Thursday, 17 May 2012


In these times of economic uncertainty, it's reassuring to know that renewables are bucking the trend.

The accountancy firm KPMG seems to have recovered from its little embarrassment recently, when it somehow allowed some raging anti-renewables zombies to write a report, which the firm then had to disown when it was leaked up - where else? - the Daily Torygraph.

KMPG have now announced that private equity investors and infrastructure funds are gearing up for big investments in renewables, with more than 70% of the 500 senior executives polled indicating that they were particularly attracted to hydro-electric, onshore wind and solar PV investments, seeing them as safe havens for long term money.

Given that we now know that Britain's onshore windfarms were worth £548 million to the UK economy last year, supported 8,600 jobs and brought millions of pounds to their local communities while achieving record levels of electricity generation with no hazardous waste or emissions, it can only be good news that serious investors are beginning to recognise the long term financial (as well as environmental) benefits of wind power.

Let's compare that with the unhappy state of the nuclear industry.  Even the most nuclear-friendly of the companies lined up to realise the coalition government's weird dream of ten new nuclear facilities is losing its bottle: EDF has delayed work on its Hinkley Point site, although it has already bulldozed hundreds of acres and various sites of historical and scientific interest in preparation for a plant it doesn't even have planning permission for yet.  So, when some duffus at CPRE pipes up about the "bullying" behaviour of wind power companies (a case of nimby projection, if ever there was one), we should point out who the real bullies are: 1) the nimbies, 2) nuclear power companies.

Anyway, the consensus is building - nuclear power is just too expensive.  Private investors are leaving it in droves.  RWEnpower, EON UK and Scottish and Southern Electricity have already pulled out of the nuclear power plans.  GDFSuez and Centrica have been dropping heavy hints that they will too.  EDF is pressurising the UK government for massive levels of financial support, above and beyond what nuclear already receives.

Again, we find the anti-wind nimbies talking absolute rot and deliberately misleading themselves and everybody else about subsidies.  Wind power doesn't get subsidies.  It gets a top-up from the utility companies, which amounted last year to less than £5 of the average annual energy bill - or roughly 2p per day for the average household.

If the nuclear power companies were to persuade the government to subsidise the colossal costs of building, maintaining and operating the proposed ten new power stations, it would cost the taxpayer about £12 billion a year for the next thirty years (another interesting point: nimbies mock wind turbines for having an optimum operational lifespan of 25 years.  What's the lifespan of a nuclear power station?  30-40 years.  Ever get the feeling you've been had?).

These massive subsidies - on the same scale as what we pay for policing every year - would not mean cheaper electricity for the consumer.  Indeed, one of the big problems nuclear has is that fifty years ago it was promising "electricity too cheap to meter".  Now, it can only try to sell us electricity that's too expensive to generate.  The City wants nothing to do with nuclear, and countries all over the world are abandoning it as a ludicrously expensive, dangerous, unreliable nightmare.

Another anomaly, then: most nimbies, we're sure you'll agree, belong to the economically liberal, free-market-loving right-wing of politics.  They slam the so-called subsidies for wind power as a terrible kind of socialism, conveniently forgetting the massive, real subsidies paid by the taxpayer to the fossil fuels and nuclear industries.  The more hard-of-thinking nimbies protest that wind energy firms are "motivated solely by profit" - which is a pretty odd argument, when you come to think about it.  After all, aren't gas companies, nuclear operators and coal-fired power stations motivated pretty much entirely by profit?

But the fact is that now, the market is speaking.  And its message is very clear indeed.  Nuclear (without monumental government subsidies) is a bad investment.  No hope of any kind of return for years, and a bit embarrassing when you have to let the taxpayer cover the costs of decommissioning or any horrendous nuclear accident.  Renewables, however, are a very good investment.  Even with the so-called subsidies (ROC) for wind power falling, wind guarantees a healthy return from day one.  Once the nimbies have done with their preposterous posturing and sick campaigns of lies and misinformation, a windfarm can be safely installed relatively quickly, and be generating power for the grid in next to no time and at relatively little cost.

Does this mean that our nimby friends will suddenly lose their affection for the free market?  Or will they finally have to confess that, like everything else in their lives, they'll impose it on others but oppose it themselves?

Want to hear the voice of business on this issue?  Check out this BBC video of Dragon's Den stalwart, Deborah Meaden:

Meanwhile, two more bits of good news.

When a complete idiot on a Berkshire council proposed a fanatically stupid anti-windfarm motion, which included the thoroughly braindead nimby claim that wind turbines "just do not work", Maidenhead Friends of the Earth got to hear about it.  They emailed this useful factsheet - - to every councillor.  Presented with some genuine information, as opposed to the usual slagheap of fatuous nimby lies, the councillors narrowly defeated the insane motion.  Well done, Maidenhead Friends of the Earth!!

And in Spain last month, wind power broke a new record, generating 317 gigawatt hours of electricity on 18 April.  The following morning, wind power alone was responsible for covering 61.06% of Spain's electricity demand.

Amazing what you can do when you shut the nimbies up and get on with a sensible and beneficial investment!

No comments:

Post a Comment