Denise Robertson: Wind farms paid to stand idle as Britain hit by storms

Denise Robertson speaks her mind on Britain's wind farms which have been paid a record £30m to stand idle

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire Electricity pylons with wind turbines in the distance
Electricity pylons with wind turbines in the distance

As gales crashed around us last week, we learned that wind farms have been paid a record £30million to stand idle in bad weather. These ‘constraint payments’ have reached £30,424,169, compared with last year’s £5million.

The Renewable Energy Foundation, which compiled the figures, says: ‘At some point government will have to face the fact that wind power is simply too expensive to provide more than a minor share of UK electricity.’

The snag is that, under EU law, Britain’s energy consumption from renewables needs to reach 15% by 2020... which means thousands more wind turbines will have to be built.

There are reportedly 4,000 on land and 1,000 at sea but to obey the EU we’ll have to build thousands more and then pay even more constraint money when the wind blows too fast.

Which means we’ll be taking money from the pockets of poor people to subsidise rich landowners on whose land the wind farms stand. Or will we?

That same EU, which required the building of those turbines, is reported to be ready to demand we phase out subsidies on wind and solar energy.

They claim onshore wind and solar power industries are now ‘mature’ and must stand on their own two feet because Single Market rules ban long-term state-aid to domestic industries.

Is it me or is there an absence of joined-up thinking here?

It’s also rumoured that the National Grid will hook up to thousands of diesel generators if power runs out when we’re forced to close the coal-fired stations, as the EU has demanded.

This would keep the lights on but be colossally expensive while pumping out masses of CO2….and of course we’d pay!

If that report is true, Ed Milliband wants to halt rising prices made inevitable by a Climate Change Act he steered through Parliament.

Meanwhile David Cameron claims he is on Team Nigella. I wish he was on our team, yours and mine, and sorting out a situation which looks messier by the minute.

:: A year ago one of my dogs went missing. For four hours, in a blizzard, we searched for him and found him, injured but alive.

I will never forget the anguish I felt that night. Now the RSPCA has closed down its lost pets helpline and callers are being directed to a little-known website which charges distraught pet-owners £12 to use its services.

A while ago I was contacted by a woman anxious about a stray cat.

She was not a cat-lover but was feeding the starving animal out of pity.

She rang the RSPCA to ask for help and was advised to stop feeding it ‘so it would go elsewhere’. Hardly the caring attitude she might have expected.

The Society hit the headlines again last week when they snatched a dog being cared for by another charity and would have put it down had it not been for a petition signed by 5,000 animal lovers.

The dog in question was very disabled but in the care of a reputable animal charity.

The RSPCA’s CEO, Gavin Grant, interviewed on Radio Four, was unwilling to admit the least cause for concern.

I abhor fox-hunting but his detestation of it seems to have caused tunnel vision, to the detriment of other animals. Reportedly he is being paid 45% more than his predecessor, at a time when the charity’s income from donations is said to be falling.

In the past the RSPCA has done enormous service to all animals. We need it desperately.

I think Mr Grant should pause to think whether or not the present level of disquiet among the society’s long-term supporters is reaching dangerous levels.

:: Radio Four’s flagship Today programme has come in for criticism after the musician,PJ Harvey, guest edited the programme last week.

She included a series of items criticising David Cameron, the Queen and President Obama as well as inviting controversial guests including campaigning journalist John Pilger and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson tweeted: “Pilger always thought-provoking, but was he really suggesting that BBC ignore Obama’s Mandela grief as he is a hypocrite?”

Labour MP Ian Austin tweeted “In 30 years of listening, I already thought today’s Today was worst ever.

“I couldn’t imagine it could get worse. Then they put Assange on”.

I was surprised that a female guest editor did not see fit to give a platform to a female guest and allowed Assange, who is facing rape and sexual assault charges in Sweden, to give the Thought for Today.

Hardly a shining example of female solidarity.

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