Net Zero target relies on rise in windy daysThe Sunday Telegraph, 24 October 2021
The disclosure prompts questions over the accuracy of the CCC's claims about the feasibility of meeting net zero by 2050
Data obtained from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the official advisory body, following a legal battle, shows that a series of assumptions underpinning its advice to ministers included a projection that in 2050 there would be just seven days on which wind turbines would produce less than 10 per cent of their potential electricity output. So far this year, there have already been 65 such days, and in 2016 there were as many as 78.
On Saturday night the disclosure prompted questions over the accuracy of the CCC's claims in 2019 about the feasibility of meeting a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Ministers rely heavily on the CCC's advice and modelling, and last week its chief executive, Chris Stark heralded Boris Johnson's new Net Zero Strategy as "largely mirroring the CCC advice".
It comes as an analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank warns that the "quality of the CCC's advice is questionable", particularly in relation to the 2050 target adopted by Theresa May in 2019.
"[The CCC] advised that this target was feasible but refused to disclose the calculations on which its costs figures were based, and it became clear that the scale of the challenge of net zero was not well understood when the target was passed into law," states the report, which is published today. The IEA report also accuses the body of having expanded an initial remit as an independent advisory body delivering balanced advice, to becoming a "pressure group".
Mr Stark used a newspaper interview on Friday to say that the Government should be urging people to "understand what they can do" about climate change, including "flying less, eating less meat".
Craig Mackinlay, the leader of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs and a member of the public accounts committee, warned that if the committee had significantly overestimated the amount of power that turbines would generate, significantly more back-up power could be required from more reliable sources.
He said: "These predictions appear somewhat fanciful. The Climate Change Committee seem to be looking at the whole project through rose-tinted spectacles to try and minimalise the unpalatable costs of this whole enterprise."
Analysis of CCC data obtained following a legal battle by the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), a climate sceptic think tank, found that the body's assumptions as part of modelling included that the UK would experience just one day in 2050 on which wind turbines would operate at less than five per cent of the industry's overall capacity. That compares with 20 days so far in 2021 - which has seen particularly low wind speeds - ten days in 2020, nine in 2019 and 21 in 2018.
The CCC's modelling, which drew on a study by Imperial College London, also included an assumption that, in 2050, there would be just seven days on which wind turbines produced less than 10 per cent of their overall capacity. That compares to 65 such days so far this year, 30 in 2020, 33 in 2019 and 56 in 2018, according to analysis by Net Zero Watch, a campaign of the GWPF.
A spokesman for the CCC declined to explain the disparity, saying: "Detailed assumptions on power generation were made in 2019 as part of an extensive body of modelling and analysis to inform our advice to government on net zero. We stand by these insights.
"This information, including the study undertaken by Imperial College London, is published in full on our website. We have no further comment to make."
The CCC has previously said that the UK's future energy supply should come from a "portfolio of technologies" including nuclear and hydrogen power, but insisted that the costs associated with the intermittent nature of wind "represent a small proportion of overall system costs."
Experts have also suggested that placing turbines in a wider variety of locations around the UK would increase the overall yield when the wind fails to blow in particular areas.
Victoria Hewson, a solicitor and the IEA's head of regulatory affairs, said: "The scale and impact of the areas covered by the advice of the Climate Change Committee is vast... Far from being treated as an irreproachable source of truth, the CCC should be challenged and scrutinised more than any other regulator or advisory body.”