Theory blown away

July 15, 2005

The studies of wind and nuclear power cited by J. A. Simmons (Letters, June 24) are contradicted by other sources, including the German Environment Ministry's 2004 report on "ecologically optimised" energy that I cited in my article (Soapbox, June 10).

Simmons's statement that power from wind is double the cost of "oil" or nuclear power is presumably based on the 2004 Royal Academy of Engineering study, which has been widely criticised. Other studies, such as that by the UK Sustainable Development Commission, put the cost of power from on-shore wind at about 3.2p/kWh - comparable to nuclear power, but slightly more expensive than gas. And the costs of energy from wind are declining. The Cabinet Office's 2002 Energy Review estimated that by 2020 on-shore wind power would cost 1.5-2.5p/kWh, offshore wind 2-3p/kWh and nuclear power 3-4p/kWh.

The premiums paid to "kick-start" wind power in the UK and Germany are dwarfed by the subsidies paid to nuclear power over six decades. The true costs of nuclear power, according to a New Economics Foundation study, are three times those claimed. Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry lent £650 million to the nuclear operator British Energy to rescue it from bankruptcy. The long-term costs of decomissioning Britain's nuclear sites is estimated at £48 billion.

Building 6,000MW of wind power by 2010 is not unattainable. Since 1999, Germany has installed wind power at an average rate of more than 2,000MW per year. The industry has created 120,000 jobs and has the potential to create 400,000 by 2020.

Godfrey Boyle
The Open University

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