This, too, is turning out to be a pretence. It’s true that in the past seven or eight years, the notional cost of renewable energy has plummeted. The price of offshore wind output has, for instance, fallen by around two thirds, from £100 per megawatt hour to less than £40. There you go, say ministers in response to net zero sceptics; it’s cheaper than coal.
Would that it was, but the claim is in fact a statistical illusion. The manufacturing, installation and maintenance costs alone have been surging since the war in Ukraine. To these we must also add the costs of upgrading the National Grid to bring the new sources of electricity from where they are generated to where they are used.
Littering the countryside with pylons is understandably running into local opposition. Billions may have to be forked out to compensate affected communities, or in finding alternative, more expensive, transmission routes. It could make HS2 look cheap by comparison.
But to gain a proper understanding of the real costs of wind, and to a lesser extent, solar, we need to factor in another of their characteristics – that they are intermittent.
In order to function effectively, the grid needs a constant balance between supply and demand; if the wind isn’t blowing, or even if it is blowing too strongly, thereby overloading the grid, there is a problem.
Lots of conventional backup capacity is required to deal with the shortfalls that result from intermittency – capacity that can be brought online quickly at the flick of a switch when needs arise.
The upshot is likely to be a high degree of duplication in generating capacity. This will obviously very considerably add to the costs of the renewable element. It’s disingenuous to say wind is cheaper than fossil fuels.
This is why a simple carbon tax is so much better. Because you can;t play games like that when everything is already in the one price.