Energy firms netted a £1million windfall from the taxpayer as last week’s killer storm ripped across the country.
After 80mph gales swept southern Britain, leaving 500,000 homes without power, much of the electricity generated by the biggest wind farms was deemed surplus to the needs of the National Grid.
That triggered compensation payments to some of the Big Six energy companies, who are major investors in the on-shore wind industry. The handouts, known as constraint payments, totalled almost £1million over 24 hours.
That brings the total paid out to wind farm owners for unused electricity this year to £26million.
The compensation deal will enrage hard-pressed homeowners at a time when they are being hit by inflation-busting price rises of up to 27 per cent.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, who spearheads the parliamentary campaign against on-shore wind farms, branded the payments an outrage.
He said: “For the 5.5 million households living in fuel poverty and the millions more families who face higher bills to heat homes this winter, these constraint payments are an insult. It is money for nothing. The sooner we stop travelling down this road of subsidising expensive and intermittent energy, the better it will be for all of us.”
The figures emerged as a study published by consumer watchdog Which? today reveals heating their homes is the number one worry for Britons this winter.
It also reveals trust in energy firms has plummeted following the latest price increases. The energy industry now ranks lower than bankers and car salesmen.
As the storm began last Sunday, killing five people and causing chaos for Monday morning commuters, a total of £780,000 was paid to wind farm owners.
The next day they pocketed a further £43,000. Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “The wind constraint payment saga has gone on far too long.
“The public is really worried about being ripped off by the energy companies, yet here we see wind turbine operators brazenly holding a gun to the consumer’s head and naming their price to stop causing a grid problem. If ever there was a case for windfall taxes to recover unreasonable income this is it.”
Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This farcical situation is a direct result of politicians using green taxes to subsidise uneconomic forms of renewable energy.
“The irony of paying for wind farms not in use might be funny if subsidies for the turbines weren’t driving up energy bills.”
Tory plans to review green taxes have sparked a Coalition feud over how to handle the energy crisis. Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced plans last week to make it easier for consumers to switch suppliers but the move is unlikely to ease concerns. Chancellor George Osborne now faces demands to take drastic action to cut costs as he delivers his Autumn Statement on December 4.
A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary to be screened tomorrow reveals seven out of 10 Britons are planning to cut back on heating this winter to keep costs down and almost half, 43 per cent, are worried that the soaring cost of electricity will drive them into debt.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Constraint payments are long-standing aspects of Britain’s electricity transmission system, with most constraint costs continuing to relate to fossil fuel generators not wind farms.
“The impact on consumer bills of constraint payments made to wind farms is negligible. On-shore wind is a cost-effective source of low-carbon energy.”