Ministers at war over secret wind farm evidence

August 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

It is claimed that figures in the DECC are concerned that the report, which
has not been completed, could include negative conclusions about how
renewable energy affects the rural economy.

“They don’t want information out there that would allow people to challenge
the energy solution that they are going after,” the source added.

David Cameron this month signalled his growing opposition to onshore wind
farms, saying that there is now “limited potential” for the technology in
the UK.

The Prime Minister said he was in favour of offshore wind and shale gas
exploration, known as fracking.

Mr Paterson’s report is about the impact of all renewable-energy sources on
the countryside and on the rural economy. “There has been a back-and-forth
with DECC but we are doing this report,” a source said. “We want some hard
and fast evidence about the effect of renewables on rural communities. That
is well within our portfolio.”

No DECC officials have seen the report as it is still in its early stages, it
is understood. It is claimed that officials in the energy department have
expressed concerns about the “principle of [the] report and what they fear
may be documented about some renewables”.

The DECC said the departments were working together but appeared to raise
doubts about the quality of Defra’s work.

A spokesman said: “We are currently working with Defra to ensure that a final
report meets the usual standards and quality assurances that you would
expect from any Government publication.”

A Defra spokesman said: “We need to ensure that energy is generated in a way
that is sustainable.

“We need to understand the effects that different technologies have on the
environment and on communities across the country. The energy report is not
yet complete.”

In June, following government moves to make it easier for local communities to
block wind farms, Mr Paterson said: “I know there is huge unhappiness with
some of these projects.

“There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants
it. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular.”

According to sources, Mr Paterson is in favour of “appropriate renewables” and
is not opposed to some biomass projects and fracking. Defra said the report
was being produced by civil servants in the department and that it will be
peer-reviewed by experts when it is finished.

The row has echoes of a dispute last year between Mr Davey and John Hayes, the
former energy minister. Mr Davey slapped down his Tory colleague after Mr
Hayes said that the spread of wind farms across the countryside will be
brought to a halt as “enough is enough”.

The Energy Secretary was forced to publicly state that government policy had
not changed after Mr Hayes called for an end to wind farms being “peppered”
all over the countryside.

In March, Mr Hayes was moved from his role as energy minister and became the
Prime Minister’s Parliamentary adviser. He is tasked with improving
relations between the Tory leadership and backbenchers.

He was replaced by Michael Fallon, who is also retaining his position as a
business minister.

The Government has committed to erecting thousands of new onshore turbines by
2020.

DECC projections published earlier this year said that the Government is
aiming to double the amount of onshore wind capacity in the country over the
next 10 years.

Currently 6.3 gigawatts of energy comes from onshore wind — equating to 4,074
turbines. The DECC has said that the country could produce between 10 and 12
gigawatts of energy from onshore wind farms by 2020.

However, while speaking to factory workers in Lancashire earlier this month,
the Prime Minister said that people should not “expect to see a lot more
wind power onshore in the UK”. “There’s a limited potential for onshore
wind,” Mr Cameron said.

“Frankly, we’ve got some in the UK — I don’t think we’re going to have a huge
amount more.

“We’ve just changed the rules, we’ve cut the subsidies and we’ve said that any
schemes that go ahead have to give more benefit to local communities. So I
wouldn’t expect to see a lot more wind power onshore in the UK.”

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