Power companies were paid £700m last year not to generate electricity.
Th e fi gure has been highlighted by supporters of the renewables industry angered at how wind power is portrayed. Of that amount only £23m went to wind farms but, they say, the media concentrates on those payments to the exclusion of much larger ones made to coal and gas-powered generators.
Th e payments are made when the National Grid has to balance the supply of electricity from all sources in order to match demand and generators are required to reduce output.
Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry trade body Scottish Renewables, expressed frustration over the arguments used against the sector, and wind power in particular; that it doesn’t work, that it is expensive and that wind farms get paid not to generate.
In an interview with Holyrood Renewables, a new quarterly covering the industry, he countered each claim: wind in Scotland is now the single biggest source of electricity in terms of installed capacity, supplying the equivalent of almost 20 per cent of annual demand, last year it added just £7 to consumers’ annual bills, and payments for non-generation to coal and gas-fi red producers were 30 times higher than to wind farms.
“You can’t really get into a debate with someone if they say they don’t like the way wind farms look – that is a subjective opinion about the aesthetics of turbines. I don’t agree but wind farm developers can’t just build anywhere – contrary to popular opinion, the Government is not railroading applications through, evidenced by the fact that there have been a number of high-profi le rejections recently,” said Stuart.
“My frustration with the debate is that tackling climate change and regenerating the economy are the two biggest public policy challenges we face as a country and renewables is one of the few industries which can help meet both those goals. Yes, we must have a proper debate on energy policy but it has to be a debate based on the best available evidence on the merits and costs of all forms of energy.
“Th is should not be seen as an ‘either-or’ decision; Scotland should maximise the output from its renewable resources but we will need investment in other forms of energy for many years to come.”