You will be aware of the very interesting ruling by Lady Clarke over the Shetland Viking Wind Farm. You may also be aware that pending appeal, the Scottish Government is ignoring the judgement and is proceeding with the Glen Morie Wind Farm PLI. We now see an amendment to the Electricity Act 1989 tabled by, amongst others, Lord Stephen in the Lords*. Whilst this case against the Scottish Ministers is awaiting the appeal court it seems pre-emptive to bring this forward especially as Lord Stephen is not unconnected to the industry. <Click for detail. Do we see the sticky finger marks of Davey and Clegg on the proposal?
Now I am not suggesting the House of Lords is impugned by self interest and we should note the marvellous support the opposition to wind has received in that House, but it would seem that the Lib-Dim caucus in the Lords has an agenda which matches self interest with green political dogma. As part of a very minor party the influence that they are wielding over the coalition is bringing parliament into disrepute and damaging the economy and future of the whole of the United Kingdom.
The law, and it is law until Lady Clarke’s judgement is overturned should it be, in this case is simple. Any developer should apply for an energy generating license in advance of a planning application. They cost £1400 and take about 42 days. When one considers how long scoping and environmental reports take let alone a planning application, up to two years, lack of time cannot be cited as a deterrent. However one rule is that the company must be sound and with a proven record. Most wind farm companies are stand alone “off the shelf” companies with no trading records, showing mostly losses and with Small Company Returns. This is what Lord Stephen is concerned in and he should know as many of his 10 wind farm companies are as such. This in real terms allows companies to build massive wind farms in unsuitable places and if the returns don’t materialise, due to restriction in ROCs or simply no wind due to bad sighting, the company will simply be liquidated leaving no assets to decommission. Deposits for decommissioning are supposed to be lodged but I know of many PLIs where no decommissioning deposit was required and despite addressing the councils on this I have yet to have an honest proven answer to where the money is. If simply a guarantee on a piece of paper, should the company fold it will be as worthless as the shares. For this reason and this reason alone I suggest that Lord Stephen’s amendment should be resisted if you don’t want the countryside littered with rusting hulks as can be seen in many parts of the US and Hawaii.
The reason for the Electricity Act 1989 conditions may have been overtaken by events but the precautionary approach requiring energy providers to be sound and financially viable has even more relevance today than then. Perhaps the law does need re-addressing but I would suggest that it needs strengthening not weakening to the benefit of those Lordships with a foot, if not a leg and a lot more, in the Renewables Camp!
*Baron Stephen of Lower Deeside was the LibDem Deputy First Minister in the previous Scottish Parliament. He is a director of at least ten wind farm companies and was partially responsible for the start of the Race for Wind in Scotland. Baron stepen has not been without controversy in the past and money came into it then