Has Professor MacKay FRS, Scientific Advisor to DECC, underestimated Britain’s potential for Renewable Energy?
by: Andrew Smith Monday, October 5th, 2009 Today, The Times has claimed that Britain’s potential renewable resources are insufficient to meet demand, and therefore that Britain needs new nuclear plants. This is reported as having been stated by the new Chief Scientific Advisor to DECC, Professor David MacKay FRS, the author of the free online book: Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air – though it appears that The Times invented this quote. Nevertheless, the claim that Britain cannot live on its own renewables, is also made in his book.
However, the claim is not true.
On the professor’s own (underestimated) calculation of Britain’s renewable potential, it is possible for Britain to power itself from wind and solar. Current energy demand (heat, transport & electricity), is 98kWh per person per day (245GW), and the professor’s book identifies 68kWh/d (170GW) of wind onshore and offshore, and 55kWh/d (137.5GW) from photovoltaics, which together gives 123kWh/d (307.5GW). That means that even ignoring wave, tidal, geothermal and biomass, Britain’s renewable potential supply just from solar and wind substantially exceeds our energy demand.
In short, it’s a mythconception to say that Britain needs any nuclear at all (or renewables in other countries’ deserts) to decarbonise its energy supplies. It’s a mythconception to say that Britain’s potential renewable resource is insufficient to meet demand. And the numbers bear that out.