Wind energy debate still raging in the UK

Another great debate is powering up in the United Kingdom; and this one concerns the pros and and cons of wind energy.

According to The Guardian’s recent reports, a large block of MP’s is opposing government subsidies to companies investing in wind turbines. The argument is that taxpayers are shelling out for development of an energy source that is “inefficient and intermittent”.

The Guardian reported that 101 MP’s signed a letter sent to David Cameron in which they demanded a significant reduction in the amount of money spent on encouraging and developing wind power technology in the UK.

In response to equivocation in the political arena, big energy companies like GE (General Electric) and others have indicated that they’re putting investments on hold until politicians make a decision on how much support the companies can expect from the government.

As an example, GE managing director Magued Eldaief said that his company’s proposed £10m wind power investment in the UK was going to have to wait until there is some kind of “political certainty” to back the investment, in terms of support for the development and expansion of wind-sourced energy – and that includes government subsidies, of course.

The world’s biggest manufacturer of wind turbines, Vestas, says that their planned wind turbine factory in Kent that would create about 2,000 new jobs will also have to wait until their potential customers are confident they will have orders for their product. Other companies including Mitsubishi, Siemens and Gamesa have also indicated they’re waiting to see how the political winds blow.

Interestingly, the subsidies in question constitute only a fraction of the cost to taxpayers. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, about £20 per year is added to the average fuel bill to pay for renewable energy development.

However, less than half of that is allocated to wind power, and the rest to fossil fuels. In addition, tax breaks to oil companies amount to far more than wind subsidies – about £3.63b as opposed to £0.7b from April 2010 to April 2011.

If nothing else, the jobs created by development of renewable energy in the form of wind power are at risk – something for voters to think about when forming an opinion on the subsidy question.