Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Wind in the Windows

The Federal Government of Canada is seeking to increase investment in wind generated energy at exactly the same time as the Government of Germany - the world’s largest producer of wind power – is questioning its investment in wind farms. The reason: it is inefficient way of producing energy, it is costly and has but a marginal impact on green house gas emissions.

The German study, issued by its energy agency, makes clear that it costs between €41 - €77 (between $67 and $126) to reduce carbon emissions by one tonne. A similar study in the UK by the audit commission suggests that it costs between ₤70 and ₤140 ($166 - $333) to meet the one tonne challenge. The difference in cost between the two countries is due to economies of scale – Germany produces more wind power than the US, Spain and Denmark put together – the worlds other major producers of wind power. Close to 10% of Germany’s energy supply comes from renewable sources.

In Britain, where the Blair government is investing over $2bn in wind turbines, more than 100 national and local groups, led by some of Britain's most prominent environmentalists, including David Bellamy, Sir Crispin Tickell, and James Lovelock, have argued that wind power is inefficient, destroys the countryside and makes little difference to Britain's soaring carbon emissions.

The German study also suggests a more productive alternative to wind power – better home insulation and construction. Incentives to insulate and make energy efficient older homes are a quicker way to reduce emissions, lower energy costs and support the Kyoto protocol.

Given that it costs between three and five times as much to generate wind power over conventional power; that turbines destroy the countryside as anyone who has been on the coastal roads in Spain or the Yorkshire moors can attest; and that their environmental impact is marginal, we should not make significant investments in wind but should look for strong incentives for energy efficiency in homes while exploring other sources of renewable energy.

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