Lord Stephen attacked over wind farm law change

October 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

When Lady Clark made her ruling earlier this month, it was thought it would
stymie the spread of large wind farms as developers rarely obtain a licence
from Ofgem, the industry regulator, before applying for planning permission.

However, the Daily Telegraph revealed that SNP ministers have decided to
ignore the decision pending an appeal next year because they consider the
construction of wind turbines to be “in the national interest”.

It can now be disclosed that Lord Stephen and Lord Teverson of Tregony, the
Lib Dems’ energy spokesman in the Lords, have tabled an amendment to the
Government’s Energy Bill that experts say would mean in practice an Ofgem
licence was no longer required.

Linda Holt, spokesman for wind farm campaign group Scotland Against Spin,
said: “Lord Stephen’s chutzpah in bringing forward this amendment is
chilling.

“He is himself a wind developer who has taken full advantage of lax
enforcement about Ofgem licensing and scrutiny of energy companies to a make
a slew of speculative wind farm applications across Scotland.”

Liz Smith, a Scottish Tory MSP, said: “I do not think it is appropriate
for politicians who have very clear business interests with renewable energy
companies to be taking part in what is a highly controversial debate.”

Lord Stephen’s register of interests states that he is the director of an
Aberdeen – based company called Renewable Energy Ventures (REV) Ltd.
Documents lodged with Companies House showed there were nine firms in the
REV network.

It was reported in August that the companies are worth more than £1.5 million
and are developing plans for four wind farms north of the Border.

This newspaper can disclose he has since set up another Aberdeen-based company
called Energisation of which he is the sole director.

Earlier this month, Lady Clark set aside the planning consent granted to the
103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm development in Shetland following a
judicial review.

She held that Scottish ministers’ decision to allow the 370MW wind farm to be
built was “incompetent” because the developers did not have an electricity
generating licence.

The judge said this was significant because wind farm companies have to
promise to protect the environment and mitigate the impact of turbines to
get a licence.

Legal experts warned the ruling could block all planning applications for
unlicensed wind farms with a capacity of more than 50MW, which require the
consent of ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.

Gordon McCreath, a planning and environmental law expert from Pinsent Masons,
said Lord Stephen’s amendment does not “take the simple route” of stating
that a licence is not required for planning permission to be granted.

Instead it attempts to address Lady Clark’s concerns by stating that all wind
farm developers, regardless of whether they have a licence, must take into
account “environmental considerations” and mitigate the impact of their
turbines.

He said that it “necessarily follows, by implication” that a license would no
longer be required before applying for planning permission.

Lord Stephen’s amendment would “significantly reduce the appetite of
objectors” raising a legal challenge on this point, he said, although the
Energy Bill is not expected to become law before July next year.

A spokesman for the peer said: “This is a mistake, pure and simple –
Nicol was surprised to see his name on the amendment.

“The House authorities have agreed to take his name off the next time it
is published and Nicol will not be speaking to the amendment when it is
debated in the Chamber.”

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