One of the UK’s leading renewable energy specialists has accused the Government of “gross hypocrisy” over the electricity supply auctions that began this week - less than seven days after the UK signed up to the landmark Lima Accord designed to cut carbon emissions.
The controversial auction - which will see up to £1.8 billion in subsidies given to obsolete fossil-fuel-burning power plants and ageing nuclear plants - is being condemned by Paul McCullagh, CEO of Glasgow-based UrbanWind, as “archaic and harmful to climate change undertakings”.
He said: “This is a backwards step that will now see outdated and highly-polluting, coal-fired power stations supported by these new subsidies long after they otherwise would have been brought offline.
“The scheme will also see gas-powered and nuclear plants benefit from the payments that will simply ensure they continue to be available to plug the gap in generating capacity created by Britain’s ‘Energy Trilemma’. of security of supply, rising costs and a need to reduce carbon footprint.
“The UK is facing a growing crisis of security of supply, rising costs and a critical need to reduce carbon footprint,” said Paul McCullagh. “It is a disappointing, retrograde step to see such large sums set to prop up old-style, fossil-fuel-burning power stations at a time when cleaner, greener methods of generation are increasingly coming to the fore
“It is particularly sad to see this come just days after the Lima Accord was agreed by nearly 200 countries, representing a fundamental breakthrough in the battle against climate change. Britain’s position as a leader in this field is now severely undermined by the supply auctions that will see our carbon footprint increase still further. It is gross hypocrisy.
“The Government needs to be doing more to encourage growth and investment in the renewables sector. Instead we have seen endless chopping and changing of subsidies available. The renewables sector could and should be a key part of the solution to Britain’s ‘Energy Trilemma’.
The electricity supply auctions that began this week will see the UK’s existing fleet of coal, gas and nuclear power stations bid against each other for annual subsidies in an effort to secure the country’s energy supply beyond 2030.
“The technology likely to enjoy the most benefit from this scheme is coal - by a distance the heaviest polluter amongst our existing power generation options,” explained Paul McCullagh.
“The bidding system means that the lowest cost producer will secure the subsidies, without any environmental impact being taken into account. The currently low price of coal, combined with geo-political events that have sharply impacted the price of gas, means it is likely to claim the lion’s share of the available subsidies.”
He continued: “In recent months wind technology, in particular, has demonstrated its ability to deliver energy on an enormous scale, with wind capacity in Scotland providing more than enough power for the nation’s homes.
“If the major planning barriers and doubts over subsidies that have left investors reluctant can be resolved for the rest of the UK, then this expensive and environmentally damaging supply auction would simply not be required on anywhere near the same scale.”
“The Government, worried about the General Election next year, is ‘turning a blind eye’ to the renewables sector and instead turning to highly carbon-intensive and outdated power generating options to keep the lights on during the winter months of peak demand.
“It is totally counter-productive for the British Government to be doing this less than a week after the positive outcome from the Lima conference”.