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Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Answer Isn't Blowing in the Wind

Because of its enthusiasm to sign up to poorly thought out climate change policies Britain is now on course to have the most expensive electricity in the developed world.  By 2020 one third of our electricity bills will be made up of green tariffs, (money taken from us and given almost entirely to wind farm constructors). Industry and commerce will pay an even higher price.
These costs, as you may have noticed from your recent electricity bills, have already begun.  Between 2002 and 2010 the UK electricity consumer paid a premium of £5bn over and above the wholesale price of electricity, almost all of that went to wind farm developers.  According to calculations made by the Renewable Energy Foundation the subsidy will grow to a still increasing 6bn by 2020 if the policies we have at the moment are not changed.  Most of this will go to offshore and on-shore wind energy companies.
A wind farm enthusiast recently told me that we have no right to inflict the legacy of nuclear waste on our grandchildren, but I guess its OK to bankrupt them and sabotage their economic competitiveness.
The REF calculate that, from 2002 to 2020 the scheme will cost around £35bn and that even if these policies were cancelled in 2020, the legal obligation for continued support for the wind farms already built would add a further £65bn in the following decade. All of that will be taken from us.
These costs are not obvious like VAT or income tax because the are hidden in our electricity bills, these charges are levied on private households regardless of income which suggests to me that they will present a disproportionately large burden for the less well off in our society.  It also of course adds hugely to the cost of everything else that is manufactured or transported.
These costs were imposed on us by the last government in its eagerness to conform to the EU’s Renewable Electricity Directive, which was to obtain 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Despite the £5bn subsidy we have significantly failed to do this, managing just 6.5% in 2010, which suggests that the 2020 targets are wildly optimistic.
Wind farm developers and their supporters continually blame what they call ‘Nimbys’ for creating delays through the planning system, but when you are operating in a world that is insulated from the normal constraints of finance and competition I guess democracy might also seem like something you can circumvent; there is however, much more to it than that.  With such vast quantities of easy money available to throw at these schemes and the eagerness of these people to get their hands on as much of it as possible, they are not being thoroughly thought through. Take Sheringham Shoal for example, at the beginning of 2010 after the initial explorations were complete they arrived to begin construction with the Svanen, a floating crane used to construct the ├śresund bridge that links Sweden to Copenhagen.
 Apart from possibly being the main culprit in the deaths of many grey and common seals it was also the wrong piece of equipment for the job, as it was only able to operate in seas with a wave height of a 1mtr or less.  Which meant that it spent considerably more time in Yarmouth then it did off Sheringham killing seals.  I guess it’s an ill wind that blows no good at all.

Decades of oil exploration in the North Sea mean that more research has been carried out here in respect of wave height and wave/tide effect than on any other body of water on earth, yet still they got it wrong.  The upshot of this was that they had to cease operations last autumn, take the Svanen away and begin construction of a completely new lift platform in Norway to complete the job. As yet this hasn't appeared and another larger floating crane has arrived on site. Look out for more seal carcasses.
Grid connection problems also cause wind farm delays as I guess does the reluctance of bankers to invest money in schemes that are only sustainable through subsidy. Low wind conditions, particularly through the very cold weather periods we have had during recent winters also contributed to their failing to achieve the required 10% reductions.
Work done by the Renewable Energy Foundation shows that the 2010 targets would have been missed even if wind speeds had exceeded the highest annual average over the last ten years. The optimism that thought them attainable in the first place seems to be pretty much of the kind we get with most wind farm generation predictions.
Wind farm propagandists make much of the job creation that comes with wind farm development; apparently the wind farms off north Norfolk have so far created 65 new jobs.   However, an EU Commission paper released in 2009 showed that the wider economic effects of these targets entailed net job losses for the UK.  Not difficult to understand, when all the wind farms are completed off the north Norfolk coast I believe the job losses in the tourism industry here will far outweigh anything that wind farms might temporarily create.
I have not invented this scenario, the facts are out there, they are neither difficult to find or to understand, yet their significance is completely lost (the REF excepted) on the Green lobby and wind energy supporters.  Such facts are obviously unpalatable to the government, who cannot be seen to be making  U turns. Somehow the truth of all this must become more widely known. I  believe that there is an increasing resistance to wind energy as a solution to reducing our reliance on finite resources, but I seriously doubt it will gain enough momentum to so slow this money-making gravy train unless there is a sudden and dramatic sea change in public opinion..
Our future like our landscape is being sacrificed. I sometimes think that the greater the value of what is being sacrificed the more heroic these fanatics believe they are!

Godfrey Sayers            07/05/2011

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