Onshore wind farm subsidies will end a year earlier than previously planned

Plan to end onshore wind subsidies criticised

The UK government will end subsidies for new onshore wind installations by 1 April 2016, a year earlier than previously intended.

The Tory government said the move was justified by the general inability of such schemes to win public support and their frequent failure to "provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires".

However, the decision was criticised by many including Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, who called it "deeply regrettable". It is believed Scotland will bear the brunt of the decision, as 70 per cent of the UK’s onshore wind installations are being built in the country.

"This announcement goes further than what had been previously indicated," Ewing said. "It is not the scrapping of a 'new' subsidy that was promised but a reduction of an existing regime - and one under which companies and communities have already planned investment. Onshore wind is already the lowest-cost of all low-carbon options, as well as the vital contribution it makes towards tackling climate change, which means it should be the last one to be scrapped, curtailed or restricted."

The government’s proposal means that the current scheme under which renewable subsidies are paid will be closed to onshore wind farms from 1 April 2016.

There will be a grace period offered to projects that already have planning consent, a grid connection offer and acceptance and evidence that the scheme has the right to use the land.

This could allow up to 5.2 gigawatts of wind capacity to go ahead, potentially leading to hundreds more wind turbines going up in the countryside across the UK.

The renewables obligation has already been closed to large-scale solar farms, amid Tory concerns that the technology was blight on the landscape, and is due to close to all new renewables schemes in 2017.

Instead, the government will launch a new scheme for low-carbon energy, called ‘contracts for difference’. The new scheme, however, will probably exclude onshore wind farms.

Industry representatives, as well as environmental groups, have all criticised the move, asserting that despite the government’s claim, onshore windfarms have the support of about 65 per cent people.

"It means this Government is quite prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of investors even when this country desperately needs to clean up the way we generate electricity at the lowest possible cost - which is onshore wind,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of industry body RenewableUK.

"People's fuel bills will increase directly as a result of this Government's actions.”

McCaffery also pointed to the fact that while the government is discouraging the development of renewable resources, it is actively promoting the development of hydraulic fracturing, which has a much worse reputation among the public.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), more than £800m of tax-payer paid subsidies helped onshore wind generate 5 per cent of the UK's total electricity last year.

The Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said there were enough subsidised onshore wind schemes to meet renewable energy commitments.

"We want to help technologies stand on their own two feet, not encourage a reliance on public subsidies,” Rudd said.

"So we are driving forward our commitment to end new onshore wind subsidies and give local communities the final say over any new windfarms.

"Onshore wind is an important part of our energy mix and we now have enough subsidised projects in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments."

Her statement, however, is in sharp contrast to the opinion of the European Commission, which said earlier this week that the UK was among several EU member states set to significantly miss its renewables targets for 2020.

The government also plans to remove the need for the Energy Secretary to approve large-scale wind farms of more than 50MW and delegate the decision-making responsibilities to local authorities.

The changes will only affect England and Wales. Scotland, where most of the new large-scale schemes are planned, is being exempted.



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