The Government was last night accused of “tipping the scales” against local decision-making after paving the way for new wind farms and nuclear power stations.
The claims came as ministers made it clear they want new nuclear plants and more renewable energy – including from wind – to maintain affordable electricity supplies in a more unstable world while cutting harmful carbon emissions.
In the North-East, there are concerns about an expansion of wind turbines in Northumberland while Friends of the Earth claimed another reactor could be built at Hartlepool’s existing nuclear plant in the future.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said it was in the public interest to give private firms the option to build new nuclear plants as he launched a five-month consultation on the issue.
Mr Darling also confirmed a goal to triple the amount of electricity from renewable energy to 15% by the year 2015, with financial support for the sector rising to £2bn by 2020.
And he pledged to do everything possible to help consumers and business become more energy-efficient as he outlined the Government’s Energy White Paper to MPs.
But he came under fire over his strategy amid warnings local communities will be ignored over new wind farms and nuclear plants in favour of the “national” interest.
The Government said it recognised the difficulties faced by renewable projects in securing planning consent, so would “underline” that applicants no longer had to show the overall need for renewable energy or for their proposal to be sited in a particular location.
In the energy White Paper, it added planners and councillors were being given a “clear steer” to look favourably on renewable schemes – but accepted wind power can be intermittent and that gas and oil will still be important energy sources.
The document also raised the prospect of more offshore wind farms and tidal power schemes such as a Severn Estuary barrage, which could supply five per cent of the UK’s electricity.
But referring to wind power, Berwick MP Alan Beith said: “The wording is tipping the scales against proper local decision-making about where is the best site without putting the extra effort into the other renewables.”
He also hit out over new nuclear power plants and claimed ministers failed to support energy efficiency.
Berwick Tory Parliamentary hopeful Anne-Marie Trevelyan warned communities could be “disempowered” but backed new modern nuclear plants, saying they were a clean and efficient way of producing energy.
Keith Melton, from the New and Renewable Energy Centre, in Blyth, said the public had to be convinced waste from nuclear power could be stored safely.
He also said the Government had backed further development of renewable energy, adding the region could benefit from new jobs from the development of tidal power schemes thanks to its ship-building skills.
The main points from the White Paper
* Government unveils energy strategy in a bid to maintain secure supplies in an unstable world while cutting carbon emissions.
* Ministers support new nuclear power stations with five-month consultation launched over the controversial issue.
* Backing for expansion of renewable energy with target to triple the amount of electricity produced to 15% by the 2015, including wind and possibly tidal power.
* Pledge to improve energy efficiency by 10% by 2020, saving up to 33 million tonnes of carbon a year.
* Fears local communities could lose out in planning process in favour of the national interest in building wind farms and N-plants.
By William Green
24 May 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding