Onshore wind adds less than a fiver to energy bills

Green energy supplier Ecotricity has slammed “scaremongering” from the anti-wind lobby as the company released figures that confirmed onshore wind power added less than £5 to household energy bills last year.

According to Ecotricity, onshore wind last year added just £4.98 to the UK’s 26.3 million households’ energy bills. Taken together with other renewable energy technologies that are supported by taxpayer subsidies, those costs increased to just £15.15 per household, the company said.

Ecotricity, which aims to have 200 megawatts of onshore wind capacity installed over next five years, based its calculations on the latest figures released by energy regulator Ofgem in its Renewable Obligation Annual Report for 2010-11. The Renewable Obligation is the main support mechanism for encouraging the growth of renewable energy in the UK – including wind, wave, tidal, biomass and landfill gas.

Ecotricity boss Dale Vince said that far from being unaffordable, as some Conservative MPs and the pro gas and nuclear lobby suggest, renewable subsidies for onshore wind have added far less to household energy bills than the rising price of gas.

“Let’s set the record straight. Supporting onshore windmills and making use of our indigenous energy supplies – cost each household less than a fiver last year,” he said.

“This is an investment, not just in clean energy, but in energy security – reducing our reliance on imported gas.

“There has been a massive campaign of misinformation over the last six months by the media and lobbyists for the gas and nuclear industries – all taking aim at wind energy for some reason.”

According to Ofgem’s report, Renewable Obligation Certificates totalled 34.7 million last year and the total value of the ROCs presented for compliance came to £1.3 billion. The buy-out price for each ROC – the ‘fine’ energy suppliers pay for each ROC they don’t present for compliance towards their obligation – came to £36.99, according to Ofgem.

Using these figures and based on domestic supply accounting for 31 per cent of UK electricity, Ecotricity has calculated the UK’s 26.3 million homes are paying a total of £398.5 million on the RO, equalling £15.15 per household.

Offshore and onshore wind accounted for 51.1 per cent of ROCs in 2010/11 (20.2 per cent and 30.9 per cent respectively), giving a cost per household for wind of £7.74 and a cost of onshore wind per household of £4.68, said Ecotricity.

And it points out that in comparison – according to figures released in December by Ofgem – the rising cost of imported gas added around £120 to energy bills last year.

Last month, more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a cut in subsidies for onshore wind. In the letter they wrote: “In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines.”

Today, Vince questioned the validity of the MPs’ claims in the face of the facts.

“With the rising cost of imported gas increasing household energy bills by £120 last year, it’s bizarre to see a group of Conservative MPs complaining about the £5 spent on onshore wind. Are they not in possession of the facts, or do they care little for such inconveniences?

“In January this year, coal took over from gas as the major provider of electricity in Britain because the high price of importing gas caused the Big Six energy companies to mothball gas power stations. That’s the reality – it’s gas that we can’t afford not onshore wind.

“Britain should not be left at the mercy of the international gas market. We have 40 per cent of Europe’s wind resource. Let’s use it, to create jobs, industries, clean energy and independence from global energy markets.”

Ecotricity, which already operates more than 50 onshore wind turbines in the UK, has plans to build a further 19 new wind turbines at five sites across Britain in 2012. A further 78 wind turbines are seeking planning approval.

Ecotricity’s findings come in the wake of the Government this month having to revise down by half its own estimates on the cost of subsidies for solar electricity on household energy bills. The cost of the Feed-in Tariff for solar electricity installations over the lifetime of the scheme has now been estimated at £750 million instead of £1.5 billion by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.