Nigel Farage’s ugly disgusting windmills don’t cost as much as he thinks they do
- 22 Oct 2012, 16:00
- Robin Webster
Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party (UKIP)'s leader, railed
against "ugly disgusting ghastly windmills" on BBC Radio 4's 'Any
Questions' on Friday night. Everyone's entitled to their opinion of
what wind turbines look like, but do his claims about the cost of
wind power really add up?
"Here you've got Cameron saying it's
outrageous that [energy] prices are going up, whilst at the same
time he more than anybody else has supported this loopy idea that
we can cover Britain in ugly disgusting ghastly windmills and that
somehow our future energy needs will come from that and that
already everyone of you in this room is paying a 12 percent
surcharge on your energy bills to subsidise a wind turbine
programme that simply won't work...."
Questions - 22 minutes into the programme)
At this point, presenter David Dimbleby points out that some
members of the audience are shouting "that's just not true". Farage
"I can assure you Jonathan, 12 per cent
is a conservative figure - it may be slightly higher than
Is he right? Let's turn to Ofgem's factsheet "
household energy bills explained", released in May. It says the
main support measure for renewable energy, the Renewables
Obligation, adds £21 to the average household consumer energy bill.
Feed in Tariffs - the support measure for microgeneration - add
"less than £1" to the bill.
At the time Ofgem put the average bill at £704 for gas and £470
for electricity, a total of £1,174. So six months ago Ofgem's
figures showed that support measures for renewable energy accounted
for just under two per cent of a total combined bill - not 12 per
Although Farage is referring to support for wind power
specifically, it is not easy to identify exactly how much wind
power costs, as Ofgem's figures don't separate the figures out.
Industry group RenewableUK
has estimated that in 2010/11 wind energy added £7.74 to bills - or
about 0.7% of a £1174 bill. We haven't checked this calculation and
it's worth noting that it comes from a lobby group. But it's still
quite a long way from 12 per cent.
It's important to note still that energy bills have gone up
since Ofgem released the May figures. Four of the big six energy
companies have recently announced bill increases. But figures from
Npower and Scottish
Power indicate - very roughly - that the "environmental and
social" contribution to the bill, covering everything from support
for all renewables to winter fuel payments to the elderly and
energy efficiency, rose by about 30 per cent between 2011 and 2012.
Although it's not possible to discern how much of this rise is down
to wind subsidies, it's not possible to arrive anywhere close to
Farage's 12 per cent figure.
Next, Farage continues:
"And you're also paying a further four
per cent for your gas..."
This statement comes out of the blue, but in this context, we
assume he is attributing rising gas bills to wind subsidies.
Ofgem's figures indicate that "environmental and social measures"
were adding four per cent to the average gas bill in May.
But instead of blaming wind, Ofgem attributes the four per cent
addition to the impact of measures intended to encourage
householders to insulate their houses, like the Carbon Emissions
Reduction Target (CERT).
Indeed, Ofgem states that both the Renewables Obligation and
Feed in Tariffs have "no impact on your gas bill".
Interrupting another panelist who was making an - unfortunately
slightly feeble - attempt to point out that his figures are flawed,
"The other problem we've got with that
on our energy of course is that next year six of our biggest
coal-fired power stations in this country will be closing down due
to another loopy series of European directives..."
The regulation that Farage is presumably referring to is the
Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) - a pollution control
measure aimed at limiting emissions of pollutants harmful to human
health, such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust particles
Owners of the most polluting coal plant can choose either to
install equipment to reduce emissions or opt out of the directive.
Those that opt out have an allotted number of operating hours until
they must shut down. The final deadline for this unabated plant's
closure is 2015, however - so even if some plant hasn't used all of
its hours by then, it must still close.
recently reported that some coal plant may close earlier than
expected because it is burning through coal faster than predicted.
Ofgem says that 12 gigawatts (GW) of coal and oil-fired capacity
will have to shut down by the end of 2013, with one third (4GW) of
those closures taking place by 2014.
According to media reports, at least two coal power stations
Kingsnorth and Didcot -
are due to shut in 2013. We haven't been able to find any evidence
that any of the others are.
So Farage seems to be rather overstating the numbers of coal
power plant closing in 2013. Whether a regulation that seeks to
limit emissions harmful to human health really counts as "loopy" we
will leave for you to decide.
Lastly, Farage argues:
"...we as a country should exploit shale
gas and all the opportunities that has given...that has given
American consumers a massive decrease in their energy bills and
guaranteed their future energy security, the lights are about to go
out in this country because of a total failure of the UK
Shale gas has driven the price of gas down in the US - but as
we've discussed before, experts
doubt whether the same effect can be replicated in Europe. This
is not least because it would take about 10 to 20
years for a market to get going in Europe, so it's unlikely
that indigenous shale gas would have an impact on energy prices in
this country in the short term. Ministers and business seem well aware
Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by Farage's comments. UKIP
is not known for making sensible claims about climate change.
UKIP's position statement on climate and energy issues for example
ignores 150 years
of scientific research, arguing: "the theory of man-made
climate change is unproven and implausible". And UKIP MEP Godfrey
Bloom describes climate change as a "carbon
scam" - or in one memorable interjection in the European
Parliament as a "scam scam
Although Farage's comments seem ill-conceived, UKIP is less
marginal in the UK political scene than it once was. For example,
the editor of ConservativeHome,
Tim Montgomerie, argues that UKIP is a significant threat to
the Conservative party because it because it could stop the Tories
gaining a majority - and a few weeks ago,
Farage proposed an electoral
pact with the Tories. Whether or not this ever happens, we hope
that the Tories will never share UKIP's approach to
UPDATE 22nd Oct 9.30pm: The blog was updated in response to
the second comment below