Skip to main content

Wind Farms

Volume 539: debated on Thursday 26 January 2012

19. What discussions he has had with National Grid on the shutting down of wind farms during times of high wind intensity. (91750)

Ministers and DECC officials have regular discussions with National Grid about the operation of the electricity network, and this has included the issue of transmission constraints, including our consultation on the transmission constraint licence condition. Reducing or increasing output of generators of all types is a normal part of National Grid’s role in balancing the network at all times. Wind is not treated any differently from any other technology in this respect.

My constituents in Rugby, who face applications for wind farms, will be concerned about reports that turbines are switched off in times of high wind speeds because the current infrastructure is unable to handle the amount of electricity generated. When that happens, National Grid pays operators compensation—

Order. Can we have a quick question? We have to move on, so we need a brief sentence with a question mark at the end of it.

What steps has the Minister taken to protect consumers from that element of the increase in their electricity bills?

About £250 million was paid last year in constraint payments, of which only 10%— £24 million—was paid to the wind sector. The Government are reviewing the transmission constraint licence condition and trying to ensure upgrades are made in many parts of the country, so that the power generated can get where it is needed.

Given the importance we attach to National Grid maintaining balance in the system, will the Minister tell us what discussions he has had with National Grid on how it contracts with short-term operating reserve aggregators? There is concern that National Grid is paying for so-called phantom megawatts and the cost is being passed on to consumers. Does the Minister agree that we need an independent auditor?

In all these matters, National Grid is regulated by the official regulator, Ofgem. The STOR arrangements play an important role in the process, ensuring that when there is a significant and sudden change in requirement, generation capacity to meet that demand is available. Of course that important function of our grid system must be operated in a transparent way.