‘Soviet-style’ wind farm subsidies blight rural lives and may have worse impact than climate change, says minister
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called for ‘Soviet-style’ subsidies for building wind farms to be scrapped because he says the huge turbines blight rural lives.
The new minister said wind developers should ‘stand on their own two feet’ instead of asking for money from the state.
He said green technologies such as wind farms might actually have a worse impact than climate change, because they are causing ‘public insurrection’.
‘There are significant impacts on the rural economy and the rural environment, all of which probably weren’t intended when these things were thought up,’ he told an event at the Conservative Party conference.
‘It is not very green to be blighting the economy in one area.’
Mr Paterson said he would write to the Department of Energy with his view on ending green subsidies as part of a Government review of support for renewable energy, the Daily Telegraph reported.
‘If you start having subsidies you end up with a Soviet-style system, where politicians make decisions that might actually be better made by the market,’ he added.
Mr Paterson said he believes humans are contributing to climate change but ‘some of the steps we are taking might actually cause more damage than the original problems itself’.
His comments came as Greg Barker, the climate change minister, promised that the Government was dealing with the ‘never-ending gravy train of green subsidies’ to bring down energy bills.
The Conservative minister insisted the party was ‘not abandoning its green pledges’ or ‘scaling back’ its commitment to tackling climate change.
But he acknowledged the green industry needed to ‘tighten their belts, do more for less and make subsidies go further’ to get a better deal for the taxpayer.
Mr Barker promised that the Coalition would ‘cut subsidy where we can and put value for money at the heart of our policies’.
The Government is facing mounting criticism for sending out mixed messages on energy policy and climate change. Some companies are concerned after David Cameron appointed two ministers who are critical of wind farms, cut subsidies for renewable energy and unveiled a tax break for the gas industry.
The insulation industry also claims that the Coalition’s decision to end grants for green home improvements will lead to 16,000 job losses before a new regime comes in next year.
Seven power firms this week threatened to leave Britain over fears they will not get enough Government support to invest in low-carbon technologies like nuclear and wind farms.
After weeks of division on green issues, Conservative sources said there is a new push within the party to ‘get back on the same page’.
Conservatives are split between pro-green modernisers, those worried about the cost of subsidies and back-bench MPs angry about the blight of wind farms in their constituencies.
The senior source said there would be a drive re-invent the Conservatives’ green agenda as a pro-business policy that will help boost growth and create jobs.
The Department of Energy is led by Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, who won a battle against George Osborne to stop deep cuts to green subsidies this year. In return, the Chancellor introduced tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, including new measures to help controversial ‘shale’ extraction.
On Tuesday night, Mr Paterson described shale gas as a ‘God-given’ windfall that would help Britain solve its energy problems.
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