A green revolution…the most drastic change in energy policy for years …a huge opportunity for investment and jobs…Gordon Brown waxes positively lyrical as he hails Labour’s £100billion plan for a vast new array of wind turbines.
This one ambitious move, he suggests, will not only cut our dependence on oil, but tackle climate change and ensure our future prosperity. And it would, of course, be wonderful if it turned out like that.
But isn’t the Government in fact saddling every family with much higher bills on the basis of highly-debatable policies? And doesn’t its emphasis on wind farms take worrying risks with future power supplies?
Sadly, nothing in this announcement will solve Britain’s impending energy crisis.
Our oil and gas supplies are terrifyingly dependent on other countries. Nuclear power stations are ageing and will soon have to close. Coal-fired generators also face early closure under EU environmental rules. Replacements just haven’t been built, thanks to Labour dithering.
So, can 7,000 wind turbines resolve our looming energy gap? To come anywhere near Labour’s target, we would have to instal nearly two of these giant structures every day for 12 years – an almost impossible task and one that would, incidentally, ruin our landscape.
And at what a cost. As Christopher Booker argued so cogently in this paper yesterday, turbines have to be hugely subsidised. On top of that, they must be backed up by power stations, because wind isn’t reliable and can’t produce guaranteed supplies of electricity.
Moreover, wind farms require an expensive network of pylons and switching stations. And it won’t be the Government (or rather the taxpayer) footing the bill, on the basis of the public’s ability to pay.
No, power companies will just pass on the costs to their customers, which is why average households – whether they can afford it or not – face an extra £209 on their gas bills plus £48 on their electricity.
And even then, a windfarm-reliant Britain might not have a particularly reliable power supply. Wouldn’t it be the last straw if in the not too distant future our lights started going out?
27 June 2008
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