19 May 2005 – A report from the UK government-backed Sustainable Development Commission has given its backing to the expansion of wind power production in the UK, in order to combat climate change.
The report maintains it is possible to meet the government’s target to have renewables provide ten per cent of the UK’s electricity by 2010.
If wind farms take off, it claims, that figure may rise to 20 per cent by 2020.
The report’s authors accept wind farms will alter the British landscape, but probably not as much as climate change would.
“Climate change will have a devastating impact unless urgent action is taken to boost the contribution of renewables, alongside energy efficiency measures. For this to happen, good decision-making is needed, and this requires reliable, up to date information, based on the best available scientific evidence. We believe wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix” said SDC chairman, Jonathon Porritt.
“We believe wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix, and hope this authoritative guide will ensure wind power is harnessed in the most responsible way to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced”.
The report says wind farms would take up 0.0001 per cent of British land to produce that amount of electricity.
In order to meet its Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, averaged over 2008-2012, the UK must look for “cleaner” sources of energy.
According to the report, wind is a prime candidate. The UK has the best and most geographically diverse wind resources in Europe, it says, more than enough to meet current renewable energy targets.
In addition, it is only modestly more expensive than “conventional” energy sources. Indeed, the report claims that as fossil fuel prices increase and wind turbines become cheaper to build, wind power may even become one of the cheapest forms of electricity over the next 15 years.
The issue of wind power has split the environmental lobby with some groups accepting that developments are necessary in order to reduce the use of fossil fuels while others regard the environmental impact of a large number of massive wind turbine structures as unacceptable.
Greenpeace has given its support in principle. “We don’t give blanket support for all wind farms, they have to be sensibly sited’ said Simon Clydesdale of Greenpeace.
The report says that although there is national support for wind farms, there is much local resistance. People feel they will spoil the landscape and there are also concerns they may kill birds.
“People do support wind energy when a survey is put in front of their nose but it’s a question of putting that into practice,” said Clydesdale.
He said 150 000 people a year were dying because of climate change impact, so people “have to go beyond their subjective visual concerns and look at the broader picture”.
The report recommends that extensive local consultation is carried out with each development and that local concerns should be addressed.
The Sustainable Development Commission is the UK Government’s independent advisory body on sustainable development.