Energy firms cash in on storms by leaving wind turbines idle as some power companies boost takings by a THIRD
- Figure for Christmas Eve and Day alone – at height of crisis – was £1.2million
- Wind farms are paid to shut down turbines during gusty weather
- Britain is braced for another battering of gales and rain over New Year
Energy firms reaped huge profits from their wind farms during the recent storms while families suffered Christmas blackouts.
Some power companies boosted their takings by nearly a third. The figure for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone – at the height of the crisis – was £1.2million.
This is because wind farms are paid to shut down their turbines during gusty weather – and they are paid even more to close them down than they are to run them normally.
A ferry crosses the Solent near Southsea sea front in Hampshire. Energy firms reaped huge profits from their wind farms during the recent storms while families suffered Christmas blackouts
The revelation came as Britain braced itself for another battering of gales and torrential rain today and tomorrow.
New Year’s Eve revellers could find their celebrations disrupted and there are fears that more homes and businesses could be flooded as rain falls on already saturated ground and swollen rivers.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has demanded a crisis meeting next week with power company bosses amid growing public fury at the slow response of firms in reconnecting the tens of thousands left in the dark after the storms.
In the past two weeks, as householders suffered power cuts, wind farms were paid £4.8million to switch off their turbines.
The ‘constraint payments’ – which come from householders’ energy bills – are given to operators not to produce electricity when supply outstrips demand.
The controversial arrangement is supposed to compensate wind farms if the National Grid cannot cope with the extra energy produced during high winds.
This is because wind farms are paid to shut down their turbines during gusty weather - and they are paid even more to close them down than they are to run them normally
Last night experts from the Renewable Energy Foundation calculated that, if the wind farms had been operating normally, the companies would have been paid approximately £6million.
But because they were ordered to shut down, they received about £7.8million. This includes their £4.8million ‘compensation’, plus about £3million as an agreed electricity wholesale price.
Under the complicated rules, they receive both payments even though no electricity has been supplied.
And they are paid a higher rate when they are switched off, meaning that in the past two weeks they have been paid an additional £1.8million, or 29 per cent more.
Among the energy firms to benefit was SSE, one of the Big Six, which owns a number of wind farms.
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said it was ‘scandalous’ that wind farm companies boosted their profits during the storms.
‘The system is being abused by power companies at the expense of householders,’ he added.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson criticised energy companies for their response to last week’s blackouts and urged them to cancel holiday leave for staff over the New Year period.
He said: ‘It seems obvious that they let too many of their staff go away for the Christmas holiday, they didn’t have enough people manning the call centres and that wasn’t acceptable.
'We have made it very clear that we expect them to take proper measures.’
But Mr Paterson came under fire himself after sources revealed that he had also been away over the Christmas period. He finally resurfaced again yesterday.
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