UK will be £20bn better off with wind instead of gas, says report

A new report which compares the economics of gas and offshore wind for the UK concludes that the country would be £20bn better off by 2020 if it went down the renewables road.

Written by think-tank Cambridge Econometrics, the report is released today, 24 hours before UK Chancellor George Osborne unveils the government’s Gas Strategy, which is expected to pave the way for up to 30 new gas-fired plants and open the doors for an expansion of shale gas exploration.

Funded by the WWF-UK and Greenpeace, the report compares two scenarios for the UK’s electricity generation mix in 2030.

In the first, there is steady growth in offshore wind capacity through to 2030. In the second there is no new offshore wind after 2020 and the UK instead relies on significantly more gas.

The report concludes that UK GDP is 0.8 per cent (£20bn) higher in the wind scenario than the gas by 2030, with “marginal impacts on electricity prices”, and a focus on wind would create 70,000 more full-time jobs.

It also states that by investing more in offshore wind, the UK would save £8bn a year on gas imports by 2030 and cut its carbon emissions by two thirds compared to the gas scenario.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said the report proved that “investment in wind energy will allow us to kick our expensive and polluting gas habit”.

“We already give billions to Qatar every year for gas imports – this report proves it would be much more prudent to invest that money in UK renewable energy instead.”

Chief Executive of WWF-UK, David Nussbaum, added: “With the right long term policy signals for investors, offshore wind could provide more jobs, more prosperity and lower carbon emissions than gas. The International Energy Agency and DECC are both forecasting continued increases in the price and imports of gas over the next 20 years, so too much dependence on gas would leave the UK very exposed to future price shocks.”

Paul Ekins, professor of resources and environmental policy at University College London, said: “Much of the debate around the choice between gas-fired and offshore wind electricity generation in the years post-2020 assumes wind is more expensive. This study presents powerful evidence to the contrary.”

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