Onshore wind turbines are staunchly opposed by many senior Tories

Onshore wind strike price cut 'not political move'

A Government minister has denied subsidies for onshore wind power were reduced because of Tory opposition to the technology.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander insisted onshore wind farms will continue to play "a big role", saying state help for onshore wind and solar was only being reduced "slightly" in favour of offshore wind.

The latest "strike prices" for renewable energy – set well above the current market value to encourage investment – are due to be announced to the House of Commons later and they are expected to be lower for onshore wind than suggested in a consultation earlier this year.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today this morning, Alexander said: "Within the total envelope of money that we are able to make available to energy suppliers, we have looked in detail at how much it costs to do offshore windfarms and onshore windfarms and big solar schemes and we are reducing slightly the subsidy we are providing to onshore wind and to these big solar schemes because we think that's the best way to get value for money for the electricity consumer.”

Many senior Conservatives staunchly oppose the turbines, which Lib Dems say are needed to meet environmental objectives, as it is feared by Tory activists to be an issue on which they are losing support to the UK Independence Party, which is highly critical of the subsidies.

Lib Dem Alexander said the switch in favour of offshore wind was based on "value for money" and, on Government estimates, could open the way for an extra 10GW of energy by 2020.

Asked if it was a politically-inspired move, he said: "No, it's not. Onshore wind is going to continue to play a big role. I believe passionately in meeting this country's obligations to tackle climate change and meeting our environmental commitments.

"But we should be doing so in the most cost-effective way we can and we should also be making sure that industries where the UK has a vast potential, like offshore wind, get the support they need really to take off.

"With the strike prices for offshore wind today that we are setting out, that will also I think enable, on Decc's (Department of Energy and Climate Change) analysis, at least 10GW of offshore wind between now and 2020. I hope that is also a big vote of confidence from the Government in that sector."

And environmental group Greenpeace has backed the decision, agreeing that diverting money from increasingly cost-effective solutions to help make offshore more commercially viable is a sensible move.

Policy director Doug Parr said: "Today’s cuts to onshore wind and solar support schemes show how quickly the cost of clean energy technologies are falling. Onshore wind farms will power our homes and factories more cheaply than new nuclear stations, and the same is expected of solar.

"Given the increasing affordability of these renewable energy sources, it’s right ministers should now put emphasis onto helping drive down the cost of offshore wind so that the UK can reap the rewards of new turbine factories and thousands of new jobs.”

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