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Subsidy review will fuel wind farm ‘confusion’

The Coalition Government was accused of fuelling uncertainty over investment in renewable energy yesterday after announcing another review of taxpayer subsidies.

It came as the UK’s Department for Environment and Climate Change resisted calls for significant cuts to onshore wind subsidies for the time being, instead announcing a reduction of 10% in payments for new farms.

There had been speculation the Chancellor was demanding a reduction of 25% in the subsidy for onshore wind generation, which would have made Scotland’s 10% cut more attractive to developers.

However, ministers announced a further review of onshore wind industry costs to be launched in the autumn.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the onshore wind sector needed certainty to invest. “I am concerned the UK Government’s explicit statement about another and immediate review of onshore wind costs will not dispel the uncertainty for the industry and investors that recent speculation has been allowed to create.

“These projects represent long-term investments, which could be unnecessarily delayed by the short term aspects of today’s announcement by DECC. This short-termism can only damage investor confidence and I call on DECC to remove the uncertainties.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, agreed: “The announcement that the Government is launching a further review of support for onshore wind later this year only creates further uncertainty and makes it difficult for the industry to plan ahead, though we are pleased the decision on any changes in 2014 will be based on evi-dence rather than political views.”

However, wild land charity the John Muir Trust had a different perspective. It is concerned about the incursion of wind-farm development into the wild parts of Scotland and yesterday responded to the 10% cut with a call for legal protection for wilderness areas.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the trust, said “Most of the UK’s top 10% of wild land has no statutory protection. The cut in wind subsidy is not enough to reduce the goldrush despoiling our landscapes.”