UK wind industry braced for political storm

The UK's wind industry is set to weather a political storm after more than 100 backbench MPs signed an "anti-wind" letter to the prime minister calling for the £500m paid in subsidies to the wind industry to be cut each year.

Despite concerns that the letter, which opposes the Government’s own policy on wind power, could stall investment in the UK’s renewables sectors, RenewableUK told edieEnergy that it is very unlikely that the Government would backtrack in its commitment to wind energy.

A spokesperson from RenewableUK said: “Our position is that although 100 backbench MPs signed the letter that at the heart of government there is strong support (for wind energy) coming from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Davey.”

Despite this, earlier this month newly appointed energy secretary Ed Davey pledged his commitment to the sector by opening the world’s largest offshore windfarm near Walney, Cumbria, which consists of 102 turbines and is anticipated to generate enough power for 320,000 homes.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Davey said: “Britain has a lot to be proud of in our growing offshore wind sector. Our island’s tremendous natural resource, our research base and a proud history of engineering make this the number one destination for investment in offshore wind.

“Opening Walney during my first week in office lets me underline my commitment to continuing the Coalition’s work to make this sector a success story for the British economy, not least with the innovation it is driving and the employment it is creating.”

Mr Cameron has also written a response to the MPs letter in which he defends windfarm plans and outlines proposals to reduce the Renewables Obligation subsidy by 10%.

He writes: “On-shore wind plays a role in a balanced UK electricity mix, alongside gas, nuclear, cleaner coal and other forms of renewable energy,” said the prime minister. “A portfolio of different supplies enhances energy security and prevents the UK from becoming over-reliant on gas imports.”

However, it appears likely that the debate raging around the UK’s wind farms will continue as one of Britain’s most prominent anti-windfarm campaigners, business tycoon Donald Trump has agreed to provide £100m funding to anti-wind campaign group Communities Against Turbines (CATS) Scotland.

Mr Trump is currently fighting a planning application submitted to Marine Scotland last year for an 11 turbine off-shore wind farm near his Menie resort in Aberdeen Bay and has slammed plans by Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond as “hell bent on destroying Scotland’s coastline” with wind turbines.

Meanwhile, the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), which is also against the expansion of windfarms in the UK, claimed that high subsidy levels and tough government targets have resulted in “an overheated market and a rush of development that is inappropriate and environmentally damaging, as well as being extremely expensive for the consumer”.

This follows a recent REF report which concluded that “in spite of unpopularity” 70% of onshore wind farms in the UK are approved, with an estimated 5,000 10GW wind turbines being built.

As a result, REF director director Dr John Constable warned that the government risks “creating a powerful backlash against renewable energy”.

Carys Matthews

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