Tories would scrap wind energy subsidies

A Conservative government elected in 2015 would axe public subsidies for any newly planned on-shore wind turbines, the party has said.

Department for Energy and Climate Change figures suggest 13.8GW of UK onshore wind power capacity is already built, under construction or has been granted planning permission.

The Tories have pledged that if they are elected with an overall majority in 2015 they will axe public subsidies for any newly planned onshore wind turbines.

Existing wind farms and those already with planning permission would be protected from the change but the energy minister, Michael Fallon, said these would be enough to meet 2020 targets set by the EU – meaning any further developments should not be subsidised.

Instead, the money will be used to back other renewable technologies as part of a mix of energy supplies.

Changes to planning rules will also give communities more power to reject onshore wind projects not already in place or planned when the policy comes into force.

But critics said the Conservatives were turning their back on the cheapest form of renewable energy and would put future jobs at risk. They claim the move is designed to counter the threat from Ukip.

Fallon said: “We remain committed to cutting our carbon emissions. And renewable energy, including onshore wind, has a key role in our future energy supply.

“But we now have enough bill payer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there’s no requirement for any more.

“That’s why the next Conservative government will end any additional bill-payer subsidy for onshore wind and give local councils the decisive say on any new wind farms.”

The move was mooted earlier this month, but the party had not spelled out until now how they planned to curb onshore wind.

According to figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, about 13.8GW of onshore wind is already built, under construction or with permission in Britain – sufficient to meet targets of 11GW to 13GW, even if some existing projects fail through a lack of finance or other problems.

There is enough onshore wind power in the system to power 4m homes, forecast to rise to 7m by 2020 under the coalition’s plans.

Conservative party policy is for renewable power to operate alongside nuclear, gas and carbon capture and storage, to lower emissions and maintain energy security.

The party said its new policy would not cause a rise in household bills because contributions to renewable power are legally capped until 2020.

The proposed planning changes would mean applications for large onshore wind farms would be handled by councils through the locally-led planning system, not the nationally significant infrastructure regime. This will need a change in the law, which a majority Conservative government would look to pass within six months of taking office.

Trade body RenewableUK warned that the Tory stance would be “bad news for jobs and energy bill-payers”.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, Maf Smith, said: “Onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy we have, and will be cheaper than new nuclear.

“The industry has already seen the support it gets reduced, and a trajectory for further reduction is laid out.

“However, cutting all support overnight amounts to a moratorium as the minister has suggested. That’s bad news for jobs and energy bill-payers.

“Nearly 19,000 people currently owe their jobs to the onshore wind industry, with potential for thousands more jobs over the next decade.”

Smith urged the Tories to work with the industry to cut costs and “stop making arbitrary comments which threaten investment in all energy types”.

He added: “It’s unfortunate that we seem to have reached a point where the Conservatives are allowing Ukip to dictate Tory energy policy.

“When it comes to something as important as guaranteeing the security of the UK’s future energy supply, the British public deserve better than ill-considered, short-term policymaking on the hoof like this.”