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Green energy push ‘flawed’ claims Adam Smith Institute

Alternative Energy

Renewable energy cannot meet the UK’s energy needs, according to a report from the Adam Smith Institute.

The pro-free market think tank argues solar and wind power schemes have no prospect of becoming economically viable in an “unrigged” market.

It also claims government policies to promote renewable energy will lead to higher costs for consumers.

A separate report from Reform Scotland said the country could earn £2bn a year exporting renewable electricity.

The more pessimistic assessment of the potential for green energy came in Renewable Energy: Vision or Mirage? – a report jointly released by the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance.

Its key arguments were:
– Wind and solar energy schemes cannot replace gas, coal or nuclear power generation because their energy sources are intermittent and effective energy storage technology is not available.
– Wind turbines require back-up generating capacity which make any reduction in CO2 emissions quite modest
– Current targets for wind energy by 2020 would require the installation of five turbines every day
– The decommissioning of coal-fired power stations and nuclear over the coming decade are a threat to energy security
– Solar and wind energy have “no prospect of becoming economically competitive in an unrigged market”

Report co-author Martin Livermore said: “For too long, we have been told that heavy investment in uneconomic renewable energy was not only necessary but would provide a secure future electricity supply.

“The facts actually show that current renewables technologies are incapable of making a major contribution to energy security and – despite claims to the contrary – have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Consumers have a right to expect government to place high priority on a secure, affordable energy supply.”

A very different picture was painted in Powering Scotland, a report from Reform Scotland.

World leader

It said Scotland could become a world leader in renewable technology and could potentially earn £2bn a year by exporting green energy.

Graeme Blackett, a trustee with the think-tank, said: “We would support the aim of a substantial increase in energy exports with a target of around half of electricity generated in Scotland being exported.

“Even using conservative assumptions on prices, this would increase Scottish exports by £2bn per annum, equivalent to around 17% of manufacturing exports to the rest of the UK.

“Given that some of the current fossil fuel and nuclear capacity will still be available in 2020, this is feasible if the 100% renewables target set by the Scottish Government is met.”

The group called for all of Scotland’s nuclear power stations to be phased out and for energy powers to be devolved formally to Holyrood.

The environmental group WWF Scotland claimed the assessment by the Adam Smith Institute was not backed up by research.

WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This report comprises a selection of tired and unconvincing myths about renewables and is a distraction from our fight to reduce carbon emissions.

“The report’s attacks on renewables just don’t stack up. More renewables really do mean less fossil fuels burnt.”


12 Comments on "Green energy push ‘flawed’ claims Adam Smith Institute"

  1. DC on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 10:34 am 

    /Q The pro-free market think tank argues solar and wind power schemes have no prospect of becoming economically viable in an “unrigged” market.

    You just make stuff this up, I mean, there are few industries that have rigged the game more thoroughly in there own favor, than the fossil-fuel energy industry. The biggest welfare-queens, in world history. But I guess 600+ billion a year in public subsidies and near total control over most western governments does not count as ‘riggged’ according to the Adam Smith Institute(no, never of em before now either). I guess to them, that counts as ‘business as usual’. Sure clean energy is expensive, but then again, so is FF, nukes and coal, but when big gov picks up big fossil-fuels tab, makes FF look pretty cheap, on paper at least…

  2. dorlomin on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 1:04 pm 

    When the tax costs for the invasion of Iraq and the forces on station in the Gulf of Arabia are fully charged to the oil industry then we can compare who has the more economic solutions.

  3. sunweb on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 3:50 pm 

    Solar and wind capturing devices are not alternative energy sources. They are extensions of the fossil fuel supply. There is an illusion of looking at the trees and not the forest in the “Renewable” energy world. Not seeing the systems, machineries, fossil fuel uses and environmental assaults that create the devices to capture the sun, wind and biofuels allows myopia and false claims.
    ERoEI is only a part of the the equation. Each of these processes and machines may only add a miniscule amount of energy to the final component of solar or wind devices. How else would we do it? There is always the old way. Who of us will go down first?
    A story in pictures and diagrams:
    From Machines making machines making machines

    Solar and Wind are not renewable. The energy from solar and from wind is of course renewable but the devices used to capture the energy of the sun and wind is not renewable. Nor are they green or sustainable.

    An oak tree is renewable. A horse is renewable. They reproduce themselves. The human-made equipment used to capture solar energy or wind energy is not renewable. There is considerable fossil fuel energy embedded in this equipment. The many components used in devices to capture solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy and biomass energy – aluminum, glass, copper, rare metals, petroleum in many forms to name a few – are fossil fuel dependent.

    Wind used by sailing ships and old style “dutch” wind machines is renewable and sustainable.
    From: Energy in the Real World with pictures of proof.

  4. Kenz300 on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 3:59 pm 

    Renewable energy investment is surpassing fossil fuels in new power plants. Electricit­­­­­­y from sun power, wind energy, wave energy and biomass had an investment of $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, coal and oil, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance

  5. Gale Whitaker on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 5:09 pm 

    You commenters speak the truth however kunstler points out that building and maintaining the renewable energy stuff will not be economical in a post peak oil economy when the price of steel, aluminum and fiberglass have skyrocketed. That leaves us with the die off, a drastically lower standard of living, the end of globalization, capitalism, and the inconvenience of all electric, all the time.

  6. blacknail on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 5:59 pm 

    Renewables are the future as we are running out of the other stuff. In the future, electric appliances will have to run only when power is available. Your fridge will only run when its windy and we will have to design it to keep food cold with intermittent power. Energy storage is energy waste.

  7. Birdman on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 6:39 pm 

    Wow! Same old bull from the libertarian right. Do they think solutions will just magically arise from the invisible hand and save us all.

    The only chance we have to turn the global climate change monarwe around is for a world wide agreement to reward the clean technologies and charge the dirty ones…..NOW!

  8. Roderick S. Beck on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 8:28 pm 


    The economics is quite simple. A European wind turbine only 25% of the time and a solar panel in Germany operates well under 10% of the time.

    Any simple financial analysis tells us these sources are not economic.

    And that is why they enjoy tariffs that are multiples of what is paid for fossil fuels.

  9. Bob Owens on Mon, 12th Dec 2011 9:20 pm 

    Same old story. Only soon renewable energy will be all we will HAVE! Got it? It won’t matter if it is too expensive or not. It will be all we will HAVE!

  10. BillT on Tue, 13th Dec 2011 1:55 am 

    Renewable energy is NOT renewable without oil. Get that? NOT renewable without oil. The supporting equipment cannot be made without oil. Their maintenance cannot happen without oil. their replacement cannot happen without oil.

    Renewable energy is alternate energy sources, not replacement energy sources. Some of you need to take a look at this and then decide if we can have renewable energy when the oil is gone. Think about how we will replace the mining machines without oil energy.

  11. PrestonSturges on Tue, 13th Dec 2011 5:39 am 

    As always, libertarians think tanks can tinker around the edges on politics, but they are 100% committed to status quo economics and and even greater concentrations of power.

  12. The Practician on Tue, 13th Dec 2011 8:00 am 

    Renewables are “flawed”? How about a world industrial system that runs on finite fossil fuels and nothing else. I can’t think of any flaws in that…

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