McGordon McBroon's recently announced "£100bn green energy package" includes plans to build 3,000 more wind turbines across Britain's countryside, despite the fact that the 2,000 we already have generate between them less electricity than a single gas-fired power plant, and far less than a nuclear station. If you include the massive planned wind-farms offshore, there will be 7,000 extra turbines, but even so their output won't come close to matching that of the coal-fired power-station at Drax in Yorkshire.
So, you might ask, what's the point? Why spoil thousands of acres of beautiful coast and country just for a few ethical megawatts?
Well, the point is much the same point as in most government initiatives - and we're not just talking about this government, either. When Thatcher privatised the railways they were transformed into not one business but a lot of inter-dependent firms, some to run the trains, some to own the trains, some to maintain the trains, one to own and maintain the track etc. This meant that businessmen - no doubt friends of Thatcher and the rest of her government - could buy shares in several different companies and reap the rewards from each one. It also meant that the consumers - British railway passengers - were providing not one profit-stream but any number, so that the new owners could get even richer.
In this present case the beneficiaries of McBroon's generosity will be the share-holders of the firms that own the turbines. Each turbine, up to 350 feet high, generates only a quarter of its notional output because of our fickle weather, but even so it produces about £450,000 a year for its owners. £230,000 of this comes from selling the electricity to the grid, but £218,000 comes from the government's "renewables obligation" which compels the electricity companies to pay over the odds for all wind-generated power. No prizes for guessing who pays in the end.
No doubt greedy land-owners will snap up the chance to get as much as £17,000 a year for 25 years for letting the wind industry put each turbine on their land - a wind-fall (pun intended) of £425,000 for doing nothing.
Even so, the land-owners are getting ripped-off just like the rest of us. While they'll get a mere £425,000, over the twenty-five years the wind company will have trousered £11 million of our money for producing a paltry amount of electricity which can be generated far more cheaply by conventional means and, in the case of nuclear power, with virtually no impact on the environment.
Still, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. Once all the MPs who voted for this iniquitous scam have finished their political careers, they'll be rewarded with seats on the board to keep them solvent in their old age. Can't think of anything worse than packs of feral bag-lady ex-MPs pushing shopping-trolleys, begging on the streets and sleeping in railway arches. Anyway, at this rate the railway arches will be needed for the rest of us.
(based on an article by "Muckspreader" in this week's "Private Eye")
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