Wind farms: 'No change' on policy, says David Cameron

 

Ed Miliband and David Cameron clashed over Lord Heseltine, and wind farms

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There has been no change in the government's policy on renewable energy, the prime minister has said.

It comes after a Tory energy minister sparked a coalition row by claiming the UK had "enough" onshore wind farms.

John Hayes was slapped down by his Lib Dem boss Ed Davey after suggesting future projects would be blocked.

Mr Davey said he was in charge of energy policy and, echoing the PM, said the wind farm policy had not changed.

"The government is still committed to renewables including onshore wind," said Mr Davey.

"They are the cheapest available major renewable source and as the Prime Minister made clear today in the House of Commons the policy on renewables hasn't changed."

"There will still be lots of investment in onshore wind farms," he added, saying they were vital as a "clean" and "secure" alternative to oil from other countries as North Sea oil diminished.

Analysis

John Hayes is a long-standing opponent of onshore wind farms, so this row was waiting to happen.

I understand that he wrote an anti-wind speech which Ed Davey decreed to be against government policy.

He then penned a more emollient version, but shared his original views with journalists.

Mr Hayes cannot be contacted to confirm that.

Onshore wind is particularly contentious with so many back-bench Conservatives opposing turbines in the countryside, but the Lib Dems insistent that wind farms offer the cheapest way of expanding low-carbon energy to help keep the lights on and reduce emissions in the forthcoming Energy Bill.

Of the alternatives, offshore wind is very expensive; nuclear is controversial and expensive; wave power is in its infancy; energy efficiency is hard to achieve; coal is deemed too dirty and gas leaves the UK vulnerable to price spikes on the global market.

It's not easy.

Mr Davey refused to answer when the question "Is John Hayes just wrong then?" was shouted at him by reporters.

'New Jerusalem'

Mr Hayes, a longstanding critic of wind farms, was handed the junior ministerial role in September's reshuffle, prompting Mr Davey to take personal control of wind farm policy to protect a key Lib Dem priority.

The Tory minister, who is in charge of "renewable energy deployment", is understood to have wanted to announce a moratorium on new wind farms in a speech on Tuesday evening but was prevented from doing so by Mr Davey.

Instead, he told the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph there were enough wind farms in the planning pipeline to meet government environmental targets - and there should be no more.

He said: "We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.

"We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in. We need to understand communities' genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective.

Kay Siddell, who lives near a wind farm: "It is the constant churn of the turbines"

"If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what's in the system is built we are going to reach our 2020 target."

He also suggested reviews would be launched into the noise and impact on the landscape created by turbines - something denied by a DECC source, who said Mr Hayes had "totally over-egged" things in the newspaper interviews.

Mr Hayes told reporters on Wednesday morning "I stand by what I said".

'Playing politics'

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron denied there had been any change to the government's policy on wind energy, but did back a future debate on renewables, once the government had met its environmental targets.

He said: "There has been no change towards renewable energy.

"We have got a big pipeline of onshore and offshore wind projects that are coming through, but frankly all parties are going to have to have a debate in this House and outside this House about what happens when those targets are met."

Labour leader Ed Miliband described this as a "useless answer," adding "there are investors all round this country who want certainty about energy policy".

There are 3,400 onshore wind turbines across the UK at 324 different sites, generating 3% of the UK's electricity.

John Hayes John Hayes has previously described wind turbines as a "terrible intrusion" on communities

A further 4,000 turbines are due to be built by 2020.

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said his organisation was "disappointed" by Mr Hayes' comments, which came after he addressed a renewables conference on Tuesday evening.

Mr Smith told BBC Radio 4 Today's programme: "At our conference he was talking about the importance of renewables in the mix, the importance of wind, the importance of jobs and securing benefits for renewables.

"What we would like is clarity about those views."

Earlier this year, more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to get rid of the subsidies paid to wind farm operators funded from household energy bills.

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, for Labour, accused Mr Hayes of "playing politics" with clean energy jobs and the country's energy security.

 

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 688.

    Actually I think wind turbines look beautiful and add to the landscape rather than detract from it. They don't generate any noise unless you stand right underneath them and you do get free energy from them. What's the problem? Short sighted people. No wonder the UK is so behind technology from the rest of the world!

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 648.

    Wind, wave, solar, tidal, nuclear. Our island could have completely integrated, and renewable energy sources in place over the next 20 - 30 years. Its the only way forward, unless we are willing to pay half our income to heat our homes in the future. It will come to that eventually, the way energy bills are increasing it will be sooner rather than later. We need to do something now.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 647.

    Do you know what? They can surround the fields around my house with wind turbines if it would help and I wouldn't mind a jot. It's semi-rural but not an area of outstanding natural beauty. We already have some nearby and I got out of the car to listen to the so called noise and was surprised that there was virtually none. As long as the planners are sensitive about location then bring 'em on!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 546.

    We are an island sitting on coal and surrounded by oil and gas.

    With appropriate investment in clean-burn technology and more efficient ways of transmitting the energy produced we can be self sufficient for our current energy needs.

    Then we can look at viable alternatives - fusion and tidal power maybe? Wind power doesn't cut the mustard for me.

    Don't see it happening though, do you?

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 333.

    I don't buy that "no wind, no power" is a problem. Wind and other renewables don't have to be a complete replacement for fossil fuels in the short term. They just have to make fossil fuel last longer until fusion or something similar comes along.

 

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