British households forked out a massive £1.2billion in subsidies to wind farm operators last year – a sector that creates 12,000 jobs for the economy.
That means every job in the industry is effectively costing £100,000 a year in handouts from inflated domestic energy bills, according to a report today.
The figures in the Sunday Telegraph are yet another blow to the beleaguered wind industry, which already faces increasingly fierce opposition from residents in coastal areas ripe for hosting the technology.
Industry figures show that for the 12 months to the end of February, the latest period for which figures are available, slightly more than £1.2billion was paid through the consumer subsidy – known as the Renewables Obligation.
It was introduced by Labour to encourage investment and is added to all energy bills, meaning that besides households, industry and employers also pay, adding to the cost of all goods and services.
According to the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank that has criticised the cost of wind farms, it currently adds about £47 to the average household’s cost of living.
Lord Teverson, who leads on energy and climate change for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said the subsidies were not primarily for ‘a job creation programme’, but rather allowed Britain to compete at the forefront of the renewable technology industry.
He said: ‘It (a subsidy) is in terms of getting us ahead in the world and gives us skills we can export.
‘It is a good investment for the future. The positive is Britain wants to be at the forefront of this.’
West Country-based Lord Teverson, who lives in region boasting more than 100 turbines, said some element of subsidy for renewable energy projects was ‘inevitable’ while the technology is still in its infancy.
He added: ‘There are some high start-up costs and money is needed for investment, but after that the energy is free.
‘I can see how the idea of a subsidy for renewables doesn’t sit well with some, but you ask most people down here (in Cornwall) about wind turbines and it is not high on their agenda of things to worry about, unlike the shortage of affordable housing.’
The Sunday Telegraph figures come in the wake of tough new rules mooted to help locals have more say in opposing plans for on-shore wind farms over fears about both the physical blight on the countryside and the noise impact of some of the larger turbines.
Developers, too, have also received short shrift in the courts, after a landmark ruling last year where Mrs Justice Lang ruled in favour of preserving the landscape of the Norfolk Broads, rather than allow for four giant turbines to be built on the site.
It is thought changes to planning guidance, raised earlier this month, would put the future of onshore wind under serious threat due to giving greater weight to local opposition over the need for renewable energy, taking the impact of turbines on the landscape and local heritage into consideration.
Concerns have already been made by some within the renewables industry that an increase in ‘sweetener’ payments, paid by companies to those who host the technology, could have made some developments uneconomic and scupper any benefits for them going ahead.
The Government said the wind subsidies did more than simply support jobs, citing multiple environmental benefits as key to the payments.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: ‘Subsidies for wind have multiple benefits for the UK economy, supporting jobs is only one important factor.
‘Wind power adds to our energy security as part of a diverse energy mix, alongside nuclear, gas and other renewables. In 2012, over 5% of all electricity generated came from wind power, helping to reduce our dependence on imported gas and cutting damaging carbon emissions.
‘We must strike the right balance between encouraging investment and ensuring value for money for consumers.
‘As the cost of technologies come down, so will subsidies. Support for onshore wind was reduced by 10% this year and we have challenged the offshore wind industry to significantly cut costs by 2020.’
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