The unfortunate technical term is “intermittent renewables”. This is the name given to the wave of green energy sources such as solar, wind and wave power. Wind farms are certainly “renewable” but they are also unreliable, say opponents.
When the wind does not blow – and that is surprisingly often, even in our allegedly tempestuous archipelago – a wind farm is not a power station but a collection of useless white fans on a hillside. Meanwhile, a nuclear plant or gas-fuelled turbine keeps churning out electricity, day and night, with Stakhanovite determination.
Now opponents of wind energy have another stick with which to go tilting at windmills. The Public Accounts Committee, chaired by the increasingly redoubtable Margaret Hodge, has produced a report slamming the “generous” licence deals, worth about £17 billion, that have been done with just two engineering companies, Macquarie and Transmission Capital Partners, to provide the necessary infrastructure to connect wind-derived electricity to the grid. Under the 20-year deal, agreed under the last Labour administration but rubber-stamped by current Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) ministers, energy firms are paid even if they fail to deliver energy to households.
Ms Hodge, a Labour MP, described the contracts this week as a “licence for the private sector to print money at the expense of hard-pressed consumers”. And this comes at a bad time. A growing population, a series of unusually cold winters, increasing demands on power and a national grid stretched to its limit have seen fuel bills double, in real terms, in the past eight years, now averaging more than £1,300 a year per household. The infrastructure deal alone will add around £35 a year to bills, as the cost of the subsidy is passed back to consumers via the suppliers. This will be the final straw for the growing number of wind-farm opponents, who claim it is an inherently expensive and unreliable technology that represents poor value for money in the fight against climate change.