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Renewables Need Backup

E.ON warns over backup for renewables

In an article this past week in UK's The Guardian Mark Milner briefly reports that one of the major problems "renewable energy" (read "wind-generated energy") has is its need for constant backup:


One of Britain's leading energy providers warned yesterday that Britain will need substantial fossil fuel generation to back up the renewable energy it needs to meet European Union targets. The UK has to meet a target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.*

E.ON said that it could take 50 gigawatts of renewable electricity generation to meet the EU target. But it would require up to 90% of this amount as backup from coal and gas plants to ensure supply when intermittent renewable supplies were not available. That would push Britain's installed power base from the existing 76 gigawatts to 120 gigawatts.

Paul Golby, E.ON UK's chief executive, declined to be drawn on how much the expansion would cost, beyond saying it would be "significant". Industry sources estimate the bill for additional generation could be well in excess of £50bn.

E.ON's calculations are part of what the company calls its energy manifesto - designed to draw attention to what Golby described as Britain's "trilemma" - balancing the priorities of carbon, costs and energy security.

"We are calling for a new balanced and honest debate about the UK's energy needs, one that truly assesses the consequences in terms of carbon, cost and security of our energy choices."

E.ON is investing or has plans to invest in a series of new generation projects including wind, marine, gas and coal and has indicated interest in new nuclear stations. Golby said he wanted to to confront single-issue campaigners.

*It's interesting to compare the more modest European goal of attaining 15% renewable energy by 2020 with New York State's overweaning goal of 25% by 2013. Both goals are stretches with negative downsides. However, NYS already has 16% renewable in the form of hydro and another 28% in non-carbon emitting nuclear power. Why do we need fickle, expensive wind power, other than to clutter the natural beauty of our lovely state and enrich the coffers of Iberdrola and its ilk at the expense of NY tax- and rate-payers?

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