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Blow to renewables policy [print version]

Teesside offshore wind farm, South Gare, Redcar. Photo pauljrobinson/shutterstock.com.

The government’s approach to future energy supply depends heavily on wind power, dedicated as it is to net zero aims. But it’s as much off course with wind as it is with nuclear energy.

In the latest renewable energy auction this September, offshore wind turbine companies were invited to submit bids for the right to sell electricity. But not a single bid was made. And it’s not making great progress with onshore generation either.

Government advisers had agreed a strike price of £44 a megawatt hour, hoping to maintain the illusion that the cost of wind power was coming down as they had predicted. The going rate only eight years ago was three times that amount, guaranteeing huge profits. This time round, the industry reckoned there was nothing in it for them and walked away.

GMB, one of the principal unions involved in wind farm construction, and a long standing opponent of reliance on net zero, was unsurprised. GMB general secretary Gary Smith commented, “Whitehall told us wind was getting cheaper and cheaper. Now there will be no bids for the next round of licenses because the wind industry can’t afford to put up the projects”.

Speaking before the 27 September announcement permitting development of the Rosebank oil field, Smith was equally scathing of the Labour Party’s commitment to a net zero carbon electricity system by 2030 and the elimination of licenses for North Sea oil and gas drilling.

He said, “I don’t worry about it, it can’t be done. No amount of enthusiasm can overcome these particular hurdles. The National Grid can’t get (undersea) cables. There are four suppliers of cables in the globe, they’re all booked out to 2030”.

• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk