power for the equivalent of 1.42 million homes.
In 2006-07 more than £217 million was paid to energy firms under the subsidy scheme, known as the Renewables Obligation. Under the scheme, energy companies must obtain a proportion of their power from renewable sources, 6.7 per cent at present rising to 15 per cent by 2015. Those that fail to meet these targets pay a fine that is then shared between all the companies that have obtained energy from "green" sources. For every megawatt of green energy they sell, a company receives about £50 at present.
The Renewable Energy Foundation says that consumers ultimately end up funding the subsidies because energy firms that pay fines pass the costs on to customers.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England, which campaigns against the building of wind farms, attacked the rapid growth in the number being constructed.
A CPRE spokesman said: "There is a role for wind energy in providing electricity in the UK, but its intermittency and major visual impact limit the potential contribution of onshore turbines."
Other critics claim that wind farms pose a risk to wildlife such as birds and bats.
A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association, which represents the wind power industry, defended the Renewable Obligation payments, claiming that they were necessary to help provide energy security. He said: "The question is whether we want to pay moderately higher prices to secure a secure and clean domestic energy source, or do we want to be dependent on imported fossil fuels?"
Critics have estimated that by 2020 the cost of the Renewables Obligation could rise to more than £3 billion.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is reassessing the Renewables Obligation scheme. Proposed changes could mean that bands are introduced for different sources of renewable energy.
EUREFERENDUM Blog 14.9.08
Can it last?
On the back of the BBC having a go at subsidy wind farms, we now have The Sunday Telegraph joining the battle.
This paper is retailing a report from the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) which asserts that wind is failing to deliver value for money and distorting the development of other renewable energy sources. Furthermore, excessive subsidies make them an expensive and inefficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report is actually written by John Constable, of REF, and Robert Barfoot, the chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. And even this has a greenie tinge as they say the subsidy scheme is encouraging energy firms to build as many wind farms as possible because it is more profitable than investing in other more expensive forms of renewable technology, such as wave power.
Actually, the main problem is that the generosity of the subsidy scheme is diverting cash from investment in longer-term schemes such as nuclear, and also driving generators to invest in increasingly expensive gas, this being the most suitable back-up for wind.
Nevertheless, the report authors say: "The market for renewable energy is an artificial one created and maintained by government legislation. The question is whether this consumer-derived money is well spent. It is worth noting that the excessive subsidy offered to onshore wind development has drawn developers even to sites where the wind resource is very weak and the environmental impact severe."
As it stands, there are 176 wind farms operating 2,033 turbines onshore and at sea, earning approximately £223 million in subsidies. In addition, there are another 235 wind farms in the planning stage which would see 3,189 turbines, many more than 400ft tall, installed by 2013. By 2020, with 25GW installed, the subsidy could reach £6 billion a year.
As an example of the way the rip-off works, pictured (on that blog! -cs] is one of the existing subsidy wind farms ? 23 x 400 KW turbines at Ovenden Moor, on the bleak flanks of the Pennines just outside Halifax. Built in 1993 at the cost of £10 million with the aid of an EU grant of £1.3 million (approx), last year the installation earned for its owners, E.on, a cool £1,004,850 in Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) subsidy, recovered by a surcharge on electricity bills.
This is an installation rated at 9.2 MW, theoretically capable of producing 80,592 MWh but, with a load factor of only 27.71 percent, it actually produced 22,330 MWh. At today's inflated wholesale price of £85.58 MWh for electricity, that output would earn £1.9 million in sales, potentially earning the installation just short of £3 million a year when the ROC subsidy is added. For an investment of less than £9 million, this is an extremely attractive rate of return and it is thus easy to see why generators are piling into wind.
Unsurprisingly The Sunday Telegraph also gives space to Booker for a comment piece, where he calls wind farms, "One of the great deceptions of our time".
Gradually, the message is beginning to sink in. With subsidy wind farms already growing in unpopularity, people are now waking up to the gigantic scale of the rip-off being perpetrated. As more and more people begin to understand this, it should only be a matter of time before the whole programme crashes and burns.
But, there is one minor problem ... wind energy is an EU-supported obsession. To stop the scam, we have to confront the EU. Is there a politician brave enough to do this?
Posted by Richard North