I was shocked to read in the Sunday papers that you may be contemplating some verbal gymnastics to enable you to continue subsidising on-shore wind farms at the expense of tax-payers and energy consumers. I hope these reports are false, and I call on you to honour the clear manifesto commitment on which this Conservative government was elected. If you do not, many voters — including many members of your party – will be very disappointed indeed. And perhaps angry.
Can I particularly warn you against the cost estimates which no doubt the wind industry is inviting you to consider. You may wish to ask the industry how they can claim, on the one hand, to have achieved “grid parity”, and on the other hand complain that they cannot operate without subsidy. May I ask if they (and you) have taken account of the following factors:
1. The costs of conventional back-up which is required to balance the intermittency of renewables
2. The capacity payments which are required in accounting terms to compensate for sub-optimal usage of the conventional back-up
3. The higher cost and emissions per unit of output which result from running the back-up intermittently, and therefore inefficiently
4. The very large investment required in the grid, originally designed for a small number of large power stations, to adapt it to cope with large numbers of small and widely distributed renewable generating plants
5. The well-documented and substantial decline in output from wind turbines over time, and the escalating operation and maintenance costs of wind turbines during their planned operating life.
Could I suggest that you ask for an analysis of these costs from sources not beholden to the industry. You may wish to consider, for example, Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, or John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation.
I should be very glad to receive your response to these questions.
Best regards. ROGER HELMER MEP. www.rogerhelmer.com
Post Script: Since sending this letter I have had a reply from the Minister, in which she insists that the press reports I quote are “a total distortion”. I am grateful for her reply, and glad of her assurance on this point. However I do not so far have any reply or reassurance on the issue of the extra costs associated with wind power — which are all too often forgotten.