The dirty secret of Britain's power madness

Mail on Sunday                            14 July 2013                      By JAMES DELINGPOLE

The dirty secret of Britain's power madness: Polluting diesel generators built in secret by foreign companies to kick in when there's no wind for turbines - and other insane but true eco-scandals

  • Moving to wind power is expected to cost £1 billion a year by 2015
  • Official figures on the size of the green economy are extremely misleading
  • They exaggerate the worth of the sector by up to 700 per cent

Thousands of dirty diesel generators are being secretly prepared all over Britain to provide emergency back-up to prevent the National Grid collapsing when wind power fails. 

And under the hugely costly scheme, the National Grid is set to pay up to 12 times the normal wholesale market rate for the electricity they generate.

One of the main beneficiaries of the stopgap plan is the Government itself, which stands to make hundreds of millions of pounds by leasing out the capacity of the generators in public-sector property including NHS hospitals, prisons, military bases, police and fire headquarters, schools and council offices.

But the losers will be consumers who can expect yet further hikes in their electricity bills in the name of ‘combating climate change’. 

The scheme is expected to cost £1 billion a year by 2015, adding five per cent to energy bills.

This scheme is a direct consequence of the renewable energy policy adopted by the Coalition but first developed by Tony Blair in response to EU renewables directives to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. 

As more and more wind turbines are built to replace fossil fuels, so the National Grid will become increasingly unstable because wind power is intermittent, unpredictable and unreliable.

Wind now constitutes about ten per cent of Britain’s energy mix. Under current Government targets, the plan is to increase this to 25 per cent by 2020.

However, some experts, such as economist Professor Gordon Hughes in a report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, warn that such a high proportion of renewables is unsustainable, because of the dramatic ebbs and flows of power being supplied in the grid.

Last year, Professor Hughes estimated the cost of creating this wind capacity by 2020 to be £124 billion. To produce the same amount of energy from gas would cost just £13 billion.

The National Grid’s eye-wateringly expensive solution to counter the instability of wind power is known as the Short Term Operational Reserve, or STOR, to generate a reserve capacity of eight gigawatts (GW) by 2020, the equivalent of about five nuclear plants. 

The diesel-generators will provide immediate computer-controlled back-up for that significant period when the wind turbines are not working, but at a hefty premium. 

Currently the wholesale price for electricity is around £50 per megawatt hour (MWh) but diesel-generator owners will be paid £600 per MWh. 

At 12 times above the market rate, this represents a bigger cash bonanza even than that currently enjoyed by wind developers, who receive a subsidised price of between two and three times the market rate, depending on whether their turbines are on land or offshore.

Although STOR was devised in April 2007 and modified in December 2010, it has not been widely advertised by the Coalition. Besides making energy considerably more expensive, it would appear to make a mockery of David Cameron’s promise to lead the ‘greenest government ever’.

Any benefits of the supposedly ‘clean’ energy produced by wind turbines are likely to be more than offset by the dirty and inefficient energy produced by their essential diesel back-up.

‘Yes it may stop the lights going out, but as a way of producing energy it’s a complete nonsense,’ said Dr Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. 

‘Burning diesel is nearly as dirty and CO2-intensive as burning coal. But worse than that, it is so unnecessarily costly and inefficient.’

Not everyone is complaining, though, as canny businessmen have spotted a lucrative opportunity in the Government policy. 

Among them are American David Walters, former governor of Oklahoma. His company Walters Power was the first to take advantage of what he calls Britain’s ‘progressive energy policy’, buying up a site surrounded by agricultural land near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, and filling it with diesel generators. 

It doesn’t matter whether they actually produce any electricity or not: Most of the money they are paid by the National Grid is simply for being available in case of emergencies. 

For smaller producers, electricity will be channelled by companies called ‘aggregators’ which can turn the various diesel generators on and off remotely.

Around Britain, in similarly remote sites from Lincolnshire to Cardiff and a quarry in Somerset, entrepreneurs are hurrying to cash in. The incentives are huge and the risks risibly small. 

Even when the scheme began  in 2010, an owner of just one  1MW generator, which would  cost around £500,000, could expect to receive £30,000 to £45,000 a year. By 2020 that figure is expected to have more than  trebled. Other significant beneficiaries of the scheme will be  public institutions such as military bases and hospitals. 

Glasgow General Hospital, for example, has 20MW of generating capacity; but even an average-size hospital stands to make around £500,000 a year merely for agreeing to allow its generators to be used in emergencies. 

While this may sound like a heartening funding boost for vital  public services, the money will  in fact be just another type of indirect taxation which comes straight out of consumers’ pockets in the form of cripplingly expensive energy bills. 

In 2010, the scheme was already costing £205 million a year; by 2020 this is expected to rise  to £945 million – a vast expense  to prop up the illusion that renewables are a viable part of Britain’s ‘energy mix’.

What the lessons from continental Europe show is that this is only the beginning of Britain’s miseries.
In Germany, where the renewables sector is significantly more developed (it has 31GW of wind energy – compared to the UK’s 8GW), the green experiment has been little short of disastrous.  

Sudden fluctuations in Germany’s power grid caused by the ebb and flow of wind have led to serious industrial damage. 

According to the Association of German Industrial Energy Companies, the number of short interruptions in the grid has increased by 29 per cent in the past three years, with some of the association’s  members reporting damage running into hundreds of thousands  of euros as a result of unexpected stoppages.

In 2006, when wind farms were few and far between, engineers in eastern Germany running coal, gas and nuclear power plants took action to stabilize the grid roughly 80 times a year. 

Today, as the amount of electricity generated by the region’s 8,000  wind turbines rises and falls by the hour, engineers have to intervene every second day in order to maintain network stability. Neighbouring Czechs and Poles are so fed up with the instability that they are on the verge of blocking the disruptive wind-produced electricity from their power lines.

Currently, electricity from northern Germany is transmitted to customers in the south via its neighbours because the German grid cannot cope with the fluctuations. However, both countries are urging Germany to put its energy system in order.

Unfortunately, Britain is potentially in a much worse position. Being an island, we won’t find it so easy to export our sudden power surges to continental neighbours. 

So the more on- and off-shore wind farms that are built in the next few years, the more expensive and more unstable our energy economy is going to become.

How wind industry buried the devastating evidence of turbine noise for 25 years...

Wind turbines can be dangerous for human health – and the industry has known it for more than 25 years.

A newly rediscovered report,prepared in 1987 for the US Department of Energy, showed that inaudible infrasound produced by the generators can cause problems for local residents, which become worse over time.

People living near wind farms have complained of problems such as nausea, headaches and insomnia – so-called Wind Turbine Syndrome. 

The 1987 evidence contradicts the claims of advocates for the wind industry that symptoms are all in the mind. 

Until recently, trade body RenewableUK claimed: ‘In over 25 years, no member of the public has been harmed by the normal operation of wind farms.’

It further stated that claims wind farms emit ‘infrasound and cause associated health problems’ were ‘unscientific’.

But the 1987 report, led by N.D.Kelley from the Solar Energy Research Institute in Colorado, found ‘impulsive infrasound’ caused health problems and recommended noise curbs on turbines. 

However the industry code of practice specifically excludes infrasonic frequencies. The report lends weight to claims of campaigners such as Australia’s Dr Sarah Laurie, who claims a concerted industry cover-up. 

But RenewableUK said: ‘We don’t accept there are health impacts caused by wind turbine noise. [The 1987 report] was based on antiquated machines. Turbine design has become more sophisticated.'

...and how Ministers got green sums wrong by £100 BILLION

Official Government figures on the size of the green economy are totally bogus, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. 

The figures, issued by the Department for Business and Skills, are said to show that the environmental sector was worth a staggering £122 billion last year, making it the fastest-growing part of the economy, writes David Rose.

Ministers have repeatedly used the figures to justify crippling energy taxes and subsidies for wind farms. They claim the figures show that these policies will open the way to a booming future of ‘green jobs’ and low-carbon prosperity.

But documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the true value of the green economy is actually between only £16.8 billion and £27.9 billion, depending on exactly how the term ‘green economy’ is defined. In other words, the official figures exaggerate the scale of the sector by up to 700 per cent.

The so-called Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) figure has no known basis in reality. 

For example, calculations assert that renewable energy is worth £37 billion a year – when, according to the Department of Energy, the entire UK electricity market is worth less than £30 billion.

Even the Renewable Energy Association – an industry lobby group which tries to persuade the Government to increase its subsidies – says that the total value of the renewable sector is less than £10 billion.

The LCEGS figures also include billions of pounds from activities which few people would class as ‘green’ – such as water supply, landfill sites for rubbish and, most bizarrely of all – accounting for almost £9 billion – ordinary windows and doors.

Another £11.7 billion is supposedly contributed by the liquid propane and natural gas markets. This figure is many times greater than the industry’s own estimates – while gas is a CO2-producing fossil fuel. 

Analysis of the LCEGS data came in a six-month report by independent researcher Ben Pile, commissioned by UKIP MEP Roger Helmer. 

The politician said there should be a full review of all policies influenced by the data. ‘The previous and current governments made big promises about the “green economy”, based on research that was hidden from public view and which now seems to have been skewed to favour the green agenda,’ he said. ‘They have misled people, including MPs.’ 

This newspaper gave a copy of the report to the Business Department, asking if it contained anything that could be factually disputed. 

A spokeswoman replied that the green economy ‘is a complex area to assess as there is no standard industry classification. However, the LCEGS data has helped to inform the debate’.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has cited the bogus figures to back his case for a new Green Investment Bank, claiming they prove that ‘green sectors have outperformed the wider economy’.