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Grid pays wind farms to switch off

The National Grid has paid wind farms in the recent past not to generate power on very windy days, an executive has admitted – a move attacked by a senior MP as “lunacy”.

Nick Winser, National Grid’s UK executive director, said wind farms had been paid not to generate power on occasions in common with other forms of energy such as gas, coal and nuclear plants.

“That has been happening for the last 21 years, that is the way that the market has existed for that period,” he told members of the Commons select committee on energy and climate change.

“There is built into the market compensation where you can’t generate because of a lack of transmission infrastructure.

“We have worked very hard to minimise those amounts by investing sensibly but vigorously in the transmission infrastructure and those amounts of money have been managed very, very vigorously over the 20 years.”

He added that it was “right” ultimately that an economic balance was struck between building a “completely unconstrained” transmission system and occasionally paying generators not to run at times when there was not enough transmission capability.

“That is an economic balance that should be struck and is struck,” he told MPs.

But the admission was attacked by Tim Yeo MP, a former Conservative environment minister and chairman of the select committee.

“Would you not agree that the public might think that to pay off-shore wind farms a huge extra subsidy to make it worthwhile generating and then to pay them again, if it is too windy, to pay them not to generate, is a lunacy which borders on the Common Agricultural Policy?” he told Mr Winser.

Mr Winser repeated that National Grid was “vigorously” tackling this to make sure that low carbon energy can be used as much as possible.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Paul Steedman said: “The UK could be powering itself using the sun, wind and waves, but we’re squandering renewable energy instead of making the most of it.

“Energy market rules are so ludicrous that we are paying for clean, green energy that we want – and then not using it. We should be taking renewable energy as our first priority.”