Louise Gray assesses Owen Paterson's elevation to the cabinet, and in particular his attitude towards wind farms.
He suggested that wind farms can be “inefficient” – and fail to cut carbon emissions - because they have to be backed up by gas turbines.
“I am not convinced building wind farms in my area is the right way [forward] because you have more problems. You have to have back up from gas – that is operating inefficiently. “
A report from Civitas earlier this year claimed that wind farms are expensive because of the need for back up electricity from fossil fuels when the wind doesn’t blow.
It claimed wind farms cause more carbon emissions because turning back-up gas power stations on and off to cover spells when there is little wind actually produces more carbon than a steady supply of energy from an efficient modern gas station.
This is not the only reason that emissions might increase of course. If nuclear becomes uneconomic and can no longer operate at all, the shortfall would have to be made up with gas, with an inevitable increase in emissions.
More interesting than this though, is what Louise says next.
However a report from another think tank IPPR claimed that wind has already cut carbon emissions in the UK by 5.5m tonnes in 2011 alone.
Unfortunately, the IPPR report specifically mentions that their "naive model", on which the 5.5m tonne figure was based, excludes the system effects that Louise discusses in the previous paragraph. Of course this is not mentioned in the summary of the IPPR report, presumably because every policy lobbyist knows that journalists never read beyond that.
Unfortunately bloggers do.
Louise also claims that modern combined cycle gas turbines are capable of responding to fluctuating supply from wind turbines:
Major energy suppliers say that modern combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) are able to operate efficiently at a low level and ramp electricity up and down very effectively in order to meet the requirements of variable generation like wind.