Wind exec: Britain’s subsidies among best in the world

A senior figure at one of the world's largest wind-turbine manufacturers has praised the UK Government's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme for increasing demand in renewable energy, but says planning delays are continuing to stifle the development of more wind projects across the country.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Brett Pingree, commercial vice-president of Endurance Wind Power – which builds small and medium scale turbines for farms in particular – said the UK’s FiT scheme is “one of the most progressive such systems in the world”.

“The FiT scheme has supported a strong growth in renewable of all shapes and sizes, helping the country diversify its energy mix, which in turn has created a strong demand,” said Pingree.

The figures back his opinion up, with recent data from the National Grid revealing that UK wind power generation rose by 15% last year. Pingree believes this could have been higher still, if not for a planning gridlock.

“You can’t have the Government tell the local authorities how to manage their communities so I think the Government has done a decent job generally with the FiT, but it has been held back by planning officials and NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yards) who simply don’t like renewables.

“It’s been a difficult year in terms of planning permission for new projects, with more failing to get permission than ever before, and it’s also been difficult in terms of connecting to the grid. It’s getting longer and more onerous and it is effecting the sales cycle and the market is a little bit challenging.” 

Eric in a Pickle

Local planning authorities are theoretically responsible for renewable systems of 50MW or less, which covers the majority of Endurance wind turbines.

However, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles retains the power to overrule local authorities, and has used that power liberally, rejecting 19 onshore wind projects in 2014 – 86% of the projects he considered. 

Although Endurance is based in Canada, the company has caused a stir in Britain by launching a crowdfunding campaign alongside installer Earthmill; to raise £2.5m to finance 10 new wind turbines in what could be the largest crowdfunded wind project in UK history.

To the crowd

It followed a successful campaign on Trillionfund last year in which the company raised £1.25m for five turbines, and public-investment could be the thing of the future for the wind industry, according to Pingree.

“Crowdfunding is this really powerful model,” he said. “People can participate without this large transactional overhead and we expect to carry out more such raises in the future.

“It’s an additional source of funding for us to grow our business. Instead of all eggs in one basket with one bank, this diversifies our financing sources and that’s good for us.”

When asked if the plummeting price and easy installation of solar PV was an intra-industry threat to the onshore-wind business, Pingree replied: “Solar is easier but you don’t get as much power. Wind is such a productive resource, it blows PV away.

“Also, they’re not mutually exclusive. My vision is where farms would have both, wind is strong at night and solar is better in the day, so they can complement each other. We embrace and support all renewables as part of an important mix.”

‘Funding sustainability’ will be discussed during a finance-focused session the high-level Conference at Sustainability Live 2015. Register for free here.

Brad Allen

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