Number of planned new onshore wind farms has doubled since 2011

October 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The Chancellor, George Osborne, is also said to be determined to cut household
gas and electricity costs by reducing the “green levy” that adds an
estimated £110 to customers’ bills.

But they are facing fierce resistance from Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats
are blocking attempts to reduce energy bills by withdrawing support for
green schemes.

Householders have been warned that they face sharp increases in their heating
bills this winter. Last week, the energy giant, Scottish Southern
Energy (SSE) announced it was increasing prices for customers by 8.2 per
cent.

The firm’s chief executive blamed the current system of green energy
subsidies, which companies add to household bills, for one third of the
increase and demanded a review of the government’s environmental energy
strategy.

A typical household gas and electricity bill would fall by £110 overnight if
the government paid for loft insulation schemes and green energy subsidies
through the tax system instead of extra charges to consumers, the firm said.

Conservatives fear they are running out of time to respond to soaring
household energy costs after Ed Miliband’s popular promise to freeze
household gas and electricity bills.

However, senior Liberal Democrats, including Vince Cable, the Business
Secretary, and Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, are opposing any attempt to
weaken support for renewable energy industry.

Latest figures from Mr Davey’s department showed that the number of new
onshore wind farms and smaller turbine developments which have won planning
permission is rising dramatically.

Between the beginning of January and the end of August, 188 new onshore wind
farms, including large and small developments, were given permission by
planning authorities, a 49 per cent increase on the same eight-month period
in 2012.

It is also more than double the rate of planning permissions granted for the
same period in 2011, when 83 turbine projects were approved.

At the same time the amount of electricity being generated by onshore wind
farms has risen by 70 per cent since 2012.

According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, there has also been
a surge in applications for new turbine sites. By the end of August, 597
applications had been received by councils across the UK, DECC results show.
This was compared to 470 for the same January-August period last year, and
just 203 in 2011.

The total number of applications for planning permission for new onshore wind
farms during the year more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 365 to
820.

The trend reflects what analysts believe to be the rush to take advantage of
government-backed green levies which power companies claim in exchange for
developing renewable energy projects.

The Sunday Telegraph reveals today that Britain’s wind farms produced an
income of £ 2 billion last year, more than half of which came from a
consumer subsidy added to household bills. The “Big Six” energy companies
received wind farm subsidies of more almost £900 million.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative MP, attacked the system of green subsidies
and levies which was introduced by Mr Miliband when he was Energy Secretary
in the last Labour government.

“If Ed Miliband is genuinely concerned about peoples’ energy bills, he should
be ashamed of the system he himself constructed that allows these companies
to gorge themselves on subsidies,” he said. “These figures simply prove that
the current level of subsidy for onshore wind is way too high and needs to
be dramatically cut.”

While Tories privately admit that Mr Miliband’s eye-catching pledge to freeze
bills has struck a chord with the public, as family finances are squeezed,
they are being prevented from acting by the Liberal Democrats.

When government departments were divided up by Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg
during the coalition negotiations in 2010, the Lib Dems won the Energy
Department. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, is now one of the most
intransigent critics of Tory efforts to limit the spread of onshore wind
farms and is expected to block any attempt to cut funding for renewable
energy.

However, senior Tories demanding action to tackle the impact of green levies
on household energy bills are understood to have won the backing of the
Chancellor.

Ministers are considering delaying the roll-out of the Energy Companies
Obligation, which is used to insulate the homes of people living in fuel
poverty, to help reduce their bills.

The £1.3 billion scheme, which began this year, will eventually add up to an
estimated £125 to annual household energy bills as the industry recovers its
costs.

Other green initiatives which would add to household bills could also be
“phased” in over a longer period than currently planed, a senior source
said.

The Telegraph can disclose that Conservative ministers have also developed a
four-pronged plan to halt the march of wind and solar power plants across
the countryside.

:: Ministers will personally intervene to block proposed wind-farm
developments in the countryside if the planning system fails to protect the
local landscape from harm. Conservative ministers will review appeals
against planning permission being granted for new onshore wind farms for the
next six months. One turbine scheme has already been blocked in the first
few days of the crackdown.

:: Greg Barker, the Climate Change Minister, is writing to every council in
the country warning that they must abide by new guidelines which stipulate
that wind and solar power farms should not be built in areas of outstanding
natural beauty.

The need for renewable energy must not “trump” local communities’ desire to
protect their ancient landscapes, he will say.

:: If the six-month crackdown on rogue planning decisions finds that renewable
schemes are continuing to be built in inappropriate areas, Tories will seek
to re-write planning laws to impose new limits on wind and solar farms.

:: More radical measures are being considered for inclusion in the next
Conservative manifesto, which could include a full-scale ban on the
construction of any more onshore wind farms.

Mr Barker said he was writing to every council in the country to demand that
they follow the new planning rules for solar and wind farms.

He told The Sunday Telegraph he shared the concerns about environmental impact
of wind-farms and solar power arrays.

“We shouldn’t have to make a choice between landscape and clean energy,” he
said. “We really do need to learn the lessons of the onshore wind experience
and be much more sensitive to community feeling and to landscape,
particularly in areas of outstanding natural beauty or heritage value.

“So I am going to be writing again to all of the local councils to spell it
out in big bold letters that protecting the landscape is an important
priority for me and it shouldn’t be trumped by renewable energy.

“I am keeping this under review and if it doesn’t work I will bring forward
further measures.”

A spokesman for Mr Davey’s department said the wind industry was “continuing
to prosper” as a result of the government’s reforms.

“This is a thriving industry and these temporary measures won’t change that –
they are just making sure the planning guidance is operating as intended,”
he said.

The wind farm industry claimed that the number of new large wind farms being
build was “pretty steady”.

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, the wind industry’s trade
body, suggested the rise was largely due to an increasing demand for smaller
turbines.

He said: “Onshore wind is a successful UK industry enjoying widespread
support amongst the UK public.

“Our figures show an industry which continues to deliver new projects, and the
amount of capacity being built each year is pretty steady.

“What is happening, though, is a change of emphasis, with more small
businesses, farms and community groups looking to install wind energy for
themselves.

“This is leading to a growth of a market for smaller turbines, with more and
more people wanting to share in the benefit of wind energy.”

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