Victory in Scotland prompts full-scale attack on energy policy
The Ramblers’ Association is set to announce its opposition to the construction of onshore wind farms across the country. The move is a major blow for the government, which is struggling to maintain its pledge to increase the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy sources.
The decision to try to block large wind farms in Britain follows the association’s role in persuading the Scottish Executive to stop construction of a group of turbines in Perthshire on the grounds that the development would damage the environment.
‘The situation arose because in Scotland wind farms are not allowed in National Parks,’ said Christine Elliott, the Ramblers’ chief executive. ‘This is pushing them out into the hills where they are extremely visible. There will be a necklace of these wind farm developments, forming a stranglehold on the Scottish landscape.’
Having drawn blood north of the border, the Ramblers are set on following this up in England and Wales. In a policy document to be published next month, the association – which has almost 140,000 members and whose president is Labour peer Chris Smith – pledges its commitment to pushing the government towards other forms of non-fossil energy, including nuclear power. The move is a radical departure from the stance of groups such as Greenpeace, which welcome wind farms and criticise plans to increase use of nuclear power.
Elliott called for the government to rescind its Renewables Obligation, which demands that energy suppliers source a fixed percentage of their energy from renewable sources. She claimed that this was being exploited by wind farm developers, who were producing them on a large scale in order to be cost-effective.
The executive has also called for the government to bring forward the date on which it intends to review this policy, which currently stands at 2010. ‘We’re calling governfor a balanced package. This obligation isn’t working in the role it’s in,’ Elliott said. She said that those planning to build ‘community-based’ wind farms would be put off by the current guidelines, because they support development of large scale wind farms, ‘in the way that the fi nancial incentives are structured’. She claimed that the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have criticised the ‘renewables option’ as not being the most cost-effective means for the government of reducing carbon emissions.
The chief executive has just returned from Scotland, where the Ramblers’ Association scored its victory this month. Plans to build a farm of 24 turbines by Catamount Energy at Abercairny, near Crieff , a 66-megawatt development which would produce enough power to supply 40,000 households – were rejected by the Scottish Executive.
The move came after a public inquiry last year. It was also felt that some areas of historical and architectural interest may be affected by the wind farm, which attracted some 200 objections because of its significant adverse impact on the local environment.
However, the Ramblers’ Association decision goes against the stance of Godfrey Boyle, one of Britain’s leading experts on renewable energy.
‘The United Kingdom is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy,’ he said. ‘The resource is huge, like off shore oil and gas was. We should be going for it with enthusiasm, rather than timidly as we are now.’
Boyle has backed the Renewables Obligation, but is seeking more detail, which he is hoping to fi nd in the next step in the development of the government’s energy strategy. A White Paper is expected around the end of the year.
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