Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Octopus Energy boss calls for lower electricity prices for residents near wind farms

Greg Jackson, founder and chief executive of Octopus Energy, has called for lower electricity prices for people living near wind farms, particularly in areas like Scotland.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Jackson described it as “crazy” that electricity prices remain uniform across the UK.

Octopus Energy already offers discounted bills for those residing near wind farms, which has generated significant local interest in wind farm construction. Jackson noted that residents near turbines receive a 20% discount when it’s windy and a 50% discount during very windy conditions. These discounts are currently available to customers in Caerphilly, South Wales, and Halifax and Weighton in Yorkshire.

The announcement comes as new Chancellor Rachel Reeves unveiled plans to boost onshore wind farms, aiming to expedite national infrastructure projects. In her first speech as chancellor, Reeves committed to overhauling planning restrictions and ending the effective ban on onshore wind farms in England imposed by the previous government.

Jackson highlighted that Octopus Energy has received interest from 30,000 individuals and communities across the UK since 2021, requesting the construction of turbines near them. He emphasised the need for market reform, suggesting that using locally generated electricity more efficiently could delay or even negate the need for new transmission lines.

Analysis by the think tank Carbon Tracker has shown that wasted wind power added approximately £40 to household energy costs in 2023. This waste occurs because the grid cannot handle excess power generated during windy conditions, leading to payments for wind farms to switch off, while gas-powered stations are paid to operate, or electricity is imported, with costs passed on to consumers.

Jackson criticised this situation, arguing that instead of paying Scottish wind farms to shut down during windy periods, the local population should benefit from cheaper or even free electricity. He highlighted that this approach could stimulate investment in battery infrastructure in regions like the South East, addressing energy shortages more efficiently.

According to Jackson, regional pricing could reduce costs nationwide by eliminating waste. He pointed out that if energy users such as data centres moved to Scotland, they would benefit from some of the cheapest electricity in Europe.

Jackson called on policymakers, the energy sector, and large energy users to collaborate on creating mechanisms to foster innovation and reduce costs for everyone.

In her address, Reeves acknowledged potential opposition to her infrastructure plans but stressed the importance of recognising the trade-offs involved in accelerating the development of onshore wind projects. She vowed to overturn restrictive rules from 2015 that allowed a small number of objections to block new onshore wind projects, aiming to pave the way for the construction of hundreds of new turbines.