The Conservative pledge, if they win the 2015 General Election, to stop paying subsidies to new wind farm developments will definitely find favour in the rural Westcountry. Opposition to onshore wind in our region is difficult to ignore. And if you add in those not directly affected by the turbines, but still seething at the pounds subsidising renewables adds to their energy bills, you have two sizeable groups ready to back a party that promises to bring the subsidies to an end.
But there is another group, anxious about global warming and worried about an over-reliance on fossil fuels, fracking and the expansion of nuclear power, who will see this as yet another example of the Conservatives abandoning the green agenda they worked hard before the last election to foster. Lib Dems, increasingly anxious to demonstrate how different they are from their coalition partners, now the general election is little more than a year away, are making just that point.
Our betting, however, is that the Tories have, on this issue at least, better judged the public mood. Very few people look upon wind turbines as ‘a good thing’. If they had proved to be super efficient and cost-effective energy generators they might be tolerated, despite their impact on the landscape. The accepted view is that they are inefficient and but for subsidies would not be worth erecting. The Tory line is that having supported those that are already erected or approved we have met our obligations on renewables and enough is enough.
That might not mean, however, that we have seen the last of them. For a start, the Tories might not win an overall majority at the next election. Even if this is a popular policy there are plenty of other areas in which the Conservatives have ground to make up. As things stand another hung parliament and coalition administration, with all the compromises that will entail, looks the most likely outcome. And if there are dramatic changes in the market for electricity or significant improvements in turbine efficiency, there may be developers happy to put them up without the promise of subsidised energy.
Those are very big ‘ifs’ however. RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith insisted yesterday onshore wind was cheap and efficient. If that is the case, many will say, it should stand on its own two feet and take its place in the market, not rely on handouts.
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