Professor MacKay has warned that continuing to rely on expensive imports of fossil fuels such as gas and coal would cost the equivalent of £4,682 per person per year – as well as missing the carbon reduction targets the UK has signed up to.
However, he has calculated that investing in renewable sources of energy such as wind power would save £84 per person per year, bringing the cost down to the equivalent of £4,598.
His "least-cost" scenario envisages that by 2050, the UK will generate 42% of its electricity from renewable sources, 31% from nuclear and 27% from gas. Adding more renewables to the energy mix drives down costs by 1.8%, according to Professor MacKay.
He emphasised that his figures are based on the total cost of the investment needed to keep the lights on in the UK, and they shouldn’t be confused with the cost of domestic fuel bills.
Jennifer Webber, RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs, said: "This is a timely reminder from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser that doing nothing is not an option – we simply cannot afford to go on relying on high-carbon sources of energy. If we want to act in a manner which is financially prudent, and save money in the long term, we need to invest in renewables such as wind energy, wave energy and tidal energy".
Professor MacKay’s comments come on the same day that the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne unveiled new research showing that so far in this financial year, UK companies have announced plans to invest nearly £2.5 billion in renewable energy projects, which will lead to the creation of almost 12,000 jobs.
In December alone, Siemens applied for planning permission to build a wind turbine factory in Hull which will employ 700 people. In Chepstow, the wind turbine tower manufacturer Mabey Bridge announced that it is doubling its workforce to 200 and has introduced round-the-clock shifts to meet demand. The Dorset-based small wind turbine manufacturer Ampair announced just before Christmas that it would be taking on 8 extra members of staff.
"At a time when other sectors of the economy are struggling and people are losing their jobs, the wind power industry is bucking the trend and creating employment, bringing new opportunities and job security to families around the country", Ms Webber commented.