Scotland is set to become a magnet for wind farm developers, after Alex Salmond yesterday promised to protect their multimillion-pound subsidies from large-scale cuts.
In an effort to reduce household energy bills and stop greedy firms from cashing in, the UK Government is considering plans to slash the massive payouts by up to 25 per cent.
But last week, a final decision was delayed as Chancellor George Osborne reached a stalemate with his Lib Dem coalition colleagues, who want the reduction capped at only 10 per cent.
In recent months, the Scottish Government had indicated it would wait for Westminster’s decision and probably follow it. But Mr Salmond has now announced that Scotland will set its own figure – cutting the existing rate by only 10 per cent – to keep developers on side.
With Westminster expected to plump for a compromise reduction somewhere between 10 per cent and 25 per cent, there could be a rush of developers keen to take advantage of higher Scottish subsidies.
It is feared a flood of applications will leave planners north of the Border struggling to cope.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: ‘The SNP has to realise that its obsession with wind farms is not shared by the majority of Scottish people.
‘There are already far too many applications for wind farms and one thing people and councils do not want to see is an SNP-fuelled surge in such developments.’
Linda Holt of Communities Against Turbines Scotland said: ‘Alex Salmond doesn’t just want to see the feeding frenzy for wind developers in Scotland continue, he wants to offer bigger bait than his neighbour so the feeding frenzy becomes even fiercer.
‘He should be working with, not against, the Westminster Government. Everyone will have to pay for this madness.’
In 2010-11, wind farm developers in Scotland received £134million in subsidies before even being paid f or t he power generated. That money comes f r om ordinary families through their household bills.
For every megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced from ‘green’ sources, power firms receive Renewables Obligation Certificates (Rocs)
Currently, one Roc valued at £51.34 is paid for every MWh of energy generated. Mr Osborne has called for that to be slashed by a quarter and the UK Government is consulting on cutting subsidies.
When the UK Government decision was delayed, Mr Salmond decided to go it alone and announced a reduction of only 10 per cent in Rocs.
He has written to Westminster Energy Secretary Ed Davey to tell him of the decision, made to reassure the developers and ensure the SNP meets its ambitious green targets.
The First Minister said: ‘The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s announcement this week to delay its review decision has caused real anxiety to stakeholders and developers, especially in light of recent press reports that the UK Government is considering even lower onshore wind support levels than the 10 per cent reduction proposed in the consultation.
‘This wholly unnecessary uncertainty is jeopardising future investment – the CBI spoke last Wednesday of millions of pounds of investment that is now at risk.
‘We will publish our full consultation response shortly, but the renewables industry requires and deserves a clear statement of intent.’
The Scottish Government may still reconsider the rate, which is due to take effect from April 2013. If it goes ahead, Scotland will have the highest subsidies in Britain for wind, wave and tidal power.
Defending the delay in deciding on a figure, a Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: ‘ This is an important decision affecting billions of pounds of investment and it is vital that we get the Renewables Obligation banding regime right.
‘We are aiming to publish the finalised outcome as soon as possible. The banding regime allows Scotland to set its own rates, although the costs are ultimately borne by consumers across the United Kingdom.’
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