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Why there's only one honest objection to wind farms

Damian Carrington

The daft claim that wind subsidies have driven 50,000 people into fuel poverty exemplifies the dishonesty of most objections.

Here's a little gem that exemplifies the fundamental dishonesty underlying all but one of the objections deployed against onshore wind farms. The Sunday Telegraph reported that "subsidies paid to windpower companies are forcing up to 50,000 households a year into fuel poverty, according to analysis of government figures by the House of Commons Library."

This statement is at best daft, as I will argue below. The analysis is believed to have been requested by Conservative MP Chris Heaton Harris, who led the 100 Tory MPs demanding big cuts in subsidies for wind farms. The House of Commons Library does not publish its work for MPs, but I now have a copy of the short analysis, which is reproduced in full at the end of this post so you can all admire its idiocy.

The essence of the calculation is as follows. Wind power subsidies - both onshore and offshore - cost energy bill payers about £10 a year, less than 1% of the average annual bill for gas and electricity. Of the 4.75m people suffering fuel poverty in the UK in 2009, 40,000-50,000 (less than 1%) were up to £10 below the threshold for fuel poverty, which is crossed when more than 10% of income is spent on fuel. Therefore, wind subsidies pushed 40,000-50,000 people into fuel poverty.

It's difficult to know where to start unpicking this simple-minded nonsense, but let's begin with one of the three elements of fuel poverty, energy bills themselves. Between 2004 and 2010, dual fuel bills rose by £455, of which £382 was due to soaring gas prices. That's where the real blame lies, quite possibly driving a million or two into fuel poverty, and more renewable energy is the solution, not less.

Another element of fuel poverty is poverty itself. So, for example, the government's freezing of public sector pay or its increasing of VAT as energy bills have risen will clearly be much more significant in causing fuel poverty than the tenner for wind. The third element of fuel poverty is how energy efficient a home is, yet the government is slashing the funding directly targeted at poor households.

The example is an instructive one because it demonstrates clearly that those opposing onshore wind farms don't actually give a hoot about the cost of energy.

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