Thursday, 4 June 2015

Wind incentive cut is against the wishes of almost all Scottish MPs - Govt faces legal challenge

RenewableUK's threat to take the Government to court if they cut off incentives for onshore wind early evokes memories of the 'indyref' debate about what would happen to financing of Scottish windfarms after independence. The rumoured threats also goes against the opinions of almost every Scottish MP - bar one - a Conservative!

It has been rumoured that Amber Rudd will bring forward the cut-off date for the planned closure of the Renewables Obligation to new projects from March 2017 to  March 2016. If this were to happen and significant numbers of wind projects were lost then this would trigger  claims against the Government for 'retrospective action'. Retrospective action includes measures by the Government to damage people's rights or economic interests by punishing people for taking decisions under laws that existed at the time they took the decisions.

This issue arose during the Scottish independence referendum debate when the Westminster Government implied that it would discontinue incentives for windfarms in Scotland that had already been developed at the time of independence. I commented then that this threat was empty since it would be challenged by the electricity companies (who would be the main losers of such action) as a piece of retrospective governmental action. I remember being challenged at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament's Select Committee on Economy  Energy and Tourism when I made gave this opinion. Murdo Fraser (the Conservative Chair of the Committee) asked me  whether it was a legal opinion. 'No. it's my opinion', I replied, feeling confident that the lawyers would confirm this in the event. Well the lawyers for the wind industry are now making their own challenges, in this case over the issue of wind turbines that the developers hope to build soon  and the developers have my great sympathy. See You can see me appearing before the Scottish Select Committee (last year) at

Of course, in reality what we might be seeing is mainly a lot of what Simon Bullock, the FOE Campaigner has described as a lot of unhelpful confusion. The Government will try and assuage its backbench anti-wind MPs by saying it will cut off subsidies early whilst at the same time negotiating 'grace periods' for the windfarm developers that will, give or take a load of pointless paperwork allow most of the developers to go ahead as planned. meanwhile Amber Rudd will hope that this satisfies the wind people enough not to make her look daft in the run-up to the Paris Climate talks.

But Amber Rudd has another problem - The Treasury. The Treasury is capping the additions that can be made to electricity bills to support renewable energy - the so-called 'Levy Control Framework' (LCF for those in the trade). Most of the money has already been spent. Ironically the money would go further in terms of developing more renewable energy production if a lot of it was spent on onshore wind rather. But that's politically taboo for the Tories - although, more strangely still,

Any cutbacks in wind incentives will affect Scotland much more than England. The bulk of the windfarms will be built in Scotland, a few in Wales and Northern Ireland, not many at all in England! Yet, incredibly, the Conservatives have just one MP in Scotland out of 59 (56 now being held by the SNP, one by Labour and one Liberal Democrat).

But then, in terms of manifesto commitments, the Scottish Tories are even more viscerally anti-wind than what was said in the main Conservative manifesto! Of course, they have just one seat in Westminster compared with a total of the other 58 Scottish MPs who do not want the cut in onshore wind incentives. Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister has complained that they are being 'frozen out' of decisions about the wind incentive - they do not want the cut of course, but then their opinions, as the constituted Scottish Government, appear to count for rather less than the opinion of the Scottish Tories (as represented by just one Conservative MP in Scotland)! See

See also (by me): "The only way to meet green energy targets is to hand some power back to Scotland" 

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