The Left-leaning think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, complained yesterday that the Government is “blowing hot and cold” over its commitment to green energy. That is to put a rather ungenerous gloss on a long overdue reassessment of the Coalition’s low-carbon strategy. In particular, we have the first signs that the love affair with wind farms may finally be cooling.
George Osborne is reportedly seeking a deep cut in the subsidies paid to onshore wind farms through the Renewables Obligation. He is under strong political pressure to do so. Earlier this year a group of more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister urging curbs on wind generation. Such a move is welcome. Many of our finest landscapes have been blighted by the proliferation of wind farms that are an inefficient and costly means of power generation. Only the generous subsidies make them a viable investment for power companies. The fixation with wind means that other, more reliable, sources of renewable energy – particularly tidal, which has the potential to produce as much as 20 per cent of UK energy needs – have not been pursued with any enthusiasm. It is time they were.
Under the terms of the 2008 Climate Change Act, passed by the last Labour government, CO2 emissions must be reduced by 80 per cent by 2050. While cutting carbon emissions is to everyone’s benefit, wind power really is not the way to go. Despite the enormous investment, it currently accounts for about 5 per cent of electricity generation, and only when the wind is blowing hard. Mr Osborne has cautioned in the past of the danger of adhering too rigidly to low-carbon policies, warning that businesses and jobs will suffer. His proposal to cut wind farm subsidies suggests he is ready to take action to prevent that happening.
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