Bad Prediction: Government Report Said UK Would be 100% Wind by 2020

In December of 2007, The Guardian ran a story describing the bold findings from a report authored by the government of the United Kingdom stating that the nation would be generating enough electricity to power every home. However, statistics from the National Grid of the UK show that wind only accounted for 21 percent of the electricity generated in the UK last year.

The graph below shows electricity generation by source in the UK over the past day, week, month, and year. As you can see, there is a large variation in the amount of electricity generated by wind in the past day, and past week. Over the course of a year, wind accounted for 21 percent of electricity generation, nuclear accounted for 20, and fossil fuels, primarily natural gas, accounted for 40 percent of electricity generation.

The figure of 21 percent is very interesting because it is the amount of wind energy that engineers said was likely to be able to accomplish by 2020 in The Guardian’s article:

“But the vice president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Sue Ion, said that wind power could only provide about 20% of the country’s electricity to preserve grid stability.

“Laudable though the targets are, we urge government to think about the practicalities of deploying these technologies; the engineering effort to build 7,000 large offshore turbines by 2020 would be enormous, unprecedented and is probably underestimated,” she said.”

This is the biggest problem with energy targets that are created by politicians who don’t know anything about energy. They are wildly unrealistic, and they overestimate the ability of wind and solar to provide reliable electricity while at the same time vastly underestimating the costs of building them and maintaining a reliable grid.

Unsurprisingly, targets developed by politicians resemble bumper stickers rather than serious policy proposals. While politicians who want to mandate more wind and solar onto the grid may be good at running campaigns, they are seldom good at running anything else.