13 September, 2023
Daily Express, by Sam Richards

Britain’s reliance on expensive foreign gas has put us in a position where events completely out of our control have created economic chaos and pushed households to the brink.

So you’d think the Government would be doing everything it can to wean us off gas and make sure new, clean, sources of power are built right here in Britain, as quickly as possible.

Advances in renewable energy are one of the great British success stories.

Over the last decade we’ve been able to rely on ever cheaper sources of renewable energy to generate almost half of our electricity, saving us all money while cutting our reliance on coal and gas. Without energy generated from homegrown solar, offshore and onshore wind, there is no doubt families would have suffered even higher bills over the last 18 months.

But, instead of straining every sinew to cut the bonkers planning rules that add costs and mean it takes up to 13-years to get a new offshore wind farm up and running, the Government have just put our booming offshore wind sector - and the thousands of well-paid jobs that depend on it - at risk.

How has this happened? Over the last decade the Government have used something called the “Contracts for Difference” scheme to give wind farm developers a fixed price for the energy they generate.

Because this was new technology, this scheme at first subsidised offshore wind, giving builders of new wind farms the confidence to experiment and build bigger, better turbines with newer kit - driving costs down.
It’s been a great success. The cost of energy generated by offshore wind has fallen by 75% in just under a decade- making it significantly cheaper than burning polluting gas or dirty coal.

Yet in recent months, just as everyone’s weekly shop has shot up in price, so too have costs for our new clean industries.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of core materials like aluminium, copper and steel, crucial to building these great clean power generators, has skyrocketed - doubling or trebling in price.

Naturally, the price offshore wind developers would need for new contracts would have to go up from the previous all-time low – though while still not costing the taxpayer a penny.

Other countries have seen which way the wind is blowing and acted. Ireland has just agreed to a series of contracts with offshore wind developers that recognised the new economic reality. These new deals are more expensive than they were - but they are still far cheaper than burning imported gas or coal.

Yet politicians and civils servants in Whitehall thought they knew better. They’ve capped the price for new offshore wind farms at a level that made it impossible for businesses to meet their costs and invest in Britain.

The results from the latest auction have just landed – and the Government has failed to deliver a single new offshore wind farm. This total cockup is the first time this has happened since Government started to support the industry in 2014.

We will all pay the price for this failure.

Complacency and incompetence by ministers and mandarins has condemned the country to continue to pay for more expensive foreign gas, subjecting families to an additional billion pounds on our bills – every year - while the UK loses out on high quality manufacturing jobs and billions of pounds of investment.

Government Ministers need to get out of Westminster and listen to the businesses who are building the future. A healthy scepticism of lobbyist demands for ever more taxpayer cash is welcome; denying the economic reality of higher costs while tying up a new British industry in red tape, is madness.