A think tank’s study that concludes natural gas and nuclear power are more cost-effective ways to tackle climate change than wind power has caused a row in the United Kingdom, with some media heralding the research while the country’s leading clean energy industry group has denounced it as “based on the work of anti-wind cranks.”
The study [PDF] from the social policy institute Civitas repeats a familiar charge of wind opponents – that because it ebbs and flows and requires fossil-fuel-based backup generating capability, any emissions benefits from wind are limited at best. “Wind power, backed by conventional gas-fired generation, can emit more CO2 than the most efficient gas turbines running alone,” the Civitas study said. Wind becomes even less attractive – because it becomes more expensive – when a cost is placed on the CO2 produced by the backup energy sources, Civitas said.
The Civitas report was authored by Ruth Lea, an economist who in 2009 wrote, “I believe that man-made global warming is a huge con, propelled by clever propagandists who don the green cloak of environmentalism to wreck freedoms and control people’s lives.” But the study’s scientific foundation is built on the work of Colin Gibson, who was director of the U.K.’s electric power transmission network in the 1990s, and Kees le Pair, a Dutch physicist.
For instance, Lea writes: “C. le Pair has recently shown that deploying wind turbines on ‘normal windy days’ in the Netherlands actually increased fuel (gas) consumption, rather than saving it, when compared to electricity generation with modern high-efficiency gas turbines. Ironically and paradoxically the use of wind farms therefore actually increased CO2 emissions, compared with using efficient gas-fired combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) at full power.”