Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables suggests that renewable energy technologies are not as expensive as critics claim, based on selective use of data from an International Energy Agency report (Letters, 15 November).
Mr Stuart is only doing his job, but readers should not be misled. The costs which count are those pertaining to Scotland, and here consumers pay extra via feed-in tariffs to support otherwise uneconomic wind turbines, while coal- and gas-fired stations sell cheaper electricity with no public subsidy.
Cost is not the only issue. We should not forget that, without conventional generation back-up, wind, wave, tidal and solar power are incapable of providing the secure and reliable energy supply consumers and industry have a right to expect. If the renewables lobby has hard data which proves otherwise, I would be delighted to see it.
Niall Stuart should note that – on the basis of the number of letters published against wind power, as opposed to those in favour – the vocal minority he refers to has in fact become a vocal majority.
Scottish Renewables director Niall Stuart is selective in his use of data. According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network’s global status report (REN21), in 2010 renewable energy accounted for 16.7 per cent of global energy consumption, compared with 80.6 per cent for fossil fuels.
However, about half that renewable consumption was traditional biomass, the global poor burning wood and animal waste with appalling health impacts. Discounting long-standing hydro, new renewables such as wind and solar accounted for 0.9 per cent of global consumption. So while Mr Stuart claims fossil fuels may attract six times the subsidy of renewables, fossil fuels generate 80 times as much energy. Per unit consumed, renewables seem to attract subsidy 13 times greater than fossil fuels.
Of course, what is often seen as subsidy is in fact oil-rich states depressing the local price of fuel to share sovereign wealth with their populace, and developing nations depressing the price of fuel to support farmers.
To be clear, the growth of new renewable energy has been driven by political will and involuntary consumer support. If we are genuinely interested in progressive low-cost, clean energy we need to deal in inconvenient truths measured in Joules and Watts, not creative accounting.
Colin R McInnes
Wiliamwood Park West