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22 responses to “Green Energy Subsidies”

    • Paul Verbinnen

      A little bit more of perspective:
      “Dounreay in Caithness is being demolished in a £2.6bn project”, BBC News 26 Oct 11.
      That’s £2,600,000,000 divided by 26.7 million households equals £97.38 per household. That’s just removing something that cost a fortune to build, not generating anything, not contributing to any future energy.

      For £2.6bn I wonder how many turbines, solar parks, small scale rooftop solar, wave & tidal generation, and river-based hydro we could have?

      I have one question though about your figures for fossil fuel subsidies. Does this include VAT subsidy to 5%?

        • Nick

          It’s clear that some people are getting extremely rich from the boom in subsidised wind power.
          Why can’t these projects be held by the community? This would ensure that the benefits trickle down to the people rather than being kept by a few businessmen building up massive net worth. At a time of poverty and inequality, it seems obscene that tens of millions of pounds can be accumulated by anyone from taxpayer funded subsidies.
          Instead of keeping the taxpayers’ money, why not distribute it in order to fund micro generation projects that will actually make a difference, rather than these massive developments that rely on fossil fuel plant to be constantly spinning as a backup. As experience in Ireland shows, this spinning reserve emits more CO2 than any potential saving from enormous industrial wind turbines.
          Scale down the consumption, generate electricity locally using real sustainable low impact schemes and leave our beautiful English countryside alone.

            • Paul D

              What taxpayer funded subsidies?
              Your information is junk. No new power stations are built to back up wind energy, the opposite is true, the existing power stations output is reduced when wind energy is available. That reduces CO2 emissions. And in any case, there are many energy storage projects that are being developed, which will be needed as more renewables come on line.

              On the issue of micro-generation, such projects will inevitably be more costly because the scale is smaller. Although solar energy isn’t the worst thing you can do in the UK, it isn’t going to be as widely used as it is nearer the equator eg it will be marginal. Other technologies need fuels, which will be limited by land use for growing fuels. Smaller wind turbines? The problem with that is the physics makes them less economical. Energy from waste, depends on the source of the waste. Burning plastic, shoves CO2 for fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

                • Paul Verbinnen

                  @ Nick. I appreciate your sentiments and would also like to see each household generating at least some of their own electricity. However, while the status quo exists (Tory, Lab, Tory, Lab, Tory Lib Dem, etc) you can expect nothing to change. This country is stuck with politicians who look after their own interests and until the electorate vote in some ethical people, our country is only going backward.

                • Nick

                  @ Paul D.

                  The Renewable Obligation regime has provided vast subsidies to the wind industry and it just keeps going.

                  For example, the Whitelee farm owned by scottish power is due to get £97m per year, Halyard Hill in Scotland is due to get £54m per year and the list goes on. Total subsidy is in the order of £850 million a year which sounds pretty substantial to me.

                  Surely this money could be directed away from big business and into small scale locally owned co-operatives that benefit the community rather than simply feeding classic capitalism and generating massive wealth for a few directors and owners?

                  It really is time for a change and I would have hoped that a company like Ecotricity might have been one to start to be part of the solution to big business owning everything.

                    • Paul D

                      Nick I like the way ideologists and cherry pickers start using different language and words to justify a stance (or rather I don’t like, because it is designed to mislead).

                      The issue for the public is whether TAXPAYER subsidies are used to fund wind farms. The common interpretation of that is government collected taxes are diverted to support something, such as the NHS, education, defence etc. The implication being that wind farms are state supported from those taxes.

                      The language used is deliberate and intended to misinform for political purposes.

                      RO is not funded by the state other than small amounts of administration costs. The intention is to change the market, not to subsidise. Low carbon energy is going to be expensive, BECAUSE fossil fuels have subsidised our lives for 100 years or so. Hence to move away from them isn’t going to be easy.

                    • Paul D

                      To make my point further. The Renewable Obligation system is designed to change the market. The costs (if any) are carried through to customers, who may or may not be taxpayers. The worst it does is to increase electricity costs, but that is going to happen whatever you do, even if you stick with fossil fuels, energy costs are going to go up. All in all, it is likely people will cut energy use because of increasing costs.

                    • Nick

                      @Paul D,

                      Thnaks for clarifyinmg that the wind industry does receive enormous subsidies, although it seems I got it wrong when I said it was taxpayers’ money.

                      Dale clarified it in another post when he said that “…the FIT itself is funded by energy bills – so it’s a subsidy from all users to a few – that’s OK if it all goes to the fuel poor as you describe – but in practice a lot of it (most of it) goes to the fuel rich – increasing the bills of the fuel poor. Kind of reverse subsidy.”

                      So it would appear that we have a compulsory increase in everyone’s bill to provide profits for a few large companies – unless that subsidy money comes from somewhere else?

                      If people want to pay more for energy from a particular source, then they should have the freedom, and similarly, they should have have the freedom to pay the market rate; that way, the clarity would be there and we could all take responsibility for our actions, rather than loads of wealthy people piling in to get the subsidy.

                      It doesn’t matter if it’s FIT or the RO scheme, there are always just a few people skimming off the money (tens of millions from the RO!) and energy bills rise to allow those profits to be made.

                      £850 million a year back in peoples pockets would be a welcome boost at present. or it would pay for lot of community owned PV or solar water heating on rooftops in towns and cities instead of more industrial blight on the landscape.

                      The nuclear industry showed us how foolhardy subsidy is – we’ll be paying for these ineffecient wind farms to be built, paying for them to be operated and paying for them to be dismantled in exactly the same way.

                      Micro generation removes the transmission losses, the huge profit motive and puts the power (excuse the pun!) back in the hands of the people.

                      Low impact, low carbon, low energy use has to be the way forward.

                    • Paul D

                      Nick you are again twisting the facts.

                      How is wind energy being subsidised if people are paying more for it? Energy is costing more, that is the price of cleaning up our 100 year old dirty subsidised fossil fuel habit. It is also the cost of dwindling resources as the worlds population grows.

                      Also you forget that those micro-generation systems are going to be installed and maintained by large corporations, all you will do is change (or probably not) the people that get the money. No matter how you deal with the issue, your plan fails because you ignore reality.

                      Micro generation removes transmission losses?
                      That is only possible if either you have each home burning a fuel (which will have a land use and resources penalty when renewable fuels are used), or you have energy storage to back up renewables used in micro-generation. Such schemes are expensive.
                      All those systems would need a grid system of some sort to share the energy to reduce costs and to secure the system. Yes on a small scale they are going to be used, but it is going to be the relatively wealthy people that will be the main beneficiary.

                    • Paul D

                      Nick Said:
                      “If people want to pay more for energy from a particular source, then they should have the freedom, and similarly, they should have have the freedom to pay the market rate; …”

                      Sorry but the issue is cutting carbon emissions before it is to late to do so. In the current situation, market freedom is subservient to the emissions cutting goal.

                      The market rate is determined by the goal.

                    • Paul D

                      Just to add another point Nick. You say that micro-generation removes transmission losses. Those loses are about 7%. AFAIK the best solar panels are just 20% or so efficient. I assume you have compared the two systems you are talking about and have figures that show a national scheme that uses microgeneration and no grid, has less loses and is more efficient??
                      I would like to see your data.

                      Use bio-fuel??
                      OK, so what infrastructure do you need to deliver the fuel(s) to each home and what are the losses. eg. use vehicles and you have the energy losses of building the vehicles, fuel and feeding the drivers.

                    • Paul Verbinnen

                      @ Nick.

                      1. Early adopters of any new technology are always the financially comfortable.

                      2. Why pick on wind turbines to complain about subsides. What about the nuclear industry, the oil & the banking industries, Network rail, rail companies, bus companies, private health companies, farmers, etc.etc.etc? The whole system is flawed.

                      3. Rarely will a blog or post change somebody’s set opinion.

    • externalities

      I too thought the £1000 figure was incredible.

      Following that Tory party (not Government) document, the number comes in turn from an (excellent) article in the FT –

      The £1000 figure refers to perverse subsidies in general, not just those for fossil fuels (and it’s per taxpayer, not household).

    • Chris

      Don’t worry , I’m sure the Daily Mail will be all over these figures now and start printing some amendments! It’s not like they have a hyper-conservative, backward, small minded ‘get off ma land/gimme back ma taxes’ agenda is it?

    • Paul D

      H Dale. Your figure (£1000) for UK fossil fuel subsidies is incorrect. The Gummer and Goldsmith report refers to ‘perverse subsidies’. Granted on first sight one might think it referred to fossil fuels only, but they got the information from a Financial Times article which is available online here:

      The article states that perverse subsidies include water, agriculture, road transport, fossil fuels, forestry and fisheries.

      Your researchers got it wrong Dale.
      If this is a prelude to a report or a consultation, I suggest you get them to do some thorough checking first. Hope that helps! Send my fee to…

    • Paul D

      Should read other posts first, just noticed that ‘externalities’ spotted it before me.

    • Paul Walker

      A while ago I posted on one of your earlier blogs that I had considered installing solar panels but I had decided against it because of politician U turns.

      It didn’t take long to be proved right.

      The tories disgust me with their two-faced, back-stabbing and devious actions. When will people learn not to vote for these sly tricksters?

    • paul

      Sorry for the slow response folks – we’ve been looking into it. It’s clear that we did simply quote the Gummer/Goldsmith report without checking their source – and they clearly have misquoted the original research. Our bad for not checking more thoroughly, though perhaps (in mitigation) it’s not unreasonable to expect this report to have been rather more robust than it turned out to be. Anyway, the £1,000 a year is clearly not solely for fossil fuels.

      Thanks for pointing this out on here guys.

      As part of our digging we ended up speaking to Norman Myers, one of the co-authors (of the original piece) – lovely bloke. He also pointed out that the research itself is pretty old now, and so even if the fossil fuel parts could be identified from the rest of the ‘perverse subsidies’ – it wouldn’t be very up to date.

      There are some new reports due out on the topic of fossil fuel subsidies though. Hopefully these will give a figure for fossil fuel subsidies in the UK, and one we can rely on…. 🙂 But then again – it’s probably not a figure that paints recent decisions on renewables in a good light, so it may remain elusive. Let’s see.


    • Ted Marynicz

      The nuclear clean up costs for taxpayers are much higher than you stated. The budget for public funds for 2011/12 for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is £2 billion. That’s £74.90 per household (using your 26.7 m figure).


        • Paul Verbinnen


          I think we’d all be shocked if the various costs/subsidies of the nuclear industry were added together. I’ve read that costs for Trident are so far in excess of £100bn, and that is only an offshoot.

          Of course, by keeping them separate & difficult to collate the government can hope that attention will be deflected by the vocal nimbys objecting to the renewable industry.

          And before somebody tells me that this country has been kept safe by the nuclear deterrent, my homeland on the continent doesn’t have nuclear weapons and hasn’t been vaporised!

    • tony milne

      renewable energy – fossil fuels – nuclear
      there are hidden costs in all these areas – medical costs for example are also hidden – and lost economic production from the thousands of deaths annually due to fossil fuels (far higher than nuclear, which is probably the cleanest, given the amount of scrubbing that is done).
      One of the comments was that “I wanted to buy a solar panel because of the government subsidies”. It’s a bit like saying the benefit of the nuclear power is a lot of free bombs. We just need to decide on what we want.
      If we have sunshine, or wind, or waves, we should take advantage of them. Fossil fuels can provide cheap energy, but there is always a cost and of course, they are replenished only slowly – for which we need some serious global warming.