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Wind farm ‘playing poker’ with cost of electricity bills

Electricity bills could soar if energy firms bail out a new £2.6billion Scottish wind farm, according to a former adviser to the World Bank.

Gordon Hughes, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, compared construction of the Moray East farm off Caithness to a poker game that could spark a huge rise in household bills.

The warning comes despite the farm, along with another off the Yorkshire coast, being hailed as the ‘future’ of energy production.

In a report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Hughes wrote: ‘A number of large wind farms have contracts to supply power at extraordinarily low prices. But the cost and performance data suggest that they will be unable to cover their costs.’

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Professor Hughes added: ‘Either a consortium made up of large overseas energy companies and financial institutions is deliberately planning to lose money, or UK electricity customers will find themselves having to pay much higher prices so as to permit lenders to recover their loans and the developers to earn some kind of return on their equity.’

However, he said that if the wholesale market price of electricity produced is raised, then Moray East could make a profit.

Professor Hughes said: ‘[One] view is that investors are prepared to bet that the UK Government will force through a large increase in the wholesale price of electricity, perhaps through a large increase in carbon taxes, thus allowing the investors to make a reasonable return. In that case, the ultimate patsy at the poker table is the British public.’

A week ago we told how Scotland is on course to miss renewables targets despite the country having 3,274 wind turbines.

The SNP has said it plans to expand onshore wind power but despite this, the energy created by onshore farms rose by only 4 per cent last year, according to Scottish Government statistics.

Ministers admitted this month they were likely to fail to meet their own renewables targets.

In April we reported how, since the start of the year, wind farm operators have been paid more than £50million to shut down their turbines when it is too windy.