Energy boss backs lower bills for those near wind farms

Energy boss Greg Jackson has said people living near wind farms – such as in Scotland – should pay less for their electricity.

The founder and chief executive of Octopus said it was “crazy” that the electricity price was the same across the UK.

His firm already offers a discount on bills for people living near wind farms, and this has led to lots of local interest in their construction, he said.

New Chancellor Rachel Reeves set out plans on Monday to boost onshore wind farms.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Mr Jackson said his company had recently offered people living near turbines a discount on their electricity: 20% when it was windy, and 50% when it was “very windy”.

Some 30,000 individuals and communities in the UK have contacted Octopus since 2021 asking for a turbine to be built near them, the company said.

Mr Jackson called for “real reform of markets”, adding that the more people were able to use locally generated electricity, the longer it would be possible to hold off or avoid building new transmission lines to move the energy around.

Analysis from the think tank Carbon Tracker suggested that wasted wind power added about £40 to household energy costs, directly and indirectly, in 2023.

This is because when it is very windy, the grid cannot handle the extra power generated. Wind farms are paid to switch off and gas-powered stations are paid to fire up, or electricity is imported, and the cost is passed on to consumers.

Mr Jackson said that when it was windy in Scotland, instead of paying wind farms to turn off, “we give Scottish people cheap or free electricity at those times. And we can see that the shortage of electricity in other regions means… we build batteries in the South East.

“It’ll give us the investment signals,” he said, adding that it was “absolutely outrageous… [that] at the times we are turning the wind farms off in Scotland, we are importing electricity from Norway into Scotland”.

Mr Jackson said that, according to FTI Consulting, regional pricing in the UK would mean “every region would be cheaper than it is now, because we’re eliminating waste”.

“Data centres wouldn’t be queueing up, waiting 10 years to be built in Slough or going overseas – they would be setting up in Scotland, and they’d have the cheapest electricity in Europe,” he said.

He called on policy makers, the energy sector and the large users of energy to work together to create mechanisms that will unleash innovation and “drive down costs for everyone”.

In her first speech as chancellor this week, Rachel Reeves said she would overhaul planning restrictions and end an effective ban on onshore wind farms in England to speed up national infrastructure projects.

Labour will also overturn rules brought in by the Tories in 2015 which effectively meant that a very small number of objections could block new onshore wind projects.

It should lead to hundreds of new turbines being built, but Ms Reeves conceded that there would be opposition to her infrastructure plans.

“I’m not naive to that, and we must acknowledge that trade-offs always exist,” she said.

The plans were described by a county councillor in Lincolnshire as an “attack on the countryside”.

Colin Davie said he was concerned about the potential impact on the county’s agricultural industry.


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