UK offshore wind not 'affordable', finds KMPG

The UK could save £34bn ($54bn) by ditching its plans for wind farms and meeting carbon commitments through gas and nuclear, finds a report by the accountants KPMG.

Thinking About the Affordable estimates that relying on new nuclear and gas fired plants could enable the UK to hit its goal of a 34 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 at a cost of £74bn.

But current plans require spending £108bn by 2020 on wind, solar and nuclear capacity, as well as billions more for grid connections, according to the report to be published on 8 November.

KMPG highlights the potential savings from abandoning wind in the contrasting costs of new gas, wind and nuclear capacity. An 800 MW gas fired plant is estimated to cost £400m, while the equivalent capacity in either nuclear or offshore wind would cost £2.4bn.

Yet offshore wind imposes the additional burden of ancillary gas fired plants to accommodate its fluctuating output.

“Trying to meet our carbon targets with a heavy reliance on renewable energy was a laudable vision, but surely it’s time to face the facts on how the huge level of investment may translate into fuel poverty,” the report’s author Mark Powell told the UK’s Sunday Times.

RenewableUK attacked the report for overlooking wind power’s low operating costs. The trade association blamed surging energy bills on the price of gas and claimed wind farms in Germany, Denmark and Spain had helped bring down costs.

Cost is a key issue for the power sector in the UK, where rising bills from the ‘Big Six’ providers are fuelling political controversy.

Chancellor George Osborne has said the UK would not seek to lead Europe in cutting its carbon emissions nor attempt to “save the planet by putting our country out of business”.

But energy minister Chris Huhne has attacked opponents of renewable energy as an “unholy alliance of climate sceptics and armchair engineers”.

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