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Back-up and Front-up

Regarding JEB's observation in August ("An anomaly of vocabulary") that it would be more apt to say that conventional electricity generators provide a "front-up" to intermittent renewable energy rather than a "back-up", that reminded me of an interesting bit of new spin by a few Greenies on the back-up issue. It comes from somebody called Jonathan Pyke, head of a Green campaigning organisation called "Action for Renewables" given in this link:


"Q: How accurate is the argument that wind turbines have to be 'backed-up' by alternative sources of power, eg nuclear or coal, due to the irregularity of wind?

Jonathan: It's not accurate and I think it stems from a misunderstanding about what wind energy is for. It's better to think of wind as the back-up for gas, allowing us to make much better use of our existing fossil fuel power plants than relying on gas alone. There's no need to burn gas when the wind is blowing, which National Grid can predict extremely accurately. So comparing it to nuclear or coal is misleading because wind serves a different purpose; every time it blows there's a substantial decrease in carbon emissions, volatile fossil fuel costs, water for cooling, manufacturing and pollution. The 'back-up' argument just isn't valid."

In the above Pyke has reversed the idea of which energy source is actually providing the "back-up". In a way, it's similar to the idea of fossil fuel providing the "front-up". If AGW alarmism goes into a significant decline, I can see the Greenies switching to the argument that the whole renewable energy thing is really about cutting back on fossil fuel use and they're just providing "back-up" to fossil fuel.

On this issue of whether the "cuckoo in the nest" arrangement of windfarms being part of the electricity grid really does result in reduced fossil fuel use, a study on this has recently been carried out in the Netherlands.


The study concludes that the reduction in fossil fuel use corresponds to only 4.1% of the installed wind capacity. The UK installed wind capacity is 6580 MW in 2012 (according to Wikipedia), so the reduced fossil fuel use in the UK would be equivalent to having a 270 MW power station switched off.

Re: Back-up and Front-up

They love to dance don't they. "Don't look behind the curtain, look at my pretty images on the screen, IGNORE THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!"

He is just a silly old man.

Re: Back-up and Front-up

You do have to admire the "wriggle" ability of greenies.
When confronted with the evidence of Global chilling they declared that it was "masking the full effects of global warming.

But what this "wind energy backs up gas fuelled generation" explanation doesn't do is explain why.
I mean. why would you want to back up cheap gas fuelled generation with very very expensive wind generated electricity when:
a) we don't have regular gas outages when we need power
b) the back up is only available when the wind blows

In short, there is no logical reason for wind turbines in the current energy climate. Even less now that the politicians are descending like carrion eaters on Shale Gas reserves. Including, surprisingly, the "Greenest Government ever" in the UK.

What is interesting amongst all the green furor caused by the sudden support of shale gas and the appointment of a climate Sceptic to head up the DofE, is that all the arch Greenies such as Zac Goldsmith can get worked up about is a third runway at Heathrow. He had nothing to say (that was reported) about hacking back wind farm subsidies nor about Shale gas.
I guess a number of Greenies are getting set to pove over to population growth as the next big scam as highlighted by David Gardner in his post and for which the evidence is slowly building of the media, including the BBC, "getting on board".
Of course, my guess is that, alongside the usual taxpayers money being spent on "scientific" research, the real money will be in food production and the land to grow it on, now suitably elevated in value by the bio-fuels scam.
Now we can all look forward to calorie trading schemes.

Re: Back-up and Front-up

Further to my previous post I've just noticed that the 4.1% figure from the document on the website is actually 1.6%. The 4.1% figure is quoted in the abstract, but in the conclusions this has been amended to 1.6% following feedback from a reader.

So if we assume the UK can be regarded as a larger scale version of the Netherlands, our current 6580 MW nameplate wind capacity would produce a fossil fuel saving (and by extension, a CO2 saving) equivalent to switching a 105 MW power station off. The only thing we really get out of the 6580 MW is about 1600 MW of politically correct electricity (assuming a 25% capacity factor).

Re: Back-up and Front-up

I thought I'd check out the "Action for Renewables" website, and found something interesting. This Green campaigning organisation is actually run by the British wind industry trade body RenewablesUK (formerly known as the British Wind Energy Association or BWEA, but it now covers wind and wave power):

"About Action for Renewables

Action for Renewables is an arms-length campaign of RenewableUK (formerly BWEA), the trade association for renewable energy suppliers in Britain. While it is sponsored by companies, the campaign itself is activist-led - The website provides the facilities for renewable energy supporters to campaign directly to their elected representatives, as well as organise campaigning events for themselves."

So RenewablesUK appears to have set up its own Green NGO rather than relying on the likes of Greenpeace. It might be that the established Green NGOs are cooling off to some extent in their promotion of wind energy, or are not seen as doing a good enough job in protecting the wind industry's flow of subsidy money.

Jonathan Pyke doesn't appear to be one of the activists, he is actually employed directly by RenewablesUK as the campaign co-ordinator. He is listed as one of RenewableUK's staff on this webpage:


For anybody who has heard the expression "All chiefs, no Indians" to describe a company, I'd say RenewablesUK represents a pretty good example. It looks like about two thirds of the staff are directors, managers or heads of something or another.

I originally assumed the claim that wind is providing back-up to fossil fuel was just some blather by a Green activist. But as Pyke works for RenewablesUK, this claim might be more serious than I thought.