New energy minister reaffirms targets on renewables

Newly appointed Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has used his first public speech to reaffirm the government's commitment to renewable energy.

Speaking at the All-Energy conference in Aberdeen, Wicks said there was "no doubt" of the government's determination to push ahead on renewables. Accepting most of the recommendations from the Sustainable Development Commission's report last week (see related story) he went on to announce:
  • Approval of the Scout Moor 26 turbine wind farm in Greater Manchester;
  • £2.68 million Government funding for Newcastle based SMDHydrovision's TidEI tidal energy prototype;
  • £1.35 million funding for 14 new solar installations across the UK.

    "The Sustainable Development Commission last week reiterated the terrific potential of wind power. Our decision to give the go-ahead for Scout Mor was taken after extensive and thorough consideration of the representations I received, both for and against consent being granted," he said. "The independent public inquiry ensured that community and environmental concerns were heard. Approval takes into account the concerns raised and includes a number of conditions recommended by the inquiry Inspector to mitigate any impacts."

    He went on to say that the new projects the government was investing in demonstrated the opportunities for UK companies, as well as the attractiveness of the UK as a place to develop them.

    "Our support for initiatives by companies such as Newcastle's SMDHydrovision is designed to ensure that we maintain Britain's leading position, while promoting the generation of clean and sustainable electricity," he said.

    The news was welcomed by the British Wind Energy Association. Marcus Rand, Chief Executive of BWEA said: "We are delighted that the energy minister has chosen to highlight the importance of wind and renewables in his first major speech and stress the government's determination to reach our 10% by 2010 target."

    He added that wind energy is the most technically and economically mature renewable technology available today, but that emerging technologies such as wave and tidal were critically important for the future.

    However, the focus on wind energy was not welcomed by all. Dr John Constable, Head of Policy and Research for the Renewable Energy Foundation, a pro-renewable/anti-onshore wind group, said: "Judging from the Minister's speech, the government has yet to fully digest the vast wave of information breaking over them. The costs and difficulties of integrating wind energy on the large scale are now obvious to everyone, though the government itself shows worrying signs of having become a lobbying captive of the wind industry."

    "It is becoming transparently clear that, for the sake of our energy future and our international role, windpower must be assigned a realistic role, offshore, within a truly diverse renewables policy. Unfortunately, in his first major speech as Energy Minister, Mr Wicks seems to be sending the wrong messages and advocating the wrong policy."

    By David Hopkins

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