On Sept 22nd, at our Party Conference in Birmingham, I launched our new energy policy statement, entitled “Keeping the lights on”, and sub-titled “Rolling blackouts by 2020? UKIP has the solution”. I argued that wind-farms, with their intermittent trickle of very expensive electricity, were driving up prices, forcing pensioners into fuel poverty, and undermining industrial competitiveness. But they were also threatening grid stability. You can’t run a modern economy on unpredictable and intermittent power generation.
I argued that Britain needed secure, affordable energy, and that the way to achieve it was to used tried and reliable technologies: gas, coal and nuclear. Remember that our current UK energy policy — the government is aiming for 30% of electricity generation from wind by 2020 — is imposed by Brussels. That’s another example of the way that European policies force us in Britain to make very damaging decisions.
Right on cue, the government’s own electricity regulator Ofgem came out with an alarming report threatening black-outs not by 2020, but by 2015. Some colleagues thought I’d been alarmist, but it turns out I hadn’t been alarmist enough.
In Germany, they are further down the renewables road than we are in Britain, and Philipp Rösler, Germany’s Economics Minister, has admitted that Germany’s electricity supply came perilously close to breakdown in the winter of 2011/12, and has warned that the same thing could happen this winter and again in 2013/14. Germany’s response? They’re building or refurbishing 25 coal-fired power stations. So much for reducing CO2 emissions!
There are some signs that the government is finally waking up to reality — though not before much of Lincolnshire has been blighted by wind turbines. John Hayes MP as Energy Minister and Owen Paterson MP, the new Environment Minister, have both expressed serious doubts on renewables, and questioned the eye-watering subsidies they receive. And our Minister of Energy and Climate Change, Lib-Dem Ed Davey, has made a remarkable U-Turn, and committed to a new building programme for gas-fired power stations. Perhaps he was galvanised by that warning from Ofgem.
At the same time, the government is announcing approval for a fracking programme for gas in the UK. I am very much aware of public concern over fracking, but the risks have been exaggerated by tax-payer-funded green campaigners — and indeed by Russia and Gazprom, who are terrified at the threat to their gas exports. The prize of cheaper indigenous energy for Britain, increasing our energy security and reducing our imports, is too big to ignore, and with proper regulation the potential risks can safely be managed.
We’ve spent far too long chasing the will-o-the-wisp of renewables and wind-farms wasting billions and blighting the countryside. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll soon see a shift to grown-up electricity generation. And about time too.
Ofgem warns of power outages by 2015: http://www.ukpower.co.uk/gas_electricity_news/7411-uk-could-face-blackouts-by-2015—ofgem-warns
UKIP energy policy booklet: http://www.ukip.org/media/policies/energy.pdf
Germany facing power blackouts: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9609777/Germany-facing-power-blackouts.html
Germany builds coal-fired generation: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19168574
The article first appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo