The escalating row between an anti-windfarm campaigner and the Scottish Government about “willful misinformation” about the cost of wind energy to consumers has now reached the First Minister
The row was triggered by an assertion at Holyrood by SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie that subsidizing renewables was only costing consumers £21 per year. Stuart Young of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum who was in the public gallery shouted out “That is rubbish” when Mr Mackenzie made his remark during the debate on the EET’s Report on Renewable Energy Targets on 21st February. He then penned letters of complaint to Energy Minister Fergus Ewing and the Deputy Presiding Officer about Mr Ewing’s failure to correct Mr Mackenzie.
According to a letter written on behalf of Mr Ewing, Mr Mackenzie’s figure is correct because it is based on only that part of the Renewables Obligation, the formal subsidy mechanism whereby windfarms receive extra payments for the electricity they produce, which appears in household bills.
Mr Young has rejected Mr Ewing’s defence as disingenuous because Mr Mackenzie referred to the cost of subsidizing renewables generally, not just specifically by means of the Renewables Obligation. In a letter to the First Minister, Mr Young points out that Mr Mackenzie’s figure leaves out the cost of connecting renewable energy to the transmission system, the huge government investment in R&D into marine renewables and the cost of the Feed-in-Tariff scheme (FiTs), the formal subsidy mechanism for supporting smaller wind energy installations and solar panels.
Consumers are being made to bear the huge cost of grid upgrades and extensions required to connect windfarms to the National Grid. According to Mr Young, “You cannot buy a pint of milk without paying for the bottle. You cannot buy a unit of electricity without paying for the transmission system.”
He points out that according to Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy “the Energy Bill (currently passing through the Westminster Parliament) is designed to unlock up to £110 billion investment energy infrastructure across the UK”. Mr Young says that works out at £4166.67 per average household.
The Beauly/Denny transmission upgrade, for example, is solely required to allow renewables to be used and will cost in excess of £600 million – approximately £113 for every man, woman and child in Scotland.
Another cost is the the huge on-going government support for marine renewables – which has yet to bear fruit – and which also largely falls on the public.
Mr Young also criticises Mr Ewing for omitting the Feed in Tariff regime because it is “a very substantial cost of renewables visited upon the consumer”. According to Mr Young, “in Caithness alone, a small county of only 26,000 people, the cost at today’s rates of wind energy FiTs over its lifetime for the consented small turbines and only 75% of the applied for but not yet determined ones is a staggering £36 million. More applications flood in every week.” Mr Young added that consumers are also paying for the FiTs which subsidise solar panels but he didn’t know how great the figures were, and suspects that nobody knows.
Even the £21 figure “doesn’t stand up in its own terms”, said Mr Young. Official figures put the total cost of the Renewables Obligation in 2011/12 at £1,457,716,514. Given there are 26.4 million households in the UK, the average cost of the RO per household was therefore £55.22.
Mr Young has now taken his complaint directly to the First Minister who is responsible for ensuring adherence to the Scottish Ministerial Code. Mr Young contends that Mr Ewing broke the code when he failed to correct Mr Mackenzie despite knowing the impact of renewables on electricity bills was much higher than £21.
Mr Young said: “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr Ewing does not want the consumer to know the true cost of renewables. Mr Salmond now has an opportunity to be straight with the public. Energy may be a complex issue, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Two and half years ago Mr Young confronted Mr Salmond on the barricades at the SNP conference in Elgin and he will be at the Scotland Against Spin protest in Inverness this Saturday.
Mr Young commented: “Sooner or later Mr Salmond will realise not just that wind isn’t working, but that the wind industry spin which his government habitually recycles, isn’t working. People are fed up with having the wool pulled over their eyes about the costs and benefits of wind energy. As more and more industrial wind turbines spring up across Scotland, and as electricity bills continue to soar, people want the truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is why thousands have signed a petition and hundreds will be protesting at the SNP conference in Inverness on Saturday.”
For more information, contact
Stuart Young on 01847851813 or 07717295235, Linda Holt on 01333 720378 or or 07590 994690