From Dr John Constable. Note on the Renewable Energy Foundation

2009/12/2 John Constable <>

Dear Mr Andrews:

Note on the Renewable Energy Foundation

The postings concerning REF on the Claverton list have been drawn to my attention, and since there is a good deal of confusion in some of the remarks I thought it might be helpful if I, John Constable, Director of Policy and Research for REF, were to post a response.

1. Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) is a UK registered charity, and has been since 2004. It has no political affiliation, and publishes data and analysis on the renewable sector, as well as engaging in educational activities.

2. When first created Noel Edmonds kindly agreed to be chairman, and he remains in that role.

3.  REF is guided by its board of Trustees, and advised by the Technical Advisory Group (see Those listed on TAG are not members of REF, but independent experts who have agreed to advise the Foundation on policy and the conduct of research.

4. REF does not, now, have members; it has Friends of the Foundation, and the charity is supported by private donation only. The identity of these donors is public information, though they are numerous and cannot all be listed here. Some of the largest charitable trust making donations to charities have given money, including the Rausing, and the Cadogan trusts. In addition, the entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz gave generously to support the creation of the Renewable Energy Data files, described in more detail below.
5. Renewable Energy Forum Ltd is the charity’s not-for-profit sister company, and was created at the same time as the charity.

6. The organisation has not recently divided, though in the last two weeks Renewable Energy Foundation has moved to a new web site,, while Renewable Energy Forum has taken over For the time being the latter website will host the archive of the charity, while material is gradually transferred.

7. REF aims to improve understanding of the renewable sector by supporting and in some cases publishing technical research.

8. For example, in 2005 we supported two articles on Danish wind power in Proceedings of the ICE, both by Hugh Sharman.

9. These articles won the Institution of Civil Engineering’s Telford Gold Medal in 2006.

10. We also supported the research by Jim Oswald and his co-authors which lies behind the paper published last year in Energy Policy:

Jim Oswald et. al., “Will British Weather Provide Reliable Electricity”, Energy Policy, 36/8 (Aug. 2008), 3202-3215.

11. Notwithstanding the response by Gross and Heptonstall, referred to in other postings here, and the views of Mr Smith also posted on Claverton, Jim Oswald’s approach to the question of wind power smoothing is regarded as seminal and marks a new phase in the understanding of this issue and the related topic of wind’s capacity credit. Its findings are consistent with the real world experience in Germany and Denmark, and Spain, and with the theoretical perspectives on capacity credit of Professor Laughton (see “Power Supply Security with Intermittent Sources: Conventional Plant Capacity Requirements”, Power in Europe, 460 (10 Oct. 2005).) Indeed, it is consistent with observations made by National Grid in their consultation text Operating the Electricity Transmission Networks in 2020, see para 2.20 with reads:

“However, we have observed periods where the electricity generated from wind within the UK, Ireland and parts of Northern Europe has been very low. These can coincide with days of peak electricity demand when cold and still conditions persist.”

While some members of Claverton, and some in the wind industry, may find these results disappointing, they cannot be wished away; instead the problems described must be faced and solved.

12. Given the robust nature of the Oswald work, and the implications for overall system performance and the need for demand side measures, it is not surprising, that the Energy Policy paper was referenced by the recent PB Power study, Powering the Future. It should be noted, however, that the Oswald study is not the basis of the PB Power study’s conclusions, but is one of several sources of information and analysis which is consistent with PB Power’s own analysis.

13. For the avoidance of doubt, REF did not commission Powering the Future, as one poster on Claverton speculates might be the case. My understanding is that the PB Power study has been funded and specified by the company itself, as a contribution to public debate at this critical time.

14. REF does, however, have other publications to its name, for example the study Electricity Prices in the United Kingdom: Fundamental Drivers and Probable Trends, and the related paper “Going Black or Breaking the Rules”, Petroleum Review, 63/744 (Jan. 2009), 22-24, 47. Both works were co-authored by Hugh Sharman and myself. These papers have played a role in drawing attention to the impending capacity shortfall in the middle of the next decade, a shortfall arising because of a failure to appreciate the rate of declining conventional capacity under the LCPD, and the limited firm capacity contribution from the projected wind fleets.

15. REF is also responsible for commissioning and publishing Paul-Frederik Bach’s Wind Power and Spot Prices: German and Danish Experience 2006-2008 (London, 2009), a highly original study of the market impacts of stochastically variable generators in Germany and Denmark. A summary of the study is available on the site. A full copy of the work, in paper with a CD of 60mb of market and wind ouput data for reanalysis is available on request and at cost (£18 plux £2 p&p) from REF:
Mr Bach, as many members of Claverton will be aware, was formerly Planning Director of Eltra (now Energinet), the Danish grid operator.

16. In addition REF publishes monthly load factors for all 900 industrial scale generators under the Renewables Obligation. Later this week we will post Issue 9 of these Renewable Energy Data files, which have been redesigned, and expanded to include all microgenerators. This increases the number of generators covered to about 4,000. The underlying data employed is the Renewable Obligation Certificate database administered by Ofgem, but processed and and presented in a user-friendly form.

17. Accompanying the files will be a presentation giving an overview of the highlights, and next week REF will issue a somewhat more detailed analytic study.

18. The purpose of publishing such data is to inform current thinking on UK energy. The problems we face are complex and daunting. Renewables doubtless have something to offer, but hype will help no one. We must be rational about the scale and cost of the renewable contribution, and confronting data leads to realism.

19. I hope this detailed posting clarifies matters, but am happy to answer any further questions either on- or off-list.

Dr John Constable
Director of Policy & Research
The Renewable Energy Foundation
21 John Adam Street
Tel: 020 7930 3636
Mobile: 07867 592 085

Dave Andrews
Claverton Energy Group
UK + 44 (0) 755 265 9166
+ 44 (0) 1225 837978

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