Conservative MPs are much more likely to oppose onshore windfarms than the national average of the public, a new poll has found.

About four out of five Tory MPs are likely to oppose onshore windfarms in their constituency, according to the poll conducted by ComRes on behalf of REG Windpower. But about six in 10 people across the country, and just over half of those eligible to vote in rural areas, favour onshore windfarms, even if built near them.

More Tory MPs than Labour represent rural constituencies, but only about one-third of people polled in rural areas said they would oppose onshore windfarms built near them.

Wind energy companies are angry that the Tories have suggested next year’s general election manifesto will include a pledge to cut or abolish altogether energy bill-payer subsidies to onshore windfarms, and that Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, has stopped or delayed some onshore wind projects. There are increasing fears that big investors will pull out of UK wind projects, which could stall renewable energy growth.

Andrew Whalley, chief executive of REG Windpower, said: “We’ve been told time and again by Conservatives that they recognise the financial and environmental arguments in favour of onshore wind, but that they can’t support it because their constituents don’t want it in their local areas. This research debunks that argument.

“Local communities not only understand the benefits in terms of energy security and stability of investing on renewables, but are largely accepting of onshore wind projects in their communities. The barrier to progress is the irrational and ideological hostility of many Conservative MPs, which is out of touch with public opinion.

“Conservative opposition to onshore wind, which is most evident in Eric Pickles’ abuse of the planning system to delay and prevent developments, is now undermining projects and investment in what is an established sector. Onshore wind has the potential to help reduce energy costs and our reliance on oil and gas. This potential might not be realised if the Conservatives don’t get on the same page as their constituents.”

However, the poll did not break down members of the public by voting intention, so it is not possible to say how many rural Tory voters or likely Tory voters would favour onshore windfarms in their area. It is possible that Tory MPs are attempting to appeal to their “base” vote by opposing the construction of renewable energy.

Separate polling shows only a small fraction of voters choose their MP based on his or her support for or opposition to renewable energy.

The REG poll questioned about 150 MPs of all parties.

Liberal Democrat MPs were also cooler on onshore windfarms than their party policies might suggest, with a third of those sampled declining to support onshore wind developments in their local area.

According to the poll, 55% of people in rural areas would be happy to have an onshore windfarm near them, compared with 62% nationally. More than 4,500 voters were surveyed.

Separately, 154 MPs were surveyed, of whom 12% of the Conservative members said they would be happy to have an onshore wind development in their area, while 74% of Labour MPs and 64% of Liberal Democrat MPs said they would support an onshore wind development in their community.

Fiona Harvey, the Guardian

This article first appeared on the Guardian

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