The Government’s chief climate adviser has potentially brought the march of wind farms in rural Britain to a halt after saying enough turbines have been given the go-ahead to meet climate change targets.
Lord Deben of Winston, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, signalled it was up to the general public to decide which “green” energy they preferred to cut harmful emissions after 2020.
This is despite the body suggesting 10,000 more turbines could be erected in the following 10 years.
The comments will give heart to anti-wind farm campaigners in the Westcountry opposed to the visual impact on the countryside, though one advocate suggested abandoning onshore wind would cost jobs.
Last month, the Conservatives promised to axe public subsidies for any newly-planned onshore turbines if they win the general election next year in a reflection of growing unease at the technology.
The coalition has already scaled-back funding taken from household energy bills, which underwrite onshore and offshore turbines by £1.2 billion a year.
The Conservative peer, who as John Gummer was Environment Secretary in John Major’s government, said in The Times that Britain needed “a portfolio of different mechanisms” and “you have got to keep the portfolio in balance”.
He added: “I’m happy that we have already got enough onshore wind to 2020 to meet that part of the portfolio.”
Asked if more onshore wind farms should be approved after 2020, he said: “It is likely that (onshore wind) will continue to play a part in our renewables after 2020, but it is not a decision we have to make now, and there are circumstances in which it might not. The public will decide what the balance is.”
He added that power from less controversial offshore wind – often dismissed because it is far more expensive – was “falling in price very significantly”.
Across the region, around 100 large-scale turbines have already been erected at “farms” including Delabole in Cornwall and Fullabrook in Devon, but there are scores more of the smaller single turbines. Councils in the South West are receiving applications for more of both types of development.
Bob Barfoot, chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “We have been saying this for some time.
“The Renewable Energy Foundation examined Government figures and found the 2020 target had already been met – meaning 1,000 applications were not necessary.
“But that doesn’t take into account money. Just because you don’t need any more doesn’t mean you won’t get any more. And that will be the case until the subsidy comes down.”
Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen South West, a not-for-profit group championing green energy in the region, said: “Harnessing the power of British wind is our most cost-effective renewable energy, cheaper than new nuclear and more secure than Russian gas.
“Yet we still lag far behind other developed nations in our use of wind energy. The key to harnessing this local sustainable resource is to develop future projects in partnership with local communities, bringing much needed income, jobs and energy security to our rural communities.
“Take the UK’s first wind farm at Delabole in Cornwall where local people can get reduced electricity bills and the local farmer employs six people due to the income it generates.”
The 4,000 existing onshore wind turbines deliver power to four million homes. A further 3,000 will deliver power to three million more by 2020.
It means there are enough projects in the pipeline to get 30% of electricity from renewables by then.
The Committee said yesterday an increase in onshore wind farms remained the cheapest means to meet future targets.
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