Lord Lawson and the Global Warming Policy Foundation have blasted foreign owned wind farms but there is one Polish company supported by a Tory lord which is doing very well out of renewables
“If you tried to devise the most costly and inefficient means of generating electricity imaginable, you would choose wind power,” bellows Lord Lawson of the denial charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
Lawson continues, saying that wind power is “an environmental monstrosity, desecrating ever more of our English landscape. And the cost of all this – to no benefit except to the wind power industry itself – is paid by all electricity consumers, including the poorest, and damages the British economy which is fragile enough as it is.”
Yet there is at least one Parliamentarian who, for more than 20 years, acted as chairman of a business that is completely ignoring these strongly stated concerns and is now heavily investing in green technology in the belief that clean energy has a very bright future.
Green investment is a matter of serious concern. Christiana Figueres, the climate chief of the UN, pleaded for financiers to triple their investments to $1 trillion so that the market could innovate its way out of ecological crisis. Yet, according to figures released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, such investment collapsed by 41 per cent across Europe last year and fell globally for the second year running.
One of the factors suppressing investment in clean energy has been the distinctly mixed messages from George Osborne, a chancellor who seeks the advice of Lord Lawson and appears to wish to emulate his predecessor in every way.
The concerted campaign by many Conservative MPs against wind farms has also turned the tide against renewable energy. The Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris even went to the extraordinary length of promoting the sceptic blogger James Delingpole as a rival candidate in an apparent bid to influence his party leadership on the issue of wind farms.
The GWPF has been an active participant in fanning such ill winds. Lawson’s educational charity published a report by Gordon Hughes, presented to the House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee, which concludes that: “Wind power is an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of reducing CO2 emissions.”
Lawson was also extremely supportive when the Sunday Telegraph was whipping up a storm about the fact that 2,276 turbines erected on British soil were, at that time, owned by companies that were based overseas, allowing foreign firms to claim £500,000 in taxpayers’ money.
“To have so many foreign companies creaming off the subsidy merely adds insult to injury,” it quoted the former oil correspondent and Energy Minister as saying.
Politicians with financial links to renewable energy have found themselves under attack. Tim Yeo temporarily resigned as chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee amid allegations he advised a solar energy firm with which he had a business relationship about how to address Parliamentarians. He has been repeatedly criticised for having interests in renewable energy, including his chairmanship of TMO Renewables.
However, despite all this huffing and puffing, these tall, slick white windmills proved anything but pointless in the storms of December 2013.
During the last Saturday before Christmas, wind power generated a record-breaking 17 per cent of Britain’s total energy needs. In fact, 2.8 million megawatt hours of electricity were produced – enough to power more than 5.7 million homes.
“We are reducing our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up,” boasted Maf Smith, the deputy chief executive of the industry trade association Renewable UK.
The problem now is that turbines produce too much power: the Telegraph was left complaining because wind farms were paid £5 million to switch off because the National Grid could not take any more.
Tobacco, Arms, Pharmaceuticals
So who is this Parliamentarian who at the time of the GWPF’s bilious attack was chairman of a foreign-owned company heavily investing in wind energy? Step forward Lord Lawson of Blaby.
Old Lawson joined the Central Europe Trust (CET) shortly after he resigned as chancellor in 1989; he immediately offered consultancy services coaching British firms on how to profit from the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Lawson and his colleagues sought work with tobacco, arms and pharmaceutical companies, and landed relatively lucrative deals with Coca Cola, Philip Morris, BAE Systems, Dow Chemical and other shining examples of American and British industrial entrepreneurship.
CET’s website continues to list the oil companies BP Amoco, Royal Dutch Shell, Texaco, and Total Fina Elf as clients. In Poland, where the company does most of its business, CET has worked for Europe’s largest coal burning power plant at Belchatow, and the state-owned (but soon to be privatised) coal giant ENEA Energy Group.
However, in recent years the company has moved into the renewable energy sector and offers its expertise to the dinosaurs of the Polish fossil fuel industry, advising on how they can diversify into clean energy. CET in Poland acted as corporate finance advisor to ENEA when it bought Bardy wind farm, which is near the coastal resort of Kolobrzeg (pictured).
The company website states: “Bardy wind farm, located at the Polish seaside, is fully operational and has already generated 30 000 MWh of electric power this year. The farm consists 25 fans with installed capacity of 50 MW. Addition of this facility is a big step in reaching ENEA’s strategic goal of operating 250-350 MW wind power generation plants by 2020.”
Charles Jonscher is the founder of the CET and wrote to Lawson back in 1989 to recruit him to the company as chairman when the chancellor resigned from public office. The two men have, over the years, remained good friends—although it appears their views on renewable energy have diverged significantly.
“Within the energy field, CET’s main activities are in renewable energy work of various kinds,” Jonscher told me in an email. “CET’s largest energy project is currently the development of a 78MW wind farm in Romania. I, and other CET colleagues, are professionally active in this space.”
Lawson’s former business partner is exactly the kind of investor and business innovator Figueres at the UN is trying to encourage.
He drives a hybrid car and every light bulb in his house is low energy, yet his home is heated with biofuels. “Our family has invested a substantial (given our means) sum in a wind farm project in Romania, which is unlikely to produce a profit but which will certainly not produce emissions,” says Jonscher.
Lawson resigned as Chairman of the CET in London on 31 December 2012—well after his attack on wind farms—having earlier sold his shares to an offshore consultancy firm with nominee owners and directors.
It appears from private conversations I have had, that his Polish colleagues grew increasingly dissatisfied with the fact that Lawson earnted up to £75,905 as chairman when it was felt most of the business was won locally.
Perhaps Lawson would have done better in business had he recognised the winds of change and supported turbine firms in storm-battered Britain.