Households face a hike in their energy bills after a surge in subsidy payments to switch off turbines, an analysis has found.
In the first six weeks of this year, £55.7 million was paid out in constraint payments, according to research by the Renewable Energy Foundation. The money is given out as compensation to energy firms for turning off turbines when the network is unable to cope with the power they produce.
Last year, the total paid was £130 million, which was at that point the largest to date. The payments are made by the National Grid but charged to consumers and added to electricity bills.
A high-voltage submarine power cable between Scotland and England was supposed to help to reduce the figure by allowing energy to be exported south of the border and keeping the turbines on more regularly.
However, Prysmian, the Italian company which manufactured cables for the £1 billion project, said on January 10 that it had failed. It came back into operation on February 7.
Gary Smith, the Scotland secretary of the GMB trade union, said that the payments are creating a “subsidy sandwich for a renewables industry” that is treating bill payers with contempt.
He criticised the payments being made while there was limited job creation in local supply chains.
“The misery is further compounded by the fact these renewable firms are raking hundreds of millions of pounds more any time they are being asked to constrain electricity generation from their projects,” Mr Smith said.
“And if you want to understand what this failure looks like in the real world, it means the poorest paying the same amount as the richest through their energy bills to subsidise this scandal and fabrication yards in Fife and Lewis lying empty while jobs go to China.”
It emerged yesterday that a promised employment bonanza from an offshore wind farm revolution has created just 6 per cent of the 28,000 direct jobs predicted by ministers.
The Scottish government’s low carbon strategy, published in 2010, said that there was a potential for the creation of 28,000 direct jobs and £7.1 billion of investment by 2020. The Office of National Statistics estimated that there were in fact 1,700 full-time jobs in offshore wind in Scotland in 2018.
Paul Wheelhouse, the energy minister, said that renewable electricity generation met the equivalent of more than 76 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand in 2018 and that onshore and offshore wind were the cheapest forms of electricity generation so helped to keep consumers’ bills down.
He argued that constraint payments would fall as new infrastructure is built to connect Scotland with other parts of the UK. “Adding more demand load onto the grid, as will happen as we electrify Scotland’s own transport and heating systems, will also reduce the need for constraint payments as more of the power generated in Scotland will be consumed in Scotland,” he said.