Wind fuels gas

Many Europeans think that a major part of their future energy security might come from wind turbines. But this renewable push is probably just a very clever short-term business strategy that will not improve Europe's geopolitical situation, says the Wall Street Journal.

Wind turbines generate electricity irregularly, because the wind is inconsistent. Therefore, wind turbines always need backup power from fossil fuels to keep the electricity grid in balance, and gas turbines are the best way to do this, says the Journal.

Just look at the cases of Spain and Germany, Europe's leading producers of wind power.

In Spain:

  • By the end of 2007, Spain had 14,700 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity producing 8.7 per cent of the country's total power supplies.

  • However, the peak load of the Spanish power grid is in the summer when there usually isn't much wind, so more and more gas turbines are being installed.

  • In 2007, Spanish power providers added 6,400 MW of gas-turbine power capacity, taking the total installed capacity of gas turbines to 21,000 MW.

  • But natural gas is still the main source of electricity with 99.8 per cent of it imported.

    In Germany:

  • More than 20,000 wind turbines with a total capacity of 21,400 MW are now "embellishing" landscapes.

  • Germany's gas consumption for power generation more than doubled between 1990 and 2007, and now represents 11.7 per cent of the country's total power generation with the country importing 83 per cent of its supply.

  • However, part of the wind power backup is still done by coal-fired plants.

    Most European countries force consumers to subsidise electricity from wind power making it a safe investment compared with other energy businesses, but wind power is clearly not reducing the dependence on imported fuel. In fact, it is increasing the dependence on imported natural gas. And that's not energy security, says the Journal.

    Source: Edgar Gartner, Wind Fuels Gas, Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2008.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 16 September 2008
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