Communities must benefit financially from wind farms, the Government has insisted, as compensation for continuing to give taxpayers’ money to the industry.
Following a hard-fought battle at the heart of the Coalition, Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said subsidies for onshore wind turbines will be cut by 10 per cent this year.
The decision will anger Conservative backbenchers, many of whom had called for much larger cuts in subsidies to stop the “march of the turbines” across the countryside.
However in an effort to keep the critics quiet Mr Davey said the cut will be reviewed in 2014.
He also said that the wind industry must consider how communities have more say in building wind farms and offer more money.
At the moment communities are offered £1,000 per MW per year as part of a voluntary agreement.
But this could be increased. A call for evidence will consider “how local communities can have more of a say over, and receive greater economic benefit from, hosting onshore windfarms”.
Also communities could be given cuts in their electricity bill or a share of the wind farm.
In an effort to give local people more say in the building of wind farms, community-owned wind farms could be encouraged.
Local Plans, drawn up with the community as part of new planning regulations, involve the community in planning renewable energy development so they understand the benefits to the whole country and can block unpopular options. It could discuss how much land needs to be used to generate renewable energy to encourage people to consider the need for wind farms or consider alternatives.
Mr Davey also announced a doubling in subsidies for wave and tidal technologies and said offshore wind will not suffer cuts until 2015.
“The support we’re setting out today will unlock investment decisions, help ensure that rapid growth in renewable energy continues and shows the key role of renewables for our energy security.”
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, welcomed the announcements on subsidies.
She said that the review of onshore wind will not put off investors because subsidies will only be cut if there is clear evidence of falling costs.
She agreed that communities should have more say and benefit financially from wind farms.
“These decisions for onshore and offshore wind are vital, as they provide the much-needed confidence and certainty needed to attract billions of pounds of inward investment into the UK economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs and providing energy security which will protect consumers from rising fossil fuel prices.”
Mr Davey also said the UK is committed to gas as part of future energy mix and announced support for burning wood chips rather than coal in power stations.
There are concerns in the gas sector that calls for a target to decarbonise the electricity sector in the UK by 2030 would put off investors.
But Mr Davey made it clear that gas will continue to play a “key role” and announced £500 million to drill for gas off the UK coast.
However green groups said it was dangerous to allow a “dash for gas” and insist there should be a target to decarbonise our electricity by 2030.
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