UK Onshore Wind Power Will Lose Subsidies, Conservatives Say

The U.K. Conservative Party will end all subsidies to onshore wind power if they win the next election, a move that the industry said would end deployment of the country’s cheapest form of renewable energy.

The Conservatives, who govern in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, will end subsidies for onshore wind through consumer bills after the election scheduled for May 7, 2015, Energy Minister Michael Fallon said today in e-mailed remarks. They’ll also devolve planning decisions to local authorities, he said.

“We now have enough bill-payer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energycommitments and there’s no requirement for any more,” Fallon said. “That’s why the next Conservative Government will end any additional bill payer subsidy for onshore wind, and give local councils the decisive say on any new wind farms.”

The move seeks to end the spread of unpopular developments in rural areas where many Conservatives lawmakers have constituencies. Fallon’s comments were criticized by environmentalists, the industry’s main lobby group and the Liberal Democrats.

“Putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for business and jobs in our growing green economy,” Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat who is Fallon’s superior in the energy department, said in an e-mailed statement. “Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of green energy, so cutting it could lead to higher bills.”

Globally, onshore wind costs about $85 per megawatt-hour of power produced, according to levelized cost of energy data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That compares with $84 for gas, $82 for coal, $140 for solar and $189 for offshore wind.

Expensive Technology

“Cutting all support overnight amounts to a moratorium,” Maria McCaffery, chief executive officer of the RenewableUK lobby group, said in an e-mailed statement. “Limiting onshore wind means having to rely on more expensive technologies to keep the lights on, increasing our dependency on costly fossil-fuel imports and exposure to price hikes.”

Fallon said the Conservatives remain committed to cutting the country’s carbon emissions and that renewables have a “key role” to play. At the same time, wind farms are unpopular in rural areas, where opponents say they are a blot on the landscape.

A third of Conservative lawmakers, organized by parliamentarian Chris Heaton-Harris, signed a letter in January 2012 urging Prime Minister David Cameron to cut subsidies for onshore wind.

“We have already fought the Conservatives over capping onshore wind in this government –- and won,” Davey said.


Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said that Britain will have to “embrace” onshore wind if his party wins the election, though developments would have to be done in a “sensitive” way, the Daily Mail reported on April 22.

Today, the Conservatives proposed handing planning decisions for large-scale onshore wind farms to local government. Presently they’re decided on at a national level under infrastructure planning rules. It also said it would amend planning policy to provide more protection to “locally valued landscape, heritage and other concerns.”

The move to curtail onshore wind will “sabotage” energy security and hamper efforts to cut carbon emissions, the environmental group Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement.

On Target

Davey told reporters in London yesterday that onshore wind has a “huge future” in the U.K., with 7.2 gigawatts already operating, more than 6 gigawatts with planning permission and another 6 gigawatts working its way through the planning system.

All of the onshore wind projects needed for the U.K. to meet its binding European Union target to derive 15 percent of all energy from renewables by 2020 have already received consent, according to the Conservatives. The party said 12.3 gigawatts of total generating capacity from onshore wind is likely to be reached by 2020.

“Making sure that we have a good mixture of reliable energy is an important part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain,” Fallon said. “We remain committed to cutting our carbon emissions. And renewable energy, including onshore wind, has a key role in our future energy supply.”

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg

Lead image: UK Parliament via Shutterstock

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