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« Devil in the detail | Main | Dave Roberts at TED »

A reminder of madness past

Benedict Brogan's review of the Conservative party's position on windfarms is well worth a read.

In a few weeks, as part of the Energy Bill, ministers will announce a reduction of up to a quarter in the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates – or “Rocs”. Yes, I realise that’s hardly a sentence to set the pulse racing. But if one considers that Rocs are the means by which the taxpayer subsidises the wind farm industry, and that the Chancellor proposes to slash that giveaway by 25 per cent, then translated into plain English it means this: onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead.

If the ROCs cuts kills new windfarms "stone dead" then that is to be welcomed, but as Brogan goes on to note, it's not clear what effect the cuts will have on existing installations. So although he expressed the hope that the move will win votes to the Conservatives from UKIP, it may well be that the existing windfarms stay put, every day reminding ex-Tory voters of why they left the fold.

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Reader Comments (35)

As I type this, wind's contribution to the UK grid is 0.3% of the total

The bulk is made up of this -

CCGT - 36%
Coal - 38.7%
Nuclear - 21.2%

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Registered CommenterAndy Scrase

This isn't "red meat" but really a burger. Real "red meat" would be the repeal of the climate change act as soon as possible.

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Based on the possibility of similar cuts some time in the future to offshore subsidies, you'd have to have a pretty good contractual position before you wanted to put one up offshore either. Unless govt is prepared to give guarantees of decades of support, it should kill all wind new-build.

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Another Blast from the past.

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Real environmentalists from all of the political spectrum should welcome a halt to this pointless stampede to build windfarms.

I am all in favour of "renewables" in theory, but onshore ( and , in my opinion offshore) windfarms are hopeless in practically every way.

Only those actually profiting financially from wind energy should regret this development.

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Off shore wind is a major investment to transfer more of your money into the coffers of the Crown Estate whose profits go directly to the treasury. I cannot see any government of any persuasion being able to cut income into the treasury. I am afraid that offshore wind is here to stay and the subsidy is just another means of taking our money to pay off the national debt and ultimately the banking crisis.

Means to an end, a political solution to maintain the City of London's financial domination of the markets. Tax the peasants to maintain the Barron's, funny how history repeats itself.

Anyone got Robin Hood on speed dial?

Jun 20, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook


A few days ago there was an item on local TV, about a land owner near Oxford, who was offering the public shares, (£250 a pop), in his solar panel farm, reputed to be the largest in the UK.

I wondered why at the time, if the venture was so profitable why he was off loading it.

Is he seeing or anticipating a fall in his subsidy?

Please tell me this madness is going to stop soon.


Jun 20, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergrumpygranddad

Of course there is another reason to be pleased at this potential development : it will really annoy the Lib Dems [I agree with Lovelock on that matter at least!].

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

Lord B

"offshore wind is here to stay"

But I thought they had twice the subsidy, and therefore stand to lose twice as much? Also, they are pigs to build and maintain. Oil rigs need loads of maintenance, and they've got helipads and space to work!

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

As if voting for a different party would have made any difference!

What a dilemma, do I vote Punch or Judy? Maybe a protest vote for the sausages makes one feel better, but the results on the ground would not be any different, unless the sausages are going to address sovereign money. Doubtful.

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm Sausages.

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of fresh air

Old Alex north of Hadrian's Wall will be peeed off.

Does that mean, I wonder, if his plan to cover Scotland in wind farms is blowing in the wind?

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Registered Commenterpeterwalsh

grumpygranddad -

I suspect that th real rationale behind the share offer would have been to enable him to proclaim that he had somehow managed to obtain broad local support for his development. So the share offer (advertised as it was to people living in the local vicinity) should surely be seen as an attempt to reduce the risk of failure to obtain planning approval?

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

James P

But if one considers that Rocs are the means by which the taxpayer subsidises the wind farm industry, and that the Chancellor proposes to slash that giveaway by 25 per cent, then translated into plain English it means this: onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead.

It will be worth studying the detail of the proposal when it is officially released, and maybe the quoted statement is just an error " onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead" but I don't see any evidence that off shore wind farms are economically viable without subsidy and the Crown Estate, which I suspect is continually in tune with government policy, is still jubilant in the future of off shore wind.

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Cleggy was interviewed on the Today programme this morning about the idea of cutting wind subsidies and seemed quite happy with the idea.

BBC Radio 4 Today ‏@BBCr4today
"No one should be fetishistic about [#renewableenergy] subsidies... they aren't chisled in stone" says @nick_clegg

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:59 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


Looks like this of shore development is going ahead.
Dam shame.

Jun 20, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Morph, There is an e-petition to repeal the climate change act:

But with only 2 months to run less than 1500 people have signed it.

Jun 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

I am not sure this is really 'a reminder of madness past'. It seems all too present to me.

Jun 20, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

"Cleggy was interviewed on the Today programme this morning about the idea of cutting wind subsidies and seemed quite happy with the idea.

BBC Radio 4 Today ‏@BBCr4today
"No one should be fetishistic about [#renewableenergy] subsidies... they aren't chisled in stone" says @nick_clegg"

Interesting, but I seem to remember that 'Last of the Summer Whine'-Cleggy was always a pushover for Campo!

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

What a faithful lapdog Benedict is. Several paragraphs about cheap energy, but never a hint that the UK is probably sitting on loads of the stuff and we can be better off if drillers are allowed to start getting it out.

It's not Tory policy, you see, so Benedict doesn't mention it.

I wonder if ANY of the words in this article are his? Or is it all written for him?

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

"slash that giveaway by 25 per cent, then translated into plain English it means this: onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead"

Interestingly that is not only an acknowledgement that windmillery isn't a real industry but by how much it isn't a real industry. Keeping 75% of the subsidy will not be enough to prevent "stone death". By comparison even a relatively small subsidy - 10s of millions not billions - would be enough to create a buggy whip industry producing 10s of millions of horse whips annually, for the horses we no longer ride.

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Jack Savage said:

Real environmentalists from all of the political spectrum should welcome a halt to this pointless stampede to build windfarms.

I am all in favour of "renewables" in theory, but onshore ( and , in my opinion offshore) windfarms are hopeless in practically every way.

I'm about 95% in agreement but I think that in special circumstances wind farms might have a limited but useful role to play, e.g. in connection with hydroelectric power. When the wind is blowing then the flow of water through the hydro-power station's turbines could be stopped or curtailed and where pumped storage is in use electricity from wind farms could be used to pump the water back uphill.

Of course they should still not be sited where they cause problems.

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@ Jack Savage

I'm in favour of renewables in theory too. It's just that the real renewables always turn out to be fossil, because we renew our inventories by finding new ways to extract them.

We've never run out of a fossil resource, but we've effectively run out of plenty of renewable ones: hardwood, peat, whale oil, natural rubber, and tigers (whose "bones, eyes, whiskers and teeth are used to treat ailments and disease ranging from insomnia and malaria, to meningitis and bad skin", apparently - see

The fact is that sustainability isn't sustainable.

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Lord Beaverbrook asked the same question that interests me: would a similar reduction in subsidy kill offshore wind as well?

Jun 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

I like to to think that those who take the trouble to write to their MPs, to point out the error of their ways, may have had a hand in persuading those MPs to put pressure on Ministers. This site and WUWT have been invaluable to me in my own efforts - my correspondence and attachments, plus replies from my MP, now fill a box file. So I should like to thank Bishop Hill and the many well-informed commentators here for your help in informing me about the many issues, arguments, twists and turns that continue to this day.

Jun 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

The Chancellor is the one minister who will be judged totally on our economy so he must have been having nightmares about renewable energy from day one in the job.
The reality is that the world has far far greater known, economically recoverable sources of fossil fuel than ever before, even taking into consideration the increasing demands being made on them. On one day in the last year our recoverable reserves of oil doubled overnight with the discovery of the Green Rivers shale play in Wyoming USA. On another day a US/Japan cooperative venture announced that an offshore well in Canada had successfully tapped into a Methane Hydrate deposit and produced Natural Gas for 31 days before being capped. The amount of Methane Hydrate deposits exceeds the amount of all other fossil fuel deposits put together, many times over.
The world is looking seriously at 1000 years of abundant frossil fuel.
On top of that you have Thorium nuclear reactors where the waste only needs to be stored for a few hundred years before it is safe, no risk of a reactor melt down and Thorium is far more abundant than Uranium.
Ah but the fossil fuels all produce CO2 which some influential pseudo scientists have convinced the world will lead to catastrophy. Not a problem folks, a group at MIT is developing a kind of catalytic filter made from nano particles of fused gold/copper which removes CO2 from power plant emissions and turns it into (wait for it....) more natural gas! ^.^
Our technological expertise is in using fossil fuels and is not yet in renewables. There is no urgent need to go for renewable energy and we can afford to wait until our knowledge has greatly improved.

Jun 20, 2012 at 2:56 PM | Registered CommenterDung

A friend of mine has put solar panels on the roof. This morning there was a power cut. She thought, marvellous, I'm totally self-sufficient, I'm all right. Wrong. Big problem. Apparently there is some converter thingy that needs electricity to enable the use of the solar power and without electricty off the grid the whole lot stops working.

OK, I'm a pathetic girly and have no idea how these things work and perhaps someone can explain it to me, but I howled laughing. Mean of me, I know.

Jun 20, 2012 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterbiddyb

Re 'Running out of Tigers'
I sugest you dig a little deeper. WWF would like the Indian Government to move 200,000 people from their homes to make room for the pigs and deer on which tigers feed.
They claim that tigers are 'threatened' because there are only 3200 (?) left in the wild. This figure is highly suspect as some countries were none too thorough in their counting and even India admits its own population is rising.
Tigers are extremely easy to breed (unlike Pandas), as the 6000 in North American Zoos and the 5000 in Chinese Tiger farms would indicate. WWF provide these figures if you dig deep enough, but they need to be described as 'endangered', otherwise your grandchildren would not be sending WWF £3 a month to 'help save them'.

Jun 20, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Good god, toad. You're not suggesting, are you, that WWF would spout lies about the impending demise of a cut and cuddly animal, in order to drive forward an anthropophobic agenda? Surely that could never happen! Next you will be saying they have been exaggerating the plight of polar bears!

The definition of a renewable resource is, I suppose, one resource capable of renewing itself in the quantities required. Some renewables have succeeded, such as farm animals, but my wider point remains, which is that the only natural resources yet exhausted have been renewable resources.This shows no sign of changing and the basis for the [snip] assumption that we will exhaust these resources appears to be that, like that bloke who spent 10 years playing the same game of Civ 2, eventually all discovery and innovation will cease.

Jun 20, 2012 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

I agrre, of course. It's just that nothing pisses me off quite so much as WWF.
Have you seen Louise's latest bit on Bio-diversity loss.
Sickening !

Jun 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad


in the case of a power cut, all distributed generators - small solar panel arrays, wind turbines and the like - that are jacked into the grid have to automatically shutdown/disconnect.

The reason being that, if they didn't, electric company linesman working to rectify the fault on the "dead" line would be electrocuted from all the little windmills and solar panels back-feeding juice into the grid.

Hilarious, isn't it! :-)

Jun 20, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngusPangus


That's delicious, isn't it? A bit like the windmills that have to draw power to be kept turning when there isn't any wind...

Jun 20, 2012 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

The Govt subsidies such as FiTs, RHIs and ROCs are guaranteed for 20/25 years with annual RPI increases.
As a generator once you are up and running you have a guaranteed gravy train for at least 20 years. Not bad. How many businesses get that sort of certainty of revenue?
Future consumers are burdened with this although few realise it.
Ongoing reviews will lower the level of FiT/RHI subsidy for new installations and eventually the strategy is that energy prices will rise, subsidies fall and can finally be dropped. But all installed facilities get their income at the rate that applied when they started generating.
Get your snouts in the tough quickly.

Jun 20, 2012 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak


So when we get rolling power cuts as we shut down the older power stations, the renewables ain't going to work either?


You would think that solar PV on people's houses could be arranged so that they could still power their own homes. Surely there must be some sort of switching mechanism to do that, or is it because the PV salesmen are indulging in a little sharp practice? What would be the cost of that?

Jun 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterBiddyb

Biddyb - it is not as simple as a switching mechanism, panels for grid connection are usually wired in series to get the necessary higher voltages - while off-grid systems are usually 12 or 24v so panels are wired in parallel.

Jun 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

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