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Wind farms paid record £.9.3m to switch off their turbines on Friday

May 24, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Wind farms in Britain were paid a record £.9.3m to switch off their turbines on Friday, The Telegraph can disclose.

More than 80 plants across England and Scotland were handed the so-called ‘constraint payments’, when supply outstrips demand, by the National Grid, as thousands of buildings lying empty following the coronavirus lockdown contributed to a nosedive in demand for energy.

In what has been declared a "national embarrassment" and a power management "disgrace" by campaigners, consumers will ultimately foot the bill of £6.9m to 66 Scottish plants and £1.9m to 14 offshore plants in England.

This is almost double the previous single day record payout to wind farm operators, which was £4.8m on Oct 8, 2018, when turbines were switched off because it became too windy.

It is believed the low demand for electricity on May 22 was due to windy and sunny weather this week, with solar panels likely to have produced a lot of energy, combined with the lack of demand for power given the Covid-19 lockdown which has seen many businesses close.

So worrying was the development that the National Grid issued an alert to stop it happening for a second day running.

Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a UK charity that monitors energy use, said: “Overdeployment of renewables in the UK, particularly uncontrollable wind and solar, has resulted in a very fragile electricity system, which is inflexible and unable to deal with accidents and unexpected circumstances at a reasonable cost to consumers.

"Grid balancing expenditure so far this year is already horrific and by the end of the summer it will be terrifying.

"This is a national embarrassment and a disgrace to the management of the electricity sector who have complacently allowed this crisis to develop over the last decade.”

The charity previously revealed that the operators of 86 wind farms in Britain were handed a record of more than £136m in constraint payments last year.

RenewableUK’s director of strategic communications, Luke Clark, said: “Wind is one of the UK’s biggest power sources, generating 30% of our electricity in the first quarter of this year.

"Investing in new grid infrastructure is vital so that renewable generators can continue to provide consumers with the massive quantities of cheap electricity we need to achieve net zero emissions.

“Constraint payments are the cheapest way for National Grid to run the electricity network within its current limits.

"All types of generation, including fossil fuels, receive them, but unlike older technologies, wind farms can turn off or on within a matter of seconds, and so wind is often called on by National Grid to vary its output. So it’s actually the best way to keep bills as low as possible." 


Quite why the Telegraph included the inaccurate comments from RenewableUK, the trade body for wind farms is a mystery.

Quite clearly if investing in new grid infrastructure is needed to accommodate wind power, then that cost should be stood by renewable companies, and not passed onto the public.

It is also not true that renewable generators generate massive quantities of cheap electricity. The opposite is the case.

As for the final paragraph, I assume that must be some sort of joke. The National Grid have already told us that their costs of balancing the system are expected to be £500m higher than last year. And this is solely due to the inherent unreliability of wind and solar power to be able to supply the amount of demand on the system on a day by day and hour by hour basis.

Yesterday, constraint payments to wind farms added another £6.9m to our bills, at the extortionate rate of £80/MWh so far this month. The price is so high because wind farms are having to forgo obscene subsidies.


Currently, market prices for power are down to £14/MWh, but consumers are not able to fully benefit from this.

Instead, consumers are forced to pay prices of between £139 and £173/MWh for the six offshore wind farms currently operating under Contracts for Difference:


  1. May 24, 2020 11:36 am

    John Constable is, as always, 100% correct. Things are going to get a lot worse and our bills will inexorably rise to pay for the years of insane energy policy.

  2. Phil Wood permalink
    May 24, 2020 11:45 am

    Any chance of a mention by BBC ?

    • May 24, 2020 12:36 pm

      Not a chance; they are too busy slagging off Dominic Cummings to cover something that affects everybody and is causing increased fuel poverty.

  3. Mad Mike permalink
    May 24, 2020 11:51 am

    All this cheap electricity both now and increasingly in the future. What a wonderful future. Wonder why my electricity bills are not going down?

  4. Geoff B permalink
    May 24, 2020 12:23 pm

    Octopus are paying £0.13 /kWh to customers today to use electricity…..customers do not realise that hidden in the bills are all the constraint, CFD and ROC payments. Also opens the door to higher costs at peak times. The article is in daily mirror 21st may…but I cannot paste it.

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 24, 2020 12:30 pm

    Scotland as always, benefits disproportionately from this. They benefit financially from over-deploying wind power, and can then put out propaganda about getting 100% of their electricity from renewables.

    They will not of course, they will merely generate the equivalent of that – whether it is dumped or used by the rest of the UK, they are still dependent on interconnections and fossil fuels. If they weren’t parasitic on the rest of the UK, their grid would collapse and it would make no financial sense anyway.

    Scotland ‘getting in first’ will presumably hinder the rest of the UK from deploying more renewables and cutting carbon dioxide emissions (however pointless).

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 24, 2020 12:48 pm

      Or maybe with the delay, Scotland will be getting 125% of electricity from renewables!

    • DaveR permalink
      May 25, 2020 11:48 am

      MrGrimNasty, could you be a bit more precise in your labelling of ‘Scotland’, here? There are many of us – in Scotland – rightfully totally pis*ed off at the incessant gouging that masquerades currently as a competent industry.

      Maybe the fumes from all the billions of uber-hyped Wastemonster-trousered taxations on crude have penetrated yer heid, Get a grip, sunshine.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        May 25, 2020 5:04 pm

        Rather personal and aggressive. But I’ll bite.

        “UK government figures make it absolutely clear that Scotland has subsidised the rest of the UK in most of the last 40-year period.” Ian Blackford SNP

        This was debunked (as best as is possible due to data issues) in 2013 by Professor Brian Ashcroft of the University of Strathclyde – the extra spending per capita on Scotland cancelled out the extra tax revenue almost exactly.

        Of course these days with failing North Sea revenues and the English subsidizing your faltering devolved tax receipts, it isn’t even close.

  6. May 24, 2020 12:31 pm

    Tax payers are paying…
    workers not to work
    teachers not to teach
    crony capitalists wind farm owners not to produce electricity

    What can possibly go wrong?

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      May 24, 2020 8:10 pm

      ” crony capitalists wind farm owners ”
      I’d like an explanation of how this works, and who is making money in an unfortunate/underhanded way.
      Those with capital look for ways to put it to work. Not much different than a person with a hammer and saw, a person with excellent language skills, or someone that can help others with mental illness.
      Politicians and their bureaucrats make the laws and regulations. Many others respond with their capital and skills. Their response is as expected.
      So, who should we be upset with, and why?

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        May 24, 2020 8:39 pm

        Nancy & John said:
        “Politicians and their bureaucrats make the laws and regulations.”

        I think you answered part of your question. And if those ‘laws and regulations’ are framed to benefit those who gave the ‘politicians and their bureaucrats’ money or comfortable sinecures then perhaps you have answered the rest.

        But what do I know? I’m just a cynic. I agree that if the rules allow you to make hay you can’t be blamed for buying a scythe.

      • May 24, 2020 9:59 pm


      • May 24, 2020 10:04 pm

        Anyone with an ounce of sense about how the scam works would realise that it is about the transfer of money from poor people in poor accommodation to rich people in expensive accommodation who are happy to despoil the environment.

  7. JimW permalink
    May 24, 2020 1:03 pm

    The really weird thing about the current economics is that the UK Government through the BoE are getting paid to borrow money long term, the interest rate of gilts up to 10 years is negative. So they are getting paid to pay for non generation of electricity, workers not to work and teachers not to teach etc etc.
    We are truely ‘through the looking glass’.

  8. Ray Sanders. permalink
    May 24, 2020 1:35 pm

    So whilst we are having to shutdown solar and wind generation and pay a fortune to do so, the Guardian’s resident English Graduate who calls herself an “Energy Correspondent” (and demonstrably know sweet Fuck All about energy), decides to highlight the abomination at Cleve Hill.
    I just love the photo – it is not anywhere near the Cleve Hill site but Jillian is probably unsure even where Kent is let alone Faversham.
    Interestingly even GreenPeace are against this development. I had hoped that with his Science background we might have got some sense from Alok Sharma but somehow I doubt it.

    • Ian Travers permalink
      May 24, 2020 7:58 pm

      Jillian Ambrose disappeared from the Telegraph a while back. Remembering the stuff she used to write there, which I soon learned to avoid, I’m not suprised to find she’s filling column inches for the Guardian with more of the same.

    • Gamecock permalink
      May 24, 2020 8:35 pm

      ‘Britain’s largest solar farm, capable of generating enough clean electricity to power 91,000 homes’

      Y’all don’t use electricity at night?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 25, 2020 1:06 pm

        This where there is a difference between ‘capable of’ and actually can and will. The Spanish solved the night time problem so perhaps every panel will have its own floodlight powered by windmills.

  9. ianprsy permalink
    May 24, 2020 1:40 pm

    Meanwhile, the UK press coverage is 100% Cummings. A slight issue of priorities?

  10. May 24, 2020 3:14 pm

    O/T Ah Paul I just found that someone sent me a tweet in March about Sky’s January ever-doom story about the Zambesi and Victoria Falls.
    They said that actually it rained a lot in March
    So by the end of March the river was back up in levels.
    But the Kariba Dam might have some leakage issues.
    I see that actually a few weeks later on April 23 you did do an update story

  11. May 24, 2020 4:33 pm

    It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good 🙄

  12. May 24, 2020 7:22 pm

    I’ve got a book to sell you, but I’d prefer it if you just paid me to not sell it to you instead.

    Slightly off-piste, our local council (Norwich) has lost a cool £6 million of residents’ money building passivhauses and selling them for less than cost. A sorry tale indeed.

  13. May 24, 2020 10:05 pm

    “All types of generation, including fossil fuels, receive them [constraint payments], but unlike older technologies …”.
    Government regulated renewables contracts and payments are notoriously baffling, I suspect that statement is at best a half-truth and describing fossil-fuelled thermal technologies as ‘older’ compared to wind is cheeky.

  14. Curious George permalink
    May 24, 2020 10:17 pm

    “His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county.”
    [Joseph Heller, Catch-22]

  15. DaveR permalink
    May 25, 2020 12:43 pm

    Most folks I’ve encountered recently in conversation – say, about 50 – haven’t the slightest clue about what they’re paying for. Merely mentioning ‘watts’ or even ‘hours’ and most instantaneously glaze over. Yes, a cross-section including engineers (or folks now with ilked degrees).

    Daft times, capably milked by charlatans upon an unwitting public.

  16. Gerry, England permalink
    May 25, 2020 1:36 pm

    The Times has an article where SSE are saying that the extra costs of keeping the grid from failing could bankrupt some of the smaller suppliers and reduce the competition in the market. They are calling on OFGEM to delay the demand for this money until next year. GWPF has brief piece on this.

    I don’t see why these costs can’t just be passed straight on to the consumers by increasing their bills. I recall that one of the pro-green bunch like OVO increased the cost of its fixed rate because the fix excluding any grid related costs so if they all have this in the small print then there is not a problem. Unless…..of course you don’t want a whole load of unfavourable scrutiny on our mad generating system and SSE are up to their eyeballs in the scam.

    • May 25, 2020 1:56 pm

      I think the problem lies with suppliers who are selling on Fixed Deals, who would therefore have to stand the cost themselves for the rest of the contract

      As you say, if like OVO they have covered this in the fine print they will be fine. Presumably many have not!

      • Phil O'Sophical permalink
        May 25, 2020 11:39 pm

        I will just mention in passing that in my area we had a power cut this morning, midst a warm spell with long bright daylight, with no one using their heating, no one using lighting, and business and industry on tick-over levels. God help us when the cold and dark return.

        About 18 months ago Jo Nova gave a superb presentation called: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Electricity Grid in Three Easy Steps. It related to Oz of course but is being replicated everywhere.

  17. May 25, 2020 11:34 pm

    But when you talk to a renewable advocate, thats not a subsidy. I ask myself what else it is. It’s like paying your local butcher for meat thats not wanted or your baker for the bread he made and nobody wanted. It’s like paying the hairdresser for haircuts performed on imaginary clients. Any entrepreneur knows that – that sometimes something that market does not want is produced. Then you have to take a loss. The age-old wisdom of the market. Except for those getting taxpayer cash. And what happens if you produce stuff that nobody wants and still get money for it. You produce more of it. Thats theft and we are all complicit as long as we vote for politicians that enable this theft.

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