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Christopher Booker : Way Out

Wind power is magic. Wind power is almost infinitely scalable. Wind power is for everyone. Wind power is incredibly successful and growing almost exponentially. Yet some recalcitrant intransigents, such as Christopher Booker, persist, like sea hawks, in clinging onto the fossil fuel guano in their ossified little niche perches, high above the wind-power blown cliffs of reality. Wind power is here, and it’s working, and it’s displacing carbon emissions, but to read Christopher Booker you’d think it were the height of folly to deploy it.

He cannot purvey his argument on the basis of the facts, and so he resorts to repeating outdated and confused information, thinking that mere repetition of erroneous statistics counts for the truth.

His position has been trounced, locked in the floodlight beam and stamped on by several intelligent parties, but meanwhile, people are arguing about his weekend article. They’re not arguing about whether he’s right (he clearly isn’t) or wrong, but about excactly how wrong he is. All I know without doing in-depth calculations is that he’s at least 30% way out – although others argue he’s up to around 70% out. And what are the numbers he’s so misguided about ? The number of wind turbines UK policy dictates should be installed.

Here’s Booker :-
“…in 2010, the last year for which we have figures, we used 378 TWh of electricity, of which only 10 TWh, or 2.6 per cent, came from wind….If 3,000-odd turbines produced 2.6 per cent in 2010, then to meet the EU target would require something like the “32,000 turbines” mentioned by Davey’s predecessor Chris Huhne just before he resigned. This would require us to build about 10 giant turbines every day for the next eight years. Regardless of how many billions of pounds of subsidy might be thrown at this, in practical terms it is quite out of the question…”

Here’s Christian Hunt of Carbon Brief explaining how Booker is using out of date figures :-

“…Booker is taking figures from DECC’s 2011 Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) report, which provides UK energy statistics for 2010. But although he says these are the most recent figures available, the new edition of DUKES was published last week, providing information on what happened in 2011. These new figures show the year saw fairly significant growth in the amount of electricity coming from renewable sources. The amount of electricity generated by wind power rose from 10.2 terawatt hours in 2010 to 15.75 TWh in 2011 – a rise of 5.53 TWh. This made up much of a wider growth in renewable power – renewables generated 34.4 TWh of electricity in 2011, a rise of about 8.6 TWh compared to 2010…”

And here is what he summarises about how to count wind turbines :-

“…According to Renewable UK, the generating capacity of wind turbines currently being installed is about 2 MW for onshore and 3.6 MW for offshore. Plugging those numbers in, an extra 73.6 TWh would take either another 15,600 onshore turbines, or 6,300 offshore. In practice, the numbers are likely to be smaller. Offshore turbines will continue to increase in size, meaning it will take less to produce more power. Turbines will probably become more effective – increasing their load factor. And other sources of renewables will produce more power, reducing the amount of wind turbines needed to hit a particular amount of renewably-generated power. So the 32,000 figure looks pretty overinflated…”

And here’s the online Claverton Energy Research Group forum picking their way through various alternative answers :-


From: Eric Payne
Subject: Article in The Daily Telegraph about Britain’s energy policy


As experts in this area, I would be very interested to hear people’s views on this piece in The Daily Telegraph.

How accurate is the information quoted and what is its significance for Britain’s energy policy?

Best regards

Eric Payne
Deputy Editor – Euroasia Industry Magazine


From: David Hirst

A fraudulent article. It does not mention that the change was forced by Osborne and the Treasury, who insisted that gas should continue to receive the subsidies it already gets. But likely true in the sense that UK energy policy is now undeniably incompatible with climate change objectives, and the legal carbon budget.

The nuclear industry is undoubtedly looking on with glee, and doing some of the stirring and distortion. But they cannot deny climate change, as it is the only shred of opaque clothing on that emperor.

What I find even more shocking through, is the huge barrage of comments, most of which seem to deny any role for wind, and deny the science of climate change. Although always deeply biased towards the middle class and the rich, the Telegraph has become a mouthpiece of denial, and this is very dangerous.

I suppose we ought to form all sorts of aliases, and spend our days balancing the lunatic comments with occasional sensible ones. Who knows, Osborne might take notice.


David Hirst
Hirst Solutions Limited


From: Herbert Eppel


Mr Booker who, according to Wikipedia, “has taken a stance which runs counter to the scientific consensus on a number of issues, including global warming”, would be well advised to have a look at this: .

I’m sure Britain’s energy policy would be in a better shape if it didn’t keep getting side-tracked by such maverick interventions.

Herbert Eppel


From: Eric Payne

So, is the need to ‘keep the lights on’ compatible with present renewable electricity and carbon emissions targets?

Is a large build out of new wind turbines the best way to address those needs? Is it preferable to preserve the wind turbine subsidy at its present level in order to achieve the same?

What other options/policies (if any) might be more effective?




From: Herbert Eppel

As I keep saying, we need to fire on all renewables cylinders.

Wind should, without a doubt, play a key part.

Check out the numerous pertinent links I sent over the last few months (not sure whether you read the Claverton messages regularly) – see .


Herbert Eppel


From: Jo Abbess

Dear Eric,

Christopher Booker uses emotive language. Before reading his article
properly to investigate anything he is claiming as fact, I would
suggest that you remove all traces of language that tugs on your
emotions, or guides your opinion – for example :-

“The Government plans to break its own climate change law” – the use
of the word “break” is a direction for you to consider that the
Government are acting in an illegal (“plans”) or incompetent manner
(“its own”).

“Politicians are finally admitting that our ‘carbon’ targets and our
energy needs are incompatible” – the use of the phrase “finally
admiting” is intended to make you consider that politicians have been
hiding some unrevealed facts. The use of the word “incompatible” is an
assertion that runs counter to the facts.

Other examples “serious breach of the law”, “opaque”, “catastrophic
shambles”, “spin doctors”, “victory”, “dutifully echoed”, “risible
claim”, “betrayed”, “two wholly irreconcilable hooks”, “Hidden”,
“obscurely phrased”, “in practical terms it is quite out of the
question”, “revealing”, “economic suicide”…

Strip these things out of the opinion piece and then you have some
claims and numbers that can be investigated.

Note : this is an opinion piece, and is not expected to be taken as a
factual report. Newspapers are fond of opinion pieces as they are
often scandalous and generate a lot of discussion. The Daily Telegraph
has another famous opinionated writer – James Delingpole, who with
Christopher Booker were largely responsible for blowing “Climategate”
into the puffery of nonsense that people thought was serious but was
all a cloud of nothing. The Climategate accusations were that climate
change scientists have been manipulating data, lying and hiding – but
all the enquiries into this have vindicated the scientists. Strangely,
James Delingpole and Christopher Booker are still employed to write
for the Daily Telegraph, despite this “shenanigans”.

See “Views on science” here : for more about
Christopher Booker’s relationship with scientific truth.

Note how Christopher Booker puts a halo round the head of shale gas
development, “And not the least telling feature of last week’s
statement was that it made no reference to the shale gas revolution
which has already halved US gas prices in five years, and which could
solve our own energy problems by providing cheap gas for centuries.”
Err, no, not according to the experts who are saying that even though
there may be significant shale gas resources under the UK, that
production volumes might not get very high. And the total resource is
currently estimated at around 50 years, not several centuries, of
current gas demand. You have to remember that the United States is a
unique case as regards shale gas – they have done everything to permit
and encourage its development – including ripping up their
environmental standards. And although shale gas in the USA could reach
something like 25% of total gas production by 2030 (others use higher
numbers), you have to bear in mind that non-shale gas could start to
decline significantly, so the total of US gas could peak in 2035 –
check the diagrams from the EIA.

And don’t forget – American academics that have vindicated shale gas
have now been exposed as being paid…by the fossil fuel industry :-

Two useful links :-

Christopher Booker shows himself to be a “wind-up merchant” with this :-
“…Greenland’s ice cap was on the brink of melting… for a few hours :
Nothing could have better demonstrated the desperate straits to which
global warmists have been driven as they try to keep their scare going
than two satellite pictures in last Tuesday’s Guardian, showing a
change that had come over the Greenland ice cap. One showed, in white,
the second-largest mass of land ice on the planet, seemingly intact.
The other, taken a few days later, showed in pink a seemingly
ubiquitous melting. These Nasa pictures, we were told, showed
alarmingly that, for the first time in history, the surface ice was
melting right across Greenland. It took only hours for this scare
story to be blown apart. A tiny rise in air temperatures had
momentarily taken them just above freezing, enough to melt a few
inches of surface ice. But the ice below it, up to two miles deep, had
been unaffected. This had happened before, in 1889. Ice cores show
that it happens every 150 years or so. Within hours, as even the BBC
admitted, the ice had frozen again. The shortest scare in history was

Again he uses emotive language and he should not be relied upon in my
view. See instead here – the first from an actual working climate
scientist :-

I’m sorry I don’t have time to debunk this piece more thoroughly. It
is typical Christopher Booker – I find his style is very 1980s – he
seems to want to create sensational scandal by pushing your emotional
buttons and making unjustifiable claims.

I don’t trust his output. End of.



From: Frank Holland


Follow the money, who, apart from the Torygraph, is paying Booker?



From: Dave Andrews

My take on one of his points:

….he says

“Hidden in the small print of Davey’s statement are two passages of particular significance. One, so obscurely phrased that it seems to have passed everyone by, is that by 2017 we hope to be generating “79 terawatt hours” (TWh) of electricity a year from renewables, rising by 2020 to the “108 TWh needed to meet the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target”. To make sense of this, one must look at the section of DECC’s website showing that, in 2010, the last year for which we have figures, we used 378 TWh of electricity, of which only 10 TWh, or 2.6 per cent, came from wind. Slightly more than this came from other renewables, such as hydro. But to meet that 32 per cent target within eight years, almost all the increase would have to come from new wind turbines.

If 3,000-odd turbines produced 2.6 per cent in 2010, then to meet the EU target would require something like the “32,000 turbines” mentioned by Davey’s predecessor Chris Huhne just before he resigned. This would require us to build about 10 giant turbines every day for the next eight years. Regardless of how many billions of pounds of subsidy might be thrown at this, in practical terms it is quite out of the question.”……..

My calculation based on the latest turbines being installed off shore are 6.15, and onshore 7.5 MW. Going with the lower figures and using a 40% load factor, then this needs for 108 TWh only 5011 such turbines. Over 8 years, this is a rate of installation of 1.7 per day, so he out by a factor of 5.8 or 580% a figure relatively as large as his ego and the fee paid by the lobbyists who wrote this crap for him.

1.7 per day would be easily achievable with the appropriate incentives. The Allies built 600,000 aircraft in ww2 with an average engine power of around 1 MW and 225,000 armoured vehicles – add those together 2:1 to get roughly one turbine and that is say 500,000 equivalent turbines units over 5 years or 273 per day, plus a lot of airfields, ships etc.

The advantage this time round is that this hardware has an NPV which is positive.

The subsidies he talks about are far less than paid to the fossil industry…didn’t Osborne just give a £100m tax break to the offshore gas industry to cite one?



From: John Baldwin


Your figures don’t seem right!! You may be right and Booker wrong but I’m not sure, needs a comment from an offshore wind bod.




From: Dave Andrews

John, which figures, the size, or the load factor?

Or the sum?



From: Jo Abbess

Dear Clavs,

I think part of the problem with Christopher Booker’s figures are that
he’s using out of date statistics.

For example, in the Renewable Energy Roadmap :-

Energy demand is forecast to be 1557 TWh in 2020 in the Government’s
central projection on the RED definition.

15% of this is 233.55 TWh – expected to be from renewable resources.
But you have to remember this includes heat as well as electricity.

The Renewable Energy Roadmap expects that wind power will generate :-
Figure 2
Onshore 24 – 32 TWh
Offshore 33 – 58 TWh

Christopher Booker is saying that generation from wind power is 10 TWh
from 3,000 wind turbines. He is probably looking at 2012 data for the
generation, and today’s data for the count of wind turbines.

Renewable UK have an up-to-date counter :-

Currently there are 3,868 turbines generating 16 TWh

Onshore = ~ 5,000 MW installed capacity
Offshore = ~ 2,000 MW installed capacity.

These figures are roughly 20% higher than 2010 counts for onshore and
nearly 100% higher for offshore.

So we have a classic Christopher Booker fudge.

1. He’s not comparing apples with apples, but 2010 data with 2012 data.

2. He’s mistaken “energy” for “electricity”.

I rest my case.



From: Jo Abbess

And Clavs,

I forgot to add :-

3. Wind turbines are increasing in their capacity ratings as time
goes by – so even the high end of wind power projection in the DECC
roadmap 90 TWh will mean less numbers of turbines than the simple
calculation of ( 90 / 16 * 3868 ) = 21,758 turbines.

Even if the average capacity moved up by 10% (and admitting that not
all turbines will be larger), that would mean closer to 20,000 than
30,000 turbines overall.

So Christopher Booker is out by a whopping great 30% or so.



From: Steve Browning

Hi All, I must admit you get too much emotive language and bad numbers, with politics in the current energy debate…

From a PRASEG meeting with Charles Hendry last month, it does look as if we are going for ‘Gas and Air’.

When I first looked at the issues with 32GW of wind in our 60GWMax/24GWmin system two years ago, I think the figure quoted for 2020 was @6400 turbines. That would be an average of 5MW/turbine
At 33% load factor that lot would deliver @92.5TWh which is @ 28% of the 2011 electrical demand (329TWh = sum of Power station sent out).
However, we dont have Big Hydro (Alpine/Norway/Sweden) or Big Interconnectors which is how the EU continental system (Max 380GW) stabilises the existing wind and solar (mainly Germany and Spain).

I believe the the largest wind machine available currently is the Enercon E-126 (DC Generator) at 6MW

I assume it takes a lot of energy and material to build one of these.

We still have to get a handle on ‘value’ for each future scenario, including all the internal and external costs and drivers.




From: Frank Holland

Booker is a history graduate, he claims that asbestos is the same as
talcum powder. Asbestos is Mg3(Si2O5)(OH)4 talc is
Mg3Si4O10(OH)2….both could be described as hydrated magnesium
silicate, but asbestos is fibrous, talc is crystalline or plate like.
It’s the fibres that cause the problem….but then how would we expect a
historian to know that?

He is best ignored.



From: Dave Andrews

John, my wind turbine size and the load factor are correct. They are supplied by a wind energy expert, pphd, ex utility, hired to study these things by a governmental scientific organization.

So are you saying my calculation is wrong?

Kind regards



From: Eric Payne

What body would be responsible for commissioning a ‘walk-through’ study calculating the practicability of different future energy scenarios and their affect on the grid?

Have any full or partial studies been carried out? If not, why not?




From: Fred Starr

Dear Jo

When I saw the figure for wind energy I ceased to read any more because the figures are well out of date. There was a big expansion after 2009, but more recently this has slowed. The capacity on the Grid is still 4686 MW

You would do be writing to him.



From: Neil Crumpton

Regarding the number of UK turbines by 2020 if producing 90 TWh – I make it around 11,000 not 20,000 to 30,000 !

calcs below


PS my view of journalists (and politicians) confusing energy with electricity have been well aired over the years on Claverton

PPS 15 % of 2020 final energy demand will be around 230 TWh/y – so more than 100 TWh/y of wind by 2020 would give UK a better chance of reaching the target (and biomass CHP – with CCS)


i) offshore turbine capacity (assuming 58 TWh/y at 38 %) = 17.4 GW ( offC x 8.76 x 0.38 = 58 )

So assuming average offshore turbine capacity is 5 MW (ie mostly 5-6 GW from now) = 3,480 turbines – say 3,500 turbines

ii) onshore turbine capacity (assuming 32 TWh/y at 28 %) = 13 GW ( onC x 8.76 x 0.28 = 32 )

So assuming average onshore turbine capacity is 2 MW (ie mostly 2+ GW from now) = 6,500 turbines

Hence total number of turbines to generate 90 TWh/y in 2020 would be around 10,000, say 11,000 or 12,000 if average capacity and capacity factors are a bit less than I estimated above


From: Dave Andrews

The correct figure to generate the electricity he is talking about, irrespective of if it is the right amount is 1.7 turbines per day, whereas he gets 10 per day. (John you still havent told me what is wrong with this figure – the capacity is right and the load factor is right)

This would be easy to produce given the right industrial and supportive environment. The peak capacity of vehicle engines in the UK is about 2,500 GW and this is replaced every 10 years, so we make 684 MW per day of mobile chp plant (cars).

This is the equivalent in power terms of ~114 6 MW wind turbine per day.



From: Jo Abbess

Dear Eric,

Are you aware of the Offshore Valuation that looked at scenarios for
Britain’s offshore wind power ?

This was a joint UK Government and industry first pass assessment on
capacity building.

Note the strong emphasis on NPV – building a net present value or
genuine asset for the country.



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