The new conservative government plans to cut subsidies for onshore windfarms and give the right to decide about future large-scale projects to local communities.
Under the new Energy Bill currently discussed by the UK government, the approval of the Energy Secretary will no longer be required for the construction of wind farms of more than 50 megawatts consisting of tens of wind turbines, it was revealed in the Queen's Speech.
Instead, local authorities will have the final say on projects in England and Wales.
The decision to end the subsidies has been motivated by what the government claims is lack of public support for the installations in the countryside. The announcement has received mixed responses.
“Measures to devolve decisions about on-shore wind power to local authority level, in treating one technology in a different way to others, potentially reduce investor confidence by implying political interference, IET’s energy expert Simon Harrison commented.
“However, with on-shore wind currently one of the lowest-cost renewable energy sources, increasing numbers of communities are likely to see the worth of local renewable energy if it is well-planned."
Industry body RenewableUK calculated that subsidies for onshore wind added just £10 to the average consumer bill last year.
"Singling out one of the most popular and lowest cost forms of energy technology for different treatment in the planning system sends a worrying message to investors across the energy sector, said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK.
"Onshore wind is committed to being a good neighbour to the local communities in which it is hosted, providing substantial economic advantages to the region including the ground-breaking community benefits it pays, so we are confident that local authorities should recognise the value of these projects.”
According to the most recent survey from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, onshore wind was favoured by fewer people than offshore wind, wave and tidal energy and solar power. However, it still received backing of 65 per cent of the surveyed population.
Across the UK, 7,134 MW of onshore wind projects with 2,836 turbines are awaiting consent. Some 45 sites of 50MW or above are awaiting the go-ahead, but most of them, 37 schemes, are in Scotland which is not affected by the changes.
There are seven large scale projects in Wales and none in England currently in the planning system, while one scheme is awaiting consent in Northern Ireland, where the changes would also not affect the planning regime.
Onshore wind farms totalling 4,945 turbines across the UK are already in operation, a further 619 turbines are being put up, and projects with 2,895 turbines have consent - although not all of them will necessarily go ahead, according to RenewableUK.
"The proposed approach contradicts the Government's manifesto commitment to 'meet our climate change commitments, cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money as the cost of substituting more expensive alternative technologies in place of onshore wind would needlessly add several hundred million pounds every year to energy bills,” said Ian Marchant, chairman of Infinis Energy, speaking on behalf of the British Wind partnership.
"It surely cannot be the Government's intention to deny local communities the chance to host onshore wind projects if that is what they want to do.
The Energy Bill also includes measures aimed at increasing energy security and boosting domestic oil and gas production, including giving the Oil and Gas Authority the powers to become a robust, independent regulator and enable it to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas from UK waters.