A report, published today by the right-leaning Adam Smith Institute, argues that renewable energy sources cannot replace gas, coal and nuclear generation because they produce power intermittently.
It also makes the claim that wind energy and solar power have "no prospect of becoming economically competitive in an unrigged market" and that investment in wind farms would not be a commercial proposition without subsidies.
Other claims made in the report include:
- there is no way of storing wind energy long enough to avoid the need for backup generators
- large investment in wind turbines must be matched by large-scale conventional back up generating capacity, which makes any reductions in CO2 emissions quite modest
- solar power is high cost and inefficient at the UK’s high latitude.
But lobby group the Renewable Energy Association has dismissed the institute’s arguments.
Chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said: "This report is riddled with prejudice and luddite assumptions - it’s more secure to rely on sources like the wind, waves, tides and sun, that deliver themselves to the power station, than sit at the end of a long pipeline on the periphery of Europe hoping that there’ll be as much cheap gas as we need."
She added: "We’ve got to reduce carbon emissions, and there’s not much in it cost-wise between nuclear, carbon capture and storage or renewables. Wholesale gas prices rose 40 per cent last year and Ofgem reports these as being the main reason for increased energy bills."
Hartnell also said that solar panel prices had dropped nearly 40 per cent in the last year, while the price of traditional power was increasing.
But Martin Livermore, joint author of the report, insisted that "current renewables technologies are incapable of making a major contribution to energy security and have only limited potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions".