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Energy Secretary’s pro-wind stance attacked by MEP

Monday, 26th July 2010

A local Conservative MEP has attacked the announcement over the weekend by Lib-Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne of a major extension of wind power, both on and off-shore, and that there would be not a penny of support for nuclear power.

Writing on the influential Conservative Home website, East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer pointed out that wind power is entirely dependent on massive public subsidies in the form of “Renewable Obligation Certificates”, and questioned why the Energy Secretary was determined to bias the market for low-carbon generation in favour of wind and against nuclear. He pointed to the massive technical problems of integrating a significant level of intermittent and unpredictable generation from wind into the grid, and the extra costs (and emissions) resulting from the need to keep conventional back-up power stations all fired up and ready to go in order to fill in the gaps when the wind drops.

He also mentioned reports from informed industry sources saying that the former Labour government’s wind plans were unrealistic, because the numbers of turbines proposed could simply not be built and installed during the planned period, and warned of the real danger of an energy shortfall and massively damaging power cuts, if the government accepted Huhne’s reliance on wind power. Even if Huhne’s plan could be delivered, they would condemn the UK to high-cost electricity, putting British industry at a huge disadvantage to France, for example, which is 80% nuclear.

Helmer, who has worked with anti-wind-farm protest groups across the region, also drew attention to the way wind-farms despoil our countryside, create well-documented health problems for unfortunate local residents who have these monsters dumped on their doorsteps, reduce property values, and blight communities and homes and lives. He asked what had happened to the coalition’s commitment to give local people more say in planning decisions affecting them.

He noted that the former Labour administration had belatedly come round to support for nuclear energy (East Midlands Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, for example, supports nuclear power), and that most Conservatives also support nuclear power, and asked whether it might be time for a Conservative-Labour pact to promote a sensible energy policy.

Commenting on his article, Helmer added: “Renewables have a role to play at the margin, but for the mainstream, base-load power we need to keep the lights on and the wheels of industry turning, there is no substitute for coal and nuclear”.