Spotlight Thrown on the Regressive Costs that Subsidise UK’s Failed Wind Power Policy & Hammer the Poor

john constable

Dr John Constable: wind power is a failure on all scores.

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Our data shows that climate policies aren’t working. Why does that scare our opponents?
The Telegraph
Dr John Constable
2 Apr 2015

The solution to climate change lies in unleashing the ingenuity of the market – not in top-down subsidies which penalise the poor to prop up inadequate technologies

Since 2004, the charity I run, the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), has been highlighting the fatal flaws in our energy and climate policies. Despite all their market-style decorations, these boil down to a well-intentioned but misconceived attempt to pick winners – which too often prove to be quite the reverse.

Here’s an example: subsidies to renewable electricity in the UK alone are running at nearly £4 billion a year, and will have risen to about £8 billion a year in 2020, with perhaps another £5 billion a year in system costs.

And yet the performance of these technologies has been much weaker than the industry predicted. We now know – thanks to work at REF – that the economic lifetime of onshore wind turbines is about ten years shorter than their advocates originally claimed, and their output is also lower than anticipated. Moreover, twelve years after the start of subsidies, they are still very far from being able to stand on their own feet.

Because these subsidies are funded by levies on energy bills, rather than by tax, these costs are regressive.

In other words they unfairly penalise the poor, who spend more money proportionately on energy bills than the rich.

In fact, climate policy costs are so high that they threaten standards of living across the whole population and will inevitably cause public disenchantment, jeopardising reasonable efforts to provide an affordable and effective insurance policy against climate change.

Work like this has caused a flurry of unease in certain circles. REF has been falsely accused of hiding its donors, while our new Energy Institute – established with the University of Buckingham – has been branded a “front” for climate sceptics. The Independent quoted one academic who called me a “doubt-monger”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is every reason to be concerned about climate change, and, while we don’t fully understand it, the likelihood is that we are playing some part in this phenomenon.

An insurance policy is a good idea, but it has to be smart; the premium paid has to be proportional to the risk, and the policy has to offer some real cover.

The costs of the current approach, however, are extreme, and the contribution to preventing climate change negligible. Far from being a denier (whatever that means) I see myself and others like me as taking climate change rather more seriously than those who are attempting to drive through a policy of command and control which is bound to fail. At least my suggestion has some chance of success.

So here is what we plan to do. The Buckingham Energy Institute will be both a research and educational organisation. Its major research effort will be to make large databases freely available to the public. The energy sector in the UK is still unacceptably opaque, and since there are levies on bills in order to pay for climate policies, government itself has little interest in transparency.

We’ll address this by expanding the REF’s well-known renewable energy databases to cover all generators in the UK, and then other fuels, and then other jurisdictions. We aim to become the largest independent provider of energy market data.

Having this information publicly available will encourage new market entrants and new, disruptive technologies. By allowing consumers to see every detail of the market, it will also restore public confidence in energy producers – confidence that has been severely damaged by an unhealthily cosy relationship with government. Alongside this work, and grounded in it, we will begin by teaching short courses on emergent topics in energy policy.

The free flow of information is crucial to replacing the failed climate policies. The fact is that nobody yet knows how to reduce emissions without destroying the hard-won and irreplaceable wealth of several thousand years of economic growth. This problem is so difficult that a search for a solution depends on engaging the minds of the entire population, not just experts and civil servants. That means putting as much knowledge as possible in as many hands as possible.

But it also means that there has to be a clear economic signal, which I think is best provided by putting a consistent, economy-wide price on carbon, probably through a carbon tax with corresponding offsets in other taxation.

This would be flexible, so economic harm could be kept under control, and it would be technology-neutral, allowing the economy to gravitate towards the cheapest ways of reducing emissions that human ingenuity can discover.

In short, the Buckingham Energy Institute wants to bring the general public, from households to businesses, back into energy policy as free and active economic decision makers, not passive victims of central administrative instructions. Many in environmental circles regard such liberal views with horror, and prefer force and subterfuge to impose a ‘planned’ low-carbon economy. But this is deeply mistaken, and will end in disaster. Only by entrusting human creativity with all the relevant information is there any chance of addressing climate change.
The Telegraph

There’s plenty to fault in John Constable’s arguments about “carbon” (he means CO2 gas) taxes ‘saving’ the planet; and his apparent need to avoid being lined up as a supporter of conventional power generation sources – sources that have dragged billions out of stone age poverty in a bit over a Century, and which, if denied to poorest billion or so on the planet, will leave them there.

Those quibbles aside, at least he’s identified wind power as an insanely costly waste of taxpayer and power consumers’ money, which is some kind of start on the path to a sensible energy policy.

However, if John was serious about shifting Britain to a “low-carbon” future he would be on the front foot and advocating for the natural gas to nuclear (‘N2N’) approach spelt out by America’s Captain of Energy Market Common Sense, Robert Bryce:

Robert Bryce: Want to live in Stone-Age Poverty? Then tie your future to Wind Power

Robert Bryce’s new book slays the wind power Easter Bunny

Let’s assume (as STT does, for the sake of argument) that the global warming/climate change Chicken Littles are right: the sky really is falling, and it’s all CO2’s fault.

Then what the HELL are we doing pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into subsidies for wind power? (see our posts here and here and here)

STT has always thought that if man-made CO2 emissions really were destroying the planet, then sensible governments would have moved to build nuclear power plants from the moment the Chicken Littles started wailing about the heavens collapsing, some 25 years ago.

The French generate around 80% of their sparks using nukes – and have used nuclear power – safely and successfully – for over 50 years: the first plant kicked off in 1962.

Nuclear power is the only stand-alone thermal power generation source that is base-load, and which does not emit CO2 emissions when generating power.

Under Australia’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy target, power consumers are going to be belted with a $50 billion electricity tax, which, if the wind industry gets its way, will all be directed as subsidies to wind power outfits. Using that kind of money, Australia could, instead, build enough nuclear power generating capacity to meet its entire electricity needs for a Century to come. For a rundown on the economics of nuclear power see this article.

So, if John Constable wants to be taken seriously about the response to Chicken Little’s flights of fancy, he’s going to have follow Robert Bryce’s lead; and start laying out a gas-to-nukes path to a CO2 free power generating future. Now, that would be a real test of his ability as an energy market reform advocate.

chicken-little-poster

It’s CO2 what did it. OK, so it’s a beneficial trace gas essential for life on earth, that I’m breathing out right now, but it’s gotta be guilty of something?

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. The Windscam really is the Tulipmania of the 21st century.

    The Industry Super Funds are the modern Burghers wagering their estates on the losing gamble of industrial wind (rather, the super contributions of their duped members, so they have no risk or care). The virus destroying their investment is greed, dressed up as ‘saving the planet’ by the moralising self-righteous Greens, mesmerised by the spinning blades which may as well be the Semper Augustus of the 17th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

    The ingenuity of the market will indeed decide.

    Like the tulips, there may well be a future market, but free of the current deluded claims of what industrial wind achieves in terms of both actual outputs and carbon mitigation.

    As you suggest STT, if carbon is the issue, Robert Bryce is on the money.

  2. Reblogged this on Windy Arbour Woman and commented:
    Dr John Constable says that well intentioned Government energy subsidies are flawed because they prop up poor technologies and also penalise the poor most.

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