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Who’s really paying for our windfarms?

A Teesside MP has launched a scathing attack on the promotion of renewable energy by electricity suppliers, labelling it “the biggest scam since timeshare”.

Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield, said customers were being duped by spurious green charges at a time when energy bills were already on the rise.

UK suppliers including British Gas, E.on, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern have already heaped inflation-busting price rises on cash-strapped homeowners.

Now some utility firms are ramping up costs even further by forcing customers to subsidise costly renewable energy projects.

Mr Wilson said: “E.on are ripping off customers and the Government by increasing our bills and taking massive subsidies.

“We pay 6% of our bills per household to the energy companies in renewable charges – yet we have never been informed about them or asked if we want to opt out.”

He said residents would see their energy bills rocket if the 115 megawatt Isles wind farm near Newton Aycliffe got the go-ahead.

Piloted by utilities giant E.on, the £575m scheme could contain 25 to 45 turbines generating enough electricity to power 53,000 homes.

Last week the proposals were put out for consultation, with a formal planning application expected to be filed by spring next year.

But the scheme has already generated stiff opposition from residents who say they do not want towering turbines blighting the landscape.

But the extra costs they face will be even harder to bear, according to the Renewable Energy Foundation.

The trade body predicts the scheme could rake in £23m a year for E.on – with around half of that cost generated by higher energy bills for customers.

Dr John Constable, director of policy and research at the foundation, said: “People correctly perceive wind farms to be unfair. People think it seems to lack natural justice.”

E.on has pledged to pay up to £460,000 a year into a community benefits fund if the scheme is approved.

The money will be used to upgrade facilities and infrastructure in the area and will run for the lifetime of the scheme – potentially 25 years.

But it’s a fraction of the amount that will be generated via the extra energy levies.

The Renewable Energy Foundation estimates households receiving power from the scheme would pay an extra £235 a year on their bills.

If 53,000 households benefit from the scheme, that will generate a whopping £12.5m a year – roughly the amount the community fund could pay out over the project’s lifetime.

E.on said it was too early to comment on costs because the scope of the scheme had not yet been decided.

The first phase of the consultation runs until October 7.

If the scheme does get the green light, Mr Wilson will not be happy. He says the area already has enough wind turbines to meet its needs.

“We already have 17 in the ward,” he says. “About 22% of our energy needs come from renewable energy.

“I want to attract businesses and people to the area and will more wind turbines not put them off? “