Amber Rudd confirms plans to ban onshore wind subsidies
New UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has confirmed the Conservative Party's controversial plans to stop subsidies for onshore wind farms, claiming it is top of her agenda at the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC).
In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, Rudd reiterated the Tories' manifesto pledge to effectively bring an end to the development of new wind farms on UK land, outlining her hopes for the new measures to come into force by May 2016.
The Hastings and Rye MP said: "It will mean no more onshore wind farm subsidies and no more onshore wind farms without local community support. This is really important. I've already got my team working on it. That's going to be one of the first things we're going to do.
"I've put a rocket under the team to get it done, putting the local community back in charge. We're looking to do the primary legislation as soon as we can."
The Conservatives claim that onshore wind farms often fail to win public support, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires.
But despite the party's negative stance on onshore wind, the same edition of the Sunday Times also featured a YouGov poll of more than 1500 Tory voters, which showed that 52% felt that the government should either encourage or allow the building of more onshore wind farms. This contrasted with just 18% of Tory voters that felt that onshore wind farms should be banned.
The YouGov poll supported the findings of a seperate survey released by ComRes last year, which revealed that Conservative MPs are much more likely to oppose onshore windfarms than the national average of the public.
The Tories have already been lambasted by the renewable energy industry and green groups over the matter. After the manifesto release, RenewableUK reiterated that onshore wind "is one of the cheapest of all sources of energy"; while Ecotricity previously said the policy would pose "an existential threat - to our climate and our country".
But in favour of the move to end financial support for onshore wind is former Energy Secretary Greg Barker, who recently retired as a Tory MP.
In an exclusive interview with edie last week, Barker said: "It would be a travesty" to look at climate policy exclusively through the prism of onshore wind. It is just one element of a much larger construct that is the decarbonisation map.
"The 2050 pathway calculator that DECC created shows there are numerous routes towards decarbonisation and it's a matter of personal judgement as to the exact balance between technologies and policies and how you drive that forward.
"Onshore wind is just one element of that. An over-emphasis on onshore wind is special interest pleading from those that have an invested interest in the onshore wind industry, and I can understand that. But, equally, protecting the natural landscape and countryside is something that environmentalists should also be concerned about."
Both Rudd and Barker also gave their backing for fracking in the UK, with Rudd claiming the Government could pass legislation to allow shale gas to be extracted from National Parks as long as the drilling took place outside the conservation zone.
The YouGov poll found that 43% of Tory voters were against the extraction of shale gas, while 32% were in favour.