Wind farms were paid a record £8.7 million last month to switch off, according to figures that show how an increasing amount of subsidised renewable energy is being wasted.
National Grid made the “constraint payments” to 27 wind farms because it was unable to use their electricity at the time it was generated, the Renewable Energy Foundation said.
Analysis of electricity market data by the foundation, which lobbies against wind turbines, shows that payments to their operators not to generate have risen rapidly in the past four years.
A total of £32 million was paid last year, up from £6 million in 2012 and £174,000 in 2010, the foundation said.
The previous highest monthly payment was in August last year, when operators were paid just over £8 million in constraint payments.
John Constable, the foundation’s director, said that part of the reason for the increase in payments was the rise in the number of wind farms. However, he said that the overriding reason was that too many wind farms had been built in remote areas of Scotland. Inadequacies in the transmission system meant it was often difficult to transport the electricity to areas of high demand in England.
“Wind constraint payments are rocketing up and these costs are ultimately paid for by consumers via their electricity bills,” he said.
National Grid said earlier this year that the Government had decided to allow wind farms to be built and connected to the grid despite knowing that its “extensive programme of network reinforcement” would not be completed for several years.
Phil Sheppard, National Grid’s head of network strategy, said that the Government had chosen “to bring on stream these new connections – a large proportion of which are from renewable sources – well ahead of time, but at the expense of some constraints on the transmission system”. “As system operator, we believe this is the right strategy because it’s in the country’s best interests to get as much capacity on the system as quickly as possible.”;
He said that the Western Link, a £1 billion project to bring renewable energy from Scotland to England and Wales, should be completed in 2016.
A spokeswoman for National Grid said: “Constraint payments are made when there is congestion on the network and we choose whatever generation is the cheapest to constrain to keep costs as low as possible.
“Increased payments do not necessarily indicate a problem, it can be for any number of reasons including high winds or parts of the grid being out for maintenance or improvement work.”;
Wind energy generated a record 11 per cent of the UK’s electricity in February, enough to power more than 6½ million homes.
The wind industry responded angrily to reports that David Cameron was considering making an election pledge to place new limits on onshore turbines.
Dale Vince, founder of the wind farm operator Ecotricity, said: “Only this week the Government acknowledged the warning from the UN about the risks from climate change, but they are clearly pulling in the opposite direction. Onshore wind power is the cheapest source of renewable energy and less than half the price of nuclear.”;
The RSPB won planning permission yesterday for a 100m high turbine to be built by Ecotricity at its headquarters on a nature reserve in Bedfordshire. However, plans for four turbines on land in Northamptonshire owned by the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin, were abandoned. The National Trust welcomed yesterday’s decision by West Coast Energy, saying that turbines would have damaged views at Lyveden New Bield, its Grade I-listed Elizabethan manor house and garden.
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