By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent, The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk 16 April 2012
Ministers are preparing to veto major new wind farms in the British countryside and cut back their subsidies, according to senior Whitehall sources.
The decision to pull back from onshore wind farms comes after more than 100 backbench Conservative MPs mounted a rebellion against turbines blighting rural areas.
Greg Barker, the Climate Change Minister, hinted at a change in policy this weekend when he said that the “the wind we need” in Britain is already being built, developed or in planning.
“It’s about being balanced and sensible,” he said. “We inherited a policy from the last government which was unbalanced in favour of onshore wind.
“There have been some installations in insensitive or unsuitable locations – too close to houses, or in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”
Britain already has around 350 wind farms across the country, with around 500 more under construction or awaiting planning permission
This means the number of wind farms built in the British countryside could still double from the current level.
However, it is understood senior Conservatives in the Coalition are behind a determination to scale back support for onshore wind power, amid fears the turbines are deeply unpopular in rural areas.
There is also concern that subsidising so many different types of “green” energy is adding too much to energy bills.
Senior Conservatives have seen an opportunity to re-think policy since Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, resigned to fight charges of perverting the course of justice in a speeding case.
“Chris Huhne’s zealous ambition is being reined back,” one top Whitehall source said. “There’s already enough being built and developed.”
The plan could still put the Conservatives on a collision course with their Coalition partners, as Ed Davey, the new Energy Secretary, is also a Liberal Democrat.
However, is understood the Department for Energy and Climate Change is already considering how it can keep a lid on more wind farms being developed.
Sources said ministers are prepared to block major developments of onshore wind turbines under the new Localism Act that came into force last month.
They are also ready to reduce the £400 million per year in funding that goes to wind farms under the Renewable Obligation Certificate subsidy.
The moves would be popular with the dozens of Conservative MPs fighting against new wind developments in their constituencies.
In a letter sent to Downing Street in February, more than 101 MPs said they have become “more and more concerned” about government “support for onshore wind energy production”.
“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 say.
The MPs want the savings spread between other “reliable” forms of renewable energy production.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/04/16/ministers-preparing-to-veto-windfarms/