As energy security rises up the agenda across Europe this winter, a report by independent analysts Cambridge Econometrics shows additional wind power would make the UK’s energy supply more resilient by cutting costly imports of fossil fuels.
In 2013, wind energy reduced the UK’s need to import coal by an estimated 4.9 million tonnes and gas by 1.4 billion cubic metres, a study by Cambridge Econometrics has revealed.
56% of the UK’s gas supplies and 79% of coal were imported in 2013. Without wind energy, import levels would have been higher. Wind is increasingly displacing the need for coal and gas, helping to reduce Britain’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels.
Wind energy generated enough power to meet the needs of 6.8 million homes in 2013 – and it would have cost more than £579 million to import the vast quantities of coal and gas displaced by wind.
The report, commissioned by trade body RenewableUK, also looked ahead at how using either more wind or more gas would serve the UK’s energy needs in 2020 and 2030.
As UK gas supplies from the North Sea dwindle, using more gas would cost £3.1 billion in 2020, rising to £7.4 billion by 2030, according to the study.
The report concludes that as the cost of wind is predictable, using a greater amount of it to generate electricity amounts to investing in an insurance premium against the uncertain cost of gas.
The study reveals that if the cost of gas increases by 2030 in line with Government’s high prices forecast rather than its central prices forecast (a 41% increase), the cost of generating electricity would increase by 8%, whereas if the UK uses more wind it would increase by less than 4%.
Phil Summerton, Director at Cambridge Econometrics, said:
“Beyond the environmental benefits brought about by the continued deployment of wind power, this report shows that wind energy is contributing to reducing fossil fuel import dependence and that this contribution will grow in future as wind capacity expands. Investment into wind power acts as an insurance policy against uncertainty in future wholesale gas prices and could provide a degree of stability to future electricity prices.”
RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said:
“This report shows how much the UK relies on wind power to reduce our dependence on sources of costly fossil fuels imported from abroad. In these uncertain times, we need to recognise the wider benefits of wind. The costs for the entire life of a wind farm are known very early on, whereas the volatile price of fossil fuels can never be accurately predicted. Wind power is already helping us manage future price instability, and industry is confident that by 2020 onshore wind will be the cheapest form of new generation of any form of energy.”