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North-East leads renewables drive

North-East communities are leading the drive to hit renewable energy targets while other areas of the country contribute virtually nothing, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Analysis of official figures shows the region is on course to produce 37 per cent of the energy it uses from renewable sources – compared with a national average of ten per cent.

This means the region has nearly hit the 40 per cent UK target for 2050 – 40 years early.

Figures for the North-East are boosted by the region’s biomass power plants, and include some projects that have been given the go-ahead by planners but are not operational.

However, the research also reveals that the North-East, together with Yorkshire and Humberside, produces more energy from controversial wind farms than the rest of England put together.

The analysis has led to claims the region is being unfairly targeted by wind farm developers.

The research was conducted by retired North-East business analyst Bill Short, using figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Mr Short said it was “blatantly unfair” that council areas in the region, particularly County Durham, Northumberland and North Yorkshire, were producing so much renewable energy from wind farms when other rural counties were producing none.

He said: “I was going through the figures and I realised there was a big disparity.

It’s supposed to be far more balanced throughout England – but it’s not.”

Mr Short, whose report is being presented to local government members, pointed out that as well as producing more renewable energy, the North-East had cut its use of electricity more than any other region.

He said: “I think it’s the region’s industry trying more, but also its households doing their bit.”

In response, the DECC said it believed wind power had an important contribution to make to the country’s energy security and its low-carbon goals.

A spokesman said: “We applaud the work taking place in the North-East to embrace renewable technology.

“Renewable energy can also bring jobs and growth, not just for local communities but for the country as a whole.”

He added that the DECC was exploring the possibility of allowing business rates from clean energy projects to be retained by local communities rather than going directly to Whitehall.

A spokesman for renewable energy trade association RenewableUK said the windy conditions were one reason why there were so many wind farms in the North-East.

He said: “Grid connection, population density and so on will also play a part.”