After energy minister John Hayes criticised UK wind farms, should Britain build more?
1 November 2012 12:27am
Onshore and offshore wind power is a hugely important source of future growth for the UK. Onshore wind alone provides almost 9,000 jobs and boosts the economy by £548m per year. It is also one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy around – costs will be on a par with fossil fuels in less than four years. Energy minister John Hayes’s outburst this week that “enough is enough” for onshore wind jeopardises an industry that can clean up our economy. Hayes’s suggestion that wind farms run against public opinion is also far from sound. 66 per cent of the public support wind power. One in two people would even support a wind turbine being erected within two miles of their home. Yet again the coalition is playing politics with the country’s energy future. Doing so on the basis of a selective approach to public opinion is unwise and risks thousands of jobs.
Clare McNeil is senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
If wind turbines were affordable, they wouldn’t need big subsidies. Wind power suppliers benefit not just from the carbon price – at around €8 (£6.50) per tonne of C02 – but also the renewables obligation of around £40 per megawatt hour, which is the premium generators get when they sell renewable energy. At the end of last year, the wholesale electricity price by comparison was around £60 per megawatt hour. The only way to defend paying an extra £40 for electricity generated from onshore wind is that paying an extra £80 to generate it from offshore wind is even worse. But that ignores the best option: ditch the EU target to increase the market share of renewable energy dramatically by 2020. Focus instead on directly supporting research to make low carbon energy cheap, instead of making conventional energy expensive.
Matthew Sinclair is chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
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