Alex Salmond’s wind turbine obsession is set to add an extra £10billion onto Britain’s power bills, with consumers locked into paying for renewable energy they will never use.
Dozens of new Scottish wind farms, many of them foreign-owned, are being completed years before the upgrade of power lines from the Highlands and islands or across the Border. The £10billion estimated cost of this renewables rush – equivalent to almost £2,860 for every household over the next seven years – is based on a report by National Grid, which manages the country’s transmission network.
Under legislation introduced by the Coalition in 2010, energy companies sign what are known as “Connect and Manage” agreements for all new projects.
This means that if they are operational before National Grid is ready to cope with the power they can generate, they will be paid to switch off their turbines.
While most of these wind farms are in Scotland, most of the demand is in England – and the necessary north-south improvements to the grid will take up to a decade to complete.
At the same time, more electricity must be purchased to meet demand in the cities – meaning that householders will be effectively paying for the same power twice.
In three months from April and July, Connect and Manage cost National Grid at least £17.2million – all of which will be “socialised”, or added on to electricity bills.
Only 13 large wind farms in Scotland with 600MW of generating power are operating under the new arrangements – meaning they cost National Grid £1million for each 35MW of capacity.
However, a further 112 Scottish wind farms with a colossal 14,653MW of generating power have already signed Connect and Manage deals.
The average length of time before the network will be ready to cope with all this additional power will be seven years in southern Scotland and five years in the north. Based on the most recent figures, the ultimate cost to customers would
be £10billion – although as more wind farms are built and the grid becomes more congested, that could rise still further.
Also, this figure does not include the millions of pounds in “constraint” payments given to older wind farms to help balance demand on the grid.
Stuart Young, a retired construction consultant and chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, stumbled across the astonishing report on National Grid’s website.
He said: “This is the inevitable consequence of our government introducing Connect and Manage at a far greater cost than they anticipated.
“Connect and Manage cost £5.6million for the whole of last year and £17million for just three months this year.
“The reason for this is that we are adding more and more wind farms and we have no option but to pay for this.
“It is inconceivable that it can be allowed to happen this way because the country cannot afford it. Britain will be bankrupt if this goes ahead.”
He added: “Alex Salmond’s ambitions are completely destabilising the running of National Grid. Westminster controls energy but it appears to have forgotten that Holyrood controls planning, therefore it has no say over how many new wind farms are built in Scotland under this scheme.”
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser also condemned the spiralling costs of the scheme, saying: “It is bad enough that electricity consumers are having to pay through the nose for intermittent, unreliable and expensive wind power but it now turns out that they are also having to pay for power that’s not actually capable of being used.
“The figures involved are simply eye-watering and will have to be borne by millions of families across the country who are already struggling with rising energy costs.
“All this just reveals once again the absurdity of SNP energy policy and its single-minded focus on developing more and more wind farms.”
The Beauly to Denny power line, due to open next year, will clear some of the green energy bottleneck in the Highlands. However, other projects – including a new £1billion undersea cable from Ayrshire to north Wales – are years away from completion.
The latest National Grid report into Connect and Manage said “high winds” between April and July, as well as a cable fault in Northumberland, “compounded” the increase in costs.
The report does not include the sums paid out to cover the 127 smaller wind farms in Scotland covered by Connect and Manage.
There are also 38 large power projects due to come on stream in England and Wales, with a further 21,305MW of capacity.
Although the average delay before they are fully connected to the grid is only three years, these projects are also likely to incur enormous pay-outs.
National Grid estimates that Connect and Manage will cost consumers between £102million to £590million by 2021, although it admits this is not a “definitive forecast”.
A spokesman said: “We do all we can to keep costs down. The costs between April-July were higher due to factors like higher winds and the way the system is in terms of capacity.”
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