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
    -1

    Comment number 657.

    @630. Steve

    So glad you are a great believer in democracy.
    Where would we be without it eh?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 656.

    From 1978 to 1996 the USA Aquatic Species Program researched the use of aquatic algae as a source of renewable fuel. When the project closed they estimated that $100 Billion would allow the USA to be independent of imported oil. Algae did not compete with agricultural land and could use brackish water. Of course it was all too costly yet USA has since spent untold Billions on wars in Iraq etc.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 655.

    I wonder if all the people complaining about bird strikes also protest against domestic cats who kill millions of birds in the UK each year (five orders of magnitude larger and birds learn, bats are bigger problem)

    Also UK based installation, maintenance, manufacturing (componenets) and research has the potential to offset any subsidies even while towers/blades are made abroad.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 654.

    LOL, at height of Russian limiting gas to Europe few years ago, UK politicians, especially Liebour, were boasting about how we do not need/rely on Russia for our gas.
    They purposely failed to mention that over 60% of the coal/coke used in UK powerstations actually comes from Russia. Some wonder why we now treat Russian human rights with kid gloves, because they have us by short & curlies

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 653.

    I doubt he lives in a town with a huge coal powered station built on the outskirts. We also have an outstanding area of natural beauty on our doorstep, so we're luckier than most. Walk up to the highest point (an iron age hill fort) and on a clear day you can see for miles. Look in the direction of my home town and all you see is a huge coal fired power station. More windfarms please.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 652.

    I find it very suspicious that "free" energy is so expensive and needs massive subsidies. I think we're being taken for a ride.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 651.

    Sure, windturbines are unsightly, they don't turn when the wind stops and they are expensive but they are a stop-gap for now and a vital part of the energy mix.

    We have to break our reliance upon fossil fuel and while researchers & scientists come up with a better more efficient and cheaper solution, I can live with the turbines.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 650.

    Would someone care to look up the actual energy generated by these inefficient monstrosities? Or how is the 'green' energy created when there is no wind? or what damage it does to house prices, health, wildlife...I have personal experience of a Red Kite(protected species) being killed by one of these. And do u know where the rare earth metals are mined to make the motors? u think THAT is green?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 649.

    And if you really want to see the true figures used by the National Grid to keep the lights on, take a look at this link and bookmark it.

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    Look at it on windy days and on cold sunny days - wind power is absolutely useless as all those other sources of energy generation still have to be there and running to cover the unpredictable wind power.

  • 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
    -1

    Comment number 646.

    Cameron is now U-turning on his U-turns.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 645.

    '608 - "ThankyouandGoodbye"
    Re: world uranium reserves.

    Ok, maybe 100 years instead of 80 years, but it is still finite, and the biggest problem, which no-one ever mentions, is that we would be dependent on other countries being willing to sell us the Uranium in the first place.

    I can see it now, countries desperate to give us Uranium, rather than keeping it for themselves as stocks dwindle, lol

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 644.

    We need energy security.. it only takes a radical political upheaval in Russia and this country could be denied Gas supply... or forced to pay double.. remember the Oil price hikes of the 70's.. similar problem.. rely on imports too much and be at the mercy of a foreign government.

    I reject the nuclear option because the waste remains contaminated for something in the order of 200,000 years!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 643.

    628.Ray M ".....What seems to be missing on this issue is the honest evaluation as to whether this technology is viable without the significant subsidies.." DID YOU KNOW THAT ALL FOSSIL FUEL POWER STATIONS GET MORE SUBSIDIES? The ONLY reason why people don't like Wind Power is because it might spoil someone's view. If we could make the invisible, you wouldn't hear a peep out of anyone....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 642.

    i understand that wind power is relatively expensive to produce, can't be stored up, and have to switch the turbines off when too windy! however, the government sticking with them is a sign they do make a worthwhile difference to green energy production. we have to reduce our reliance on imported oil, gas - future energy policy should be a mix of nuclear and renewables including wind power.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 641.

    there are so many factual innacuracies on here it beggars belief; @saltwaysweeper-they DO scar the landscape, unless cutting into millenia old peat and filling it with concrete,then letting runoff enter salmon spawning burns is not scarring the landscape?
    @jonathan holt-have u ever heard of the NW highlands, its pretty unspoilt-biggest area in Europe actually-with no trees-u should learn that 1st

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 640.

    We in the UK use 1.7 million barrels per day.



    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 639.

    @629. pk

    The price of the wind will indeed not increase.
    However, the price of Neodymium will.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 638.

    They are a complete waste of time,they are not even made in this country so we do not even get the benefit of jobs while we disfigure our countryside,we have lots at sea on the east coast some do not work as they have been struck by lightening and are to costly to repair,added to which they produce very little energy,we have to bit the bullet and go with nuclear energy its the only way.

 

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