Energy: Blowing hot and cold over wind power (UNFCCC Part4)

Wind energy being produced on Denmark's North Sea coast (photo:dpa)
Wind energy being produced on Denmark's North Sea coast (photo:dpa)

Durban diary-snippets from the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa. Opinions are divided on the value of wind power but some experts believe Denmark offers an example to the world.

CLAIMS that wind energy is unreliable and costly are being rebutted by the wind energy industry.

The European Wind Energy Association has re-released its report on how the industry can help the European Union achieve 30 per cent lower emissions by 2020.

Denmark could produce all the power it needs through wind within 40 years

The association, which is a representative body of the whole supply-chain leading to wind power, re-released the report at the United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa.

The report says that wind power could meet up to 70 per cent of the pledges made for emissions reduction at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009.

Example for all

Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, another industry body, said Denmark’s example could be adopted by all European countries—in fact by all countries.

He said Denmark could produce all the power it needs through wind within 40 years and disagreed with suggestions that wind energy could be unreliable and needed alternative power sources to provide continuity or that this would lead to greater emissions.

This was a ‘myth perpetuated by detractors of the wind industry’ he said.

Power plants are managing to ensure there is continuity available through a number of strategies. ‘If Denmark can do it, there’s no reason why any other country can’t,’ he said.

Electricity demand

But the reality may be different. A 2009 report by the Centre for Political Studies (CEPOS), a Danish think tank which ‘promotes a society based on freedom and limited government’ shows how wind has not really helped the Danes.

The country generates more than around 20 per cent of its electricity demand from wind turbines but consumes much less.

The report states that wind power is ‘highly intermittent’ and has met as little as 5 per cent of Denmark’s annual electricity consumption with an average over the last five years of 9.7 per cent.

Green energy technologies are still very inefficient and expensive compared with fossil fuels

Denmark exports more than half its wind power to Norway and Sweden because of the erratic nature of the product and lack of storage, says the report.

Inefficient technology

The report continues that Danish households pay the highest level of taxes and charges in the European Union and that wind power saves neither the consumption of fossil fuels or CO2 emissions in Denmark.

Denmark is expected to increase its wind power capacity by 2.7 terra watt-hour by 2013 but almost all of it will be exported.

Bjørn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School says the fundamental problem is that green energy technologies are still very inefficient and expensive compared with fossil fuels.

Additional research by Hardev Sanotra

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