Conservative news outlets still pushing negative stories about renewable energy

Britain’s Sky News TV network may no longer be owned by Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, but critics and researchers who study the media maintain that it has always kept that Fox News-ish ultra conservative tilt to the news.

That is apparent in few places more than Sky’s coverage of climate issues, including this article about transmission and storage problems with the country’s plentiful wind turbines in the north of the country – including the world’s largest wind farm — and getting all that energy down to the south of the country where it is most needed:

The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), which is responsible for keeping the lights on, has forecast that these “constraint costs”, as they are known, may rise to as much as £2.5bn per year by the middle of this decade before the necessary upgrades are made.

The problem has arisen as more and more wind capacity is built in Scotland and in the North Sea but much of the demand for electricity continues to come from more densely populated areas in the south of the country.

In order to match supply and demand, the National Grid has to move electricity from where it is being made to where it is needed.

But at the moment there aren’t enough cables between Scotland and England to do that.

There is one major undersea cable off the west coast of the UK, and two main junctions between the Scottish and English transmission networks on land.

This bottleneck means that when it is very windy there is actually too much electricity for these cables to handle without risking damage.

And because we can’t store excess renewable energy at the necessary scale yet, the National Grid Electricity System Operator has no option but to ask wind generators to turn off their turbines.

According to analysis by energy technology company Axle Energy, using publicly available data from the electricity system’s balancing market platform Elexon, in 2022 the National Grid spent £215m paying wind generators to turn off, reducing the total amount generated by 6%, and a further £717m turning on gas turbines located closer to the source of demand, in order to fill the gap.

These costs are eventually passed to UK consumers as part of the network costs section on energy bills.

It’s not until further down the article that you learn that constraint charges have also been an issue for excess fossil fuel energy generation from coal, oil and gas.

But OK, that fact might be seen as downplaying that there are real storage and transmission issues currently in some locales with wind power.

Governments and power companies have had decades to plan for these transmission issues. But oil, gas and goal interests have successfully lobbied during those decades to stymie the progress of wind, solar and other renewables. So let’s set aside the fact that we are where we are because the same conservative business interests who are now crying that renewables involve too much expense for the conversion from fossil fuels, are the same people who fought for so many years to prevent all of us from adequately preparing for the inevitable eventuality of renewables.

Britain and other places are dealing with the problems associated with wind power storage and transmission in ways both old and innovative:

These solutions will cost money up-front.

In the U.S., some of these costs will be borne by President Biden’s landmark infrastructure and green energy legislative victories that will help change the way America approaches energy infrastructure – something for which Biden is getting entirely too little credit in the media.

Fossil fuel interests are not giving up. They are paying shadowy front groups with deceptive names to plant anti-renewable stories in the media. Conservatives are paying Russian troll farms to spread misinformation and divisiveness about renewables on social media.

These stories appearing all over recently – but especially in right-wing media — about the cost of wind power constraint payments in the face of excess supply are but one example of the ways that conservative forces are still trying to beat back the world’s progress on renewables.

The Hornsea Wind Farm Project.

Leave a Reply