Thursday, 7 June 2012

Tories plot to cut wind through planning bans and subsidy cuts

Conservative-orchestrated policies on planning and funding windfarms is pointed clearly at stopping them. Much coverage in the Conservative press about an irrelevant story about a High Court judgement against a windfarm proposal (which merely supported an Inspector's decision) has obscured the fact that the Government's 'National Policy Planning Framework' (NPPF), which came into force in April, abolished rules favouring windpower. They have been replaced with a set of guidance that Tory led Councils such as Lincolnshire are taking as a green light for policies aimed at effectively banning windfarms.

In 2004 the Labour Government, in an initiative led by John Prescott, introduced Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS 22) which included a 'presumption' in favour of wind power and also stopped local authorities from prescribing 'no go' zones for windfarms. However, the Coalition's NPPF has cancelled PPS22. There is still guidance in the NPPF saying that planning authorities should encourage renewable energy development (not exactly what Lincolnshire County Council is saying) and encourage them to identify areas suitable for renewable energy development. However, now that the firm guidance in favour of renewable energy has gone, anti-windfarm campaigners are now emboldened to get Councils to prescribe against windfarms.

Let us be clear. This policy weakens support for renewable energy. Even under PPS22 more than half of windfarm planning applications were turned down by local planning authorities. A proportion of these refusals were overturned on Appeal, but the fear in the wind industry now is that local planning authorities will be encouraged, not to approve windfarms, but to turn them down and delay them in even greater numbers.

The other leg of the Tory anti-windfarm offensive is to cut the subsidies for onshore wind. As widely reported in the press, the Treasury wants a 25 per cent cut in the value of support for onshore wind available under the Renewables Obligation (RO). In fact a 10 per cut is favoured by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Until now onshore windfarms receive 1 ROC, but from 2013 they will get less than this.

The Tories want more blood - ie. even less wind power. The RO  mechanism that will remain in force until 2017 when the Government's lukewarm support system for renewable energy comes into force under its recently published Energy Bill (see previous post).

The Treasury move has little logic in cost-saving given that onshore wind is the most cost-effective widely deployable renewable energy resource. It is a piece of naked anti-windfarm farm politics supported by the anti-wind Tories. RenewableUK estimates that this will cut wind deployment by 25 per cent, making even the Government-supported target of 20 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 largely unachievable. It makes a joke out of the Uk's supposed commitment to the EU Renewables Directive. The Government has said that it wants to support community links with renewable energy schemes. Yet this cut in windfarm subsidies will hit community windfarm schemes the hardest, since they are likely to be sited on lower windfarm sites.

This comes hard on the heels of yet another cut in subsidies for solar power.Greenest Government ever? You must be joking!

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