Green Omertà

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From Net Zero Watch

There is a conspiracy of silence about wind power costs

I know, I do tend to be a bit repetitive about the cost of wind power. How many times have I explained that the data is completely clear: that it’s expensive; and that if it’s getting any cheaper, it’s only doing so very slowly. In fact, for onshore wind the trend is clearly upwards.

My determination on the subject is prompted by the refusal of anyone in official circles to accept the facts. To a man (and woman) they are absolutely resolute in their insistence that wind is staggeringly cheap because windfarms have agreed staggeringly low-priced “strike prices” for power. And because industry bodies and Whitehall says it is.

The fact that nobody has ever delivered power at such a price cuts no mustard with these people. Nor does the observation that windfarm developers are all saying that new construction will not go ahead without further handouts. And of course, if you point to the hard data in windfarm financial accounts, they really, really do not want to know at all.

Consider, Jonathan Pocklington, the Permanent Secretary at the energy department. He recently told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that wind was super cheap, signally failing to mention the accounts data. Are we really expected to believe that he and his generously funded staff know nothing about it? Really? Of course, the committee, under its chairman, Meg Hillier, knows all about the hard data, because I sent my own submission of evidence, setting out all the unfortunate details. However, let’s just say that I have yet to receive an invitation to give oral evidence on the subject. Should we be surprised that Ms Hillier is not interested?

Another recent example of this absolute refusal to address the data comes in the shape of a new report from the UK Energy Research Centre, which repeats the claim that wind power is super-cheap. On Twitter, I pointed out to members of the author team that nobody is delivering power under these low strike prices, and that the data contradicts claims of low costs. However, most of them ignored me. Imagine that – researchers not wanting to discuss their research! That said, one team member (by his own admission, a minor one) did post a reply, observing that loopholes on delivering power at agreed strike prices were being tightened up. However, when I pressed him on the accounts evidence, he went strangely quiet.

Then consider Emma Pinchbeck, the boss of Energy UK, who proclaimed the other day that she was happy to engage with people who wanted to discuss data in a respectful way. My Twitter thread, deferentially setting out details of the cost data for wind power, was completely ignored.

Finally, take Sir Christopher Llewellyn-Smith, the physicist who is running the Royal Society’s ongoing study on energy storage. In a podcast interview a few weeks back, he revealed that his team’s report will be using those low CfD strike prices as their assumed cost for electricity input to storage facilities. Through the good offices of a colleague, I was able to get in touch, and draw his attention to the data. I got a response, pointing to cost claims published by officials in Whitehall and the the usual suspects in the Green Blob, but when I pointed out that the data refuted these claims, I was again greeted by a stony silence.

It’s clear that there is a conspiracy of silence about wind power costs. Only strike prices and unverifiable industry claims can be mentioned. The fairy tale of cheap renewables is so central to the Establishment’s direction of travel towards decarbonisation that the facts simply cannot be acknowledged.

It’s all very reminiscent of the way the Westminster machine has dealt its disastrous handling of the Covid pandemic: refuse to engage on facts and data, and carry right on as if nothing has happened.

Looking down the list of those who are engaging in this green omertà, it’s hard to avoid the impression that they are all passengers on a very plush gravy train. If they even mention the inconvenient facts, they will be effectively be pulling the emergency brake, and the whole thing would grind to a halt. Let’s just say they will not be popular for doing so. To purloin a quote from Lord Frost’s recent GWPF lecture, you can wake a man who’s asleep, but you can’t wake a man who’s pretending to be asleep.