It is now confirmed that December was the coldest in the UK since detailed records began in 1910. The average temperature was -1.5C and much of the country was covered in snow and ice for weeks on end. This is the third winter in a row that the MET Office have predicted a mild warmer than average winter and then got it wrong. The coldest winters I can remember were in 1962 (snow cover for 2 months) and 1981 (-21 in Oxford). This December we had a high pressure system over the UK pulling cold air from the arctic and diverting westerly winds south. Similarly in 1962 and 1981 a blocking high pressure over the UK brought still very cold air down from the Arctic or East from Russia. These conditions essentially bring very little wind whatsoever unlike normal westerly Atlantic dominated weather.
Therefore it is no surprise that renewable Wind Energy contributed essentially nothing in December to the UK’s sudden surge in energy demand as people turned up the heating in their homes. Most of Britain’s 3000 wind turbines stood still, while others consumed power rotating them in order to keep the mechanical parts working. The energy companies had to increase their reliance on imported coal and natural gas in order to keep the lights on. This emphasizes the simple fact that no amount of subsidized investment to increase the number of wind turbines in the UK (either on shore or off shore) is going to replace a single fossil fuel power station. A low carbon future can only be achieved by investing in a core Nuclear capacity whose power output can be controlled. Wind power can only play a bigger role if some efficient way can be found to store energy for when its needed, but still the costs are too high. The expansion of wind energy seems to me to be more political than logical and is being propped up by subsidies.