The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has today hit back at a report published by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) and the Scientific Alliance, which states that renewable energy is unsuitable to meet the UK’s energy needs.

Gaynor Hartnell, Chief Executive of the REA, branded ASI’s ‘Renewable Energy: Vision or Mirage’ as a “report riddled with prejudice and Luddite assumptions.”

The ASI report concluded that: “Available renewable technologies are not easily capable of providing the degree of energy security demanded by a developed society.”

Hartnell defended the energy security that renewable generation provides, commenting: “It’s more secure to rely on sources like the wind, waves, tides and sun, which deliver themselves to the power station, than sit at the end of a long pipeline on the periphery of Europe hoping that there’ll be as much cheap gas as we need.”

The ASI report also claims that: “Renewable technologies which are commercially available cannot form more than a minor part of the overall energy mix.”

Hartnell once more pointed out the fallacy of the above statement by explaining that: “In the long run, renewables are going to be the energy source of the future.  Either we’ll realise we must stop sending carbon into the atmosphere or we’ll run out of nuclear and fossil fuels or the space required to store the wastes produced.  Whichever comes first, the end point is the same: we must use renewables instead.  It won’t happen all in one go, but the transition has started already – fortunately – and there is no turning back.”

The ASI report also condemns the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy and the subsidies afforded to it, directly linking it to deaths related to fuel poverty, stating: “Currently 2,700 people die each winter as a direct result of fuel poverty. The problem is significantly compounded by the additional costs of wind and solar energy being paid directly by all consumers in the form of higher electricity charges.”

Hartnell defended the subsidisation of renewable technology by explaining that: “We’ve got to reduce carbon emissions, and there’s not much in it cost-wise between nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) or renewables.  Wholesale gas prices rose 40 percent last year and Ofgem reports these as being the main reason for increased energy bills.”

The report published by ASI also implies that renewables do little to reduce carbon emissions because the supply provided is intermittent, explaining that: “Conventional generating capacity has to be kept running on standby to balance the grid. This means that actual reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are lower than theoretically possible.”

Hartnell retorted once again, by pointing out the fact that: “If we get our energy from renewables, it means that gas, coal or oil can stay safely in the ground.  The report makes a great deal of the need for backup – but this is needed irrespective of renewables.  The system has to cater for large unexpected outages of power, e.g. a large nuclear or coal plant tripping, or the interconnector failing.  Backup was around in the form of “spinning reserve” well before the first wind farm was ever commissioned.”

The ASI report also singled out solar photovoltaic technology for a particularly scathing attack, saying: “Solar power – the most expensive of currently available technologies – has little contribution to make in northern Europe.” The report continued: “There is no prospect of most renewable technologies – particularly solar – being competitive with conventional power sources in the foreseeable future.”

Hartnell defended solar technology, stating: “Solar panel prices are plummeting, (nearly 40 percent in the last 12 months according to Market Watch) whilst power prices are increasing.  The time will arrive when it costs no more to generate your own solar electricity than it will be to buy it from an electricity supplier.  This should be the case in the UK in 2017-8.

The environmental group WWF Scotland joined the REA in voicing criticism about the report published by ASI. Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said: “This report comprises a selection of tired and unconvincing myths about renewables and is a distraction from our fight to reduce carbon emissions.

Dixon concluded: “The report's attacks on renewables just don't stack up. More renewables really do mean less fossil fuels burnt.”

The full ASI report can be read here.