“Renewable energy, including onshore wind, has a key role in our future energy supply,” said the Energy Minister, Michael Fallon. “But we now have enough bill payer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there’s no requirement for any more.”
Yet, Carbon Brief’s Robin Webster has published an analysis that questions whether the UK will reach its greenhouse emissions reduction targets of 80% by 2050 without increasing onshore wind. She points to figures from the government’s Commission on Climate Change (CCC) which shows various scenarios for reaching that target. All involve an increase in onshore wind from 7GW now to 25GW by 2030. Projects which already have planning permission would bring the UK’s onshore wind to a Tory maximum of 13GW, which Michael Fallon says is enough.
However, the Prime Minister said earlier today: “Onshore wind has an important role to play in generating electricity in our country. We want a varied supply of electricity. We are going to be having a decent amount of onshore wind but the fact is we don’t need any more than what we have got in the planning system. We have now got enough to meet targets, make sure our energy is diversified. I have always said we shouldn’t keep subsidies for longer than is necessary. I am saying a future Conservative government would no longer subsidise onshore wind and have a proper system in the planning system so that local views are paramount, rather than being overridden by national imperatives. It’s not the end of onshore wind it will make an important contribution to our country’s electricity but you won’t see lots of new large-scale wind farm developments. What we have got in the planning system and already built is enough to provide for our needs.”
Some people have also argued that renewables have been driving up consumer energy bills. Yet experts have argued that this policy would drive up bills significantly. “That’s about £300,000 per year per turbine that is moved from onshore to offshore,” said Professor Green, who is an economist. “That is the cost in additional subsidy, at the rates the government is planning to pay in about 2017. Those subsidies are recovered through electricity bills.”
Meanwhile, Drax the operators of coal fired power stations, who have pledged to switch from coal to biomass fuel have threatened to take the Government to court on Drax has taken legal advice over the decision to exclude this second unit from the award of an investment contract. The advice confirms Drax has a good foundation to challenge this decision by the government. Proceedings have therefore been initiated, although this is likely to take months not weeks.
So what will this mean politically? Renewables, including onshore wind turbines are surprisingly popular in the UK amongst the wider public. Polling typically puts them at about 72% in favour. Polling shows clearly however that people ar emuch more concerned about domestic energy bills and that the popularity of renewables plummets when they think adoption of cleantech will drive up electricity prices. However, it looks like this policy will cost more per turbine – so what is the rationale? Rumours that Fallon had gone soft working under two Liberal Democrat Secretaries of State have been crushed by this announcement, which will also help Cameron with his backbenches and in a fight against UKIP in the General Election if not the European elections.
There is however a big opportunity for the party that wants to show leadership on green issues. Making the case clearly for renewables and for a low carbon-economy could prove popular.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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