This is Ligonier's friendly neighborhood blog and an attempt to recapture our lively opinionated debates in a free speech zone.

Please join our conversations. Contributors welcome.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wind turbines make sense for small applications as an extra source but these big guys just don't cut the mustard.

UK demand hit 52.54 gigawatts (GW) between 5pm and 5.30pm on Monday, according to official data from the National Grid. But wind contributed just 0.573GW during the same time, just over 1pc of the total.

In stark contrast, gas accounted for 42pc, coal for 29pc, nuclear for 16pc, pumped storage and hydro for 5pc, and interconnector imports for 5pc (the total doesn’t quite add up because of rounding).

Traditional sources of electricity were stunningly dominant; we often forget about coal, which to some minds has a 1980s feel to it, but it remains hugely important. It deserves greater attention and analysis. The figures reveal that wind output fell at one point on Monday to just 0.354GW, 0.75pc of the country’s needs. To put this in perspective, there is roughly 12GW of wind capacity, and the windfarms operate on average at 28pc of their theoretical maximum capacity. But those average figures have been of very little use when we actually need vast amounts of electricity. In fact, these numbers are a complete catastrophe and are a devastating indictment of years of UK energy policy, which has focused far too much on wind and been based on unrealistic targets and expectations.