Energy Secretary Ed Davey’s call for people living near wind farms to enjoy a “windfall” is unlikely to sway opposition to projects in Mid Wales, a leading critic has warned.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has launched a consultation which asks whether people should see their bills cut if they lived near turbines.
Montgomeryshire Conservative MP Glyn Davies said such “compensation” would neither help households living near pylons nor quell opposition.
He said: “I don’t think it will have any impact at all.”
In May last year around 1,500 people gathered at the Senedd to protest against plans to erect wind farms and pylons in Powys.
Mr Davies said: “The biggest impact is going to be where the power cables go. In Montgomeryshire there’re going to be thousands and thousands of people who will see a huge drop in their property values.”
The consultation, which also suggests communities could receive grants for facilities such as playgrounds, was welcomed by Plaid Cymru Arfon MP Hywel Williams – but he called on the UK Government to go further and devolve energy powers to Wales.
He said: “Wales is a large generator of onshore wind energy so any proposals to reward communities for their green credentials should be welcome. However, we can’t be green in Wales if the government in England has the power to tell us what we can and can’t do in our country.
“How can we harness the potential of Wales’ abundance of natural resources without the political powers to choose which projects we want where?”
Calling for the Welsh Government to have responsibility for more than “gusts and puddles,” he said: “Plaid Cymru believe Wales should be able to take the decisions which affect us in order that they benefit us.”
Montgomeryshire AM and Conservative Shadow Assembly minister Russell George drew little comfort from the consultation.
He said: “There is little that can allay the fears of Welsh residents who have been badly let down by the Welsh Labour Government. While this consultation is welcome, residents here – notably in mid Wales – have been betrayed by a First Minister who now appears to fully support the National Grid’s plans for a substation and pylons.”
However, Alun James of WWF Cymru, said: “As can be seen from the UK Government’s survey, most people support wind power and don’t accept the arguments put out by the anti-wind lobby – they see the benefits of getting energy from an unlimited natural resource. At present, onshore wind energy is the cheapest way of generating electricity from a renewable resource so it makes economic sense to develop it.
“But developers should also make sure that environmental and social issues are also addressed. This means that windfarms need to bring tangible benefits to the community in which they are located, which means that people’s concerns need to be considered from the earliest stages of design, and compromises sought.”
Peter Ogden of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales rejected the proposals, saying: “Luring individuals or communities to accept recycled public subsidies simply to disfigure their local landscapes is no better than using sugar-coated candies to bribe children to keep quiet.
“While everyone wants to see rural communities thrive, dubious cash handouts are not the way to do it.”
Mid & West Wales AM William Powell said: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats have argued for some time now that money from new wind developments should go to community organisations or community councils so that local communities can directly benefit from wind production. While benefits for wind farms can be local, they are generally national, so it’s right to financially reward local communities.”
The UK Government’s latest survey into public attitudes revealed that 66% of people were in favour of onshore wind; 12% opposed the technology, with just 4% strongly opposed to it.
A Welsh Government policy document states: “We want Wales’ energy projects to provide opportunities for all parties. We want to ensure that developers are clear about what we expect from them and that the return on investment benefits both the businesses in question and Wales’ communities.
“We expect benefits for Wales’ communities to include jobs and economic benefits in every viable instance.”
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