Coffee House

Wind power is unnecessarily stretching the cost of living

14 January 2013

14 January 2013

The perfect news to greet a freezing Britain today — energy bills are set to take another hike thanks to a series of dodgy wind energy contracts. According to today’s Telegraph, a ‘shocking series of errors’ has resulted in deals worth £17 billion stacked in the favour of turbine manufacturers. As well as wasting taxpayers’ money, it appears the excessive costs of these contracts could be handed down to families, placing an extra strain on households at a time when family incomes are being pushed to the limit.

Who do we have to thank? Although the contracts were awarded by the coalition in March 2011, the ludicrous deals were dreamt up by one Ed Miliband:

‘Under a scheme agreed by Labour leader Ed Miliband during the last Labour government, but implemented by Coalition ministers, the contracts guarantee that the power firms will be paid even if they fail to deliver energy to households.’

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So, the government will pay out the money regardless of whether their turbines do anything. Chief of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge has described the situation as a ‘license for the private sector to print money at the expense of hard-pressed consumers’. The Energy department has reluctantly admitted they will have to ‘re-examine some of the terms’ but since the contracts were signed nearly two years ago, it’s difficult to see how taxpayers can avoid having to stump up for DECC’s failings.

The cost of living remains a particular troublesome area for the government. According to the Telegraph, energy bills have rocketed to £1,300 per year per household, thanks mostly to rising gas prices. Plus, as Isabel reported last year, the average disposable income is at its lowest since 2003. The last thing public needs is an extra burden on their bank balance. The latest deal brokered between the Lib Dems and Tories over renewable energy has already bumped up bills, but Hodge has warned the repercussions from this faux pas may also be passed down:

‘Not only is it unlikely that this new licensing system for bringing electricity from offshore wind farms onto the national grid will deliver any savings for consumers, it could well lead to higher prices’

None of this has halted the government’s quest for wind energy, which at the last poll, is something the public still favour. The report suggests the government’s target for producing 15 per cent of energy by wind is only achievable through another £8 billion of infrastructure investment. Hopefully for this next round of green investment, the government’s energy odd couple (Ed Davey and John Hayes) will ensure value for taxpayers is at the top of their agenda.


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Show comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.sherrington Geoff Sherrington

    Why should the extra charge be passed on to the consumer? Accountability would demand that the money be deducted from future budgets of the DECC.
    A legal view on whether the arrangement is a contract or a tax might also be interesting. If it walks like a tax, talks like a tax, etc, then it will not be enforceable unless the prescribed Parliamentary tax procedures were used in its introduction

  • Daniel Maris

    Really, you lot ought to have more faith in British ingenuity and engineering…

    This is a wonderful story about how a British firm has solved the problem of energy storage from intermittent sources such as wind energy:

    *ttp://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928014.800-power-of-cool-liquid-air-to-store-clean-energy.html

    I think this, combined with the methane production solution from Germany, more pumped storage (interestingly that was first developed in the UK to deal with unreliable nuclear -bet that wasn’t added to the nuclear bill), plus gas powered turbines is the way forward.

    By the way, research has shown that the number of days when there is no wind in the UK system are not that great in anyone year despite what the Quixotic tendency like to insinuate.

    Wind energy can’t be held responsible for poor procurement practices.

    • Daniel Maris

      …and a more up to date article. Sounds like it’s going really well with this Highview technology.

      I am sure all you portofolio holding Speccie types will be changing their mind about wind power once they see that they can get in on the ground floor with this technology which is I predict going to clean up globally. This could single handedly deliver a UK economic revival I would predict.

  • foxoles

    Windpower providing a tiny 0.77 Gw (of 49.67 Gw demand) today:

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    • Daniel Maris

      I thought you lot said there were days when the wind never blows…shouldn’t that be 0?

      And there is absolutely no point in comparing to 49.67 GW. Wind energy currently supplies only about 3% of our electricity. So on my calculations, you should be comparing with something like 1.4 GW. In which case, 0.77GW is only 50% below the average.

  • Gary Gimson

    Not sure what’s happening today, but one day last week we received a mighty 0.20GW from wind at a time when demand was running at 46.38 GW. Even if we spent another £8 bn, as mentioned, then these figures could remain exactly the same.
    As no wind across the UK (as often happens in winter during periods of high pressure) means absolutely no power – irrespective of the number of turbines that are built.

  • brossen99
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    Ed Miliband as Energy Secretary had a girlfriend named Justine Thornton, a Barrister representing EDF, EOn, United Utilities. The future Mrs Miliband is a close friend of Frances Howell, now the Hon Mrs Osborne. Her father, now an Advisor to William Hague is a former Energy Secretary. I somehow wonder in what was Britain differs from Gazprom SSR run by Vladimir Putin

  • Olaf

    Why are those individuals who signed the country into contracts of such monumental stupidity not liable for some sort of criminal incompetence charge? I’m sure we’d feel better if not richer to see them strung up from their creations.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      Because they are Nomenklatura and protected just as Bankers have been

      • Olaf

        I bet even UKIP wouldn’t make MPs liable for their future actions within their manifesto.

  • coffeehousewall.co.uk

    The poll you reference asked whether people wanted to live next to a wind turbine or a gas well. How does this determine whether or not people favour more wind turbine development? It seems to me that it does not at all.

    • Daniel Maris

      Well unless you want us to return to a state of nature, we need energy and energy involves some (in varying degrees) intrusion on human society and some (in varying degrees) environmental damage. Personally I’d feel happier with a wind turbine 300 metres away rather than a nuclear power station or a hydrocarbon based power station.

  • popsiq

    It seems to be a phenomenon. Is there a country on earth that hasn’t boosted the rates paid for wind driven into the stratosphere?
    Imagine the cost if socialism, rather than the desire to turn a profit for investors, were driving the rate levels.

    But if private enterprise and governments can ‘negotiate’ contracted benefits downward, what makes electrical rates so sacredly generous?

  • Sally Chatterjee

    When was the last time the taxpayer got a good deal with the private sector? It seems to me that time after time civil servants sign up to deals they don’t understand and leave the public to foot the bill. Do these civil servants ever face the consequences of their ineptitude?

    • telemachus

      Ministers are cognisant of the many advantages of wind turbine power viz

      Wind energy is friendly to the surrounding environment, as no fossil fuels are burnt to generate electricity from wind energy.
      Wind turbines take up less space than the average power station. Windmills only have to occupy a few square meters for the base, this allows the land around the turbine to be used for many purposes, for example agriculture.
      Newer technologies are making the extraction of wind energy much more efficient. The wind is free, and we are able to cash in on this free source of energy.
      Wind turbines are a great resource to generate energy in remote locations, such as mountain communities and remote countryside. Wind turbines can be a range of different sizes in order to support varying population levels.
      Another advantage of wind energy is that when combined with solar electricity, this energy source is great for developed and developing countries to provide a steady, reliable supply of electricity

      • Sally Chatterjee

        Wind might be free but civil servants and ministers have achieved the unfortunate alchemy of making wind energy most expensive. I’m afraid your reply does not offer any explanation as to why this is so.

      • HooksLaw

        An absurd notion. You seriously think land within a wind farm can be used for agriculture? For one thing the whole point of placing wind farms where they are is that they are in wild out of the way places that attract wind. And one by product of that is that they need expensive links to the national grid. Another is that they need extensive road networks to facilitate access for repairs and maintenance (so much for your ‘few metres of concrete’)

        http://www.windaction.org/faqs/28898

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/14/linking-offshore-wind-farms-to-grid

        There is nothing reliable about wind energy.

        • http://adventuresintimetravel.com Time Traveller

          And they take up additional land because we still require a conventional power station as back-up..

          • 2trueblue

            They are also ecologically unfriendly, they use massive amounts of cement in the ground to stabilise them, roads up to them to service them and the land is rendered useless for any other purpose. They also do not provide the goods when we need them.
            Why Liebore did not insist that every house built when they were in power for 13yrs had to have solar panels beats me.

          • Daniel Maris

            Well not at 3% they don’t. You do realise we are connected to other networks (e.g. France and Netherlands). At 3% we have plenty of external cover. Why are you spreading alarm and despondency – and to be kind, inaccuracies?

            See my other post for how a British firm has the answer to the storage problem. We should all get behind this solution and sell it around the world. As they point out the market could be worth hundreds of billions of pounds. I don’t expect you to get behind a patriotic solution like that.

        • Daniel Maris

          The same could be said about nuclear. I wonder if those costs are ever added to the nuclear bill ?

          Talking of “road” networks is v. misleading. They are no more than farm tracks. If you want to develop a commercial forest you have to have tracks. It’s no different.

          • wgulden

            Are you daft? The roads have to support a rather large crane, among other things. Nobody would describe a 50-foot-wide hard-packed road as a “track”.

            • Daniel Maris

              “Road” in the UK is generally understood to mean a tarmaced road. People understand “track” to mean ways covered in hard packed ston or a route that can be followed by a vehicle.

        • dalai guevara
      • Teacher

        Wind energy is patently NOT ‘friendly to the surrounding environment’ as it is ugly, noisy and harms wildlife.

        • Daniel Maris

          Name me an energy technology that is pretty, noiseless and doesn’t harm wildlife. It is a question of relative harm and impact. If you’d prefer a nuclear plant next to your home rather than a wind turbine, do say.

          • Teacher

            That’s an emotive and illogical choice like being asked whether a person wishes to be shot or poisoned. Neither, obviously. There are other solutions and people who do not care about our countryside shouldn’t be taking the decisions.

            • Daniel Maris

              What “other solutions”?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        Wind turbines are unproven, have a far shorter life than stated, impose a risk to birds and wildlife, generate high frequency signals and cost far more to generate electricity than any other conventional source without guarantee of supply requiring coal-fired stations to remain on standby, the most inefficient mode of running coal-fired power stations

        • Daniel Maris

          Not sure what you mean by “unproven”.

          This “shorter life” claim needs looking into. It may be if you put a wind turbine out in the Atlantic it doesn’t perform as in the tidal waters off Copenhagen. I have never been a strong advocate of wind farms out at sea given the cost differential. I think we should make room for them on land.

      • DWWolds

        What’s the betting that in 5 or 10 years time we’ll be faced with massive bills to decommission the wind turbines because they do not work/are too expensive?

        • http://twitter.com/WholeLottaSusie Sue Ward

          And to remediate the landscapes which they have scarred.

          • Daniel Maris

            Remediation would take about half a day. Knock it down, tow it away, dig up the foundations. Much easier than with hydrocarbon and nuclear technologies – they poison the land for hundred or thousands of years.

        • foxoles
        • Daniel Maris

          Very little. Wind energy technology is reaching maturity. There aren’t going to be huge innovations in turbine design from now on for the large turbines – although there may be turbines that work on low wind in urban settings.

      • an ex-tory voter

        Wind turbine generate profits for the subsidy farmers and taxes for government. Other than that their only activity is the mass killing of wildfowl

      • itdoesntaddup

        A few square metres? Try the area of a tennis court – one sixth of an acre – required as concrete foundation per windmill: that alone works out at around 300 acres for the equivalent of one power station. Then there are the access roads. And the pylons connecting them to the grid. And the pylons on new sections of grid to try to prevent grid instability. All requiring concrete foundations.

        • 2trueblue

          If you add the other problem of lack of ‘run off’ and the problem is adding to more flooding by all that concrete preventing drainage.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      Civil Servants understand…..the French word is “pantouflisme” to describe how civil servants buy their new jobs in the private sector

  • Swiss Bob

    It’s not only ridiculously subsidised and robbery from the poor to pay rich landowners, like Cameron’s father in law.

    They are also murdering vast swathes of wildlife, see this video of bat chomping windmills, and that’s on top of the birds they kill during the day:

    http://www.epaw.org/multimedia.php?lang=en&article=b6

    To use the emotive language of the left: Murdering wildlife is a small price to pay for eco lunacy.

  • williamblakesghost

    It may have been that idiot Miliband whose brainchild this was, but that other idiot Davey is implementing it and those dozy bufton tuftons have lazed about while the electorate are screwed again to placated vested interests

    • Swiss Bob

      Miliband’s policy will send a million Brits to early graves by 2050 in excess Winter deaths.

      Marxists love mass murder.

      http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/excess-winter-deaths-fall-but-over-21k-still-die/?utm_source=twitter_ageuk&utm_medium=ageuksocialmedia&utm_campaign=owntwitter_tweet

      • telemachus

        I wonder how much misery will be caused by the floods caused by the global warming if this is not implemented
        There is plenty of evidence of deaths in the elderly displaced unnecessarily by the floods

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Probably Zero. There will be NO floods……..Noah survived on Mount Ararat

        • an ex-tory voter

          There is no warming, there will be no floods!

        • foxoles

          Flooding caused by building houses on flood plains, due to ‘expert’ climate advice a few years ago that UK would be facing near-drought conditions most of the time and flooding risk was minimal.

          Just as most councils did not have enough road salt or gritters up to 2010, because ‘expert’ climate advice said winters were going to be warmer and roads would no longer become icy. Oops …

        • 2trueblue

          Global warming is a myth, even Al Gores ‘teachings’ are not allowed to be used in schools because there are so many inaccuracies. Our current flooding is because Liebore were in for 13yrs and with the lack of attention to drainage and infrastructure for same, building on flood plains they left a lot of people at risk.

      • Daniel Maris

        Have you completely lost all rationality? Please – debate this properly or not at all.

        • Swiss Bob

          Are the figures wrong?

          • Daniel Maris

            The link doesn’t work. But if you are talking about winter deaths, then clearly that has much more to do with failure to ensure vulnerable people have access to heat at a reasonable price (fuel allowances*) and that their properties are fully insulated.

            Onshore wind is cheaper than new nuclear, and about the same as advanced coal. But remember coal and gas themselves bring about early deaths through air pollution.

            So if you want to eliminate early deaths – make sure you ban coal and nuclear, given one pollutes the air and the other is more expensive.

            Of course if the climate changers are right, you will be seeing far more early deaths through excessive summer temperatures. (But I am not convinced of the climate change thesis myself.)

            * It would be much better if there was a system of fuel credit for old and vulnerable peoplem, rather than additional allowances (which can get spent on other things).

    • HooksLaw

      And there is another idiot and that was Huhne. But the real villains are the media, the BBC, who are complicit in this. the BBC held a secret conference were a specially invited audience encouraged it in to the opinion that it was OK to tell lies in the name of the global warming scam.

      And if possible there is an even bigger villain – Science. The true principles of objective science are being prostituted on the alter of finance and self aggrandisement. There are a number of scientist who should be in jail right now.

      There is of course nothing wrong with the principle of windpower if properly applied, nor is there anything wrong with an element of subsidy in the name of giving us some variety and security of supply. But the scale is all wrong and the motive of ‘global warming’ is all wrong when in fact there has been no statistical evidence of any global warming over the last 20 years.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        It is the Met Office which should e abolished. Look who is head of the Met Office

    • foxoles

      Environmental activist Bryony Worthington ‘captured’ and ‘turned’ both David Miliband and David Cameron, so the country was stuffed whoever got in at the 2010 election.

      Here she proudly describes her achievement:

      http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/9/27/guilty-men-and-guilty-women.html

      She has since been made a baroness.

  • Daniel Maris

    Point 1: A useless contract framework is no more damning of wind power than a useless defence contract framework is damning of the necessity of defence.

    Point 2: I think you mean “electricity” not “energy” in the second sentence of the last para.

    Point 3: Will anyone remember any of this in 20 years’ time? I doubt it. It’s a detail, possibly a detail of some importance but it’s not going to decide the issue of whether wind energy installations have been beneficial or not.

    Point 4: Our green energy programme is so weak as to be hardly deserving of all the opprobrium heaped on it. If we were following the German path to a successful green energy programme, then I might be bothered to argue this more.

    Point 5: This article actually should be weighed in the balance IN FAVOUR of wind energy since it is making the case that the high cost has nothing to do with the intrinsic cost structure of wind energy but has to do with government procurement incompetence.

    • Ron Todd

      Is that the Germans who want to replace their nuclear power with coal or some othe Germans?

    • steve willis

      Germany is currently building dozens of new THERMAL energy plants because its previous reliance on renewables is not working

      • Rhoda Klapp

        Daniel has been told this time and again. He just ignores it. He refuses to face up to the economic fiddles used in Germany to justify wind.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          It is an article of religious faith – like Communism….it has no rational basis but requires Belief.

          • Daniel Maris

            What? The idea that wind energy is clean, relatively cheap (compared with coal and nuclear) , low carbon, and good for the environment, especially air quality.

        • steve willis

          there is hope. I work for a major German co that has closed some wind turbine manufacturing plants. But the major issue, and problem, is the scientific and engineering illiteracy of our governing “elite”

          • 2trueblue

            And the people close to those in parliament who are enjoying the money they are making out of that stupidity .

          • Daniel Maris

            Last time I looked, Steve, Germany was installing 9GW of wind energy capacity per annum.

            And you’re saying on the basis of what one company – your company (how parochial!) – is doing wind turbine production is collapsing? Rubbish – go look at the figures. It’s doubling about every five years IRRC.

            • steve willis

              And that makes it good? Expensive power impoverishing pensioners. BTW I never claimed anything other than a parochial view. My statement stands. The German company I work for is closing wind turbine factories. And Germany is building far more thermal power capacity than wind plants now. We should be developing shale gas production and selling the gas to India and China. Half the CO2 emissions than the coal plants they are building, that eclipses any minor dents in emissions we make by building windmillls

        • dalai guevara

          Justifications, being told, ignorance.

          An economy that does not engage in one horse bets, the mix of energy sources requires an upgrade of ALL your systems from time to time. Unlike Britain, the Germans are doing that.

          To make it really clear for the tech deniers on here: when looking for a reliable car for your personal transportation needs, would you continue to opt for a 1970’s Audi 50, or a 2013-style Audi TT?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        They are legislating to force EOn and RWE to keep coal-fired power stations running to avoid Deutsche Bahn from closing down in winter. Germany will not escape power cuts. Poland and Czech Republic are fitting phase limiters to stop Germany from using their Grid as the windfarms are destabilising the power supply in Poland and Czech Republic as the current seeks a route from Northern Germany to Bavaria

        • Daniel Maris

          We’ve heard this sort of scare claim numerous times before and it’s not happened so far (just as the Euro hasn’t collapsed despite the hundreds of claims it would here – I got that one right as well).

    • http://adventuresintimetravel.com Time Traveller

      “Will anyone remember any of this in 20 years’ time?”

      Yes – every time we pass another wind folly, broken and abandoned by the get-rich-quick spivs once the money runs out.

      • Teacher

        Quite, and our beautiful landscape will be desecrated and ruined forever.

    • 2trueblue

      Denmark has been using wind for 30yrs. and have not closed down one of their coal fired power stations.

      • Daniel Maris

        That’s pathetic – like saying “He’s been practising the piano for 30 years but still hasn’t played a professional concert. Obviously piano practice is useless.”

        • 2trueblue

          It is a fact, if you can’t explain it that is your problem, deal with it.

          • Daniel Maris

            A fact? How do you explain this then:

            “Dong Energy stopped power production at the 670-megawatt Enstedvaerket-3 coal-fed power plant in Aabenra, southern Jutland, Denmark, the company said on Dec. 14.”

            *ttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-17/danish-power-plant-closing-may-narrow-price-discount-to-germany.html

            In any case the USA had wind turbines 100 years ago. It’s meaningless to choose an arbitrary figure like “30 years ago”.

            • 2trueblue

              As stated, I was quoting Denmark. It is not an arbitrary figure. So after 30 yrs they have closed one unit. We had windmills before we found something more reliable.
              Your rant about the pianist not reaching professional level after 30yrs. is irrelevant, we are talking about professionals not amateurs whom we are paying massive amounts to.
              Wind is not reliable, so why hang your shirt on something that is unreliable? There are no figures for the amount of pollution that wind turbines create in their manufacturing, erection, facilities to monitor. and dealing with storing what they do actually create in the way of energy.

              • Daniel Maris

                You said they had closed no units. Clue: that means you’re wrong. Clearly the number of closures is now going to increase dramatically.

                Study the development of wind power: the turbines and propellers were really only perfected about 10-15 years ago. All previous examples are irrelevant there is now, in onshore wind, a competitive technology that works.

                Wind will be fully reliable thanks to British technology of which we can be truly proud:

                *ttp://www.highview-power.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Into-thin-air-Storage-salvation-for-green-energy-02-January-2013-New-Scientist.pdf

                • 2trueblue

                  After 30yrs they have closed one unit, fantastic. Let me know when they close the next one.

                  All previous examples are irrelevant…… what will happen to the old structures? The ones in the USA are rusting.

                  Wind is not be reliable, that is like saying that it will definitely rain/not rain/snow/ at 2pm tomorrow.
                  Today is very cold and guess what? There is not a breath of wind.

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