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Who’s the Patsy? Offshore wind’s high-stakes poker game

The British public is facing a doubling of electricity prices to bail out new wind farms. That’s according to Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, who has analysed the latest data for wind farms coming on stream in the next few years.

“A number of large wind farms have contracts to supply power at extraordinarily low prices”, says Hughes. “But the cost and performance data suggest that they will be unable to cover their costs”.

Professor Hughes has compared Moray East – one of the new wind farms concerned – to a similar one that opened recently: 

“Moray East, currently under construction in northern Scotland, and Beatrice, which came on stream just a few months ago, use very similar turbines and are situated just next door to each other. There is nothing about Beatrice to suggest that costs or performance are out of the ordinary, yet it has a strike price nearly three times that of Moray East.”

According to Professor Hughes, the operators of Moray East will need to at least double their selling price if they are to break even. He says they are playing a high-stakes poker game with the government, with the government as patsy:

“They are probably gambling that if they threaten to go bust, the government will be forced to raise carbon taxes sharply. This will push market prices up, and the operators will simply walk away from their agreed contracts and trade at the new prices”.

This means that instead of seeing cheap renewables, the consumer will be hit by huge electricity price rises.  “There is a real possibility that we see the public take to the streets, just as the gilets jaunes are doing in France” says Professor Hughes.

Gordon Hughes: Who’s the Patsy? Offshore wind’s high-stakes poker game (PDF)