Report (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative 5:00 pm, 21st October 2015

My Lords, in declaring my interests at the start, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that my family benefits from one wind turbine but that I give the money away to charity. I thought that he might like to know that.

This is a manifesto commitment and I have never heard such extraordinary legal sophistry from the Opposition on this question. Under the “Foulkes convention”, as we may have to call it, at the next election we will have to have a negotiation between lawyers representing both parties to get the exact wording of manifestos agreed or nothing will be able to get through the House of Lords. That is essentially what is being argued. It is a perfectly common-sense statement that was in the manifesto and we are committing to it—and we are facing a potential constitutional crisis in the way that the Opposition are treating the Salisbury convention.

It is an astonishing suggestion to hear that reducing a subsidy to an industry is an ideological objection to that industry. My objection to the wind industry is not ideological: it is economic and scientific. Wind is making a trivial contribution to our energy supplies—it supplied 4% of our total energy use last year—and an even smaller contribution to carbon dioxide reductions. At Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, responded to my question about how much carbon dioxide emissions have actually been reduced by the wind power industry by very kindly sending me a link to a calculation that 1,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are displaced or reduced by each 2 megawatt wind turbine. Well, do the maths on that. That means that with 10,000 turbines of roughly that size in this country, 20 million tonnes or so would be reduced. But that is out of 700 million tonnes of emissions, so it is a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of less than 3%—and that assumes that it is displacing grid average emissions, which it is not: it is mostly displacing gas. Nor does it take into account the intermittency or back-up—the point made by my noble friend Lord Spicer—which means that our total wind fleet that we have built up over 25 years, hugely subsidised, is giving us a reduction in emissions of about 2%. That is lost in the statistics. It is an Asterix—sorry, I mean an asterisk—and it comes at a huge cost. Wind subsidies cost this country about £4 billion a year. For that money, one could buy an extra 25% of electricity at the wholesale price, which is an enormous amount.

As I said earlier, in subsidising wind farms we are robbing the poor to pay the rich. It is a regressive subsidy. It hits poor people harder than rich people and rewards rich people more than poor people—not just landowners, but investors of other kinds. We are also killing jobs. We know that the high cost of electricity has killed a number of energy-intensive industries: for example, the aluminium smelter at Lynemouth, in Northumberland, to which I drew attention a number of years ago in this House.