September 27, 2012

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Baseloads. Traditionally always the stick used to beat the wind industry. But as EWEA announces that Europe has now surpassed 100GW of operating wind capacity, this argument against the technology needs further scrutiny.

And in particular, an assessment of whether it’s actually as important a factor in energy capacity as is traditionally made out.

Two pieces of editorial slugged it out over the issue earlier in the week. Christopher Booker, writing in Saturday’s Telegraph, and a Guardian blog posting from climate change authors Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas.

The latter refuted claims by the former that wind energy will ‘require fossil-fuel power plants to run much of the time very inefficiently and expensively’, using recently published data from the National Grid.

And as a DECC announcement highlighted yesterday, energy production from renewable sources, notably offshore wind, continues to rise, increasing its overall share in the energy mix.

The same announcement also demonstrated that ‘final’ energy consumption fluctuates significantly, dictated mostly by weather conditions.

The idea, therefore, that base demand will continue to rise exponentially doesn’t necessarily always hold water.

But without wishing to become diverted by additional debates surrounding carbon reduction, it seems that to become obsessed by ‘baseloads’ is to miss the point.

And this is without even beginning to explore demand side management policies. This is 50% of the energy debate that is rarely examined, most likely because of craven political attitudes to forcing businesses and domestic users to reduce their energy use.

It will take time before renewable technology can prove its case for an increased share in the energy mix, and it will have to do so in conjunction with other policies that encourage future generations to think more carefully about the way in which they use energy.

But in the long-term, inexorable data, such as that released earlier this week by National Grid, will eventually prove the case for wind beyond doubt.

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