Checkmate: Onshore wind farms are the latest political pawns

By Stuart Stones

Wind turbines, it appears, are being used as pawns in the latest political battle. But could using renewable energy as a means to win votes be dangerous to the UK’s energy market?

Back in December, it was announced there would be big changes to how subsidies are allocated to renewable energy. The plan was to cut support for onshore wind and solar energy, which the government argued had already received their fare share of finance, in favour of greater support for offshore wind power, in the hope of attracting more long-term investments.

Now, it has been reported David Cameron may go into the next election with promises to “eradicate” onshore wind farms. A source told The Daily Telegraph the Prime Minister could pledge to cap the number of wind farms and change planning rules to make them more difficult to build, as well as cut financial support further.

Some believe the Conservatives’ strong stance on onshore wind farms is to appease Tory MPs who are unhappy about wind farms being built in their constituencies, while others think it is an attempt to save losing votes to UKIP, which opposes them.

However, the Liberal Democrats appear to be standing their ground on green policies, after it was revealed Nick Clegg had stopped the introduction of a moratorium on building new wind farms. A source, reported in the same article, said: “Clegg was simply not going to allow the Tories to move the goalposts on green energy again. Some sort of crude block towards onshore wind would seriously damage investor confidence in Britain’s energy markets. It would be a double whammy – bad for British business and for the environment.”

So who has the next move?

Unsurprisingly, spokespeople from the industry have started voicing their concerns, with RenewableUK deputy chief executive Maf Smith declaring: “Mr Cameron needs to act firmly and stop some of his MPs using wind energy as a football in their short-term playground politics.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart has also spoken out highlighting the benefits of onshore wind farms. He said: “In Scotland alone the industry supports almost 3,400 jobs, with many more dependent on the sector. More than £1bn was invested in 2013, with much more to come…Almost half of the power generated in Scotland last year came from renewable sources, with onshore wind making up 65% of that.”

Reports of cut subsidies, stricter planning rules and attempts to limit onshore wind farms will undoubtedly unsettle an already fragile market and could well put off future investors. Going head to head with opposing views on wind turbines is a precarious game. It is detrimental to our green economy, threatens thousands of jobs and puts us way behind some of our European counterparts.

The parties need to think carefully about their next moves and show businesses and consumers alike how they have considered the country’s long term energy needs and how these are going to be funded.

For more information and advice on renewables and energy law, please contact Stuart Stones on 0161 464 9540, or by email:

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