The Energy Secretary’s ruinous fixation with costly renewable power generation is forcing up the price of electricity.
According to Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, consumers have only themselves to blame for high energy bills. He said at the weekend that they often could not be bothered to shop around for better deals. There is a good reason for that. The tariff structures of the six big energy companies are so complex and volatile that finding a cheaper supplier is no simple task. In his conference speech in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Huhne pledged to make the process easier and quicker, which would be welcome, though his proposals were thin on detail.
But the vagueness was not as troubling as the lack of honesty. Mr Huhne chose not to explain that one of the reasons energy prices are rising fast – government advisers say they will climb by another 30 per cent by the end of the decade – is the Coalition’s ruinous fixation with costly renewable power generation. Specifically, we are investing more in
offshore windfarms than any other country, and the economics of the policy are crippling. According to a government think tank, the UK Energy Research Centre, the cost per megawatt hour over the 25-year lifespan of an offshore windfarm is £149. The comparative cost for coal and gas is £80 and for nuclear £97.
That is a punishing premium to pay for an energy source that may be low carbon but is also unreliable. The harsh winter of 2009/10 saw virtually no electricity generated by turbines because weeks of high pressure systems meant no winds. And the arrays of turbines appearing off our coasts do not replace a single megawatt of fossil-fuelled capacity because conventional power plants have to provide back-up. Curiously, tidal energy – which, unlike wind, is utterly dependable – barely figures in the Coalition’s plans for renewables.
A clean – and secure – energy future has to depend on nuclear generation. Yet in his speech Mr Huhne made just a fleeting reference to it, and then only to stress that there would not be “a penny of public subsidy” – not actually true, because the Government is setting a floor price for carbon emissions, which is a hidden support.
The Energy Secretary once described nuclear power as a “tried, tested and failed” technology but in office has seen the error of his ways. It is time he showed some of the zeal of the convert and demonstrated a genuine commitment to the nuclear programme. It is the only power source that is low carbon, reliable and sufficient to our needs – and delivers energy independence into the bargain. That is the direction in which we should be heading, not down a green blind alley.
Telegraph View represents the editorial opinion of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.
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