Wind turbines and solar panels are a waste of money if Britain wants reliable low carbon electricity supplies through the winter, the late Professor Sir David MacKay said in his final interview.
Prof MacKay, who served as chief scientific advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change for five years until 2014, died from cancer last month.
In an interview with the science writer Mark Lynas, filmed 11 days before his death and released posthumously, Prof Mackay said the “sensible thing” for the UK to do was to focus on nuclear and on carbon capture and storage technology, which traps the emissions from power stations.
He criticised the “appalling delusion” that renewable sources of power could simply be scaled up and paired with battery storage to provide all the UK’s energy needs, citing the high costs and large areas of land that would be required.
Prof Sir David MacKay said there was no point building wind turbines if the country had enough low-carbon energy to cope with periods of no wind | Credit:Adrian Dennie/AFP/Getty
Prof MacKay was renowned in the energy world for his book Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, which examined the potential limitations of renewable power, but said he had “always tried to avoid advocating particular solutions”.
However in his final interview – in which he stressed he would be “content with any plan that adds up” – he set out for the first time his own recommendation for “the rational thing to do in the UK”, explaining: “Maybe [as] the time is getting thinner, I should call a spade a spade.”