The Government has moved to quell a backbench rebellion over the controversial issue of onshore windfarms by promising local communities will get an economic boost from future developments.
More than 100 backbench Conservative MPs recently signed a letter to the Prime Minister asking for subsidies for onshore wind farms to be cut – a move that is understood to have shaken the confidence of leading turbine manufacturers considering investing in the UK, particularly in Yorkshire.
A number of vast wind farms are planned off the coast of the region over the coming years, and the Yorkshire Post is campaigning for the Humber to become a hub of turbine manufacturing.
Greg Clark, the Minister for Cities, joined Prime Minister David Cameron at a meeting with the rebel MPs to reassure them that they would be working “to take communities with them”.
During a visit to Leeds yesterday, Mr Clark told the Yorkshire Post that Government reforms to allow local authorities to retain the business rates raised locally would allow communities to reap the rewards of windfarms.
“It was a very positive and constructive meeting and everyone is aware of the great potential for the UK in renewable energy,” he said.
“The worry is about whether local people have a enough of a say in the sites that are particularly sensitive.
“Our approach has been to have a localist approach – part of which is allowing communities to keep the benefits through policy to retain business rates.
“Up to now, communities where there are wind farms haven’t enjoyed any of the benefits.
“If you look at where renewable energy projects have taken off – such as Denmark which is a world leader – many started as community projects.
“We have recognised for a long time that the community needs to benefit, that you need to take the community with you.”
Mr Clark insisted that multi-national firms looking to invest will be able to see the Government remains committed to developing renewable energy – but this week several leading multinationals who have previously announced plans to set up turbine factories along the east coast expressed doubts.
While Siemens is still pushing ahead with its proposed £210m turbine factory at Hull, US technology giant General Electric (GE), said its plans for a £100m factory are now “on hold”.
GE Energy’s managing director Magued Eldaief said that one of the most important things for the company is political certainty so they can justify the investment case.
He warned “there are some headwinds which do not help, especially in terms of the subsidies discussion”.
Mr Cameron, along with the Conservative Energy Minister Charles Hendry and Mr Clark, met the Tory MP for Daventry Chris Heaton-Harris and a small group of others, including the Selby and Ainsty MP, Nigel Adams, who signed the letter.
The Prime Minister said he understood the concerns of local residents about large planning applications for windfarms, and said the government was already committed to reducing subsidies to onshore windfarms by 10 per cent.
However, he also said there were “perfectly hard-headed reasons” to support onshore wind as part of the “energy mix”, in particular reducing the UK’s reliance on imported gas and creating jobs and investment in renewable energy.