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Is Cameron mad, or the cat’s paw of wacky backbenchers?

david cameron as spivIf one wanted a clear example (out of many) where ideology trumps common-sense in Cameron’s Tory party, you couldn’t do better than energy policy. And specifically, the government’s latest knee-jerk reaction against onshore wind turbines. They are a significant and fast-growing source of electricity in the UK and by far the cheapest source available to provide the low-carbon energy to meet Britain’s mandatory target of 15 per cent of all energy consumption to come from renewables by 2015.

Cameron appears to be floating the idea of including in the 2015 Tory manifesto either a cap on onshore turbines’ output or lower subsidies to make it harder or even impossible to operate them or tighter planning restrictions to prevent them being built. This is crackers. To meet the legally binding target it would then be necessary to build more offshore windfarms or more nuclear power stations, both of which are far more expensive.

Electricity from offshore turbines costs over 60 per cent more than that produced by onshore turbines, whilst the new nuclear station at Hinckley Point C (if it is ever built at a cost of £14bn) is expected to produce electricity at twice the current price. Is Cameron mad or simply the cat’s-paw of his more wacky backbenchers?

So what are the arguments of the Tory energy dinosaurs? First, they say that the subsidies given to onshore windfarms make them too expensive. In fact, households paid £9 in 2013 for this purpose, which is just 0.7 per cent of the average dual-fuel bill, and polling shows subsidies at this low level have majority support. Moreover green energy receives far lower subsidies than the nuclear or oil and gas industries received in their early stages of development.

Second, a lot of bigwigs in the Tory party complain that wind turbines disturb the view across their estates. Did they similarly object to electricity pylons? And are they aware that several of their kindred have claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money for the privilege of being able to site turbines on their land? Some people, including in most cases me, believe that turbines have a certain elegance about them provided they are sensitively placed.

Reaching agreement on this requires local communities to be properly and genuinely consulted about proposed locations till a reasonable consensus can be reached. Better still, the turbines should be owned by local communities as in Germany, not by large and deeply unpopular energy companies or by the landowners on whose land they are built.

Cameron’s policy instead of winding down the current green levies – “cutting the green crap” in his own words – which fund the energy saving and low-cost renewables that will more than anything else lower household energy costs in the long term, is frankly barmy. Cutting off your nose to spite your face, even for blatantly short-term electoral reasons or to keep his out-of-control backwoodsmen quiet, was never a good policy for people in trouble, least of all for prime ministers.

3 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Best not to consult me I had to put up with one for years the drone of the noise drove me mad, it was never ending and when the wind blew my way even the cats had a breakdown.

    The problem with talking to the people we all know what that means it’s being build so sod off.

    Then you battle it, down come the police your moved they are build not to close to the manor though, or his lordship.

    these things maybe cost effective and green they are a nuisance and I do not like them stick them out into the sea beds cost more fine.

    or stick a few next to the rich and see if they like them.

  2. swatantra says:

    They are like silent sentinels in a Martian landscape. I like them. You can also take shares in the community energy schemes, get your energy for free and a dividend as well.
    Cameron is the modern Don Quixote, and will end up in the same way, mad.

  3. Robert says:

    Build then next to Blair Brown and the rest of the rich prats and give them the free power, not that they need it.

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