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Counting the true cost of renewable energy
10:00am Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Letters
Sir – It was with great interest that I saw the front page (Gazette, September 18) about the planned solar farm at Barnard Gate.
Although the article does correctly state that the power from the solar farm would actually not directly supply anyone’s home in Witney or elsewhere, but would rather be sold to the National Grid, adding to our overall supply of electricity, I found the way the facts were presented somewhat misleading.
As a former head of valuation at RWE, the company which owns NPower, and who now works for a financial institution dealing with energy companies, I would like to offer some clarity on the impact upon consumers if councillors approve this plan.
Although sunlight is free, the price per kilowatt hour of solar generation remains very high.
Given our hours of sunlight and weather conditions, the price of electricity generated by a solar array can be 13 times greater than combined cycle gas turbines as are run at power stations like Didcot B. Coal-fired stations are even cheaper.
Given the vast difference in the cost per installed kilowatt-hour, the reader might wonder how such investment may be justified. The answer is that prices of electricity from renewable electricity fed into the grid are heavily subsidised.
The more solar and other forms of renewable energy are constructed, the more they impose costs upon other forms of generation, through having to pay subsidies, through additional system costs of balancing the system when the sun does not shine brightly or the wind does not blow and through infrastructure to connect these small sites to the grid.
Of course, all of these costs come ultimately from you and me — consumers.
Thus while one might imagine that the solar farm will reduce electricity prices, it will actually make it increase.
In Germany consumers are now paying 60 per cent more for electricity than five years ago because of the renewable burden. Why build such systems? Simple, because investors earn a guaranteed price for electricity over many decades.
While British Land is correct to worry about the aesthetic aspects of the proposed site, it would be thoughtful if our councillors were to consider the incremental financial impact upon all of us of renewable energy.
Dr Lawrence Haar, Witney
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