A new report prepared for the European Commission shows that onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account.
The report says that for every megawatt hour (MW/h) of electricity generated, onshore wind costs roughly €105 (£83) per MW/h, compared to gas and coal which can cost up to around €164 and €233 per MW/h, respectively.
>>Nuclear power, offshore wind and solar energy are all comparably inexpensive generators, at roughly €125 per MW/h.
“This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Justin Wilkes, the deputy CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”
The paper, which was written for the European commission by the Ecofys consultancy, suggests that the Conservative party plan of restricting new onshore windfarms will mean blocking out the cheapest source of energy when environmental and health facts are taken into consideration. It has been suggested the Tory plan could be done through a cap on onshore wind turbines’ output, lower subsidies or tighter planning restrictions.
“Any plans to change policy for onshore wind must be looked at in the context of this report,” said Oliver Joy a spokesman for EWEA. “Investors need long-term visibility. ‘Stop-start’ policies as well as harsh retroactive changes can blindside investors, driving up the risk premium and cost of capital.”
“Despite decades of heavy subsidies, mature coal and nuclear energy technologies are still dependent on similar levels of public support as innovative solar energy is receiving today,” Frauke Thies, the policy director for the European Photovoltaic Industry Association told the Guardian.
“The difference is that costs of solar continue to decrease rapidly. If the unaccounted external costs to society are included, the report demonstrates that support to fossil fuels and nuclear even by far exceeds that to solar.”
I extracted the figures for subsidies of different kinds from the report. They make interesting reading for those of us in Australia who are aware of the massive subsidies that the coal and coal power receive in Australia. I would have expected that the EU would be rather less supportive of carbon-rich energy, but found that in 2012 coal received a subsidy of €10.1bn which is the same amount allocated to on-shore windpower and overall, onshore wind and solar receive €24.8bn, compared to €22.3bn allocated to coal, natural gas and nuclear. You’d have to ask why, as mature industries, the latter group require this level of subsidy.