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.


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

    Comment number 637.

    It's easy enough to say that one nuclear power plant can create 10, 100, 1000 times the amount of energy as a wind farm and therefore we should rely on nuclear to make our landscapes more attractive... but nuclear power has massive drawbacks such as waste materials with extremely long half lives and the associated problems with storage and minimising radioactivity of these materials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    I have no problem with Off-Shore renewable energy, so long as it does not need to be subsidised. If it is not affordable, then it is not viable. If it needs government support to get started, then the country should own shares, and gain by keeping the price down instead of receiving income from profit.

    In fact anything that is subsidised should be part owned by this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    Totally agree.
    There is not a single part of UK coastal waters that is not tidal. Perhaps our politicians need reminding to take a look outside the Houses of Parliament and realise the opportunities. Come on guys how about actually encouraging UK manufacture ,Some sort of tax break perhaps. Remember that NO wind farm is actually manufactured in UK and that once built its minimal labour involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    John Hayes hasn't over egged anything, he's simply speaking up for a lot of people, it's called democracy. On Anglesey our beautiful island is beginning to resemble an episode of Teletubbies. As a nation we are using 10% more electric than 10 years ago and most of the increase is due to peripheral gadgets. Are we really sacrificing our green and pleasant land just to keep X Boxes running?

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    with turbines being only around 20% efficient, and also 70/80% of all manufacturing profit going abroad, UK is missing out on a massive skilled employment opportunity.

    I am sick of hearing Alex Salmond & others conniving saying we are at the forefront of this technology, if so, then why dont we OWN it & manufacture ourselves instead of UK just being a tempory assembly line

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    Just a few facts - wind farms are
    no use when there is too much wind
    no use when there is too little wind
    They require a lot of energy to produce

    Nuclear accounts for about 3%. However, new build have phenomenally high cost and none of the previous have been decommissioned.

    Not enough has been spent on developing tidal power which would provide a constant source of supply

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    Why aren't all houses built with soalr panels in the roof? We have a big problem with an energy shortage in a few years time. we need an integrated energy solution and windfarms are a help but not the solution. Nulear is not a solution (to expensive and to dangerous).
    Getting our new nuclear power stations but and run by the Japanese is NOT a solution either. Power Will be expensive in the future

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    I'm sorry to burst any bubbles... we have to go green. End of. Argument over. We either stamp our feet now and do it later or we do it now. Our call. If you don;t see this go suck on a tailpipe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    One fact the 'anti' wind turbine lobby seem to conveniently ignore, is that the wind will not increase in price in the future, unlike depleting resources like oil or gas. Looking at turbines for 20 years seems to be a small price to pay for energy price independence, particularly if it contributes to keeping the lights on when the ageing coal power stations are decommissioned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    What seems to be missing on this issue is the honest evaluation as to whether this technology is viable without the significant subsidies, that we as tax payers and energy consumers are"billed" for.
    Would the manufacturers and energy suppliers realistically fund a system that would not be profitable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    I think that a lot of people commenting with remarks similar to "Oh poor dears who have to have the view from their country mansions ruined" need to recognise that it isn't the rich who are having the windfarms placed on their doorstep, it's average people who happen to live in the country-side. Likewise, the primary concern isn't their view but the noise from the things!

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    One thing I find disappointing is, new wind farms appear to be equipped with very old blade designs. Blades with a better aerodynamic design around the root have been proved to be 20% more efficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    We live in Lincolnshire and have a wind farm only a few miles away, we also have a gas fired power station the same distance in the opposite direction.

    I know which one I'd rather look at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    Most useless and expensive producers of power ever!
    No wind? Pay the utilities company compensation!
    High wind? Pay etc.etc.etc.
    What a farce--foreign companies take then down from
    their own places overseas and erect them here where we
    pay the vast cost of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    It really doesn't matter what your view of wind turbines is, there's no way we can provide guaranteed power to 60+ million people (whatever the weather) without nuclear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    560. Current tech limits generation will increase as tech is improved. Also good siting & tricks such as adding 30° slopes for the wind to hit first before been fed into farm vastly improve output.What estimates? first they are just that & unless you have the source data don't believe what you hear. Co2 is but a very small part of climate change far too much fixation on it. Politics not sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    I don't hear too many calls to get rid of those unsightly windmills in Holland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Please do not believe that everyone in Lincolnshire, or anywhere on the East coast, is the "Nimby" who hates windfarms. Our main objection is that we do not actually receive any benefit from it. Offer us say, a 20% reduction in energy prices and you can put one in my area. If I can get free energy, put one in my back yard!
    If we are going to have these things, where's the advantage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    I'm pretty sure that wind turbines are dangerous for birds. But then so are cars....

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    @612 Mary Parsons - wind farms are not dangerous for birds if they are sited sensibly. Builidng them in the south of Spain on known migration routes for tens of thousands of birds is daft. There are plenty of places to put them where they have no significant impact on birds.


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