Wind farms were paid a record sum of almost £3 million in a single day this week not to produce electricity.
Strong winds amid the remnants of Hurricane Bertha left the electricity network unable to cope with the amount of energy being produced by turbines on Monday.
As a result National Grid paid owners £2.8 million to shut down their wind farms, at up to double the rate they would have received in subsidies had they actually generated electricity.
A further £1.1 million was given to other power stations to generate electricity to make up the shortfall created by shutting the wind farms down.
The money – detailed in figures provided by National Grid – will ultimately be added on to household bills and paid for by consumers.
Critics described the payments as “disturbingly high” and called for ministers to “rein in” the amounts being demanded by the wind industry.
Opponents of wind farms have warned that a “subsidy-driven” push for wind has outstripped the ability of the electricity network to cope with the energy produced by turbines, leaving the industry able to benefit from generous payments to shut down during windy weather.
The National Grid runs a “balancing mechanism” to ensure electricity supply meets national demand. On Monday the strong winds caused a spike in the amount of electricity produced by wind farms, leading to a “bottleneck” of energy leaving the network from Scotland, where many of the country’s turbines have been built.
Dr Lee Moroney, research director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, which highlighted the figures, said: “It is now becoming crystal clear that the full cost of constraints including those arising from the government’s ‘Connect and Manage’ policy for wind power is disturbingly high.
“But it doesn’t have to be quite this expensive, and a more robust position from both government and the regulator, Ofgem, would go a long way to reining in wind power’s very high constraint prices, which are still, in spite of all the publicity, well in excess of lost income.”
A spokesman for National Grid said: “The high winds on Monday at the tail end of Hurricane Bertha coincided with a period of low demand for electricity.
“This resulted in payments of £2.8 million to wind generators to stop generating and £1,130,000 to other generators to rebalance.
“Constraint payments are the most economically efficient way of managing the issue while we await improvements to the electricity network such as the Western Link – a £1bn subsea link that will bring renewable energy from Scotland to the rest of the UK.”
Zoltan Zavody, head of Grid at RenewableUK, the industry trade body, said: “In 2013/14 less than five per cent of the total cost of balancing the grid was due to wind, with the total cost of constraining wind around 65p on the annual domestic electricity bill.”
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