The British aristocracy has seen its power and economic clout over the common folk dwindle through the 20th century. But that might be about to change, as recent green energy subsidies are helping British dukes and other aristocrats rake in profits at the expense of the country’s taxpayers.
According to the Times, under the current government subsidy system a typical three-megawatt wind turbine will generate around £670,000 ($1.03-million) of income a year—of which £350,000 comes in the form of subsidies. The potential for massive profits is obvious, considering a three-megawatt machine costs around £2-3-million and can last for around 25 years.
The country’s gentry have taken note. The Duke of Roxburghe, with his 48-turbine scheme on a Scottish estate is expected to generate £30m a year, shared with developers. More than half of this money would come from subsidies from ratepayers. And the Duke of Beaufort, Sir Reginald Sheffield, father of Samantha Cameron, and Michael Ancram, the Tory grandee have all either expressed interest or are seeking approval for wind mills.
Under the current Renewables Obligation certificate (Roc) scheme, renewable energy generators are allowed to claim a Roc certificate for each megawatt hour of electricity produced. Given that a 3MW turbine is expected to produce 7,000 megawatts in a year, the owner will receive £320,000 for the electricity itself and another £350,000 at current prices for the Roc certificates. To ensure that those producing electricity from renewable sources are guaranteed a pay-out, power companies are obliged to buy Rocs to meet government targets for renewable power.
As for the costs…they’re passed onto consumers.
Not a bad deal, if you can get it.
Economists, on the other hand, point out that it’s fairly obvious who loses out in such a subsidy system: ratepayers. They’re raising concerns over the subsidies, estimating that they will add £13.50 to the average household’s annual utility bills. Professor David Newbery, director of Cambridge University’s electricity policy research group, while keen on the idea of wind power, says Rocs are “bonkers”.
“It is shovelling money towards people who have been lucky enough to get planning permission, [and] it encourages the construction of wind farms in remote places where it is very expensive to connect to the national grid,” he says.
RenewableUK, the wind industry’s trade organisation, sees it, unsurprisingly, quite differently. It says Rocs have helped to increase renewable energy. Its website claims: “The case for wind energy is simple: it is renewable, economic, safe and good for the environment.”
Energy Probe is a keen supporter of renewable energy. We believe renewable energy has the ability to diversify our electricity supply, while allowing for more decentralized sources of power for consumers. But we’re not in favour of throwing massive subsides at forms of energy that are either not capable, or not economic, of acting as a base load source of energy.