Memorandum by Dr Phillip Bratby
1. My name is Phillip Bratby. I have a first
class honours degree in physics from the Imperial College of Science
and Technology (London University) and a doctorate in physics
from Sheffield University. I am a semi-retired energy consultant,
being the sole director of my own consultancy company.
2. This is my personal evidence to the inquiry
by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee into the economics
of renewable energy.
3. In calling for evidence, the Chairman
stated "Renewable energy is expected to play an important
role in reducing carbon emissions but we know comparatively little
about the possible costs and benefits."
4. I am not surprised by the statement concerning
the lack of knowledge as it has been apparent for a long time
that the renewable energy policy is target-driven and is not based
upon any engineering or economic analysis of the effect of renewable
energy on the UK electricity supply industry.
5. The BERR (formerly the DTI) does not
appear to have the expertise to formulate a sensible or sustainable
energy policy. It has been badly informed by NGOs such as the
UK Energy Research Council and the Sustainable Development Commission
(SCD), which has produced a series of seriously flawed documents.
These documents contain little evidence and much opinion and dogma.
This is not surprising given the background of the Commissioners
of the SCD.
6. The premise for renewable energy is largely
based on the perceived necessity to mitigate climate change. Climate
change is currently assumed by politicians and the media to imply
global warming. However, the concept of anthropogenic global warming
is politically-driven by the IPCC. All the forecasts by the IPCC
for global warming are based on computer models of the earth's
climate. The behaviour of the climate is non-linear and chaotic
and the mechanisms which influence climate are not fully understood.
Having worked for several years with computer models of complex
flow and heat transfer systems, which were validated against experimental
data, I suggest that there is no validity for the results of any
computer models of the climate. With so little understanding of
how the climate works (the effect of the sun, ocean currents,
the atmospheric layers and constituent gases etc), it is evident
to any scientist that, with so many degrees of freedom and unknown
parameters, the computer models can produce any outcome desired.
If we cannot reliably calculate the weather more than a few days
in advance, how is it that the IPCC can make forecasts for the
climate 100 years ahead? I submit that there is no validity for
global warming forecasts. Evidence shows that the earth has been
cooling since 1998 despite increased CO2 emissions and increasing
CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. None of the climate models
have predicted this cooling whilst CO2 concentrations have been
increasing. Instead, the IPCC has perversely claimed that the
cooling is masking the long-term warming and that more funding
is needed to improve the climate models.
7. Sir John Houghton (Scientific Assessment
for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Chairman and Co-Chairman
1988-2002.) said "Unless we announce disasters no one will
listen" and "The impacts of global warming are such
that I have no hesitation in describing it as a `weapon of mass
destruction'". Incorrectly predicting future disasters (mainly
for political reasons) is nothing new. I give some examples from
individuals and government organisations: In 1969, environmentalist
Nigel Calder warned, "The threat of a new ice age must now
stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death
and misery for mankind". CC Wallen of the World Meteorological
Organisation said, "The cooling since 1940 has been large
enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed".
In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted there would be a major
food shortage in the U.S. and "in the 1970s... hundreds of
millions of people are going to starve to death". Ehrlich
forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between
1980 and 1989, and by 1999 the US population would have declined
to 22.6 million. Ehrlich's predictions about England were gloomier:
"If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England
will not exist in the year 2000". In 1972, a report was written
for the Club of Rome warning the world would run out of gold by
1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper,
lead and natural gas by 1992. Gordon Taylor, in his 1970 book
"The Doomsday Book," said Americans were using 50% of
the world's resources and "by 2000 they [Americans] will,
if permitted, be using all of them". In 1975, the Environmental
Fund took out full-page ads warning, "The World as we know
it will likely be ruined by the year 2000". Harvard University
biologist George Wald in 1970 warned, "civilisation will
end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against
problems facing mankind". In the same year Senator Gaylord
Nelson warned, in Look Magazine, that by 1995 "somewhere
between 75 and 85% of all the species of living animals will be
extinct". In 1885, the US Geological Survey announced there
was "little or no chance" of oil being discovered in
California, and a few years later they said the same about Kansas
and Texas. In 1939, the US Department of the Interior said American
oil supplies would last only another 13 years. In 1949, the Secretary
of the Interior said the end of US oil supplies was in sight.
Having learned nothing from its earlier erroneous claims, in 1974
the US Geological Survey advised that the US had only a 10-year
supply of natural gas. There is no evidence to suggest that the
current global warming predictions have any more validity than
any of the above dire warnings.
8. It would be precipitate to bet the house
on global warming when, based on historical evidence and not computer
models, global cooling may be more likely. The evidence is in
the form of the Milankovitch cycles (the earth's eccentric orbit
around the sun, the tilt of the earth's axis and the precession
of the earth's axis), the sun-spot cycles and the behaviour of
ocean currents such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (El Nino
and La Nina) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation). The natural
climate change consisting of cooling lead to ice-ages and warming
(inter-glacial periods) is well known. Scientists independent
of governments for funding have long been sceptical about global
warming claims made by government funded and government controlled
scientists. Global warming would in fact be more beneficial to
mankind than would global cooling which could lead to the next
9. Thus, although it would be prudent to
minimise man-made CO2 emissions, the need for drastic action which
could have a serious effect on the future well-being and prosperity
of the citizens of the UK and the need for renewable energy, are
seriously called into question.
10. My evidence is mainly concerned with
wind power stations for generating electricity. This is because
these form the major component of all major country's future renewable
energy policies. Hydro-electric power has much greater benefit
as a source of renewable electricity than does wind power, but
the hydro-electric potential in the UK is very limited due to
the shortage of suitable rivers and geography.
11. The most important consideration for
the future electricity supply has to be security of that supply.
The effect of the supply of electricity not meeting the demand
at some time in the future would be potentially disastrous, possibly
resulting in deaths, food shortages, transport problems and collapse
of the country's infra-structure. Economic ruin could follow if
international financial business relocated from the UK due to
uncertainty about the security of electricity supply.
12. Security of supply implies firm generation
capacity with a margin above the peak (winter) demand. The firm
generation is supplied by baseload power stations (such as nuclear)
and despatchable (controlled by the grid) power (such as coal,
gas and certain renewables such as hydro-electricincluding
pumped-storage schemes such as Dinorwig). Neither on-shore nor
off-shore wind power stations contribute significantly to the
security of supply because the electricity is intermittent, unpredictable
and is embedded on the grid (not despatchable). Invariably peak
winter demand occurs during extreme cold weather when a high pressure
system settles across northern Europe and drags in cold continental
air with little wind. Even with wind turbines distributed widely
across the UK, under these low wind conditions, little electricity
would be generated by wind turbines. Wave power is intermittent
and unpredictable and tidal power is intermittent but predictable.
13. Many nuclear and coal-fired power stations
are coming to the end of their lives and need to be replaced to
ensure continued security of supply. Thus non-despatchable renewable
sources of electricity must not distort the electricity market
and divert resources from the necessary construction of new baseload
and despatchable power stations.
14. In answer to your first issue, non-despatchable
renewables should only be considered after security of supply
has been guaranteed. The current UK policy of subsidising wind
power at the expense of secure electricity generation is typical
of most countries such as USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
Germany, Spain and Denmark. It contrasts with the policy of France
and Sweden which have placed security of supply at the heart of
15. In answer to your second issue, the
barriers to greater deployment of wind power stations are suitable
on-shore sites, supply of wind turbine components and shortage
of equipment needed for off-shore construction. In addition, serious
planning issues confront on-shore wind power stations. These include
the visual (landscape) and other environmental impacts, military
objections (radar interference) and more recently the effect from
the current large wind turbines (heights in excess of 100m) of
noise and its consequential health impact. The Local Government
Ombudsman has recently stated that the planning condition for
noise "put in place to protect local residents" and
based on the industry standard ETSU-R-97, is "vague, open
to interpretation, immeasurable and thus unenforceable").
Thus it is likely that planning applications for wind power stations
near to residents will receive stronger opposition and planners
will not be able to justify their siting on the basis of noise
and consequential health issues. Wind turbines will have to be
sited in more remote locations further away from human habitation.
This will severely limit suitable locations for siting wind power
stations. The issue of noise and health from modern wind turbines
will need properly addressing before siting close to residences
can be justified.
16. In answer to your third issue, the technology
of wind turbines is mature and it is unlikely that there are any
technological advances that could make it cheaper.
17. I now turn in greater detail to the
technological concerns with wind turbines. As a physicist, it
offends my learning, experience and intelligence to attempt to
produce electricity on a large scale from wind power. This is
for four reasons. Firstly because of the very low energy density
of wind (the energy per volume of moving air). For comparison
and in round terms, the energy density of moving water is about
1,000 times as great, that of fossil fuels (coal, oil, liquefied
gas) is about 1 billion times as great and that of nuclear is
about 1 million billion times as great. Thus wind turbines have
to be enormous to capture a useful amount of energy. Secondly,
because the power of the wind is a function of the cube of the
wind speed, the electrical output is very sensitive to the wind
speed. Thirdly, because of the variability of the wind, wind turbines
only produce electricity at about 25% to 30% of their rated output
(capacity or load factor). Fourthly, because of the intermittency
and unpredictability of wind the electricity production bears
no relation to the demand for electricity. In summary, wind turbines
are enormous, produce a pathetically small amount of electricity,
intermittently, unpredictably and not when it is most required.
18. The CO2 emissions saved by wind turbines
have been calculated based on the CO2 emissions from displaced
plant (coal and gas-fired power stations). A consensus figure
of 430 kg/MWh is currently used. However, this figure is only
part of the equation needed to calculate the CO2 emissions saved.
Also to be included in the equation are the CO2 emissions resulting
from the manufacture and construction of the turbine (estimated
by various people at the equivalent of between several months
to many years of operationthe payback period); the electricity
losses down the low voltage distribution line to the consumers
(estimated at between 5 and 15% of the electricity generated,
due to the long distance as the result of the remoteness of many
turbines); and the CO2 emissions produced by conventional power
stations operating very inefficiently on standby (and burning
fuel) ready as backup to meet the electricity demand when the
wind drops. Evidence form Denmark and Germany suggests that CO2
emissions savings from the use of wind turbines are at best small
and at worst, they may actually lead to an increase in CO2 emissions.
19. Although the wind is a renewable source
of energy, wind turbines can only operate on the grid in conjunction
with backup generation to ensure demand is met when the wind fails.
For this reason, it has been claimed that wind-generated electricity
cannot be classed as renewable.
20. Because of the intermittency and unpredictability
of the wind and thus of the electricity generated by wind turbines,
wind turbines cannot replace a significant number of conventional
power stations. Thus wind turbines are being constructed as a
secondary source of electricity. In essence, the consumer is paying
for two sets of electricity generation; the conventional despatchable
power stations, necessary to meet demand at all times and wind
turbines which operate only when the wind blows and which then
displace despatchable power stations.
21. Wind turbines are usually connected
to the low voltage distribution grid, rather than the high voltage
transmission grid to which conventional power stations are connected.
Wind-generated is embedded on the grid as it is not despatchable
and cannot be controlled. The national Grid was designed so that
electricity flows from the power stations on the efficient high
voltage transmission lines and is transformed (stepped) down progressively
on the distribution grid to consumers. Thus electricity flows
one way and by the most efficient route. However, embedded electricity
can flow the wrong way if there is not sufficient downstream demand.
This can cause grid problems.
22. Electricity cannot be stored on the
grid and grid voltage and frequency are maintained in tight margins
to protect sensitive equipment. This is not normally a problem,
the grid having operated successfully for over 60 years. This
is because demand is accurately predictable and despatchable power
sources of various response times are available to match the grid.
However, with increasing amounts of intermittent and unpredictable
embedded generation on the grid, control becomes increasingly
more difficult. This can lead to grid failure and collapse as
has happened recently across a large part of Europe and in Texas.
23. In answer to your sixth issue, because
of the low energy density of wind and the large separation distance
required between individual turbines, the area of land affected
by wind power stations is proportionally greater than that of
traditional power stations. For example 100m tall wind turbines
of 2MW rated power need to be spaced several hundred metres apart
and not close to dwellings and roads. Thus except in remote areas,
about four wind turbines can be accommodated per square kilometre
of land. This is not dissimilar to the figure for nuclear power
stations or gas-fired power stations. For comparison purposes,
and taking into account capacity (or load factors), the land area
covered by a wind power station of the same energy output as a
nuclear power station would be about 2000 times as great (or an
area of land 20km by 25km would be covered by wind turbines to
produce the same electrical output as one nuclear power station
occupying an area of land 500m square). Furthermore, the wind
turbines are of greater height and rotate so that their visual
impact is amplified. A considerable infrastructure in terms of
possibly improved roads and access tracks is required for wind
turbines. In addition, the wind turbines provide few if any jobs
in the district, and possibly destroy employment due to the loss
of tourism-related business. Conventional power stations provide
considerable local economic benefits in terms of a range of permanent
types of employment.
These external costs in terms of environmental
and other impacts should be compared in terms of benefits and
disbenefits for each technology on a like-for-like basis (noting
that comparing a nuclear power station producing baseload electricity
with a wind power station producing intermittent, unpredictable
and uncontrollable electricity is like comparing chalk and cheese).
The like-for-like basis must be in terms of energy output (ie
MWh, GWh or TWh of electricity generated per year) rather than
installed capacity (MW). Thus, for example the benefits and disbenefits
of a nuclear power station of 1,600MW rating with a capacity factor
of 90% producing 12.6TWh of electricity per year should be compared
with a wind power station consisting of 2880 2MW turbines with
a capacity factor of 25% also producing 12.6TWh of electricity
The planning system for renewables, as embodied
in PPS22, is first and foremost about meeting Government targets
for renewable energy, both nationally and regionally. The key
principles of PPS22 are written such that planning authorities
"promote and encourage, rather than restrict" renewable
energy projects so that targets can be met. The planning system
is thus biased in favour of development of wind power stations
regardless of other considerations such as the environmental damage,
the effect on competitiveness and the effect on fuel poverty.
23. I am not submitting evidence on any of the
15 May 2008