As the mainstream media have recently been full of stories about the energy crisis now facing much of the world generally, Europe rather a lot, and the UK especially, it seems like a good time to examine who actually owns much of the UK’s energy infrastructure (or at least the “renewable” bit of it that seems to have been causing particular problems for the National Grid this year).
On 13th July 2021 the Scottish Herald ran an articlei with the headline “Third of Scotland’s big wind farms linked to tax havens including Cayman Islands”. That potentially alarming headline didn’t immediately suggest to me that much of the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure must be foreign-owned, since the use of tax havens isn’t an activity limited to foreigners. I’m sure plenty of British individuals and businesses are capable of adopting such strategies in an attempt to ensure that the taxman doesn’t get his hands on their filthy lucre. Still, the claims in the article were sufficiently intriguing to suggest that the UK’s energy security may be in the hands of foreigners to a rather alarming extent:
An investigation by The Ferret has also revealed that 39 of the largest 50 wind farms are ultimately owned outwith Scotland in … Spain, France, Germany, Norway, China and elsewhere.
I decided to take a look by sector with a view to trying to find out what’s what. I chose to limit my research to “renewables”, given that this is increasingly the sector that all but the most minor of political parties seek to have us rely on.
Offshore Wind Farms
The biggest offshore wind farm in the UK is Hornsea, and it is
owned & operated by Orsted. As most readers are probably aware, Orsted is Danish. More specificallyii:
Ørsted has its origin in the Danish state-owned company Dansk Naturgas A/S. The company was founded in 1972 to manage gas and oil resources in the Danish sector of the North Sea. After some years, the company was renamed to Dansk Olie og Naturgas A/S (DONG), meaning Danish Oil and Natural Gas. At the beginning of the decade of the 2000s, DONG started to expand itself into the electricity market by taking long positions in electricity companies. In 2005, DONG acquired and merged Danish electrical power producers Elsam and Energi E2 and public utility (electricity distribution) companies NESA, Københavns Energi and Frederiksberg Forsyning. The result of the merger was the creation of DONG Energy…
In 2002, one of predecessors of DONG Energy named Elsam installed the 160 MW Horns Rev offshore wind farm, which was the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the world.
In 2005, DONG Energy acquired 10.34% in the Ormen Lange gas field (operated by Shell). The share of gas reserves allocated to DONG Energy are approximately 40 billion cubic metres (1.4 trillion cubic feet)…
At about the time of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, DONG Energy adopted a strategy, called “85/15 vision”, of changing from a company with 85% of activities fossil fuel based to a company 85% based on green energy activities.
Isn’t it strange that only UK and US fossil fuel company diversification seems to be so hated by the climate worriers?
Dogger Bank Windiii farm is a joint venture, with different partnership arrangements in place for the different phases:
Dogger Bank is being developed in three 1.2GW phases : Dogger Bank A, B and C.
Dogger Bank A and B are joint ventures between SSE Renewables (40%), Equinor (40%) and Eni (20%).
Dogger Bank C is a 50:50 joint venture between Equinor and SSE Renewables.
SSE Renewables is lead operator for the development and construction of Dogger Bank and Equinor will be lead operator for the duration of the operational phase.
SSE Renewables is part of a UK Stock Exchange quoted Company. Of course, one of the things about being a public company is that it may always be taken over by another company, whether UK-based or not. In recent weeks, there has been some speculation about the future of SSE, not least in the Herald, with suggestions that the business might be broken up, and separate Stock Exchange listings sought for its constituent parts. An update is awaited in November. In the meantime, SSE sold its energy supply arm to Ovo Energy in 2020 for £500 million (which looks like a shrewd move as things stand).
As for Equinoriv:
Equinor ASA (formerly Statoil and StatoilHydro) is a Norwegian state-owned multinational energy company headquartered in Stavanger. It is primarily a petroleum company, operating in 36 countries with additional investments in renewable energy...
The current company was formed by the 2007 merger of Statoil with the oil and gas division of Nork Hydro. As of 2017, the Government of Norway is the largest shareholder with 67% of the shares, while the rest is public stock. The ownership interest is managed by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy…
Equinor also operates two offshore wind farms off the East Coast of England, Dudgeonv and Sheringham Shoal.
And what of Eni? Who are they?
Eni S.p.A. is an Italian multinational oil and gascompany headquartered in Rome. Considered one of the seven “supermajor” oil companies in the world,it has operations in 66 countries with a market capitalization of US$36.08 billion, as of 31 December 2020.The Italian government owns a 30.33% golden share in the company…vi
Eni is also active in the UK as operator of the Liverpool Bay Area project, for which it was recently awarded a CO2 appraisal and storage licence by the Oil and Gas Authorityvii.
This is a CO2 storage project, which has to date received £33M from the UK taxpayer, via UK Research & Innovation’s IDC (Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge) Fund. The problem with digging in to these things is that one thing just leads to another….
Another increasingly large offshore wind farm is that at Walney, comprising Walney I, Walney II and the Walney Extension, based 12 miles off the south Cumbrian coast.
While the 659MW facility, Walney Extension is co-owned by Orsted and Danish pension funds PFA and PKAviii, Walney I and II are apparentlyix owned by Orsted (50.1%), SSE (25.1%) and OPW (24.8%). Orsted and SSE we have already met. OPW appearx to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the New York Stock Exchange Listed, Illinois based, Dover Corporationxi.
The London Array wind farm comprises 175 turbines, and is based about 12 miles from the Kent and Essex coasts in the outer Thames Estuary. The 630MW wind farm was developed by the London Array Limited consortium, originally composed of British-Dutch company Shell, German company E.ON and Orsted. However, Shell pulled out of the project to be replaced by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned energy firm Masdar. Further changes in the ownership structure have subsequently occurred. According to its websitexii there are now four shareholders, with German company RWE holding 30%; Masdar holds 20%; and two companies hold 25% each – Orsted, and Canadian institutional investor Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).
The Beatrice wind farm is a 588MW project located about eight miles off the coast of Caithness. It was developed by Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited, a consortium initially made up of SSE, Danish investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power. Today:
Beatrice is operated by SSE Renewables on behalf of a joint venture partnership between SSE Renewables (40%), Red Rock Power Limited (25%), The Renewables Infrastructure Group (TRIG) (17.5%) and Equitix (17.5%)xiii.
Red Rock Power Limited has its HQ in Edinburgh, but is in fact:
a European subsidiary of SDIC Power, a global power company based in Beijing. SDIC operates hydropower, wind farms, photovoltaic and coal fired power plants, with a total installed capacity of approximately 31.88GW – more than 60% of which is from renewable generation. It aims to have over 2GW of generation capacity outside of China by 2020.
SDIC Power Holdings Co., Ltd, is a listed company in Shanghai Stock Exchange (SH.600886), with State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC), a State-Controlled Enterprise, holding 49.18% of its shares as of 2018xiv.
TRIG appears to be Guernsey-based, but
[I]s a London-listed investment company whose purpose is to generate sustainable returns from a diversified portfolio of renewables infrastructure that contribute towards a zero-carbon futurexv.
And the last piece of the Beatrice Wind Farm ownership jigsaw puzzle, Equitix?
Equitix is majority owned by TFG Asset Management L.P., a diversified alternative asset management business that owns majority and minority private equity stakes in asset management companies. Approximately 25% of the economic interests in the Equitix group is owned by Equitix’s management team. TFG Asset Management is part of Tetragon Financial Group Limited, a closed-ended investment company that is traded on Euronext in Amsterdam N.V. and on the Specialist Fund Segment of the main market of the London Stock Exchangexvi.
That represents a summary of the ownership of just five of the largest UK offshore wind farms, and it reveals rather a tangled web, to say the least. What of the biggest “farms” onshore? By the way, I can’t resist putting the word “farms” in inverted commas, since use of such a bucolic word seems so inappropriate in the context of what are, in reality, vast industrial complexes.
Onshore Wind Farms
Whitelee Wind Farm is one of the biggest onshore wind farms in the UK:
The main visitor centre is located in East Renfrewshire, but the majority of turbines are located in East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. It was developed and is operated by Scottish Power Renewables which is part of the Spanish company Iberdrolaxvii.
For the sake of completeness, it is worth pointing out that this Spanish company is also behind the offshore wind farms, West of Duddon Sands and East Anglia ONE. Then again, these things are complicated. East Anglia ONE is in fact a joint venture between Scottish Power Renewables and Macquarie’s Green Investment Groupxviii, so is owned by a combination of Spanish and Australian businesses.
According to Statistaxix Clyde Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in the UK (by installed capacity, as of September 2020). The website devoted to itxx tells us that:
Clyde Wind Farm is one of Europe’s biggest operational wind farms. Clyde Windfarm (Scotland) Ltd is a joint venture partnership between SSE, Greencoat UK Wind Plc and GLIL Corporate Holdings Ltd.
Remarkably, this means that it seems to be entirely British-owned, since:
Greencoat UK Wind Plc is a leading renewable infrastructure fund, invested in 34 operating UK wind farms with net generating capacity of 950MW (including its shareholding in Clyde). UKW is managed by an experienced team of senior executives from Greencoat Capital LLP, is listed on the LSE main market and included in the FTSE-250 index, and is overseen by a strong and experienced independent board.
GLIL Infrastructure LLP (GLIL) is a £1,825m infrastructure fund focused on core infrastructure opportunities in the UK. GLIL is backed by four Local Authority Pension Funds, namely: Greater Manchester Pension Fund, Merseyside Pension Fund, West Yorkshire Pension Fund and Local Pensions Partnership Investments (the entity which manages London Pensions Fund Authority, Lancashire County Pension Fund and Royal Country of Berkshire Pension Fund). GLIL is an unauthorised Alternative Investment Fund, whose Alternative Investment Fund Manager is Local Pensions Partnership Investments. Since being founded in 2015, GLIL has invested and committed approximately £1bn in UK infrastructure projects.
Continuing with the Statista definitions, the third largest onshore wind farm in the UK is Kilgallioch Wind Farm, straddling South Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway. It is owned and operated by Scottish Power Renewables, which alert readers will recall is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Spanish company, Iberdrola. It is one of 40 or so wind farms which they own and operate in the UK.
In joint fourth place is Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm. Its websitexxi says that its south Wales location makes it the highest altitude wind farm in the UK. It is owned and operated by Vattenfall, a Swedish company owned by the Swedish government. For some reason its UK websitexxii is a little coy about that fact, describing it merely as a “European energy company”.
Stronelairg Wind Farm shares the joint fourth place position, and situated at around 2,000′ in the Monadhliath hills, I should have thought it might have the claim to be the highest altitude wind farm in the UK. It is another SSE/Greencoat joint venture, with SSE holding 50.1% and Greencoat holding 49.9% of the ownershipxxiii.
Shotwick Solar Park in Flintshire, North Wales, spread over 250 acres, is the UK’s largest solar farmxxiv. It is operated by British Solar Renewables. Oh good, a British company. Well, not exactly:
BSR is the largest privately-owned, integrated solar developer in the UK, and is majority owned by Siem Europe Sarl.
So who is Siem Europe Sarl? So far as I can tell, it’s a subsidiary of Siem Industries Inc., a Luxemburg based company, which has several interests, including in the oil and gas services industry.
Once the UK’s largest solar park, but subsequently pushed into second place, is Lyneham Solar Farm in Wiltshire. It too is operated by British Solar Renewablesxxv, so again is in the hands of an organisation based in Luxemburg.
Looking into the future, the businesses behind Cleve Hill Solar Park in north Kent, where construction is due to start early next year, claim that it will be the UK’s largest solar farmxxvi. It comprises a joint venture between Hive Energy Limited and Wirsol Energy Limited. Hive Energy appears to be UK-based and owned, albeit with interests all over the world. Wirsol Energy, on the other hand, is a subsidiary of Wircon GmbH, which describes itselfxxvii as a global energy company, though it is based in Mannheim, Germany.
Owl’s Hatch Solar Farm, also in Kent, sprawls over 212 acres of our once green and pleasant land. According to the Business Green websitexxviii British Solar Renewables sold it to Cubico Sustainable Investments some five years ago. Cubico’s websitexxix tells us that it is “jointly owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and PSP Investments.”The former is exactly what you would expect it to be. The latter is “one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers”, according to its websitexxx. In other words, this site is entirely Canadian-owned.
West Raynham Solar Farm covers a sprawling 225 acres of disused airfield land, and is another that was the biggest in the UK when it was commissioned, in 2015. It is owned by Bluefield Solar, which acquired it for £56.5Mxxxi on a leasehold basisxxxii from the freeholders, Raynham Estate. Bluefield Solar Income Fund is listed on the London Stock Exchangexxxiii, though of course its investors could come from anywhere.
Postscript – Interconnectors
These do seem to be under the control of the UK National Grid, or at least under the joint control of the UK National Grid and the authority in whichever country the interconnector links withxxxiv. As the National Grid tells us:
As at 2020, National Grid operates three interconnectors, connecting the UK with France, Netherlands and Belgium. Three more are under construction – a second with France, plus one each with Norway and Denmark.
Whilst they may, in principle at least, provide some useful flexibility, both in terms of importing electricity when it is running low in the UK (possibly an increasing risk, as recent events suggest in this year of little wind) or in exporting it if the ever-increasing numbers of wind turbines and solar farms are actually generating power, there are issues here.
First, there is the general unreliability of interconnectorsxxxv. Second, there is the risk associated with being so dependent on foreign countries for essential electricity. Everything will, no doubt, be fine, so long as goodwill prevails, and it is in the interests of the countries concerned to export their surplus energy to the UK. But what if they no longer perceive that to be in their interests? What if there isno surplus? The energy crisis facing the UK in September 2021 was not confined to the UK. When a large anticyclone settles over western Europe for a prolonged period it gives the lie to the claim that “the wind is always blowing somewhere”. Maybe it is, but if it’s not blowing here, there’s also a good chance that it’s not blowing in the countries who we might rely upon to send us their (hypothetical) surplus.
I check the sources of electricity supply to the National Grid from time to time by referring to a very user-friendly website for this purposexxxvi and although I don’t doubt that it might occur occasionally, I have never noticed the UK being a net exporter of electricity via the interconnectors. I have on several occasions this year noticed anywhere between 10% and 20% of the UK’s electricity needs being imported via them. Even as I write this, on a late September evening, when the wind has finally returned and is providing 20.7% of our electricity needs once again, we are still importing 5.9% via the interconnectors.
Security of energy supply is fundamental to all nations. The UK doesn’t seem to be making a very good job of it. In fact, so fragile is the system that it could – and perhaps should – be one of the key issues that undermines the current Government. The main problem with that argument is that the only plan the opposition parties seem to have is more of the same – to build ever more unreliable and unpredictable “renewable” energy sources, many of which will no doubt be foreign-owned, rendering the system ever more reliant on power supplied by the interconnectors, power which might well not be available when we need it. I fear this might cost us all a lot of money and end in blackouts.
v See Jit’s article, “In High Dudgeon”:
xxxv “Winter blackout fears after substation fire cuts off French power
Interconnector that largely draws on power from French nuclear stations supplies more energy into the grid than all the UK’s windfarms”: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/09/15/fire-knocks-key-electricity-cable-france/
See also “20,000 Volts Under the Sea”:
“By the way, I can’t resist putting the word “farms” in inverted commas, since use of such a bucolic word seems so inappropriate in the context of what are, in reality, vast industrial complexes.”
Not at all, Mark.
“Farms” harvest stuff.
And there are few better examples of successful harvesting than two of the farms you mentioned.
1. Beatrice: Year ended 31st March 2020: 75% of revenue was from harvesting subsidies (£281.3m from CfDs), and only 25% (£91.2m) from generating electricity.
2. Sheringham Shoal: 2015: 70% of revenue was from harvesting subsidies (£98.2m from ROCs), and only 30% (£40.6m) from generating electricity.
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Joe Public, thanks for that extremely useful information. There is so much wrong with the system as it stands, that it’s difficult to know where to start, and there’s certainly too much to include in one article. But comments, expanding on the problems, are always welcome.
An additional problem with the subsidies going to foreign-owned wind farms is that it’s money bleeding out of the country. Given the multiplier effect, it’s quite a drag on the UK economy. None of the economists who produce models saying that the costs of “doing nothing” are greater than the costs of “taking action” seem to be blissfully unaware of this. More “models” (this time economic ones) that are fundamentally flawed.
As this article was drawing to its close, I decided to touch on interconnectors. That led me to the Telegraph article I mentioned in footnote 35, with this headline:
“Winter blackout fears after substation fire cuts off French power
Interconnector that largely draws on power from French nuclear stations supplies more energy into the grid than all the UK’s windfarms”.
That simple statement could be worth an article in its own right. Just think about it for a moment. All those wind turbines, with all their costs and associated problems (unreliability, unpredictability, reliance on interconnectors etc in the case of the growing number of offshore ones, blight of the UK’s wild places in the case of onshore turbines, broken communities etc), and between them they supply the UK with less energy than does a single interconnector from France. That’s a mind-blowing statement really.
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Joe, I think I can trump you there with Dudgeon’s latest accounting: £242 million from CfDs and £51 million from selling leccy.
Mark, thanks for doing the legwork on this, which cannot have been the most stimulating research (other than perhaps a growing sense of surprise as company after company turns out to have no connection to its customers other than the flow of dosh). The wind farms harvest the money from the poorest in society, and then we export it abroad. It seems to be a perfect system if your plan is to impoverish the nation.
As to the solar farms, were I the PM (let me dream for a minute – I can’t command a majority in my own house let alone the Commons), their advantageous connection to the grid would be cancelled. They could compete for space with everyone else on level footing, and if they didn’t like it, they could sue me.
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Addendum, pasting in something from National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios 2021:
Obviously with the enormous eruptions of offshore wind farms planned, there will be times when we generate huge excesses of power (as well as lulls when we have a deficit). Now, if France and Germany bin their nukes, and Germany at length bins its coal, then they are as stupid as we are, er, they will be as short of leccy as we will be. Lulls may well occur at the same time as Mark points out, and the times of plenty might well be synchronous too.
The interconnector is great so long as there is excess nuclear juice behind it. (It may not make economic sense, but still.)
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“National Grid ESO’s Future Energy Scenarios 2021:
GB becomes a net exporter of electricity by 2040 in all scenarios”
Commenter / Blogger ‘It doesn’t add up’ last year posted a chart on NaLoPKT showing that wind peaks & troughs affect many European countries simultaneously.
Consequently, when our expanded wind capacity is generating a surplus for export, it’s highly likely other countries will too.
With all this great work you’ve been doing lately on the wind industry, I hope you’ll consider getting in touch with Michael Shellenberger. He apparently has a book contract for a third book from Harper Collins where he’ll investigate green energy scams. He’s soliciting tips and information from the public:
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Mark, this site shows graphs of all main grid sources. It looks like the French connector went into export for a single brief period last December.
Mark, Excellent research – thank you.
Wrt the interconnectors, expectations of a surplus of power being available from Europe when we are in the doldrums are optimistic, to say the least – even if the wind is blowing in some places.
Germany is shutting its remaining 7 nukes next year. Belgium will close its 7 over the next few years. Sweden (6) and Spain (7) are shaping up to follow suit.
That lot add up to a huge tranche of reliable, dispatchable power – 30 GW, at a guess.
France talks the talk but is spending a fortune refurbing all of its nukes. They will be sitting pretty in a few years’ time.
I very much doubt that all those interconnectors will be of any use to us when most needed.
John G and Mike H, thank you for the information – it’s an increasingly depressing story, isn’t it?
Mike Dombroski – thank you for the heads up regarding Michael Shellenberger, but I have two issues in contacting him. Firstly, I’m an amateur in all this stuff, and happy to admit it. I’m sure he has far more information that I could ever offer him. Secondly, I’m also an IT naif (it’s a miracle that I manage to post articles here at all, sometimes…), and I have no idea how to contact him via Twitter, which I’m not signed up to. Still, thank you for the vote of confidence.
The future looks no different from what has gone before:
“Bid for major Orkney offshore wind project announced”
“French oil giant TotalEnergies is part of a consortium that has submitted a bid to build a major new offshore wind project off Orkney.
Total has joined with Macquarie’s Green Investment Group and Scottish developer RIDG on a proposal to build the West of Orkney Windfarm.
They claim it has the potential to power more than two million homes.
The two-gigawatt proposal is currently being assessed by the Crown Estate Scotland (CES).
The consortium said the bid was the culmination of five years of talks.”
Mike D – the issue is not that the profits are outrageous or that if the public knew who they were sending money to they would be up in arms – but that this is all entirely above board and legal thanks to the rules that have been set by our recklessly stupid government.
Perhaps you could tip him off to the Renewable Heat Incentive debacle in Northern Ireland – but a) I’m sure he’s heard of it, and b) the inquiry found that it was a result of incompetence rather than malfeasance.
Mark, if that 2 GW wind farm can power 2 million homes, it would seem to be rather reckless planning for a total installation of 157 GW of wind by 2050. That would presumably power 157 million homes.
Joe Public, it would be interesting to see your figure as a power frequency distribution, such as shown in “Randomly blows the wind.”
With prescient timing, Tallbloke’s Talkshop informs:
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John Gross and others, regarding the interconnector with France, and the issues of whether we import or export electricity, I found this:
“Since the commissioning of the 2,000 MW DC link in the 1980s, the bulk of power flow through the link has been from France to Britain. However, France imports energy as needed during the winter to meet demand, or when there is low availability of nuclear or hydroelectric power.
As of 2005, imports of electricity from France have historically accounted for about 5% of electricity available in the UK. Imports through the interconnector have generally been around the highest possible level, given the capacity of the link. In 2006, 97.5% of the energy transfers were made from France to UK, supplying the equivalent of 3 million English homes. ”
Quote “By the way, I can’t resist putting the word “farms” in inverted commas, since use of such a bucolic word seems so inappropriate in the context of what are, in reality, vast industrial complexes.”
Dark Satanic (wind-)Mills perhaps?
p.s. BTW, there is a statement somewhere above (sorry, can’t find it at the moment) suggesting that the French Interconnector supplies more than the total of UK wind farms. Unless that means wholly UK-owned wind farms, then I don’t see how that can be correct, from my perusals of gridwatch.co.uk. I’m not an advocate of wind energy(*), but (e.g. looking at daily averages for last year, it regularly reaches and even exceeds 10GW, while all the ICs together don’t exceed 2GW.
But my apologies if I misread or misunderstood the original statement.
(*) I’m a born-again advocate of nuclear energy, as will be clear from my comments elsewhere. Or, as I like to qualify it: nuclear energy, done right. (wind, solar, hydro and tidal are fine in certain niche situations, of course, but not suitable as our main energy sources, as we will no doubt all find out to our cost, sooner rather than later, the way things are going).
Mike, I agree with your take on the suggestion that a single interconnector provides more energy than all UK wind farms put together. Had it been true I thought about writing an article on the subject, but I could not find the facts to back it up. It was the heading to a Daily Telegraph article.
It’s not just the UK that has problems with foreign ownership of “green” energy supplies:
“Chinese wind farm investments stoke concerns in Sweden
There’s worry Beijing could use the investments to exert political influence on Sweden.”
“A political scrap is brewing in Sweden over a key ingredient in the country’s effort to shift away from fossil fuels: Chinese money.
It’s all about the hundreds of millions of euros being plowed into Swedish wind farms by Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, or CGN, with opposition lawmakers fearing the security consequences of allowing Beijing a foothold in Sweden’s future energy production.
Through questions in parliament and a steady drumbeat of statements to the media over the past year, members of the center-right Moderate Party and the far-right Sweden Democrats — the two largest opposition parties — have been pushing back against the sell-off to CGN.
The Chinese company owns stakes in six Swedish wind power projects, including 75 percent of Markbygden Ett, the first phase of the wider Markbygden scheme in northern Sweden, which is set to be Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm when completed.
“When it comes to electricity production, increasing ownership by foreign countries is not by definition a problem, but it could be, especially when we are talking about countries like China,” said Lars Hjälmered, energy spokesperson for the Moderates.
The Sweden Democrats’ energy spokesperson Mattias Bäckström Johansson called his country’s attitude to Chinese investment in a range of sectors, including electricity production, “naive.”
In Sweden, power production has become a hot-button issue ahead of next year’s election, with clashes over plans for wind and nuclear power production already commonplace as the government navigates an ambitious shift to fully renewable electricity sources by 2040….”.
“Will ScotWind auction deliver a renewables revolution?”
No, not if the wind continues not to blow reliably.
And why not wait until the results of the auction in order to report on the outcome, rather than speculating in advance? Oh, that’s right, this way you get two bites at the cherry.
And how much will be owned by UK companies?
“The bigger players include big investment funds in green energy, such as Australia’s Macquarie Bank. The big utility companies are involved, as they are in existing projects, including SSE and Scottish Power.
Big oil companies have turbocharged these auctions, eager to balance their hydrocarbons with green energy. Total from France, ENI from Italy, Equinor from Norway and Shell have all bid.”
Those same names keep cropping up, and not many of them are British.
“‘Sold on the cheap?’ Nicola Sturgeon defends £700m ScotWind offshore plans”
“…Mr Sarwar raised the “questionable human rights records” of some of the successful firms.
He also warned foreign countries, including Sweden, would have a bigger stake in the offshore energy produced in Scotland than the Scottish Government.
Mr Sarwar said: “This SNP Government have sold on the cheap the right to profit from Scotland’s energy transition to multinational companies with questionable human rights records.
“One of the new owners of Scotland’s seabed were fined 54 million US dollars for bribing Nigerian officials and 88 million US dollars for bribing Indonesian officials.
“Another one was found to have contributed to human rights abuses at one of its construction sites, of destroying villages in Myanmar, of relying on forced labour and using slavery to build pipelines.
“Surely these aren’t people the Scottish Government should be doing business with?”
Cases referenced by Mr Sarwar include the Marubeni Corporation that, in partnership with SSE, has been awarded rights for a floating offshore wind turbine site across 858 square kilometres of seabed.
The Japanese organisation paid a multimillion-dollar penalty in connection with a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials for engineering, procurement and construction contracts.
France’s TotalEnergies, which in a consortium secured rights to develop a wind farm off the west coast of Orkney, was implicated in historic claims that the military government in Burma had used forced labour and its soldiers had employed murder and rape in the laying of a pipeline through the country….”.
“Eastern Europe’s toxic relationship with Russia has left the EU divided”
“Energy dependency on Moscow is an EU-wide problem now and arguably Europe’s most egregious security oversight – resulting from its hasty switch from coal to gas as a ‘greener’ alternative. It’s a problem which is only likely to worsen. Once the Nord Stream 2 pipeline starts pumping gas from Russia to the EU under the Baltic Sea, Putin will have even more control over Europe’s energy supply. He will also have fewer incentives to stay out of Ukraine, currently a vital gas transit route.”
“Councillors left furious as Scottish Government approves Strathrory wind farm in Alness”
“The Scottish Government reporter has overturned Highland Council’s refusal of a wind farm planning application, despite widespread local opposition.
The north planning committee also learned today that operators Energiekontor have already said they want to increase the height of the wind turbine tips.
Chairwoman Maxine Morley-Smith branded the developers “sneaky” and “greedy”, warning that locals will be very unhappy with the Scottish Government decision….Now, council planners say Energiekontor has already made plans to vary its application.
Last week, the operator served notice that it will apply for a modification to allow larger blade tip heights.
They say this change is due to lower than expected wind speeds on site.
“The developers are already coming back and asking for more,” said Ms Morley-Smith.
“It’s pure greed. It’s very sad to see a development going down this route, which people will find sneaky. I don’t like it.”
Caithness councillor Donnie Mackay shared her view. “Now you understand what I’ve been shouting about for a long time,” he said, referring to wind farm applications in Caithness. “They get round it in a different way and I don’t think it’s right.”
SNP councillor Raymond Bremner said the committee listened to community voices and made a “robust” argument to the Scottish Government.
The reporter, however, applied the letter of the law. “This is beyond politics,” he added.
Ms Morley-Smith concluded: “What’s the point of having a local planning committee at all? We may as well just ask the Scottish Government.””
“Ceredigion proposed wind farm test mast given go-ahead”
“A mast to test the viability of a controversial proposed wind farm in mid Wales has been approved.
The 280ft (81.5m) steel structure will measure wind speeds at land close to the village of Ponterwyd in Ceredigion.
The mast is the same hub height as 13 turbines proposed in the Lluest y Gwynt wind farm near the Cambrian Mountains.
Conservation groups have opposed the plans, considered to be of national importance, which will be decided by the Welsh government if submitted….
…Norwegian state-owned company Statkraft AS, the company behind the plan, is one of Europe’s largest renewable energy generators and operates a number of sites in the UK, including the Rheidol hydropower plant near Aberystwyth.
The Cambrian Mountains Society, Open Spaces Society and Ramblers Cymru objected and have raised concerns over the proposed wind farm.”
“Energy firm lobbied minister to cut rent on North Sea wind farm”
“A COMPANY owned by the Chinese government lobbied a Scottish minister to reduce the rent it will pay at a future wind farm in the North Sea, The Herald can reveal.
In a letter last August, Red Rock Power told Energy Minister Michael Matheson that rental terms at the proposed Inch Cape offshore wind farm would have a “negative impact” on the project’s chances of being built.
These terms were set by the Crown Estate in 2011 when developers were initially granted a 10-year lease agreement for the project. Red Rock claims that rents at Inch Cape – which will be paid to the Scottish Government via Crown Estate Scotland (CES) – are now much higher than at other offshore wind farms in the North Sea.
In its letter to Mr Matheson, the firm said rental costs at Inch Cape would now make it “unlikely” the project will receive financial support from the UK Government. Failure to land this support would deal “a blow to the Scottish supply chain and net zero targets”, the company argued….
…Red Rock, which is owned by China’s State Development and Investment Corporation, told The Ferret the rents were a “major barrier” to the project securing the long-term financing it needs to go ahead….”.
I should have added, from that last article:
“…Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said Red Rock’s lobbying was illustrative of the “doomed economic model of foreign dependency” Scotland had embarked on with its renewables industry.
He said: “This is another sad indictment of the mess being made of the ownership of Scotland’s renewables industry.
“To add insult to injury, these state- backed companies are not only content with making a profit from Scotland’s natural resources, they are actively trying to minimise the amount of money they pay into the Scottish public finances.
“Scotland’s renewable resources should remain in Scotland’s hands. That economic control would allow us to invest in the industries of the future, create high-skilled jobs, and breathe life back into Scottish industrial communities.”
Robin McAlpine, head of strategic development at the think-tank, Common Weal, said the lobbying was “further evidence” that “big business has easy access to the Scottish Government”.
He said: “The Gupta aluminium affair, the Tata Steel mess, the relationship with Heathrow, the close relationship with the Big Four accounting corporations and much more, show this access pays off. But not for Scotland, obviously, which keeps getting short-changed.”…”.
“Plans set out for floating wind farm off Dounreay”
“Developers have set out proposals for a floating wind farm off the Caithness coast.
Copenhagen Offshore Partners plans to install up to 10 turbines on platforms anchored to the seabed four miles (6km) off the Dounreay nuclear complex near Thurso.
In planning documents submitted to Highland Council, the company has outlined what onshore infrastructure would be needed.
It includes a substation and underground electricity cables.
The site would involve about 247 acres (100ha) on the edge of the boundaries of Dounreay and HMS Vulcan, a Ministry of Defence facility used for testing nuclear submarine reactors.
The Sandside Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest lies within the proposed wind farm site’s boundary.
Highland councillors will be asked to note the developers’ planning notice at a meeting next week.”
More foreign ownership of UK energy infrastructure. And why let a little thing like a SSSI get in your way?
“Hornsea 2: North Sea wind farm claims title of world’s largest”
An article with a large fanfare, and some disinformation from the BBC:
It can’t power a city the size of Manchester reliably all the time. That should be made clear. Even worse is the claim that 40% of the UK’s energy mix was made up by renewables. It wasn’t. Electricity may have (sporadically and intermittently) been supplied 40% by renewables, but of course that depends how you define renewables (I suspect the BBC includes biomass in that proportion, but many people – rightly in my view – don’t think biomass should be counted as a form of renewable energy). And once you realise that electricity represents perhaps 1/5 or a bit less of the UK’s energy requirements, then you realise that renewables, on the most generous assumptions, provide 8% or less of the UK’s energy.
Like so much of our renewable energy infrastructure, foreign-owned, in other words.
Then another piece of disinformation, and I use the word advisedly, because of what it omits to tell us:
It’s effectively a repeat of the dubious claims made by Carbon Brief, publicised prominently by the Guardian, and taken apart (I hope) by me here:
And very effectively demolished by John Constable and Gordon Hughes here:
If the claims of Simon Evans and Carbon Brief are borne out, why doesn’t the BBC tell us what Orsted is being paid for the electricity generated intermittently and unreliably by Hornsea 2? My money’s very firmly on it not being the £50 per megawatt hour hinted at by the article.
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“Solar farm near Bristol could power almost 14,500 homes”
Both companies involved in the joint venture are German. More UK taxpayer subsidies disappearing overseas. More of the UK’s energy infrastructure owned by foreigners.
“Keir Starmer speech: Labour plans publicly owned renewable energy giant”
I’m glad that he recognises a significant part of the problem, though he could have said so much more about it – we’re leaching taxpayer-funded subsidies abroad as part of our net zero drive. Much (most?) of our renewables infrastructure is owned by foreign companies.
I don’t agree with his “green” plans one jot, because they’re Cloud Cuckoo Land:
But at last a politician has recognised one aspect of the problem.
“Richborough Energy Park expansion gets green light”
I notice no author is claimed for the BBC report, which isn’t surprising, since a quick tour of the internet suggests it’s just a cut and paste job.
Pacific Green are a little coy on their website regarding their ownership, but they’re well in bed with the Chinese:
But returning to the Richborough Story:
Strange quote. Nuclear produces constant and reliable power, the amount of which is known in advance. Unlike renewables.
And a curious quote from the Green Councillor, who doesn’t seem at all concerned about what’s in the batteries and the possible risks of explosions and/or fires:
>“Energy production from renewables and nuclear cannot be ‘turned off’ – the sun still shines and the wind still blows, irrespective of the need at that time…”
Yes, a strange quote indeed. I thought the first thing that any schoolboy learnt about nuclear power was that its generation can be moderated to suit the needs of the grid. Perhaps the authors of the statement should read this:
“Nuclear has been flexing its muscles as a clean and reliable source of power for more than 60 years. It works around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But as higher penetrations of renewables pour onto the grid, traditional baseload energy sources like nuclear will need to operate more flexibly to produce heat and electricity as needed. That means baseload power is going to look a lot different in the future as variable energy sources like wind and solar gain larger generation shares on the grid. Luckily for nuclear, that shouldn’t be a problem… Nuclear reactors are known for their ability to provide constant power but their output can also be modified to meet certain grid demands.”
“England’s water: the world’s piggy bank
England’s privatised water system is owned by funds, banks and billionaires across the world, as this country-by-country breakdown shows”
I share the Guardian’s frustration and concerns. Why does it (apparently) not share mine about the ownership of the UK’s energy system? That last sentence from the Guardian article particularly resonates with regard to wind farms.
Quick question, if the ownership was with UK investors or even the UK government, would that make a tangible difference?
It’s impossible to know, but I like to think so. At a minimum (speaking of renewable energy at least), the massive subsidies wouldn’t be leaching out of the country.
“Climate change: State-owned wind farm ‘could cut bills'”
Not just in Wales. There are plenty in England, and don’t get me started about Scotland. Profiting from the destruction of the UK’s wild places and high energy bills paid by poor UK citizens during a cost-of-living crisis.
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Spot price £950/mwh, wind 3.5%, solar 2.2%, fossil 59.7%, imports 7.7%. No real improvement in wind till Friday so will price hit £1,000/mwh .
Spot price at 11:00 am £1395.00 !!
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State owned wind farms “could cut bills” .not today ! Unless there was some secret wind blowing mechanism or mega mega battery. We had -8c last night so log burners at full speed this morning.
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Perhaps my brain is not yet on full power this morning, but I do not understand how you can make a profit selling stuff to yourself.
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“Soaring Scottish energy bills help pay pensions of Canadian teachers”
“Nuclear plants face shutdown over tax on windfalls
EDF warns it may be forced to shut two nuclear power stations, which supply 4pc of the UK’s energy, early”
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Happy New Year to Mark & all.
well Happyish –
“EDF, which operates all five of the country’s serving nuclear plants”
““So if you have periods of still winter weather where wind output drops, then you could be in a situation where you really struggle to keep the lights on.”
the UK is so screwed.
And a happy and healthy new year to all at Cliscep, writers, commenters and lurking readers alike
It’s not just renewables, it seems:
“China’s North Sea oil investments pose ‘very real risk to our security’, MPs warn”
“Fury over China & UAE multi-million offshore wind profits in Scotland”
“The Scottish Government has no stake in any company reaping the green rewards, even though it is in the nation’s waters that the farms are being constructed..”
I find this breath taking if true, they have “no stake in any company reaping the green rewards”.
say it’s not so, they can’t be that stupid.
It’s not just UK wind farms that are foreign-owned. The Guardian article linked to below deals with important issues about the cost of balancing the grid (apparently without any understanding that it is the inherent unreliability of renewable energy that leads to those balancing costs), but also of interest is the recital of foreign companies involved in (and profiting hugely from) the UK energy market:
“The gas-fired plants tasked with keeping UK lights on – but at what cost?”
“Ofgem looks to crack down on firms ‘manipulating’ electricity market
Energy regulator plans to tackle manoeuvre that has brought in millions of extra pounds for generators”