More than 100 Conservative MPs are mounting a rebellion over the Government’s plan to introduce more wind farms.
Dozens of backbench Tories have written to David Cameron to demand that the £400million in subsidies paid to the ‘inefficient’ industry each year is ‘dramatically cut’.
They are also pressing for a change to planning laws to make it easier for communities to block proposals relating to the unsightly turbines.
The protest presents an immediate challenge for the new Liberal Democrat Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, who was appointed on Friday after Chris Huhne resigned to fight criminal charges. Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell warned that ‘things could get very tough’ if the party’s green agenda is derailed.
Some 101 Tories, joined by a handful of Lib Dem and Labour MPs, have protested to the Prime Minister that government policy has skewed the energy market too far in favour of onshore wind farms. ‘In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,’ they wrote.
‘In the ongoing review of renewable energy subsidies, we ask the Government to dramatically cut the subsidy for onshore wind and spread the savings made between other types of reliable renewable energy production and energy-efficiency measures.’
They also expressed concerns that the proposed National Planning Policy Framework ‘diminishes the chances of local people defeating onshore wind farm proposals through the planning system’.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, who co-ordinated the campaign, claimed that many Conservative ministers harboured grave doubts about the policy. Critics say the giant turbines are costly and ineffective, in addition to being a blot on the countryside.
The letter’s signatories include senior figures such as David Davis, Bernard Jenkin and Nicholas Soames, as well as many new MPs. They hope to hold talks in the coming weeks with the Prime Minister and Mr Davey to discuss their concerns.
Downing Street said ministers had already begun work to scale back subsidies for onshore wind farms, but at least 4,500 more turbines are expected to get the green light as part of the Government’s drive to meet EU energy targets – more than doubling Britain’s current number.
Critics argue that there are more effective ways of cutting carbon emissions. Cumbrian Conservative Rory Stewart said recent research suggested that the same effect could be achieved by converting coal-fired power stations to gas.
Former Chancellor Lord Lawson, a persistent critic of wind turbines, welcomed the intervention and called for the Department of Energy and Climate Change to be broken up, with responsibility for energy policy returned to the Business Department. ‘Wind power is about the most stupid way of generating electricity you can imagine,’ he said. ‘It produces very expensive electricity even when the wind is blowing at the right speed, which is only 25 per cent of the time.’
But Sir Menzies warned yesterday that Coalition relations ‘could get very tough’ if attempts were made to ‘water down’ the Government’s climate change policy. ‘Commitment to the environment has an iconic place in the Lib Dem approach,’ he said.
Mr Davey will attempt to demonstrate his own green credentials today when he and party leader Nick Clegg visit an eco-home development in Watford.
He said last night: ‘Greening the economy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for the wallets, purses and pockets of every British citizen too.’
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