National Grid hands wind farm companies around £1.2 million on Christmas
Eve and Christmas Day alone to switch off their turbines as tens of
thousands of homes were left without power
By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
Wind farm companies were paid almost £5 million to switch off their
turbines while storms lashed the UK over the festive period and tens of
thousands of homes were left without power, according to figures published
The ‘constraint payments’, which ultimately come from household bills, were
payable when the National Grid was unable to cope with the extra power
produced during the recent bout of stormy weather or usage was low.
More than £4.8 million has been paid out to wind farm companies since
December 15, according to figures compiled from official data, almost as
much as was handed over in the whole of 2012.
The total included more than £1.2 million during the first of the recent
storms, on December 19, followed by nearly £800,000 on Christmas Eve, more
than £400,000 on Christmas Day and nearly £300,000 last Friday.
The money was paid to switch off turbines over a period when winds of up to
100mph hit Britain, with the storms leading to a spate of deaths, travel
chaos for millions of people trying to get home for Christmas and power
cuts for thousands of homes.
Anti-wind farm campaigners said the figures would infuriate hard-pressed
households and demonstrated that wind farms were being erected faster than
the National Grid can absorb the electricity they produce.
It was reported on Boxing Day that constraint payments of £30.4 million had
been paid out in 2013 compared with £5 million the previous year.
However, this did not include the money handed out to switch off turbines
during the Christmas week storms and the total has since increased to £32.6
million. With more stormy weather forecast over New Year, the total is
expected to rise further.
Murdo Fraser, a senior Tory MSP and wind farm critic, said: “Families who
are struggling with overstretched household budgets at Christmas time and
have to meet ever-increasing energy bills will be horrified to see such
vast sums of their money being paid to wind power companies for doing nothing.
“This exposes once again the over-reliance on wind developments as part of
our energy mix when the Grid capacity doesn’t currently exist to properly
utilise the power produced.”
The constraint payment figures were compiled using official data by the
Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity. The first bout of storms saw energy
companies paid £653,727 on December 18 and £1.24 million on December 19 to
switch off turbines at 31 wind farms.
A further £113,826 was paid out on December 21 and £248,399 the following
day before the payments spiked again on Christmas Eve as storms tore across
As around 75,000 homes were left without power, the wind farm companies
were paid £787,959 to switch off turbines at 18 of their developments.
Around 50,000 households remained without power on Christmas Day when
£432,445 of constraint payments were made.
Another £287,454 was given to the energy firms on December 27 and £126,827
on December 28, according to the figures.
The National Grid has said the system is needed to balance supply and
demand and the money handed to wind farms make up only a small proportion
of constraint payments made to generators of all types.
A spokesman for RenewableUK, the lobby group representing wind farm
companies, said: “December has been a record-breaking period for the amount
of clean power generated by wind, with the most electricity we’ve ever
generated in a month – more than 2 million megawatt hours.
“It’s very easy to turn a wind turbine on or off compared to other forms of
generation such as a nuclear power station. That is partly why the National
Grid sometimes calls on wind developers to constrain their power.”