George Osborne is demanding huge cuts in government aid for wind farms – a step which could kill plans for the construction of hundreds of turbines across the country.
The Chancellor has told the Treasury to draw up plans for a reduction of 25 per cent in subsidies for onshore wind farms.
The intervention will provoke widespread anger among his Lib Dem coalition partners, who strongly support plans to put up hundreds of turbines in the countryside.
Environmental groups say the cut in subsidy would put an end to the development of further wind power sites – an outcome that would be welcomed by thousands of campaigners who are opposing plans for turbines near their homes.
Only last week the campaigners scored a major victory when a High Court judge ruled that the right of villagers in Norfolk to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s energy targets.
Last night Tory backbenchers supported Mr Osborne’s determination to slash the amount spent on renewable energy by the Government at a time of austerity.
Douglas Carswell said: ‘Why has it taken so long? A centre-right government should be bringing an end to this. One of the reasons that the economy is not growing is because energy costs are so ridiculously high because of this wind farm scam which is adding hidden surcharges to our bills.’
In February more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister to demand cuts to the £400million a year public support for wind farms, which they say is evidence of too much Lib Dem influence over policy.
Mr Osborne’s position puts him at odds with Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey – a key supporter of renewable energy.
It could also cause friction with his boss David Cameron, who promised to lead the ‘greenest government ever’ after the election.
But his intervention could restore his popularity among Tory MPs such as Chris Heaton-Harris, who has led the charge against the subsidies. Many are angry at a series of U-turns on Budget measures in recent weeks.
Juliet Davenport, of renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said the Chancellor was giving in to Tory backbenchers who do not want turbines built in their constituencies.
She said: ‘This is a reckless act of political opportunism by a Chancellor keen to boost his popularity among his backbench MPs.’
In October, the energy department suggested a 10 per cent cut in support for onshore wind, but the Treasury apparently wants 25 per cent. A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: ‘The Government will publish the new support levels shortly.’
Tory MP Tim Yeo said that onshore wind farms cost bill payers £6 a year to support.
He suggested pulling back from costlier off-shore developments – and giving people money off their electricity bills if they have them put up in their areas.
‘We have to be creative about sharing some of the benefits (of wind farms). Frankly, we need to bribe them,’ he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
Pressed on whether we are seeing the end of wind power, he added: ‘I am anxious about the way the debate is heading.
‘If we look at it objectively, if onshore wind farms were scrapped we would only save £6 per year on electricity bills. It’s not a big amount.
‘I am quite happy for people to say the costs of off-shore are too high but we must continue with on-shore.’
The Tory-controlled Lincolnshire County Council are already planning to block any more wind farms being built within 10 miles of homes.
Council leader Martin Hill told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We have already got 75 big turbines and the latest one is the size of the London Eye to give people some perspective.
‘There are several hundred more in the pipeline and we don’t want the whole county to be covered in the things.’