Why wind power is worth the risk

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I AM in agreement with those who argue that we should ­respect the views of experts on the efficacy of different technologies for generating energy.

Of course, we should compare costs and benefits and make informed decisions. The Grantham Research Institute (The case for and against onshore wind energy in the UK, June 2012) provides a dispassionate expert review of the available expert evidence, including issues of intermittency and storage; it draws robust conclusions in favour of this form of energy generation.

In a nutshell, costs for gas are expected to increase and costs for wind to decrease with wind “fully competitive” with “older conventional sources of energy” as early as 2016 (it is already producing cheaper energy than coal and gas in Australia).

All this might explain why places such as China, America, India, and Germany are investing so heavily in this, inexhaustible, clean, secure source of energy. We have a plentiful supply of it.

Councillor Cameron Rose (Letters, 7 and 9 May) suggests the threat from climate change is overstated. I certainly understand it is not absolutely quantifiable down to the last blade of grass. I am unclear as to how big a threat he needs before he thinks we should act.

I would also be interested to know who the “brilliant scientists” are who continue to disagree with the overwhelming consensus on climate change to whom Councillor Rose alludes.

The sensible view, I would suggest, is that we should not fiddle on the off chance that 97 per cent of the experts have got it wrong; I wouldn’t take that risk over the health of my children nor would I take it over the health of their planet.

Tom Ballantine

Dalkeith Street

Edinburgh

JOSS Blamire of the wind energy lobby group Scottish Renewables (Letters, 8 May) presents some rather misleading figures for carbon dioxide remission from Scottish wind turbines. He also fails to put his claims in context.

His figure of 6.3Mte (million tonnes) annual remission from Scotland’s 2011 total renewable electricity generation would be a plausible, if slightly optimistic, claim if each unit of renewable generation simply replaced one unit of conventional generation. It is now well established that this does not happen in the case of intermittent wind power, as fossil capacity must be kept running at low efficiency to provide a “spinning ­reserve”, or started up at even lower efficiency in anticipation of demand.

A recent study of the Irish grid suggests that a more ­realistic estimate for wind is about 60 per cent of the level which the wind industry ­usually claims.

This would put the annual remission for wind generation (which is just over half total renewables) at about 2 Mte, less than a third of Mr Blamire’s figure.

Put in a global context, this is less than two hours worth of China’s more than 10,000Mte per year of CO2 emissions.

Furthermore, the cost of this to electricity consumers in the form of ROC subsidies to energy companies has been around £350 million.

Considered as a carbon tax, this comes to about £174 per tonne of CO2. The EU carbon price is currently about £3.20 per tonne. So the cost is nearly 60 times what the market considers it to be worth.

In short, Scotland’s 1,400 or so wind turbines are having negligible effect on global CO2 emissions (whether or not these are in fact causing climate change) and come at an absurd cost to electricity consumers.

(Prof) Jack Ponton Scientific Alliance Scotland

North St David Street

Edinburgh