Get a Move on, Ed, or Sun Will Set on Our Wind-Power Dream

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 16, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Get a Move on, Ed, or Sun Will Set on Our Wind-Power Dream


Byline: ROBERT LEA ENERGY ANALYSIS

SEEN any sign of those 300 wind turbines the height of Nelson's Column going up in the Thames estuary for the promised London Array, "the world's biggest offshore wind farm"? Heard much more from Centrica after its grandiose claim to have built the world's largest sea-sited wind farm, 50- odd turbines off Lincolnshire, powering all of 130,000 homes? Any real hope the UK will hit its 15% target for energy sourced from renewables, with the help of 8000 turbines around the coast of Britain? The answers are all, of course, no.

Which illustrates the crossroads at which the British wind industry finds itself, looking with increasing levels of frustration and agitation at Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.

The momentum has stalled for wind to bridge the UK's energy gap, or power output shortfall, in the next decade.

Witness the new fronts that are opening up, aimed at shaming the Government and its grandly named Department of

Energy and Climate Change into action.

These range from the fiscal to the industrially ambitious.

First up, there's the British Wind Energy Association, a trade body whose members are also, a little uncomfortably, the UK's main carbon-emitting generators.

The BWEA has presented the Treasury with a seemingly elegant way out of the current fiscal impasse. Building wind farms has been put on hold because of the financial crisis and the wind insutry is accusing the Goernment of being happy to bail out banks, but not resuscitate renewables.

One of the biggest financial factors is the need to connect all these wind farms to the National Grid at a cost of several billion pounds. Clearly this horrifies investors, who already fear the payback from the project will stretch beyond their own lifetimes.

In its Budget submission, the BWEA suggests that the link-up costs are "socialised" (i.e. paid for by the generating industry as a whole rather than by each individual operator).

This would mean the dirty, carbonemitting electricity generators subsidising the wind industry. Via what would, in effect, be a windfall tax on the highly-profitable energy industry, the Treasury would avoid the need to dip into taxpayers' pockets. (The downside, of course, is that at some stage this cost will be passed on in higher power prices to consumers.

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